Chapter 11: Enlightenment
"Could you give me an explanation for how this works?" Alice asked.
"Basically, it takes all the experience and skill you've accumulated in your line of work up until now and converts a lot of it towards another line of work," explained the cleric. "You will not be as skilled in your new calling as you were in your old one, but you will also retain a good deal of the skill from your old calling."
As it had turned out, the King Saldor of Portoga had not expected the group to be able to acquire so much black pepper. He had sent them away hoping they would be unable to meet their task and give up. He was quite surprised when the group came back with a contract from Galen promising a year's worth of black pepper, free of charge.
Fortunately, the king was not one to go back on his word, and agreed to give the group a ship and crew. However, still skeptical that the contract was legitimate, he demanded that three month's worth be delivered before he would hand over the reward. After consulting many maps of the world, the group found that they would be unable to reach any more nations without a ship and rather than hire one out they decided to wait until they had their own.
In the meantime, the team had taken a detour to the north of Baharata to visit the famed Temple of Dhama. The group had heard many interesting rumors about the place from citizens of Baharata. They had been told that many people who sought fresh starts or just a change of pace in their lives went to Dhama. Alice found herself very curious of the strange powers held by the clerics of the temple and had since gone about researching as much as she could.
Alice returned from the temple's library to the inn in which the group was staying. Since Dhama attracted many people from all around, an inn and a few shops had sprung up just outside the temple. The group had decided to stay at the inn for a while until they found something better to do.
"Hey guys," Alice addressed the group enthusiastically. "I've got something we can do while we wait!"
"What's that, Alice?" asked Suzanne.
"I've done some research, and I've found some amazing things! You guys have heard the stories of the ancient sages, right?" Alice asked.
The group all nodded. The sages were a group of people who had lived during the time of the First Great War. It was said that Simon, the hero of the war, himself had been a sage before the war began. The sages were said to have great magical ability. They could cast both the spiritual spells of a cleric and the arcane spells of a wizard. Besides that, they even had decent proficiency with weapons and armor. The sages had been instrumental in winning the First Great War, though their order had been wiped out in the conflict.
"Well, there might be a way for one of us to become a sage!" exclaimed Alice.
"Is that even possible?" asked Thomas, skeptical. "All of the teachings and ways of the sages were lost after the First Great War. We barely know anything about them at all."
"Not all of their teachings of been lost," said Alice. "According to some of the clerics and some of the books in the library, there may be something in the Tower of Garuna to the north. Apparently the tower used to be some sort of test that needed to be completed in order to become a sage. The task and reward for completing this test was said to be finding a copy of the sage's code, the Book of Satori, inside the tower."
"Even if that's true, wouldn't the last copy of this book have been lost by now?" asked Suzanne.
"Not necessarily. Given the knowledge the sages had of magic, both the books and clerics acknowledge that these Books of Satori may not have even been physically written by the sages so much as conjured into existence," Alice explained. "The tower itself is said to be a magical structure. Who knows? Maybe it's the tower itself that creates the books."
"Besides that, the history of the Temple of Dhama suggests that it was where new sages were initiated. We've heard of the strange powers that the clerics here have. Maybe this is how new sages were made," Alice theorized. "They got the book and then they came here to become a sage. What do you guys say?"
"Considering that Susie here practically is a sage, I think it's pointless," said Ron.
Suzanne shook her head and answered, "I may have some skill with the two kinds of magic, but not anywhere near as much as the sages did. I'm definitely no sage."
"Oh well, I've already gotten bored from hanging around here the last few days. If it'll give us something to do, I say why not?" Ron said.
"What are your thoughts Thomas?" asked Suzanne.
"I highly doubt that we'll find this Book of Satori inside the tower. Even if we did, there's no guarantee that Alice is correct and that all one needs to be a sage is to come here with the book. Though I do agree having a sage would be a great advantage," Thomas answered. "If we're going to do this, we should do so with caution. No sense in putting ourselves in too much danger over a long shot like this."
"I agree. We'll make an effort to find this book, but if the going gets too tough, we'll head back and call it a day," Suzanne said.
It took a day's journey through the mountains surrounding the Temple of Dhama to reach the Tower of Garuna. As they entered the tower, they walked through a small hallway lined with statues, some of which holding staves and some others holding weapons and shields.
"I'm guessing these are statues of the ancient sages," said Alice.
The group came to the main lobby area of the tower. From this room there were two hallways in front of them to the left and right, and three rooms: one directly in front of them and two to their sides. The group went inside the room on the right and found a woman standing there. However, this woman was semi-transparent.
"Who are you?" asked Suzanne.
"Life is pilgrimage toward enlightenment and salvation. I welcome you to the Tower of Garuna," said the woman. As she talked, her image flickered and the group even thought she would disappear completely.
"Are you some sort of guardian for this tower?" asked Alice.
"Life is pilgrimage toward enlightenment and salvation. I welcome you to the Tower of Garuna," the woman repeated.
"I'm thinking it's just a message. She'll reply with the same phrase no matter what we say to her," said Alice.
The group proceeded to the room across from the one they entered, the one that had been to the left when they had entered. Inside they found a similar flickering image of a woman.
"Are you another message?" Suzanne asked the image.
"If you possess the Book of Satori, a sage you may become," replied the image.
"See? I told you guys! That must mean this Tower has the book in it and that with it, one of us can become a sage!" Alice said triumphantly.
"It doesn't mean there's a book in this tower. It doesn't even mean that there ever was a book in this tower," said Thomas.
"Don't be such a spoil-sport Tom!" Alice said angrily. "I know there's a book in this tower! I just know it!"
The group proceeded into the room that was directly across from the entrance. Inside they found a spinning blue vortex, similar to the one they had found inside the Cave of Enticement.
"Is that a Traveler's Gate?" asked Suzanne.
"It must be. Ron, would you do the honors?" replied Alice.
Ron went through the Traveler's Gate. Like last time, he spun around and around at an alarming rate. As he emerged on the other side of the gate, he was unable to stay standing and fell to the ground. His comrades emerged after a few seconds and shared similar experiences.
Alice groaned as she hit the floor, "I forgot how much I hated the one back in Aliahan."
The group was teleported just outside a large room somewhere else in the tower. After regaining their senses, the group entered the room. Inside they found four creatures that looked like giant bird heads with legs but no torsos. The four creatures had been facing the entrance to the room and immediately sprung at the group to attack.
"We've got company!" yelled Ron.
The group quickly drew their weapons and Ron, Suzanne, and Thomas cut the four creatures off. Alice sent a stream of fire at the giant bird heads and burned all four of them pretty badly, though all of them survived. One of the bird heads came up between Ron and Suzanne and pulled off a quick maneuver as it pecked at Suzanne while leaping and scratching Ron with its legs. Another bird pulled off a similar maneuver on Suzanne and Thomas. One bird went up and both pecked and scratched Ron. The last bird ran past the front line at Alice but pecked Thomas as it did so.
Suzanne tried to block the blows coming at her but only managed to block one, taking a beak to the shoulder. She returned with a slash to the attacker who had scored the hit, taking its legs off the rest of it. The bird head fell to the ground, dying and incapacitated. Ron was also only able to block one of the attacks aimed at him but scored a great wound down the middle of the bird head that had focused on only him. It fell dead to the ground, almost cut in half.
Thomas was unable to block the creature's strikes and tried to stop the one from getting to Alice. He managed to stab it in the back just before it left his reach and the creature fell to the ground and rolled into a wall. The bird did not get up after that and appeared dead. Suzanne and Ron focused on the last enemy left and killed it, but not before it scored another peck to Suzanne's side.
"Damn, those things were pretty agile! I wouldn't believe that those things could attack with their beak and their legs at the same time," said Ron.
"Those things were definitely capable of dealing a flurry of blows. Luckily they couldn't get too much force behind them," said Suzanne.
Alice looked around the room and found that nothing else was to be found inside. "I wonder if these things aren't part of this test. There doesn't seem to be anything else here. Seems like this dead end was made on purpose for these things to catch whoever went through," she theorized.
The group went back through the Traveler's Gate. This time, they were ready for the dizziness and kept their feet, though they still needed a few seconds to regain their senses. They went down the hallway to the right as they exited the room and quickly found another room on the left. Inside was a chest containing some gold. They returned to the hallway and found it took a turn to the right after a while.
Soon after the turn were two rooms on both sides of the hallway. Both led to ascending staircases. As usual, the group decided not to go up a staircase until they had explored the entire floor. They went further down the hallway and took another right turn. The group guessed that this would lead to the other hallway they had found. On their left was a second exit to the tower. The group passed by and went further down until they almost returned to the lobby they had entered into. They found one more dead end room and returned to the two stairs they had found and took the one on the west side.
They went up the staircase and came to a room that had only another ascending staircase. They went up this one and came to a dead end. They went back down the two sets of staircases they had gone up and went to the other ascending staircase. This one led to a very large room. The group could see another ascending staircase and a treasure chest in the middle of the room. Blocking their path to these two things was a large crack in the ground.
"This could be a problem. Even if we take our armor off and leave our bags, there's no way we'll make that jump," said Suzanne.
"It doesn't look like we can fall down and just climb back up either. The floor is completely smooth in this spot, not that we'd be able to reach it from below anyway. We can't climb up there from downstairs. I'm guessing this was put here on purpose, not a result of wear and tear," said Ron.
"There weren't any other ways to go in the tower either. If this is part of the test, I don't know how we're going to get past it," said Thomas.
"Let's recheck the bottom floor, there's has to be a way past this!" said Alice.
The group returned to the ground floor and continued searching. The group ended up going through the second exit they had passed by and found that there was actually a small tower just outside. As they looked above them, they could see that the small tower was connected to the main tower by a rope. The group ascended to the top of the small tower and found the rope went inside the main tower.
"Looks like we're going to have to get across this rope," said Ron. "Everyone have their buckles ready. It won't do you good to fall."
The group used their climbing gear to get across the rope back into the main tower. They found a room with a descending staircase. The group went back down to the ground floor and found another Traveler's Gate.
"Damn it, not another one!" complained Alice.
The group took the Traveler's Gate and found themselves in a plus-sign shaped room, with a set of ascending stairs on each part of the plus-sign besides the one they had come in on. The group took the stairs to their right first. They came to another room with only another set of ascending stairs. After this set, they were in a small room with a chest in it. Alice checked the chest to find it was actually a monster.
"Another trap?" asked Thomas.
The group returned to the plus-sign and took the stairs directly across from the Traveler's Gate. This one led to an odd crescent shaped room that had two more sets of ascending stairs in it. The party took the ones to the right and found themselves in another room. Inside this one, however, were two large goat-looking creatures.
"Giant cattle!" Ron shouted, laughing as he did so.
Two of the large goats charged at the group while the other two hung back. Alice sent a stream of fire at them only to find two of them resist the effects of the spell, one that was charging and one that had hung back. Suzanne finished off the burned one while avoiding its horns.
Ron took some horns to his arm but returned with a strike that took one horn and part of the creature's skull off. Although badly wounded, the creature was still able to fight. Thomas, however, came up and made the creature unable to fight and dead by stabbing it in the midsection.
The two that hung back had both been casting spells. Two streams of fire engulfed the group and gave them burns of their own. Alice stayed back and decided not to use the magic on another spell while the other three ran up to finish the goats. Ron and Thomas finished one off while Suzanne gave the other goat a good slash to the ribs though she was unable to kill it. The creature took its horns to her leg but was soon finished off as Suzanne stabbed it through the head.
Alice chuckled as Thomas went on his healing rounds, "Of course they'd put magic-users in their test."
"Yeah, it'd be silly if we didn't get burned while we went through here," Ron answered sarcastically.
The room they were in had been empty besides the goats. The group went back down the stairs to the crescent shaped room. They took the other set of stairs in the room and came to an L-shaped room with more stairs going up. This in turn led to more stairs going up. This time, the group found themselves in an open room with another rope leading to another part of the tower.
"Looks like we've got another rope to traverse," said Ron. He got out his buckle and was about to hook it to the rope when Suzanne stopped him.
"Wait! There's something coming!" warned Suzanne. She pointed in the air where a large creature was flying towards them. The odd thing was that the creature did not seem to have wings but looked to be a large serpent of some sort, slithering through the air as though it were ground.
"Is that what I think it is?" asked Ron.
"It's a dragon!" gasped Alice.
"Be on your guard guys! You've heard the stories!" yelled Suzanne.
The dragon slithered towards the group. As it came within range, Alice sent an exploding fireball at it. But the dragon shrugged it off as though it were nothing. The dragon pulled up just before entering the room the group was in and reared its head back.
"Take cover!" yelled Suzanne.
The dragon let out a burst of flame at the group. The four managed to avoid the most of it, though all of them still took serious burns in the blaze. Ron, Suzanne, and Thomas ran at the beast with their weapons, careful not to fall out of the tower. They managed to score good hits to the creature's midsection.
The dragon returned by biting Ron in the midsection. Alice sent a bolt of ice at the beast while Thomas healed Ron's wounds. Suzanne and Ron managed to finish the dragon off with slices to its head. The dragon fell from the sky.
"Oh my goodness!" exclaimed Alice. "Do you guys realize what we just did? We just fought and killed a dragon! How many people can say they've done that?"
"Rather coincidental that it was flying by just as we came up here," observed Thomas as he healed the group from their burns. "I'm guessing that's the guardian of this tower."
"Hey, I don't think we visited that part of the tower," observed Suzanne, pointing to where the creature fell.
"There is one staircase we haven't tried yet," said Ron. "Maybe it would lead there?"
The group proceeded across the rope to the other side of the tower. They found two staircases, one going up and one going down. The ascending staircase led to a chest with an iron helmet in it. The other one led to a dead end. The group backtracked all the way back to the plus-sign shaped room on the ground floor and took the staircase they hadn't taken yet. After going up another flight of stairs after that, they came to a chest with some more gold in it.
"Well, that's all the stairs. We still haven't gotten back to that room we saw across the pit with the stairs and chest in it," said Ron.
"Let's return to the floor where we fought the dragon. I swear we haven't been in the area it fell yet," Suzanne suggested.
"Of course, with all the Traveler's Gates and staircases going up and down, it's hard to tell where we've been," said Thomas.
The group returned to the floor where they had fought the dragon. The dragon's corpse was still on the top the spire between the two spires they had been on.
"Alice, can you take some rope and use your magic to fall to that floor? Then we can all get down there safely," suggested Suzanne.
Alice did as she was told and soon the whole group was on the top of the middle spire of the tower. The middle spire was completely open to the sky. The group found that there were three small grey figures huddled around the dragon's corpse.
"Are those slimes?" asked Alice.
"They look like they're encased in metal," observed Ron.
The slimes heard the group and immediately turned around. Two of the grey slimes ran away immediately and jumped off the tower while one cast a spell and sent a fireball at the Suzanne. The group quickly got their weapons out to defend themselves from the small creature. Alice sent an exploding fireball at it but it did not seem to affect it at all. Ron, Suzanne, and Thomas took their weapons to it only to find their strikes glanced off the slime, which was indeed encased in metal.
The last metal slime hopped away from the group at great speed and jumped off the tower as well. The group went to watch its descent, thinking it was going to splatter as it hit the ground. However, the slime hit the ground and hopped away at the same great speed as though it were nothing.
"That was strange," said Ron. "But I guess they probably didn't want to fight us anyway. The one probably only stayed back to cover the others' escape."
"Those were metal slimes!" exclaimed Alice. "This tower is full of wonders!"
"Don't get so excited, we've seen plenty of enemies that are little more than stronger versions of other enemies," replied Ron.
"No, you don't understand. Metal slimes are incredible. Ancient legends say that whoever can slay metal slimes will be given great power. According to the books, people used to obsessively hunt the creatures, hoping for power," explained Alice.
"Well, they don't seem interested in fighting much," replied Suzanne. "Unless they really try to kill us, I say we just leave them alone."
The group checked the top of the spire. There were no stairs but there was another crack in the tower leading down. Once again, Alice used her magic to descend and bring the rope down so the others could follow. Now they were in a large room with one descending staircase. As they went down, they found themselves on the other side of the gap they had not been able to cross before next to the chest they could not reach.
"Looks like we were supposed to fall off that rope," said Suzanne. "Interesting design."
Alice checked the chest and opened it. Inside was a book that looked as though it had just been printed yesterday. The book was written in an old language that the group could not read. Alice, however, recognized the title.
"I saw this in the libraries," she gasped. "The title says, 'Satori.' This is it! This is the book of Satori!"
The group returned to the Temple of Dhama with the Book of Satori in their possession. After some studying of the book, Alice found that the most important aspect of being a sage was the pursuit of knowledge. Since no other member of the group was as dedicated to learning as she was, the group decided it was she who should become a sage. Alice took the book to the high priest of Dhama and, after a short ceremony, she officially became the first sage since the First Great War.
With just under three months to spare still, Alice studied and honed in her new skills, with the help of the rest of the group. It was like Alice was back in school all over again, with the rest of the group as her teachers. She remained the group's best arcane magic user and continued to study that as she had been.
Ron and Suzanne taught her how to fight with heavier weapons and in heavy armor. Thomas taught her how to use some basic spiritual magic. They even gave her the iron helmet that they had found in the tower, though it looked silly with her cloak of evasion. The group decided they would get her a sword and armor of her own the next time they went shopping.