Book 3: The Yellow Tower
Near the coast where the Sfax runs into the sea, cattle and people are being killed by the Fage. Two hunters, Jon and Randal, track it to its lair in a willow grove. There they see the body of Hadrim and assume it to be the Fage’s next meal. Shortly after this the Fage attacks them from hiding. They try to kill it but cannot. Jon is killed and Randal flees.
After evading the Regent’s men Drexor announces to Laura, Karon and Oswulf, his intention to return to Edronin and reveal Tavrum’s treachery to Sapharon. The three, who need him to help trace Hadrim, decide not to coerce him and agree to return with him. At night they return to the city and go to Sapharon’s town house. They arrive in time to prevent an assassination attempt on the General.
Hadrim is tormented by what remains of the Weregril Nacromis. He is in a very personal hell, but there is a limit to the torment the Weregril can inflict, that limit being Hadrim’s own strength. The Weregril fades, leaves him, or becomes one with him.
At last Drexor is able to tell Sapharon of the Regent’s treachery. Sapharon says he knew of this but had been reluctant to do anything because of the bloodshed that would follow. Then, because Adric has a younger brother and Sapharon’s loyalty is to that line, he decides it is time to act. He gives Drexor a list to take to the commander of his troops, in this way delegating some of the responsibility. With Oswulf’s help Drexor does this. The killing begins. The four are escorted from Edronin during the purge, as they leave they discover that Tavrum and his bodyguard have escaped.
Randal returns to the willow-grove with a larger party of hunters and finds only his brother’s remains. The Fage and the body of Hadrim have gone. The hunters continue on the trail of the Fage for the rest of that day without success. That night one of their number is taken by the Fage.
Drexor and company come to the Autumn Palace. He leads them to where Hadrim was apparently killed. There Karon is persuaded by Laura to use the lachrymal once again, but without accomplishing much. The grey man then appears and points to the South, the direction the Sfax takes to the sea. They soon surmise that this is where Hadrim is. They set out to follow the river.
After the loss of one of their number about half of the hunting party desert. As a precaution Randal and the remaining hunters daub their weapons with a potent toxin before continuing.
During a discussion between Oswulf and Karon the Rell reveals that Hadrim cannot die while the staff is still intact, and that the black-silver spike is only paralysing him. Its removal will free him, but he who removes it will be in the gravest danger from Hadrim’s vampirish urge to survival.
The hunters finally track the Fage to a grove of sea-willows before the mud flats. There, another of their number is killed by the Fage, but it drops its prey and hides in a heaped mass of dead reeds when hit by one of the poisoned arrows. They torch the reeds. The Fage flees, carrying the body of Hadrim. They hit it with a number of arrows and it flings itself into a tidal channel. They follow the muddy swirl of its progress out into the saltings. Eventually the Fage drags itself out onto an islet. Darkness and the turning of the tide hold the hunters where they are.
In his hell Hadrim calls for Nacromis and receives no reply. He falls into darkness, then wakes. On the islet the Fage has pulled the black-silver spike from his body. Hadrim grips the Fage, strangles it, takes from it the life-force to heal himself.
At length the four stop at an inn by the Sfax. Drexor is feeling more and more estranged from the strange trio he is accompanying. At the inn they come across two of Tavrum’s men. From these they learn that the rest of Tavrums men have left him because he has other allies. They surmise by the description of these allies that Tavrum is in league with minions of the Tower.
Hadrim does not take all of the Fage’s life. He releases it and it returns to the water. Now healed he decides to rest upon the islet until morning. From the shore the hunters have seen a strange light. They decide that in the morning they will get a boat and go out to investigate. Morning comes and Hadrim watches the men approach. When they arrive the men are suspicious and more than a little scared, but because it appears that Hadrim has killed the Fage, (he shows them the mask and gauntlets it wore) and also because of their fear, they agree to take him ashore.
Back at Randal’s farmstead Hadrim wonders about his own mortality and what he must do now. He knows he must leave this area for the people fear him to greatly. This is soon confirmed by Randal, who gives him supplies and a sword bought with the proceeds of the sale of the black-silver spike. Hadrim heads on his way.
The four come to a mill house and find its occupants have been killed, there they are attacked by one of the Nathed-hul, and a yeff-hound leading a pack of darvish.
Beyond Randal’s farmstead Hadrim is met by the Rimhound Aldreas, whom all this time had been following his trail. He is disappointed and surprised to find no-one with the hound, but glad of its company.
Fighting a desperate battle Oswulf, Laura, and Drexor retreat to the mill house. Karon takes on the hul, and during their fight they fall down the well. As the three retreat Drexor recognises a rider beyond the battle; it is Tavrum. Into the midst of the battle leaps a white hound; Aldreas. Then comes Hadrim, and the battle son comes to an end. Tavrum tries to escape, but Hadrim sends the Rimhound after him and he is retrieved, alive.
The presence of Hadrim who he had seen killed only increases Drexor’s feeling of estrangement, even so, he tells Hadrim of Tavrum’s treachery. At this point Karon demands to be helped from the well. It would seem total dismemberment kills the Nathed-hul just as well as Hadrim’s staff. Stories are exchanged and Hadrim is brought up to date. Drexor also learns that Hadrim is still set on his quest for vengeance. This he learns while they wait for Tavrum to regain consciousness. When the Regent is conscious they question him, only for him to be killed by one of the spine-braces with which the altered men had been fitted. Drexor surmises that perhaps he had no choice in his treachery, and it is this that brings him to a decision. He retrieves Tavrum’s horse and leaves, saying as he goes that vengeance no longer interests him but responsibility does. Wiser, he heads back for Edronin. In a way Hadrim is glad to see him leave; one of the few of his friends to survive his companionship.
From the Autumn Palace Hadrim, Oswulf, Laura, and Karon use the Portal Hadrim had originally been seeking, and go beyond Dreggedon, where Hadrim has never before been. The Portal leads eventually to the shore of a sea called the Greying. There is a bridge there that they cannot use for it is guarded by the minions of the Tower. Hadrim learns that this bridge is built by those of the Tower, and compares himself unfavourably with them, considering himself only capable of destruction, and not even that now he no longer has the staff.
Karon enters the sea and in some strange manner summons their means of crossing the Greying, this turns out to be a huge turtle who Karon names Greenshell. Laura tells Hadrim that Greenshell is capable of crossing the interstices.
Karon remains in silent communion with Greenshell as they cross the bewitching sea. It is a long journey and they are relieved to discover the sea is of fresh water. For food they eat flying fish, first snapped from the air by Aldreas. Then, with no land in sight, Karon tells them to prepare. They pass from the Greying to a foul black sea that stinks of carrion. The colour of the sky is of a days old corpse. It is the sky of the land where stands the Yellow Tower. They head for a distant land mass.
In the sea they see all manner of horrors, then one like a huge ragworm comes out to attack them. They fight it and drive it back into the sea. The stench gets worse as they near land.
They reach the end of the sea long before the shore. The waves are stilled by a mass of putrefying creatures bound together with weed like human hair. Greenshell can go no further and they depart the turtles back to make their crossing. While about this they come upon a dead whale-like creature that has been tampered with in the same manner as the altered men. At this point Karon tells them that an area the size of Dreggedon has been poisoned by the effluvium of the Tower and is inhabited by those of its creatures that have survived the poison. They also learn that Karon has been watching the Tower for some time and has provided caches of supplies for a journey there. Soon they reach the dead shore and set out on their journey.
They arrive at Karon’s first cache, in a cave, exhausted, for Karon has placed the caches a Rell-day march apart. Hadrim asks how many caches there are and is told there are twenty seven. He asks how long Karon has considered the Tower a threat and is told, “eight centuries” and that the Tower has been there for fifteen. Karon then goes on to tell them that the Tower is full of Portals, leading he knows not where. The discussion then leads to their reasons for coming after Hadrim. He tells Hadrim that the staff is required to free him of the poison of black-silver and the partial possession of what remains of Nacromis. Hadrim believes that Nacromis is now part of him, but is convinced when they ask him how he healed himself. Karon gives him the potion in the second lachrymal. He drinks it and the potion lays quiescent in him. They sleep.
After a long rest they set out across the dead landscape and at length come to a huge pipe, this they follow after Karon tells them it is an outflow from the Tower. They travel on for a long time then rest in the lee of the pipe. Aldreas’s snarling alerts them to attack. A creature comes over the pipe, they fight it and cannot kill it, but eventually, too damaged to continue, it retreats.
By the time they reach Karon’s next cache another pipeline is in view. At this cache, yet another cave, there are weapons. Hadrim, who lost his sword in the battle with the creature, arms himself with three spears, a short-sword, and a slingshot. Oswulf and Laura arm themselves similarly. They sleep in the cave then eat. For some reason Hadrim still feels hungry. When he assists Laura out of the cave he feels that vampirish urge to feed, feeling it also she snatches her hand away. The potion is not enough, they must soon recover his staff. They continue their trek, Hadrim keeping his distance from the rest and keeping himself under control by will alone. The land becomes hilly here and Karon tells Hadrim that there will be creatures in the mountains on which he can feed.
In time they come to cairn, and Karon tells them that this is where he buried Sennath, Hadrim’s father, killed by the Warden of the Tower. The grey man appears there for a moment then departs, then the creature they fought earlier attacks.
Oswulf is flung through the air and knocked out but is saved from the creature by Aldreas’s attack. Hadrim attacks also, then, he flings away his weapons and takes the creature as he took the Fage, the monk, Nacromis, and Cuthred, his brother.
Returned to full cognisance of his surroundings Hadrim sees Laura tending to Oswulf. Oswulf’s ribs and his arm are broken. They carry him to the next cache where Laura tends to him. After resting Hadrim and Karon continue on. Hadrim leaves Aldreas to guard Laura and Oswulf. Their journey is ended.
From the cave Hadrim and Karon go up into the mountains. From the slopes they look back and see darvish in the area where Hadrim killed the creature. Karon assures Hadrim that Laura and Oswulf are safe in the cave.
They reach the top of the mountains and look down to where the stone was quarried for the Yellow Tower. Eventually they come to a place where they can see the convergence of all the pipes, there they see the immense edifice that is the Yellow Tower. Hadrim is shocked at its size. Karon tells him that it is near four miles high and a mile wide. He asks who built it. “Kensic” is the Rell’s reply. Hadrim demands to be told more.
Karon tells Hadrim that Kensic came to this land after the experiments that left the Mad Quarter in Edgehouse and he mad also, then, the land was inhabited and the people got all they needed from the forests or out fishing from the backs of great green turtles… Kensic took control of the people, altered them, and over the long years others came into his service. Karon could not gain entry so went away to be true to his oath of service to Kensic’s kin. After three centuries he returned to find the Tower as it now is. He was met by the Warden and told that Kensic had fled into the Dark, sane at last and horrified by what he had done. Then, eight centuries ago, the darvish appeared; creatures of the Dark. Karon assumed that Kensic had returned and began to watch the Tower again.
After Karon’s story they speculate as to what could have motivated Kensic’s attack on Edgehouse, wondering also if Kensic has truly returned. Karon says that the reason may be the machines in the Mad Quarter, for through them Kensic had sought to attain corporeal immortality. Perhaps he sought death. Much of what had occurred recently was not congruent with this though. They continue on to the Tower, there to find answers.
Trying to find a way down from a cliff on the other side of the mountains they find themselves hunted by darvish. Where the cliff is low they descend by rope and evade them, not before Karon is forced to hurl a few to their deaths. In time they come to another of Karon’s hides. This one is messy, containing the remains of used medical supplies along with other, stranger, objects. Karon tells Hadrim that this is where he had treated Drannen after his and Sennath’s battle against the Warden.
The next leg of their journey brings them to the hillocks of refuse and lakes of putrid water around the base of the Tower. Here they are caught in a sleet of gobbets of flesh; more waste from the Tower. After this they come to the remains of a poisoned forest and a derelict cottage. In the cottage they find hiding a failed altered man. Out of mercy Hadrim kills the altered man. Here his purpose is reaffirmed. He now leads Karon into the Tower.
They spent days wandering in the tunnels in the base of the Tower without finding a way up, then the grey man comes and shows them the way. They climb a huge pipe going up into the Tower. Creatures from the same sea as the Fage attack them on the pipe but they prevail. At the top of the pipe they manage to exit the wall of the Tower, only then does Hadrim realise they have climbed only a tenth of the distance. From there he feels for the staff and senses it high above him. Now they climb the outside of the Tower, then back to the inside and up by tunnels and stairs. During the climb they encounter all kinds of horrors from the Nathed-hul feeding furnaces with still moving but dismembered bodies, to decorations formed of men drowned in large glass bottles. Many times they kill; to escape, and in Hadrim’s case, often to feed, as only in this way can he kill the Nathed-hul. His power increases. As they go on they pass huge glass tanks where creatures are being grown, rooms where altered men in cages have been forced to view the killing of numbers of their comrades by the spine brace, and finally a room where a Jaugre is being made by another species of the Nathed-hul. Here again they have to fight and to run. From here the grey man leads them into hiding and a secret way up the Tower. They come at last to a chamber that is one complete slice out of the Tower, above which is only a ceiling then outer walls extending half-constructed into the sky. In this chamber they come upon an ancient man with hideously burnt hands, bound to a throne. The grey man merges with this man and he speaks. “I am Kensic” he says.
From Kensic they discover that Karon was right only in a few of his speculations:
Originally Kensic was not immortal. He had only managed to confer immortality to his progeny, though not his first son. His experiments in the Mad Quarter were to give corporeal immortality to himself and his son. His son sabotaged the work, but only in so far as Kensic was horribly burned, and those burns made as eternal as he. Driven insane Kensic fled Edgehouse to this land, here to build the Yellow Tower and labour to heal himself. His son joined him, ostensibly to help. In the end Kensic decided he could do nothing but turn off the machines and allow himself to die. His son, who is kept alive by the same machines, did not allow this. Kensic was forced to flee the Tower into the Dark, where he made bargains and gained allies, then returned to lay siege to the Tower. In the end his allies, the Weregril, betrayed him and he was captured by his son, the Warden, and confined to the throne ever since.
Hadrim questions Kensic and is told how the Warden had made it a game over the years to track down and bring his ageless kin to despair and death. It turns out that the Warden was responsible for the killing of Alana, Hadrim’s wife. The first attack of the Jaugre and the Weregril was part of the Warden’s game. The later attacks were because the Warden had learnt of Kensic’s abilities to become discorporate, and wanted to take control of Edgehouse, fearing what Kensic might do there. Kensic then tells them there is a way the Warden, and himself, can be killed; the machines must be turned off. And there is a Portal directly to them from that chamber. Karon, because of and ancient loyalty, agrees to do this. Hadrim decides he must continue to seek after the staff. At this point Kensic warns them to hide.
Riding on a huge flying reptile the Warden arrives. Father and son speak to each other, their hate mutually strong. The Warden says he has been hunting Arrinias’s and gestures to a net bag hung from the reptile. One of the struggling figures in the bag drops something. After this the Warden leaves.
Hadrim finds that the dropped object is Oswulf’s dagger. He asks Kensic where they will be taken. Kensic directs his attention upward to a blister of stone the size of a citadel on the inside of the Tower’s wall. Hadrim persuades Karon to come with him to free them. Reluctantly Kensic agrees to guide them.
As the grey man Kensic guides them to the Warden’s blister and the prison where Laura and Oswulf are held. Here in the Warden’s home the horror is tenfold what it was below. The Nathed-hul come against them, but Hadrim’s power is now so great that they are ineffectual. They free Oswulf and Laura, and in one of the other cells Hadrim finds Miraldia, whom he frees as well. At this point Karon and Hadrim separate; Karon to go with the others to the Portal below and to Edgehouse, Hadrim to go on up to seek the staff.
Before reaching his staff Hadrim comes to a trophy room, where still-living heads are preserved under bell jars. It is the ultimate horror; all the heroes who went against the Warden came to this. Hadrim communicates with one of the heads, this one begs for death for them all. Hadrim tries to break the bell jars but cannot. He kills one of the heads with his unhand, but the extra power he takes nearly sets him afire. He leaves the room and finds the staff. The reaction between staff and potion commences.
Halfway down to the Portal those with Karon hear a terrible scream, and feel the building of power as before a lightning strike. They run for the Portal. Above them hundreds of yards of the Tower are blown away. They escape through the Portal as destruction rains down all around.
Burnt through by the power of the staff Hadrim is freed of the Weregril fragment and the poison of black-silver. He returns to the trophy room and takes the life from all of the heads. He is like incandescent emerald. His clothing is burnt away and he takes up the cuirass and skirt of leaf mail that belonged to the head he spoke with. Charged now with dreadful power he begins to demolish the Warden’s blister.
Back at Edgehouse Drannen and Karon travel into the Mad Quarter and to Kensic’s machines. They embark on a weird journey through distorted reality to go after them.
Dissatisfied with minor destruction Hadrim finds the titanic beams that tie the blister to the wall of the Tower. He breaks the beams and drops the citadel-sized blister down inside the Tower. In the massive destruction that follows he senses all the portals going out. He has destroyed whatever machines controlled them. As he watches the Warden arrives upon his flying reptile and Hadrim is grabbed from the wall of the Tower.
While airborne Hadrim smashes the breastbone of the reptile. They fall to the lower roof of the Tower, then through it. In the chamber where Kensic is held the Warden reveals that their power comes from the same source, only the Warden understands his power and is corporeally immortal. Hadrim uses his instinctively, at close quarters, and is destructible. The Warden then blasts Hadrim out the side of the Tower. As Hadrim falls he realises he cannot win, because his power, though vast now, is limited, whereas it would appear the Warden’s is not. On the ground they fight again, Hadrim continually fending off blasts of power. Then the grey man appears and brings with him the vision of Drannen and Karon destroying the machines in the Mad Quarter. As the vision fades Hadrim tries to attack. The Warden slaps him back with his power, then screams as that power burns his now mortal body. Hadrim kills the Warden, and it is an act of mercy. Later, he laughs with joy and relief to see the Yellow Tower burning. When the Rimhound Aldreas limps out of the wilderness to meet him he cries with relief. Then he turns for the further edge of Twilight.