Chapter 1: The Tower of Death
Unfolding the map across the table, Pasgard the wizard began pointing to various sights and landmarks, "That is the Maunder's Southern Capital, there is the desolate Oxytone on the edge of the desert and the southern edge of the mountains, the Great Red Rock... that is a lazy name... There's the Tower of Death, then ---"
"Woah, woah woah," said Malachite. "Go back to that last one."
"The Tower of Death?"
"Yeah," said Malachite. "That'd be the one."
"Not much to tell," said the Wizard, who was using a fork to scratch his chin thru his beard. "What would you know?"
"Why is it named that would be a good place to start I think."
"That is pretty obvious thing to answer," replied the Wizard. "Nobody has gone there has returned alive."
"Why do we assume they are dead then?" asked Malachite. "Maybe it is just really nice and everyone wanted to stay."
"That is possibility," said Pasgard, now combing his beard with the fork. "But there are signs of things being bad."
"Are these literal signs?" asked Malachite. "Did someone hang a sign that said "Tower of Death?" and we've just all gone along with it?"
"Scouts have seen the tower thru looking glass, it is surrounded on all sides by half a league of wasteland and scattered bones, bleached white as chalk."
"That seems like a pretty explicit sign," said Malachite.
"Though not literal," said Pasgard chuckling.
"Does anyone know what does the hypothetical (highly likely) killing?"
"No," said the Wizard. "Though I am curious. As soon as someone comes back alive I am sure they will be in a great hurry to tell the story. But for now, a mystery."
"I will take pains to avoid it."
"And well you should," said Pasgard. "Should I continue?"
Pasgard was smirking now, an affliction Malachite liked to inflict on those around him. The wizard was not an old man, at least by his own accounting. Even though he had a long beard that was going gray; and thinning hair on top; and was plump; and wore a white and gold color combination of turban and sash that was out of style by 10 years, even in the Caliphate where it had been all the craze. So he was pretty clearly delusional about his age. Pasgard was also not stupid, cruel, or apathetic to others, so by the standards of wizards he was likable if frumpy. His nose was fat and red and he had blisters on his cheek bones from going thru the desert of Wind and Ghosts, even by the nature of those who lived in the Six Oases he was brown. And he needed some help.
Malachite the IV of Hasenburg, or as he was also called Malachite the Dandy Knight, or Malachite the Wonderful as he called himself, was in exile for the time being, and was in need to provide help to someone as most of his associates had already gone back to the noble professions of harem owner and the other a witch doctor.
While the doublet Malachite wore had the Two Headed Bull Crest of his home, Hasenburg (the land he was supposed to be viscount of), the rest of his cloths were a shocking and deliberate mismatch. His right pant leg was poofy and yellow, his left bright blue with red vertical stripes, and they met at a gold codpiece which if you looked closely at you could see the words "the Wonderful" etched in gothic type. His doublet was similarly in disarray, green poofy sleeves slashed in a festive pattern to allow the yellow puffy shirt underneath to show thru, with his torso in a blue and yellow checkered pattern (Though that was usually hidden under a breastplate). Malachite's hat was the most mundane aspect as it was merely huge, black velvet, and had a massive red feather in it. His boots were polished with silver buckles. He had learned that standing out in a battle was key to collecting bounties at the end, everyone saw who you killed, and how valiant you were as too many arrows were fired at your easily targeted ass, which once again re-enforced the importance of a breast plate.
"As I said," continued Pasgard. Moving a tiny needle he had taken from his sleeve to mark the target. "Well away from the Tower of Death is where we are going." He pressed the pin into the map. "This is Solace, a free port north of the mountains."
"The Bones of Giants," said Malachite.
"That is what the mountains are called," Malachite said.
"I did not know you knew them."
"I am very familiar," Malachite said truthfully. "I have been thru a dozen passes, I can take you to Solace, I have been there too many times to count."
"Excellent," said Pasgard. "But..."
"I need help once we are there too," continued Pasgard. "I am looking for a jewel. A gift to get me on the good side of someone important."
"What a coincidence," said Malachite. "I am looking to be on the good side of people so they will give me jewels."
"I have a feeling we will get along well."