Returning to Al Shiraz, the group found that the city was on high alert – scouts had reported that Montu Chezzak’s forces were moving towards the city, and would arrive in less than a day. Meeting with Amhapar, Stikuchi and the Sheik, they decided to leave the defense of the city to the Sheik’s children, and try to take this opportunity to attack Montu himself when his forces were engaged with their assault. The group spent the evening preparing themselves for the battle, and the following morning found them waiting pensively for the attack to come.
When it came, it came suddenly – the wind kicked up fiercely and the sky darkened as a massive cloud of sand and dust rose up from the desert, towering hundreds of feet above the city, and then just as suddenly slammed down to earth, rushing towards the city walls like a terrible wave. Stikuchi stood in the middle of the city, focusing all her magic on holding back the dust storm, and finally driving it around and over the city walls, keeping everyone within from being bowled over and flensed alive by the terrible force of the attack. Shortly afterward, the sounds of battle began coming from all sides of the city as the defenders engaged Montu’s sand-form constructs and Harssaf allies. Taking this as their cue, the group exited the city over the walls and began to search the battle field for Montu himself.
Moving across the desert outside, they found that the sands had been reshaped into hills and berms to funnel possible offensive strikes into groups of ambushing sand creatures. As they watched, the desert sands took the shape of huge scorpions, dire lions, giant lizards and other creatures, but the group used a few potions of invisibility they had to safely bypass the worst of the patrols.
Finally, moving beyond the controlled chaos of the battlefield and out beyond the city, they came across Montu himself, hovering crosslegged above the sands, his eyes closed, and the dust from the ground swirling into magical patterns around him as he concentrated on maintaining his spells and sandy constructs. The trip across the battlefield had used up their invisibility potions, and as they approached Montu opened his eyes, dropping to his feet and summoning half a dozen sandy constructs from the ground in between them. These humanoid figures positioned themselves to guard Montu, deadly blades of superheated glass appearing in their hands. As the group moved in for the attack, they slashed at Shackleton as he numbly slipped in among them, knocking a few down as he passed and putting himself right next to Montu. Tierel slipped in quietly as Anton invoked the power of Dol Dorn and charged the sand knights, while Baph and Mal focused their powers on the battle.
Montu lashed out with a pair of fireballs just as he had in the Valley of the Marru, but was shocked to see the firey blasts wash over the group, leaving them entirely unaffected – the dragon’s gift was working, and the magic rings had made them immune to fire. As the battle progressed, Montu tried in vain to use his fire magic to damage them, while the sand knights moved to defend their master. Finally, unable to even touch them with his magic, Montu shifted into sand form and flew away from the battle with all haste, leaving his sandy constructs to be beaten down by Anton and Arsen.
Though they were disappointed by Montu’s escape, they had saved the day by driving him back – the sand walls and creatures collapsed again and the sandstorm raging around the city vanished as quickly as it had appeared. Making their way back to the city, they told the Shiek and Stikuchi what had happened. Stikuchi told them that Montu had undoubtedly retreated to his fasthold – The Mirage Tower. If they were to defeat him, it would have to be there. When they asked how to find the tower, Stikuchi explained that the tower wasn’t in a particular place, but there was a way to find it – they had to walk unprotected into the desert, and let the desert consume them. Before they died, they would finally see the Mirage Tower. Left with no other option, the group steeled themselves for this final task, and for the battle to come.