The Rise of Felskein [Completed]

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 21, Part 7

They traveled in silence on the way back to Port, tired from the battle, long days of travel with little sleep, and the heat of the day. Kezzek's body was tied to one of the horses they stole from Bragas' camp. Though no one spoke on it, they all missed the Greywarden's gruff presence in their own way.

They made camp on the edge of the hills, laying Kezzek and his belongings down at his usual spot at the edge of the camp. Harold climbed the nearest hill to keep watch and the others settled down to sleep.


Suniel awoke to icy fingers on his throat. His eyes opened and looked into pale blue, empty eyes. A chill poured into him from the eyes and a familiar icy grip clutched his heart. With a shout he shoved the creature back and scrambled to his feet, Keeper already stepping in front of Suniel, his lightning shield and light sword igniting.

“Kormak, there's another! Don't look into its eyes!” Suniel shouted, turning and scrambling a ways up the hill. “Harold, we're under attack!”

He turned to see Kormak grappled with the thing, eyes pressed shut. Arrows flew from the darkness and Keeper was pushing it back relentlessly. Suniel chanted, carefully gauging the timing of his gestures to prevent his magical blasts from hitting Keeper or Kormak. A few tense seconds later, the thing was gone, leaving them standing about their fire in a shocked silence.

Harold walked into the firelight, bow still in hand, eyes darting about. “Where did that come from?”

“Beats me, I woke up and it was just here in the camp,” Kormak said. “At first I thought it was a nightmare, then I realized it was even worse.”

“And it gets worse than that,” Suniel said, walking over towards where Kezzek's body had been lying. There was nothing there except Kezzek's quor'rel.

Suniel picked it up and held it, the firelight glinting on the double blades. They looked at it in silence.

“I wonder if that thing is worth anything?” Kormak said.

Suniel shot him a dark look.

“What, it's not like any of us can use it. I'm just being practical, you know.”

Suniel just walked away.

Kormak turned to Harold. “What, you going to use it?”

Harold walked away.

Kormak grumbled to himself and joined the others in packing up the camp. No one was interested into trying to go back to sleep.


They stayed outside Port for nearly a month waiting for Bradic. The Webdyns drove the Thornspills out and held Port and, though Kezzek was dead and gone, the group kept mostly to their ship and turtle just in case they were still outlawed.

Harold snuck into town at one point and managed to find the Silver Knights headquarters in Port. He hired the their whole local contingent to escort a large merchant caravan he managed to put together to bring much-needed trade to the Crystal Towers.

He was feeling pretty good about himself when he returned to the ship and overheard the others.

“... yeah, the Crystal Towers.” Suniel was saying as Harold walked up the plank.

“What's this?” Harold said, walking up to Suniel's motley crew. They all turned to him, various uncomfortable expressions on their faces. Harold had a sinking feeling in his stomach.

Suniel cleared his throat. “Bad news. We just heard of something called the Rising Plague in the Crystal Towers. They say the whole Crystal Towers mainland is sealed off, no one is going in or out. Rumors of people dying and... coming back.”

“And, the really bad news is, I just got word that Northmand and the Hobgoblins are at war up north,” Kormak said.

The dwarf kept talking, but Harold wasn't listening anymore. He stood still, but it felt like the world was spinning. It's happened, he thought. And I wasn't there to stop it. The others seemed to be talking to him, but he couldn't hear anyone. They needed me and I wasn't there, we have to get there. Whatever the cost!

"We're going now," Harold said, turning to Suniel. "Get the turtle and whoever is coming, no more waiting around."

"But Bradic-" Kormak said.

"Damn the Freeholds!" Harold shouted, turning on the dwarf. "We have to get to the Crystal Towers, no more delays!"

He stormed off, looking for the Ambassador. Nothing else is important. We must get to the Crystal Towers!
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 22, Part 1

It was snowing heavily as Bradic arrived in Port. He arrived in the night and Suniel didn't even know he was there until he saw the fortress burning, sending a strange diffuse glow through the heavy snows. They were all getting ready to go investigate when a soot-smeared Bradic walked up the gangplank of their ship with half-a-dozen armed and armored men in tow. He nodded to them as he came up on deck.

“Made it, as promised,” Bradic said, shaking Suniel's hand. “I didn't get as many to defect as I'd hoped, but I managed to raid one of the Hold treasuries and hire a decent array of mercs.”

“What took you so long?” Kormak said. “We were about to leave without you.”

Bradic cast a semi-questioning glance at the dwarf.

“Harold is... ah... impatient to get going to the Crystal Towers,” Suniel said, glancing at where Harold stood at a nearby rail, brooding and staring off into the snow.

“Ah, yes, the Rising Plague. We heard of it,” Bradic said with a shudder. “Unfortunately, I know too much first-hand about the Ashen Tower's handiwork.”

“Well, what about the rest of the Webdyns?” Suniel said. “How did they take you raiding the treasury?”

“Not well, I'm afraid. There was some infighting when I brought word Bragas was dead. My eldest brother managed to seize power and has been chasing me down. Fortunately, my army has been traveling light knowing we could resupply when we got here. His army's baggage train is slowed by the snows. He's about two days behind.”

“How big is his force?” Kormak said. “They going to come and squash you?”

Suniel rolled his eyes at the dwarf's lack of tact, but Bradic just nodded, his expression grim. “They outnumber me at least four-to-one and half my force is comprised of unreliable mercs. If it looks like the fight is going badly, I might suddenly lose half my army and be outnumbered eight-to-one.”

“You have the fortress at least,” Suniel said, pointing off to the ruddy glow where it still burned.

Bradic shook his head. “No, the last of Bragas' men there set fire to much of it as they fled. The fire is too large for us to put out. We can channel their numbers slightly with street-to-street fighting, but not enough to handle that size an army.”

“Well, perhaps we could raid them as they march,” Suniel said. “We have some experience in combat that might be useful to you – or at the very least we could scout them out and get a precise accounting of their numbers.”

“Yes, that would be most useful,” Bradic said. “I saw what you did to my brother and his hand-picked guards, not to mention the fact that you wiped out the whole platoon of Silver Knights by brother hired to escort the wagon. Perhaps...”

He knelt down and began tracing a map in the snow on the deck. Suniel and Kormak and, surprisingly, even Keeper knelt down to examine his sketch.

“Here's the Landspear to the east.” He drew a big upside-down V. “Here are the broken hills at its base.” He drew some smaller v's around it. “Here is the Fae Wood to the west.” He scratched out a big area in the snow. “We could launch hit-and-run attacks from the broken hills as he marches to Port, especially at these narrow points where the distance between the Fae Wood and the broken hills is the smallest.”

Bradic looked up at them and Suniel nodded in agreement. “Hit them out there where your mobility is an advantage, especially in the snow. It could work. It might not be enough, but it's a fighting chance. When do we leave?”

“At first light would probably be best,” Bradic said, glancing up at the dark sky, then towards the still-burning fortress. “It's not much of a chance, but better than being trapped in Port with Landspear Lake at our backs.”

“Are we heading out now?” Harold said as he walked up, not even looking at them. “We've waited here long enough.”

Suniel put his hand over Kormak's mouth before the dwarf could say anything. “Yes, Harold. We're heading out at first light.”

“Good.” Harold said and walked off without another word.

Bradic looked at Suniel. “It's a plan then?”

“I think it's our best shot, with what we have,” Suniel said. Bradic nodded and stood, his men following has he walked down the gangplank and disappeared into the snow.

Suniel stared after them. Not much of a chance, but at least it's one more small way to repay my sin in helping create the Ashen Tower, he thought. If there's any way it can ever be repaid...
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 22, Part 2

They trudged onward through the snow, pushing hard to stay ahead of Bradic's army. Between Kezzek's death, the difficult travel conditions, the Rising Plague in the Crystal Towers, and the knowledge that they were marching towards and army that heavily outnumbered them, the mood in the small group was somber, to say the least.

In the early afternoon, they came upon what was, to Kormak at least, an unusual sight.

Trudging up the snowy road was an approximately man-sized gold-scaled lizard pulling a small cart with a much smaller lizard on it - a kobold. The kobold was dressed in rich purple clothing, including a jaunty hat with a multicolored plumed feather. As they approached, the kobold stood on the cart-bench, removed his hat, and bowed with a flourish.

“Greetings travelers, what news do you bring from Port?” it said.

“News of war and plague,” Harold said.

“Don't see many lizards riding lizard pulled wagons out here in the middle of winter,” Kormak said.

The kobold's expression transformed into what Kormak assumed was surprise. “Really? Hm, I suppose it might be uncommon here.” It cocked its head to the side as it noticed Keeper. “You don't see many people walking around with rusty metal constructs either. Where did you acquire that one?”

“It fell from the sky they say,” Kormak said, before Suniel could shush him. “I find that a bit suspicious, but I've seen enough things traveling with them that nothing is beyond belief any more.”

“Intriguing. Well, if I might introduce myself, my name is Meepo,” the kobold said with another bow.

“My name is Suniel, the construct is called Keeper, the dwarf is Kormak, and that impatient looking man with the bow is known as Harold.”

“My greetings,” Meepo said. “A pleasure to meet you.”

“Aren't you going to introduce your lizard,” Kormak said, jokingly.

To his surprise, the lizard looked at him, stood and removed the yoke from its shoulders.

“My name is Bail,” it said, cracking its back as it stretched. “You must be the ones I'm looking for.”

“It talks!” Kormak said. He looked at Meepo. “Did you know your lizard talks?”

“He's a half-dragon, if I don't misjudge,” Suniel said. “No offense, but you do a good impersonation of a brute cart-animal.”

“None taken,” Bail said walking over to Keeper and looking him up and down. “So this is the Keeper? I expected something... bigger.”

“So this is a half-dragon?” Keeper said, sizing Bail up in return, his tone and inflection matching half-dragon's almost perfectly. “I expected something... bigger.”

Bail snorted and nodded to Suniel. “I'm coming with you then.”

Suniel blinked a couple times at that. “You are?”

“Yes. As I said, I was sent to find you,” Bail said, returning to the cart yoke with a nod to Meepo.

“By the Undercouncil I might assume from your heritage?” Suniel said.

The half-dragon settled down into his harness and turned the cart about without reply. He glanced back at them. “So, where are we going?”

“The Crystal Towers,” Harold said, without a moment's hesitation.

“At the moment, we're heading to scout out an army that's blocking our path to the Crystal Towers,” Suniel said quickly afterward.

Very tactful Suniel, Kormak thought. Responding gracefully to the unexpected yet again.

“Very well, let's be on with it then. I'll lead the way,” the half-dragon said, pulling the cart ahead of them.

Even Harold shrugged at them before following along behind. Kormak tagged along at the end of their strange procession. There's one to report, he thought. Gilderalin sent one of her children to keep an eye on us? Never gets boring traveling with these fellows...
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 22, Part 3

<Note: First time I've been able to get onto EnWorld in a week!>

They made camp in a massive, crumbling lean-to built around a stone shrine so old all the carvings on it were smooth-worn and unidentifiable. They made a small fire with a bit of dry wood stashed in a corner of the lean-to and settled in as the snow fell heavily outside. As they watched, Bail pulled out a rune-inlaid bag and upended it, sending gold, silver, and gems spilling onto the ground. Meepo helped him rake it up into a small mound and the two of them curled up in it.

“Dragons,” Suniel said, shaking his head.


They woke up to two feet of fresh snow and a half-caved in roof. They ate breakfast as Bail and Meepo meticulously sorted and recounted their bed. When they were finally finished, they set out, trudging through the deep snow and even deeper drifts.

“No sane army would march in this,” Harold said. “They've probably made camp somewhere.”

“Then that gives us more time to find them and scout out an ambush spot,” Suniel said. He motioned for Keeper to take the lead and the tireless construct complied, pushing ahead of them through the snow.

“You have to take that cart with you?” Kormak said, glancing back at Bail.

Bail shrugged in his harness.

“He's done this before, barely slows him down,” Meepo said from his perch atop the cart.

“Well, as long as he doesn't slow us down,” Kormak said. In reply, Bail muscled forwards and pulled past the dwarf.


They found the Webdyn army later that day, not long after the snow stopped falling. They lay on their bellies at the top of a low hill, looking down on the carnage.

The army numbered in the thousands, but they were no match for the few dozen Iron Sky war machines that they battled.

A score or so Iron Sky constructs with massive bladed shield-arms and pikes made of lightning stood at the forefront, methodically slaughtering any Webdyn soldiers that came close. Behind the Iron shield-warriors were three massive constructs towering over the battlefield, their single flickering eyes sending out beams of energy that cut swathes through the men and, as the party watched, pieces of the cycloptic constructs suddenly fell off and crashed to the ground. As they hit, they transformed into what Suniel had labeled “Iron Juggernauts” when one had killed Kezzek back in Northmand.

A second after hitting the ground, the Juggernauts charged past the line of Iron warriors and plowed into the Webdyn force. Around the edges of the battle floated the black-cloaked giants, dropping the smaller blade-armed ones to harry the flanks. Even more disturbing were spheres of blackness that launched themselves unerringly towards any pockets of resistance or leadership in the Webdyn army, leaving a slew of corpses in their wake.

Floating above and behind the rest of the Iron Sky force was a single metal figure on a floating platform, the Iron Sky army moving precisely to his every gesture, as if he were the conductor of a finely-trained orchestra. Finally, above it all flew hundreds of Gem Eyes, positioned in an unmoving grid over the whole battlefield.

“Guess we don't have to worry about the Webdyns,” Kormak said, tapping the pen tattoo on his arm seemingly unconsciously.

“We need to get back and warn Bradic,” Suniel said as he gazed at the terrible destruction being wrought before them. “There's no way they can stand up to this.”

“It doesn't matter,” Harold whispered, waving a dismissive hand at the slaughter before them. “We need to get to the Crystal Towers.”

“You're still worried about the Rising Plague when you see what's happening here?” Suniel said, turning on Harold. “After seeing this, the Ashen Towers seems almost inconsequential.”

“How could you ever say that?” Harold said, turning on Suniel, eyes burning. “Just because you used to be part of it?”

Suniel stared back at him, then gestured towards the battle. “Open your eyes and look at what's happening down there. As far as we know, this is happening all across Felskein.”

“All the better reason to head to Crystal Towers as soon as we can,” Harold said, starting to crawl away from the crest of the hill.

“I agree with Harold in one thing at least,” Kormak said, crawling after Harold. “I don't want to stick around and have to fight these things.”

“Is this the only army Iron Sky has?” Suniel said, glancing at Keeper.

“This isn't even an army,” Keeper said, before turning and joining the others.

Suniel cast a final look below.

"Gods help us."
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 22, Part 4

“No, turn your forces around, now!” Suniel said.

“But you said their force is broken, now is the best time to strike!” Bradic said, staring down at the elf from atop his warhorse.

“What do you think would happen to your army if you ran into the... the golem army that destroyed them?” Suniel said, gesturing back at the long column of soldiers that stretched out through the snows. “You'll send half these men to their graves for naught!”

Bradic bit his lip and looked back at the army, then back at Suniel.

“It's your only chance, Bradic. Trust me, I've had a companion killed when the four of us were fighting a single one of these things, and you saw what we are capable of,” Suniel said softly. “Think of this as a blessing – the Webdyn army is no more. Port is yours uncontested.”

“I will trust you against what my instincts tell me,” Bradic said. He issued a quick flurry of orders to his officers then turned back to Suniel. “Where does this golem army come from? Who created them? What is their purpose?” Bradic cast a questioning glance at Keeper.

Suniel nodded. “Yes, they are akin to him. There is little more I can tell you. They are ancient and from far away. Their purpose is inscrutable, but I fear for all of Felskein.”

“Dark words, wizard,” Bradic said. “I hope things are not so grim as you fear.”

“As do I... as do I.”

Suniel turned to Kormak, Harold, and Bail as the army began to turn and return to Port.

“Now what?” Kormak said. “Back to Port?”

“I was told a little about this Iron Sky,” Bail said. He walked to his cart and pulled a massive adamantine greatsword from the back. “How hard can they be to kill.”

“Maybe that one that was on the platform was the leader of Iron Sky,” Harold said. “If we take it out...”

“An Iron Marshal,” Keeper said.

“No,” Suniel said. “Keeper said that wasn't even an army to Iron Sky.”

“It was likely an expendable expedition force to test Felskein's resistance,” Keeper said.

“So you remember things now?” Kormak said. “That's convenient.”

“Access to the Nexus is far easier now,” Keeper said. “It is far closer and there is less obscurement to it.”

“That doesn't sound good.”

“I think it's better if we return to Port, get our things and head on,” Suniel said.

“Head on to the Crystal Towers,” Harold said.

“Head on to find a True Stone. Keeper says the Lightning Stone is that direction so we're going that way.”

“I agree with Suniel,” Bail said. “The sooner we get the Stones, the better.”


A few days later, the turtle had a platform with a tent supported by scaffolding and swarming with Suniel's motley bunch. The people of Port stared as their entourage made its way through town: A dozen mage-acolytes, a paladin, a troubadour, three goblins, an orc and a half-orc, a dwarven monk, an elven wizard and his construct, a half-dragon and his kobold and cart, a Crystal Towers free agent and his diplomat, trailed by half-a-dozen horses.

In spite of the snow, the recent battles in and around Port, the somber air that had pervaded since the destruction of Steamport, the severely reduced trade, and the rumors of a golem army that was about to descend from the heavens and destroy them, the town took on a relatively festive air.

People sang and danced around them and even followed them a ways out of Port, putting a smile on their faces for a moment as they headed out to face the Rising Plague that had quarantined the Crystal Towers and the looming threat of an Iron Sky invasion that might wipe out all civilization on Felskein.
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 22, part 5

It snowed all day as the turtle made its slow progress south. As they neared the site of the Iron Sky battle, Harold motioned for them to stop and rode on ahead, dismounting and crawling through the fresh snow as he neared the top of the hill.

Aside from jutting wooden weapon hafts protruding from the snow like the branches of a dead forest and the irregular mounds of the corpses, it was hard to tell there had been a battle. He crawled on a little further, scanning the skies for Gem Eyes or any other sign of Iron Sky. There was none, but there was a dragon. He stood back up and mounted, then rode ahead, trotting slowly around the body of the large copper.

His horse snorted and shied away at the scent of dragon, especially as he rode to the belly side where something had torn it open and scattered its entrails across the snow. Bloody chunks of dragon meat lay scattered in the snow and blood spattered a wide, flattened swath of snow that led to the hills to the west.

He thought briefly of investigating on his own, but changed his mind and rode back to get the others.


“This was an adult dragon,” Suniel said. “I'm guessing it was killed by Iron Sky, then something else chewed on it.”

“Harold, did you get snackish while you were scouting?” Kormak said, squatting next to the dragon's bared ribs.

Bail stared at it and patted it on the flank.

“Friend of yours?” Kormak said.

“No,” Bail said, shaking his head. “I've never-”

A dozen creatures roared to the east, their ferocious cry only slightly muffled by the snow.

“Everyone stay on the turtle,” Suniel yelled, sending his acolytes and followers scrambling back onto the scaffolding on the turtle's back. Harold, Bail, Kormak, and Suniel spread out in an arc around the turtle awaiting whatever monsters might come.

When they did come, it wasn't a they, but an it. It came around a boulder at the base of the nearby hill, the pale blue scales of its dozen long necks gleaming. Its massive body and long tail dragged through the snow towards them by two massive legs as a dozen heads twisted, thrashed, and roared.

“Hydra,” Suniel said calmly, wondering where he'd heard about them as he detonated a blast of fire that flash-melted all the snow around the creature. The hydra came on, snapping at the arrows that Harold sent into it like a dog biting at flies. Kormak began to circle around behind it as Bail readied his massive adamantine greatsword.

“Come beast, I'm waiting,” he shouted.

Its heads all roared in unison and it charged Bail.

Suniel began chanting another spell when it reached the half-dragon and all dozen heads exhaled gouts of ice and freezing air, enveloping Bail in a freezing hellstorm.

Suniel unleashed his spell, blasting it again with fire as Harold rode around it and feathered it with arrows. A moment later, Kormak leapt atop its back and sent vicious kicks thudding into its necks. A minute later it lay still in the snow, heads splayed out in the disjointed, unnatural angles of death.

Suniel joined Kormak pulling away the necks to dig out the unconscious half-dragon.

“He alive?” Harold said, gazing down at the dead Hydra from atop his stallion.

Kormak leaned an ear down next to Bail's mouth. “Seems to be, though he's just about frozen and the ice cut him all over.”

“I'm going to go scout where it came from, make sure there aren't more of them,” Harold said, turning and riding off.

“Thanks for the help,” Kormak grumbled as he and Suniel struggled to lift the massive half-dragon.

“Fortunately, we have plenty of help at hand,” Suniel said, turning and waving to the slowly emerging crowd atop the turtle. “It's safe everyone. Guntl, Shruka, everybody, come help us get him inside.”

They were practically mobbed by helping hands lifting Bail away from him and hauling him into the open mouth of the turtle, Meepo walking along beside him holding one massive hand in his own.

“Come on, Kormak,” Suniel said, climbing over the turtle and heading after Harold. “Lets make sure he doesn't get himself killed fighting an actual pack of the things.”
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 22, Part 6

Bail awoke with a groan, shivering and aching. His vision was a silver blur and his head hurt. He struggled to remember where he was. A boat, judging by the faint sway and tilt of the room he was in, but what was that slow, regular thump sound and shudder?

"He's awake Master Au!" a young voice shouted from somewhere nearby.

A few moments later, the elf was kneeling over him, followed a minute later by the hideous orc female.

"Stop trying to move, dumb lizard," the orc said. "You're barely alive as it is."

"What... when... how long was I?" he said, the words rasping in his throat.

“Drink this,” the orc said, pouring something foul and chalky down his throat. He gagged a bit and tried to stop drinking but she punched him in the gut. He gasped in surprise, then started coughing and struggling to simultaneously drink and cough up the bits that went into his lungs.

“Your bedside manner never ceases to impress me, Shruka” Suniel said dryly.

“He'll listen to me next time, won't he?” she said, tapping on the cup to get the last chunks that were stuck to the bottom to fall into Bail's mouth.

“If he lives,” Suniel said.

“He'll live,” Shruka said, nodding as she turned and walked away.

Suniel took a seat on the floor next to Bail's makeshift bed of furs and blankets. “You've been out for almost a week. We weren't sure you were going to pull through for a while there, between being half-frozen and bleeding from a score of cuts from that ice.”

“A week?” Bail said, trying to sit up. There was an excited squeal and he was knocked back by a flying kobold.

“Bail! You live!” Meepo said, arms wrapped about Bail's head.

Bail winced and shifted the excited kobold's bear-hug to his arm. He patted his old friend on the head. “Takes more than a... what was that thing?”

“I've researched it since and I believe it is called a “laernean cryo-hydra.” The twelve-headed variety, of course. Very nasty,” Suniel said.

“You're telling me,” Bail said, slowly shifting himself to a sitting position. He looked about. “Ah, we're inside the turtle. It's very... homey in here.”

Rugs lay across the silver floors, tapestries lined the walls, and rods and curtains separated the big open space into makeshift rooms. Two young acolytes were sitting on a collection of crates reading a large weather beaten tome to one side while the goblins and a couple others were dicing elsewhere. The mouth of the turtle was open, a wooden plank running into the mouth to provide easy access to the scaffolding outside even while the turtle was moving. A comforting silvery light that had no apparent source illuminated the whole place.

“While you were out, we crossed most of the Freeholds,” Suniel said. “No sight of any more Iron Sky, thankfully. The locals didn't give us any trouble either, though we had people come from counties around in the middle of winter to watch us pass.”

Bail finally detached Meepo from his arm. The kobold snuggled into the furs beside him and almost immediately fell asleep.

“He barely slept the whole time you were out,” Suniel said with a faint smile. “That kobold really cares about you.”

“He's my brother,” Bail said, pulling a blanket up over Meepo.

“Your brother?”

“Long story. So where are we at now?”

Suniel began reply when Kormak jogged in, heading straight towards them. “Ah, you're awake. Good timing. We're there.”

“Where's there?” Bail said.

“Some Crystal Towers city. There's the biggest tower I've ever seen here attached to an even bigger bridge. They're both the same metal as the turtle, looks like, but bigger. As in, the tower reaches the clouds and the bridge disappears into the horizon in two directions!”

“That is a big bridge,” Bail said, slowly working his way to his feet. He wavered for a moment, then steadied himself and took a couple stiff steps.

“Harold said it's twenty-five miles wide and three hundred long. There's whole cities built on it. It's what connects the Crystal Towers to the mainland,” Suniel said, placing a supporting hand on Bail's arm.

“Oh, one more little thing about the city,” Kormak said as they walked towards the turtle's mouth. “It's empty. Gates closed, no one home. Harold said that this is one of the busiest trade-cities in the Crystal Towers. Five-thousand people or more are supposed to live here. And they're all just... gone.”

Bail winced as they ducked out of the turtle's mouth and walked out into the brilliant snow-reflected sunlight and the amazing view that awaited them.
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 22, Part 7

Harold activated the magic on the armor he'd acquired at Port and took a tentative step into the air. He glanced around to be sure no one saw him, then flew up into the air and over the wall of Northern Twin Spire, drawing his bow as he did so.

Though the lightly falling snow limited the range of his sight, he saw enough to get an impression of the silent city. Empty. Where were all the people?

They are all gone, probably hunted, murdered, and risen again by the Ashen Tower, he thought. Did the Crystal Towers fall in my absence? Will we find only bones and corpses and the walking dead? Are we too late?

He floated slowly above the rooftops in the silence, growing slowly more on edge. Here and there he caught a furtive movement out of the corner of his eyes, but when he looked in that direction he saw only still shadows. It happened several times as he flew over the city, but he was wary enough of some Ashen Towers trap that he didn't investigate more closely.

Then the snow abated and the dull silver of the North Spire Tower became visible, looming up into the low clouds. He'd been atop it many times, even stood on the top level, one-thousand feet above the ground and stared down to where the base of the tower met the sheer cliff-edge of the continent where the land dropped another thousand feet or more to the Endless Sands. He'd stood and watched the clouds lap against a window, looking for all the world as if he could simply step out and walk across the clouds as the setting sun ignited their topsides.

He drifted towards the tower, scanning its windows for signs of anything living. When he was less than one hundred feet away, he saw a glimpse of movement in a window and a second later, an arrow pierced his side. He swore and knocked an arrow, but the figure was already gone. With a gesture he flew to the wall of the tower and pressed against the warm metal of its side, taking a few quick breaths before gritting his teeth and jerking the arrow from his ribs. He quickly wrapped himself in a bandage and drank a potion, then headed for the window the arrow had come from.

This is a good sign at least
, he thought as he reached the window and peered inside. Undead don't use bows.

“Hello? Is there anyone in here?” he shouted, stepping into a small store-room. It was mostly dark, illumined only by the faint silver glow that the tower shared with the turtle. Like the turtle too, it was warm inside the tower, though here the faint vibration of the unknown machinery that ran in the depths of the bedrock far beneath the tower could be felt.

“My name is Free Agent Harold Trisden of the Crystal Towers,” he called, moving cautiously towards the store-room's open door.

He was two feet from the door when a dark-haired man in a Crystal Towers Scout uniform stepped around the corner, his sword leveled at Harold's chest. The man's face was lined with exhaustion and weariness and his eyes seemed fresh with recent grief.

“Drop your weapon and prove you are who you say,” the man said. “Slowly.”

Harold nodded and dropped his bow, then slowly reached up and undid the clasp that kept his cloak fastened at the shoulder. It fell away revealing the blue of his uniform, metals reflecting the faint silver light. “Peace soldier, I come to help in the fight against the Ashen Towers.”

The man's sword slowly lowered and he slumped against the wall. The soldier's head drooped. “Then you are too late, the Crystal Towers are doomed.”

A chill ran down Harold's spine, replaced in a second by a flash of anger. He slapped the man in the face. “Come to your senses, Scout. The Crystal Towers will never fall! Tell me what has happened here.”

The Scout's eyes widened in shock but he quickly came to attention and saluted. “I'm sorry sir, I shouldn't say such things. It's just... what I've seen this last month...”

“Are you alone, Scout?”

“It's Scout Harrin, sir. And no, there are a handful of us left. This way, I'll take you to the others. They will be glad to see another living face.”

Harold followed Harrin deeper into the tower, half glad to find someone still alive and half dreading the full extent of what the Scout was likely to tell him...
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 22, Part 8

Kormak stared up at the massive wooden gates to the city, wondering if their turtle would fit through, and that assuming they figured out a way to get the doors open in the first place. Suniel and Keeper approached and joined him staring up at the gate.

“Sturdy doors,” Suniel said. “Figuring out how we're going to get in?”

“Yeah. Too bad we don't have a giant silver ram to travel around in, that would make this problem trivial.”

“Being in the innards of a giant mechanical walking goat might not be as pleasant as the turtle though,” Suniel said, a faint smile coming to his lips. The wizard pulled his cloak closer about him and looked about. “Seen Harold?”

As if on cue, Harold rode into view from around the bend of the city wall. He rode up and dismounted, his expression grim, a subtle new tear in the side of his cloak and uniform.

“Where have you been for the last hour?” Suniel said. “We've been looking for you, since this place is kind of your area of expertise.”

“Get in a fight with the wall?” Kormak quipped, sticking his finger through the tear in the cloak.

Harold jerked his cloak away from the dwarf. “Things are dark as I expected.”

Bail walked up with Meepo and gestured to the gate. “Any idea how we're going to get in? I could probably climb the wall.”

Suniel gestured for silence and nodded to Harold. “Go on.”

“The Walking Plague struck both of the Twin Spires, then quickly spread to the Cities of the Span. It rapidly kills anyone who it infects, then they rise again from the dead. There was talk of closing off the Span Wall on the other side of the Span, but the small Scout detachment that's holed up in the North Spire didn't know if it happened in time. They've been alone here for weeks with no word.”

There was a long moment of silence as they digested the information. “What about the city gates here, can they let us in?” Kormak said.

Harold shook his head. “This city was evacuated when the Plague first hit. They left a company of Scouts here to keep outsiders from entering the city and spreading the Plague to the Freeholds and to dispatch as many of the risen dead as possible. Unfortunately, a large and well-organized band of bandits entered the city and began looting it. The Scout I talked to said it was a week of grim three-way-fighting, thieves versus Scouts versus the dead.

“The bandits holed up in a warehouse after a skirmish with the Scout company. That night, they heard screams all night from the building and they didn't see bandits again after that. They say that incorporeal undead roam the sewers and haunt the shadows of the day and the whole city at night. After a couple attacks that wiped out half their remaining numbers, the handful of Scouts that are still alive have pulled back leaving the city to the dead.” Harold bowed his head and gritted his teeth.

“I'm sorry Harold,” Suniel said, laying a comforting hand on the archer's shoulder.

Harold brushed it off and took a step away. “They also spoke of a large creature lurking in the shadows of the gate, waiting to attack anyone who opens it. It doesn't matter, we're going in anyway.”

Kormak and Bail exchanged a glance at Harold's sudden change in taking charge of the group.

“How will we get in?” Suniel said.

Harold dug into his pack and pulled out a grappling hook and rope. “One step ahead of you.”

“Think you can anchor that from down-” Kormak began.

Harold didn't say a word, instead stepping into the air and floating up to the top of the gate.

“That's a neat new trick,” Kormak said. “Now he flies too.”

Harold landed on the battlement near one of the gate towers and glanced down.

Their was a piercing shriek and a yellow blur shot through out of the tower wall, ghostly clothing and hair trailing behind it as its insubstantial, skeletal hands reached for Harold.
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 23, Part 1

<Note: I have the next week-and-a-half off from work, so my goal is to post once-a-day for the next week, before I head off to my sister's wedding.>

Kormak watched as Bail threw himself at the gate and dug his claws in, scaling it in vertical leaps while Harold flew quickly backwards away from the ghost, scrambling for his bow. Then with a sharp word from Suniel, he and his acolytes unleashed a dozen simultaneous blasts of magic and blasted the ghost into rapidly dissipating yellow vapors.

Harold stared, wild-eyed at the space where it had been while Bail finished scaling the door and stood on the parapet near one of the gate towers.

“We have to cleanse this city,” Harold said, turning to look down at the party. “I will not rest until every single undead abomination is destroyed.”

Bail looked in at the city. “This is a big place, cleansing it could take weeks. Don't we have more pressing matters, like Iron Sky and gathering the True Stones?”

Harold pointed a finger at the half-dragon. “We are in the lands of the Crystal Towers. As the highest ranking member of the Crystal Towers military present, I order you to help me cleanse the city.”

Bail snorted. “I follow only the Dragon's orders, not yours human.”

“What, Gilderalin?” Harold said. He looked down at Suniel. “Why do we even have this Undercouncil spy here with us in the first place?”

“Well, he does have somewhat of a point Harold,” Suniel said, arching his neck to look up at the two of them. “None of us are citizens of the Crystal Towers and so, while I will follow the laws of the Crystal Towers, that does not mean we are under your command.”

“Crystal Towers is under martial law, that means the military makes the laws. Right now, I am the military!” Harold said, his body rigid. “Leave your followers here where they'll be safe and come with me. It is time to prove once and for all that you are free from the taint of the Ashen Tower, Suniel. To redeem yourself in the eyes of the world.”

Kormak found the archer's stiffness and tension almost comical as he floated in the air above them.

“I didn't realize that there was still and question about that,” Suniel said softly. “And while I do seek redemption for what I have done, I will choose its manner, not you Harold.”

Kormak spotted a spec of black against the gray and white of the clouds. As he watched, it grew quickly larger.

“Gem Eye incoming!” he shouted, pointing up.

The others reached for weapons, but Harold, bow still in-hand, glanced up and fired in one motion. “There is no alternative,” he said. “We will cleanse the city.”

His arrow clanged into the Gem Eye two hundred feet above them and the Gem Eye lurched and fell even faster, disintegrating into nothing but flakes of rust before it even hit the ground.

“Did you just see that?” Bail said, pointing at the sky. “Iron Sky is here too, near your precious Crystal Towers. It is the real threat. We need to get this gate open and get the turtle on the way to the Crystal Towers.”

“The True Stone of Lightning is in the Crystal Towers,” Keeper said, nodding. “I can sense it more finely and there is no where else it could be located from here.”

“Suniel's minions will have to stay here then,” Harold said, looking at Bail and pointing down at the turtle. “That ghost flew through the wall. What chance do you think they have if, while we are out fighting in the city, another one comes through the wall of the turtle to them.”

“Well, I thought they did pretty well a minute ago,” Kormak said. “Better than I did here sitting on my hands.”

“They are not under your authority, Harold,” Suniel said.

“If they enter the city, they'll be killed too, just like everyone else who stayed in this city!” Harold said, nearly shouting. “You want them to die too? I won't have them dying here while I am in charge. Can't you see, the Ashen Towers has to be stopped before Thessalock destroys everything! Crystal Towers is Felskein's only hope. Why can't you see that?”

Suniel and Harold stared at each other for a tense moment, Harold's chest heaving and face flushed, Suniel almost totally still. Finally Suniel looked away. “Then perhaps we should part ways. We know where one or two other True Stones are, we can find those while you deal with the situation here.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Bail said, jumping off the wall, hooking his claws into the wood of the door, sliding down, and casually walking towards the turtle's mouth. The company was suddenly in motion, preparing to ready the turtle for travel. Kormak scrambled up the scaffolding and stared up at Harold.

There was a crazed look in Harold's eyes, his look a mix of anger and desperation and anguish as he looked between them and his fallen city. Harold's jaw clenched and Kormak's eyes widened as the archer raised his bow and drew an arrow, the clenched-white of his knuckles clearly visible even with the distance between them.

Now this should be good, Kormak thought, finding a comfortable place on the scaffolding to watch what was about to unfold.
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