The group arrived in an open valley, a frosty chill greeting them. Mountain ranges created a fairly linear valley, limiting the sights of exploration. A river could be heard through the forests to the west, soft sounds resonating with the snowmelt of the surrounding mountains. To the north, between the mountain ridges, rose the peak of a tower, twisting like tree bark into the sky. The sun reflected off the crystalline blue surface, creating a wonderful play of colors, shrouding the tower in a rainbow aura.
Luc tried once more to talk to his mother, but she stopped him before a word was said with a look that would freeze water. The young Fighter relinquished, resigning himself to his punishment, and headed off to the river to fetch water and see if he could catch some fresh fish. Syral and her two daughters set to work on making a camp, finding wood for a fire and erecting a crude shelter. A servant the Dame brought along began foraging for food, heading into the bushes in search of berries and nuts.
Nethri turned to the new companion, Oaks, “Even though they are only going to be here a day, they make it seem like a month.” The Razorclaw nodded in agreement as the Dwarf admired the efficiency of House D’Urban. “They are indeed quite capable – the lot of them,” he thought. Suddenly remembering they were short on time to find Master Shu, Nethri began through the valley to the looming Spire before them.
Roughly three-quarters of the way a voice raised up behind them, beckoning them to wait. Turning, Nethri say the young D’Urban racing toward them, sticking to the shadows of the ridge. “Guys, wait…I’m, I’m coming.” He pulled up, short of breath, and rested his hands on his knees, heaving.
“Like hell you are! To this Abyss with you, Luc! I will not suffer your mother’s wrath for your constant insolence!” Nethri was furious at the audacity of the Fighter, and fearful of the vengeance his mother would follow with. A hand clasped his shoulder and he turned to see Oaks shaking his head. There was something familiar about the touch that the Runepriest recognized immediately. The Dwarf’s anger subsided, knowing the foolishness would only continue until Luc completed his journey or got them all killed. “He is his mother’s son…” With a begrudging sigh, he turned around and continued walking to the spire. “C’mon then, we haven’t much time.”
The three stood at the foot of the Cold Spire, the spiraling staircase before them, twisting around the center structure, eventually leading inside. At the base of the stairs was a small house, a shrine almost, where it seemed travelers paid their respects before making the ascent. Lining the base of the stairs were stone statues, four on each side, carved in the likeness of monk warriors. Luc checked the house, but found nothing and started up the stairs.
As he stepped on the bottommost step a cackling laughter erupted from the eastern ridge as an arrow grazed his arm. Spinning around, the three companions saw a middle-aged Monk, holding a longbow, dancing along the precipice of the ridge.
“Master Shu?” shouted Luc, as he ran up the stairs.
As Nethri started up the stairs to join, he heard Oaks mutter, under his breath, “You two better not get yourselves killed again…”
Turning over his shoulder a smile broke across the Dwarf’s face. “Then you better do more than flail at him with your hands, Adder.” Nethri rushed up the stairs, but the Monk had already circled from the eastern ridge to the western one, firing another arrow down on Luc. A green spell strike crashed into the body of the Monk, causing him to slip on the ice. “That’s more like it!”
The Monk recovered and took off again, loosening an arrow at Adder, cutting through his robes. Luc continued up the stairs, hoping to pin him on a ledge. As he passed by a statue, it started to turn, the stone eyes beginning to glow red. Before he knew it, Luc had been struck with a blast from the statue. Shouting down the staircase, he warned the others, “The statues are trapped, avoid them if you can!” With that, the Fighter brought his blade down on the statue, shattering it. It collapsed in a cloud of dust, but not before a final pulse of energy erupted from it. Luc managed to avoid the blast, but the diversion had cost him space. The monk had already moved back across the ridges, leaving D’Urban further from his target.
The cackling Monk fired another arrow at Adasunu as he ran along the edges. Nethri, figuring himself too slow to keep up with the fleet-footed Monk, decided to head toward a statue. “I know they’re trapped, but it’s all I can do at this point.” With that, Nethri smashed the stone statue, barely dodging the pulse of energy shot from it. The Monk let out a loud ‘Boo!’, as he continued to run between ridges. “Addy, you take care of the Monk, we’ll get the statues!”
As Adasunu continued to engage the Monk, Luc headed up to cut off one of the routes of escape. Nethri, continued to smash the stone statues, taking care to dodge the energy blasts. With two more to go, he heard the Monk scream again as it was struck by another spell from Adasunu. “Good, we’re getting closer.” Nethri brought his craghammer down on the statue, shattering it in a single blow like all the others, but, the ice was more prevalent on the upper steps and caused him to lose his balance. The error cost him positioning and he was struck by the blast from the statue. “Damnit!” Cursing, Nethri tried to move to the final statue, but found his feet stuck. “Immobilization curse, as if I wasn’t slow enough…”
The Monk let out a roar of laughter as he realized one of the warriors had been caught in the statues traps. With a mocking bow, he took off up the stairs, escaping into the Cold Spire. Luc and Adasunu ran up the stairs after him. As they got closer, Nethri could feel a strange sensation overcoming his body. Looking down, the Dwarf realized at once the curse was twofold. “No, I need to warn the others!” As he opened his mouth to yell a warning, he felt the final effects of the curse course through his body.
Luc reached Nethri first. “Sir Nethri, did you see where Shu went?” Not getting a response, Luc turned to the Dwarf to ask his question again, only to recoil in horror. “NO!” Standing next to the Fighter was the stone statue of Sir Nethri D’Orinda.