"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Lahsaa shouted, his voice almost to the howling of the blizzard around them.
Rowan glanced back at him, her face almost entirely obscured by the heavy cloak and scarf. "Don't worry Lahsaa, I can still tell where is safe to tread and where will pitch ye down the mountain. Watch that stone by your right foot."
Lahsaa's foot froze and he lowered it slowly in front of the rock, testing his intended path with his staff. The stone slipped away almost immediately and flew off the edge.
The mages eye opened wide, staring first at where the rock had vanished and then at Rowan. She winked. "Come on, we're almost there." she motioned twelve feet above them. The spire they had come to find raised above them: Arda's Peak.
Climbing that last twelve feet was possibly the most difficult part of their long climb and it was with no small amount of struggle that the pair pulled themself over the final lip to stand before the massive tower. It was a construction that belied reason. Made of the purest white marble, it stretched up for an extra fifty feet above them. Its construction was quite unlike anything Lahsaa had ever seen before. It seemed to take building styles from everywhere, Dwarvish walls, Elven door frames, overhangs that looked vaguely Rumish and the mage was fairly sure that it would contain more examples inside as well. It seemed to be a mash of culture, style and design but it worked in an odd way. The building melded together seemlessly in a way that made it look grandiose, but also as if it were aware. As if it knew that it was the highest peak on Arda and used that vantage point to look down on the world.
Lahsaa shuddered in a way that he knew not from the cold. It was watching them, he was sure of it. It had taken him a while to realise it but the magic in the air here was so rich it was nearly palpable. It was magic in its purest form, its richest and its most stable. A quick glance around with his mage-sight showed him why - thirteen leylines converged on this tower and it seemed to hold them in a perfect balance.
"Wow..." he breathed, squinting against the snow storm as he tracked his eyes up the building.
"Lahsaa! Come on! Admire the inside rather than the outside!" Rowan shouted, giving him a light shove to get his attention.
With a nod they trudged through the snow that had been untouched for the Gods only knew how many years to the massive set of wooden doors that stood as the portal. The pair knew not to touch it, both using their various skills to check for hidden surprises or traps.
"Looks free of traps and religious energies, but that's no surprise." Rowan said, leaning towards Lahsaa to talk into his ear so as not to shout again.
The sorcerer frowned as he hovered his hand over the door, his eyes wide as his mage sight tried to pick out anything wrong with the door. But he was struggling, the magic was so thick in the air it was hard to tell what was the surroundings and what was the door. "I... I think it's clear." he replied and before he could say more, Rowan reached out to the latch and pushed.
The door didn't budge.
She frowned and pushed again, slightly more forcibly and when that didn't work she flung herself forward with her shoulder. There was a crack of magical power and the forester was suddenly flung backwards into the snow some twelve feet away from the door.
"Rowan!" Lahsaa exclaimed, rushing to her side as she picked herself up.
"I'm fine! Don't worry." she replied, dusting herself down more out of habit than with any actual intention to clear the snow from herself. "Guess I got impatient."
They both winced as the voice struck their minds harshly, exchanging a glance as they moved back towards the door.
[Declare. Yourselves.] The voice repeated. Whatever it was, was angry.
"Huntsmaster of Ithron, Rowan Tait. Mother Devotee of Crowa." she declared to the door.
"Lahsaa Nethir, Sorcerer, Kindred of Kharach and last of the Einherjar." he intoned, a hard look in his eyes.
There was silence, the wind stopped howling and blowing around them, it was like the entire world paused for close to half a minute before everything started again and the doors opened wide, revealing a long passageway.
[Come. I have been expecting you.]
Rowan and Lahsaa didn't even pause to think and strode confidently inside as the doors slammed shut behind them...