Tower’s Quest Part 2
Part 39 of Quest
Part 3 of Irene’s Solo Quest: A Game of Death
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Thoughts fall from fingers
shaken loose by slipping feet–
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She floated, fell through time and memory.
The tower rose, straightened; its turreted top
reformed, crowned its top; runes in ebony
and ivory where students now romp–
they spin, robes flaring, runes blazing in spell’s
light as bare feet waltz o’er them following
magic’s design, that bridge between the swells.
They’re missing signs of sanity’s breaking,
lost in the ebb and flow, drinking too deep
of magic’s brew, sparing later no thought;
for them there’s only now; common sense seeps
into minds drifting over the line, caught
outside the tight confines of rational
behavior–danger is collateral.
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Irene landed on the tower as it was. Not broken but infused with generations uncounted of spells gone wrong and a few that had worked out right. Saturated with hormones, its stones vibrated with the sexual tension of the students studying there. Magic mixed too well with passion, oft times with disastrous results.
In fact she’s landed, incorporeal as a memory, amid a working in progress. Foolish kids with no flair for reality stomped out rhythms as they swirled about. Not a thought spared for what their arcane chicanery would bring about.
Irene shook her head. Did the fools not see what their spell would wrought? She read it like lines on a palm; this working had a short lifespan. It should come with a warning: disaster ahead but not the disaster she’d accidentally come to witness. Or was it?
Sitting cross-legged and out of the way on a section of roof free of mages-in-training, she scanned the participants. A bone chalice passed hand to hand among the revelers and she rolled her eyes at that gratuitous nod to stereotypes. One young thing danced her way into the center of the rough circle of chanting dancers.
“Roses have beetles,
chewing leaves and leaving holes
for death to enter.”
The woman paused in her recitation, tossed a rose into the circle and then nodded to the group. They provided a haunting refrain:
“Death’s cold caresses,
the earth’s eternal embrace,
in dirt fore’er lie.”
Something pinged in memory. Oh surely they weren’t… They couldn’t be that stupid… Yes they were. Damn.
That hooded woman remained in the circle’s center as the other students formed two circles around her. The inner circle marched clockwise chanting that bit about the rose. Meanwhile the outer circle marched counterclockwise and chanted the refrain. In the center, that teenage girl stood ram-rod straight, arrogance dripping like wax from the taper she held aloft. She began the forbidden invocation:
Come Death quick with scythe,
Come Prince Death with quelling touch.
Come Death, invited!
Irene rose but she couldn’t stop this. It had already happened a long, long time ago. This was what she had come to see and it was far worse than anything she could have imagined. Forcing herself to watch, she gripped her upper arms as dread wrapped cold arms around her.
A puff of wind knocked the taper’s flame onto the rose; it blackened, bled ash-shaped petals into the chalked star inscribed around it. More wind lifted the ash, brushing it like paint upon air that turned opaque and billowed like smoke. A humanoid silhouette shaped itself by calling dead things to it. Someone slashed open a throat and a robed body fell, snatched by Death’s windy hands to become a shell for its being. The dead boy’s soul crawled out of his eyes and misted away, free of the earth and his fellow classmates who’d sacrificed him.
Irene shuddered and then froze as she met the pupil-less star-scape that filled the Prince of Death’s eyes. The fools who had summoned him twigged to the fact that one of Death’s aspects stood among them, bare of constraints. Recalling their Summoning 101 class, they rushed to construct a ‘keep things in’ power circle to contain Death, but he just tipped his head back and laughter, like a raucous call of a crow, left his full white lips.
He stepped past the protections his summoners, in their haste, had forgotten to power. Stopping before the girl who uttered the invocation, he looked into her eyes. She crumpled into a gibbering mess at his feet that rocked and spewed poetic nonsense:
“he is too GQ
for a frumpy girl like you
‘cept in reverie…”
Maybe it was her mantra. It sounded ridiculous enough to be one. He touched her forehead with his thumb and she slumped down, dead. When her soul stretched wings to fly away, Death caught it in his hand–a ghostly butterfly–which he cupped and regarded for a moment.
“You have to release her,” Irene said, forced to speech even though her words would make no difference. She hadn’t been here for this. Her spell had sent her here to play witness and do research, not to interfere.
Death tilted his head, like a bird, and regarded her. “Why?”
One word, a question whose answer a soul depended on.
Some of the students made a break for the trap door and the ladder that led into the Academie de Magica’s tower. Back to stone walls that offered safety inside wards made to hold off minor deities, which Death was not. A flick of his free hand locked them in place and stopped them in awkward positions. Some froze with one foot up to take that next step. They didn’t topple.
“I asked you a question. You haven’t answered it.” A flash of a smile, there and gone beneath the shadows of his hood, sank her heart down a deep hole. Death and mischief mixed with disastrous results.
“Play a game with me,” said Death with a smile.
“Play for eleven souls, win their freedom.
Choose their destination–fire for awhile,
in torment they can burn until I don
salvation’s robes and deliver them from
hell’s hot embrace or, perhaps you will choose
to send them into the Gray Between from
which they might choose their own path, there to loose
their eternal life to wandering or
find heaven’s port across the Ever Sea.
Choose your part, damn them by inaction or
play a game with me for life, liberty
and their future; oh play a game with me;
play it well and you’ll save the lives you see…
~ ~ ~
refusal damns but choice saves
those innocent fools.
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Irene’s Quest continues in Tower’s Quest 3
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