Chapter 35: The Tower of Ro

It was three hundred and fifty years before the Age of Wonder and Tunaria burned. Tarlin and his band of fifty rangers marched solemnly but quickly through Kithicor on their way north to Telethin. They could already see the red smoke in the sky. Fayspires was on fire. They stepped out onto what was once rich and grassy lands but now was lifeless rock and ash. It was on these burnt lands that the elves faced Solusek's demons.

They felt the ground rumble under their feet and the air filled with waves of heat as a massive form approached. Grezou came upon them on twenty foot wings, his body rippling with muscles and smoking with an internal flame. He opened his clawed hand and a cone of fire incinerated two of Tarlin's companions. Holding their ground, the other rangers raised their bows and fired waves of arrows enchanted with ice. Steam rose from a dozen wounds but the red demon was not finished.

Sixteen more companions were killed before the beast was sent back to the Plane of Fire. While the troops regrouped and mended their horrible burns, Tarlin stood on a charred hill overlooking the valley that had once been Telethin. He brushed away a dirty lock of blonde hair that stuck to the grime and sweat of his brow. Large red shapes dotted the once lush countryside that was now a wasteland of ash. Tarlin's heart sank. Two hundred more demons remained. It was Takish Hiz all over again.

The Planes were alien to Loral in every way. For a year he had traveled the planes and he felt himself changing mentally and physically. His armor had shifted around him changing hue from deep blue to gold. His summoned hammer, Daninulaer the Wraithsbane, pulsed with life in his hand. Loral felt his grasp on the physical laws of nature slip the further he traveled into the Planes. His time in the Tower of Solusek Ro was no exception.

Giant stone walkways stood suspended over huge chasms of lava. Hallways forged from thousands of tons of iron twisted and turned throughout the demonic lair. Teleportation crystals sent the Norrathian adventurers deeper into the tower, removing all sense of bearing and navigation. There was nowhere to travel but up, further into the hands of the Burning Prince. Loral caught a glimpse through a crack in the wall of the outside world. He became dizzy when he saw the ocean of lava that surrounded the black tower for hundreds of miles. His mind cleared when he heard the attack of the first of Solusek Ro's guardians.

The demon Xuzl sat within his black hall and waited. For six hundred years, he had remained within the giant iron tower of Solusek Ro, rising like a black needle in the center of the Plane of Fire. After six hundred years, he remembered the taste of mortals. Although he would now face mortals again, it was not on their land. It was on his own.

Xuzl stood to his full twenty four foot height and stretched his giant wings to the edges of his hall. Outside he could hear his minions in battle. The clash of steel and the blasts of flame flashed through his doorway. Soon the intruders entered. He recognized their races from his short stay on Norrath. All the races were represented, it seemed, armed and armored with great treasures to fill his vaults and arm his own troops. Xuzl was not a stupid creature, however. He knew that no ordinary mortals could penetrate this deep into the tower of the elder god, Solusek Ro. He knew the strength of the guardians these adventurers had defeated.

Two green eyes suspended in blackness were the first signs of this mighty foe the mortals glimpsed. Then the room exploded into orange light as walls of fire roared to life. Xuzl raised his claw into the air sending waves of fire through the war party. Only the protective magics of their druids saved them from the searing heat. Loral ducked behind his shield and felt the enchanted steel melt under the waves of flame. The adventurers returned the attack firing dozens of enchanted arrows and magical spears of ice onto the beast. Xuzl's own protective magics stopped many of the attacks, but some pierced his thick hide.

Any conversations among the minions of Solusek Ro's tower ceased when they heard the roar of Xuzl. A demon among demons, none dared to challenge the creature. He was one of the five guardians of the Burning Prince himself and kept company only with those he commanded. To hear the beast's cry of agony and rage put fear into the mightiest of Solusek's guardians.

The smouldering corpse of Xuzl lay on the stone platform of his lair. His mouth was twisted in agony and anger, bearing horrible fangs. Loral eyes were fixed on the slain demon. Many such creatures remained but for a party of mortals to enter the realm of Solusek himself and defeat such a foe was incredible. Loral felt a twinge of doubt and trouble within the back of his mind.

Binedina stepped forward and handed Loral a round silver shield found in the demon's treasures. Loral dropped his own ruined shield and slipped this new one onto his arm. The roar of Xuzl's final death echoed within Loral's ears and the circular shield blazed with fire and then grew still. A powerful item indeed, Loral thought, and bowed to thank Binedina for her generosity. She smiled in return and the war party moved on.

Within the highest spire of the tower, at the tip of the spike within the world of lava, Solusek Ro stood. There was a threat within his home. His demonic sentinel had been killed. Solusek Ro summoned his remaining guardians close and ordered the remaining four sentinels to stand ready. Solusek, the Burning Prince, felt a sensation he hadn't felt for a thousand years - Fear.