The adventurers make their way through the empty town of Bridgeton under the careful eyes of cowering villagers. Doc feels confident and alert, proud of his leadership skills and floats on a feeling of having a new level of awareness. He congratulates his team on a job well done.

"Minimal casualties is what I like to see. Good work, everyone," he says.

His words echo in his own mind. His ears are still ringing from the nuclear explosion and rocket fire a moment ago. His eyes must be still effected too, because he's seeing two of his hands and a blurring tracer between them. He brings them up to rub his eyes. His fingers meet his eyelids before he feels it.

He becomes dizzy for a moment and stops.

"You alr- You -ight, alr- Doc? -ight, Doc?" Mark asks. His question echoes before he speaks.

Doc covers his eyes with his hands. His brain spins, and for a moment he loses all sense of scale. The feeling that he's the size of a gnat inverts to the feeling that he's the size of the Earth, then pulses back repeatedly.

"Doc? Doc? DoDoc?c? DDoocc? Doc!"

Doc opens his eyes. The party is stopped and looking at him. The pulsing is gone. Everything is normal, or so it seems.

"Somethin' wrong?" Mark asks. "You okay?"

Doc thinks about it. He's feeling okay, now, aside from a bit of a headache. "Fine. I'm fine. Just a quick headache, probably from all the excitement."

Thunderhorse calls out to them. "Over here! There are horses!"

There are five horses stabled oustide the great hall. Thunderhorse and Skullfucker begin saddling them up. Fairhairson and Aerikson go into the Great Hall in search of lunch. They return a moment later with a loaf of bread, a pitcher of mead, and a string of smoked fish jerky.

The party chows down quickly and takes to the horses. Thunderhorse and Skullfucker lead the way, followed by Fairhairson and Aerikson sharing a horse. Mark takes Brother Broderick on his horse alongside Doc, who has enough trouble controling the horse on his own.

The trek towards the moutain gets steeper and more difficult. They travel through a valley carved by ancienct glaciers, still wet with runnoff and growing whiter and more difficult as the snow builds up. As they approach the slopes, however, the snow gives way to trees and ground cover.

In three hours they've gone ten miles up the mountainside. They stop at a glacial lake and let their horses drink. The vikings begin to break into their whiskey reserves, except for Thunderhorse, who was not beginning but rather continuing.

"[Do you see?]" Brother Broderick asks quietly. "[There is a flat space between these peaks. The path to the tower traverses up the right slope to the top, and crosses the glacier to the left. The tower sits nestled among those sinister peaks.]"

"Can we get horses up there?" Doc asks.

"[Yes. There are paths by which bread, fish, and wine are brought up from Bridgeton by horse.]"

"What about the tower's defenses? Gates? Turrets? Are the paths patrolled? "

"[No turrets or walls, but there is a gatehouse. There are no soliders posted there, the mountain top is enough of a barrier to discourage intruders. The monks who live there are hardened people, though, and can defend themselves. With today's violence I'm sure they've locked the gate, and may be ready at the windows with slings and arrows.]"

"Do they have weapons?"

"[Not as you might expect. They have bows and slings for hunting, and other tools for farming and gathering water which they have learned to wield as weapons.]"

"So, what, it's like a Eurpean Shaolin temple or something?"


"Nothing. Nevermind."

The air gets thinner and colder the higher they travel. The afternoon has seen the sun leap gently into the sky and it now decends for a soft evening landing.

The trek becomes more and more difficult as they climb the ever rising trail. They pass the treeline. Rocky ground turns to ice. The sun fades begins to fall behind them as they approach the high, icy plain. The wind picks up and chills them all. Through the drifting snow, they can see the outline of the tower built into the mountainside.
None of them are properly dressed for this. Doc and Mark have it best, Doc in a leather marine jacket and Mark with his wool coat. Skullfucker is the worst off, as his chain mail which was heavy and warm below is now freezing and sticking to his skin. Brother Broderick's robes are also woefully insufficient for this mountaintop weather. He huddles closer to Mark than he's comefortable with. Several flasks of whiskey are passed around to keep the blood warm. Even Aerikson partakes.

As the sun finally falls into the valley below, they approach the gates. No one is visible and no lights shine through the windows. The stone walls are warm to the touch, however, and black smoke rolls out of the chimneys, shrowding the upper portion in thin gray smoke. There are three tower houses of varying height surrounding the central tower which is mostly built into the central of three peaks of the mountain. The top of the tall, central tower stands above the entire mountain. An ornate stained glass window glints with the fading sunlight, but it's details cannot be made out from where the adventurers stand.

The gatehouse projects forward of the middle towerhouse. It's portcullis is down and the great wooden doors behind it are shut.

There is a rope hanging outside the door. Doc pulls on it. A bell rings inside the door.

They wait.

Nothing happens.

1 comment:

Doc said...

"Open up in the name of His Holiness, Pope Alexander II! We want sanctuary!"