Lady Anne Mowbry, Keribrar, and Quilate planned to meet the others at the Veridian Vault former location in the Blackhouse District. As the near the territory claimed by the Rover Gang there is a line of white-hot ash. The ash is moving as is creatures the size of a man’s forearm are hidden beneath. The heat given off by the ash is hot enough that it is uncomfortable to get close.
A small black stone creature no bigger three apples high rises from the rubble and rolls over towards them. The Warden’s voice speaks, “Who passes this land.” They make introductions and within a few minutes Warden arrives with one of his hounds and allows them to pass.
Thorne and Hafwyn are having breakfast at the Watchers’ House when Seirian and Father Karl arrive. After some polite conversation it is clear that both Seirian and Father Karl still cannot remember much but fragments of their time in the ruins. They unconsciously finish each other sentences, which can be a bit disturbing.
Father Karl has to leave as he is planning a march today. The faithful have made crosses to hang those who fatten themselves off the labor of the people. They will march from Locust Watch to the Temple District to demand the king act. He has spoken often before the king about the plight of the people, but this time they march in numbers. Hafwyn and Thorne learn the king has not been out of the Bone Temple in years.
Father Karl leaves and the others go to the Veridian Vault.
“History is a cyclic poem written by time upon the memories of man.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley
When everyone arrives at the vault they go to visit Gorrick and get their promised guide in exchange for ten sets of clothes. Outside the tavern the kids are using they find three men manacled and working on building a stone foundation. The kids have captured the men and are making them work for their freedom. Those who refuse to work are fed to the Grimshaw. Throne and Anne both try and convince the kids of a different path, but they seem set on this course of action. They must be prepared to defend their territory against the other gangs.
They go down the passages beneath the tavern to Gorrick’s great hall. The decorations have improved and Gorrick is dressed in more finery. He even looks more physically fit, which he attributes to the Grimshaw. Before the negotiations can begin he summons his new seneschal, which he seems eager to show off. All great leaders have a chief steward and so he bargained for one. One of the Lord of Shadowdark’s vampires enters the room with a brightly colored staff. This is a disturbing turn of events.
The negotiations begin with the seneschal pointing inconsistencies out occasionally, but otherwise content to listen. They negotiate ten sets of clothes for a guide to the ruins, a lamp, and enough lamp oil for a full day. Gorrick says he will only take them as far as “The Tower” as that is the last safe area before the ruins. It is agreed upon by both sides. Gorrick calls in a much older boy named Rog. He is a surly teenager not afraid to throw defiance into Gorrick’s teeth, but agrees to lead them as long as Gorrick continues their bargain.
Quilate and Keribrar speak to the lad while he is collecting his gear. His sister fell during a robbery and broke her back – she cannot walk. Gorrick agreed to help her in exchange for Rog’s services. He has killed and stolen for Gorrick these past months. His sister is improving under the care of the Grimshaw, but progression is slow. Keribrar tells him to go to the bottom of the city and speak with Father Karl. He is a great healer and may be able to help.
The last thing he pulls from the storage is a small leather box sealed with string. He says this box contains stones that will keep the Mistress of Darkness from stealing people in the night. He tells them tales of kids simply disappearing when they stay the night in “The Tower,” especially those injured by the bodies. He will speak no more of it, but allows Quilate to examine the box as long as he does not open it.
Lady Anne speaks with the weapon-master teaching some young kids knife work. She is impressed with the efforts of the hard traveled goblin. He would fit in training the militia back home. The morale of the kids is high as victories have brought them wealth and respect (or at least fear).
The gear gathered everyone lines up behind Rog as he leads them into the deeper tunnels.
The journey to safety of The Tower is long and difficult. The upper tunnels are well-mapped and the gang has left behind safety ropes. It is not long before Rog veers off the path into something far more dangerous. Open crevices, long chimneys, and spaces so tight everyone has to help to squeeze Quilate through them. To make things easier Seirian, and eventually Thorne, shrink to the size of wee folk.
Then suddenly all of the magical lights Keribrar and Anne had been keeping lit blink out and everyone except Hafwyn and Rog are bent over ill. They are standing outside a large tunnel with only Rog’s lamp for light. Quilate lights the lamp he personally negotiated from Gorrick so they can see better. They are in an old iron mine and iron is the bane of all magic. Rog leads them forward until they reach a door.
He gives them **very explicit** instructions. The bodies are on the other side of the door. They must be absolutely quite and step only where he steps – no matter what they are stepping in. At the center of the room is a large stone tower. Once inside the tower they can talk. The bodies wandering around are harmless unless roused. If roused they will tear the skin from the bone.
Keribrar forces the door open and everyone goes inside. What they see are not some bodies, but thousands of zombie-like bodies slowly walking around. Anne knows these are Putrid Zombies but that does not make it easier to pass through them. The floor is covered in liquefied flesh several inches deep. They are only a third of the way there when a sharp breeze pushes forward, carrying Quilate with it and dousing both his and Rog’s light. In the dark Lady Anne screams and the zombies turn to face them, red eyes glowing in the dark.
With the only light being the luminescent moss on the ceiling Rog yells, “Run!” and everyone dashes for the tower. Rog is the first to make it because he knows the way. Keribrar gets turned around and ends up buried under flailing zombies. Hafwyn runs to rescue Keribrar, but someone lifts him up and runs with him first. Lady Anne staggers forward and with the help of Thorne distracting them makes the safety of The Tower.
Thorne, with Seirian riding his shoulders, would have been swallowed up, but Seirian tears open a hole into the fae lands. The zombies that come within the light it casts are obliterated. More zombies rush towards the light giving Thorne and Seirian a clear path to the tower.
Hafwyn, unhindered by the darkness, spies the person carrying Keribrar’s unconscious body and chases him. She catches him as he stops in front of a blank wall and pierces his back with an arrow. Whatever he was holding in his left hand drops and breaks pulsing in a strobe of light. It briefly illuminates an archway carved into the wall. No time to dawdle Hafwyn scoops up Keribrar and reaches the safety of The Tower.
Mistress of Darkness
Quilate is carried up and over The Tower upon a current of wind and motes of light. He rises high towards the ceiling of the cavern. He can see that the light are not just luminescence moss, but a complex system of tracks and crystals mounted to the ceiling. They are moving by gears and cables very slowly twinkling as they pass over the moss. He cannot understand the purpose, but would eventually learn it is the Kyuendkul Planetarium – a creation without peer.
The wind carries him up into a large chimney and holds him aloft. He hears a voice asking him what has brought him here. He responds treasures for his true love. She is the Mistress of Darkness and holds treasures without equal in her lands. She he become a Shadow Walker she would gift him a treasure to win the hand of any love. She tells Quilate they will not be safe in The Tower overnight.
Quilate has a vision as the winds fade and he falls. He sees a portal torn between the worlds. He looks at the Land of Clouds as he blows the silver whistle. The spirits of light are drawn to this world, plunging the other into eternal darkness.
Once safely inside Rog tears into each of them. Even the smallest of them make it through without rousing the bodies from their sleepwalk. Now he will have to stay the evening before he can leave. He tells them they are on his own from here. He just points out the direction of the other door while building a fire from white adler. He says the ash from the wood heals the sickness from the bodies and the smoke keeps the mistress away.
Keribrar and Anne get curious and look around The Tower. The sensation of magic is overwhelming and probably leads to the unusual construction. The tower has several “branches” that just jut out from random locations. There are no interior walls, but stairs that rise to the top; although most are too damaged to climb. At the top is a large basket and pulleys to lower it.
Keribrar discovers that although the stone appears to be close fitting blocks it is a single section of stone, and it is still growing. In spots that it has been damaged it is slowly “healing” itself. This stone is not alive or bound with spirits or elementals, but it not behaving correctly.
Quilate arrives after he lands on top of the tallest point of the tower. It is large enough inside for him to spiral down to the main floor.
Lady Anne discovers the tower sits on a ley node, a rather powerful one. Plus she finds a secret door in the ash beneath the hearth. Rog tells her to leave alone and refuses to help any further. It is dangerous to tempt the fates and rouse the wrath of the Mistress.
Going down the rungs below the hidden hatch Thorne and Seirian feel so close to the fae lands they can almost reach across without trying. At the bottom of the runs is a small garden. In addition to a few plots of herbs grows a beautiful tree. Keribrar can tell right away this is a root of the Great Tree. The holy tree of the Great Elf from which their communion is born.
This tree is a single root of the Great Tree. With the help of a caretaker he could commune with those tending and watching the Great Tree in Ellendar. What Hafwyn notices is five stone benches that were not made by elves. They are laid out in perfect symmetry, which is the antithesis of elven magic. They are stalling the flow of magic needed for the tree to prosper. Keribrar recognizes the benches as dwarven-made, so their purpose makes sense.
They are also choking off the growth of the tree. Summoning magic in his chamber is nearly too easy as he draws in everything he can and reduces all of the benches to dust. The reaction is immediate as the flow of magic in his room becomes unstable. Thorne and Seirian are thrown back into the fae lands, Anne collapses in a fit and would have choked on her tongue without Hafwyn’s assistance, Hafwyn is pulled to the tree and collapses unconscious. Quilate take wing and flies to the top of the chamber to avoid the worst effects grabbing to an iron ring.
Keribrar tries to dampen as much of the magic as he can and it nearly overwhelms him. The tree grows several decades of growth in the space of seconds. It is harmed by the rapid growth and partially healed by the power. The tree is unstable and possibly permanently damaged. He grasps the tree and shunts as much of the magic as he can into healing it, but he is not an arborist.
Hafwyn is reduced to huddling in a fetal position and crying. The warrior spirit that had defined her for so long is no longer there. Instead she is filled with the connection to all Great Elves. She has lost something that even if it should return will never be the same. She holds on to the tree knowing the depths of despair, she holds on to the tree for comfort.
King of the Hill
Thorne and Seirian appear in a light forest comprised of red and yellow trees with crystal leaves. The leaves act as prisms casting a cacophony of light on the floor. As they move further away the leaves become more opaque and the forest darker. The red and yellow trunks are replaced by deep blue and white. The presence of the unseelie can be felt. The land twists and turns until neither of them know the way back. Eventually the sounds of drums and flutes drive them on.
As they exit the forest they see a large mob of trooping faeries holding swords, axes, pitchforks, and torches. They are marching to the sounds of a drum and fife band behind a banner of green and brown. Ahead of them is a large hill with a single fairy atop. As the trooping fae charge up the hill Thorne and Seirian feel themselves pulled along. The battle ends with faerie bodies covering the hill and the large brute still holding the peak. As Throne watches the hill absorbs the fae bodies.
In the distance the sounds of a drum and fife announce a second attack. This time Thorne stands in the van and charges up the hill. At the ends of this battle the king has be dethroned and Thorne stands on top. Over and over the scene takes place with the hill ever getting higher. Sometimes Thorne wins, occasionally Seirian, but mostly one of the large trooping faerie. Thorne is losing himself in the constant struggle for control of the hill.
With great difficulty and reluctance he pulls himself away and drags Seirian with him towards the portal. Now that he is thinking clearly he remembers where they crossed over.
The damage to the node and tree passes and Quilate flies down. He wakes Anne, Keribrar and Hafwyn from the ordeal. Thorne and Seirian wake themselves from their visit to the fae lands. The magic has changed the chamber and exposed five arches along the walls. While Keribrar and Quilate examine them, Hafwyn confides in Anne that she is no longer a Dark Elf. She is not really sure what she is anymore. Keribrar figures out how to open the door and there is a hallway on the other side.
Each of the doors leads into the same hallway that circles the tree room. The only other way out is a door that leads to a hallway. Iron rods as thick as a human’s forearm are drive in a triangular pattern down the hallway. Each set getting closer and closer to the previous set. When they are nearly touching the tunnel ends in a door. The door is incredibly difficult to move, but once they get it moving keeping it going is far easier.
Beyond the door is a small dwarven community. The dwarves in the village raise the alarm sending them scrambling for weapons and armor. Six men in chain hauberks with pole-arms and shields are led by two men in plate armor. A dwarf in a crest helm demands the intruders surrender and step away from the elves so that he may kill them. When they refuse he orders his men to advance.
Before the battle can be joined the dwarven commander calls them to halt. He yells for the others to step away from the elves or risk death. Instead of abandoning their companions the other step in front and guard them. A second line of dwarves with shortbows form a line behind the first.
Before the battle begins a richly appointed dwarf comes out of the longhouse in the center of the town. He wishes to parley with the group and has his second bring a small table and two chairs. The dwarves are here at the behest of the Earthmother to heal the wrong that was done to this land. The damage they have done will take generations to repair if such a thing is possible.
He is Kald Barathorn Blackthorn Kuhn. The dwarves clan hold is far from here, but every ten years a Kald is named to lead his chosen to this land. They undertake the work of their great ancestors. Their histories are extensive and kept in the library in the longhouse. Quilate negotiates a deal that will Kald will provide a letter of recommendation to allow him to visit the great archives in the Blackthorn Mountains.
The Kald allows them to stay if each of them provide their word of honor that Keribrar will destroy nothing. They are warned to stay inside until the sun rises or face the wrath of the Circle of Shadow walker.
Hafwyn learned the truth of the dwarven scout who was trying to save Keribrar. She is apologetic, but the dwarves simply say they know that death awaits them here but she is welcome to raise a drink to their fallen companion.
They know that Aegrin fell somewhere in the fallen city. They can guide them to the gatehouse, which deepest of their holdings. Anything in the city beyond will forever darken a mortal soul. If they return to the gatehouse and have not fallen victim to the madness they will be allowed to return.
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