The Cataclysm of Ultana

Chapter 4

The Tower

It felt strange to be back in Avalar. They had only been gone a week but for some that had felt a lifetime. So much learned, so much experienced, and yet so much more mystery. Avalar felt like a familiar blanket that now held a strange unfamiliar scent. Had it changed from your memory or had your memory changed along with you? No one can tell.

A deep weariness was felt by all and everybody went straight off to bed once they had been settled back into Lord Hector’s provided quarters. Marcus however, had a different plan in mind – a fact that should surprise no one. After the halls felt quiet Marcus cloaked himself in invisibility and crept into Ryo’s room. All his efforts for sneakiness went to waste on Ryo however as he was sitting up facing the door so immediately was aware of someone entering his room. He also deduced that it was Marcus – thus effectively spoiling the effect.

Marcus got right to the point: “Ryo, I have questions regarding your interaction with Persephone. I had previously wondered why a high elf would be wandering around Avalar and thought it might be the same reason that I am here. But why would a ranger from the north know so much about an orphan taken in by the monks? Why did you hide your identity from the group even after she had discovered it and the group was threatened by your very presence?”

Ryo was silent for a moment – when he spoke it was with the low quiet assurance that his words would end all inquiries and questions. “Persephone has the right to revealing her own story. It was not my place or my right to tell the tales of her past. As for my putting the team at risk, I dealt with Herric on my own. We settled our score privately and there should be no further cause of concern on that count.”

True to form, Marcus was not satisfied with this answer. He continued to harangue Ryo – circling…looking for some deeper answer to a question he would not voice.

“Do we have a problem Marcus?” Ryo interrupted.

“I have a past just like you though no one knows just what it is. I have killed and have had a loved one killed and I wish to know on which side you fall….I wish to know for what reason you killed. My own allegiance to the group is more important that any one person. I don’t need to know everything but I find myself to be concerned about your reasons for killing and how they might affect the group.”

Silence.

“You will have to be ok with not knowing.”

Silence.

Marcus stands and leaves knowing there is nothing more to be gained from pressing Ryo further.

The next morning finds the group gathering for breakfast – some quicker to wake than others…but eventually all joined the table. They were silent as they ate. This was not unusual; but the silence bore weight today. Everybody ate and waited.

Finally Lord Hector entered the room. They immediately noticed that he carried with him a box which he set down on the table and looks around at the group seated there.

“Good morning I trust you slept well. I know these are not the beds of the Silver Spoon but I hope you were comfortable. I wanted to thank each of you for the past month of service that you have given me. It is not something I take lightly as I know you all have made great sacrifices to be where you are today. You may not realize just how significant the work is that you are doing but I can tell you that history will be changed by the actions of your party.

You have already fulfilled any requirement that might be considered to be over you but there is much more work to be done yet. Are any of you opposed to going further down the road with me? I will be honest, what you are about to do will mark you, there is no going back. You need to know that I hand picked each and every one of you. You all play a crucial role in the plot that is developing even if you may not yet know what that role is. I will honor any desire to not continue further with us but I would say that you should not make this decision lightly. The door is over there – I will not stop you if you feel that you cannot continue.”

“Lord Hector,” Marcus interrupted, “I find it funny that you say you hand picked each of us when I was chosen because of a prophecy given me twenty years ago. So, if it is by your hand, then your hand has a long reach.

I’ve found what I am searching for and I have but to reach out and take it. I don’t know what it is you think we are doing here or what history you think we are making. But as far as I can tell, all we have done is routed out personal enemies from a swamp and have investigated an old rival of yours.

I am seeking the demise of the man that killed someone who was very dear to everyone in my theatre troupe and left her child scarred and broken. That is what I am doing here. That is how I was tricked into your service after delivering your package to your men at Cross Roads.”

“I am not going to argue with you Marcus. But I can tell you that you are twenty years old – you are young. I know you have scars from your past but so does everybody at this table. I have known of the prophecy for longer than twice your age! I have been waiting for you. So, if you think that your mission here is done, you are wrong and you will understand that soon. Do not play me for a fool.”

“Play you for a fool? There is no turning back for me. I have voices in my head telling me of house telling me what to do…tellilng me of House Protex…telling me of some scroll. There is no turning back for me regardless of what I think and feel. I have been marked by a prophecy and by voices in my head that I never asked for or thought would come into my life. But you speak to me of being a fool and not knowing the way that things work. Tell me! Enough of telling me that it will come soon.”

“Those answers I can’t simply tell you. You have to experience them for yourself. Do you want to know who it is that is speaking in your head?”

“That would be a good start.”

‘Then work with me. Does anyone have anything else you would like to get off your chest?”

Everybody avoided making direct eye contact as Marcus’ confrontation of Lord Hector clearly was making everybody feel highly uncomfortable.

Lord Hector pulled out the box and inside were four smaller identical boxes – they looked the same as the one that had been found by them earlier.

“These are four of five pieces of a puzzle I have spent my life seeking out. The first I found 50 years ago which led me to the second, which led me to the third and fourth which were stolen before they made it to me. There is one more piece – the clue to the next has always been in the previous box.”

He took up the box and, using his signet ring engraved with the Immortal Helix, he opened it.

“Knights of the Evening Tide….I am one of them. Drakon’s master was also a member.”

He held up another ring (similar to his own), and threw it to Drakon. He then opened the rest of the boxes and began to connect them all together creating a cohesive shape that made the missing box obvious to all. In the fourth box was a small scroll which he opened and read.

“I now know where the fifth box is. There is an old ruined watchtower that has fallen to decay in the woods to the east. It is but one day’s travel from here…are you willing to travel again to retrieve it?”

“What challenges might we face?” It was no surprise that Cyrek was the first to respond.

“This could be the most challenging yet. There has been increased traffic of orcs and I wouldn’t be surprised if you encountered one. Travel fast.”

Cyrek spoke up again: “What do you expect to happen?”

Lord Hector sighed. “I don’t know. However, my scribes were able to translate the scroll….”

He paused when he noticed that most of the group seemed confused by his statement. He turned to Malva with a questioning and disapproving face. He was of course referencing the scroll that Marcus and Malva had gone to such great lengths to discover and obtain. He opened the scroll and laid it before the group.

“It didn’t seem to be my secret to reveal. It didn’t seem to have anything to do with the mission at hand and I did not feel a need to share it at the time.” Malva explained herself to the group as much as Lord Hector but she also seemed to begrudge the accusing faces turned towards her. They then all looked at the scroll and, as it was with Marcus before, saw nothing but a blank scroll. Malva explained again that she seemed to be the only one who could see the characters written upon it at which point Miquesh revealed that he too could see the characters.

Lord Hector read the translation of the scroll aloud (Click Here to Read Scroll), and were all silent for a short moment after the scroll was read. Lord Hector looked up and spoke:

“My scholars have looked at this and we know this is coming from before the time when the dragons fell. All I can piece together is that Rama was also a knight and that the crown was The crown of the Kraytian Empire. Rama had a keep north of Mist Point. Your secondary objective is to see what you can find out about this keep and the crown. However, focus on finding the final box. And hurry. Any final questions?”

Malva shifted and in an uncharacteristic manner spoke up of her own accord: “Lord Hector, can you think of any reason why I would be able to see the writing on the scroll?”

Lord Hector looked at Miquesh expecting him to answer the question.

“I don’t know,” Miquesh responded. “We can ask him the next time we see him.”

“Who is ‘him’?” Malva asked for the group.

“I don’t know how many of you have met him – but he would be a stranger to most of you and simply a puzzle to the rest of you. I can tell you for sure that he is an interesting character.” Hector’s further description revealed ‘him’ to be the mysterious stranger that everyone except Persephone, who narrowly missed him due to a blonde blunder, had encountered.

Before he could continue, a soldier burst into the room and announced that a party of orcs have just attacked. Lord Hector immediately stood and, after giving the team a final reminder of his charge to them and the urgency of their task, left.

After some organizing of their supplies, the group set off towards the tower which was about a day’s travel away.

At some point during their journey while travelling through the woods some members of the crew started to smell a campfire. Marcus & Ryo had been scouting ahead so they snuck up closer to see who was setting up camp.

They discovered that a small orc raiding party of four was setting up camp. After gathering this information, they went back to the rest of the group and shared what they had seen. After conferring, it was decided that they would deal with the orcs then continue on with their mission.

They all snuck up to the campfire and readied for attack. With surprise on their side, they attacked and caught the orcs unprepared. The skirmish was over quickly, but not without some injuries sustained by our band of travelers. Cyrek used his abilities to cure any serious wounds and the whole group settled in for the night near the orc’s campsite.

Wanting to get an early start the next morning, they all woke up and made quick work of the rest of their journey to the tower. They entered into the base of the tower and found themselves in a large central room with a stone staircase. They all proceed to go up the stairs and find more rubble and another large empty room – but the floor above them has collapsed. Everybody starts to look around the room for any possible hiding places or clues to what they are looking for. Malva discovers a small hidden button with the symbol of the Immortal Helix. She presses it and they all hear stone scraping coming from the floor below. They all head back down and discover a hidden entry to a staircase going downstairs.

Cyrek used the light spell to illuminate the passageway and they all went down together. Once they got down they hit a fork in the road and followed it to the right. They didn’t make it too much further before they almost landed right in the middle of a small den of goblins. Instead of taking valuable time and resources to fight them, they decided to double back and try the other direction.

After continuing on in their new direction they arrive in a room that appears to be a dining hall. They all split up and began to explore the room and some smaller rooms attached to it but there did not seem to be any obvious way past the room other than a closed portcullis. Marcus in his searching discovered a lever which he could not budge but he gathered everybody and with their combined efforts were able to move the lever and raise the portcullis. They continued on.

Marcus, who had gone invisible a little while back, decided it was his personal mission to continue on ahead of the group and scout out what is coming. Remembering Lord Hector’s warning, they are all on high alert for booby traps and general danger.

Thanks to Marcus’ scouting and the rest of them being cautious, they managed to successfully avoid the first few traps. After a few minutes they came across another stair down which Marcus, Malva, Drakon, & Cyrek went down to explore. They entered a room filled with a few inches of water and found nothing but an obviously old sarcophagus, marked by the Immortal Helix, with a decayed corpse inside of it. There was nothing that seemed to help them on their mission though and while they were intrigued by the mystery, they decided to move on.

Again, Marcus continued on first to scout and quickly encountered a mysterious voice that said “Stop – who goes there?”

‘I am Marcus Silvernight.”

‘What do you seek?”

“I seek to restore House Protex.”

“What was the name of the lost son?”

Marcus was at a loss and the rest of the group who could also hear what was being said, could not come up with the correct name. The only clue they had was the letter they had read which referenced the lost son.

“If you cannot guess, I cannot let you through” continued the voice.

After a wrong guess, the suits of armor which had been guarding portions of the hallway came to life and moved in an aggressive manner to surround the party. Finding themselves trapped in by these mysterious magical enemies, they all readied themselves for a fight.

Persephone, in an uncharacteristic move, attacked first. This launched a flurry of attacks on both sides. In a surprising moment in the middle of the fight, Marcus found the pieces of three suits of armor being flung at him mysteriously from the general direction of Malva who looked very surprised as well…in a suspicious manner. With a combination of physical blows and magical attacks they manage to disarticulate the suits of armor successfully.

They took a short rest to quickly deal with a few small wounds and to restore their magical capabilities then pressed onward again. They finally reached a room where they found a circular section of the floor which caught their attention. They looked around and discovered another button similar to the last one they found. Drakon offered to push it and the rest of the group stepped back in case of a trap. The circular portion of the floor opened up revealing a spiral staircase going downwards. The whole group went down and found a small room with a pedestal in the center with the box sitting on top of it and a scroll case. Marcus grabbed both of them and with the object of their searching safely tucked away, they all proceeded to travel back the way they came. While they were leaving however, they noticed that one of the cast aside suits of armor had knocked into the wall and, oddly enough, had caused the wall to tilt inwards…they looked inside and discovered a small treasure trove which they divided up amongst themselves based on what they found.

The most notable item they found were a magic lantern which Cyrek claimed, a seemingly magical sword which Ryo gave to Drakon, a strange globe that illuminated the area and floated which Malva took, a magical bag that seemed to have no end to the space it could contain items in which Marcus offered to carry, and finally another one of the special signet rings marked by the Immortal Helix which Persephone grabbed. This ring was made of purple Amethyst.

After successfully finding their treasure and objective, the group rushed out of the tower and through the night back to Avalar excited to give Lord Hector the final box. However, when they crested the last hill before Avalar was in their view, they saw the most unexpected sight; an orc army numbering in the thousands besieging the city.

Hector was trapped.

Click Here to continue to Chapter 5: What Lurks In The Shadows

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