They all set to work and completed the raft shortly. It was crude, but it would manage the two-mile float to the tower. They shoved off, Marie watching the shoreline behind them. There it was, the being that had been following them. Clothed in dark armor and carrying a broad sword, how had it remained so stealthy in such garb?
“Is that it?” Haro asked, pointing to it.
“Yes,” Marie said.
Haro raised her small palm to it and waved, the dark knight waved back.
The strange creature in full armor didn’t follow them and they focused their attention on the river. The closer they got to the tower, the foggier it got. The only thing they could mae out well was the looming tower in the distance. They paddled forward, nervous and unsure of what they would meet. Things in the Shadowfell were never easy, you never knew who was out to get you or from where they would come. The sat in the eerie silence waiting.
Soon after they deemed it safe to dock on the shore and everyone got off the raft. They tied it to a tree and stared at the building before them.
“Looks like sixteen stories,” Haro estimated.
“Who would build such an absurd structure in the middle of nowhere?” Marie asked, staring pointedly at Adalos.
He shrugged, “You never know, it seems like a trap though.”
“Then why are we here?” Haro asked.
“Everess wouldn’t ask us to do something if it weren’t important,” Marie answered, “we can trust her judgement. That doesn’t mean it’s not trapped though.”
“Let’s look around for a bit then, maybe there’s a clue to why it’s here,” Adalos suggested.
“Fine,” Marie agreed, “You two search around to the left and I’ll go to the right.”
Haro and Adalos exchanged a look of suspicion, but said nothing. They began making their way around the left side of the building. Along the sides of the building there were no insignias or even any embellishments to give away it’s purpose. It was blank, cold stone that matched the ever graying sky. They kept going, happening upon a half buried statue. Despite being a scholar of history and religion, Adalos knew nothing of the cloaked figure that bore long sharp teeth.
“What is it?” Haro asked.
“I’m not sure, let’s dig it out,” Adalos suggested. With no other signs to give them a clue as to what they would face in the tower, they began digging.
Meanwhile, Marie had found the entrance to the tower. Her instinct told her to turn away and leave it as it sat ajar. But, there was something in there, something they needed. Quietly, she crept to the door examining the ground before her and the door frame. Her eyes easily found the thin but strong steel cables. It was a trap, one she’d need time to disarm. She found the device’s pressure plate and began her work. Many years of practice and an excellent (although regrettable) teacher, made the work easy. In no time, she had disabled the device.
Ducking down, she decided to investigate the interior. Like a shadow, she slinked in to the room but there was no light. Across the room from her came the rattling of chains, someone was inside. Rather than face them by herself, she retreated to find her companions.
Adalos and Haro had dug for an hour now and the statue’s base had yet to be uncovered.
“This is ridiculous,” Haro muttered, “we’re not getting anywhere.”
“But, this statue is the only clue we have,” Adalos reminded her.
“We stopped looking as soon as we found it,” Haro pointed out, “maybe there’s something else. I don’t think this is going to help us at all.”
“Just a little more time,” Adalos asked.
“What about the rogue? Shouldn’t we have seen her by now?” Haro asked.
“You would have if you weren’t digging a pit,” Marie said, walking up to the two of them.
“We thought the statue might tell us something,” Adalos said.
“What? That this place is really old?” Marie scoffed, “Come on. I’ve disabled the trap at the front door but there’s something waiting inside for us. I recommend a torch for light.”
Haro bounded up after the rogue and Adalos soon followed, taking one last look at the statue. A shiver ran down his spine just looking at it. He had a job to do though.
At the door, Haro lit a torch. Marie nodded to the both of them and kicked the door so it would swing open. She rushed forward and found the foe she was looking for. A skeleton was standing in front of them, a sword in its hand. It took a step forward but Marie was already upon in. She swung down with her morning star. It tried to dodge her, but it was too late. It crumbled to the ground in heap of dust and bone fragments.
“That wasn’t so bad,” she said, flicking her hair out of her face.
“We could have used you in our party a while back,” Adalos chuckled, “seems we’re always fighting.”
“Everess said you had many enemies,” Marie said. She began to examine the room, looking for more traps. Haro had found a bookshelf and was pouring over the scroll, most of them too ancient to understand anymore.
“Can you read these?” Haro asked, holding them up to Marie.
“I can make out a bit,” Marie said, concentrating on the words, “they’re goblin. Tactics for war mostly, but ancient. These must have been here for a very long time.”
“Look at this,” Adalos held up a piece of parchment, considering the rest of the books lying about it seemed fairly new. The strange writing was unknown to Haro and unlike the scrolls she’d found, who then passed on the letter to Marie.
“It’s a warning,” Marie said, “between men that seem to be brothers. Apparently one, name Jynx, was writing to tell his brother Yardol that he couldn’t hide him. Someone called the ‘Onlooker’ was after him,” Marie roughly translated.
“Whoever those people are,” Haro muttered, “it doesn’t help us.”
“No,” Marie replied, but she stashed the note in he bag anyways.
“Let’s keep going,” Adalos said, motioning to a staircase in the corner.
The ranged up two more levels, each had traps and more skeletons waiting to attack them. On the fourth level they came to a room. Unlike the ones before, there were no skeletons in site. Only an old telescope and on the floor in a large circle a symbol of sickness and sin. Haro, unbothered by the strangeness of it all, walked up to a closet on the far side of the room. Immediately two skeletons darted out of the closet. Adalos flung the telescope at one crushing it, while Marie bashed the other’s head in with her morning star.
“Easy there, Haro,” Marie helped the halfling up, “it’s okay to be curios, as long as you can kill the thing you’re curious about.”
“I would have had it,” Haro said.
“I know,” Marie replied, “just be careful.”
Another few levels of the same pattern, didn’t faze their pursuit ever upward. As they were about to reach the sixth floor, Adalos heard a voice inside his mind, Welcome, me old friend, it said.
“Did you hear that?” Adalos asked.
“Hear what?” Haro asked.
“It must have been my imagination,” Adalos sighed. They continued up the stairs entering a room with a pedestal in the middle and on it was the book.
Usmos, it’s you! The book cheered, only Adalos heard it.
“Who are you?” Adalos asked aloud. Haro and Marie exchanged perplexed glances, but did nothing.
You don’t remember, but we were friends long ago, the book explained, in fact, you helped create me.
“How can I know to trust you?” Adalos asked.
Because I’m here to help, there’s so much to do and so little time, it said, besides, I’m a book. What am I really going to be able to do to you?
“Well, I believe I meant to get you,” Adalos reasoned, “so I have no problem in claiming you.” A series of images ran through Adalos mind, 4 beings in blue, a volcano erupting in the middle of a mountain range, a large table, many different cities all engulfed in war, and two dragons with the three blue being fighting something dark.
A burst of light flashed through the room and suddenly two figures stood with the group. An old man in white robes and red designs stood with Everess. Haro and Marie stood in front of the dazed Adalos as the old man began to speak.
“I’m glad you’re all here,” he began, “I am the Onlooker. Together you must free Everess, unite the Champion Titans, and stop Nix. There’s so much to be done and so little time, but Dane can help you. This book, will show you how to win.”
The room began spinning and the three fell unconscious. Marie woke in Tamaryn’s dungeon, a weird dream that shouldn’t couldn’t quite remember plaguing her thoughts. She shrugged, wasn’t worth thinking about if she couldn’t remember. Everything has just gotten more bewildering.