The Grand Exchange

As you begin to climb the dull stone stairs you hear what at first sounds like the moaning of Keening’s constant winds, then it quickly ascends to an ear piercing shriek like nothing you have heard before. The sound tears through your ears, your mind and seems to tug at your soul. Sorrow, pain, eternity all are bound up in the wailing keen that comes from somewhere up above. It cuts off as you hear a women’s voice scream, “GIVE ME MY BABY!”
Reaching the top of the stairs you see a vast chamber lies before you, stretching nearly one-hundred fifty feet across and rising to a similar height at its center. A series of stone pillars rise from floor to ceiling.
Despite the size you can’t help but feel trapped, wrapped in a horrible cocoon. Clearly this room was once given over to the care of spiders. Webs of every description cover the walls and ceiling and stretch from pillar to pillar. From the fairest gossamer silk to cables as thick as a man’s arm. Great nets of web, tunnels leading deeper into the mass, knots hinting at trapped prey all snarl and wrap around the room. Many glow with disturbing otherworldly light. Knowing the barren nature of Keening there should be nothing for so many vermin to feed on, yet feed they must for the dreadful denizens of the many webs stir and rustle and peer into the room. You see mandibles the size of sword blades dripping venom, faceted eyes like dinner plates reflecting the fey light of the webs back at you.
At the far end of the room is a massive golden altar shaped like an overturned black widow. Webs reach out from the walls behind and seem to reverently touch the altar with but a strand. Scattered about the floor are odd sticks and bits of stone. A black-bladed long sword is half sunk into the body of this gleaming monstrosity, as if it had been used to slay the gigantic spider.
Gathered around the altar is a strange group. Floating in the air above the golden altar is a spectral women clad in mist and vapor. Her skin is coal black and glitters like the midnight sky. Long white hair floats freely in the air around her head, forming an almost angelic nimbus. Her delicate features are twisted in torment and agony, and black tears trickle down her slender cheeks. Her hands clutch a tattered shroud, wringing and folding it constantly.
On the right side of the altar a gathering of ghostly creatures seems to drift in and out of the world. Many have aspects of both animals and men. Wings of a bird, tail of a lizard, ears of a mule, and so on. In front is a tall man with the legs of a goat and tall curved ram’s horns. He carries a spectral lute and wears faded finery of an unknown erra.
To the left Lorelei stands alone. Her hair is in disarray and her once-pretty clothes are badly torn. She is clearly very frightened and holds before her…
Just as the spectral woman begins to reach towards the object Lorelei holds the shadows suddenly coalesce into the shape of a tall thin elf dressed in black finery and a riding cape. His appearance is gaunt but does not seem to indicate frailty. With calm confidence he extends an arm to block Tristressa’s reach. She screams an ear piercing soul rending wail, “Murderer! Child slayer! Law breaker! You dare to come here and stand before me!?”
He replies calmly, “I seek a bargain, Tristressa, not conflict. This mortal is mine. Surrender the sword to me and I will give you back the child you have lost. Do this, and I will be on my way.”
Tristressa moans low and painful. As if in echo the spirits around her seem to groan in agony, the very rock of the mountain aches with her pain. “Again you hold my child before me, I would see you seared in the sunlight as once you did to me.”
“And yet, you know you haven’t the power to destroy me and I can take back the child even now. This is not the time for revenge lost-one. It is a time to regain what was lost.”
“Fine! Take back your symbol; I no longer play these games. Just leave my child here with me.” With that, she waves a hand at the sword on the altar.
In a flash Loht springs atop the great spider and clutches the hilt of the blade. He slides it forth with a flourish and stands triumphantly. He directs his gaze to Lorelei, “Our time together, I’m afraid, is over. As promised I have brought you to the kingdom of the fey, deep beneath the mountains. Here you’ve met their queen and stood by my side. Now dwell here forever and never grow old.” His form grows hazy and indistinct as he melts into a pool of shadow and fades away.
At the same time Tristressa grabs the object from Lorelei, who screams in pain at the touch and falls backward.

The Grand Exchange

A Light in Darkness MKing MKing