The Rise of Felskein [Completed]

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 23, Part 2

<Of course, after I say I'm going to try to post every day, I get a two-day job that keeps me from posting for a day. Figures.>

The arrow passed just over Bail and Suniel's heads.

Suniel stared the feathered shaft sticking out the snow bank in front of them in disbelief, then motioned for the turtle to stop and turned around. Bail stared at the arrow with a furrowed brow, then turned as well.

Harold now stood atop the wall, bow in hand and staring down at them at the half-turned turtle came to a halt.

“You can't go,” Harold said, gesturing at the city behind him with his bow, his voice pleading. “If you go, the Ashen Towers wins here. If you go, you'll be doing the work of Thessalock. We have to cleanse the city. The Crystal Towers won't fall. It can't.”

“Why did you shoot at us?” Bail said, his brow furrowed and eyes hard. He turned to Suniel. “Why did he shoot at us?”

"Is this what all our travels and battles together come down to?” Suniel said.

“It was just a warning shot,” Harold said.

Just a warning shot?” Suniel said. “What will it be next time?”

“That human fired an arrow at me,” Bail said, reaching for his greatsword.

Suniel placed a restraining hand on the half-dragon's arm and raised the other palm to Harold. “Harold, let's discuss this in a calm manner. Put your weapon away and come down here.”

“Your followers will have to stay here or they'll be killed when we cleanse the city,” Harold said, floating out over the turtle.

Bail rose to his imposing full height, towering over Suniel. “We're not doing anything you say, human. No one attacks Bail and-”

“Calm down, Bail, you're not helping the situation,” Suniel said, stepping in front of the half-dragon. “Harold, just come down here.”

Harold floated lower slowly, pointing a finger at Bail. “You're just a spy for the Undercouncil anyway, maybe if I had shot you I'd be doing us all a favor. Suniel, how do we even know we can trust him?”

“I've done nothing as dishonorable as you, human,” Bail said, stepping forward despite Suniel's hand on his massive chest. “Firing on your comrades-in-arms while their backs were turned? Maybe you did try to shoot me and just can't-”

“Both of you, calm down, now!” Suniel said. He thought he heard Kormak chuckling from somewhere atop the turtle. “Harold, put away your bow. Please.”

Harold floated down and landed in front of the gates, pointing at Bail. “I'll do no such thing while this turncoat is amongst us. The second I do-”

Bail roared and hurled Suniel bodily aside, his greatsword drawn in half-a-step. By the time Suniel got back up, Bail had crossed the ground to the archer and sundered his bow. In response, Harold flew straight up, drawing another far simpler bow from his quiver and firing.

Bail roared again in rage as an arrow found its mark and embedded in his shoulder. Casting his sword aside, he hurled himself against the wall, claws digging into the very stone as he scaled it. Arrows whistled around him and a few connected as he climbed. Bail reached the top of the wall before Harold did and launched himself off of it, claws glistening as he hurtled towards the archer.

They slammed together in mid-air, twisting and shaking. Then there was a tearing sound as Harold's cloak tore free and Bail plummeted to the ground. He hit hard, but was immediately on his feet as more arrows rained down on him, snatching up his sword and sprinting into the turtle's open mouth past a stunned Ambassador Roderic and a dumbfounded trio of goblins.

The whole time Suniel stood with the words to a spell half-formed on his lips, debating whether or not to strike Harold with the same spell he had used on Danovin and end the madness.

“Come and fight me like a dragon!” Bail bellowed from inside the turtle. “Face me on the ground, you honorless wretch!”

Harold shifted his uniform and stared hard down at his broken bow, lying in the snow beneath him. “The Magisters themselves gave me that bow. Why would he destroy it?”

“Harold, I think it's best if you go elsewhere for a while,” Suniel said coldly. “There have been things done here than cannot be undone, but I think it best if we give it time to cool down for the sake of our mission.”

Harold stared back at him. “Our mission to cleanse the city and save the Crystal Towers?”

Suniel just stared back at him. “Go now,” Suniel said, forcing his voice to be soft. “Just go for a time.”

A moment later, Harold complied. Suniel watched as the archer flew around a bend in the wall, then carefully approached the mouth of the turtle.

Well, that was a mess.
Journey a thousand miles to reach the Crystal Towers only to fight amongst ourselves once we finally reach it, he thought. He rapped on the metal side of the turtle as he neared the turtle's head.

“Bail? It's Suniel. I'm coming in, so don't attack, ok?”

His only reply was a low growl.

He sighed, held his hands open and high and slowly stepped into the turtle's mouth, bracing himself for the potential assault of a berserk, heavily armed and heavily wounded half-dragon.
 
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 23, Part 3

Kormak finished writing, replaced his tattoo, then ducked out of his small tent, petted Dog on the head, and looked about just in time to see Suniel and Keeper disappear into the evening's heavy snowfall. He jogged after them, catching up a minute later.

“Bail ok?” he said, falling in between Keeper and Suniel. “He looked like an ambulatory pincushion last I saw him.”

“He's tough. Harold him with six arrows, but Shruka says he'll be fine,” Suniel said. “He's still a bit angry though.”

“I'll bet. If you shot me with just one arrow, I'd be pretty pissed,” Kormak said. “So, we off on a diplomatic mission?”

“Yes. I calmed Bail down a little bit so he probably won't attack Harold on-sight at least. Now we're off to find Harold.”

“Should we be searching the ground or the sky?” Kormak said, placing his hand over his eyes and squinting up into the snow. “He learned how to fly, you know.”

“That particular dweomer of his armor will have been exhausted by now,” Keeper said. “Search the ground.”

Kormak glanced at the construct to see if there was some trace of humor there or if Keeper was being literal. As usual, he couldn't tell.

“Who goes there?” a familiar voice called from the rapidly darkening white-out.

“Harold? It's Suniel, Keeper, and Kormak,” Suniel said, stopping and peering into the snow.

Harold walked into sight, stopped, and crossed his arms. “What? Come to tell me you're leaving?”

“We were discussing our plan to enter the city and were seeking your input,” Suniel said.

“You're not planning on taking your band of misfits along are you?” Harold said. “It'll be a slaughter if one of those things gets to them.”

“Bail will live, by the way,” Kormak said, widening his eyes with mock concern and clasping his hands. “It was touch and go for a while, but we all prayed for him and he's going to make it!”

“Why are you even with us, dwarf?” Harold said, staring flatly down at him.

“We were wondering the same thing, human,” Kormak replied, grinning up at Harold. “We decided it was because you're just so damn charming.”

“It would be helpful if you talked with Bail,” Suniel said, pulling his cloak tighter as a sudden gust cut into them and sent the snow whipping into their eyes.

“The traitor? Why, he attacked me first!” Harold said.

“He says the same of you, though with a few more expletives,” Kormak said.

“I'm not going to apologize, if that's what you are asking.”

Suniel sighed. “Just talk with him, see if you can patch things up with him enough that we can forestall something like this happening again.”

“If you had all just listened to me, it never would have happened in the first place,” Harold said.

Kormak was about to say something, but Keeper stepped on his foot and applied pressure.

“Your thingy is standing on my foot Suniel,” Kormak said, trying to gauge whether Suniel had signaled Keeper or if the construct was acting on its own volition.

“Will you just talk with him?” Suniel said.

“He's heavy,” Kormak said, pressing his side against Keeper's hip in an attempt to dislodge him.

“Fine,” Harold said. “If it will get us moving onward. We've wasted a whole day here.”

“Off! Hey, gear-brains, move your metallic appendage or I'll break it off and make it into a stove!” Kormak said, straining to pull his foot free from Keeper's immobile bulk. “Suniel, call off your construct!”

“I hear a noise, Master Au,” Keeper said, cocking his head sideways as if to listen. “Is it the wind?”

Kormak was sure he saw a small smile flit across the wizard's face before he hid it. “Come on, Keeper, lets get back to the turtle before we freeze to death.

Keeper nodded and suddenly lifted his foot, sending Kormak sprawling headfirst into the snow. Grumbling, he stood up and brushed himself off, pursing his lips and squinting at Keeper as he trudged along behind Harold.

If only poison would work on it, he thought. I liked it better before it thought it had a sense of humor.
 
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Crazy Eights

Explorer
Keeper is slowly, but surely, becoming one of my favorite characters. All the more reason to curse his sudden but inevitable betrayal. If it ever comes to that. ;)
 

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 23, Part 4

“We need to cleanse the city,” Harold said, standing out in the snow and staring in at Bail through the turtle's mouth.

“You have said so before human,” Bail said, crossing his massive arms across his bandaged chest. Bail was judging the distance between himself and Harold, wondering if he could get past Suniel and Keeper in time to catch the human before he flew away again. “Why should I do such a thing for you?”

“It's not for me, it's for the Crystal Towers,” Harold said. “And what is done for the Crystal Towers is done for the good of all of Felskein.”

“Like shooting your companions?” Bail said, a low growl rising in the back of his throat.

“You destroyed the bow given to me by-”

“You fired an arrow at me while my back was-”

“Only because-”

“Stop this, both of you!” Suniel said, stepping directly between Bail and Harold. “This is getting us no where. Harold, do you apologize to Bail?”

“Apologize? He attacked me first!” Harold said. Bail took a step forward, but Keeper stepped in front of him. Bail stared into the construct's flickering eyes, half-considering pulling the thing apart for having the impudence to block his path.

“I do think we should just put this whole business behind us,” Harold said. “If we're going to push on to the Crystal Towers, we need to be united, as Suniel says.”

“You say this now after what has happened?” Bail said, gesturing to his still-bloody bandages.

Harold held out the scraps of his cloak and fingered a rip in his uniform. “You would have done as much if I'd let you catch me. Let's just forget about it.”

Suniel and Keeper stepped out of the way and Suniel nodded to Bail. “There, Harold just apologized, now lets-” Suniel said.

“I did not. I won't apologize unless he does first,” Harold said.

"Me?" Bail snorted. “I was merely defending myself and my companions from you.”

“Can we at least maintain peace between us as companions?” Suniel said. “For the good of our mission?”

“To save the Crystal Towers,” Harold said.

“To find the True Stones,” Bail countered, glaring at the archer.

“Will you maintain the peace?” Suniel repeated.

“If it is for the good of the Crystal Towers, then I will do it,” Harold said.

“I will do it, but with one caveat,” Bail said, pointing a clawed finger at Harold. “Once this is over or if I catch you alone, I will finish this – and you.”

Suniel winced and started to speak, but Bail cast a final dark look at Harold and walked away, deeper into the Turtle.

“Very diplomatic,” Kormak said, trotting up to join him. “That whole 'I'll finish you' bit aught to put the whole matter to-”

“Shut up, dwarf,” Bail said and strode away. He found the nook amongst some supply crates that he and Meepo had set aside as their territory and nodded to the kobold.

Meepo jumped up and grabbed Bail's horde bag. He up-ended it on the floor of the turtle and the two of them spread it around to make a bed. After a quick check of the area to make sure no one was eying his treasure, Bail curled up and lay down to sleep with Meepo curled in his own small horde of coppers beside him.

***

Suniel took a deep breath and let it out slowly as Harold walked off into the storm. “That wasn't exactly what I was hoping for,” he said, half to himself, half to Keeper. “I wonder how much time we have before Iron Sky invades with all its strength.”

Keeper closed his eyes.

“The Nexus nears,” Keeper said, almost at a whisper. “Weeks, maybe months.”

“I feared as much,” Suniel said. Weeks...

He stared out into the snow and felt the cold weight of what they faced settle upon him.
 
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 23, Part 5

Harold and Keeper turned the gate wheel until the heavy wooden gates swung open. As soon as they had it open enough for the turtle to fit through, Harold grabbed his bow and looked out the window.

Suniel stood beside him, watching the shadows around the gate for the creature the Scout had told him was lurking nearby while Bail and Kormak watched from below, near the turtle. Light snow continued to fall as they stood but there was no sign of movement anywhere in the city.

They waited a few minutes longer and still nothing.

“Maybe it decided it's too cold to come murder us,” Kormak called up.

“Enough of this waiting,” Bail said. “If we are going to do this, let's get going.”

“I think we should wait a bit longer,” Harold said. “We have good position from up here to see.”

Suniel shook his head. “Bail is impatient and things are strained enough as it is.”

Keeper pulled the trap door that led lower into the tower while Harold strained his eyes to see anything in the snow and shadows of North Spire.

“Come Harold,” Suniel said as he followed Keeper down the ladder.

Harold looked out into the city one last time then followed.

***

Kormak was whistling and waving jauntily to Keeper as the construct walked out of the ground floor of the gate tower, when something massive hit him and sent him flying into the stone wall. He kicked his feet up instinctively as a huge gray-skinned form reached for him, its eyes glowing a pale white, tiny figures writhing within its exposed ribcage.

His foot slammed into its jaw, face, and hand again and again as its jaw distended as if to swallow him whole.

Arrows slammed into it and it lurched to the side as an enormous adamantine greatsword took off one of its legs. Then a blast of fire detonated against its forehead, blasting it apart down to the gaping ribs. The creatures inside it writhed as they burned and let out chilling wails, clinging to the ribs like prison bars as the things carcass slowly toppled over.

Bail stepped around it, pulled Kormak to his feet and gave him a quick look over. “You alright, dwarf?”

“Aside from almost being lunch, I'm fine,” Kormak said, patting himself down to make sure he was intact. “Yup, seem to still have everything.”

They walked around the smoldering corpse and joined Suniel, Keeper, and Harold.

“Devourer,” Suniel said, nodding to the body.

“This thing is why I said we should leave your followers behind, Suniel,” Harold said, gesturing at it. “The Scout said there are other things as well that will pass right through that hut.”

“Let's not start this again now, Harold,” Suniel said, walking back towards the turtle. “Lets just get this thing moving and get it to the Spire.”

Harold jogged outside the gate and mounted up on his stallion while Kormak joined the others as they climbed atop the turtle-shell-scaffolding. “Turtle, I command thee, advance into the city!” Kormak called with a dramatic pose and gesture into North Spire.

Keeper imitated his pose almost exactly for a moment, then returned to his usual statue-stillness. Was that another attempt at humor? Kormak thought.

He glanced at Suniel, but the elf didn't seem to have even noticed as he stared out into the silent town. Bail just shook his head.

A moment later, Harold rode past the turtle and turned, a new cloak he'd dredged up from somewhere blowing behind him. “Follow me, I'll lead you to the Spire,” he shouted up to them.

“Very dramatic, but we can see it from here,” Kormak said, pointing ahead to the faint outline of the Spire visible even through the haze of snow.

“This way,” Harold said, as though Kormak hadn't even spoken. The archer turned his mount and trotted ahead through the snow.

Kormak glanced up at Bail. “You going to let Harold boss you around like that?”

Bail growled and squinted after the archer, but didn't do anything else. Suniel glared at Kormak.

“What? Just asking,” Kormak said, having a seat and dangling his legs off the edge of the platform and motioning Dog over. “I'm going to let him boss me around. Let him ride ahead and stir up the nasty ambushes of walking dead. He can have it.”

“Let's hope they walk,” Suniel said softly. “There are alternatives that are far worse.”

They were silent after that as the turtle pushed its way through the still, snow shrouded streets.
 
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 23, Part 6

Harold's stallion reared back and whinnied.

“Calm boy,” Harold said, leaning forward to stay on the saddle and calming his mount down. He looked around quickly as the stallion stamped around in a circle, snorting, ears flattened back.

Then he saw movement, a pack of hunched humanoids closing in on the turtle from behind in a gangly four-limbed gait.

“Ghouls, behind you,” he shouted, spurring his horse on. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw more converging from the alleyways around them. He pulled out his bow and began firing, guiding his horse with his knees.

As he fired, dropping one ghoul that was vaulting up the scaffolding and staggering another that bounded through the snowbanks, he saw another insubstantial figure – nearly identical to the one that had attacked him atop the tower – pass through the hut at the top of the turtle.

“Suniel, inside,” he shouted. Suniel blasted a ghoul away and turned towards the hut just as there was a piercing scream from inside and one of Suniel's followers staggered out the door, clutching his ears, and collapsed on the platform.

Harold galloped to the Turtle and scrambled onto the scaffolding, already sprinting as he feet hit the planking. A ghoul ran after him and was almost upon him when Keeper dropped down from above, sword of light and a shield of lightning stopping the ghoul in its tracks.

Harold reached the door to the hut not long after Suniel did and looked inside to see what Harold had feared. Acolytes littered the ground, some writhing, others lying still with blood dribbling from their eyes and ears. Suniel's paladin stood at the back of the hut, eyes glazed over and glowing a pale yellow.

“He's possessed, we have to take him,” Harold said, an arrow to the string and bow leveled in a heartbeat. The paladin turned towards them and took an awkward step, hand reaching for the sword at his side.

Suniel put a hand on Harold's arm and made a quick chant and gesture. In mid-step, the paladin's muscles seized and he groaned as he lost his balance and toppled over. Suniel and Harold knelt over the man's twitching form as Kormak and Keeper battled at the doorway.

“Who are you?” Suniel said, staring down into the inhuman gaze that looked out of the paladin's eyes.

“Free ussss,” the paladin said, speaking though his mouth was locked open and trembling.

“Who are you?” Suniel repeated.

“We guard the gate. They come! The plaguebringer walks amongst the people!”

“What is the plaguebringer? Were you a guard when you were alive?” Harold said.

“We failed! It was us that let it in, that hunched thing, its shape shifting as we watched. We couldn't stop it, lying dying as it passed, yellow slime marking its steps.”

“The thing that killed you is what Thessalock used to bring the Rising Plague into the Crystal Towers?” Harold said.

The paladin hissed. Outside, Kormak cursed and hurled a ghoul into the outer wall of the hut while Keeper's sword crackled as it made contact.

“Speak guardsman! If there is any part of you that still remembers your life and loyalty to the Crystal Towers, tell us so we might stop it!” Harold said, shaking the paladin.

“There is no stopping it! The plague will spread. Oh, kill the plaguebringer, do what we failed to do so we might rest! Don't let our torment go on.”

“Release this man of mine,” Suniel said softly. “We will do what we can to let your spirit rest.”

“He is ours! We must have him, they will all pay, the living did this to us!” The paladin began to emit a low wail though his mouth still did not move.

“There is good yet left in your soul, ghost,” Suniel said, his voice barely audible over the ghost's keening. “I can hear it in you yet. Return to your haunt and let this man be free so that we can find a way to set your soul to rest.”

“Free us. Free usssss...” the voice slowly faded as did the otherworldly light in the paladin's eyes. Suniel passed his hand over the paladin and the man's body went limp.

Harold turned and readied his bow to help with the fight outside, but the fighting seemed to be over. As he watched, Keeper's sword and shield vanished into motes of light and crackling sparks.

When he turned back, Suniel was helping his man up. “It's alright Theran,” Suniel said.

“What happened?” the paladin said, shaking his head. “I'm sore all over.”

“What happened is exactly what I warned about,” Harold said, gesturing to the fallen forms that littered the floor of the hut. “I told you so, I said-”

Suniel cut him off with a gesture. “Not now Harold. Kormak, get Shruka and the others from inside the turtle. There may be time for my young students. Hurry!”

Harold shook his head and walked outside, ignoring Keeper's lightning-touched glance as he passed the construct and went to tend to his mount.
 
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 23, Part 7

The turtle came to a stop outside the shining silver metal of the Spire and, though the snow had stopped falling again, a heavy wind quickly began to blow drifts up to the sides of its shell. The huge metal doors of the tower slowly swung inwards and a pair of weary-looking Crystal Towers soldiers waved them in.

“Everyone, get everything inside the tower, quickly!” Suniel shouted, glancing back at the city. There was no sign of more ghouls or ghosts, but he didn't want to wait for any more to show up.

“Looks like everyone will live,” Shruka said, joining Suniel and Keeper on the platform as the others began unloading supplies. “It'll be a couple of days before they're totally well, but we won't have to carry them inside at least.”

“Thank you Shruka,” Suniel said. He looked up at the group trickling into the Crystal Towers. “Keeper, help them unload everything.”

Keeper headed down the ramp without a word and joined the others.

“Let's just hope more ghouls don't show up right now while we're dribbling out of the turtle's mouth,” Kormak said, walking up beside Suniel, Dog in tow.

“That's what I was just thinking. We were fortunate that no one was killed the first time,” Suniel said. “That said, let's go help.”

“But don't we need someone on watch, to warn everyone just in case they show up?” Kormak said plaintively.

Suniel pointed up to where Harold flew overhead, bow in hand and eyes alert.

“Nice try Kormak, let's go.”

***

“What's to stop them from coming through the walls?” Kormak said, rapping on the slightly-warm metal of the Spire's outer wall.

“They can't come through it,” one of the Crystal Towers Scouts said as they huddled around a hot pot of stew. “Something about silversteel stops them. If I'm not mistaken, they shouldn't be able to pass through your big turtle out their either.”

Kormak exchanged a glance with Suniel. “Gosh, that would have been swell to know. You know, before we put most of Suniel's followers on the hut on top of the turtle.” Kormak said.

“How would you suggest we go about crossing the Span?” Bail said, leaning in to scoop another ladle-full of the thick stew.

“How many is that for you?” Kormak said, pointing at Bail's bowl.

“I'm twice the size you are,” Bail said.

“That doesn't mean you get to eat three times as much.”

“Meepo had a little bit too.”

The Scout shook his head. “I wouldn't suggest crossing the Span at all. As far as we know, the whole of the Crystal Towers has been struck down by the Rising Plague. Could be we're the only ones left.”

“Impossible,” Harold said. “The Magisters would never let that happen.”

“Say what you will, Free Agent Trisden,” the Scout said. “But I've seen out onto the Span on a clearer day and seen the cities spilling over with the dead. And once, near dark, I saw something huge and shadowy and terrible flying over it. I don't know what it was but it struck fear into my heart just catching a glimpse.”

“Then there's no way across?” Bail said, glancing amongst the group huddled around the small fire. “Is this the end of our journey to the Crystal Towers?”

“No,” Keeper said from the shadows where he stood, so still that Kormak had forgotten he was there. “There is another way, beneath the Span.”

“And how do you know this – wait, don't tell me,” Kormak said. “The Nexus?”

“Yes, it is very close now, and closer every day. Very soon now...”

They all looked at Keeper, unease visible on every face as Keeper stared up as though gazing at the sky, arms raised as though in rapture.
 
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 24, Part 1

There was a faint, constant thrum as they walked the labyrinthine passageways beneath the Spire. The silver walls were even warmer down here and when Bail rested a hand on a wall he could feel it pulsing in time to the thrum. Keeper walked unerringly, even when confronted with many-branching tunnels, he picked one without pause. Bail hoped the Iron Sky construct knew where it was going, otherwise they might be lost down here forever.

After a dozen more twists, turns, and narrow stairwells running down, Bail finally had to say something. “Where are we going? We must be hundreds of feet beneath the Spire by now.”

Keeper nodded without slowing. “Nearly three hundred now, we are almost there.”

“Almost where?” Kormak said. “Did I miss the part where you told us where we are going?”

“Keeper said there's another way across the Span, we're finding it,” Suniel said.

“If he means walking across the Endless Sands, I'm out,” Kormak said.

“Here,” Keeper said, putting his hand on what looked at first like a featureless wall. It slid open silently and they were blasted with freezing wind. Bail barely felt it.

Bail peered out at a ten-foot wide stone ledge that ran along the cliff-face. The cliff continued hundreds of feet down to the drifting sand and snow of the Endless Sands, the freezing winds seeming even colder in the dark of the Span's deep shadows.

Keeper walked out again and they followed him out. “A little ways further this way,” Keeper said.

“A little ways further to what?” Kormak said, looking around as he walked. “I'm not seeing anything except rock, sand, and snow.”

“To this,” Keeper said.

They stopped at a small alcove, recessed just enough that it couldn't be seen on approach. In the alcove, the rock gave way to a wall of silversteel and, in the center, a small circular depression. Keeper put a palm to his forehead and bowed his head. A second later there was a faint mechanical grinding and a click and when he pulled away his hand, one of the Seeking Stones sat in his palm.

He put it in the small depression in the wall and silver energy traced across the metal. The panel slid away to reveal a shimmering silvered dome.

“Just like the one on the Landspear Lift,” Suniel said. “I wonder if...”

The elf walked through the seemingly liquid-metal dome and disappeared. Bail took a step back involuntarily. “What manner of defense is this, he's-”

Suniel reappeared a second later. “It's some sort of platform, exactly like the Landspear. I don't now where it would go though since...”

As he spoke, there was a faint thrum and a silver light shone above them. Bail looked up and saw the whole underside of the Span lighting up with traceries of silver energy.

“All that from that one little stone?” Bail said.

“I think it might be lighting up the entire underside of the Span,” Suniel said. He glanced at Harold. “How big is the Span again?”

“It's twenty-five miles wide and almost three-hundred miles long,” Harold said, squinting up at it.

The whole world seemed to have taken on a silver tint as the energy that traced the whole underside of the Span lit up the horizons to the south and west.

“Keeper, can you get that stone back?” Suniel said.

Keeper nodded and vanished into the bubble. There was another thrum and the silver light faded almost instantly. Keeper walked out of the bubble as it dissolved around him and the panel slid back into place behind him.

“Well, I guess we know how we're getting to the Crystal Towers now,” Kormak said. “How big was the lift?”

“Enough for maybe half-a-dozen of us. Especially since we have no idea how long it will take to get to the other side. Remember it took two days to get to the top of the Landspear,” Suniel said.

“Well, let's head back and get ready then,” Harold said. “There's no time to waste.”
 
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 24, Part 2

They stared out at the city as the empty turtle made its slow way back and forth around the front of the tower, packing down the deep snow outside in the shining white light of Suniel's magics.

“So what's the plan again?” Kormak said, staring out the window at the turtle and pulling his cloak tighter. “I'd rather be in bed.”

Bail pointed to the next window down where Harold and Suniel stood. “Harold thinks the dead will just come up to the tower and let us kill them.”

“Well, the Scout said the dumb ones would just wander out, but I'm guessing all of those are dead by now. Think there are any smart ones?”

“Dead now? They were dead before. I think there are cunning ones. Take those ghouls in the town. While you were up fighting on the platform, I was out alone on the street. They were circling around, lunging in and out to draw my attacks so others could go for my back. And the ghost, remember?” Bail pointed to Harold and Suniel again. “They were interrogating it so it had to known something.”

“I guess.” Kormak put his hand against the warm wall of the tower just as a faint pulse of vibration shook it. “I wonder what that was?”

Bail glanced over at him. “What?”

He looked at the wall, glowing faintly with its own ambient silver light. “That vibration. You can feel it under you boots all the time, well, you could if you wore boots that is. And I just felt it in the wall.”

He glanced up to see Keeper standing next to him, staring past him as if looking at something far in the distance. “It is the Machinery of the Continent, deep below the tower. It constantly runs far beneath us, in the deepest bedrock of what you call Felskein, waiting for the Children of the Elarim to give it purpose again.”

Bail and Kormak stared at him, but he never even looked at them. A moment later he walked to Suniel and stood at his side.

“Never know what that thing is going to say,” Kormak said. “What do you suppose that meant?”

Bail looked as though he were about to say something, but just then Harold walked over. “We're not waiting any longer, time to make them come to us.”

Kormak quirked an eyebrow at him. “How are we planning on doing that?”

“We're going to give them something they might want to go for.”

“You mean bait?” Bail said. “Who's going to do that?”

“I am.”

***

Harold's feet touched the snow and he immediately sent three globes of light swirling out in all directions. The night snow cast strange shadows in the unnaturally bright light of Suniel's magics.

For a long moment he scanned the empty city looking for a sign of movement, but aside from the moving shadows cast by his spheres of light, there was nothing. He walked slowly towards the edge of Suniel's lights, sending his own drifting ahead into the darkness.

For several minutes he stood, waiting for anything to happen. When nothing did, he paced the whole perimeter of the light, every muscle and nerve tensed. Just when he was about to give up, he felt a sudden icy grip about his ankle and the ice seemed to freeze in the veins of his leg.

He looked down to see an insubstantial shadowy hand clutching him and leapt back, nearly stumbling as the rest of the shadow rose from the cobblestones, the space where its eyes should have been glowing a malevolent red.

He raised his bow and fired an arrow right between its eyes. It passed through harmlessly and shattered on the cobblestones behind the shadow. Harold cursed, turned, and ran. Damn Bail for destroying the Magister's bow, he thought as he ran. At the base of the tower shouted and they dropped the rope again. He grabbed it and turned to see the shadow right behind him.

He reached for his sword as its spectral arms reached for him, but there was a flash from above him and four bolts of energy blasted through the shadow. It broke apart as it reached him, the shadowy substance of it dissolving into the night.
 
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 24, Part 3

<Some day I'll go back and do a second edit of my posts. I used to just post-and-forget, then go back a few days later and maybe tidy it up. Now I go through and do a quick skim-over edit right before I post it. It's not perfect. I apologize if any of my errors made the reading confusing or difficult at any point. I went through and edited the whole first page of this thread to fix all the little errors and fix some awkward phrases, but when I go back and try to edit it all I realize how much of it is here. By the time I finish this thing it might be novel-length! Then I can print it out and put it in a binder with the novel I wrote in college that's sitting under my bed gathering dust. If anyone thinks writing a novel is hard, try getting one published... I gave up at the query letter.>

After most of a day inside the bubble, Suniel was about at his wits end. Between Harold's endless pacing and dark moods, Bail's blatant hostility towards the archer, and Kormak making smart remarks about everything and flaring the two's animosity up even more, Harold wished they were all like Keeper. The construct didn't even watch their drama, staring off through the bubble as though he was watching something off in the distance. Ambassador Roderic hadn't said a word since the bubble closed over them and the lift had started to move.

“What is it Keeper?” he finally said as it began to get dark – at least, the level of the ambient silver light dropped for evening as it had during their nights on the Landspear lift.

“The Nexus.”

“Oh.” He thought about it for a minute. “What is it like?”

“It's like being alive,” Keeper said, his flickering eyes meeting Suniel's. It might have been his imagination, but Suniel thought he might have seen a spark of something else in them for the first time. It was like looking at a person and not a machine. “At least, I what I have imagined what living must feel like.”

That took Suniel aback. Does he spend those long hours watching and listening to us trying to imagine what it is to live, to feel? Can a construct of living metal feel longing?

“There is a different energy that flows this close to the Nexus. Like something massive and intelligent is waiting for me, so close I can feel it. I think for the first time I understand the look that comes over you when you speak of things like 'home' and 'family.'”

“Are you going to rejoin them when they come?” Suniel said, feeling true empathy with Keeper for the first time even as a feeling of alarm tensed in his shoulders and gut. “Return to your family?”

Keeper shook his head and placed a hand on Suniel's shoulder. It was warm and the grip was light. “You are my Master. I will follow you until my destruction... whenever it happens again that is.”

Suniel he thought he might have seen a smile quirk the corner of Keeper's mouth for a moment. He nodded to Keeper and smiled back, shifting Keeper's hand from his shoulder and he clasped the construct by the wrist as elves did among friends. Keeper glanced down for a moment, then looked back at Suniel and grabbed Suniel's wrist as well.

“Touching... really,” Kormak said from where he sat next to the small tent he'd erected on the Span lift. “I think I'm about to cry.”

Suniel rolled his eyes and let go, then sat down next to the dwarf. “Fine Mr. Dwarf, what's your story? If you're not too choked up to talk about it that is.”

“My story?” Kormak said, quirking up an eyebrow. “Well, I was found, by some monks, unconscious in a field. I had no memory so they took me in and put a magic stone inside me that awoke me.”

Suniel squinted at the straight-faced, wide-eyed Dwarf trying to decide if he was telling the truth for once.

“Then we went on a magical journey to the shining Quartz Keep, for I had a feeling that maybe my family was there and I heard them calling to me from just out of-”

Suniel shook his head as he stood up.

“Wait, don't you want do your elven friendship grabiness with me too?” Kormak said, standing up with Suniel, his hideous grin widening. Suniel bumped Harold as he walked away from the dwarf and Harold glared at him. Bail glared at Harold. Ambassador Roderic simply sat quietly.

Let's hope this lift gets there soon, Suniel thought. Before we kill each other or jump off.

***

The moment the bubble was down, Harold activated the enchantment on his armor and flew straight up towards the Span. Black clouds churned in the sky overhead and the chill, biting wind carried a foul stench like a ten thousand rotting corpses. He reached the edge of the Span and flew upwards. A flock of small birds flew past in a blur, but he thought he saw rotting flesh and the smell they left in their wake confirmed it. What was tha... he thought, then he flew over edge of the Span and higher still.

Where the Span reached the Crystal Towers mainland, the Spire stood rising into the sky – as it always had – and the 25 mile long, hundred-foot-tall Span Wall that had been built centuries ago to protect the mainland still stood.

But upon the Span, stretching back as far as he could see, was a seemingly endless mass of the dead, pressing ever forwards towards the Span Wall like a rotting tide of flesh. Where they reached the Wall, the Crystal Towers defenders upon the Wall rained down arrows, rocks, spears, and magic, slaying the dead by the thousands. The air was thick with the reanimated corpses of all manner of flying creatures, diving in to harry the Crystal Towers soldiers that somehow still stood to resist. So numerous were the dead their corpses made a ramp the reached almost half-way up the Span Wall.

Harold stared in terrible awe, the faint surge of hope and pride he'd felt upon seeing that the Crystal Towers still stood smothered by the endless doom that filled the Span and threw itself mindlessly at the Crystal Tower's defenses. There is no hope for the Crystal Towers in the face of the Ashen Tower's might, he thought, seeing the moaning press of dead stretch further into the horizon the further upwards he flew.

We cannot win against this... the Crystal Towers will fall!

---

Here ends Act II of the Rise of Felskein. The party has finally completed their long journey to reach the Crystal Towers and finds it on the brink of being overrun by an army of the dead forged by the Ashen Tower's dark necromancy. But looming larger the even black storm that engulfs the Crystal Towers is the immanent Iron Sky invasion that Keeper speaks of and that they fear may destroy all of Felskein...
 
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