Windhammer, Copyright Wayne Densley 2008 All Rights Reserved
Injured but alive you stagger to your feet and survey the devastated interior of the Deep Vault. With the Dragon Windhammer's demise the light in the cavern has dimmed, and only a dull red glow from flowing lava and molten metal illuminates the fractured stone. At your left shoulder the vast, lifeless body of the Dragon lies silent, its huge bulk torn and broken, a testament to the violence of the battle that brought it down. All about you the ground is pitted and scarred, great flows of molten rock and metal slipping noisily from vents in the walls; each torrent finding a path into huge breaks in the floor before dropping as fiery waterfalls into the depths far below.
Broken and winded yourself, you find a purchase against an upthrust of stone and search out the Tellandra. At the far right of the chamber you see it; a dimly glowing pillar of white stone, alone and diminished upon a stepped platform. This is the objective of your quest, and you drag yourself towards it, determined that all your efforts shall not be in vain.
As you move towards the pillar your injuries begin to take their toll upon you. The rigours of the quest, the many combats you have endured, and the confrontation with Windhammer have all left a mark that will take more than rest and food to heal. Above all it is your chest that causes you the greatest concern. Ribs have been broken, and you can feel the wet cling of blood in your throat from a puncture wound that will require attention quickly. You look about the great chamber and know that for the moment at least, you are on your own.
Stepping as carefully as you are able you work your way to the Tellandra. Clouds of pain are beginning to numb your senses, and it is not until you are no more than a stone's throw from the platform that you realise you cannot reach the pillar. Before you a fast flowing river of lava rushes along a huge fissure in the floor, cutting off any access to the platform itself. With every move you make towards the shimmering barrier the heat intensifies. You can get no closer.
Standing there amongst the heat and noise it is difficult to accept that you are so close to success and yet so effectively barred from your goal. For some time you consider your plight, and as you wait you feel your injuries taking a firmer hold upon you. Falling to one knee you steady yourself and know that you cannot go back, nor can you go forward. All seems doomed to failure.
As your thoughts darken towards despair you look more carefully at the platform. Through the shimmering heat you see a series of words carved into the upper step. "naman tor varshem tolluth." As you read the words you realise that they are indeed familiar to you. Something hidden deep in your memory forces itself into your consciousness and you know then what you must do. Through the pain and heat you are sure you have your answer.
Quickly you gather what remains of your strength and struggle to your feet. Supported by a huge block of fallen stone you raise your arms and intone as loud as you can the words that will bring the Tellandra together once again.
"naman tor varshem tolluth!"
Instantly the Deep Vault is silent. As if time itself has been commanded to a halt the cavern freezes, all the melee of sound and heat captured and stopped in that instant. Within this frozen space you are paralysed, a great power holding you, and all about you, in its firm grasp. But something has been unleashed by the potency of the words, and you can feel it growing in the floor beneath you.
Held immovable within the silence you cannot see what is happening about you, your eyes are fixed upon the Tellandra itself, but you can sense a vast power building in the foundation of the world, rushing upwards towards you.
With your eyes focused on the stonewood pillar you become witness to something miraculous. In the grip of an unseen hand the broken shards of the Tellandra begin to lift from the platform and coalesce with the main column. With each shard's return to the whole an aura of rainbow light grows, pulsing with increasing intensity. From deep red to a shining incandescent blue the aura brightens, then explodes outwards as powerful as a new sun, blasting light throughout the cavern, illuminating every corner of the vast treasure vault.
Without warning the paralysing hold of the EarthMagic passes and you fall, limp and fatigued, onto the hard stone floor. With a clatter the metal collar that has bound you to your mission so ruthlessly breaks and hits the ground, its pieces disappearing in a mist of hissing steam. Then around you the magic changes.
Upon its platform the Tellandra stands whole, a bright fountain of pulsing light from which a single swirling shaft of blue extends upwards. Within the space of a heartbeat the vortex of power hits the vaulted roof, spreading across its reach as a wave of magic that goes to work on the stone of the Deep Vault.
As you watch the chamber reforms and renews itself, the fissures in the walls of the cavern close, the many cracks and scars left by the great Dragon heal and disappear. In the vaulted ceiling above, a huge mosaic of stained glass rebuilds itself, turning the arching vaults into the moving representation of a jewelled forest canopy. At all sides pillars of yellow stone burst into life, shining a soft pastel light into every corner of the cavern. Against this light you see a series of immense carved images spread across the walls, depicting the great victories of the Stone Kings and the power of the LoreMasters of the Grand Circle. Within minutes the magnificence of the Deep Vault is restored.
In the quiet that follows the restoration of the Tellandra you try and raise yourself from the floor but it proves difficult. Using your weapon as a support you stagger to your feet and wonder at the transformation that has occurred about you. The Dragon's body has gone, the great lava flows have faded away, and the cavern has been swept clean of all debris and treasure. Somehow all is now new again, but outside the massive oak doors of the Vault a new sound arises. Faintly, at the edge of your hearing you can sense a great tumult being played out in the halls and passages of Stoneholme. All is quiet here, but you can feel magic scouring the fortress, removing the Hordim and returning the stone of the stronghold to its former glory.
With the tumult raging through the mountain you turn again to the Tellandra. Upon its shining platform the blue cloaked radiance of the pillar crackles with power, but there is something new, and as you watch it walks down the steps towards you, holding out its hand in greeting.
"Master Vesh," it says in a soft, aged voice. "It is good to see that you have survived."
Before you stands a man of untold age. He walks with the gait of one who has seen far too many years and seems as fragile as dried twigs as he negotiates the stairs to the floor of the Vault. Dressed in immaculate blue robes lined with Azuril and sown with complex symbols and artifices, the man shuffles towards you, his face a vision of age and wisdom mingled with pain. There is something about him though that belies his apparent vulnerability. You sense quickly that he is as powerful as the Tellandra itself.
"Who are you?" you ask in a whisper. Your injuries are proving difficult to ignore and even as you ask the question you fall to your knees.
The old man hurries to your side and holds out his hand to help you up. Carefully you take his hand and feel a strange energy run through your hand as you rise. Immediately it is easier to breathe and in the magnificence of the Deep Vault you ask the question again.
"Who are you and what is your purpose here?"
The man smiles and shrugs his shoulders. "Who a man is can be a hard question to answer, Master Vesh. It has been my experience that we can spend our lives trying to determine who we really are, and then surprise ourselves at the last anyway; but I believe that a philosophical discussion was not the intent of your question..."
The old man bows slightly and continues. "In another time I was known as Shalengael, however that was another life, and another world away. In these times I am known only as Mentor and I have been sent by my master to set you upon a new path. Whilst you have struggled here in the reaches of this fortress the world above has changed. I am afraid that the Powers of this world will give you no time for rest Master Vesh for they are once again in need of your services."
You frown and wince from the pain of your broken ribs. "Surely I have earned the right to an opportunity to heal. As I am there is little I can do for anyone."
The Mentor nods and looks around at the Deep Vault. "I am afraid that it is not in my power to help you with your injuries. I have spoken with the Maturi Len and he will provide the help you need once you have left the confines of Stoneholme. It is my task to give you what you need to know now. The world outside has turned sharply upon a dangerous path and I ask only that you listen to the message I must deliver."
You look at the old man and sense that there is nothing false in his words. You will listen.
"I am the Mentor, Master Vesh, an advisor of sorts to the Shan'duil on all the affairs of Men. The River of Life knows all about the world we live in, for it created it all, and sustains it even now, but Men are not native to these lands and the River finds this perplexing. Unlike all other things in this world the Shan'duil cannot keep a proper balance in the affairs of Men; we have proven ourselves somewhat erratic, and it is left to servants such as myself to do what is necessary to save ourselves from ourselves."
"I look at you Dwarvendim, and I see someone who harbours distrust and acrimony for the Kalboreans. Like most men you look at the Hordim as mindless beasts, a relentless enemy that haunts the affairs of Men as a predator might its prey. Such feelings are understandable but I will tell you Halokim, that there are dangers rising beyond these walls that hold far greater ambitions than the Kalborean Union, and a far deeper malevolence than the Horde."
"Trust what I say, for as you have been securing the restoration of the Tellandra a great scourge has been released upon us all. Out of the far west a creature that calls itself by a dark name has arisen, taking under its thrall a legion of deadly beasts, both living and spectral, which even now attack Men and Hordim alike. I am afraid Halokim, that it has been left to you to face this enemy and destroy it."
For a moment you wonder at the old man's words and then laugh. "You have got to be joking," you say loudly. "I can hardly stand, how am I going to attempt another quest? Is there no other?"
The Mentor shakes his head. "It is the will of the Powers of this world that it be you who stands against this peril. Somehow your fate has become the fate of all, but I must tell you that you will not fight this battle alone. There are others who will come to your aid, you need only take the first step on the journey."
As he finishes the old man pushes his hand into a deep pocket within his robes. When he withdraws it he is holding a talisman. Immediately you recognise it as a Sharyah, a talisman of the Ancient World.
"To aid you on your journey you are to be given this. It is a Sharyah, a Gathering-stone of the Trell'sara, but it has been altered to perform a new task. Within its presence all that is spectral will be drawn into the real world. Why this is important will become clear in time."
You take the talisman and look it over. It is a small circular device, wrought as an intricate pattern of intertwining knots held on a necklace of hard iron. Although you can sense a power within it there seems little about it that signifies its purpose.
"And what am I to do?" you ask, "How am I to find this creature and destroy it?"
The Mentor turns to the north and stares into the stone. It is as if he is looking straight through it.
"Your first task must be to find your way to Kal Arbor. There the Maturi Len holds all the knowledge you need to continue your journey. I can tell you that the shadowed creature holds its dominion in the mountains of the far west and it is there that you will find it. Why it has arisen, and how it is to be destroyed are questions that can be answered at a better time."
The old man turns towards you and places a withered hand upon your shoulder.
"But after having placed these responsibilities upon you do not think that your actions here have gone unnoticed. You were sent on this quest by the Kalboreans and yet in the completion of your task you have done a great service to your people. Whether it is your wish or not the pain and hardship of your ordeal will be rewarded. It is a necessity in these times though that the dangers rising before us are dealt with first, and I am afraid that much of that burden must fall to you."
In the quiet of the Vault you find yourself not fully believing what the Mentor has said, but your wounds leave you with little time to argue the point. Even as you stand you can feel the effects of his touch fading away.
"What must I do?" you ask quietly.
The Mentor points to the doors that now stand solid within the entranceway to the Deep Vault.
"Make your way back to the world above. The Hordim have been moved on and will not harass you as you go. Stoneholme is once again the domain of the Dwarvendim and they have you to thank for it. Find a path to sunlight and the LoreMasters will do the rest. Do not despair Halokim, it is not your time to die."
(If you have previously spoken with the Jotun General Aggamem and wish to release the wraiths of Kal Murda from their torment turn now to section 250. If you have not spoken with this warrior continue with this section.)
As those last words echo within the chamber the image of the Mentor fades and then is gone. Within the vast space you find yourself alone, once again left to your own devices. Carefully you turn towards the doors to the Vault and come to a halt, startled by what you see. Across the entire surface of the huge doors is an intricately carved representation of the last desperate moments of your battle with Windhammer. In the restoration of the Deep Vault it would seem you have found a measure of immortality, a timeless reminder for all who might pass into this great chamber that it was you who brought EarthMagic back to the Dwarvendim. Not bad, you think, for a petty thief.
Carefully you head for the doors, the passage beyond lit brightly with a yellow glow. In the world above you will find the next task that awaits you and you see no reason to tarry any longer. Slowly you make for the corridor but turn to take one last look at the Deep Vault. At its end shines the Tellandra, a deep blue aura vibrating with power as it illuminates the chamber, the dark green of a forest canopy overhead, carved in arches of moving glass that sparkle in the pillar's reflected brilliance. All in all it has been a good day's work.
Ahead lay a slow return to the world and another quest to be completed. Whether you are up to the task is a question that you know can only be answered in the fullness of time. All you can be sure of is that whatever happens next will, of course, be another story.
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 email@example.com
Windhammer, Copyright Wayne Densley 2008 All Rights Reserved