Interlude

Stefan, Job and Gralum entered the mysterious walking tower of the Hermit. It was musty and damp inside. It smelled a little of fungus, earth and rotten meat. Everything looked old an worn. There was incomprehensible technology everywhere, as if he had been tinkering constantly for a long time, inventing and building stuff just out of habit.

If you’re new to this story, read Something brewing in the swampsPrelude and In search of the Hermit first.

At the same time the place and especially inside the house part of the tower it was cozy in a sort of dark and moist way. The inside was full of pipes, wires and gears everywhere, intertwined with tree roots, the trees seemed to grow directly from the walls and floors, through the windows and cracks to the outside. Somewhere deep down in the bowels of the tower house machine was a furnace providing heat and power to everything. There were many ancient servitors installed in alcoves, closets and windows both inside and on the outside of the walking tower. Most of the servitors were so old that their human parts were mummified or practically petrified, some even reduced to skeletons, yet they were kept functioning by their machine parts which sort of kept them alive in an unnatural, lichelike way. A few of the servitors were not so old, a couple of them were rather fresh, having been installed recently, still quite alive in the normal sense. These many servitors were apparently operating the tower, which had a lot of machinery for walking, navigating and even defense systems. It had a lot of functions that seemed shut down or dormant and many such systems were utterly unfathomable. There was strange machinery everywhere, much of it looked old and rusty but still usable, yet repaired and reconfigured countless times into total obscurity. Much of the machinery was not even made of metal, but replaced with wooden parts, or made entirely of wood instead of electrical circuits and gears, yet still incredibly complex and fully functional. They could have sworn that some of the wooden machinery was grown rather than built. There was even a workshop maned by servitors. Stefan of Meteora took a good long look on all the newer servitors, none of them resembled Inquisitor Lord Aurelius fortunately. He didn’t know what he would do if he had found lord Aurelius interred as a servitor here.

As soon as everybody was inside, the tower lurched and began to walk, the servitors working silently, focused.

The Hermit had to duck down awkwardly to get inside. Once inside though most of the ceilings were high enough to accommodate the tall Hermit with his tree growing out of his back. Several rooms and halls had had their ceilings removed to create space for him to move about, which made for quite dangerous footing for ordinary people on the upper levels. In the main hall was a big contraption made of rusty machinery, cables and tree roots, the Hermit went over to it, flicked a few switches and it came alive with a quiet hum. He sat down, it turned out to be a sort of throne, made for the Hermit’s unique shape, cables plucked into his body and the tree roots cradled him, he leaned back with a relaxed smile on his wrinkled face and seemed to dose off.

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Gralum sat at one of the rear facing windows. He would often look back the way they had come.

Stefan sat beside him “you think we’re being followed?”

“I don’t know, can’t be too sure though. Haven’t seen anyone but the people who are after me are pretty resourceful” he said with a sigh that seemed to come all the way down from his shoes.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know, a deal went bad, the don accused me of cheating him… I didn’t know he was of the mafia….

The psychic scream cut through their minds like a now familiar blade, yet in no way less debilitating or uncomfortable for the familiarity. The Hermit woke from his slumber with a scream of his own clutching his temples with rusty mechanical hands.

“What is that screaming in our heads?” Shouted Gralum.

“I don’t know, I don’t know, make it stop” the Hermit wept.

“What is this place?” Stefan asked.

“I will take you as far as the central pillar, there you will get your answers. The bad men who came here and make the other one scream are not far from the central pillar. I will reload my memory as well” He said.

“We hear there is a treasure hidden here, could that be at that pillar as well?” Asked Job with a schrewd look.

“I do not know, there is nothing of value for me here in the swamps” said the Hermit with an annoyed sneer.

“But everything is so ancient, maybe..”

“I said there is nothing of value here! You will get your answers at the central pillar!”

With that, the Hermit sank back into his throne and seemed to dose off again.

“Stupid old fart, he is clearly lying” Job muttered sourly.

The others weren’t listening, Gralum looked back out the window yet again with a sigh of despair.
As the tower walked on into the swamps everybody sat in brooding silence, Gralum often looking out the window. The Hermit slumbering.

Job started looking around the tower curiously. He went to the crenellations on the top of the tower, realized that the fearsome looking turret with its big gun was rusty and looked like it hadn’t been used for years. With a frown he went down the stairs, past the main hall and into the workshop right next to the entrance. The workshop was a cluttered mess of old machinery being repaired and machinery being grown for lack of a better word. There were mechanical limbs for servitors and wooden claws and limbs just like the ones on the beast men they had fought. “He did call them his children” he muttered pensively. He felt around a loose panel, it came of and revealed a secret door. In the room behind the door there were big glass vats containing part biological part mechanical part wooden beast man embryos. The roots of the trees growing outside the tower all seemed to terminate in this secret room. There were big pots of earth with humanoid things growing in them. With a slight click the door slid shot. There were no handle, locking mechanism or anything on the inside. Inquisitor Job could not get out.

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As the hours went by, the tower walked further and further into the heart of the swamps of Axxos and madness.

After about a day’s walk it arrived at the central Pillar.

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