Steeling themselves for the journey into the desert, the group took their leave of Stikuchi, Amhapar and the Sheik. Stikuchi gave them potions of hydrate, which would help them shake off the effects of dehydration and sunstroke they were going to be experiencing. Looking back at the city one last time, they took off their magical gear and walked unprotected into the desert, hoping to find the Mirage Tower.
The walk at first was not too difficult. Certainly, it was hot and dry and the sun baked them mercilessly, but it seemed they were going to survive easier than they thought. By the end of the first day, however, Malaxder and Ral were nearly collapsing with exhaustion, and Ral thought he could make out the tower in the distance. After another day of hiking through the desert heat, Tierel and Baph could see it as well, and it was taking much of Ral’s and Anton’s magic to keep them alive but still on the very edge of death.
Finally, after almost two days of walking in the scorching heat, the tower appeared before them, shimmering into existence like a heat wave. They immediately took their potions and rejuvenated themselves, quickly shaking off the effects of the desert heat. Searching the outside of the tower they found no obvious entrances, but Ral approached it and simply willed an entrance to appear, and one did. Stepping inside, they beheld a vast wasteland stretching out in front of them, clearly larger than the space inside the tower should hold. Off in the distance, the opposite wall could be seen, very far away. Grouping together, they began to trek across the space within, making their way as quickly as possible.
As they moved across the wasteland, Mal fell into a sand pit, sucked down under by the loose sands. He shifted into his ethereal form and drifted back up, unaffected thanks to still being a ghost. The group tied themselves together to avoid losing anyone else, and continued across the sands. The more they traveled, the more traps they encountered, and they seemed to be making little progress towards the far wall. Looking behind them, the door and wall had disappeared, and nothing remained but empty space and open sky. Ral took it upon himself to sprout some wings and fly up into the sky, searching for a limit to the space they were in. From this vantage point, he was finally able to see that the room was a mirage itself, and was much larger than it seemed. With this viewpoint he was also able to spot the sand traps much more easily, and the group finally made their way to the opposite wall, and a staircase headed up.
On the next level, a powerful sandstorm was blowing constantly, making visibility nearly nothing. Malaxder was nearly blown away by the powerful winds, and the group remained tied together to keep from losing anyone. As they pushed through the storm, the encountered more sand creature patrolling the level, unaffected by the powerful winds and blowing sand. They managed to avoid them for the most part, and finally made their way to the next staircase and the next level of the tower.
Peeking up into this level, they found themselves surrounded by massive piles of treasure. Gold, gems, magic items, works of art and statuary, all piled higher than Anton’s head on either side of them. Up ahead, they beheld a tremendous balcony, looking out across the desert. The view seemed to be much higher than the three levels of the tower indicated, a sure sign of magic at work. And standing in front of the balcony, ready for their assault, was Montu Chezzak. The sorcerer tried one more time to convince them to join his efforts and to conquer the desert by his side, but they refused, and the battle was joined.
Montu summoned more powerful sand knights to his defense, while Shackleton charged through them and knocked them over. Malaxder stood back and dropped his most powerful spells on Montu and his guardians, while Baph blasted Montu with mental power. Anton and Tierel advanced, Anton drawing the attention of the sand knights while Tierel tried to sneak around behind Montu to deliver the telling blow with the Arcane Shard given to them by the dragon. As Anton approached, Montu cast a scorching ray at him, which only barely missed. As the spell came spiraling in, Anton realized it was MUCH hotter than he expected, and he was disturbed to find that the heat scorched his face a bit – clearly, Montu had some ability to increase the power of his spells, possibly even overcoming the fire resistance granted by the rings the dragon had given them.
Ral fired spells and powers at the sand knights, while Anton and Arsen crossed swords with them and Malaxder focused on trying to dispel Montu’s magical protections. Montu teleported around the battle, always moving to the most protected position he could find behind his sandy constructs. He continued to fire terrible scorching blasts of flame, the heat of which was clearly felt past the protections granted by the dragon. However it was not enough to stop them, and they finally cornered him against one of his treasure piles. Shackleton knocked him to the ground, and Tierel vaulted up and over the piles, landing on him and striking him a solid blow with the Arcane Shard. The shard activated, drawing all of her power out of her in a huge surge and sending her tumbling backward. Still flat on his back, Montu grabbed the shard to pull it off of him but it was already too late – in a matter of seconds, he was frozen forever as a statue of glass, clutching the shard to his chest, and the battle was ended.
Exploring the treasure room, the group found hundreds of valuable treasures, relics from the age of giants, powerful magic items and heaps upon heaps of coins – a thousand years of plunder from all of Montu’s campaigns. Malaxder found an especially valuable treasure – a ring of wishes, which he used to wish himself back to life again. Gathering up all the treasure their bags of holding could store and collecting the glass statue of Montu Chezzak, they walked back out of the tower and into the desert once more.