The Rise of Felskein [Completed]

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 24, Part 4

<Note: Just went back and copy-pasted all my posts into a file so I would have a copy, just in case. Turns out it's 215 pages so far! Whew.

I also realized that the last post also marked the last part of my "Three Acts" that I roughly divided the story up into, so I added a little to the end of the last post.>

Kormak shivered and wrapped his cloak tighter. If anything, the wind here was even more biting than it had been on the other side of the Span. There was a foul smell tinging it as well that he couldn't quite place.

Bail walked up to him in his usual minimal clothing - mostly just armor over his bare scales. It annoyed Kormak that the cold seemed to have no effect on the half-dragon.

"Chilly out here, huh?" he said.

"Is it?" Bail looked at the single locked metal door they'd found on the ledge under this side of the Span. "Suppose Harold is going to let us in or is he just going to leave us here?"

Suniel and Keeper walked over to join them. "I could fly up and check, but I have a really bad feeling about what's going on up there," Suniel said, glancing up at the Span and the black clouds above it.

"A rotting raven flew at me earlier while I taking a piss," Kormak said with a shiver. "I wasn't sure what it was at first, then it dove down and tried to bite off my-"

The door clicked and they all turned to see Harold, expression as dark as Kormak had ever seen. "Thanks for hurrying to let us-" he began.

Harold glared at him with murder in his eyes and Kormak had the rare realization that if he said another word there would be violence. Some part of him wanted to push it a little further, but Suniel seemed to sense it, met his eyes, and shook his head.

"Get in, now," Harold said flatly, holding the door open for them. They shuffled past quietly, even Bail. They walked up through the faintly vibrating and thrumming innards of this Spire, working their way ever upwards. Kormak thought a bit about Keeper's “Machinery of the Continent”.

What sort of machine would a continent need? he thought. Is there some massive construct that he's talking about? Is that what the Crystal Towers Defenses that they've talked about are? More giant constructs beneath Felskein?

He mused on it until they reached the functional area of the Spire, passing dozens, then hundreds of Crystal Towers soldiers. Many were wounded, most had expressions as grim as Harold's, and all of them looked exhausted as they stepped out of the party's way with slow salutes to Harold. “Is the Crystal Towers under attack?” Kormak said. Harold nodded as he led them up more stairs.

“It has to be the Ashen Towers,” Suniel said softly. “That raven you saw, Kormak...”

Then they reached a window and Harold stopped and made a curt gesture towards it. “It is the Ashen Towers. That which we have feared most has come upon us. Look.”

Kormak joined the others and stared out at the shuffling, moaning, stinking mass of the dead that pressed towards a massive wall at the Span's end. They stood in shocked silence for several minutes.

“That's one way to make a ramp I suppose,” Kormak said. “I'd think there might be some material better for building one than corpses though.”

“Gods forgive me,” Suniel whispered.

“This means we don't have much time,” Bail said, gesturing out at the Span. “We need to get to the True Stone.”

Harold turned on the half-dragon, hands clenching into fists. “You can think about the True Stones at a time like this?”

Bail stared flatly back. “You can think the Crystal Towers are important at a time like this? Iron Sky could cut through this army like scythes through wheat. Besides, Crystal Towers isn't the only thing on Felskein...”

“The True Stone of Lightning is 45 miles to the south-east,” Keeper said.

Suniel stepped between Harold and Bail and turned to Harold. “What is 45 miles south-east from here?”

Harold stared over Suniel at Bail for a few seconds more then shook his head. “The Capitol.”

“Then let's get to there as fast as we can. The Crystal Towers is strong and has survived this long, I think perhaps they can survive a bit longer,” Suniel said, gesturing back down the stairs. “Harold, lead the way.”
 
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 24, Part 5

Even inside the Span Wall, the battle continued. Trained falcons, hawks, and eagles clashed with flying dead of all types. Smaller dead that had somehow made it over the wall fought with dogs and cats. As they passed through a small town just inside the Span Wall, they even saw children with short spears patrolling streets and alleyways.

Bail shook his head. “There's no way we're going to find mounts here.”

They stood in the midst constant bustle and commotion, children soldier squads hunting small dead like rats and mice, soldiers heading to the Span, others coming in bearing the wounded and maimed, riders carrying dispatches, small aerial combats, and in the distance the constant low moan of the countless dead that pressed against the outside of the Span Wall.

“I thought about that before we left,” Suniel said. They all looked over at him as he pulled a pair of reins out of his robe.

“Going to harness up Bail again so he can pull us out?” Kormak said.
Suniel raised the reins up and Bail quirked an eyebrow as one end of the rains stayed suspended in the air. “That's a neat trick but-”

Suniel jerked the other end of the reins and suddenly four spectral horses galloped into the street from nowhere, the Black Carriage gliding into existence behind them.

Bail and the others stood and stared while a small self-satisfied smile appeared on Suniel's face. The horses and the Carriage stood in the street, the horses' hooves and the Carriage's wheels floating a couple inches off the cobblestone.

“Thought it might be useful if we could bring it with us, so I did some research while we were back in Port,” Suniel said with a shrug as he patted the side of the Carriage.

“I was wondering why didn't bring it with you on the Turtle,” Kormak said.

“Is it fast?” Harold said. “We have a ways to go to get to the Capitol.”

“For once I agree with the human,” Bail said. “We might be better off trying to find horses...”

“It's fast,” Suniel said softly. “Climb on.”

They complied, though Bail did grudgingly, eying the Carriage as he climbed atop. “I don't know about this thing, it doesn't look that faaaaa!”

Suniel snapped the reins and they shot out of the town faster than Bail had ever moved short of dragon flight.

***

They were at the Capitol less than an hour later. The city itself was built of sturdy white stone buildings with blue tile roofs, spreading out in a wide circle around the primary tower of the Crystal Towers. Suniel guessed the tower was about a quarter to a third of a mile long on each side of the base and Harold had told him long ago that it was nearly a mile tall. Leaning back as far as he could on the bench of the Carriage, he could barely see the gleam of the massive crystal at the top.

“How big is that crystal?” Kormak said, squinting up as well.

“Several hundred feet tall, maybe a hundred wide,” Harold said, not even looking up.

Kormak whistled.

“So, where are we going now?” Suniel said.

Harold pointed at the Tower. “The Magisters reside there. That's where Ambassador Roderic needs to go.”

“All right, hold on tight,” Suniel said, snapping the reins.

***

Fifteen minutes later they were inside the Tower, being led by a pair of elite Crystal Guards in gleaming silver and crystal armor through the silversteel hallways. They stopped at a large, ornate door and pushed it open.

They walked into a small but lushly appointed room, covered with rich red rugs and wall hangings. A ring of chairs sat in the center of the room with others scattered here and there around the walls. A cheery fire burned behind a veil of faintly fluttering silks, its warm, shifting light complementing the silversteel's faint gleam.

“This is the Senate Hall of the Magisters,” Harold said, glancing around. “But where are the Magisters?”

“There is one here,” a deep voice said. An old man in blue robes pushed aside a tapestry, revealing a small door behind it. “I was expecting you.”

“Magister Archaras!” Harold started to salute but his hand stopped half-way up. “You were expecting me?”

The Magister nodded. “A flying island arrived here yesterday-”

“Iron Sky!” everyone shouted at once, reaching for weapons.

Archaras raised his hands. “Yes, we know of them now. The one who told us you were coming would like to meet you.”

Harold nodded and started to follow the Magister.

“No,” Suniel said. “We have something else to do first.”

Harold turned to see all eyes on Keeper. The construct turned to Harold.

“The True Stone of Lightning is here, beneath us, somewhere in the Machinery of the Crystal Towers Defenses below.”
 
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 24, Part 6

“There's no way an artifact could have existed beneath the Crystal Towers for centuries without someone finding it,” Harold said. “If there was one here, the Magisters would know about it.”

“Then why does Keeper sense one deeper down?” Suniel said as they exited another stairwell into another cramped hallway.

“Maybe he's broken?” Kormak said.

Ahead of them Keeper stopped at an intersection and glanced both ways. “Maybe you are broken,” Keeper said without looking back and turned left.

Kormak blinked a few times and raised a questioning eyebrow at Suniel. Suniel half-smiled and shrugged.

“So... what are we going to do with this Lightning Stone once we find it?” Kormak said. “Do we even know what they do or are we just collecting them so we can hand them over to Gilderalin.”

Kormak cast a pointed look at Bail but the half-dragon didn't reply.

“We are going to use it to help fend of the Ashen Tower,” Harold said.

Bail stopped and crossed his arms but Suniel stepped between him and Harold. “If we can use it to help the Crystal Towers, we will. When we find it, I'd like to study it so we can perhaps determine what its true purpose and capabilities are. Then we'll have a better idea of what all this is-”

“Here,” Keeper said, stopping suddenly before a blank wall.

They gathered around Keeper, staring blankly at the mostly featureless silversteel hallway. It might just have been Kormak, but it seemed like it was warmer down here and the thrum of some massive machinery could be felt like a heartbeat.

“Here... is what?” Kormak said.

“I told you this was a waste of time, there's no artifact-” Harold began.

Keeper pressed his palm against his forehead and a moment later the glistening blue of the Seeking Stone of Lightning was in his palm. He raised it towards the wall and, in its faint yellow light, a tracery of glowing golden lines appeared on the walls, like branching, crisscrossing veins running just beneath the surface of the silversteel. In the center of the wall Keeper stood before, there was a spherical gap where the gold lines met.

There was a faint click as Keeper pressed the Seeking Stone into that spot and when he removed his hand, the Seeking Stone was slowly sinking into the wall as though the silversteel was liquid beneath it. Then it stopped and the thrumming of the tower got louder, joined by a high-pitched whine just at the edge of Kormak's hearing. The small hairs on his neck and arms stood on end and the golden lines in the wall suddenly flared.

The well panel containing the Seeking Stone recessed and slid into the wall, revealing a massive pit crisscrossed by grated steel walkways that looked somehow out of place next to the silversteel of the tower. They walked forward across the strange metal grated walkway and stopped at a railing.

As the pit descended, the silversteel of the wall was replaced by the raw bedrock of Felskein. Strange wires, cables, and tubes ran all over the place, many bundled together near the walls. Steel and copper pipes crisscrossed the gap around the walkways as well, some as small as a finger, others wider than a wagon.

At the bottom of it all was a wide metal pedestal encased in a dome of thick glass. Hundreds of bundles of wires and cables and several pipes ran into the pedestal. Whatever was inside flickered and sparked and flashed, like living lightning trapped by some ancient artifice.

Kormak whistled. “So, I'm guessing that's it?”

Keeper nodded. “The True Stone of Lightning – at least one of them.”

“One of them?”

“I see a way down to the next walkway,” Bail said, jogging along the uppermost walkway with one hand on the railing. “It looks like it crosses over to the other side.”

“It does, into that recess in the wall over there,” Harold said, leaning over the rail and pointing across the wide chamber. “And if I'm guessing correctly, it leads to some tunnel that comes out over there.”

“This is going to take forever,” Kormak said, staring down at the several-hundred foot drop. “They couldn't make the last bit easy could they?”

“What part of the first bit was easy?” Suniel said as they followed along behind Harold.

Bail, already standing in the middle of the next walkway had apparently come to the same conclusion. He was leading over the railing, staring down at another narrow walkway that crossed thirty feet below him.

“Uh, you think he's going to...” Kormak began.

Bail leapt the railing in one smooth motion. He landed with a metallic crunch and a grunt and the walkway swayed precariously beneath him. Then he stood, hanging onto the railings until the walkways stopped swaying and then looked over the side to the next walkway.

“That's one way to do it,” Suniel said, as they followed Harold out onto the walkway.

“Yep,” Kormak said. With a running jump he cleared the railing and landed right in front of Bail, rolling to his feet in a smooth motion.

He winked at Bail. “Race ya.”
 
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 24, Part 7

A blur of movement out of the corner of his eye stopped Suniel cold. As Keeper stopped behind him, he glanced over at the wall where metal cables and pipes crisscrossed each other over the bare stone. I could have sworn I saw something move through those cables.

He glanced down at Bail and Kormak leaning over the railing to judge their next jump and saw Harold stopped on the walkway below Suniel and Keeper, hand slowly moving towards the quiver on his back and staring at the same spot Suniel had been looking at.

A chill went up Suniel's spine and, with a practiced murmur, a ward of shimmering energy surrounded him. Without a word, Keeper's lightning shield and sword of light flared into existence.

“There's something in here!” Harold shouted, firing an arrow into a mass of cables.

Something slammed into the magical shield at Suniel's back, almost knocking him over the railing. On instinct, he wheeled around and raised his hand, engulfing the metal walkway behind him with fire.

The whole room shook as writhing red tentacles thrashed and burned, their charred stumps drawing back towards the wall as a dozen more burst through pipes and metal panels or writhed into view through grates. A roar coming from seemingly everywhere echoed and reverberated through the pit.

Suniel spared a quick glance down to see Kormak and Bail back-to-back on a walkway, a veritable sea of thick, barbed, ropey tentacles reaching for them as smaller whip-like tendrils lashed at their faces. Harold was firing arrows in every direction, aiming for the thickest concentrations where they emerged near the walls.

Lightning crackled behind him and Keeper's sword flashed as it seared through them, leaving bits and pieces thrashing and writhing one the walkways about them. Suniel stepped closer to Keeper and clenched his fists, feeling the magic flow into them. His mind when calm as a detached part of his brain intoned the familiar, memorized words of his magics.

***

“There seems to be no end to them,” Bail shouted, cursing and ripping a grasping, fleshy feeler from around his wrist. He swung his adamantine greatsword in a huge arc, slicing through them like a scythe through grass. Kormak stretched one out and slashed through it with the blade of his hand and leapt away as a dozen more surged into the space he'd just occupied.

There was a flash of energy above them and another roar shook the room. Bail slashed through the mass of tentacles again, ran two huge steps and jumped – Kormak right beside him – as a the hundred or more tentacles that had surrounded them pulled apart the walkway they had just been standing on.

The distance down was farther than Bail had predicted and he landed hard on a massive pipe, almost losing his grip on his sword. He grunted as he got to his feet, glancing up to see the tentacles disentangling themselves from the twisted metal remnants of the walkway and thrashing about as if searching for Bail and Kormak.

“I suggest we keep moving as much as possible,” Kormak said. “Maybe if we get to the bottom and can reach the Stone, we can use it to blast these things apart.”

“Do you know how to use it?” Bail said, already running down the pipe to the next walkway and slashing, ducking, and weaving through the innumerable tentacles that seemed to be coming from everywhere.

A massive blast of fire detonated above them, flattening them in a blast of hot wind. Bail muttered a thanks to the wizard as smoldering chunks of flesh rained down around them.

“We'll figure that out when we get there.”

***

Harold dropped his bow and drew his greatsword, slashing and leaping to clear a path ahead as the mass of tentacles closed in around him. He had no doubts as to his fate if they got a hold on him.

He reached the end of the walkway and spun, slashing through half-a-dozen whip-like tendrils that darted towards him, then ducked into a metal-paneled tunnel that ran through the rock for a ways. Halfway down it, he considered just making a stand there, but then a panel just behind him exploded outwards with the press of a mass of razor-tipped flesh that still sought him.

A quick slash into the thickest part of them was all he had time for before he turned and ran again, reaching the end of the tunnel to another walkway. As he took his first step onto the grating, the whole room seemed to lurch sideways and the walkway tore free before him and fell onto the one below it. That walkway bucked as well and the two slammed into a pipe, denting it and wrenching it half-free from where it ran into the bedrock.

I guess this is where I make my stand then, he thought, stepping back into the tunnel. Let's see how many of these things it takes to kill a Free Agent of the Crystal Towers.

***

Suniel brought his arm down and a shock wave blasted out from him, shearing through the mass of flesh that hemmed them in. Below, Bail and Kormak still jumped from walkway to walkway, always just one step ahead of being caught and torn apart while a slow cascade of collapsing walkways and pipes fell towards them. Harold stood at the mouth of a tunnel, spinning wildly to hack away the tentacles that closed in on him from all sides, bleeding from a dozen small cuts and slashes.

Suniel glanced up at the doorway back into the Tower tunnels, sweat and blood running downs his face. “We might make it out Keeper, if we make a run for it now,” Suniel said as his construct slammed his lightning shield into the twisting mass he was holding at bay.

Over the terrible slither of flesh, the wrenching squeal and clang of collapsing walkways, and the crackle of Keeper's weapons, he could barely hear the reply. “But we won't.”

Suniel smiled and suppressed a wave of exhaustion from the sheer amount of arcane energies had channeled and summoned to mind the trigger word for one of his last spells. “You're right Keeper,” he said softly. “We wont.”

***

Bail and Kormak plummeted the last fifty feet towards the last walkway, but, as they fell through the air, a tentacle as thick as Bail's leg snatched Kormak out of the air. Bail landed hard and glanced up to see the dwarf slamming his elbows into it ineffectually in between swatting away a swarm of smaller spine-tipped whips that darted towards his eyes and throat.

Bail glanced down to where the True Stone flashed and flickered behind a foot-thick dome of glass, a sea of tentacles writhing around the base of the pedestal upon which it stood, some already reaching up towards Bail like a thousand blind snakes.

Just maybe if I can break that glass, it will stop this thing. He thought. Maybe it feeds on it or, if I get my hands on it I can use it against this monstrosity. Maybe it will release enough energy to kill us instantly in a flash of light.

He spared one more glance above where his companions fought for their lives and the thousands of tentacles the closed in from every direction. He reversed his sword and dove off the pipe upon which he knelt, hurtling towards the glass dome of the Lightning Stone, hoping his sword was strong enough to break through.

If this is the last thing I do, at least maybe I'll take this thing with me.

Time seemed to slow as he fell through the air, sword high overhead as he fell, death reaching for him on every side.

Better a quick death...
 
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 24, Part 8

Lightning arced out in all directions, across the platform, through the grating on the bottom of the floor, through cables, and into the still-collapsing walkways. Bail himself was hurled across the room, slamming hard into the stone wall. He rolled to his belly and slowly pulled himself to his feet, bruised, battered, and covered with dozens of wounds.

The walls shook so hard that bits of the bedrock itself broke free and rained down around him and an inhuman scream pierced the air, so loud that Bail doubled over, clutching the sides of his head. The scream continued for what seemed like an eternity then slowly faded, drowned out by the deafening bang and clatter of dozens of walkways slamming into each other as they collapsed.

Bail pressed against the wall, shielding his head with his arms as jagged bits of broken metal and hunks of rubble slammed into the ever-growing heap of wreckage in the center of the pit or ricocheted off, flying in all directions.

Finally it was over, leaving behind a strange silence shrouded by choking dust that was tinged with the smells of rust and dead flesh. Bail waited until it had settled for a bit, staring out at the deep shadows of the pit, the only light the faint gleam of silversteel high above.

Here and there in the wreckage, bits of red tentacle dangled, smashed and lacerated, black ichor running from them across the broken metal. Every once in a while, lightning would arc between two bits of metal and the air felt charged, like the feeling in the air just before a thunderstorm.

Bail dug around in the debris near the wall, searching for several minutes before he finally found it. Fortunately, the magically-forged adamantine was untouched, despite being buried squarely under a large metal girder.

“Hello, anyone else alive down here?” he heard Kormak call, his voice seemingly small in the dark vastness of the pit.

“Kormak, where are you?” Bail yelled.

“I'm mostly over here I think,” Kormak shouted back. A moment later, Bail saw a trace of movement atop the heaped wreckage and Kormak's stout frame rose into view.

A pure white light blossomed into existence far above them and the small forms of Suniel and Keeper came into view leaning over the highest platform near the door to the pit. “Glad to see you alive down there,” Suniel shouted, waving.

A moment later, three faint globes of blue light appeared in a wall alcove fifty feet below Suniel and Bail could see the human leaning out. “Did you find the Stone yet?”

Bail rolled his eyes. “I hope you don't think it's yours human, just because it is in your empire.”

“Let's just find it first,” Suniel shouted. “I have some small magics that will help get us down to you, though it will take some time.”

***

They stared in awe at the Lightning Stone, an elongated shard of hematite whose surface rippled with lightning and charged the air within fifty feet of it. Suniel held it lightly in his hand, mesmerized by the play of energy across its surface and by the incredible power and presence of the Stone, as though it somehow was the anchor that kept reality in place around it. It felt as though he was spinning slowly into it and yet it held him rooted in place at the same time and when he moved it, though the Stone was physically light, it had a strong tug of inertia, feeling for all the world as if it was pulling him along after it.

“With this we can save my homeland from Thessalock,” Harold said.

“With this we can save your whole continent from Iron Sky,” Bail said, shaking his head.

“Perhaps we can do both,” Suniel said.

“Well, whatever we're saving, we're not doing it today,” Kormak said, rising and looking about the pit. “I don't know about you, but I feel like I traveled a hundred miles today - under the feet of a million walking dead - was nearly crushed to death several times by some unnameable abomination, and then was left stranded at the bottom of a huge pit that smells like a flattened, rusty metal meat shop. Oh wait, that's right, that all happened. Can we get out of here now?”

Bail glanced up at the cliff walls. “I could probably climb it, though it looks dangerous and I too am weary from the battle.”

“Can your magics get us out, Suniel?” Harold said, glancing his way.

Suniel tucked the True Stone into a small bag, feeling its presence like a living thing and stood. He glanced at Keeper, standing still as the statue he resembled at Suniel's side. Suddenly, the tremendous strain of the day's exertions hit Suniel and he leaned on the construct for support. “I need to rest and recover first, at least a few hours to clear my head before I can do much of anything.”

“I don't like the idea of sleeping down here,” Bail said, glancing about warily. “We don't know if whatever that thing was that lived down here is dead or not.”

“If it is, look on the bright side; we'll die peacefully in our sleep,” Kormak said as he dragged a sheet of relatively intact metal from the pile and sat down, leaning against it. A moment later the dwarf was snoring.

“I don't like this much either,” Harold said.

“Keeper will protect us,” Suniel said walking to the wall and leaning against the cool bedrock. “Just give me a few hours.”

Suniel closed his eyes and felt a bit of the tension of battle slowly drain from him. Right at the edge of deep trance, he resisted for a moment and opened his eyes, looking at where Bail and Harold sat as far from each other as they could and still be in sight of the others, holding their weapons and glaring at each other.

“Don't kill each other until I wake up, deal?” Suneil said. He shook his head and closed his eyes, a wry smile on his lips at how darkly ironic it would be if the two of them traveled all this way, endured the terrible battle in the pit and all the dangers preceding, to finally find a bit of hope - and then murdered each other.

The smile slowly relaxed and in minutes Suniel had fallen into a deep trance.
 
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 24, Part 9

Valea stood at the base of the rope-bridge that led to the Skyland of the Seers, waiting. Standing on anchored ground still felt strange, though the faint thrum that she could feel in the Silversteel of the Crystal Tower made it slightly less alien. The idea of so much land in one place, the euphoria of the prophecy coming true in her lifetime... she could barely wait until she met the Restorers.

A chill wind welcomed the dawn in and not long after, she saw them, exactly as they had been described in prophecy.

First came the human, the proud archer to whom she was to give the island. Next came the dwarf, as ugly as predicted. Then cam the wizard and his Keeper, who would stand at the end of the Grimwythe. Last was the child of the dragons, who would stand beside the dwarf as the world was remade.

She bowed as they approached. “I am Velea the Seer. We have been waiting for you for generations. Please, come onto my Skyland. I'm sure you have many questions.”

“They weren't kidding,” the dwarf said, staring past her at the Skyland. “There actually are flying islands.”

“I am Suniel and this is Keeper,” Suniel said, bowing to her. The Keeper mimicked his master and Velea marveled that this Keeper would be the One.

“I am Bail,” the half-dragon said, with a nod.

“Ah, the child of the Great One,” Velea said, returning his nod.

The human snorted and walked past her to stare at the Skyland. “If you want to call Gilderalin that.”

Velea glanced at Bail and quirked a questioning eyebrow, but the half-dragon shook his head slightly and made a subtle waving-off gesture with his hand. Velea didn't understand entirely, but didn't speak on it.

“The obnoxious human is Harold by the way,” the dwarf said. “And I'm Kormak, at your service.”

“This Skyland would be useful in the defense of the Crystal Towers,” Harold said, turning to her. “Have you come to ally with the Crystal Towers?”

“No,” she said, slightly surprised. “I've come to give the Skyland to you, Harold, and do what I can to help the Restorers to find the True Stones. This fabled Felskein is the last hope for the peoples of the Thousand Skylands.”

“Wait, you're giving it to me?” Harold said, eyes widening.

“The peoples of the Thousand Skylands?” Suniel said. “Are they threatened by Iron Sky too?”

She nodded and began leading the way onto her Skyland. “Yes. Iron Sky had taken twelve Skylands last I heard. Fortunately, few of them are very large, but when they reach Felskein...”

"Go back to the part where you're giving this island to him," the dwarf said, pointing hard at Harold.

“So, they are on the way here?” Bail said as they finished crossing the bridge and began walking up the rocky path that spiraled up the small floating mountain of her Skyland.

“Yes, suddenly they ceased their attacks and began pushing hard in this direction. Fortunately, the High Seer had predicted the removal of the Sky Ward that had kept Felskein hidden from us all these centuries, so we reached you first.”

“How much time do we have?” Suniel said, glancing at one of the small meditation pagodas that sat on a rocky ledge near the path.

“Five, six weeks I would guess,” she said. “But it was not Iron Sky I was speaking of when I said Felskein was the last hope for the people of the Thousand Skylands – and the people of Felskein. All of the Child Races risk extinction.”

“From what?” several of them said in unison.

“The Grimwythe.” She paused as they reached the Reflecting Pool and the small shrine at its center on another ledge beside the path. “It is custom, let us stop and see if the Reflecting Pool speaks.”

“It talks?” Kormak said as they followed her to the pool.

She knelt beside it and the others joined on either side of her. Out of her peripheral vision she saw them exchange questioning glances, but her eyes were to the Pool only.

She stared at the Pool with such intensity that soon the others were gazing in as well. The chill wind that rippled the Pool slowly died down and the water stilled to a mirror-sheen. She knelt beside the others, the Pool revealing nothing – as it always did – until just before she was about to give up.

Like a reflection of something in the sky, she saw a massive cliff, just like the ones on the sides of Felskein where it plummeted to the Endless Sands. As they watched, they seemed to descend along the cliff face, faster and faster until suddenly they were over the sands, traveling at tremendous speed across the never-ending dunes. She pointed to a spot in the reflection, not saying a word.

Something moved beneath the sands of the reflection, just beneath the surface. At first it was just in one spot, but it slowly grew until it seemed something dark and terrible filled the entirety of the Endless Sands that shadowed them, chased them. They seemed to slowly fall, nearer and nearer the Sands. She could feel the tension, hear the others hold their breath, see them leaning away from the Pool but unable to take their eyes off of it.

The feeling of menace, threat, danger from whatever was below them in the Sands grew as they neared. Velea felt her breathing quicken and heart pound and a scream welled up in the back of her throat. Something ancient and terrible waited beneath the sand, waiting for her to get close enough, hungering for them. Suddenly the sands blew apart as whatever it was lunged up at them and they all leapt backwards away from the Pool as it geysered ten feet into the air before them.

That sat in silence for a moment, wide-eyed and breathing heavily.

“That...” she said softly, willing her own breathing to slow. “That was the Grimwythe.”
 
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 24, Part 10

The temple atop the Skyland was austere yet beautiful. Everything seemed to have perfect symmetry and balance, as though precise care had gone into the placement of even the smallest elements. Inside was spacious, with gilded symbols inlaid in nearly every beam and wall.

What interested Suniel the most, however, was the carving of the continent of Felskein in the center of the room. He'd seen ancient maps of the whole of Felskein, but never a physical replica – especially one of such exquisite detail. Whoever - or whatever - had carved it had only land features, no marks of civilization except the Span and the Crystal Towers, and a few strange rings of stone here and there that had to be artificial.

As they gazed upon it in silence and Suniel's eye followed their route from Northmand, down the Greenpath to the Crystal Deeps to where Steamport would be, then on down the Crystal River and the Landspear Lake and its namesake. He traced their route across the Freeholds to the Span and the Crystal Towers that were actually made of Silversteel in the replica.

“Our order has sought Felskein for millennium. Most of the inhabitants of the Thousand Skylands consider Felskein to by a myth and I will admit that sometimes I wondered if we were searching for a dream all this time,” Velea said. “We were told not to touch it, but you'll notice where the edges of the continental cliffs are worn smooth... over eons, every once in a while even a Seeker feels the need to touch the dream for assurance.”

“Why is Felskein so important?” Kormak said, squinting at the model. “It just looks like a giant slab of rock to me.”

“It is important because thousands of years ago, it is said that the Thousand Skylands were ruled by Felskein, but Felskein disappeared, leaving the Skylands to fend for themselves. Though in the time since, kingdoms and empires that span dozens or even hundreds of Skylands have formed and disintegrated, the Skylands are still fragmented and now Iron Sky is taking them one-by-one.”

“Where did Iron Sky come from?” Bail said. “We have pieced together some things about them, but there is much still unknown.”

“Iron Sky was created by the Elarim to combat the Grimwythe long, long ago, back when Felskein still ruled the Thousand Skylands and the Childraces were still slaves to their creators. Iron Sky failed to defeat the Grimwythe and several of their most powerful Keepers began taking the power from the Elarim to strengthen themselves against the Grimwythe. The Elarim gave over their power willingly at first, believing that they had no choice if Iron Sky was to defeat the Grimwythe. Instead, Iron Sky took so much from them that the Childraces were able to rise up and overthrow the Elarim.

“The Elarim tried to turn Iron Sky against their Children, but only some of the Keepers obeyed. The Elarim were hunted down and their image expunged from the face of history. They say that only one Elarim survived, though what or where it might be is unknown – if it still exists at all.”

“So, what is Iron Sky doing now? And by Keepers, do you mean...” Bail pointed at Keeper.

Velea nodded. “Keepers are the minds behind the automaton empire of Iron Sky. They are like the puppet masters behind the machines, the rulers of the rest. In fact, Iron Sky itself is named after the first Full Keeper, the one that controls what we know as Iron Sky.”

“Does it have a personality?” Kormak said. “Suniel's one unfortunately seems to be developing one. And what's a 'Full Keeper'?”

Keeper glanced flatly at Kormak and Suniel again found himself wondering what his construct was thinking or... feeling?

“The Keepers are designed to think and experience something akin to feeling,” Velea said, nodding at Keeper. “Though what exactly the remaining Keeper's motivations are... none know except him. As for a Full Keeper, I'm assuming you have placed several Seeking Stones inside this Keeper. Each Keeper can hold a certain number and each increases their power. When a Keeper is full, their powers are legendary.”

“Ok, so how big is Iron Sky?” Kormak said. “There's gloom-and-doom about that they'll destroy everything on Felskein. Can they do that?”

Velea shrugged. “Maybe. They have placed Factories on each of the Skylands they have taken, so their numbers grow rapidly.”

“Factories?” Suniel said.

“Yes, giant constructs that consume the resources of the land and craft Iron Sky constructs out of them. If they landed Factories on Felskein, there would be almost no limit to their growth. If Iron Sky takes Felskein, they could perhaps complete their original mission and destroy the Grimwythe that slumber just beneath the Endless Sands – or conquer all of the Thousand Skylands.”

“Why do we need these then?” Suniel said, pulling the True Stone of Lightning out. Suddenly, the air was charged with static and sparks rained down from the Stone.

“With those, you can activate the Crystal Towers Defenses and return Felskein to its rightful place as ruler of the Thousand Skylands.”

“How many do we need to do that?” Suniel said.

“Five to activate the Defenses, nine if Felskein is to be totally empowered.”

“Well, for now can we use it against the dead of the Ashen Towers?” Harold said, speaking up for the first time since they'd left the pit. “It might slow them and it will give you an opportunity to test and study its power.”

Suniel glanced at Harold, catching a faint glimpse of the despair and suffering beneath the archer's carefully controlled demeanor. “Very well, we can do that at least.”

“I will remain here until you return,” Velea said. “Do not be long, we have little time before Iron Sky arrives.”

“We will make full haste,” Suniel said.

“Besides, what do we have to worry about?” Kormak said. “What does the Ashen Towers have to throw at us when we have an artifact?”

Suniel hoped they wouldn't find the answer to that question.
 
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 25, Part 1
<Note: Here's the post that would have been on Thursday if not for my post in the Iron DM Challenge>

Harold watched as Suniel and the others sped away atop the black carriage. He would have a hard day's ride to make it to the Wall after them – a trip that they could make in less than an hour. He shook his head, saluted the guard on duty, and walked into the small dining hall where Colonel Imrant waited.

Her title was Commander of the Free Agents, but she was more like a military liaison since Free Agents were mostly under their own recognizance. There were times, however, when Free Agents needed the help of the military or the Ministry and this was one of those times.

The room was small and almost cozy, by military standards at least. A wide fireplace full of crackling logs warded off the winter chill and a thick rug lay before it. Against the opposite wall was a long oak table with matching benches. Imrant sat with a steaming bowl of what looked like stew and a loaf of dark bread. She stood as he walked in and startled him by catching the hand he was raising to salute her and shaking it.

“You're technically not military anymore Agent Trisden, that means we can dispense with certain formalities.” She motioned to the table. “Have a seat. Have you eaten?”

He shook his head and sat as she motioned to the guard and ordered more food brought. Then she sat down, tore off a hunk of bread, and dipped it into her stew.

“What brings you to me Trisden. May I call you Harold?”

“Yes ma'am,” he said.

“You can call me Imrant. There were three of us named Emma in my first unit, so I got to be Imrant. One of the other girls had a real matronly look, so she was stuck with Mama.” Imrant smiled. “I guess I was the lucky one.”

“I came to... well, first let me inquire as to the state of the Rising Plague here on the Crystal Towers mainland. Is it contained?”

“Yes, now we know what to look for,” she said, cupping one hand under her sodden bread as she took a bite. “Strange thing is, just once we have it quarantined, it breaks out somewhere entirely different. It's perplexing. There's a theory that-”

“There are Ashen Towers abominations that have infiltrated the Crystal Towers and are spreading the plague.” Harold leaned back as the guard set a tray with another bowl of stew, a few slices of bread, a chunk of hard yellow cheese, and a couple small apples in front of him, then a steaming wooden mug. Harold's stomach grumbled as he looked at it and he wondered how long it had been since he'd thought to eat something.

“Creatures? How do you know this?”

“We interrogated the ghost of one of the North Spire guards that was killed by one of the creatures. You might call them plaguewalkers. I got the impression they are some sort of shapechangers, but they can be found by a yellowish residue their touch leaves behind.”

“I see. I'll get that information to the right people immediately.” She stood and motioned the guard over again, talking with him for a couple minutes while Harold tore into the food, barely tasting it as his mind constantly churned on the Ashen Towers and their assault on his homeland.

Imrant sat down again and was silent for a moment. Harold looked up and saw her watching him with a small, bemused smile. “Been a while since you've eaten?”

“I have another thing that must be done,” he said, wiping crumbs from his uniform. “I have spent the last several months traveling with a wizard who is constantly studying his tomes and researching the arcane-”

“They do that.”

“It gave me an idea, though my personal training in the arcane is minimal. I don't know if it would be possible, but I have an idea that might stop the Ashen Towers assault at the Span Wall, or at least slow it significantly.”

She leaned towards him. “You have my complete attention.”

He calmed down the near-constant churn that was the tangle of his thoughts and emotions since they had heard of the Rising Plague, a mental disquiet that had only gotten stronger the deeper they got into his besieged homeland.

“It will take some doing and must be done quickly if it is to work, but my plan is this...”
 
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 25, Part 2


Suniel stood at the very top of the Spire, overlooking the moaning horde of the dead that still pressed endlessly against the Span Wall. The corpse ramp here was taller now, almost three-quarters of the way up, the dead awkwardly slipping an falling over the bodies of the others only to be picked off by the Crystal Towers defenders – but it seemed there was no end to the walking dead, still stretching across the Span as far as Suniel could see.

Suniel raised the Lightning Stone to the sky and focused on the key he'd discovered to unleashing the immense elemental energies contained within. A rippling boom passed through the clouds overhead and Suniel felt as though raw lightning was flowing through his skin. The subtle rush that normally accompanied channeling and control magic wasn't at all subtle with the artifact in his upraised hand, it was like he was the lightning.

With a huge grin and gesture he called down the untamed wrath of the skies, laughing with pure glee.

***

“You finally done using that thing?” Kormak said, standing up and glancing at the setting sun as the crack and flash of thunder and lightning roared in the background. “You've been blasting apart zombies for hours.”

“Its powers, though tremendous, are not unlimited,” Suniel said, turning to Bail and Kormak. The elf's eyes were wide and his face flushed.

“Jeez, can I use that thing next time?” Kormak said. “You stood there for five hours and yet you look like... like...”

“He looks like he just laid an egg,” Bail said, glancing down at the swath Suniel had blasted through the dead.

“Laying an egg makes you look like that?” Kormak said. “I would think it would be uncomfortable.”

“The dragons I've seen lay eggs seemed to enjoy it,” Bail said. “Looks like you killed thousands of them Suniel. Maybe tens of thousands. That last wicked storm you summoned is killing more as we speak.”

“Did you lay an egg while you were using that thing?” Kormak said, leaning back and forth and tugging at the back of Suniel's robe.

“It might have destroyed thousands, but there's millions more,” Suniel said, pulling his robe out of Kormak's hands.

They stood and watched as the wrath of the lightning storm Suniel has summoned faded with the last light of the day.

“What did I miss?” Harold said, walking up beside them, his clothing rumpled from what had to have been many hours of hard riding to get to the Span Wall.

“Suniel killed a bunch of them dead - well, more dead - with lightning,” Kormak said, pointing down the the sea of shambling corpses below them.

Harold glanced down.

“It's hard to tell exactly where he killed them since new ones have already come in to replace them, but I swear, he hit this one that must have been a cow and pieces of it flew easily a hundred feet high.”

“So it didn't stop them,” Harold said, his voice falling. “I thought that thing was supposed to be powerful.”

Kormak rolled his eyes.

“Believe me, it is powerful. Here it might help slightly, but this battle is too large even for an artifact of this power,” Suniel said. “I think for us to have any hope, we have to do as Velea said, find the other Stones and bring them to the henges. Who knows, maybe the Crystal Towers defenses-”

“I have a plan that might save the Crystal Towers,” Harold said. “It is underway as we speak. I just hope they can complete before the Wall is overrun."

Just then, there was some commotion from inside the Spire. Harold jogged over to investigate, returning a few minutes later with a grim expression. “They say a couple miles from here, the corpse ramp has reached the top of the Wall. Worse, one of Thessalock's abominations guards it and slays anyone who tries to approach. If it isn't destroyed, the whole Span Wall could be overrun by tomorrow.”

“Sounds like it's a good time for us to leave to me. Anyone else?” Kormak said, ignoring Harold's baleful glare.

Suniel raised his hands to calm Harold. “Of course we will see if we can help - though afterward, we should depart to gather more of the Stones before we become trapped here.”

Kormak didn't think Harold heard anything beyond “we can help”, but he'd let Suniel and Bail worry about it.

Kormak cracked his knuckles. “I have a hankering to kill something terrible. Let's do it.”

A minute later they were literally flying across the ground at the base of the Span Wall atop Suniel's carriage.
 
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 25, Part 3


“What's going on up there?” Harold called to the packed guardsmen.

“Ahead, they've overrun us and anyone who goes any closer is killed.”

They stared out at the guardsmen holding back the mindless dead that hurled themselves towards living flesh. Harold climbed down from the carriage and the others followed him, readying themselves for battle.

***

With patience born of centuries of waiting, it bided its time while a group of living-ones destroyed the trivial dead walkers on the wall. They moved quickly and the ancient one waited until they reached the place where the piled bodies reached the top of the wall. With a thought it summoned several of its powerful minions, but it didn't wait for them to arrive; it wanted to taste the dying souls of these beings for it could already sense the strength of their life force.

They noticed it when it was nearly upon them and a dim sense of anticipation welled in it as it stepped onto the wall to face them. It noted with some interest that they were unaffected by its gaze, the same gaze that had frozen all the mortals it had ever faced with fear – all except Thessalock that is. Thoughts of its master caused it immense pain so it banished such thoughts and pointed its finger at one of the living ones, to snuff the being's life force. To its surprise, the being struggled and then shrugged off the unholy energies that nearly killed it and hurled a spell in return.

They began attacking, one firing arrows, another drawing a sword and charging along side a third that looked as though it was going to attack with its bare hands. A golem followed behind. It ignored the one with the sword and the one that punched and kicked futilely at it and turned to the archer that was actually hurting it.

The archer lifted into the air as it fired, drifting off the wall and away, over the mass of the dead that had overrun the wall and churned a hundred feet below. With a gesture, it stole the arcane energies that allowed the archer to fly and turned away as the human plummeted to certain death.

Turning back, it opened its hand and hurled a blast of unworldly cold at the four remaining figures, immediately following up by striking them with a rotting plague.

They weathered the attack and pressed their own, but aside from the petty magics thrown by the one in back and his golem, they were barely harming it. A globe of darkness formed around it, blinding its enemies and it slammed its fist into the one with the sword, hammering him into the stone of the wall then tossing the limp body aside. It walked past the one that struck it impotently with his fists and approached the magic-wielder, enjoying the look of fear it its eyes as it backed away.

It walked out of its darkness and brushed aside the weak spells hurled at it. The dead pressed up behind the mage, preventing him from fleeing further. With a sense of anticipation it had not felt in decades, it reached for the magic user to consume his life-force only to be surprised by an arrow that came out of nowhere and hit it in the leg. It turned slowly and looked to see the archer that had fallen firing at it, ignoring the horde of the dead that surrounded him, trying to pull him apart. As he stared down at it, another arrow struck it in the chest and it staggered back again, staring at the arrow in its chest. It looked up again and a third arrow hit it between the eyes sending it back into the darkness that had spawned it.

***

Harold pushed his way through the moaning dead, digging into a pocket for a small item he'd carried with him since he'd been sent to Northmand. Struggling against the tugging and pawing of the dead around him, he thrust the feather into the ground and grabbed onto a branch of the tree that shot up rapidly before him.

A few seconds later he was forty feet above the ground, surrounded by leafy branches. He took a deep breath, wincing as he dug for one of his potions. Through the branches, he saw Suniel's carriage fleeing along the top of the wall with Kormak and Keeper atop it. Behind them were detonations of flame as Suniel blasted whatever it was he was fleeing from.

I killed the big one, what is he running from? Harold thought as he drank a potion and felt its healing mixture seep into his wounds.

A minute later, half-a-dozen spectral forms were upon him and he was again fighting for his life.
 
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