CHAPTER 7

1 SEA TOWER HEX UNLOCKED

WAR COUNCIL

Our party has reached the Sea Tower and is about to enter the Nethersea! Now it is up to you to decide which of your ideas for a new Sea Tower Hex will come into reality! Vote for your favorite:

This poll has ended (since 19 days).
The Nethersea Nexus | Place a Legion and a Horde here, and let the fireworks commence!
34.39%
Guild Tower | Every Hero may move here and gain 1 Salt, and go to the Market for zero AP.
32.80%
Pharos of the Ancients | No adjacent hex can gain a curse, and destroy some local garrisons, too.
32.80%

*Please note that we have to playtest these thoroughly, so they might change a bit.

Below are the stories written by fellow rebels, to continue the tale of Kha’al and Syndra. Click on the name to read their contribution to the Lore of Azuhl. Please keep writing this story with us!

As luck would have it the nearest Sea Tower was safe for the adventuring party. Protected from both the horde and legions by the crime syndicate who controlled it. The sea tower contained 106 levels along with platforms and rooms for residents and visitors. The top levels of the tower were renowned for its famous casino’s and of course the prominent Nethersea captains. The lower levels were full of much seedier residents and upstarts trying to make a name for themselves by joining Nethersea crews. In truth finding someone to take them to the Needle was going to be easy but if they were going to make the trip they would have to broker a deal with Hallgrim Redbeard the administrator who held domain over the sea gate.

Hallgrim Redbeard was one of the first captains of the Nethersea and though he is ancient he has maintained his strength by adding rare technological implants such as ocular and custom made upgrades found in the Nethersea. In appearance he would look like a futuristic Viking pirate.

Normally it would be unlikely that the adventuring party with no collateral would be able to secure permission to enter the Nethersea but again as luck would have it Kha’al’s past as an arena fighter would save the day. Hallgrim recognized Kha’al and having had some resent pit fighters take up residents at the sea tower after the darkening and chaos in the capital it was easy to gain intel.

Katsu Odana a fellow pit fighter sold into slavery when young had known Kha’al and had his respect. Bumping into him at a lower level bar and reminiscing about the past had been easy. Getting introduced to the rest of the party as ‘KO’ which was her nickname in the fight game because of her ability to knock her opponents out, happened naturally. The surprise came when reporting back to Halgrim Redbeard that the prophet of thorns was hiding in a warehouse deep inside his tower.

Hallgrim’s normal sullen, gloomy mood changed instantly from disagreeable to happiness. Katsu had never seen Hallgrim smile, on occasion a smirk when plotting or thinking himself clever but never a full smile. “Do you know Katsu that this tower is called the Barb? I am over two hundred years old and I originally called the tower the Sea Nile but noone seemed to like my dry humour on this tower surrounded by water. No the towers name the Barb is a reference to the prophet of thorns.”

It turns out that Hallgrim knew the prophet before she became God touched. Yes Hallgrim has been sailing and collecting ancient antiquities from the Nethersea and is a master Drakorean. Having spent time in his youth with the druids of Azuhl he had not only meet but had a romantic relationship with one special druid.

At some point their luck will run out but for now the adventuring party have just gained a powerful ally, captain and transportation to the Needle at no cost. A free action to transportation and protection from legions and the horde however the sea tower remains neutral and will not accept a haven.

“The Needle WAS here”, said the Master of Tower, coming out of the shadows.

 

Everybody startled, reaching for their weapons, except Kyushi.

 

The Master of Tower seemed amused by their reaction.

 

“Loweeeeeeer your weeeeeapons!” said the Tua-Than.

 

Reluctantly, all except Kha’al lowered their weapons. Kyushi continued “Kha’al, lower your weapon”.

 

“I don’t trust people coming from shadows…” said the Krowh, his eyes still locked on the Master of Tower.

 

“Please, I apology for this interruption. Let me introduce myself, Xinxiu’Hai, humble Master of Tower, at your service”

 

Sonja felt a sudden cold on her back. She heard the way he pronounced his name, particularly the last part, “‘Hai…” she whispered.

 

“Kha’al, lower your weapon NOW.” said Sonja with terror in her voice. Kha’al was about to reply when he peeked at her and saw her look. She was shaking with fright. Doubt started in his mind.

 

“Would you slay who you vowed to protect with your life. Krowh?” – Said Xinxiu, more annoyed now than amused.

 

“Yeeeees, Sonja is riiiiight. Master Xinxiu is one of the last Drakh still alive”.

 

Kha’al oldest dream, to honor his lineage and be able to pursuit his ancestor’s true duty, Guardians of the Ancient. He kneeled, looking on the floor with shame.

 

“Rise my Wa’rok ” said the Master of Tower. “Wa’rok”, this word was lost for ages, sign of the upmost respect given to the Krowh when they were the Guardians of the Drakh.

 

“You said ‘was’.” said Sonja, a bit too coldly. Kha’al looked at her with deadly eyes. Xinxiu put an hand on his shoulder, smiling at Sonja. “Yes. The Needle is constantly moving since the Fracture”.

 

“Where is it now?” simply asked Sonja.

 

“In the Underworld”, answered the Master of Tower.

 

“The Underworld!?” said Sonja? “How can we reach it? There’s no way in hell I’m walking over there.”

 

“You can’t…” said Kyushi. “Only the Nethersea Gate could allow you to reach it and even, you would need the help … “

 

“… of the Ancients.” completed Sonja, now understanding and back to the not-trusting stage. “Guess there’s a cost too, right?”

 

Xinxiu simply smiled again. “Indeed”, he answered.

 

“… and may we ask what it is?” said Syndra, for the first time breaking her silence.

 

“Yes, you can. A very small price actually. A blossom will suffice” answered the Master, cold and deadly eyes on her, his smile totally vanished.

 

“… how does he …” started Sonja. “She’s in the Warehousel”, cut Kha’al. Sonja looked horrified and disgusted at the Krowh, her hand on the hilt of her weapon.

 

Imperceptibly, the Master just raise slightly his wrist into some weird shadowy movements. Sonja was instantly thrown away on the far wall of the hall, arms and legs spread out, horrifying pain throughout her body.

 

“Please, Master, we came as friends, by the Old Gods” implored the Tua-Than.

 

“… and we have a common enemy, yes.” said the Master, oblivous to Sonja’s pain. “You will never be able to reach the Needle without this artifact”.

 

… and under his robes, came into sight the glow of a magical compass, one the rarest artifact ever, one of the last Third Eye.

‘A more wretched hive of scum and villainy…’

It was the first thing that came into Baranth’s mind as he left the Mohyar Longship, guiding the Prophetess down and away from as many prying eyes as was possible.

This Sea Tower had a reputation, which varied from person to person depending on whom you asked. Those flouting the laws setup by the Empire or who had found themselves on the wrong side of local authorities enjoyed its reputation for being its own ‘Sovereign Site in a Neathersea of Chaos and Order’. The more law abiding or self-righteous citizens of the realm shunned it as being a den of thieves, cutpurses and wastrels; no ‘decent’ traveler needing to head through a Nethersea Gate would be caught dead there. The refugees who have had to call this their new home can agree with both those opinions.

 

The locals have named this Tower “Netherhaven” and boast of their total neutrality, welcoming all who have salt to spend. Inexplicably, this has proven to be the case; for as much as they would like to own yet another Sea Tower, and all the profits associated with it, the Empire has been unable to secure any hold on Netherhaven. Rumors abound as to why. It’s obvious that if the Empire sent a Legion to this Tower, as they have with others, the minimal security force stationed here would have no chance at repelling it.

 

Some claim that Ancients technology protects the tower from Drakh magic, effectively neutering any offensive the Empire would use. This theory is usually put down as nonsense, because the Empire also has highly trained conventional troops that don’t rely on magic. Others say that the Netherhaven boasts a massive naval force just on the other side of the Nethersea Gate that can be called in at a moment’s notice if the Tower is attacked, but those who have passed through this Gate have never seen evidence of a fleet of ships or troops. The most hushed whispers say that the mysterious Master of the Tower has some hold or blackmail on the Last Emperor that keeps the Empire from looking too closely at the goings on at the Netherhaven. No one disputes this claim because they’re too busy distancing themselves from the person foolish enough to whisper it in the first place, hoping they aren’t disappeared when the whisperer inevitably goes missing.

 

None of this mattered to our adventurers, as they were planning on spending as little time here as possible. They needed to find someone willing to take their party through the Nethersea Gate and follow the course Kyushi set. Unfortunately for them, a greater power in the Tower had other plans. They found any captain they approached either quickly refused their custom, or turned and walked away before they could even be hailed. Slowly but surely it seemed all their options were fading away, and it didn’t help that periodically they would all receive a message in their head from the Prophetess. “The roots cry for purchase.” “I wither.” “The Needle seeks me as I seek it.” “Hurry!” and so on. After a few hours of asking around bars, stalls and the wharf they decided to regroup with Baranth and try to come up with a new plan. Would they have to try and buy or steal a Safe Conduct from one of the captains so they could take their own Longboat through the Gate?

 

Locating the warehouse Baranth and the Prophetess were hiding in, Ronja began explaining their lack of progress. Suddenly, out of the darkness a strange voice echoed: “Ah, now all the gulls have gathered. I no longer need to have you dogged through my Tower.”

Unsheathing weapons and dropping into battle stances the adventurers gaze around the darkened warehouse. Eyes shifting back and forth around the room and to each other Syndra and Kha’al turn to Baranth and shake their heads. They can’t see anyone or mark where the voice came from.

“Sorry to have put you to so much trouble.” Baranth says to the darkness. “We just want to secure passage through your Nethersea Gate, then we’ll be out of your hair.”

 

Again the voice echoes around the room. “My, my. How impolite to want to be so quickly spared my hospitality.”

Suddenly Syndra raises her staff and with a word causes the end to glow brilliantly, lighting up the entire space. Leaning easily against a large crate, a black robed figure stands just a few feet away, the light growing hazy around him, as though shadows cling to his garments.

“Very quaint.” he says, pushing himself off the crate and taking a step forward towards the out-stretched weapons. He snaps his finger and Syndra’s mystic light is extinguished in an instant. A second snap and the warehouse is awash with its own standard lighting. “Now let’s not be rude. I’ve only come to talk.”

“Then start talking” Kha’al says, shaking his sword at the robed man.

Looking down his nose with a sneer the Master of the Tower says “I wasn’t speaking to YOU.” Turning back to the Prophetess he continued forward, heedless of the menace of the adventurers. “Why Lady, the company you keep these days. Though I’m not sure which is worse, these scoundrels, or the jailers of O-Meido. You’ve fallen far from the days we God-Touched roamed the land together.”

 

“Midnight. I must get to the Needle.” says the Prophetess, gazing at him through her deep hood.

“Oh you MUST, must you? And why is that? Need to send a wake-up call to the Old Gods? Rouse those negligent mothers and fathers who abandoned us the moment we stopped throwing ourselves on the ground and groveling to them?” He purses his lips and shakes his head. “No. I think it would be much more profitable to me to hold you here for the Empire to reclaim you and your entourage.”

The adventurers bristle, but somehow can’t find the ability to move against the man.

 

“They have come. They will continue. They won’t stop unless I am taken to the Needle!” As her words gain power the room shakes. At first the party thinks it’s the typical reverberations of her speech, but first one, then the rest notice that the floor of the warehouse is cracking, roots pushing their way upwards. The shaking starts to become more violent and a few bails and crates fall to the floor. Calmly the robed man extends an arm, hand out and palm upward. When he suddenly closes his hand into a fist the shaking stops, an eerie quiet replacing the rumbling from the previous moment.

“Do not presume to make your will felt here, Lady. This place is mine.”

 

“Aid me.” Her voice is soft now, pleading.

“My Lady, I just told you I would not. Honestly, what would I gain by helping you through the Gate or the return of the Sleeping Ones?”

“Freedom.”

He chuckles, raising his arms to encompass all around him. “Oh that’s amusing. I am the most free I have ever been. I have power, wealth, my own realm, not even the Mad Emperor dares touch me.”

“Not YOUR freedom. Hers.”

At her words his arms drop as well as his face. “She… she lives?”

Soon after, as they’re taken to a waiting vessel Ronja whispers to Syndra, “What just happened?”

The Druwhn shakes her head. “I don’t know, and I don’t think I WANT to know.”