Spire of Enlightenment
"Seriously. Who had this moronic idea in the first place? I mean... Trekking for days through a salt plain, just to stumble upon a perennial thunderstorm?! Who in their right... well, I guess that's my answer."After traveling the endless white plain under a blue, sunny sky for a day or two, dark clouds seem to start growing on the horizon, ominously towering and every now and then illuminated by lightning. Getting closer, suddenly the lightning reveals the bizarrely twisted, dark spires of the Fanged Ridge, previously invisible against the dark clouds. The spires seem to still grow straight out of the ground towards the dark storm above, and after a while it becomes clear that there is clear sky behind them again - almost as if they are the roots of the tempest.
- "Tell me, Neltoi.... Are those things alive?!"The last hours mean moving up a gentle slope, with the white salt becoming more scarce by the minute, swept away by the rain water draining the ridge. The light seems to fade slowly as the shadow of the clouds starts to envelop the traveler. An eerie feeling gets stronger with every step towards the ridge, until suddenly the traveler finds his hair literally raised. At this point, the air has cooled considerably, and the largest of the spires now revels its details: around the base, and all the way up to the tip, strangely twisted human-made structures spiral up the spire. Dark and dull at first, they become dark and shiny with an afterglow after each strike, and are crowned by a bright white crown directly beneath the spires tip.The old caravan leader chuckles.- "No, Aroah - but it certainly looks as if they are. Those spires are just very, very tall."
Welcome to the Spire of Enlightenment
This is the place where prospective lightning mages come to learn their craft, and most of them find the appearance fitting. Just like the Fulmination, the Spire evokes feelings of uneasiness, either expressed as outright fear or ridicule. To the traveler seeing it for the first time, the name seems like a cruel joke - there's nothing that points to this being a place of enlightenment. Every detail seems to have sprung from a fevered nightmare, the lair of evil walking on earth, but the truth is more mundane: the frequent lightning strikes are taking their toll on the material, over time slowly causing it to take on a molten appearance.
The very first version of the living quarters around the spire were made of crude wooden huts, but those proved insufficient. Much experimentation was done, and despite not being optimal, the bedrock being mined between the spires has become the go-to material. However, with time came wear, and the older levels of the spire are prime examples of imaginative improvisation to prevent the ceiling from melting over their heads - marble, crystal pieces, glass and sometimes wood that gets progessively burnt with time have all been used to keep the roof up where it belongs. The higher in the spire you go, and the younger the stone construction is, the more it looks like simple stone walls. As the higher levels are reserved for the higher echelons, the need for stone construction diminishes as the more experienced mages are able to resist the lightning energy, and the metal of the spires gets used and shaped to the inhabitants needs and tastes.
- "This seems like such a cruel place. The new blood has to dwell in this... nightmare-turned-stone, and the higher ranks get the shiny, white crown... Why do people even join them?!"Those quarters are mostly wrought from the spire itself and brought into shape with magic, fashioned with glass windows. Time brought growing experience with materials, and the highest levels are fashioned out of a dull, milky crystal. The Archmages' quarters are right below those floors, but the crystal floors themselves are used mainly for the study of lightning, and there are a few oriels completely open to the elements, for the exclusive use of Masters, Grandmasters and Archmages. In general, the Spire is as chaotic as the minds of its inhabitants. Little thought seems to have been put into its layout other than "Oh, we need another room to do something, there seems to be space." The deteriorating material contributes to the chaos, but as the upper levels are more stable, they have had more thought put into it. Up there the doors are actually able to be closed, for example.
"Oh Aroah, just wait til you meet the inhabitants. If this place can teach you anything, it's that appearance is deceiving!"
- "Aren't people afraid things get stolen here? The doors don't even close!"
- "But who would dare so, little lady?"Aroah jumps a little - this place really unnerves her. She quickly turns around and tries to gather her hair out of her face.- "Please excuse me, I didn't mean to startle you."
A tall man smiles at her, a warm smile. Aroah finds herself captivated by his kind, brown eyes, until she realizes he's holding something out to her - a light blue hair ribbon. A quick glance reveals that he himself has his black curls tamed with the same kind of ribbon, only a lone deviant curl floating up next to his face.
"Take it - it will make things easier for you while you're here! Also, the color just highlights your stunning eyes!"
Aroah blushes, realizing the ribbon indeed matches her eye color, and Neltoi, laughing, comes to her rescue.- "You see, there's no necessity to take anything with people like Talakh! But joke aside, few people come here, and those few are easily questioned should someone take something important. And most people are probably just happy to get away from here as fast as possible."
- "Yes, people are convinced we're all a bunch of lunatics here. And who can blame them, I mean, look at me..."Talakh winks at her and she can't help but laugh. The main defense of the lower levels is the utterly cluttered, chaotic nature of both building and order of rooms. The kitchen might be next to the toilets, the library could be next, followed by the room for some of the Neophytes. There's little, if any, system to it, and items kept there usually don't have much value. Staircases are scattered throughout the lower floors, having been erected wherever the need arose. Neophyte often get picked up by Adepts and led to their classrooms and labs in their first weeks until they got the hang of which rooms hides the stairs to which part of the level above. The higher levels are a different thing. The closable doors allow for bolts, and the metal of the Spire is integrated as a safety measure - the constant lightning makes it a hazard to touch. That part of the Spire is also a lot more difficult to scale, compared to the low levels. The highest levels made of crystal are almost impossible to scale. The smooth surface of the crystals leaves no opportunity to hold on to anywhere, and magical locks keep the doors shut safe for their owner's approach, and most of the important items of ther Fulmination are stored here.
The Dark Spire
Nothing is known about his further fate and if he was cured from his madness by the strike or not. Quite a few people would agree without hesitation that he just taught all subsequent lightning mages the ways of his folly, and thus the construction of living quarters around the tallest of the spires began as a place of worship for lightning.
Cover image: by Vertixico