Part 19: Chapter 5-01
It didn't take the Bard long to spot his destination. The old tower rose from the woods like a spike.
As the Bard drew near, he ran into a familiar face. It was Pindiflax, the Peerie Trow he saved from the ruins of Dun Ailinne.
: "Hey! You!"
Pindiflax: Ah me friend, how are ye today? The crystal workin' out for ye?
The Bard paused.
: Yeah, I guess so...
Maps for Sale
Since Pindiflax had been trustworthy before, the Bard decided to take a chance and purchase a map. He picked a map at random, this one was to the Cairns of Carrowmere.
Upon opening the directions, he was annoyed to discover that the Cairn was located somewhere in the Mountains to the North. "Just a minute-" the Bard started, but the Trow had already left.
The Bard continued on towards the tower, it seemed to grow larger and more ominous by the minute.
: As the Bard grew closer to the Tower in the forest, a scene of great concern to him would play itself out atop another tower, in the city of Dounby, many leagues away...
Fionaoch: Cathbad, gather the brothers. Someone is nearing the first tower.
Cathbad: At once, sir.
Fionnaoch: Mackay... wake my... pet.
Mackay: Y-Yes my lord Fionaoch.
As the druids hurried to fulfill their master's orders, Fionnach walked to where the unconscious Princess Caleigh was held captive.
Fionnaoch: Even now you find ways to reach your servants. This new suitor of yours will fare no better than the others.
Fionnaoch then turned to the marker representing the Forest Tower.
Fionnaoch: Awaken, Herne.
The image of Herne appeared on the platform.
Herne: Fionnaoch. Why do you disturb my vigil?
Fionnaoch: The woman has managed to send messages to her followers again. One of them approaches your tower hoping to free her.
Herne: After all this time still she is strong.
Fionnaoch: Deal with this intruder. I'm sending my men to aid you. I needn't remind you of the consequences should you fail.
Herne: I will stop him.
Cathbad retuned to the chamber.
Cathbad: The Brothers are assembling my Lord. We await your instructions.
Fionnaoch: Take the men to Herne's tower. I've promised him our aid. Once you've done this, head to the mountains. If all else fails, you must stop him there.
Cathbad: It will be my pleasure, master.
Finally, the Bard reached the base of the tower. After dispatching a few roaming wolves, the Bard stared at the entrance.
The Bard paused, the brought out the Ornate Lute and played a tune.
Into the Forest Tower
The bone-like roots parted. Unknowingly caught between the hammer and the anvil, our hero entered the tower.
... and came face-to-face with Herne.
: Uh oh... look, I don't want any trouble.
Herne: Turn around and walk the other way, for if you seek entrance into this place, trouble is all you should find.
: Typical. I thought you might say something like that. I'm afraid I have to proceed. I've got quite the reward waiting for me when I finish this nonsense.
Herne: I shall give my warning once more, turn back or perish.
: Those aren't very appealing choices, I'm gonna have to go with neither.
Herne: Very well, I await you at the top. If you survive.
With that Herne sunk back into the ground of the tower.
: Hold on... damn! Why do I have to go all the way to the top? He was just here, he certainly new I was coming.
: Evil it seems has a flair for the dramatic.
With Herne gone, the Bard got a chance to take a long look at the interior of the tower. It was quite odd, it seemed to be entirely made up of living plants. It was dim, despite the fact that there were many openings in the walls that let light in.
As the Bard squinted in the gloom, he swore that some of the plants were moving towards him.
The yellow-flowered plants shot an arc of thorns at the Bard and his party, knocking them back.
The Bard and his companions quickly cut the menacing plants open, spilling several pods onto the soft, squishy floor of the tower. As the Bard moved on, he heard a strange noise behind him.
He turned to see that the pods the dying plants had released had taken root in the fertile floor and were rapidly sprouting smaller guard plants. Though small, they packed almost as much punch as their parents.
The smaller plants also dropped seed pods, but the Bard quickly scooped them up and used the magic Pindiflax taught him to convert them to silver.
Once all was quiet, the Bard picked a direction at random. The strange surroundings made him uneasy. Bizarre plants never seen before dotted the hallways.
The Bard came to a dead-end, but there was a "Hide-a-Purse" stump, it contained a new tune, a more complex version of the Thunder Spider tune.
The Bard retraced his path through the winding, writhing hallways. He encountered some resistance, but his new, more powerful spider delivered bolts of lightning that chained from one horrible plant to the next.
Further on, the Bard discovered another Hide-a-Purse stump and another tune.
"This place isn't so bad," the Bard said, as he hacked at the yellow and pink plants savagely,"... but what's that rumbling noise?"
One of the pink-flowered plants enveloped the Bard in a choking cloud of spores as it died, poisoning his Thunder Spider and obscuring the Bard's vision.
The rumbling noise grew, until out of the cloud...
As the Bard sat up he groaned.
"Remind me to never say stuff like 'this isn't so hard' ever again."
Strength increased to 15
Luck increased to 11
Onward and upward the Bard continued through the thorny tower, getting ever higher, and finding more useful items, and encountering ever nastier traps.
Until finally, the Bard reached the top, and back into open air. The sun was setting, and the Bard could see storm clouds moving in. The wind was picking up ferociously.
Forest Tower Summit
: As promised, Herne met the Bard atop the tower. If the Bard wished the flame of the tower extinguished, he would first have to extinguish the life of its guardian.
Herne: You may have made it this far, but your journey ends here. Prepare to die.
: Die? I've got too much to live for, but an old weed like yourself wouldn't understand such things, time to do a little gardening, I think.
And the battle was on. After taking some hits, Herne ducked underground, and emerged elsewhere, sometimes spawning attack flowers, sometimes entangling the Bard and his minions in thorny roots, and once he emitted a noxious poison cloud that quickly annihilated the Bard's bond-servants.
The Bard struck back with flaming arrows and the flammable Herne quickly fell.
The tower flame went out, and Caleigh's image materialized.
Caleigh: I knew you wouldn't let me down.
The Bard wasn't buying the "Oh, my valiant hero" bit for a minute.
: I bet you'd have said that to any other guy... had any lived to make it this far.
Caleigh: The others paled in comparison to you.
: Looked like most of them were impaled, actually.
Caleigh: Yet you survived the journey up the tower.
: Yes, but I have a few choice words for the gardener.
Caleigh: Stay valiant, my love. You need now go to the second tower which you can reach by taking a dangerous and peril-filled journey through the mountains.
: I don't suppose you have a map.
Caleigh: If only I did. You will need to go back to Kirkwall and see Bodb.
: Does the term vicious circle mean anything to you?
Caleigh: He is waiting for you and will guide you through the mountains. A different instrument is needed to enter the Mountain Tower. Bodb knows of its location and can help you obtain it on your way through. Be certain to take the Spirit Stone of Herne, his power will be now added to your own.
: You better be damn rich, that's all I can say.
Caleigh: More then you will be able to spend in your lifetime, my love. But you must hurry, the next torch must be put out soon.
: Speaking of putting out...
Caleigh: Hurry, my champion.
Caleigh vanished into the Ether, but she left behind a parcel.
: I hate it when she does that.
The Bard grabbed Herne's amulet from the ground where it fell. It was made from hardwood and vine tougher then steel. He opened Caleigh's package. Inside were 15 Adder stones and 500 Silver.
: The Bard had no time for rest, for the danger of this tower had not yet passed. The reinforcements Fionnaoch had sent had arrived.
Reinforcements Have Arrived
Maps for Sale
Into the Forest Tower
Forest Tower Summit
Reinforcements Have Arrived