Tower’s Quest Part 6
Part 51 of Quest
(Picks up where Tower’s Quest Parts: One, Two, Three, Four & Five left off.
Irene is playing chess against Death. At stake are the eleven souls who thought summoning Prince Death was a good idea. Meanwhile, a student named Imelda, captured the Battlecrow whose bellow of outrage ended the last part.)
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Screech of a trapped bird
Someone captured Battlecrow
Death’s warrior aspect.
Irene clapped her hands to her ears as a scream erupted from below. No, surely someone wasn’t stupid enough to call and capture the Battlecrow? A second scream followed the first confirming Irene’s fears. Her gaze drifted to the souls depending on her to win a game that she was losing. Only seven left now but she couldn’t hold off checkmate for much longer. Seven lives versus hundreds and an imprisoned aspect of Death–she had to go now before the situation spiraled anymore out of control.
“I’m sorry,” she met each of the seven remaining souls’ gazes and then stepped off the chessboard.
“You can’t leave. The game isn’t over.”
Death implacable had spoken and his basso profundo shook her to the marrow of her bones.
“I have to go. One of your aspects is captured. Does that not grieve you? Or at least move you to action?”
Death shook his head, the planes of his face hardening into armor. His crown iced over and extruded spikes that glittered. Black-tipped flames blossomed in his hand and spread, outlining the shaft of a scepter. On its jeweled head Death’s crest, a vulture, etched itself into the top most facet of a stone as large as a child’s fist. Power gathered around that jewel, making her skin crawl at its unnaturalness. When Prince Death spoke again, not one voice issued from his throat, but a multitude.
“My dear sorceress, we are legion. Detaining one does not harm or hamper the rest of us.” He stalked towards her, his gaze pinning her in place. He was not done with her or the game yet. She shivered.
Prince Death stared her down
willed the game to continue
star-shot eyes compel…
Fall into Death’s eyes
never rise again with sense
must fight the impulse…
A third scream tore through the falling night and Irene stuffed her fingers into her ears until it ceased. Prince Death’s mask slipped just a little and his star-filled eyes narrowed. No doubt he had identified which of his aspects was caught.
The paradigm shifted before he could do anything with that knowledge. The ground trembled as the world reset itself following new rules as a shockwave mauled Irene and the tower. She landed hard with the breath knocked out of her. Pushing to hands and knees, she crawled to the trap door, seized the ring in its center and levered it up.
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Imelda smiled; her web was a fine network of spells that had taken years to craft. They drained power from the Battlecrow–the only aspect of Death that slung swords instead of spells. The one aspect not protected against magic or its wielders because she offered release to the slain on battlefields.
More spells funneled the power of death into Imelda–coursing black fire that scalded her insides, melted her organs, seared her bones. Her knees buckled and bile welled up in her throat. She vomited, staring at fingers bleached white, nails that cracked and split, breaking into dust. Her hair coarsened into wire, kinked and sharp-edged. Her skin peeled off, revealing layers beneath that broke off in chunks as her transformation continued.
Collapsing on her side, Imelda writhed as life was corrupted into unlife. Magic that throbbed black and wriggled, extruding pearls of sickly purple mucus, crawled over her, covering her her head to toe in a putrid chrysalis. Her body shook and so did the stone under her and the tower rising above her head.
A scream tore free from her liquefying lungs that ended in a wet gurgle. It echoed through the tower, stopping students in the halls below and sending their teachers running towards the stairs and the source of that scream. Even after breath ceased to stir within her, that scream didn’t die. It went on, carried through stone to earth where nature herself took up the horrific refrain.
life’s pendulum swings death-ward
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