Ivanson did not need his compass; he doubted it would be much use in this strange place. From here on he had to rely on a crude mental map, pieced together from the ramblings of drug addled mystics and the sermons of pompous pontificates. Both spoke of a spire that broke the sky, awash in a sea of stone. “Whatever that means,” Ivanson grumbled. Inhaling deeply, he began the long hobble to his final destination.
The drone of bees accompanied the travellers methodical plod. A subtle floral aroma hung heavy in the air, streams of pollen drifting in the light breeze. Now and again small rodents would peek from the dense carpet of grass, tiny eyes locked on the aged adventurer that disturbed the peaceful field. At one point Ivanson had found a pond, it’s waters as clear as glass. He stopped to fill his water skin, and once his thirst was quenched he washed the sweat from his face.
Refreshed, Ivanson looked back. To his dismay he was face to face with that damnable riverbed, bordered by hulking pines. Dumbfounded he staggered backwards, toppling into the pond and sinking to the bottom in an instant. He gasped, his lungs filling with water as cold as mountain runoff. He thrashed about, trying to gain his footing against the sandy bottom.
Throwing his hands over the bank Ivanson burst from the pond, grey beard matted to his chest. He hacked and wheezed as he crawled across the grass, his vision growing darker. With one violent cough the adventurer disgorged a lung-full of water, giving him the chance to take a single ragged breath.
His lungs clear, Ivanson doubled over, his fit growing more sever. Between agonized gasps he heaved and heaved, crimson flecks spattering the flowers below him. A deep burning punctured his chest, just below the heart. He could feel an old wound reopen, an in an instant his breath was taken away.
Ivanson blacked for a moment, falling to his side. His breath was shallow and laboured, and he kept his eyes closed. The twang of a crossbow rung through his head, followed by a cry from a long dead friend. Then the pain in his chest doubled, and his eyes shot open.
It was dark. Flickering stars of a dozen different colours danced above Ivanson, nestled among swirling nebulae of the richest hues. Ivanson couldn’t move, the expanse of creation laid bare before him.
“I’m dead,” he murmured. “I died, I’m dead…” Pain in his chest interrupted his jabbering. “Not yet, I guess,” he wheezed. Rolling to his side and pushing himself to his knees, Ivanson surveyed his surroundings. No longer did he lay by the pond. Rather he found himself at the bottom of a hill, far steeper than those from before and strewn with slate. He sword had fallen near him, stuck blade first into the jagged stone.
“This place is getting on my nerves,” he grumbled as he pushed himself to his feet. He staggered, light headed. He inhaled, but found his breath didn’t catch. It took several ragged gasps to clear his mind. He cursed, holding his hand to his chest. “Bloody lung collapsed,” he grunted, patting his old wound. He doubted it would kill him, but this time there was no medic to patch him up.
“Knew this would be a one way trip,” he hummed, drawing his sword from the stoney earth. Turning, he spotted a structure in the distance, past the field of slate. A great spire burst from the ground, gothic arches and wicked points jabbing skyward. Within its sky-piercing peak hung a great brass bell, glinting in the starlight. Ivanson spat to his side, then took his first shaky step towards the tower.