|The Home of the Winds|
Designed by Puflet
Lifespan: 45 minutes
Medium Groups: 23-26
Large Groups: 21-25
Three companions paused at the top of the hill and peered through the gap in the trees. The mage Farth pointed a gnarled hand. "There it is - the Home of the Winds!"
Tronos squinted. "I thought it would be larger."
"You cannot gauge the true height of the towers through the fog that obscures them. There stands the magnificent fortress that saved the land of Zannow from the Cult of Exyaxes."
"Where is the treasure you promised us?" Ansyrie demanded, stroking the pommel of her dagger.
"Within Castle Quinquespir," Farth replied.
Tronos nodded. "They say that King Valdofus locked all the gold and jewels in the land into his vaults to keep the Exyaxens from it. But surely other looters have come this way before us."
Farth shook his head. "They didn't know of the real treasure to be found behind those walls - a secret of pure will, which the Exyaxens discovered when they slew the Fifth Wind, Fierce."
Tronos spat. "You can't kill the winds."
"The Exyaxens did. Killed one of the five before they were defeated and driven off by the King and his knights." Farth set spurs to his horse and cantered down the trail. "Come."
Tronos and Ansyrie exchanged an uneasy glance before following. The tall pines that had surrounded the trail fell behind. A broad plain of ripe barley stretched before them, rippling like a sea of fire in the setting sun. Beyond it rose the castle's fog-shrouded black towers
"I mislike its look," Tronos grumbled. "It glowers like a storm cloud."
"Aye, the weather here is strange, for the Winds brew storms in their home."
"If the treasure you speak of was so valuable, why did the Exyaxens leave it behind?" Ansyrie asked.
"Their cult worships mathematics," answered Farth. "They hate and fear anything beyond their logic, and so they were able to grasp only small pieces of the power. I have seen these nuggets of fierceness their cult carries, and I know there is more, much more. But only one versed in the magic arts can make use of it."
Ansyrie and Tronos, who were not versed in the magic arts, exchanged another look. "So you're saying there's nothing here for us?"
Farth chuckled. "I will reward you well, don't worry."
They rode on, three abreast along the broad road. The sky's crimson light dimmed. A ring of fire about the castle's base remained. Smaller flames twinkled against the sky.
"Bonfires," Ansyrie cried. "And flaming arrows! Someone is besieging the castle!"
"Perhaps the Exyaxens have returned to kill the other Winds," Farth said.
"You knew they would be here," Tronos grumbled. "That's why you brought us along - as bodyguards."
"Valdofus and his knights died long ago," Ansyrie said, "so why don't the besiegers just enter Quinquespir and take what they want?"
"The Winds defend their home," Farth said in a low voice.
Tronos reined in his horse. "I have heard that ghosts also defend the castle.
I am not fighting any ghosts - or winds - for you."
Farth chuckled. "Just see me safely past the cultists, and you will be rewarded."
Light fled the land, and shadows gathered about them.
"What's that!" Ansyrie cried. A pale form glided through the grain, silent. The ripe barley heads did not stir with its passage.
"A g-g-ghost!" Tronos quavered.
Farth forced a laugh. "It's just fog."
They rode on, slowly. Emerging from the barley, the road led through an abandoned apple orchard. Decrepit trees stood on either side, twisted branches creaking. The castle waited at the road's end, a shadow in its shroud of firelit fog. The night seethed with sounds. A panther screamed from the forest. Somewhere beneath the castle walls, hounds bayed in a bloodthirsty chorus.
The horses shied when a shadow swooped from above. Tronos drew his sword.
"It's not a ghost," Farth said. "Just a giant bird of some sort."
"It's not a ghost!" howled a windy voice.
"Who's there?" Ansyrie shouted.
"Who's there? Who's there?" mocked the voice.
The wind began to rise. The sudden chill took the adventurers' breath away.
"I think the Winds are angry," Ansyrie gasped through chattering teeth. "I think they know why we're here, and they're coming to kill us."
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