Chapter #1131

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                           +                   +
                         +                       +
                       +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                         +                       +
                           +      Epic VI      +
                             +               +
                               +           +
                                 +       +
                                   +   +

+     Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and other     +
+   terms used in these stories are the property of Wizards of the Coast  +
+   which has in no way endorsed or authorized their use.  Any such       +
+   property contained within these stories are not representative of     +
+   Wizards of the Coast in any fashion.                                  +
+     The player characters depicted in these stories are copyright       +
+   1991-2024 by Thomas A. Miller.  Any resemblance to any persons        +
+   or characters either real or fictional is utterly coincidental.       +
+   Copying and/or distribution of these stories is permissible under     +
+   the sole condition that no money is made in the process.  In that     +
+   case, I hope you enjoy them!                                          +
+   Kronos         ancient lich wizard                                    +
+   Pallin         18th level grey elven wizard of Celestian, teleporter  +
+     Socrates     large albino hound                                     +
+   Parekh         18th level female human wizard, innovator              +
+     Drak         15th level human barbarian                             +
+   Date:          6/4/586 C.Y. (Common Year)                             +
+   Time:          midday                                                 +
+   Place:         the Brass Hills, within the Bright Desert              +
+   Climate:       hot and dry                                            +
+   "It's dangerous."                                                     +
+   "I'd be disappointed if it wasn't."                                   +
+                  - from _Avengers:  Age of Ultron_                      +

                   MCXXXI.  A Haunted Tower

  While some among the alliance of wizards busy themselves with various
other endeavors within the Bright Desert, Kronos has decided to pursue one
that holds particular interest to him.  Even now, he discusses this with
a couple of his peers...

Parekh:  So you're wanting to find the Tower of Sleep, that mysterious
  white spire which apparently appears and disappears at random times and
  places throughout the desert?
Kronos:  I intend to not only find it...but also venture within, deal with
  its occupants, and then learn its secrets.  Upon first hearing this tale
  in recent days, I did a bit of investigation - and learned two rather
  strange things.
Pallin:  Do tell.
Kronos:  First, by finding all known sightings of the thing and noting
  them on a map, I discerned a pattern in the locations and frequency of
  its appearances.  (he frowns)  Of course, some of the reports were less
  than accurate, if not outright lies.  I had to study all the information
  carefully, until I realized which pieces were - had to be - wrong.
Parekh:  Where did you learn about sightings of the tower?  And how?
Kronos:  (impassively)  As with any of our power and knowledge...I have my

  The pale lich unfurled a large parchment map on a table, to share his
latest findings with the others.  The table - and its chairs, and many
other furnishings and accoutrements - were no longer out in the open where
protective magic had to be regularly cast.  A base had been established
atop one tall, flat hill:  a small but sturdy metal fortress, summoned by
a powerful magical cube that Pallin possessed.  The inherent physical
protection that this place offered had been bolstered tenfold via magic
from some of the others, so that none could gain access or learn what
transpired within by any conventional magical means.  Better, the living
conditions inside the place were much cooler than outside, which suited
most of the wizards just fine.  Only Wu had seemed comfortable in the hot,
arid climate of the hills and surrounding desert.
  At any rate, the strange and powerful fortress of metal now served as
the group's quarters while longer-term efforts were being planned and put
into motion.  But those efforts did not concern Kronos at this point; he
seemed fixated on the mysterious tower that he'd been telling the other
two about this day.

Kronos:  (waves a hand, and his map remains flat after being unrolled)
  Here you can see the pattern, from my notes and tracings.
Pallin:  (nods)  Interesting.  Rather than a straight line, as some such
  things might be, this seems to follow an arc.
Kronos:  Yes.  An arc of precise distances and, and here
  as well...and then here.
Parekh:  You've noted the dates next to the appearances, as well.
Kronos:  (nods)  Which means that the tower will next show  (he
  jabs a pale finger at a point on the map)  Tonight.
Pallin:  Tonight?  Can it be?
Kronos:  The tower materializes every forty-three days, and you can see
  the pattern - based on the few recent appearances that we know about -
  laid out on this map.
Parekh:  If only we could see the entire pattern, over the last few years.
  Then we might know if it repeated itself over long spans of time.  This
  isn't really enough to discern that.
Kronos:  (nods, tracing one finger across the parchment's surface)  There
  is a definite pattern, but we have no idea if it ever repeats itself.
  My supposition is that either the tower is, for lack of a better term,
  out of control...drifting across reality and occasionally manifesting
  itself.  (he pauses)  Or else its master is systematically searching the
  desert for something.
Parekh:  But what?
Kronos:  That is what I intend to find out...tonight.
Pallin:  You mentioned _two_ strange things you learned?
Kronos:  Yes.  The other involves the tower itself, or should I say the
  magical aura left behind in its wake.  I went to the last place where
  it appeared, and there was just a trace of time-related magic.
Parekh:  That's strange.
Kronos:  Very strange.  I must wonder if this tower is not only moving
  through physical space, but also time as well.
Pallin:  Astounding!  (he turns to the lich)  I must, of course, accompany
  you to this site, to wait for the tower tonight.
Kronos:  I want both of you there.  As we do not know who or what might
  lie within, the presence of multiple wizards would be...prudent.
Parekh:  But what do you think awaits within the tower?  Belphanior told
  us of the local legends about the tower's master.  (she frowns)  I
  recall one possibility being an evil deity, while another common tale
  holds that an ancient and powerful witch calls the castle her lair.
  Yet another rumor involves an undead wizard-
Kronos:  (regards her)
Parekh:  Ah.  Yes.  But whatever lies within the tower, it clearly haunts
  these lands, stealing the very dreams of those nearby...and perhaps much
Kronos:  Oh, most assuredly.  There are enough accounts of people never
  returning from the place to convince me that it has claimed a number of
  victims.  (he crosses his robed arms)  However, I have no fear of being
  forced asleep by any magic.  I believe that I alone may be able to draw
  near the tower...and then enter it.
Pallin:  What of us?  We can marshal powerful wards against sleep, but
  their strength could well be tested by whatever unknown sorcerer, witch,
  or god holds sway over the place.
Parekh:  (concerned, she frowns, thinking through the various protective
  spells in her arsenal of spellbooks)
Kronos:  A fair point, but I do not wish for either of you to accompany
  me into the tower.  It is enough that you will be there to witness the
  outcome...whether I return victorious, or perhaps do not return at all.
  In the latter event, you will at least have the map and my notes, and
  some awareness of what happened.
Parekh:  Are you sure you want to do this?
Kronos:  Absolutely.  We should leave well before nightfall, so we can
  get into position and be prepared.  We do not know how long the tower
  will remain, once it shows up.  There may be little time to waste.
Pallin:  Very well, then.
Kronos:  I will gather a small number of unliving troops - also immune
  to sleeping magic - as reinforcements.  We shall leave within the hour.
  (he turns and strides away)

  The lich seemed to have made up his mind...and also, this was the most
excited he had ever been, in their relatively brief association with him.
It made sense that, being undead, he had no real fear of whatever unknown
force waited within the Tower of Sleep.  Whether he was driven by simple
curiosity - or a desire to gain the secrets of the tower - Kronos was set
on this course of action.  It occurred to the other two archmagi that the
strange tower might even hold the Scorpion Crown itself, and they had to
wonder if that might possibly be the lich's true objective.  One way or
another, it seemed likely that they would learn more before the morrow.

  Later that day, as the sun had nearly completed its journey across the
sky, and night approached...the three wizards had arrived in a location
many leagues distant from the Brass Hills.  They were quite literally
in the middle of nowhere; nothing but dune after sandy, endless dune could
be seen in any direction.  It gradually grew colder, which seemed absurd
given the fact that they were in a desert; at any rate, the growing chill
in the air didn't affect the dozen skeletal warriors that had accompanied
Kronos.  Pallin was flanked by his large, white-furred hound Socrates,
while Parekh had recruited Drak to bolster the group's might.  The huge
barbarian, for his part, refused to be excluded; he was from a savage land
of battle and mayhem, and thus easily bored.

Drak:  Sitting in a metal box amidst the desert gets old, fast.  Better
  to come along and...(he frowns)  Just what the hell are we doing out
  here, again?
Parekh:  There's some sort of haunted tower that comes and goes every
  three fortnights or so.  We're here to meet it, and then he-  (she
  points at Kronos, who is silently imparting commands to his force of
  skeletons nearby)  -will venture inside.
Drak:  (snorts)  Assuming the thing actually does appear.
Parekh:  Right.
Pallin:  (helpfully)  I believe it will.  After studying the map and the
  data, I surely do.  There _is_ a pattern.

  As the sunlight slowly faded, they made ready.  There was no way to
know or predict exactly when the tower might arrive, and in truth their
best guess was that it would be later at night, perhaps around midnight
when strange and evil things often happened.
  They were, in this case, wrong.  Perhaps a half hour before nightfall,
a low humming noise commenced from the desert nearby...and then the air
in that direction began shimmering, a silvery glow appearing where there
had been but empty space.  To their amazement, a tall spire of white stone
now flickered into existence, a good five hundred feet distant.  Well over
a hundred feet high, it was round and of uniform width - perhaps twenty
feet - from its base to the pointed roof of light blue shingles at its
top, far above the desert sands.

Drak:  (staring in awe at this tower which now looms over them)  Well,
  I'll be damned.

next:        the secret of the Tower of Sleep
released:    1/5/2024
notes:       For now, I've added the Bright Desert map to the links right
  above; it will come in handy during this lengthy arc.
    This one was originally slated for a Halloween-time release and was
  the best I can do for a Halloween episode, given the context and events
  of the larger arc.  As it turned out, 1126+ got shifted from fall 2022
  to December 2023 and beyond, so this one hits the world January 2024.
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