Sillia’s Journal I
We stood at the foot of the crooked spire, trying to assess its height while shielding our eyes from the setting sun behind it. Several seagulls circled its peak, riding the thermals until one by one, they dropped from sight to collect sustenance from some tasty morsel they had spied from their lofty vantage point. The tower was not nearly as massive as the strange monolithic structure we had passed along the way, but high on its promontory overlooking the vast western sea, it was daunting nonetheless. We’d come a long way from our homelands to get here, and our journey was nearing its end at the western edge of the Isle of Light. I glanced over at Serina, and even in the tight squint of her sun-blinded eyes, I could see that her steely determination remained.
“Shall we?” I inquired.
“Upward and onward,” was her reply.
The four of us cautiously approached the barely hinged door. Pushing it aside, we crossed the threshold, out of the light and into the temporary blindness of the dim interior. Momentarily, our vision adjusted, and we took in the details of the sparsely equipped room. Moldering banners of an unknown black and crimson crest adorned the high stone walls, and scattered about were rotting pieces of what might have been grand furnishings. The only egress from this central chamber was a sweeping spiral stone staircase leading upward into the shadows.
“Upward and onward,” repeated Serina as she applied flint to torch.
“Aye,” said Lyferia Aminysta, but I could hear trepidation in that otherwise confident voice.
We silently climbed the spiral, encountering no opposition… nor any doors. The only sounds were those of crunching stone (or bone?) beneath our feet.
“Abandoned?” I offered.
“Hope so,” muttered Shadowdancer. “I’ve shed enough blood for one day.”
Atop the tower’s summit, a door finally showed. Unlike the furnishings of the main hall, it appeared to be unaffected by the passage of time, and, unlike the main entrance, it also appeared to be firmly hinged. After a cautious turn of the handle, we also determined that it was locked.
“With nary a rogue among us,” Shadowdancer retorted in her half-joking tone. She had a sardonic edge that I loved her for, but it had embroiled us in many a brawl over the years.
“We could double back to Thylmath and see if…” My words were interrupted by the crack of splintering wood as Shadowdancer gave the door a swift kick.
“Or that,” smiled Lyferia.
The four of us cautiously entered, once more waiting for our eyes to adjust. Again, we found nothing living, or unliving, to impede us. We stood in what was the former den of a wizard or sorcerer. This room was far from empty, nor did it suffer from the decay of the lower level. Books lined the shelves, there were several chests on the floor, and our torchlight reflected off of many an object fashioned from precious metals and gems. We began to search the room, carefully but thoroughly.
Glancing up from my search, I saw Serina examining an oaken chest while Shadowdancer studied the contents of a nearby bookshelf. Lyferia, however, stood in the middle of the room, her furrowed brow conveying the same doubt I had heard in her voice earlier. At that moment, a similar wave of trepidation came over me as well. This had been far too easy. There was so much wealth lying at our feet that it should be protected somehow. And if unprotected, how did someone else not loot this room long ago? I followed Lyferia’s gaze and now saw what she saw. The amethyst in the hilt of Serina Hunter’s sword glowed brightly, a phenomenon that the ranger was too preoccupied with the contents of the chest to notice. Before I could speak up, I heard Serina’s voice.
“What in Azuriel’s name is this?” I looked up to see my dear friend dangling an amulet by its chain. It was a large, dark, swirling purple cabochon, set in fine silver and suspended on a triple linked chain of mithril. The gem had the color of autumn nightshade and, in the dim room, emitted a glow that was not quite light.
“Serina, I don’t think that you should…” Before I could finish the thought, the amulet took on a life of its own. With movements that were both serpentine and scarab-like, the chain and stone began to crawl up Serina’s arm, towards her neck. Before we could get across the room, the thing was around her throat. The amulet, now nestled just above her bosom, planted itself in her flesh.
“Get this off of me!” Serina screamed. She tore at the piece of jewelry, trying desperately to rip it from her chest. Blood rushed down her tunic as she clawed at her skin, but the flow stopped as quickly as it started. I watched in horror as the flesh around the amulet immediately began to heal. A grayish layer of scar tissue instantly knit itself around the outline of the gem as if to seal itself into the body of my dear sister. The swirling of the stone became more of a rhythmic pulse, like a heartbeat. It was as if the amulet was saying,
“We are one now.”
I caught Serina as she lost consciousness and slung her over my shoulder. As I turned to run from the room, my eye glimpsed the contents of the open chest that she had been examining. Within it lay an ancient leather tome inscribed with a strange rune. Having lost sight of our original objective, the significance of the book did not register until much later on.