Tower’s Quest Part 4
Part 45 of Quest
(Picks up where Tower’s Quest Parts: One, Two & Three left off.
Death is playing the white squares, our heroine, Irene, the black. At stake are the eleven souls who thought summoning Prince Death was a good idea.)
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The game continues:
White squares take black’s, chance dwindles
as checkmate nears…
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A show of strength, that’s what she needed now
to win the game, return those captured
students to hearth and classes to learn how
to use spells responsibly, not rupture
established order, risk oblivion
on a checkered ground where their souls spin round
like bright sparks caught in Death’s obsidian
grasp, while that ancient darkness waits around
for those spirits’ stories and game to end.
When all bets are cashed in and Death’s coming,
they’ll wave goodbye to the amethyst spires
of the Ever Lands beyond Death that sing,
lands evergreen but not meant for liars,
those who embraced Death before their time came
through some folly or deliberate game.
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Irene needed a miracle. What had possessed her to play chess against Death? One glance at the eight souls and their bodies and she had her answer. Their frightened eyes pinged her and then flashed away, afraid to stare too long into the slender hope they held for freedom.
Death waved a hand and the knight slid forward, fear etching lines in its ghostly face. A tussle ensued as the Knight landed on a square occupied by its body, decked in similar garb. The soul made a grab for its skin sack but its hands passed through it and it drifted off the square, carried by surprise and a helpful gust of wind that won Irene the square.
She glared at the bishop three moves away from checkmate. Somehow she had to avoid it.
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Behind Irene, a trap door inched up. Someone peered at the roof and the strange goings on up there. A pair of astute eyes above lips that curved, revealed the mastermind of the travesty playing out on the Academie de Magica’s roof.
Imelda dropped the trap door into place and descended the stair. Hooking a left into the first workroom she encountered, she dodged scattered spell books, cushions and other obstacles heading towards the star-shaped impression in the floor. Eight rays radiated out of a central circle which itself was enclosed in a greater circle. Symbols for protection had been incised on the floor. She touched the cool granite and gave its nonporous roughness a loving pat; it would not allow any of the magic worked here to escape.
Humming, she slipped into the circle and pulled out her chalk from her skirt pocket. Death stood directly above her on the very porous dolomite roof. So kind of him to place himself there. She smiled and started inscribing the first sigils of her spell. Imelda sat cross-legged as she sketched, her sleeve riding up to reveal a tattoo of a fat spider content in its web.
Prince Death’s gaze never wavered from the board but his awareness piqued at her arrival. He sent out feelers that sank through the roof and drifted in a shower of black petals. They twirled; one petal brushed Imelda’s cheek with invisible bristles.
“Come close said spider,
dance upon my web, no trick–
no stick–fast attack.”
She quivered with desire. Such power in him, the imitable foe of all the living–power enough to make one miracle. She must play the spider, weave a web so fine he won’t sense the trap she’d set…but first a sacrifice must be given.
Last stroke sets circle–
come power to fuel my spell–
make me Death’s Priestess…
The Academie de Magica had its own reservoir of power. Students fed it some of their magic, building up the store for large workings, like the one she performed now. Delving down–through the tower and its many classrooms, quarters and stores–down through the foundation into the bedrock under the tower, she found that reservoir. It sparkled to her mage sight.
She dipped mental hands into its ebb and flow and pulled it into herself. As she shaped a new spell from its limitless possibilities, she tripped wards set to warn of unauthorized use. Funneling magic as potent as lightning into herself, she heard the rapid ascent of one of her teachers bent on stopping her no doubt. Too late for that, dear teacher, much too late for that…She smiled. It had begun.
Imelda withdrew the ceremonial blade from its jeweled hilt and held it at the ready. More footsteps approached as her profligate magic use drew curious students. Rising, Imelda threw the blade as a shadow crossed the threshold, whispering a prayer.
“Fell my foes, fly true!
Kill those who try to stop me–
strike quick and bite deep.”
Mages weren’t fighters. The bespelled blade caught the robed gray beard who taught spellcrafting in the throat. He went down in a spray of crimson as the blade tore free and dove at the next mage who gasped as it struck him or her down in the stairwell. She released the reservoir’s magic; it was of life and living things and of no use for her dark purpose now that its theft had roused the tower.
Somewhere close a crow screamed its approval. Imelda laughed and clapped her hands; it had worked. The charm had worked! The Battlecrow was coming…
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A crow cawed and circled the tower roof drawing Irene’s attention from the match. Against the gray sky the crow was a black dot that grew as it banked and dove. Death gave the crow a dismissive glance. It grew as a crow ten times larger than any birthed by nature dropped from the sky, its gold tipped claws extended. Fell magic rippled across its black wings in oil-slick waves of banded color. Each primary feather shined like obsidian honed to a killing edge as the Battlecrow approached. Its tight gyre lined up with the trap door leading into the tower.
No…She couldn’t let it pass. Lives pulsed inside the tower, too many and all of them ignorant of Death falling from above.
Death fell screaming ire,
its call a challenge to life,
its claws out to rend…
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Irene’s Quest continues in Tower’s Quest Part 5
(If you missed a part of the main Quest, find it here on its TOC.)
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Quest is now mobile!
*** Image credits for base image: Pixabay + some manipulation from me. So don’t expect to find these exact images on Pixabay.