Part 37 of Quest
Part 2 of A Quest Special Event:
& Part 2 of Irene’s Solo Quest: A Game of Death
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Can you read my mind?
She wondered and walked in gloom;
broken tower looms
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Sleek in creamy silk, her elocution
perfect, the goddess of fate accompanies
Irene, who feels feckless and a fraction
of the courage she had before company,
as august as this petite black woman,
joined her quest; deep down she’d hoped answers
would be found elsewhere, closer to the man
she longed to rejoin; mem’ries are cancer.
That tower is riddled with the worst kind
metastasizing every teenage heart
broken, each crush crushed by unkind
reality, where social outcasts part
ways with sanity and fling around spells
partly understood while emotion swells…
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“People will forget what you said, People will forget what you did, But people will never forget How you made them feel,” Maya Angelou said. Had she stood here now within sight of that tower, she’d have amended her statement to include places. Irene could never forget that place or how it made her feel, then and now.
Not a place she wanted to go, but she set one foot in front of the other and headed for that tower. Time had decapitated its turreted top, leaving a headless stone corpse bent and leaning. It needed a good lie down next to the rubble that once housed the workrooms for the most advanced students.
“You didn’t answer my question. What happened here?” Irene forced her gaze to shift from the tower, turning it into a black smudge at the periphery of her vision that grew with each step. She regarded her travel companion.
“What you expect, betrayal served cold with a slice of deceit and an unhealthy dollop of arrogance to top it off. Such is the recipe for all downfalls,” Fay said, her tone wry.
Irene took another swig of the canteen Fay had handed her. It wasn’t liquid courage but it did warm her belly and stop its complaining. Nothing looked edible here and that went double for the tower and its contents.
Flagstones, yellowed brick, had once led to the Academie de Magica’s door. A few cracked stones remained outlining the old path, but the rest had crumbled away or been repurposed elsewhere. Running her hand along the cast iron gate, memories rise of summer dalliances, the perfume of lavender florets and the tickle of grass against her bare bottom…
Within a half hour they had reached that weathered door, which hung now off its hinges, its wards broken, its warden missing. Irene touched that pitted wood, that scarred cheek of a place that had once been home. A bundle of ripped cloth mingled with debris lay across the threshold. Irene bent and fingered its folds, then falteres when bones tumbled out. Dusting her hands off in her skirt, she straightened up and and continued, not wanting to know what had happened.
Darkness eclipsed all sight once through the doorway into what had been an antechamber for sorting out visitors. The tower had only slit windows and not many since magic could escape through even the smallest crack. A flame, not one lumen more then necessary to light their way, bobbed up and down on Fay’s palm like an excited puppy. It threw light on broken chairs, ripped tapestries and a lavender carpet clawed almost in half. Decay’s rotting perfume made Irene cough. Something had died not long ago.
“Do it now while it’s clear.”
“Do what?” but she knew what Fay meant. Twine memory and magic together to call up the ghosts of this place and see what event had created the Undeem’s Queen and perhaps, the tower’s breaking and the school’s dissolution. How many generations of magically gifted youngsters had gone untaught?
Pulling magic from within herself, she started fashioning it into chains. The first links she made from memory, drawing in the man she loved. The first time she had seen Istan sitting on a barrel, fingers plucking a guitar. ‘Twas like at first listen–
He strummed the guitar;
Its strains kept time with the spells.
His song wove magic.
One from without and now one from within–she plucked another memory from her school days, this time one that starred her, an intimate piece of her past:
in a bejeweled box,
her heart is kept safe from him,
caged in crushed velvet.
Link three must anchor this working to the present. Calling forth her impressions of the tower as it was now even though it made her shudder:
Smudge on horizon
a broken tower resolves
approach with caution
Sweat beaded her brow as she hooked that link, dark and foreboding, onto the other two, extending the spell. Now for the past again, this time the school that had taught her.
laugher mixed with spells
grimoires jumbled with textbooks
math and magic meet…
As she crafted the fifth link, the school’s present reality, a tear slid down her cheek. It disappeared into darkness at her feet to water the shadows.
vanished, devoured by time
a shell left behind
She shoved that link onto the chain which resisted its inclusion. More power resolved that problem. The spell chain burned in her hands; three links blazed bright and two sat sullen, their colors the muted palette of dissolution. She needed one more link to bring the circle round and fill it.
She twisted a question, the one she’d come
here to answer into the final link.
It settled into a curl of iron from
the gate she’d touched and that settled the link,
cold and dark to bring the spell full circle.
The spell chain rose, spinning as it widened.
She’d forgot to check the floor for circles.
Too late she noticed–the spell descended,
its mouth swallowed her and everything within
that power circle which had magnified
her spell; she fell through time, a specter in
the spell’s net, without a lifeline or guide.
The tower straightened, young people clogged halls;
their robes embroidered with ruins, good ones all…
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Secrets that fester
chew through stonework leaving holes–
evil enters in.
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