The Tower at the End of the World

Posted on Jan 12, 2024 in Tales from the Table. Last updated on Jan 14, 2024.
Part of a series called Enter the Hollow.

Thinking back on all the games I’ve run, the penultimate session of Enter the Hollow must surely claim first place as my favorite. Derivative as it may have been it turned out very memorable, with the fantastical location of the tower, and the high tension that arose despite the lack of any real combat. It truly captured the magic of the game in a way that has been hard to replicate. Looking over my several-year-old session notes I realize that I barely did any preparations for it, and what I did prepare was mainly intended for something the group skipped right past. Sometimes it truly is the improvised games that turn out to be the most memorable. I doubt it would’ve turned out as well with a different group, and the enjoyment would probably have suffered if any of them had known that I stole it all from an episode of a TV show1. Okay, let’s go.

Our intrepid heroes; Aelar the elven wizard, Khoros the dwarven artificer, Cinis the human druid, and Diotos, their shadar-kai elven guide from the dark realm known as the Hollow—the party’s destination—set out on a seafaring journey seeking an ancient dragon capable of flying them out of this world and into another. Said dragon was rumored to be perched atop a colossal tower at the end of the world. They said their goodbyes to every non-player character they’d befriended throughout the campaign and set sail towards the distant horizon. The campaign was coming to an end and everything was at stake. This was the point of no return.

The journey was long and hard. Venturing further and further away from the safety of charted land meant more and more danger. By the time they first spotted the tower looming on the horizon, the group had lost their entire crew in a kraken attack. But our heroes were still standing and their ship was still floating, though barely. The stone tower stood massive, reaching as far into the sky as the eye could see. By the sides of the massive structure was the horizon, coming closer and closer as their vessel approached the tower. It was actually an edge, a line where the world just stopped, the ocean spilling over it; a waterfall as wide as the eye could see, cascading into the dark oblivion below.

The tower stood on a rock, barely large enough to fit the structure’s base. Massive steps had been hewn into the rock, leading from the surface of the water to the tower’s entrance; a set of iron double doors the height of at least two goliaths. The party anchored the ship and made their way up the stairs. Eyeing the doors, they noticed that the ring pull handles were tied together with a thick rope. The left door had an inscription in an unknown language carved into it. Aelar cast a spell to translate it:

Beware all who venture here, for within reside the mistakes of the gods. Shall the rope seal on the door be removed, they will be free once more.

The group hesitated. There was no way into the castle without removing the rope. No windows to climb through, just a grey facade of massive stone blocks. But the fate of the world was at stake and there was little time to waste. Khoros carefully untied the rope from the door and let it drop to the ground. He took a step back and the party paused for a moment, waiting to see if anything terrible would spill forth from within the heavy doors.


Carefully pulling the doors open, the group looked inside. A corridor led into the darkness. Doorways along the walls led into various stone chambers the purpose of which could not be determined, as the interiors had been smashed, crumbled, and torn apart. Huge claw marks lined the walls, stone rubble lay scattered across the floor, ash and soot covered the ceiling, and parts of the floor seemed to have been melted away by some kind of acid. Bones and teeth of various sizes could be seen here and there.

Following the main corridor, they soon arrived at the center of the buliding; a large, cylindrical chamber, extending upwards throughout the tower. A staircase spiraled along the wall, doorways to more unknown chambers dotting its path. The group began making their way up the stairs. It was going to be a long walk.

Walking single file to avoid falling, the party trudged their way higher and higher up the tower. They couldn’t help but wonder about the inscription on the door. If the mistakes of the gods were all locked up in here, where had they gone? The group hadn’t encountered a single living creature. Perhaps they all died centuries ago, leaving behind nothing but piles of bones. This place had to be ancient after all. But there was another possibility, one that worried them far more; that whatever creatures locked up in here had fought each other to the death, leaving only the most powerful one. There had been plenty of signs of violent struggle in the lower chambers, perhaps from fire-breathing, acid-blooded creatures. If anything was still alive in here, it would have to be something truly terrifying.

After walking for hours, the group eventually had to stop and rest. As they sat on the stone steps, eating what rations they had left after the long journey, they suddenly saw a figure emerge from a doorway just below them. They rushed to their feet and readied their weapons. The figure was perhaps the last thing they expected to see in a place like this; a boy, about eight to ten years old, with short dark hair and nondescript clothes. The only thing strange about him was his eyes; they were orange, glowing faintly, and flickering gently.

It looked like he had a fire burning within his eyes.

The boy didn’t look like any kind of monster. He was smiling, an ordinary boy’s smile, as if excited to meet new people. Nothing unnatural about that. In any other place, the boy would’ve fit right in. Sure, there was the detail about the eyes, but in a world of magic, it’s not much stranger—though perhaps rarer—than meeting a tiefling. But here, in the tower at the end of the world, the strangely empty home of all the mistakes of the gods, there was no more unnerving sight. Dragons, demons, monsters of any kind, they would all make sense here. But not the boy.

The party opted for caution and politeness. Approaching carefully and speaking softly, they began asking him the basics; his name and what he was doing in the tower. Diotos even let the boy hold his pet mouse, Julius Cheddar, to keep him happy and make sure they didn’t provoke him in any way. The boy behaved much like any other, and they learned that he had no name and that this tower was his home. They decided to call him Fire because of his eyes. He then asked if they wanted to play with him and, not daring to say no, they agreed.

Diotos pretended to be a monster and began chasing Fire, running after him into one of the doorways along the circular wall. The party watched as Diotos followed the boy down a hallway, turned a corner and disappeared from view. They would very soon lay their eyes upon him again, as suddenly he was flung with great force back into the hallway. Fire had gleefully pushed him back, and as it turns out, Fire was very, very strong.

Thinking quickly, Khoros suggested they play hide-and-seek instead. Fire would be “it”, and while he was counting, they’d get the hell out of there as fast as they could, not that they told Fire about that part. Fire liked the idea and started counting. The group, instead of finding their hiding places among the empty, maze-like stone corridors, ran back out the doorway into the central chamber and continued up the stairs as fast as they could. It didn’t take long before a figure appeared before them, standing in their way. That’s right, it was Fire.

“What’s the matter, don’t you wanna play with me anymore?” He didn’t look happy. Khoros decided that he had had enough, and whipped out his crossbow loaded with a repelling bolt. He fired, sending the boy flying backward, bouncing off the wall and falling into the stairwell, disappearing into the darkness below.2 The party stood in silence for a moment as a wave of relief swept across them. Under the circumstances, no one objected to killing the child. If he really was one, that is. They were more concerned with the possibility that he might come back. Diotos realized that the boy had taken Juluis Cheddar with him when he fell. Oopsie-daisy. No matter, the party rushed on further up the stairs. Better reach the top as fast as possible.

A few hours of arduous trudging later, they could finally see the ceiling. There was a wooden hatch where the stairs met it, which Khoros opened with ease. The roof offered a marvelous sight; peering down from one side of the tower, they could see the ocean, the world, along with its edge, beneath the clouds. From the other side, an ink-black void speckled with stars, much like the sky above them.

They sat down for a brief rest after all those hours of walking up the massive spiral staircase. Besides the magnificent view, there wasn’t much up here. The roof of the tower was no more than an empty circular stone floor, with the hatch leading back down, and enclosed by a short parapet. But after resting for just over an hour, they noticed a shape of sorts moving towards them in the sky. It couldn’t be seen directly in the dark; all they saw was a black spot in the sky where something was blocking the distant stars. And the spot was growing. Rapidly. It wasn’t until it had nearly landed on the tower that they could see what it truly was:

A dragon.

It was massive, its wingspan wider than the tower itself, its scales shimmering a metallic blue, and its eyes fixed on the party. For a moment, nobody spoke. The party didn’t dare move a muscle. Then, with a thunderous yet surprisingly soft voice, the dragon spoke:

“Oh, hello there.” He sounded inquisitive. “Why, I haven’t seen anyone up here since that time some few hundred years ago when I came to visit that king, oh, what was his name? The one with the funny-looking crown and the preposterously long, red cape. Curious fellow, though not half-bad with a sword, I do say. Of course, he wasn’t nearly as good as…”

The dragon went on and on. Eventually, the group managed to get a word in and introduced themselves. The dragon had an incredibly long and complex name that no one managed to remember for more than a few seconds. The party explained that they needed a ride to the realm known as the Hollow, which, after a few more tangentially related anecdotes, the dragon agreed to take them there, on one condition: being an ancient dragon, having lived for thousands of years and traveled across countless worlds, he had truly seen it all. All he requested was that the party show him something new; something he had never seen before in his long, story-filled life.

After a few moments of deliberation, the party came up with the perfect idea: Cinis, the druid, was going to dance, while Aelar would make some magical sparkles in the air. One terrible roll later and the dragon was convinced: he had never seen such a truly awful performance before. The group climbed onto the dragon’s back, and off they went.

The dragon soared into the darkness between worlds, knowing just where to go. After twenty sessions played over half a year, they would finally enter the Hollow.

And that’s the whole session! Nothing super remarkable, but definitely evocative and exciting! But for most of these stories, I guess you had to be there to get the full experience. So why don’t you go right ahead and gather up some friends and go on a kick-ass adventure of your own, eh?

  1. The Magicians, season 3 episode 13. ↩︎

  2. I made them all roll a wisdom saving throw here, and Diotos rolled really poorly. After the end of the campaign (the next session), he turned out to be possessed by Fire. Unfortunately, we never picked up on that cliffhanger. ↩︎

Part of a series called Enter the Hollow.

Previous: An Incident at the Bathhouse

Tagged as D&D 5e, Me as the game master.