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ID: 4022

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July 24, 2007, 9:35 pm

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The Lightning-Struck Tower

By:

"The Tower of Ill Omen!" the old gypsy gasped as she glimpsed the shattered structure at the mountain’s peak.

The Age of Chaos

It is said by some sages that mysterious horrors once walked the Earth, ruling the land long before the coming of the younger races.  Thralls of Chaos, these creatures were alien and bizarre beyond comprehension.  Immeasurably powerful, but empty of love or mercy, they filled the land with the destruction and madness that was their essence.  Their bizarre rituals and titanic battles laid the land to waste, all for causes no human could hope to fathom.  As they struggled against each other, these primordial terrors destroyed all that they encountered, senselessly invoking fierce and malevolent incantations, spells as potent and incomprehensible as those of gods. Despite their awesome power, these things were bound by the decrees of destiny, as all things are:  They were granted their time to flourish, and then would fall.  Primal spirits of the land and air, pained beyond even their inhuman endurance, brought forth powers of Order, more potent than the world had ever seen:  Proto-gods of Justice, and Wisdom, and Light, and Life; spirits born to bring reason from madness. From a high precipice, the newborn Spirit of Wisdom called forth judgment upon the hideous denizens of the land, her beautiful voice ringing out with words of doom.  The power of the land itself turned upon these beasts who thought themselves as gods:  The land’s wrath fell upon them, smashing into them with the force of an outraged world.  The creatures of Chaos, nearly immortal, were buried alive under entire mountain chains or hurled free from the bounds of gravity.  Locked away from the light, they would remain, hidden in the lowest of caverns or thrown into distant realms of the sky. As the mighty horrors of Chaos were driven from the land, the first of the elder races, elves and dwarves, crawled from their hidden lairs and stared in awe at the glorious Spirit of Wisdom upon the high pinnacle, radiant as she completed her mighty judgment.  That place would remain holy to them, sacred until the end of the world.

The Tower on the Peak
From below, it takes keen eyes to make out the crumbling tower, the ruin that sits upon the high pinnacle of Tannter Peak.  At times, the mists of the mountain seem to swallow it, blowing past the high ridge like a blanket of oblivion.  Few travelers dare venture across the mountain’s rugged stone, where the only living things seem to be the mosses and lichen that shelter in the cracks and depressions. 

Clambering across the granite boulders and heaps of talus, those headed for the peak will pass the final resting places of less fortunate visitors, their remains covered with heaps of stones.  Some few cairns still have the remnants of holy symbols upon them, wooden or metal shapes, worn and battered by the mountain’s ceaseless icy winds.

The Lightning-Struck Tower
Wonder fills those travelers who reach the peak, as they finally behold the massive structure built by Governor Jagod in the time of the Empire.  Despite the havoc wrought by wind and frost, much of the lofty edifice remains intact.  Massive buttresses of bright limestone are faced with giant images of great emperors.  Dozens of small windows peer out from the tower’s face, black holes in the gleaming stone.

The tower’s stones are massive, clearly the labor of the Frost Giants once enslaved by the Empire; yet, despite their huge size, the ones near the top have been shattered and blackened by centuries of lightning strikes.  The peak of the tower has been entirely destroyed, with shattered and crumbling blocks of stone littering the ground around it.  Each of these blocks was once the size of a small wagon, but they were thrown clear of the tower as if they were children’s toys.

Within the tower, some things are still whole and undamaged, such as an ancient cistern, still collecting the rainwater that falls on the tower.  Other parts are battered or entirely missing, their ancient stonework cracked and crumbling.  The once-magnificent doorways loom empty and forlorn, yet much of the tower’s winding staircase remains. 

Those few travelers willing to dare the crumbling stone of the stairs may eventually reach the pinnacle of the tower.  What once was a lofty chamber is now a cracked platform of blackened stone.  This shattered chamber rewards those who achieve it with a view that takes in the land for hundreds of miles around.  On a clear day, one can even see the distant cities of the seacoast and make out the glittering spirals of distant Bennu Palace.

More importantly, those who dare remain while the storms’ winds rise may be granted another boon.  In this place, the paths that Destiny holds out to men can be perceived:  Visions of the future beckon to them.  Images dance at the edges of their perception; faint voices call out from the winds howling across the stone. 

Some seekers are tempted to remain too long,  Hungry for more of the elusive visions, the lightning and winds of the storm overtake them.  Sometimes their mournful voices can be heard on the wind, additions to the throng of the mountain’s dead.

From Here, I Can See Everything…
When the Great Empire was at its height, Emperor Xystus had decreed that Jagod, ill-regarded Governor of the mountain district, would build a magnificent structure upon Tannter Peak, where Xystus’ seers had divined that a potent magic could be found.  The ruler envisioned that a glorious tower would rise there, becoming the inspiration for a new golden age of magical learning. (Even then, men dreamt of a mythical golden age long before.)

Embracing this chance to redeem himself in the Emperor’s eyes, Governor Jagod joined an army of slaves and workers headed for the mountain, along with the Empire’s finest architects, engineers, and wizards.  They struggled up the mountain, the giant slaves burdened with loads heavy for even their mighty frames.  Encamped upon the frigid top of the mountain, they began their labors, the mages chanting incantations of unequaled potency to conjure forth stone from quarries many leagues distant.  The elementals of the mountain were bound with masterful abjurations, forced to ensure that the storm’s winds would not strike while the tower was being built.  

The workers had not been there for long before an envoy of elves arrived.  Ancient creatures, frail with millennia of wisdom, these elder folk bore gifts of rare spices and fruits, along with words of warning.

"This place is sacred to the Gods, for it was here that the Spirit of Wisdom first spoke the words of Doom upon the ancient Chaos.  You do not even perceive what this place is!  It is not the way of my people to speak so to the younger races, but desist, ere you bring such a fate upon yourselves!"

Then the elves left, and were never again seen within those mountains. 

Despite the warning, the tower’s construction continued day after day.  Slaves labored and died, crushed beneath massive blocks of stone; potent spells reshaped living rock, bending it to serve the will of man.  None considered the elvish warning; none realized that they lacked the purity of spirit needed to remain unharmed in a place of such ancient magic. 

Jagod’s End
Eventually, the tower was finished, as splendid and impressive as the Emperor could ever have desired.  The Governor, his engineers and architects, and the other Imperial citizens gathered within the tower to celebrate their achievement, leaving their slaves and workers to shiver in their shelters upon the mountain’s slopes.  As they drank the watered wines favored in the Empire, ate the fragrant meat of the wild sheep found on the lower slopes, and chewed happily upon the last of the elvish gifts of fruit, they congratulated each other.  The only mar upon the evening’s feast was the discomfort of the High Magus Profligas, who retired early, feeling rather weak and short of breath.

The unfortunate man’s heart failed in the night, and with his death, the bindings he had placed upon the elements began to unravel.  By morning, angry spirits of the storm surrounded the tower, battering it with wind and rain.  Lightning flashed as the unleashed tempest made up for months of enforced calm.  In the nearly continuous flashes of the ferocious storm, the slaves could be seen fleeing for their lives, scrambling down the mountain’s slopes (The handful of frost giants still found in the region are descendants of those enslaved goliaths). 

Within the tower, the wizards and engineers of the Empire argued what to do.  Some gathered their belongings and fled into the wrathful storm; a few of them escaped, but others were found later, their forms crumpled at the base of cliffs or shattered on granite outcroppings. 

Others joined the Governor in the high chamber of their tower, enthralled by unearthly images that filled the air there.  They stood in amazement, caught up in strange wonder as the storm’s wrath seized them one by one and dragged them into the dark clouds around the tower.  To this day, their lamenting voices can sometimes be made out on the wind.

The Pinnacle of Wisdom
The power of the Spirit of Wisdom is still strong upon the mountain’s peak, touching all who are at the high point when the storm winds rise.  To those with magical talent, the power gives knowledge:  Visions filled with cryptic symbolism, from which those who are wise can learn much.  Despite what some believe, the visions do not truly foretell the future; instead, they give the recipient a better understanding of the possibilities ahead.  Those who lack wisdom, the arrogant and self-important, will instead find visions that reinforce their prejudices and conceit.

The power of Chaos is still strong here, as well:  The elementals native to the mountain are wild and destructive.  Those who think they face natural hazards of wind and cold may discover to their sorrow that the spirits of the mountain remember well how the magi of the Empire bound them; the unforgiving elements feel particular malevolence toward the workers of magic.



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Comments ( 12 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted Cheka Man
July 15, 2007, 9:17
0xp
Not a good place for a user of magc to be.
Voted manfred
July 15, 2007, 14:31
0xp
...yet a greatly atmospheric place which is interesting enough as a mere legend, and even more as reality.

And of course are there plot hooks to be found. From the good ole search for the remains of a foolish visitor (or something useful he took there), through going up and attempting to conjure a spirit of High Magus Profligas (or anyone from that ancient story), up to the need of feeling the Spirit of Wisdom because of {insert quest}.


I very much like it!
Voted valadaar
July 16, 2007, 5:11
0xp
Yep. Awesome!
Voted MoonHunter
July 17, 2007, 11:53
0xp
This is a great piece. It has history and legendary associations. It has actual reality and great atmosphere. It has plot hooks galor. It ... it ... it... *insert gushing joy*

ahem. So good job.
Voted Murometz
July 20, 2007, 14:24
0xp
Beautiful, Wulf! This has it all. I love this sub! Its this kind of atmospheric location, that I really enjoy and appreciate as a somewhat jaded GM. It simultaneously manages to seep both verisimilitude and rich "fantasy". Wonderful!

Plot Hook ideas are invading my brain! I will have to share them here, soon.
valadaar
August 18, 2007, 20:01
0xp
Hey Wulf, was this inspired by the Tarot card?
Wulfhere
August 18, 2007, 21:38
0xp
Yes, it was inspired by my readings about the Tarot. I used to be fairly proficient at Cartomancy, a practice that I have since concluded is spiritually perilous and unwise: Those seeking promises of the future often lose the lessons of the present.

I didn't try to stay true to the commonly-accepted meaning of the card (Sudden reversal or catastrophic change), instead visualizing it as an example of the perils encountered by those who arrogantly traffic in spirits and seek to foretell the future. It became a place where Wisdom, if not respected, brings doom.
manfred
August 19, 2007, 14:06
0xp
Then it seems the card thingy was useful for something. :)
Voted Michael Jotne Slayer
November 7, 2007, 9:45
0xp
Returning to those submissions I know I have read but failed to comment and vote on. This one is not that old(fortunately, because not commenting on things you like is pure heresy), and I'm glad to correct the error sooner, as opposed to later.

...This is one of those that have the "realfeel" to it. You have no problem imagining it and, as a GM using it in your games. Bravo.
Murometz
February 9, 2011, 10:58
0xp

Beautifully rendered and realized location. Great balance between the evocative imagery and the "real".

(The handful of frost giants still found in the region are descendants of those enslaved goliaths). 

Very nice ^. I can picture PCs encountering one of these descendants, and hearing the legends of the tower passed down from the enslaved ancestors

Voted Wizard of Justice
August 2, 2014, 17:00
Only voted
Voted Kassy
August 4, 2014, 10:50
0xp
5/5

I like this. Fav'd.

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