The Earth-Fire Forge – The Tower of the Mists
From the Private Annals of the Church of Pelor.
Transcribed by Beltak, Scribe to His Radiant Servant, Tremak the Plush.
The 14th Day of Ches in the Year of the Sudden Journey.
My candle still burns and I have time to continue my recording of the events on the Isle of the Mists. The adventurous pair, Khalin and Tradden, had managed to navigate their way to the isle in the centre of the lake through the mists and defended themselves against a pair of stirges that ambushed them upon their arrival. The pair then headed off towards the crumbling tower.
Tradden, followed closely by Khalin, clambered carefully over a few blocks of rubble and entered the south-eastern corner of the tower. The majority of the walls looked strained, barely keeping the tower erect, but Tradden trusted that if they had stayed up like this for a while, they should stay standing for a bit longer. The tower was about thirty feet in diameter, with a stone floor covered in pieces of rubble and old wooden beams. A stone staircase, following the eastern wall, spiralled upwards to the floor above. Moss and lichen grew everywhere, and here and there sprouted grasses and weeds as nature attempted to reclaim the land.
The pair looked around the devastation trying to work out where any books would be left. Kireth had indicated that Valino had found the old tome on a floor above, so Khalin moved warily towards the crumbling stair. As they headed slowly towards the stairs, something stirred in the shadows, and before they could react a huge spider leapt from the darkness!
The spider darted out from barrels and debris at the bottom of the stairs, hidden from Tradden and Khalin behind sheets of webbing. The spider was the size of a small dog, it’s legs stretching out and scuttling across the rubble. Tradden froze for a moment, not knowing what to think.
It jumped towards Tradden with ennerving speed, but its fangs bit down hard on chainmail and spared the young fighter. Again and again it tried to bite, but each time it just came into contact with his mail, and eventually it darted off onto the stairs. Ooze dripped down the front of the yopung fighter’s mail, already staining the rings and plates and removing the usual lustre.
Tradden crouched and made a spring of his own, kicking off the wall and leaping over the spider, landing on the stairs and taking a swipe with his sword. However, the spider was quicker than he thought and by the time he had struck it had gone. Khalin tried to crush it with a hammer blow as it dodged Tradden’s blade, but he too underestimated its speed.
With the two friends surrounding the creature, it didn’t have a chance. Tradden cut across it, slicing two of it’s legs from underneath it, before Khalin responded by a huge hammer blow that made the stairs tremble. The remains of the spider oozed down the stairs. As Khalin’s hammer blow against the stone staircase echoed around the ruined tower, dust and particles cascaded down from above. As the pair looked up, fearful for their safety, they failed to notice the long legs sneaking out from the rubble near Khalin’s legs, as two similar spiders jumped out in revenge for their fallen comrade!
The first of the two new spiders turned it’s attention straight to the dwarf that had landed the killing blow against its comrade, leaping up and trying to sink it’s venomous fangs into the warlord. The fangs sank into Khalin’s flesh and the dwarf could feel the venom flow into his bloodstream. Tradden reacted without thinking, swinging his sword around in a great arc that caught both spiders, before Khalin readjusted and managed to swing his hammer down.
The battle swung to and fro – the spiders manging to sink their fangs into flesh once more before the adventurers started to gain the upper hand. They were both weakened by the spiders’ poison, their vision starting to blur, before Tradden called upon the power within his new found sword and laid one of the spiders low with a freezing burst of frost. Khalin roared at the remaining spider, and without its pack it tried to scuttle off into the safety of the rubble. Tradden cut it down before it could reach a place to hide.
Silence fell in the tower, broken only by the lungfuls of air gasped by Tradden. The young fighter and the dwarf looked at each other after the spider had been hewn in two and a mixture of relief and concern passed their faces. Tradden sheathed one sword on his back and used the other to poke around the clutter and stones around the base of the tower, just in case there were anymore of the arachnids hiding, but it revealed no further surprises amongst the stones, cobwebs, and smashed barrels at the foot of the stairs.
After a pause for breath, Khalin hefted his shield and hammer once more and concentrated upon the stairway. Tradden followed into step behind, cleaning his sword casually on his thigh.
Cracks in the walls allowed enough light to illuminate the first floor in an eerie shade, and Khalin found it fairly easy to see. Tradden struggled somewhat in the gloom and started fishing in his pack for a torch. When the young fighter finally held aloft his illumination he found a scene of what appeared to be devastation. It was hard to tell what the floor had been used for, but rubble and timber lay strewn around the floor. Nothing of any note remained.
This part of the tower still seemed warm, but less so than the ground floor, but held nothing else of interest, and the pair made their way to the foot of the next stairs. As the dwarf moved slowly up the staircase there were a couple of ominous cracks, and then the step that Khalin was on gave way! Khalin’s foot went through the crumbling masonry and he slipped down the stairs in an ungainly fashion.
Tradden helped him up and then led the way himself, torch in one hand, shortsword in the other, which he used to tap and prod each step. Larger cracks in the walls at this level allowed shafts of light to illuminate the floor quite well and Tradden extinguished his torch. There were more solid remains on this level that gave some indication as to its previous use. Warped planks of wood belied the remains of old bookcases, although any books seemed to have disintegrated long ago.
With a brief search, full of disappointment, the pair descended the the ground floor to contemplate their next move and to take the time to eat. They headed for the warmest part of the tower and sat down on the warm floor to eat their trail food.
Tradden grabbed the skin of ale that Skillet had provided and tossed it across to the dwarf. Khalin fumbled the catch and it bounced on the wooden floor, the stopper coming loose. Golden ale flowed out of the flask and over the wooden boards. Khalin cursed and quickly tried to recover the skin before all of the ale escaped, seeping away through the cracks in the boards.
The young fighter paused for a moment and then pushed Khalin to one side. He began sweeping debris and dust away from the wooden boards revealing a square trapdoor. The wooden boards formed a perfectly square door, complete with an iron handle in the southern end.
Tradden re-lit the torch he had used earlier, and with his other free hand he opened the trapdoor and had a look. Waves of warm air flooded up from below, followed by a thin cloud of soot from the underside of the trapdoor. It dispersed into the air above the pair’s heads. As Tradden pulled the trapdoor all the way back the vertical there was an ominous ‘click’, almost causing the youth to drop the handle, but nothing untoward seemed to happen and the trapdoor locked into place.
As Tradden waved the soot away from his face, Khalin peered down into the darkness below. A simple stone spiral staircase led downwards and away into the dark where even the torch couldn’t penetrate. Judging by the wreckage strewn around the ground floor, and the soot on the underside of the trapdoor, it didn’t appear that Valino and his men had found this.
Khalin wondered whether the venom he’d received earlier was still dulling his senses, or perhaps he just needed a good night’s sleep. Still, there was some dim light below from somewhere, and no nasties immediately apparent. The dwarf raised his shield cautiously and carefully descended into the gloom.
The stone staircase led down at quite a tight angle, the pair’s view obscured by the walls at either side and lit only by the torch held aloft in Tradden’s hand at the rear and by a faint glow from what they appeared to be the bottom of the stairs. After a few cautious moments, with both heroes trying to be as quiet as possible, Khalin held up his hand, motioning for Tradden to stop. The youth could hear the dwarf sniffing and then grumbling to himself.
Khalin started forwards again and Tradden sniffed for himself. He quickly started to extinguish his torch. There was something in the air that Tradden didn’t like the smell of, and he didn’t want to repeat the explosions of fire in the mausoleum.
The dwarf reached the bottom of the stairs, facing west, ten or so feet from the tower wall, and giving no indication of the room beyond. The last few steps had revealed a soft light from below with a reddish tint and the dwarf had noticed the amount of soot covering the stone steps and clinging to the walls of the staircase.
At the bottom of the stairs it was simple to see the source of the light – alcoves cut some six or seven feet into the walls contained what appeared to be a flickering red flame, illuminating the area with that soft tint. Khalin crossed to the wall and placed his back against it, motioning for Tradden to follow suit. They shuffled around to the north and surveyed the area.
The room appeared to be larger than the tower above, some fifty or more feet across, although remained circular. Soot covered most of the area, hiding forms and shapes in the dim light, but the pair could make out what appeared to be a heap of garbage directly in front of them, a large table to the south-west covered with implements, and a large cabinet or bookcase to the southest. Directly to the south was a strange contraption, built into the far wall, that looked like a giant gate.
Beads of sweat ran down Tradden’s forehead and he absent mindedly wiped them away with his sleeve. The air was much warmer down here, and sounds appeared muffled – no echoes seemed to escape the layers of soot.
Khalin bent down to examine the garbage pile at their feet, which appeared to be bits of old leather, fairly well preserved, perhaps by the thick layer of soot, before moving slowly across to the cabinet or bookcase. The furniture was indeed a bookcase, and was laden with a number of texts – the pair beamed at each other, and began to examine the books more closely. There didn’t appear to be any soot covering the spines of the tomes, much to Khalin’s relief. As the pair started to examine them, though, they both heard a scuttling sound from the other side of the room, and whirled about quickly.
At the far side of the room, beyond the great table and near the strange gate there was an evil looking shape. It was the size of a pack animal and yet seemed neither mammal or insect, a cross between the two. Four insectoid legs attached to a main body with a long spiny tail and mean, fang-laden mouth. Two great feelers extended from its maw and waved about in the air in anticipation, as though weighing up these two new intruders.
The feelers waved around in the air for a moment and then snapped back along the beasts body. It then moved with unnatural speed, barrelling straight for the dwarf in a charge!