Finally, they had arrived at their destination. The Tower of Flame. And unsurprisingly, the location was a spectacle in itself. Upon the mountaintops of Norrendir this tower sits, surrounded by massive torches that burn with big, bright flames to spite the rain and snow. The tower's exterior is marked with arcane symbols that no one of this day and age would be able to understand, the engravings going all the way to the very top of the massive building.
But even more astonishing to General Shadow was the aura he felt from the very top of the tower. He didn't know how this was possible... his magical abilities, especially aura-sensing, were heavily-hampered by his mysterious heat disease. He was lucky if he could sense the energy of his comrades beside him. And yet, whatever awaited them at the top of the tower had a presence so profound, it cut through his hazy consciousness like a hot knife through warm butter. Granted it was hardly at Chikara's level of strength, but there was still a great power within this tower that far exceeded his own. It terrified him... and he hadn't even went inside yet.
"What a place..." said one of his men.
"I swear the temperature went up a few degrees when we got here." said another.
"Well, it is called the Tower of Flame..." said his female soldier, her true gender revealed during the incident at Almirante.
"They say that no one who went in there has ever returned..." said the last of his men. "Are you sure you want to do this, sir?"
Shadow shook his head to quell the fear rising him within him. "I don't have a choice. The cure to what ails me is supposed to be in here... besides, I couldn't get cold feet even if I wanted to." Ah, a lighthearted joke always made things easier. "But if the rest of you are, you can stay out here. I don't want you endangering yourselves for my sake."
"You expect us to let you do this alone?" the female soldier asked incredulously. "You can barely stand up in your condition."
Alas, the woman had a point... Shadow was leaning off of her right now. "We're with you to the end, sir." said one, and the rest nodded in agreement.
Shadow smiled sardonically. "You guys are too much..."
With no more talking, the party of five entered the Tower of Flame. The entrance was so large that they probably could've fit their carriage inside, but they wouldn't have wanted to burn up their only means of transportation. The interior was no less extravagant and the exterior, its walls also lined with arcane symbols, as well as a spiral staircase and a rope-and-pulley elevator all the way at the end of the wide room. Shadow didn't want to climb the stairs in his state, so they all opted for the elevator. It was a tight fit, but a manageable one, and their weight didn't prevent the decrepit-looking structure from performing its task. The walls were lined with torches as they rose, allowing them to see with clarity the symbols that adorned the walls... not that they could tell what they meant.
The top of the tower was built like the roof of a castle, square zig-zag patterns lining the edge. The sun shone heavily on everyone, it was almost as if they could reach out and touch it. The roof was also lined with all of those weird symbols, converging inward on the very center of the roof, where the mother of all torches sat. It was a massive, silver bowl that held an equally massive fireball.
The gawking of the Koridian entourage was abruptly halted by a powerful red glow from within Shadow's cape. Immediately he knew the cause, and took out the red gem that was the Key of Fire. "It's reacting to something..." he informed his bewildered soldiers. As if on cue, The silver bowl began to glow the same crimson colour, before the light slowly shrank inward on the side... it was then that he noticed a pedestal-like indentation in the structure. It was a "U" shape, and looked like the Key of Fire he was holding would fit in it perfectly. It didn't take a brain surgeon to figure out what to do next.
But as the General took a step forward, the fire in the bowl began to roar violently. Almost in an instant, the fireball started spilling over its confines in a whirling blaze, surrounding it. "What in the!?" one of his soldiers yelled, but not in response the sudden light show. "The entrance closed up!"
Shadow looked behind him to see that, indeed, the rooftop entrance had been sealed off by another sigil-engraved wall. Like it wasn't even there. Two of his men tried to pry it break it open again, but with no success. To worsen matters, the tornado of fire was expanding outward. He could feel the heat, and that presence from before... fear gripped his heart again as he realized that if something wasn't done, everyone here would be burned alive. But save for jumping off of the tower, there wasn't a way to avoid the fire... but even if his magic were working correctly, he couldn't survive a fall from this height. And his soldiers were a different story entirely. They were trapped up here with this inferno.
Only one solution made itself evident to Shadow; get the key to that glowing slot. And that meant going through the fire... but he could do it, right? The Key protected him from the fire... it was their only chance. Willing himself forward, he ran with what little strength he had left into the roaring flame. "G-General!? What are you doing!?" shouted the soldier he was hanging off of a moment prior, but her cries of protest were ignored. Shadow quickly activated his Heat Lens ability, surrounding himself in his own flaming shield in the hopes of becoming hotter than the offending flames, or at least to block them off for long enough. But he couldn't keep it up for long in his condition. It was now or never.
He dashed into the inferno.
It was almost like being caught up in a windstorm. The fire pushed in his shield, almost as if whatever force was here didn't want the Key put in that slot. But the General refused to stop; he would not die here, nor would he let his men die! With a monumental effort, the Key fell into the slot.
In that instant the tornado of fire stopped, and completely reversed its action, getting sucked back into the silver bowl like a vacuum. His power exhausted, Shadow's Heat Lens disappeared and he hit the roof face-first.
"General Shadow!" Everyone shouted, running to him. The female soldier tried picking him up again, but was met with an unpleasant surprise; his body was too hot for her to touch. "Oh no... he's having another hot flash!"
"What!? Now!?" exclaimed one of the soldiers in horror. "But in this state...!"
Do not be alarmed.
The voice was powerful, permeating everyone's minds, yet in the strangest sense it was soothing... the Tower of Flame started vibrating then. The arcane symbols all over it, inside, outside and on the roof, began to glow the Key's crimson color. It was shock and awe all around.
To someone who places such value on the lives of others, I will not allow this fate to befall.
The torches on the outside of the tower began to shoot up their flames like spires, climbing all the way to the top. Those flames then arced downward and into the silver bowl, its own flame then exploding outward in every possible direction other than downward. Those flames soared high into the sky, eventually taking an identifiable shape, that of a bird. Slowly the flames were taking on a more defined shape; the bird had two huge wings, two large talons, three long tails and a majestic-looking head. The entire thing had to be as big as the tower was wide. The flaming avian shape slowly descended back down to the tower, perching itself on the now-empty silver bowl.
The soldiers could do nothing. What they had witnessed just now had left them speechless and unable to move. Therefore they couldn't act when the mighty, flaming bird lowered its head to Shadow's felled, convulsing body. Then, as if to laugh at logic, the bird began to cry. But these tears were not water, they looked more like liquid magma. But they didn't melt Shadow when they fell on him. Slowly, they began to covered him in flaming embers... still, he did not burn.
Instead, he started to get up.
He didn't know what was happening to him. When those "tears" hit his body... he was filled with strength. Such incredible strength... the ailments of his heat disease had vanished like a bad dream. Soon he was back onto his feet, fully rejuvenated, looking the flaming beast that had saved him squarely in the eyes. His clothes hadn't even been singed, and his skin was no longer pale... it had even regained its colour.
The embers slowly slid off of him, and he asked, "Who are you?"
The massive bird raised its head back up to a normal position, and Shadow stepped back so that he could finally gaze at the beast. He too was beside himself with awe. I am Phoenix, the spirit bound to the Key of Fire. It is I who called you here.
Now that his mind was clear, Shadow immediately recognized that voice. The same one that had spoken to his mind before, repeatedly telling him to come here. So this thing was... the cause of his illness? He had half a mind to rip this thing's head off, but not only was he sure it wouldn't end well, but it had just saved his life. "Bound to the Key?" he repeated, the first thing that was on his mind that he was willing to say aloud.
I am sure you already know that there are eight of these Keys, each commanding the power of a different element: Fire, Water, Wind, Earth, Light, Darkness, Thunder and Time. For each of those keys, there is a being that they draw their power from. We left these keys separate from our souls so that their power would not be misused. Well, this creature was certainly quick to get to the point... it had just answered some of the questions Shadow had about the Keys for years. Yet now, as disaster draws near, our true power may be needed. Thus I have been searching for a being worthy of this great power, someone who will not misuse it. Someone who will use it to protect this world from disaster.
So this creature was the source of the power of the Key of Fire? The legendary beast known as the Phoenix... Shadow supposed it made sense. "You do realize how much trouble we've all been through because of you, I hope..."
I do, and for that I extend my apologies.
So it has emotion. Well, that helps him understand it... but now Shadow was at a loss for words. What was this disaster Phoenix spoke of? Just how powerful are these Keys? What are the other bound spirits like? Silence had reigned for a bit too long as he pondered these things. "Ah, sorry... I'm at a loss for words here. I have so many questions..."
It is not necessary that you understand everything now. But know this: in showing your strength and your loyalty to those you care for, you have proven yourself worthy of wielding great power. I wish to see where this power will lead. Phoenix spread its wings out to the their maximum length and began to hover off of its makeshift perch. Henceforth, I shall accompany you from this day forward, so that I may offer you my power... the power of roaring flame!
Phoenix then returned to its previous form of a giant fireball, before dispersing into streams of fire and flowing downwards. Not into the silver bowl, but into the Key of Fire still in its pedestal. When the awesome spectacle had ended, the key glowed brighter than before... Shadow was almost hesitant to touch it, but his instincts told him not to be afraid. He reached out and grabbed it... it was warm, yes, but it was a comfortable warmth. Certainly not harmful. He could feel Phoenix's aura radiating from it now... to think that this power was now his to command... it was a little exciting. But he wouldn't let it go to his head, he knew better than to outright depend on such things. Still, it was nice to have help.
The sudden silence was a bit disturbing to the General, and that was when he noticed his soldiers still standing around, totally at a loss. "Well, uhh... that was a hell of a thing." It only then dawned on everyone that the superior officer they were all worried about was standing before them, in perfect health, and even making wisecracks again.
"I'd say that's an understatement!" one of his soldiers exclaimed.
"Are you feeling alright after all of that?" as the female soldier.
"I feel great, actually! Like a whole new man!" Shadow responded almost immediately, doing a quick backflip to prove his point. Goddamn, it was good to be back on the top of his game.
"What a relief..."
He cocked his trademark smirk and looked at the roof entrance, which had opened up earlier for them. "Well, at least Phoenix was kind enough to open the door for us." he jeered. "Well... let's head back home, ladies and gentlemen. Who knows what kind of trouble Koridai has gotten into now..."
Oh, if he only knew...
OoC: Hope you enjoyed that read. This was mainly to introduce the Eight Keys plot that I've been hinting towards for the last little while. Expect me to start up threads pertaining to this sometime in the near future, permission-pending.
The Tower of Flame
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