Windhammer, Copyright Wayne Densley 2001 - 2007 All Rights Reserved
For a short time you stand amongst the trees and consider what you must do. The hardest part of your quest is now before you, however the Nab's touch is something that cannot be lightly discarded. You feel no pain, but the effects of the Trial have left you drained. The pain of your healing is a memory that cannot easily be forgotten, and as you wait within the cool shadows of the forest there is a strange lingering effect that you sense will require rest to shake off. As you check your body you see little sign of the torn flesh and broken bones that would have otherwise taken your life. In their place there now lingers a strange sensation, an uncomfortable weakness not unlike glue holding together pieces of wood that has not had time to set. With each passing minute you feel those bonds strengthening, and rather than start immediately you decide it will be best to take a few moments to rest.
Quickly you survey your surrounds for a safe place to wait out the effects of the Trial. Ideally you would prefer being out of sight as you are in no condition for any further combat until your wounds are fully bonded, but as you look around it is clear that you must do something else first. All about you is scattered pieces of your clothing and other gear, spread through the trees and undergrowth, caught upon bough and bush as it rained down from above. You have no recollection of when you lost your pack, however its contents now lay strewn through the woodland, and it is best that you collect them before you relax. On the grass close to your position you find your sword buried almost to the hilt in the soft earth; a short distance into the undergrowth your pack hangs awkwardly from the jagged end of a broken branch. Thankfully it has sustained only a torn strap, and as you slowly search the area you find all of its scattered contents, some items the worse for the fall, but all still serviceable.
When you have recovered your equipment you turn to the easier task of finding a place where you might rest safely. Close to the clearing stands an enormous spreading Oak, and it proves your best sanctuary. Within the shadows thrown by its huge branches you find a narrow hollow between two delving roots and determine that there you can rest unseen. Quickly you organise yourself against its rough bark, settling yourself and equipment carefully into the tree's rough embrace. Within this small nook you attempt to relax. In the quiet of the forest you have to admit that it is a strange feeling. You cannot remember the last time you allowed yourself a few moments to do absolutely nothing, and as you listen to the muted sounds of the woodland you can feel yourself slowly being pulled together, the last remnants of the Trial acting upon you. But in this quiet place you cannot sleep. It is a luxury that you can ill afford, so instead you find yourself watching the flow of the wind through the trees, and listening for the small sounds of forest creatures as they go about the exertions of their own lives. In the shadows of the spreading Oak it is a moment of complete rest that you know will not come again.
As you wait for the effects of the Trial to lessen you notice also that the forest itself is changing. The colder months are close, and in preparation for the chill to come the air about you is filled with the detritus of the Autumn fall. The ground is already disappearing beneath a cover of deep orange and brown, and as you rest the wind begins to strengthen, a bluster touched with cold and followed with showers of browning leaves. It would be possible, you think, that in such a place one could forget what was ahead, and instead choose to remain, safe from the imminent dangers of your quest, but the cold metal at your neck is a reminder that you cannot ignore. After an hour you know it is time to move on.
Quickly you reshoulder your pack and resheathe Than'durion. Against the cold you pull your travel cloak close and look to the trail. It is somewhere ahead that Stoneholme must be found and with renewed energy you return to your quest.
(As you have allowed the Trial to complete its work you may restore your maximum endurance level to its initial value. You may also increase your strength attribute by 1 extra point if it is not already at the maximum value of 11. This will also increase your overall combat value by 1 as well.)
In the full light of day you find your way along the old pathway. It is clearly marked against the encroaching vegetation of the forest floor but is very old; a relic you think, of an age before Men came to this world. For some time it meanders through the forest, keeping a norrtherly heading before turning to the west. About you the woodland closes in, but the trees are not close and as you travel you can see the remains of large standing stones littered across the valley floor. Each has been placed upon a platform of flecked granite and rise out of the undergrowth as dark shapes hidden within the darker shadows of the forest. With these monoliths as your only companions you run along the trail, keeping to its ancient path as it winds upwards. Swiftly the terrain changes, the valley floor left behind as you begin to climb a series of undulating foothills. Without pause you keep to the trail and become more convinced as you travel that it is indeed taking you towards the entrance you seek.
In the hour after midday the trail veers again southwards and then runs parallel to a series of low cliffs that rise against the hills. For a time you follow the line of the cliffs, but within a narrow cleft bordered by steep walls of crumbling stone you find a reason to stop, the path turning towards a wide archway carved deeply into the cliff-face. It is a smooth arch of finely cut stone, rising from a wide threshold to a keystone high overhead. The curve of the arch is covered in sigils and glyphs that are unknown to you, but certainly not Man or Hordim made. In the half-light of the deep fissure you inspect the strange markings but cannot determine what they might mean. The words however, are not the most unusual aspect of what you have found. Reaching almost three times your height, the arch appears as a gateway but it is filled with smooth stone, as if it has been wrought to look like an entrance without actually being so. Within the shadows of the grotto you wonder as to its purpose, but there appears no reason to linger and once again you return to the trail.
Beyond the break in the cliffs the path again rises upon a series of heavily wooded hills, before emerging onto a narrow platform of stone. Upon this shelf of rock you come to a stop, confronted by a sheer cliff reaching many hundreds of metres above you. At your right the remains of a enormous rockfall blocks any movement to the west. Upon this ancient stone platform you can see the faded outline of your path meandering along the edges of a thin shelf of rock to the east, before turning out of sight. As you look upwards the massif of the Dekraager Tor rises beyond the reach of the cliff-face and you know that you have met the mountain upon its north-eastern edge. The entrance to Stoneholme should be found more to the south and following the path remains as your only option. Carefully you traverse the crumbling edges of the stone platform and take again to the ancient path.
The early afternoon is spent negotiating the rocky base of the mountain. Its weathered face is cracked and broken, strewn with rockfalls and enormous flows of gravel that trickle noisily down from the high cliffs above. The forest has grown thickly in places up to the base of the Devkraager Tor, and you find you have to make a number of wide detours to get around falls of rubble that have brought down large areas of the surrounding timber.
In the end your persistence pays off. Some two hours into your circumnavigation of the mountain, and just as you are making a difficult detour around a huge tangle of fallen trees, you are confronted by the impassable obstacle of a stone platform some ten metres high. Although the stones are worn, and vines and other creeping plants have grown into its chiselled joins, you can see that it is Dwarvendim-made and exactly what you are looking for. Retreating back into the forest you make your way carefully about the platform's edge, then out into the trees to find a spot from which you can properly consider what you have discovered. Amongst a clump of small pines and low brush you find a hiding place from which you can survey the platform better.
Through the thick bushes you peer out at the massive entrance to the fortress of Stoneholme. Although showing the effects of long neglect the entrance remains awe-inspiring in its scale. Shaped as a huge archway carved directly into the face of the mountain, the images of two immense Dwarvendim Warrior-Kings have been wrought; arms raised as if they are holding the weight of the Devkraager Tor on their huge shoulders. Under these images the open cavern that is the entranceway is black, the light of day swallowed completely in the darkness of its interior. From the entrance a wide polished stone platform extends outwards for more than fifty metres, at each corner the intricately carved statue of a Dwarvendim warrior stands in full battle armour. A long flight of white marble stairs rise from the green grass of a large clearing at its base and reach upwards to the stone platform. In times past this marble staircase would have met a road leading to the east, but this has long since disappeared. Gleaming white balustrades of carved stone border the platform and stairs on all sides.
Leaning back against the sturdy trunk of a young pine you relax for a moment, taking in the rough grandeur of the Imperial Entrance and the encroaching greenery of the forest that surrounds it. Within this dark treasure-house, somewhere deep within its cold, silent halls lies the Tellandra and it has somehow fallen upon you to find it. It seems a pity to squander the remains of such a fine day by attempting to enter this great fortress but you know you must.
After your efforts in finding the entrance you decide it is an opportune time to take a meal. Only Providence knows when you may have another opportunity to feed yourself, so you take a ration from your pack and rest in the shade of the Pines as you eat. (Withdraw one ration from your pack and record this on your character sheet. The rest you take will restore all endurance points you may have lost in the course of your journey so far. If you have no food or Nahla Bread available only restore a maximum of four points to your endurance.)
When you have finished you ready yourself for what is to come. In the bright afternoon sun you organise your equipment and carefully survey the entrance to Stoneholme. There is only one way in, and after ensuring that you can see no danger upon the open ground, make for the stone platform and the base of the marble stairs.
This book, and its associated books and other documents in the Chronicles of Arborell series are the intellectual property of the author, Wayne F Densley, and all rights are reserved by him. Windhammer is best viewed at 1024 x 768 resolution. Any questions regarding the Chronicles of Arborell can be answered by emailing the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
Windhammer, Copyright Wayne Densley 2001 - 2007 All Rights Reserved