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Elminster Speaks - Part 34
By Ed Greenwood
Now that I've armed ye with particulars to spare regarding the operation of the portal often used by Perendra to enter or leave Voonlar unseen by Zhents and other unfriendly folk, 'tis time to tell ye what to expect at its far end.
Some Harpers have warned me that the same portal leads elsewhere -- to various Sword Coast locations, according to those who are muttering secrets my way -- if commanded by different words. However, those I know and have already given lead to a locale surprising to some: the uppermost room of a ruined, leaning stone tower in the heart of the southern city of Delzimmer. Specifically, they lead to a windowless, conical stone chamber with a lofty vaulted ceiling that stands within the spire of Malthuk's Tower.
The chamber is reputed locally to be haunted by the ghosts of two human mages who slew each other therein. Malthuk, one of the mages who died in therein, is said to have either built or inherited the tower some four centuries ago. He dwelt there for twoscore-and-some years before being attacked by a former apprentice, the overly ambitious, flame-red-bearded Halrith Esral. Some have seen their silent phantoms chasing each other up and down the crumbling spiral stone stair at the heart of the Tower, hurling spells at each other whose visual displays are vivid, but -- like the battling mages themselves--no more than harmless illusions.
The Tower itself exhibits a pronounced lean to the northeast, and its walls display many long, interlinked cracks -- but those walls are over a foot thick and have withstood many, many attempts on the part of young mages to fell them with blasting spells. No doubt some such fool will succeed in bringing it down, someday, but at my every visit it has seemed sturdy enough.
The Tower stands within a modest ring of broken-down walls, the space within given over to the stone rubble of collapsed outbuildings, crawling vines and shrubbery (dominated, I must say, by an overabundance of thorns), occasional rats, and far more than occasional snakes. Indeed, small dusty vipers seem to glide everywhere, most of them possessing poison feeble enough not to slay outright but quite strong enough to keep the ruins uninhabited despite their central location in Delzimmer.
It's clear that many folk have scoured the ruins repeatedly for treasure, even to the extent of hammering holes in the interior walls of the Tower rooms, and that they either successfully plundered it long ago or left empty-handed.
There are three cellar rooms: the well cellar; another an apparent granary or pantry; and the third a cell for confining slaves, beasts, or perhaps persons kidnapped for ransom or perhaps to suffer magical experimentation. My own explorations have led me to suspect that the well in the tower cellar still yields drinkable water and that its shaft probably conceals a storage niche for some magical treasure or other (behind a loose stone, probably). However, many strong spells lie in wait guarding whatever lies in the well -- and the guarded area is submerged beneath the water. Moreover, evidence suggests that someone in Delzimmer maintains some sort of magical alarm that alerts him or her to persons entering the well cellar, whom they soon attack.
Beings may wander the rest of the Tower environs freely without attracting such attention. Such explorers are warned that the well within the compound walls but outside the Tower proper (in the southwest corner, under three stunted bitterthorn trees) is tainted, probably by carrion.
Beasts, outlaws, spies, and persons arranging clandestine meetings for various lawless purposes frequent the Tower compound, but no one dwells there long, and there is no easily found treasure of any sort left for intruders to glean.
The Tower itself boasts five levels of empty rooms opening off its stair (all but the uppermost pierced by many tall, narrow, arch-topped windows, and thus given over to birds and years upon years of their accumulated droppings), but it seems much less interesting than bustling Delzimmer, beyond its ring walls, so in my next missive, we'll venture out into that city.
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