Distant Horizons

The Mad Mage's Tower

Penned by Beriana Elorelen, as told by Those who Made the Journey

For two centuries and more it had stood, a column of black stone forty feet around and rising seventy-five feet from a small rocky island a hundred miles out to sea. Atop the tower, a globe of brilliant light that gleamed brightly even in full daylight. In all that time, the edifice known as Finnegan’s Tower, or more commonly The Mad Mage’s Tower, had held it’s secrets. None had managed to enter the forbidding lighthouse. Until now.

There were six of them, a group of adventurers newly met and not yet fully familiar with one another. A disparate group, even amongst so eclectic a community as those who adventure. Three of them hailed for the World Below, and should have been enemies. Yet they dealt cordially with one another. Of the three surface-dwellers, all hailed from the fringes of society, albeit in very different ways. By all accounts they should have kept to themselves, but even so, they were comfortable enough after the successful battle against Captain Fieri’s pirates, that they welcomed each other’s skills in the attempt to enter the Tower.

The deep gnome Daziel and the half-elf Zane worked together to find the door, and carefully disarmed the traps they found there. But it was not they who would open the way. That feat was accomplished by Talars’argt the dark elf, through a clever use of innate magics. As the tower door slid open with the grating sound of stone moving against stone, the group paused and gazed into the darkness beyond. Then, carefully, they entered. A sigil scribed on the floor flared to life as they crossed the threshold, bathing the chamber in the cold blue-white light of arcane illumination. A small desk, with a open book upon it stood to their left, while to their right was a bookshelf laden with unknown tomes. Ahead of them stood the staircase that would lead them higher into the tower.

Desk and shelf were per used, and the books found there pocketed, before their attention was turned to the staircase and the complex trap that barred the way up. A mix of clockwork mechanics and modified arcane spells, the trap nearly spelled the end of the exploration before it had even begun. Finally, through the cooperation of several members (including the eidolon Zero), the clockworks were jammed and the group ascended to the second level.
The second chamber seemed to be a mage’s lab,or workshop of some sort. Again, a desk with an open book was a main feature of the room. Across from the desk, on the opposite wall, stood a rack of weaponry, most of which was formed from various exotic materials. The room’s most notable feature, however, was the humanoid skeleton directly across from the stairwell. The bones rested on a table, and careful examination determined them to be the remains of a human female. But who she might have been remained a mystery. Nothing remained to provide clues… Or so it seemed.

The Firaliesti mage-priest, Mournwyn, working with Zane, puzzled aloud about the magics contained in the two open books they had found. The books appeared to be empty of words, but pulsed with a strong aura of illusion magics. Mournwyn seemed ready to test a theory in regards to these books, but was pre-empted by his bodyguard, Talars’argt. The warrior plunged a quill into his flesh and placed the bloodied tip to the blank page of one of the books. Immediately, the pages filled with words, and the group was surrounded by scenes from Finnegan’s life playing out around them. The full text of these scenes, I have scribed elsewhere, but the crux of the tale follows here.

Finnegan was an adventuring Magus who lived and travel roughly 250 years ago. During one of his last adventures, he and his companions delved deep into a dungeon complex to defeat a creature of unknown origin, whose evil depredations threatened a great many people. The creature was aided by, or was in possession of, a sentient crystal of immense power. During the climactic battle against the creature, two of Finnegan’s companions had their souls consumed by the crystal. After the creature was defeated, Finnegan was able to convince his remaining companions to let him study the crystal in the hopes of freeing their friends. This proved to be a mistake. Relatively weak-willed despite his arcane prowess, Finnegan soon fell under the sway of the crystal. More and more of his actions were corrupted by the thing’s destructive nature. In return for his service, Finnegan was granted extensive arcane power. Some of the feats he proved capable of had never been seen before, and have never since been replicated. Drunk on his new-found abilities, Finnegan never questioned the small, seductive voice that whispered increasingly depraved acts into his inner ear. All of this changed when his own actions caused the death of the woman he loved, and the consumption of her soul by the crystal. Though Finnegan found himself falling more and more under the crystal’s sway, he used his few moments of personal freedom and lucidity to research a way to ultimately destroy the crystal. Being a Magus, Finnegan used his combined knowledge of weaponcraft and the arcane arts to forge a sword of very specific materials. He then attempted to destroy the thing that had slowly and systematically been destroying him. In this, he failed.

Though Finnegan’s body had long since crumbled to dust and broken bone, the sword he had crafted lay whole and undisturbed in the chamber housing the crystal until found by the modern adventurers who had breached Finnegan’s tower. As they ascended higher, some of them were disturbed by the crystal’s voice attempting to corrupt and claim them. Mournwyn, perhaps because of his life in the Machiavellian Firaliesti society, was able to completely ignore the voice and barely acknowledged it. Zane listened to the promises of power and glory, but shrugged them off as no better than what he had already left behind. Zazumet was protected from the crystal’s seductions, as the eidolon Zero used some small level of planar connection to block the whispered transmissions.

Finally, it was Tolfgar who heard the silent voice. For a brief time, the Northman stood before the crystal and considered what it offered. And then the crystal overreached, promising a crown to a man with considerable loyalty to his monarch. With a roar of rage, Tolfgar attacked, the blade of his axe glancing off the crystal’s hard surface. In response, the crystal took on a large humanoid form and slammed it’s fists into Tolfgar, greatly wounding the barbarian. The rest of the group jumped into the fight, but their attacks proved largely ineffective. Grabbing Finnegan’s blade from the floor, Tolfgar slammed it into the crystal. He was rewarded for his efforts as the sword bit deep. Again, the crystal hammered Tolfgar, driving him to his knees. Only his rage kept him from succumbing, and that not for much longer. Tolfgar, sensing his impending doom, tossed Finnegan’s sword to Talars’argt. As soon as the bodyguard caught the blade, Mournwyn enlarged him, allowing the masked warrior to meet the crystal on a more equal footing. A step…a swing…the now massive longsword crashed into the crystal once…then again…

With the second hit, the crystal exploded. The souls it had trapped within itself for so long were released in a cacophony of anguished screams and sighs of relief. And then it was over. Tolfgar collapsed to the floor as his rage subsided, kept alive by the quick healing provided by others. The threat over, the group ascended to the roof and beheld the tower’s beacon. No longer lit, they could see that the beacon was a huge crystalline sphere, crafted to painstakingly exacting detail. A small amount of experimentation proved that certain spells were greatly augmented when cast upon the sphere, and it was not long before a simple light spell allowed the tower to resume its purpose as a lighthouse. Their curiosity satisfied, and with a sense of some accomplishment, the group returned to the Araen Horizon for a well-deserved rest.

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