The Frozen Tower loomed ahead and the two companions with some hesitation explored the frozen lake surrounding it, trying to figure out if what they saw moments before, with the onslaught of the marching army setting out from the other side of the lake towards the tower and getting showered by millions of falling arrows once they stepped foot on the tower island, was a gruesome fact or rather – a powerful illusion.
The two walked among crashed boats and the dead bodies of soldiers, while even the faintest sound, whether that was speech, the treading of boots, or even the mere gust of wind blowing towards the island, was met by a flight of trueshot arrows shot by the three looming bowmen on top of the tower battlements.
“This is unreal”, Thalldon noted while limping and grimacing from the pain of the wounds he sustained moments before, dueling the Atranaar elf.
"I – we – must rest before setting forth into the magic of this ancient place.” Kiko nodded in agreement, and the two hid inside the husk of a hollow tree, nesting and resting while the greylight came accompanied by a rampaging snowstorm.
The ominous growling and gnawing of animals – or worse – awoke them and brought them face to face with a risen band of dread Wights, creatures of undeath, risen from the lake it seems, to haunt and hunt the living. In the battle that ensued the Paladin and the Bard maneuvered tactically amidst the white trees and divided the bone warriors, who seemed to follow the lead of an archwight who charged head on to assault Thalldon himself, while screeching his title in contempt and bloodlust.
Kiko rose to the moment and weaved his inspiring magical song while the human nobleborn once again displayed his true hardcut grit, trading blows with the Wight leader which was the only one able to leave the lake and fight them in the forest.
Hissing and screeching the undead warrior skewered and pierced Thalldon numerous times wounding him gravely, while the Paladin himself drew upon the godly might of Uman the Skylord to smite and crush the unholy bones and the rotten flesh of his adversary, taking advantage of a powerful mystical spell from Kiko that knocked the undead prone.
It was at that moment though, when the holy great sword of the Paladin cleaved half the spine of the creature down to its rotting ribcage, grinding marrow, iron and decaying flesh alike and ending the unlife of the graveborn being, when the Wight – moments before being reduced to white ash, retaliated and plunged his spearhead clean though the shoulder of Thalldon, felling him and dragging him slowly but surely to his demise.
It was Kiko yet again who uttered a spell of healing, keeping the valiant warrior to this life.
With yet another victory in their saga, the two set back to the tower yet again, seemingly understanding that the magick of the three blind archers who defended it, was that of sound and silence, and so employed sound distraction and silent movement to reach the tower gate.
Within it, and while the tower seemed like just another ruined structure of stone, a series of cosmic occurrences took place that linked the tower itself with the star ridden dome of the world and the seven dimensional layers set by the otherworldly caretaker of the tower, to filter out trespassers, looters and thieves from honest seekers of the truth trying to learn the lore behind the astral thread running straight from the depths of the universe down and through this ancient watchtower.
This “caretaker”, this hooded being with the long silver hair that reached the ground, warned the two that they must “keep the promise” they made in the future and the past, in order to traverse the present.
The companions proved worthy of the caretakers trials and were brought in the presence of a seemingly dualistic being called “Anael”, who had the appearance of two old men, identical to one another like twins. One driven by eternal sadness and one by endless joy. While one spoke the other one slumbered. Anael was held in various mythical traditions as the first and last to ever reach the Glass and return. These two old men, both called Anael, revealed the astral thread to be “Ontrothon” the first star and a coveted cosmic artifact by all cultures. This uncanny meeting concluded and the two were returned back into the “earthly” version of the tower, only to see astral silvery ashes – what remained of the body of the caretaker – laying on the ground aside its wooden staff. Kiko picked the staff up and marched up the winding stairs with conviction, determined to grab the astral thread and meet the three archers.
Then and there it was that the tower posed its last trial asking the companions the following riddle: “What is that which must be kept once it is given”, but once again the companions proved their worth and relinquished the staff – a symbol of power and authority – understanding the answer to the riddle.
“One’s word must be kept once it is given”.
"It is better to keep ones word than holding on to power for too long" – were the last but also the first spoken words of the bowmen, who departed this world to return back to the cosmic heavens, leaving behind that which they for so long, guarded. The Ontrothon. The fragment of the first star.
Thalldon picked it up. It was heavier than the mountains but burdened him nought. It was brighter than the Suns but did not blind them. It was hotter than lava but did not burn them.
The two returned back into Olsahir, on foot, after a short incident involving thievery, deception and a shadowy traveling merchant. Back into the city, the Golagonds held a funeral ritual for Vistaru, and right after, using powerful circle magick, synced the two companions telepathically with the collective mind of all the Golagonds. Through this, Kiko and Thalldon delved deeper into the minds of the Golagonds, getting answers and posing questions, regarding the cosmos, Ontrothon, and the future of the Barastirian cultures. In the end of all this, they understood that the Golagonds are themselves flawed and egoistic just like everyone else, but in the end, what somehow elevates them, is that they embrace this fact, striving to correct it.
Kiko got a new weird instrument and some adventuring gear, Thalldon finalized his weapon order and they hit the taverns once again for some socializing and some drinks. The Paladin learned some more about the cult known as the “Twisted Rune” and Kiko encountered a virtuoso who played the lute like a god.
The next morning in the marketplace, while the two reminisced on those recent adventures, the galloping of horses caught their attention. Dozens of Atranaar elfs, appeared through the northern path, galloping and shouting:
“Ith amshe elebethe jie Helmaer huth Atranaar sihga!!!” – “Bring us the head of the Helmaer dog, or the Atranaar will leave none alive!”