tower window with strange and wondrous jars and bottles

Ascend Merlin's Tower

The tower looms over the castle courtyard, its shingled roof tapered and crooked like a witch's hat, silhouetted by the faint light of a crescent moon. The castle is asleep, but in the single window at the top of the tower, a faint flame flickers. Hoping this means the resident of the tower is awake and willing to receive visitors, your steel your resolve and cross the courtyard.
As you approach the wooden door, it swings open with a great creaking groan. You pause and call out, "Hello?"
No one answers, so you peek inside. Torches light a twisting stair that spirals up the center of the tower. Knowing that your errand is urgent, you begin the climb.
Time seems to lose all meaning as you take step after step. How tall is this tower to keep you climbing so far? Each turn of the stair is identical, making it difficult to count how long you have been climbing or how far you are from the top.
Finally you emerge through a trap door into a round room with a tall ceiling. Books cover every imaginable surface, stuffed in shelves, piled on tables, and even sitting on the rafters. An owl eyes you from its perch, giving you a slow blink with its golden eyes.
Maps hang from the walls and scrolls are shoved between the books. Glass jars filled with a variety of items line one shelf: dried herbs, glimmering scales, colored powders, and swirling liquids. All are labeled in an unknown script by a spidery hand. A pointed gray hat hangs from a hook in the wall, though its owner is conspicuously absent.
You stop to gaze at one chart, one of the night sky with the celestial bodies illustrated as heroes and beasts.
You turn in a slow circle, seeking any sign of the tower's master. You see only the owl and a candle flickering in the window, the source of the light that you spied from the courtyard.
A chair sits before the window. With the candle lit, you can't imagine the owner has gone far, so you decide to rest here and await his return.
The owl hoots a few times, but when you don't stir from the chair, it settles down once more, watching the window as if in anticipation.
A fire crackles in a hearth across the room, a cauldron bubbling over it, a fragrance of flowers and ancient amber rising with the steam. Perhaps some potion is brewing, but from the delightful aroma, you cannot believe it is a foul one. Maybe one of healing or promising to grant respite from the cares of the day.
Your head is beginning to nod when you hear a whoosh of wings and look up to see a small hawk with blue gray feathers on its back and a chest streaked with reddish brown enter through the window and land upon the floor.
Surprised, you hop to your feet. Why would a hawk be flying about at night and why was it here?
The hawk eyes you then extends its wings, growing as it does so, the gray feathers turning into the long robes of an old man. He leans upon a gnarled staff and considers you with keen eyes. His white beard flows across his chest, long and tangled with twigs from some woodland adventure.
"I did not expect company tonight, especially one who has traveled as far as you have. What aid can I offer you, adventurer?"
You explain that you are far from home and not sure where to go next or why you are traveling through this area, but that you heard he was a being of great wisdom who might be able to help you find your way back to where you belong.
He nods slowly. "I can, but I sense that it is not yet time for you to return. Another, greater task awaits you first. You will need luck and guidance. I think it best if you meet with the king." He strides across the workshop and picks up a jar of shimmering silver powder. He puts one long finger into the jar then marks your forehead with its contents. "Powdered dragon scale, for protection against dark fae. A good start, but also take this." He hands you the candle from his window sill. "You will need light where you are going. Carry this close and foster the flame. As long as it burns, you are safe in this realm."
You thank him and he pushes aside one of the bookshelves to reveal a small alcove with a mattress and blankets. A stained glass window here lets in moonlight and there is a ledge perfect for your candle.
"You may rest here tonight. Tomorrow I will arrange for you to meet the king," the wizard says before leaving you alone.
You settle into the blankets as your candle flickers and moonlight filters through the colored glass and slowly fall asleep.



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