"My only concern is that it is a tower. If we truly awaken the undead in this place, we would be trapped without any reliable way to escape. That said, I agree with Rhoslyn. It is likely the best vantage point we're going to be able to find, and a quick trip up will probably save us a lot of time, and, yes, find us some treasure."
Toph led the other two down into the city as Rhoslyn recounted the route she had spotted. They made it roughly halfway to the tower without incident when suddenly from a doorway to one of the abandoned stone houses a being lurched into view.
It was some sort of tall humanoid, clearly of the same race as the one who had made the message, but also clearly dead. Dried, dessicated skin hung tightly over a skull with empty eye sockets and narrow, sharp teeth. The rest of the body was the same, tight and dried skin, cracked and peeling in some places to reveal bones and shriveled organs. It moved quickly, running with a silent roar towards the three of them.
Toph reacted quickly, reaching out and pointing a finger at the undead.
But the undead kept coming. It was supposed to burst into flames, but instead, it kept coming. Confused, Toph pointed again, but nothing happened. Toph's eyes grew large as the monster closed the distance rapidly...
The Sidhe was right as was the Dwarf. The tower was the best place to make their first stop, re-orientate themselves, and plot their next move. Maybe they would find some great treasure, or more importantly to him, some information on the man that had first spoken to him in his head and then had appeared to them all. At least he wasn't insane.
The door burst open and the undead creature came stumbling towards them. He watched as Toph raised a finger and pointed it at it. He took the instructions clearly. Thrusting out with the spear, he jabbed at. A lot of good that did. The spear struck the creature in the collar bone and stuck there. The creature stopped at the length of the pole arm but was still more then eager to rip apart their throats. Its arms reached out towards him and he swung the spear about, trying to keep it at bay.
"Okay, what now?" he called out to the others.
"I don't suppose with of you moonlights as a priest in his spare time? We could really do with some sort of power on our side right now". Though, with saying that, the current state of religion in the lands didn't exactly fill her with confidence even if a whole religious order had appeared out of the tunnels to aid them. The Gods...well the Gods only knew what had happened to the Gods, most of the time the dwarf woman trusted her faith to luck and just got on with her life.
She darted in behind the undead creature as it flailed wildly on the end of Sikil's polearm. Her knives flashed as she struck at it's hamstrings and then dived out again, moving unexpectedly quickly for a member of a race better known for their stoicism and stamina than their speed. Not that her actions seemed to help at all, whatever power animated the creature seemed to pay little notice to sliced muscles and tendons.
Rhoslyn backed away from the creature, looking about her keenly. Perhaps one of the walls hereabouts could help. The city had fallen into ruin, and several walls around them looked distinctly unstable, the mortar turning to sand between the bricks. Perhaps, just perhaps they could crush the creature, it might not end its unnatural existance but she was fairly sure that most things couldn't move with a good weight of rubble on top of them.
A likely candidate stood, or rather leaned to her left, perhaps once it had been the rather imposing facade of somebody's home, but now it looked as if a good shove might knock it over. "This way Sikil", she gestured, hoping that he would understand her intention. Rhoslyn darted to the far side, praying to whatever Gods might or might not be listening that there would be no more undead waiting for her there. The mortar at the bottom of the way had all but disappeared, even several of the bricks had started to wear away with the passage of time. Shealthing her knives, Rhoslyn pressed her shoulder to the wall at what appeared to be its weakest point and shoved hard, trusting that some measure of the strength that had helped her ancestors tunnel through the stone of Bergelmir would be within her.
Toph was profoundly disconcerted, and not especially by the monster before him. His magic had failed him. Twice in the span of an hour, he had willed his magic to do something, and nothing at all had happened. Unbidden, a memory pushed itself into his mind...
Toph stared at the firepit for a moment, then hung his head. A wry laugh caught him mid-mope, and he looked up at the source of the laughter.
"The Art takes time to master, Toph. You're not going to be able to do everything every time." Lyssia said, leaning against a stone wall and gesturing at the stacked wood. "Now, remember what you know, and try again."
Toph nodded, and stared at the wood, quieting his mind and willing the Art that flowed in his veins to bend to his will. For a long moment, he felt nothing, then, with a sudden sense of movement, the magic worked and the firepit was filled with flames.
Lyssia smiled. "Eventually you won't have to do that and it will be as natural as breathing, but we all must start somewhere."
Toph took a deep breath, let it out, and willed himself to go through those old exercises. Feeling more than hearing the stones collapsing behind him, he pulled out his Art and, ripping the zombie from the spear, hurtled it towards the wall, which collapsed on the zombie, crushing it utterly.
Toph stared at Rhoslyn for a moment, and then, grimacing, turned to Sikil.
"Thank you for that. I'm not sure what is happening, but its perhaps best not to rely on my magic while we are here."
Pulling his knives free, he began slowly moving towards the tower once more.
He even found himself hoping to hear that voice in his head again, hoping it would give him reassurance that they would make it to the tower, find a way out of this cavern and see daylight again. But what of the warning? The voice had told him that one would find death here. Did this count? The city was dead and the undead were wandering about. He prayed to the old Gods that that was the case.
The only solace he got was that his companions seemed knowledgeable. They had reacted quicker and better then he did. Sikil just hoped that he could help them in some fashion. He was just a delivery man who had fallen down a hole.
A thought struck him.
"I think we may have to move to a different path. That noise would surely draw them out," he said softly, glancing to the seemingly abandoned buildings. They were starting to rise taller and larger then the buildings they had passed before. Possibly they were entering a richer part of town, maybe even where the royalty and wealthy merchants had once lived. A thought entered his head and he had to voice it. "Maybe we can find something of use in one of these buildings."
"Thats an excellent point, Sikil. I think I see a way over there" Toph pointed a door into a home. Beyond the door, they could see another that appeared to open onto another street.
Toph made his way into the home, pulling himself over a collapsed wall that had partially blocked the entrance. He turned to help Rhoslyn and Sikil climb up when his eyes caught a glimmering of glass from within the abandoned home. After the others were with him, he went to investigate - and stopped still in shock as he saw what was contained in the glass box that lay on the top shelf of a large stone shelf.
It was a large fishing rod, with a grip fashioned to look like a large cucumber. A matching rod, with a matching grip, lay on a shelf in Toph's own study in his manor house far to the south. He approached, wiping the dust from the glass case to get a better look.
No, there was no doubt. This was definitely a Rod of the Order, the ancient group of fishermen that Toph had had an ongoing relationship with for a good half of his lifetime. How such a rod had made its way here, to this abandoned city, was certainly beyond him.
Giving the rod one last puzzled look, he joined his companions at the other door, peeking around the corner to see a straight road leading up towards the tower.
"This one looks better than the one before." Toph said quietly. "But given the approaching neighbors, perhaps we should hurry?"
Sikil had made any excellant point, the noise of the scuffle would undoubtedly draw attention from the occupants of the city. While the three of them might be able to handle one of the creatures on their own, Rhoslyn didn't want to think about what they would do if two or three appeared at once. Without the Sidhe's magic or any sort of outside help they would rapidly be overwhelmed. She made herself a silent promise that if she ever got free of the tunnels she would look into some sort of protection against undead. The dwarven woman might distrust and dislike magic in all its many and varied forms but stuck beneath the land in a city crawling with undead she would have gladly sacrificed a great deal to be carrying something that would affect them. Perhaps she might be able to trade the remaining glass flowers to someone who could enchant her blades.
She climbed up and into the house following the Sidhe. The building she found herself in was certainly much grander than those they had passed when they had first entered the city. The people who had lived here had certainly been wealthy, not that all the gold in the world could have saved them from their fate. What had the people of the city done to deserve such a terrible end? Some nameless enemy and descended upon them and they had shut themselves away, hoping and praying for a rescue that had never come. Had they really been such a dreadful people? And what of those who had brought them low? What had happened to the enemy that they had sealed themselves away from?
Rhoslyn glanced at the fishing rod that had apparantly caught Toph's eye. It meant nothing to her and she could not see that it would help them in their current time of need. Perhaps the Sidhe had been a keen fisherman in his time? She supposed that even the endless Sidhe needed hobbies.
She peered out the opposite door, "It definitely looks better", she agreed. "Certainly it's the shortest route to our current goal". Part of her though hated how exposed the road was, she was a smuggler by trade and such an open route did not sit overly well with her. Still if there was nowhere for her to hide then there was nowhere for hordes of undead to shamble out from. She hoped that was true anyway.
Toph grinned at Rhosyln as he stepped out into the street.
"They're Zombies, Rhoslyn, not snipers. I think we'll be okay if we - RUN!"
Coming up the road from the lower parts of the city was a shambling mob. Pacing himself so he didn't leave the dwarf or the injured man behind, Toph began running for the tower.
Before he had a chance to explore this new feeling, Toph had cried out and they were running again.
The tower was closer but the shambling mob was keeping pace with them. While they needed to draw breath to run and their muscles would begin to tire, the undead had no such problems. They could chase them till the end of the world and still be ready to sink their claws into them when they were caught.
"We're not going to make it," he panted. A sharp pain ran up from his broken arm and he dropped the spear onto the ground. Instinctively, Sikil dropped to pick it up. As his hand closed over the spear, his vision swam and for a moment he couldn't focus. At that moment his mind caught up to his actions and screamed at him to forget the spear, to run for his foolish life. Stumbling to his feet again, he ran again towards the tower, his feet unsteady. His vision was still swimming and for a moment he saw two dwarves and Sidhe with him before they slid back into one.
As Rhoslyn helped pull Sikil forward, Toph turned and faced the approaching mob. He could feel the tingling of the Art flowing under his skin, just out of reach, just as it should be.
One of his hands fished in his pocket and closed gently around Lyssia's flowers, feeling the faint reverberations of her Art pulsing a one-two rhythm with his own, but laced with pain and sadness that, like an icy torrent, focused Toph for the task at hand.
It took far more effort than it should have to call forth the Art, which seemed to ebb and flow as he grasped for it, almost as if it were being siphoned away by some other force, which was simply impossible. Eventually, Toph grasped hold of the flow of the Art and released it.
All along the walkway, the buildings creaked and cracked and fell inwards, crushing the zombies who were far too slow to move out of the way. It only took a moment, but suddenly, the street was more or less empty, just a few twitching bodies under the rubble and a few lucky zombies who had been missed by the collapse.
Toph turned and raced to catch up with Sikil and Rhoslyn, reaching them just as they arrived at the tower.
"I've bought us a few minutes, I think." Toph panted, the exertion of handling that much of the Art clearly taxing him. He looked up the height of the tower. "you still sure you want to go up there?"
Rhoslyn heard rather than saw the buildings fall and crush a good portion of the mob. Silently she thanked her ancestors for whatever fortune or luck had given the Sidhe some measure of his magic back. She might not normally care much for that kind of thing but it was a darn sight better than being clawed apart by those who should have long since been in their graves.
She rested her hands against the tower's wall, breathing heavily, knowing that they did not have long before the remaining undead reached them. "Well, friend Toph, I don't see we've got much choice", she managed to gasp out. If they remained at the foot of the tower they wouldn't stand a chance. If they pushed out into the city they were bound to rapidly find themselves being chased again by the tireless undead. The tower? Well it was an unknown, there might be all manner of ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night in there, but equally there might be some weapon or relic that they could use against the in habitants of the city. At the very least they might find a room which they could barricade and try to wait for the undead to disperse again before trying to run out of the city.
The dwarf woman managed to get her breathing under control, "I don't know about you two, but I'll take the unknown dangers of the tower over however many undead are left in the city itself". They didn't stand a chance down in the city itself, in the tower they might face worse trouble or find some salvation. In the circumstances, she'd trust to her luck to keep her alive in the tower.
He quickly took to looking around the base of the tower. It seemed much larger now that they were there, measuring a good fifty feet in radius, and the stone was expertly done. He couldn't even see a seem in the wall at all to be able to see individual stone blocks but instead it all seemed to be chiseled from one massive block. Eyes dancing over the structure, he made out windows above them but they were well out of reach and his heart sank when he saw no door.
It had been his idea to make for the tower, hadn't it? He was going to get them all killed.
"There's no door! No bloody door!" he called out to his companions as he banged his head against the tower. Maybe they would be able to find another way out if the Sidhe's magic held up. Or they could go find a house to hold up in and try to hold their own. But the last option seemed the most futile to him. Even if they barricaded themselves in and were able to hold the undead off, they didn't have food and water. They would be dead in a few days.
Sikil banged his head against the stone again and felt his head swim. Maybe he should knock himself out before the undead began to eat him. He wouldn't have to feel every bite then. Sinking deeper into depression, his vision swam even more. No! Not again! The voice that he had thought gone, the voice of the apparition they had seen at the entrance to this city, filled his head and he clasped his hands over his ears. As the spear dropped to the ground, it scraped against the stone but as it hit a certain section of the wall, the sound changed. It sounded as if it had hit wood, not stone.
"Over here!" he cried out.
On the ledge overlooking the ruined city, a faint outline of a man appeared. Slowly it began to gain more features with every second, seemingly solidifying into the image of the man that had spoken to the trio shortly before. His eyes, filled with sadness, looked over the city and tracked the many shambling groups of undead that had awoken to the presence of fresh blood within the cavern.
"I am sorry for this," he said softly. "You trusted me to rescue you from the fall of our land, but instead I brought you here." The ghostly image of the man moved over to a rock and sat down on it, a soft sigh escaping his lips as if exhausted. "We paid for our cowardice and now our taint continues to do damage to the world."
The darkness in the corridor thickened and the fade turned his attention towards it. A look of puzzlement flashed over his face, so quick that it seemed not to have been there at all. "What are you? I haven't seen your kind before," he said softly as the darkness drifted towards him. Small tendrils of black smoke curled out from the mass, moving towards the fade, and attempted to wrap themselves around him. The tendrils just passed harmlessly through the ghost and snapped violently back. The ghost's eyes followed the the tendrils with more then a passing interest now. "You're like me, but not. Interesting. I may just have something new to dwell on for the rest of eternity."
The man slowly faded away, the last part of him to fade away his eyes. They watched this new being move down the path towards the city, his beloved Acadia. We should have never fled Mo'pri. Maybe then i would be able to rest and so would my people.
Rhoslyn turned her head as Sikil started to yell, she'd heard how the spear's impact had registered wood instead of stone. Perhaps there was some hope after all, which was good as she'd never considered herself much of a dinner guest, especially when she was considered to be dinner.
"They hid their own front door? Whoever lived here really didn't like visitors I'm guessing". There again she could think of more than a few people that she had met on her travels that she wouldn't want turning up to her door. After all there were times when everyone just wanted to be left alone. And in the end she supposed you couldn't blame someone for wanting a bit of peace and quiet, though hiding the front door did seem a rather extreme way of achieving it. "They must have had some way of opening it from the outside, I can't imagine wanting to try and climb up to a window every time I wanted to get into my own house".
There had to be a way in, some trigger or mechanism that would allow them to pass. She ran her finger-tips over the area where Sikil's spear had struck the tower wall, closing her eyes as she tried to concentrate on what she felt rather than what she could see. If only she could find a keyhole she could probably pick the lock, there had been times before when she had had to call on such socially unaccepted skills. A smuggler didn't get very far if they went around obeying the laws after all.
"No dwarf dessert for the undead today", she muttered to herself.
"Well, no hinges, so it clearly doesn't open outwards. I could try bursting it open with magic, I imagine, but then we'd have a nice gaping hole for the zombies to get in, which doesn't seem ideal... has anyone tried knocking?"
His attempt at a joke fell like a stone into the serious situation.
"Three there were, three there shall be, and three there is." The voice was soft and the speaker didn't sound familiar, but it clearly emanated from the door. A ripple crossed over where the doorway was hidden and like glass, the illusion shattered. He could just stand there, jaw dropped, as the door swung inward revealing a massive circular room that took up the entire base of the tower.
From his vantage point he could make out tapestries in red, depicting armies clashing. A woman was clearly in the forefront of all those fights, a bright flame on her armor. Behind her, in all those tapestries, stood the man that they had seen at the entrance to the city, clearly alive and well.
"I guess we knocked," he said with a smirk as he turned towards Topheh and then glanced over his shoulder towards the approaching mob. They were only a few houses down and quickly closing the distance.
But nothing was there. The Art wasn't just slippery, like it had been back in the tunnels, or turbulent like it had been deeper in the city, it was actually and completely gone, not a flicker of the Art remained within him.
"impossible..." he breathed, fear more powerful than he had felt in a century gripping his heart in an iron vice. Scrambling backwards he ran for the room.
The tapestries on the walls made for an impressive sight, though Rhoslyn was happy enough just to find no undead waiting inside for them. That would have just been a 'perfect' ending, surrounded by undead and underground to boot. Still, she supposed, at least being underground her soul might have found its way back to Bergelmir. The dwarf had never really given much thought to such things before, religion and what happened after death had never particularly concerned her overly much. Live for the moment and she'd worry about the state of her soul later, that had always been her thought. With the closeness of the undead though she found her mind straying back to the stories of her childhood. The elders among her people had always said that a dwarf should be underground, that it was the only way, after death, for a dwarven soul to find its way back to the tunnels of its birth. If her soul couldn't find its way home she would never be able to join with the ancestors...though on reflection she wasn't entirely sure why that was so important. It was something to think about more, laterand above ground hopefully, if they could ever find their way out safely.
"For the ancestors' sake, shut the door", she said. She hoped that it would close firmly and prevent any undead from following them into the tower. The door had presumably been shut since the city's fall and had kept the undead at bay since then, she just hoped that their entrance hadn't weakened whatever sorcerous power had held it shut. She pushed against the opened door, hoping that it would swing closed as easily as it had opened. They'd just have to worry about getting out later.
Through the gap in the bottom of the door he could make out the sound of the creatures as they finally arrived at the tower's base and began to pound on the stone. Not a moment too soon.
"So, um, what now?" he asked.
A faint sickly-looking light gave them just enough light to see inside but Sikil had to close his eyes against it. His stomach curled and he had to leave forward, taking deep breaths, before he could continue. He much preferred the faked sunlight outside then this. But the light did let him examine the room in more detail.
The tapestries were only a small part of the room, a very small part, as a massive stone thing dominated the center of the room. Looking up, he could see that it stretched upwards to the ceiling and a small gap in the stonework suggested that it continued up even beyond that. Whatever this stone was, the tower had been built around it, he figured, which made him question why. A stairway built in the wall peaked out from behind the massive stone, winding its way to the floor above, and a few tables lay underneath the tapestries, the faint glint of metal gleaming on them.
Grinning, Sikil left the examination of the stone to the others and went over to the tables. Treasure, he thought to himself. Maybe this wasn't so bad after all. Nope, nothing like some valuables to make up for breaking an arm, being chased by undead, and now being a virtual prisoner in a tower.
As Sikil and Rhoslyn slowly recovered and began an exploration of the rest of the floor of the tower, Toph instead focused inwards. What was happening to him? He reached for the Art and found himself teetering on the edge of an abyss within his mind. There truly was... nothing. Not even the smallest glimmering of the Art.
No, wait, that wasn't entirely true. He could still feel, just barely, the jangling bell of Lyssia's flowers. He filed that away for later, and continued to contemplate what, exactly, was happening.
He was worried, to be sure. A Sidhe did not use the Art, a Sidhe WAS the Art, solidified into flesh and blood. It was what gave them their immortality, that their bodies were not tied to the mortal earth and water like the other races, but were condensed from Spirit and Magic. To lose the Art... was to lose one's life.
So, Toph reasoned, he might be dying. But slowly, and by a means which he had not heard of in all his long years. He needed to get out of here.
"We don't have time. That door isn't going to hold for long and we need to get out of here somehow. We should go up to the top as quickly as possible" Toph tried to keep the fear from his voice, but knew he was not being wholly successful.
Regardless, he began making his way to the stairs when he suddenly froze, staring at one of the tapestries, where, behind the woman and man, armies of man and beast fought, and one of those fighting...
"I know this man!" Toph called out, pointing at the sidhe. "I served with him once, long ago when I was young. He was one of the great mages of that time... oh... A-a-a... something. Angrod! Yes. That was his name. What is he... doing on one of these tapestries?"
OOC: Angrod will appear in the other thread shortly...
His hand snaked out and grabbed a handful of the trinkets on the table and pocketed them. Sikil didn't have time to sort through them now, if he made it out of here alive he could figure out which would be worth anything.
A faint tingling swept up through him, a shiver running up his spine. My nerves are getting the best of me, he thought to himself and moved towards the stairs leading up. What was up there and would it get them out of here?
The tingling felt stronger and his stomach curled. There was a bad taste in his mouth. The undead scratching at the door faded into oblivion...
... and was standing in a room similar to the one he was just in, minus the stone column in the middle. Standing in the center of the room, where it should be, was the man that they had seen at the entrance to the city.
"We tried to flee here," the man said, taking a step forward. "But we didn't know. How could we?" The anguish in the man's voice was so thick that even Sikil could feel it through the haze. "But we kept it safe, right till the end. Have my brother find it. He'll know where I hid it." Another step forward and the man was standing directly in front of him. "The darkness is still here. Still lurking." A hand pressed against Sikil's chest. "Take up the mantel, last of the LuSuoles. Survive."
Sikil blinked and the column was again in the center of the room. His head swam for only a moment before he moved towards Toph, nearly tripping over his own feet in his haste.
"That thing spoke in my head again," he began and repeated what he had seen and been told. He purposefully left of the last part though. That part had felt personal and he was worried about what the connection could be. How had it known what his last name was? "So what do you think?"
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