High up in the tower, nearly to the top, this floor is taken up by a large bedroom, the floor and walls layered in a marble-like tile in a mixture of earthy tones. A canopied bed dominates one side of the chamber, flanked by a small dresser and a pair of boots. Across the room from the bed is a roughly cut statue of a muscular, vaguely reptilian creature, tightly clasping a glowing diamond in its hand. To one side of the statue is a desk with a large tome on it (and a pair of flickering candles), while on the other side is another desk, this one with a clutter of writing supplies, scrolls and books stacked on it. At the foot of the bed is a trunk, and stairs lead on up toward the ceiling, where they abruptly end at a trap door. Another set of stairs leads back down to the previous level, on the other end of the room. Windows on each side of the room allow a view of the raging storm outside.
Randle the Dragon Fire-Warrior-Wizard, Wynona the Air-Elementalist, and Galen the Healer finish their long trek up four flights of stairs, at last reaching the topmost floor at least, the topmost floor accessible to them at this time in the tower.
Outside, the sky is storming more violently than ever, as it has been getting progressively worse outside. Perhaps the magic that powers the storm somehow senses that the adventurers are very close to the goal of their quest … and is determined to make things a little more challenging for them.
Randle looks about the room. "Well, this looks comfortable."
The stone statue stands where it was before on a pedestal at the south side of the chamber, atop a pedestal ringed with runes. The statue looks almost draconic, but not quite more muscular, more brutish, less serpentine. It holds a glowing diamond in its stony hand, thick fingers wrapped around it showing no intention of letting its prize go easily.
Randle starts off by examining the room. "Goodness, I had only half this many papers at home, before I developed a cold. Do you think our wizard would leave any notes behind, about storms and such up here?"
Wynona shakes her head. "You'd think so. But I didn't find any. We went through the books. I ran into a trap on one."
"Which you managed to set off rather successfully and with very few problems, I may add," says Galen. He scans the room, left and right, appraising the scene. Then he looks to his dragon and bat cohorts, and gives a nod. The signal for Plan A to begin.
Randle earperks. "Plan A … right." He looks about the room, seeing if anyone's listening, then clears his throat and speaks quietly, "What is Plan A?"
Wynona groans and runs a hand down her face.
The Healer blinks several times … then he says out loud, "Oh, wait a moment, I forgot something outside." He then raises his hand to the two companions, and motions them to leave the room with him.
Randle blinks and follows.
Galen leaves the bedroom, and walks down the steps of the stairs, till he's halfway between floors, then stops and turns around.
Randle earperks innocently?
Wynona puffs as she comes down the stairs after Galen and Randle. "Er, yes, you meant me, too. Sorry."
First, Galen looks to Wynona. "Don't feel bad … this is exactly the sort of thing we need to do in these situations. We need to make absolutely sure that everyone knows what's going on." He then looks to Randle. "Don't feel embarrassed … now, Plan A, is where I address Mr. Earth, while you two look like you're scanning the room, admiring the furniture and setting, that sort of thing, when you're actually finding the best positions to launch your spells … "
"Meanwhile," he continues, "I'll be talking to Mr. Earth, and seeing if I can convince him to show me some homemaking tips for the bedroom. I'm hoping very, very much that I'll be able to make him do a chore that requires him to use both hands, thus letting go of the gem, in which case, I'll try to snatch it; if I do so, we all run like Dagh out of the room. In case I run out of any suggestions for him, I'll take off my hat and scratch my head, in which case either of you can offer suggestions to him. If none of our suggestions work … " He pauses. "We go to Plan B. I'll say the command phrase, after which you, Randle, you cast your fire spell, and then you, Wynona, cast your air spell to aid Randle's spell. We'll see if we can destroy him that way."
Wynona nods. "Understood."
Randle nods. "But how do you know you can even talk to him?"
"All the other elementals talked," answers Galen, "So I'm presuming this one does, too. If it turns out he doesn't speak, I'll still talk to him to see if he responds to my questions. If he doesn't do any actions at all, then we go right to Plan B on my signal."
Randle raises a claw.
"Yes, Randle?" says Galen.
Wynona looks between Randle and Galen.
Randle scratches his head. "What's Plan B?"
The Mephitian blinks thrice … then takes a deep breath. "I thought I just said was Plan B was: I give the signal, then you cast your fireball spell the strongest you've got at the elemental, and then Wynona casts her strongest air spell that can aid the strength of the fireball spell. Plan B is where we try to destroy Mr. Earth."
Randle ohs. "I thought that was the second half of Plan A?"
Wynona says, "Well … we just won't start blasting until he tells us to."
"No," replies Galen. "Plan A is where we try to make Mr. Earth let go of the gem by having him do a chore, then snatch the gem and run. Plan B is what we do if Plan A fails; we try to destroy him."
Randle ohs. "Got it now, sorry. I've been sleeping a whole week. I forget to wake up sometimes.
Wynona rubs her head. "Well, uhm … I'm fairly sure I've got it straight. When he scratches his head, we make wild suggestions to try to distract the elemental. And when he gives the command phrase, then it's time for Plan B, and we unload what magic we can. And that command phrase is, 'I think I see some dust over here,' right?"
The Healer blinks again at the dragon. "Randle … this is going to be a very, very dangerous situation today." he says, with the utmost gravity. "I have a feeling that Mr. Earth, for some reason, is going to be one very, very tough customer … perhaps the toughest out of all the elementals we've had to deal with. We all need to be super-alert right now. Please make an effort to wake yourself up completely, and ready for battle. All our lives depend on our working together today, without any mishaps."
Galen looks and nods to Wynona in answer, then looks back to Randle with his very serious demeanor.
Randle nods. "That's why I'm asking the embarrassing question early … instead of when it's chasing us."
Galen's face is still for a moment … then he relaxes, and nods back at Randle. "Okay. You did the right thing. And you're all set, now? Remember: NO magic-casting UNTIL I SAY to Mr. Earth 'I think there's some dust over there,' and point with my finger at a corner. We do NOT want him to know what we're going to do."
"Good," replies the Mephitian. A cloud passes over his face … he looks to the Air Elementalist. "Wynona … just a thought," he says to her. "If Mr. Earth is destroyed, you said we should run as fast as we can out of the room, because the elementals' destruction will be explosive … but what would happen, if any of those books caught on fire, and were destroyed? Would they, too, explode? I'm curious."
Randle ponders, "They saw knowledge is power, but I haven't heard of exploding books before. Normally you just try to fry the unauthorized user, without destroying your home collection of texts."
Wynona says, "I don't think the books themselves would be explosive. If they have magical traps on them, they'd be of a nature to deter unwanted eyes … but, I am presuming, probably not to destroy the very information they're meant to protect. There's only one way to find out for sure, but I'm just going by my best educated guess here."
Galen nods to Wynona. "Okay … just a thought … " He muses a moment, stroking a finger under his chin. "Do you think there's anything in that room, that would explode if we cast our destructive spells on it, and that explosion would be more powerful and hurtful to Mr. Earth than if we just cast our spells on him directly?"
Wynona frowns and shakes her head. "It could well be that other animates in the room might magically explode if destroyed, but I sincerely doubt there is an animate with more concentration of power in it than the elemental itself … and if there were, probably said animate would be more difficult to destroy than the elemental, making it a counter-productive effort."
"All right," says Galen. "Just checking." His brow furrows, as he tries to see if there's anything else that needs to be covered. After a moment of silence, his shoulders relax, and he sighs. "All right … I think we're ready to go. Any questions?"
Randle says, "There's a thought though … in the event that something we do triggers an unexpected chain reaction that systematically destroys the castle, leaving just moments to escape, will that stop the storm outside?"
Galen turns his head and stares at Randle. His mouth opens, then closes. Then he opens it again. "You sound as if you're not fully awake yet, Randle." he says to the dragon. "I don't think Mr. Earth's death will cause a chain reaction."
Randle shrugs. "We still don't know what will happen when all four stones are inserted."
"We'll worry about that once we have all the gems, Randle," retorts Galen. "Now … is everyone ready?"
Wynona says, "As ready as I have any hope to be."
"Good," says the Mephitian to the bat. He looks to the dragon. "Ready?"
Galen nods. "Okay." He takes a deep, long breath, through his nostrils, then exhales through him mouth. "All right! Let's go. And … good luck, everyone."
Wynona shrugs, and heads on up the stairs and back into the bedroom. "Ladies first, I guess."
Galen, watching Wynona walk up the stairs, blinks at her response … then smiles, and laughs, softly and silently, with his mouth closed. Then he follows her back up the stairway, then through the bedroom door.
Randle follows up the stairs.
Up in the bedroom, Wynona makes a show of looking around the room curiously though not touching anything.
The statue is still standing there, as immobile as ever, exactly the way statues are supposed to.
The Healer looks around the room, once more … then focuses his attention on the statue. A few, silent seconds pass, in which he closes his eyes.
The silence, however, is only relative. The rumbles of thunder can still be heard outside, refusing to let their presence be forgotten.
He opens his eyes, and smiles broadly, and walks a few steps towards the elemental. "Good day," he addresses the statue, and bows. "And how are you doing this fine day?"
The statue begins to shift, in a way that stone normally does not, with a sound like sand shifting, even though the rock looks quite solid. "I am well," the statue says in a gravelly voice.
Wynona shudders at the movement of the elemental, but does her best to keep up the act of nonchalantly looking about the room with curious interest.
Randle pretends to give a jump and earperks and looks over at the elemental. "How long have you been standing there?"
"Since this morning," the elemental says in a deep near-monotonous gravelly growl.
Galen, with a supreme effort of will, is able to restrain the instinctual desire to swallow and shudder. "That is very, very good to hear," he replies, raising himself back up to full height from his bow. "As you can see, my companions and I have been touring the castle. And we must say, this place is beautific beyond all our expectations!" He turns his head left and right, in a mood of great appraisal, before he looks straight back at the elemental. "And this bedroom is gorgeous! Though I'm afraid the bed itself is a little more cranky than I would wish it " He points with his thumb, backwards. " everything else in here is marvelously well-decorated, and so marvelously clean! How do you do it?"
"Through meticulous effort," the elemental responds.
Galen gives a big nod. "Meticulous indeed! You are a most fastidious bedroom butler!" He looks around again, momentarily. "As a matter of fact … how are you able to keep it so clean! It's as if this entire room had been painted in a picture, all pure colors and light! Why, I don't see a blemish or speck of dirt anywhere!"
Randle says, "What do you do in your free time?""
"Nothing," the elemental responds, in answer to the latest question.
Randle nods, thinking. "I don't know if you're allowed to answer or not, but do you know what happened to your master?"
Galen is clasping his hands. "My dear … Mr. Earth," he addresses the elemental. "I am amazed at how you've kept everything so clean in your service here. As a matter of fact," here, he raises a finger, "can you please show us how you keep this room so clean? We would love to learn from you."
The elemental seems slow to respond to any one question, and when posed with two choices, seems inclined to go with the most recent, however disorderly that might seem. With a creaking and cracking of stone though with no shower of fragments or showing of cracks to evidence the cause for the sound the statue slowly and purposefully steps off of the pedestal and onto the tiled floor.
The Mephitian watches, silently, and eagerly.
The statue slowly makes its way methodically across the floor, toward the stairs, and there it stops for a moment, and turns around. It starts to follow the tracks of Wynona's movement as her boots have left ever so little a trace of dirt tracked in from the mud outside. As the elemental passes, any trace or smudge on the floor is gone, leaving clean tiles in its wake.
Randle briefly checks to make sure his outfit is clean, then steps out of the way.
Galen's spirits dampen, as he watches the demonstration. Dagh … he needs no broom, or handheld tool, if all he has to do is walk over the mess. He retains his smile, however. "My, that was most clever!" He says. "And can you show us what you would do if any dirt or cobwebs got onto the ceiling?"
Wynona slowly steps back as its evident that the elemental is following her tracks. As she does, she leaves little smudges of dirt in her wake to her shock, as she finally registers this. She stomps furiously on the floor, trying to shake whatever is left …
… but at Galen's suggestion, the elemental stands in place … and starts slowly growing taller and taller, until it can reach the ceiling. It then slowly continues its trek about the room, dragging the top of its head against the ceiling, and casually making swipes with its thick arms. The ceiling was already clean enough that it's hard to tell just how good of a job the elemental is doing at cleaning, but it certainly seems clean enough in its wake.
Some chiming music emits from the bed briefly … or else, perhaps it's been playing music all along, but simply could not be heard over all the thunder, and a brief moment of relative silence allows the noise to reach the rest of the room for a change.
Galen's smile upends itself into a grimace of alarm. This time he does swallow. "Em … that is a most interesting trick you have, Mr. Earth," he says, striving not to make his voice quaver. "Are there any tasks where you have to use another tool, other than your own body?"
Randle blinks and looks at the bed, then pads over to see where the chiming is coming from
The elemental shrinks back down from the ceiling to its normal height. "There is no end to the number of tasks I might be asked to perform."
Galen sees the dragon approaching the bed from the corner of his eye. "RANDLE" he says, "Please avoid that bed … I forgot to tell you, it's a very cranky animate. Don't touch it."
Meanwhile, as Randle moves closer to the bed, he can certainly hear some chiming music coming from it. The bedspread is deep blue with golden embroidery suggesting stylized stars, constellations, comets, moons, and other fanciful celestial bodies. On the headboard is a brassy-looking emblem of a sunburst with a leonine face embossed in its center. It's uncertain precisely where the chiming is coming from, though it must be from somewhere in the bed.
Randle doesn't touch the bed, but quirks his head at it. He looks over to the elemental. "Can you make music like this?"
"No," the elemental grates. "That is not within my ability."
Upon seeing the dragon avoid the bed, the Healer sighs inwardly with relief. "So, Mr. Earth … you say that there is nothing that you cannot do?"
"No," the elemental says in a gravelly voice. "I do not."
Galen blinks, then takes off his hat, and scratches his head. "That is most interesting to hear," he says.
Randle says, "What tasks did your master ask you to perform each day?""
Wynona's eyes go wide, and she looks over as Randle asks his question.
"His tasks would vary," the elemental says, "but largely concerned keeping the room tidy."
Wynona works her mouth while she's thinking of something, then asks, "Do you do laundry?"
"I remove dirt," the elemental says. "For those things that cannot be cleaned so easily, I transport them to the Pool Chamber."
Randle blinks and thinks of something. He looks out the window. "And you're also supposed to protect the castle of your master, yes?"
"I am charged with maintenance of the tower's integrity," the elemental responds.
Randle nods. "What if I told you that there was something that threatened to destroy not only the nearby town, where you Master likely shops for food, but this castle itself?"
"Then I would listen to you," the elemental responds.
Randle gestures his head to the window. "Do you hear that storm outside? Have you noticed that it's been getting progressively worse? Lightning has been striking stones from the top of the castle?"
Galen, poised yet silent, waits to see what Randle is building up to with interest. He puts his hat back on.
"I am not aware that any stones have been loosed by the activity of the storm," the elemental rumbles.
Wynona chimes in, "Well, it could happen, if it gets bad enough!" She looks hopefully over to Randle, as if trying to guess herself where he's trying to lead.
The elemental, however, says nothing in response to Wynona's suggestion.
Randle says, "Maybe not yet… but at the rate it's going how long do you think it will be before it begins to break? That the soil it's built on might start to slide?"
Galen looks the elemental over. "Em … you're not allowed to leave this room, are you?" he asks, remembering the other elementals' plight.
The elemental seemed in the process of forming an answer to one question, but then slowly turns to face Galen. "I only fully manifest within this chamber, though I have limited access to stoneworks throughout the tower."
"Limited?" inquires Galen. "Can you tell us what you can do throughout the tower?"
Randle says, "So you think you could, by yourself, rebuild parts of the castle if they fell over?""
The elemental says, "I can perform repairs on the tower, provided that there is sufficient material, yes."
Wynona frowns. "You must be a particularly powerful elemental … perhaps even more so than any of the others in this tower."
To this, the elemental has no response.
The Mephitian muses. "That … is most interesting, Mr. Earth." He regains a hopeful smile on his face, despite his realization of what Wynona's words meant. "I admire your powers with every passing moment!" His takes a breath. "Can you please show us how you would repair other parts of the castle?"
The elemental rumbles, "Yes," but then it just stands there, frozen in place, staring off with its gem eyes into space.
Randle blinks. "Mr. Elemental, are you still there?"
Galen's hopeful smile disappears. It doesn't take him very long to determine what is going on. "He's able to replace other parts of the castle while remaining in here, Randle." he says to the dragon, morosely.
The elemental suddenly starts to shorten, as its "legs" start to melt into the floor. "I have located a crack that might be mended," it rumbles.
Randle says, "Can you do anything about the storm, though?"
"No," the elemental responds, as its legs vanish into the floor entirely, and its waist starts go vanish next. Its hands sink into the floor as well and the glowing light of the diamond blinks out of sight.
As the light of the diamond blinks out, Wynona clenches her teeth. "Nggh!"
While the elemental is gone, Galen looks to his companions. "Get into positions!" he whispers, urgently. "On my signal!"
Randle gets ready.
Randle says, "He might have been an ally, though."
A lump in the floor where the elemental disappeared into slowly smoothes out, and all evidence of the elemental is gone.
Wynona says, "And one punch from him could turn any of us into jelly!"
"Shh!" whispers Galen to the dragon. "He might hear!"
The bat gasps and claps her hands over her mouth, then looks about the room. She walks over to the pedestal. "Hmm. Well, I don't think he's likely to pop back up here." She stands on it. "And if he does, I can move."
The Mephitian nods, then walks over to Wynona, and whispers as silently as he can into her ear. "Do you think we can destroy him? With our combined power? Is there anything I can do to help you two, other than distract Mr. Earth?"
Wynona furrows her brow. "Yes, I think we can, if we act fast," she whispers back. "Distractions would be good, if you can think of any. Otherwise, healing would come in awfully handy … if there's anything left of us to heal if we are slow enough to get in harm's way, that is."
Galen nods, then rushes over to Randle, and starts to whisper in his ear. "Wynona says she thinks we can take him on … get into the best position you can, and ready your spell. I'll do what I can, distract it, or something of the sort. And, be fast: you don't want him to hit or grab you."
Randle says, "I should take the first blow, I think." He prepares his spell.
"No … do NOT try to have him hit you," whispers Galen again. "I don't think there'll be anything left for me to heal of you if that happens. No, remember, on my signal! Good luck!"
Randle takes a position in front of the bed.
A lump starts to form in the center of the floor.
Galen rushes over to within a few steps of where the elemental last stood, then stretches his limbs a little. He glances at Wynona, then at Randle … and then rushes back to him. "Randle!" He says, out loud. "Do NOT get anywhere NEAR the bed, or the chest: the bed will try to smother you, as it almost did to me, once, and Miss Teapot told me the chest is quite dangerous! Find a new position! Quickly!"
Wynona hisses through her teeth as she takes in a sharp intake of air at the sight of the slightly swelling mound.
And with that, Galen rushes back to where he was previously standing and stops, as he eyes the slowly growing mound. He takes a deep breath, and glances at his two companions again, making sure they everyone is ready.
Randle goes to the center of the room.
The head of the elemental starts to form out of the floor, between Galen and Randle, and continues to rise upward as the elemental's shoulders follow.
Wynona stands, poised, atop the pedestal, holding her fingers in odd signs, focused upon the center of the room.
Galen observes Randle's position relative to his own and the elemental's. I'll have to make the elemental walk over to an area farthest from all of us: Wynona is south, and Randle is center. Mr. Earth must be placed north in this room. All right, the northwest, at the dresser. He takes a deep breath. Here we go. Star guide us all.
The elemental continues to rise, so that its torso and then part of its legs are again visible. The white light of the glowing diamond clutched in one fist once again illuminates the chamber. As it fully forms again, it rumbles, "The crack has been sealed."
Galen puts on a large, flashy smile of approval. "Well done! Well done!" he praises the entity as it rises from the floor. "There is no way any of us would have been able to do that! You are a most marvelous stonemason! Among other things! Well done!"
The elemental turns to face Galen, but does not otherwise voice any response to his praise.
The Mephitian appraises the elemental from the top of its rocky head to the foundations of its feet. "So! Now I am very curious!" he says. "The bed " he points to it, " can it clean itself? Or would you have to help clean it if it ever got dirty?"
The elemental turns slowly to regard the bed. "I would have to take it to the Pool Chamber."
Galen blinks. This is interesting. "So you do have to help clean it yourself! Can you tell us how you would do that? I mean, would you actually take the mattress or covers with you through the floor, or would you have to walk out of the room, carrying them? And would it be it one of your hands, or both hands?"
"I would take the sheets through the floor," the elemental replies. "It would require at least two hands."
Wynona grits her teeth, still anxiously watching the elemental's back as it converses with Galen.
Galen's head hairs raise a little under his hat. Dare I ask the question? His mind wracks with self-doubt and torment. And then … he settles it. I'll ask him after I have him move into the northeast. "All right," says the Mephitian. "And can you please go over to the dresser? I thought I saw some kind of item or insect hiding in one of the boots over there. And I'm allergic to that kind of leather, so I can't touch them myself."
"Yes, I can," the elemental says, and it starts to walk around Galen, toward the dresser and the pair of boots. Perhaps it's only Galen's imagination, but he can pick up hints of the chiming music from the bed again, even despite the ruckus the thunder is putting up outside.
Good, now it's stationed there. Now I can ask the question. "I just had a thought, Mr. Earth," says Galen, as he watches the elemental inspect the boots. "You said that removing the sheets would require two hands … so … " He takes a breath. "Where would you put whatever your are holding in your hands now?"
There is a noticeable pause, but then the elemental says, "I would be required to keep holding onto it."
Galen's hopes flounder. "You mean, you are able to change the sheets, while still holding whatever else is in your hands? Can you tell me how you do that? That sounds most dexterous of you."
"I am not certain that I am capable of performing the task as required," the elemental says, "though I am obliged to attempt to do so."
Galen licks his lips. "Can you please show me? I think you are talented enough to do it."
Wynona, watching this exchange with obvious nervousness, momentarily flicks her eyes back to Randle, as if to assure herself that he's still there…
Randle rubs his hands together in part of his toga. Possibly to clean the nails, but possibly also prepping a spell
The elemental pauses, then with what might be viewed as reluctance reaches over with one meaty hand toward the bed. The chiming lullaby plays more loudly, and the sheets positively ripple in anticipation … and then leap from the bed, wrapping themselves around the elemental's arm, and tugging with enough strength to give even it pause!
The elemental wrestles with the sheets, moving its arm reflexively, evidently inclined to use its other hand to beat off the sheets, but then waving the other hand back as the elemental is still required to hold the gem in its other hand, of course.
The Healer's eyes light up in excitement and anticipation. He quickly glances over at his companions. "Wait!" he mouths to them, silently. Then he returns to watching the spectacle, observing what the elemental will do.
The bedsheets tug at the elemental with seemingly supernatural strength, and it seems as if they get stronger the longer the elemental wrestles with them as if somehow they might be borrowing some of the elemental's own strength to use against it. (It's a wonder, perhaps, that Galen managed to escape!) The elemental wobbles on its feet, uncertainly, and one of its feet even physically separates from the floor, as it struggles to keep its balance, and not to fall over onto the bed.
Galen's tail hairs are frizzed up, and his breath quickened. He looks at Randle and Wynona again. "Can you believe this?" he whispers to both of them, though loud enough, he thinks, for them to hear.
Randle nods. "I'd say the master has a strange taste in bedding."
Wynona looks as if she's furiously working something over in her head. "Uhm … I don't think it's supposed to work that way. Must be another misbehaving animate. Uhm … you know … with one foot off the floor, the elemental is probably weakened. Uhm … uh … thinking… "
Randle whispers, "Should we go for it?"
The chiming lullaby grows louder and more enthusiastic, such that it's unlikely that it would calm anyone to sleep, what with its excited volume.
Galen rushes over to Randle, and whispers in his ear. "Don't fire your spell yet … I'm not sure the bed will win, but so long that Mr. Earth's foot is off the floor, he gets weaker. I want us to wait until the struggle is over, when he just puts his two feet back on the floor. At that instant I'll yell 'Fire!' and you cast your spell! The new signal is 'Fire!', NOT that 'corner' phrase! Okay?"
Wynona tries to whisper something, but whatever she has to say is lost in the sound of the loud lullaby, since she's not standing right next to Randle or Galen at the moment.
"Good!" says Galen, and then he rushes over to Wynona. "What is it?"
Wynona squeaks, "I was just going to say that if he gets both feet off the floor, he'll be probably no stronger than us! But if he gets both back on the floor, he'll be at full strength again!"
"Instantly back at full strength?" asks Galen, quickly. "Or will it take as long for him to regain it as it does for him to lose it??"
Wynona flaps her wings about vaguely. "Uhm … I'm not sure, really. Maybe not instant, instantly, but pretty awfully quick!"
And just then, it looks like the tide may be turning against the bed sheets. The elemental starts to regain its balance, and is about to plant its other foot back on the floor…
Galen considers the odds … and goes with Wynona's judgement. "All right! We'll get him now! No more waiting! The new signal is 'Fire!'" And then he rushes back over a few steps beside Randle, watching the fight.
At the moment the elemental starts to regain its balance, the Healer says out loud, "Fire!"
Randle frees up his hands and extends his arms, then gestures at the elemental. A blast of fire flies off, hitting the elemental.
Wynona shouts an arcane incantation in her high-pitched voice, and a cerulean cascade of sparks shoots from her outstretched hand, overtaking the flame from Randle and joining with it, so that a cascade of crackling energy and searing bolts strikes the elemental, joining as a single burst.
The elemental disappears in a ball of red and blue flame that engulfs the northwest corner of the chamber, the backblast knocking Wynona off of her feet with a startled squeak. The bedsheets immediately erupt in flame, and the chiming noise grows discordant, then disappears with a sound like breaking glass, as the bed catches fire. The trunk at the foot of the bed abruptly opens up, its lid sporting metal "teeth", as it roars, and rocks from side to side, gnashing at empty air.
Galen shields his face from the blast, and then peers into the explosion's aftermath, hoping to see that the plan was a success.
Alas, as the smoke clears, there is a dark silhouette within the disappearing magical flame (even while the bed is now alight with a fire going all on its own). It is the hulking form of the earth elemental, and its gem eyes glow with a bright intensity that does not look terribly friendly. "You have deliberately inflicted harm upon this chamber," the elemental rumbles. "I am required to expel you."
Wynona struggles to her feet, and lets out a whine of dismay when she sees the elemental standing. "That's … that's impossible! Galen … that really should have worked, honest!"
Randle fires his second spell…
Only one word flashes across Galen's mind. Dagh.
Randle steels himself for once last spell, facing directlyat the elemental. "Flamen … Fieren … Numbow!" he gestures, and hits the elemental square in the eyes.
The elemental lets out a rumbling roar of anguish, as its gem eyes grow brighter, then crack and shatter. Cracks form across the elemental's rocky hide, and red light escapes from within, hinting at a molten interior.
Randle blows on his fingers. "And I didn't even have to breathe for that."
Wynona looks as if she were about to cast a spell of her own, but then notices that it's quite unnecessary. "Uhm … guys … remember what I said earlier about elementals … ?"
Galen is about to utter a whoop of joy, upon seeing the spectacle and then his whoop turns into a cry. "EVERYOBODY OUT! GET OUT! HE'S GONNA BLOWWW!" he yells.
Randle uh ohs… "That's right, isn't it… "
Wynona nods. "Yup! You do." She then screams and runs for the stairs.
Randle high-tails it out to the lower staircase!
Galen, quick as a wink, nearly beats Randle to the door, and jumps through like a pouncing mongoose.
Sure enough, the elemental's form swells, the cracks expanding and burning more brightly, as molten lava leaks out and onto the floor, sending up hissing clouds of foul fumes … and then the elemental explodes outward in a blast of rocky shrapnel, molten magma and searing steam!
Randle and Galen make it to the stairs just in time, as bits of stonework dislodge all around them, and Wynona flies past them down the stairs but she doesn't quite look like she's made it free of the whole shockwave, as she careens against one wall, and then crumples into a heap at the landing.
Randle cries out and tries to catch Wynona!
But fortunately for Wynona, the dragon manages to catch her unconscious form perfectly. If only she was aware of her surroundings, she might be impressed.
A glowing point of light shoots past Randle and Galen, ricocheting against a wall, and then bouncing down the stairs ahead of them.
Galen, having tumbled head over heels out of the doorway, lies prone, face-down, on the floor. He slowly pushes himself back up, onto his knees, and shakes his head. Then he stands up, turns around and sees Wynona's form, crumpled, in Randle's arms. His eyes go wide. "WYNONA!" He rushes, then stops in front of the dragon. "What happened!? How is she?!"
By the rumbling going on, and the hot steam still pouring down from upstairs, it seems like all the destructive effects of the elemental's demise aren't quite finished yet. A number of cracks appear in the wall nearby.
Randle uh ohs. "I think we've gone and started a chain reaction."He checks Wynona for life signs.
Galen spots the ensuing destruction behind Randle, and turns and high-tails it. "Quick! Down the stairs!" he yells.
Wynona has a pulse, and she's breathing, but she has been quite thoroughly sent into blissful ignorance of her predicament.
Randle picks up Wynona and follows Galen.
Randle and Galen rush down the stairs at a legendary pace, cleanly avoiding several fallen blocks and other obstacles along the way. On the way, Galen spots a glowing gem a diamond! lying on the floor.
Galen almost accidentally catches the gem in his hands as he races down. In an instant, he recognizes its features as that of the gem from the late Mr. Earth. He pockets the gem, as the trio continue to run down the stairs at an incredible pace, that no one should try at home.
The Tower of Celesti
The ground floor of the Tower of Celesti is roughly octagonal in shaped, a staircase starting at one side and hugging the exterior wall as it winds its way up toward the next floor. The walls are deep gray stone, covered here and there by shelves of books with arcane titles, tapestries adorned with strange sigils and stellar forms, and various other fanciful adornments showing no sense of unity in decor whatsoever, save that most of them have some touch of magic to them. In the center of the room is a round table with a brass ring inlaid in the surface, with four depressions that look like empty gem settings, and engraved sigils of the four elements.
At last, the dragon and skunk (and the bat, being carried by the dragon) make it down to the bottom of the stairs. "Would you care for some tea?" the teapot happily burbles at them, even while flakes of stone are dislodging from the ceiling, and rumbling can be heard all about the tower.
The tower isn't exactly falling down on their heads at this very moment, but the prognosis does not seem very positive for the foreseeable future.
Randle grabs Mrs. Teapot, and, as an afterthought, the Sugar Bowl.
The Mephitian, being the first to reach the ground floor, hears Miss Teapot's cordial welcome. "No time! No time!" He yells back at the sentient silverware. "Just clear the table! Give us room! We need room on the table!!"
Randle says, "Quick! We need to insert that gem!""
"Oh my!" the teapot cries out as she's hastily grabbed up. The teacups obligingly scoot out of the way.
Quick as a wink, Galen takes out of his pocket the diamond he had just picked up. Then he reaches into his other pocket, and pulls out one, then two, then all three of the remaining gems. He scans the four depressions in the ring, frantically eyeing the inscriptions, and hoping that he'll put the right gems into the right holes.
Randle blinks and makes room in his toga for the teacups, too.
Quick! screams Galen inwardly to himself. Remember the elemental runes! The RUNES!
The red gem is already in place at the rune for fire, and glowing. The other three gem settings air, water, and earth are still empty. Galen has in his hand a blue sapphire, a green emerald, and a white diamond.
"Let's see," says Galen, keeping his voice calm as well as he can, though he is panting heavily from his run down the stairs. He eyes the inscriptions on the ring. "Sapphire water goes HERE!" And he pushes the gem into the depression marked with the rune of Water.
Randle tries to get the bat some tea, to see if that will wake her up. "Come on Galen, we're all counting on you! The castle … the town, the whole world's fate is in your hands!"
The gem sparks and Galen feels a shock run through his hand.
The blue gem, however, does not go into the water setting.
The shock makes Galen's arm flinch! "Gaah!" he hisses, as he takes out the sapphire gem from the "Water" depression, and places the emerald gem in its stead. "Pustules and fewmet!" he curses under his breath. "What a time to forget which gem goes where!"
The emerald locks into place. A green light flows from the glowing emerald like water into the runes that surround its setting.
"Okay, that's in place," whispers Galen to himself. He glances for the inscription for Air, and spots it. He places the sapphire gem in the inscription's depression.
Click. The gem pops into place, and a blue light flows out from the gem like a mist, spreading its glow into the runes surrounding its setting.
Outside, there is a terrible crash, like something very heavy falling from the sky. The rumbling continues, and the storm seems to just get even worse. Even now, a wind blows through the room, even with the door shut.
"All right," says Galen, also to himself. He then grasps the diamond gem, and sees its obvious, final resting place. For a single, fleeting fraction of a second, all sounds the bone-crushing noises above, the splintering of wood, the roaring of flames, the shrieking of winds all seem to cease, in Galen's mind, as he eyes the one, single, remaining key in his hands.
Randle considers taking Wynona outside, but then jumps back from the crash, deciding to wait. He sighs. "And I was hoping I'd catch part of the castle in the deal." He looks up balefully at the cracking ceiling.
This is it. thinks the Healer, the Mephitian, the Lightningtail, as he appraises the gem for one, single, stretched moment in time.
Let's do it.
Randle looks down and picks up a bit of plaster, then studies it. He puts it into a pocket.
Galen places the diamond into the Earth depression in the ring, and pushes it in.
With a satisfying click, the diamond locks into place. Its white light shifts outward, spreading to the runes surrounding the setting like sand pouring through an hourglass. At last, all four gems are glowing, and their light spreads through the many sigils inscribed upon the table, forming an elaborate and intricately formed pattern.
And … outside … there is one more peal of thunder … and then the rumbling … stops.
The wind blowing through the room drops to a faint breeze, and then halts entirely. No more plaster falls from the ceiling.
Galen's ears flick. To, and fro. He himself is silent, stunned … then, slowly, and carefully, he gets off of the table, and flops down into a chair. His face is worn, and his eyes are off as if in a dream. Then he says to himself, almost inaudibly, even in the silence:
"We did it."
Randle opens one eyes and spreads his fingers, looking up. "We did?"
The Mephitian nods, almost as if half-asleep. He stays in his chair, arms flopped out for a moment … then he bolts straight up and out. "Wynona!!" He quickly walks to Randle. "Quick! Put her on the table! GENTLY! And be careful with her back!"
Phantom shapes slowly rise from the center of the table … mist from the sapphire, particles of sand from the diamond, flames from the ruby, a wave of water from the emerald … and join together to form an apparition floating above the center of the table, of an aged wizard in voluminous robes decorated with sigils of the various elements. "Well done," he says in an otherworldly, raspy voice. "You have passed the challenges I set forth in this tower for my intended successor." He seems oblivious to any attempts to put Wynona on the table, as he delivers his disembodied speech.
Wynona passes right through the middle of the phantom images without so much as disturbing them, as Randle sets her down.
Galen gasps, and looks up. His eyes are as wide as saucers. "Celesti," he utters, in awe.
The phantom mage continues, "It is a very serious thing, leaving this tower of wonders to a successor. I have many animates in my service, and it takes a strong and determined will to keep them in line. Thus, I intended that only someone capable of outwitting my elementals should be trusted with such a task. But you have obviously accomplished that much."
Randle perks an ear. "But what caused the storm outside?"
Galen nods at the image. For a moment, he is stunned, and too terrified to speak … and then he closes his eyes, and shakes his head. "Oh Great Celesti," he says to the phantom above him. "I am sorry to interrupt you, well-meaning as your words may be … but I must tend to my comrade here. She may be badly hurt. Please accept my apologies."
The phantom continues on, as if it cannot hear either Randle or Galen. "I'm glad that you solved the puzzle so quickly. I fear that if my tower was left neglected for too long, the animates might have started to get a bit … disagreeable. In any case, set within this table, you will find the deed to this tower. It, and all you find within it, is yours. Use well what I have left behind." He smiles, his eyes crinkling. "Farewell."
Galen sighs. I wish Wynona could see this. After all she had been through. Despite his now seeing that the entity is not Celesti himself, but only an image, the Healer nods to it. "Farewell, Celesti," he says.
Randle waves. "Farewell, great sorcerer Celesti. I hope that we have not destroyed too much of your castle that it cannot be recognized."
The phantom slowly fades away, oblivious to such concerns, leaving only Wynona on the table.
Galen peers at the area that the phantom was floating in for a moment … then he shifts his head downward, and scrutinizes Wynona, quickly yet ever so carefully checking for trauma and injuries.
It looks like Wynona has been knocked out due to the concussive forces that threw her from the room, and has suffered various injuries that would likely mean she'll be bedridden for a while, recovering.
But not today. The Healer gently grasps Wynona's wrists, and folds her hands across her chest. Then, keeping a hand on her folded pair, he bows his head, his eyes shut, and whispers a deep, slow, yet soft and gentle incantation.
A faint glow spreads out from Galen's hands, limning Wynona's form in a gentle halo that lingers there for a while, and fills the room with a tangible warmth. Some of the color comes back to the insides of her ears, and some of the wounds visible in her fur slowly fade away. She still looks as if she's been through some trouble, especially with the soot and dust all over her, but she takes a deep breath … and then her eyes flicker open. "Where where am I?"
Randle steps over to the table and sets out the tea-things. "You just missed our victory, a speech by Celesti, and knowing that the castle (at least what remains of it) is ours."
"You're safe," answers the Healer, his smile embracing his lips and his eyes.
Randle straightens himself. "By this action, I hereby declare that we are all very lucky and wealthy people, whose names shall be known throughout history!" He pours three glasses of tea
Then he grasps Wynona's hand. "And … we did it. We succeeded. All of us." His eyes shine bright with triumph and joy. "Welcome to our new home."