The Tower [not GW related] Part 1
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He would set her free. It was that simple. He began by sharpening his blade. Thirty-nine inches of fallen starmetal, a hand-and-a-half grip adding another eight inches, a pommel, engraved with the sigil of banishment, Runes of warding seared into the blade by the smithies fires and a coven of warlocks, a blade as strong as his determination, but an edge that was dull as yet.
Only by sharpening the blade itself could he bond with the weapon, only through practise would he learn all its nuances. From tip to pommel, it was every part a weapon, even the quillons of the crossguard. He had chosen to sit here, on this rock, next to the swiftwater creek, because he always found peace there.
The creek ran a meandering course around the rock, its banks lined with fallen autumn leaves. The water chuckled as it ran past rocks and fallen branches. It was soothing, a soft noise, just loud enough to be heard if all else was quiet. Light scattered off the water, giving the glade a soft, diffuse glow. It was the perfect picture of peace, except for one man, sitting on a rock, sharpening perhaps the finest sword the world had ever seen.
His name was Salvatore "Tori" Perenno, and he was preparing the first item in his arsenal against the Tower. He knew you didn't attack the Tower with normal weapons; that was suicide. He also knew that mere armour would not be defense enough. That's why he had spent a small fortune on the coven of warlocks. They had inscribed his blade, and they would enchant his armour.
As he ran the whetstone down the blade he cleared his mind of all thought, concentrating only on the task at hand. The sun moved across the sky, leaves fell from trees, the creek bubbled and burbled, wildlife scampered around the edge of the glade. Tori noticed none of those, so focused was he on his task. By the time the trees were casting long shadows across the creek both edges of the blade gleamed with a slightly unnatural brightness. After a few practise swings he was satisfied.
Tomorrow would be a long day, the fitting of his armour. All twenty plus items the suit of full plate entailed. He would also have to carefully study the enchantments he was going to put on it, to make sure none of them conflicted with each other in any way. But those were problems for tomorrow, for tonight he needed a hearty meal and a good night's sleep.
Before getting up off the rock he carefully slid the sword back into the silver inlaid scabbard made for it. The scabbard was as much a work of art as the sword itself. The silver traced a formless pattern down the central third of the entire scabbard, set with small precious stones seemingly at random, but in a pleasing arrangement.
Tori began the walk to his home. It wasn't far, perhaps a quarter hour on foot, through the edge of the forest. His home was a small, modest stone building with a shingle roof. It had a mere two rooms, one for cooking and eating in; the other for sleeping in. There was a privy not far from the back door and a wood store on the outside. Most of the house was slightly below ground level, as was the current architectural fashion, stairs leading down inside from both doors.
"Hello Stella," his voice rang out as he pushed the door open. There was no reply, Stella was too busy purring and rubbing his ankles with her chin. She was a stray he had found a few years ago, shortly before finding the Tower's curse scrawled on a piece of parchment. He figured the two were unrelated, and the cat did look like it needed a good meal or three. Tori bent down and rubbed behind her ears before moving to the stove.
Dinner tonight would be a modest affair. Some pheasant, a little mix of vegetables, perhaps a splash of wine he had bought at market for a trice of silver. The heating stone was warm, the everheat rune glowing softly at the front of it. Magic gave food a distinct flavour sometimes, especially if it was cooked over a magic fire, which produced no smoke. Small things, like everheat runes, didn't.
They were not cheap either, but you only ever needed one or two of the things, so it was a common and very worthwhile investment. While the pheasant was still cooking Tori sliced off a small piece and knelt down, holding it out. Stella practically ripped it from his fingers. She hadn't had any successful hunts during the day, so she was very hungry. Tori stood up again, slicing the vegetables before placing them in a small pot full of boiling water.
While waiting for dinner he decided to read the Tower's curse again, the parchment tacked to one wall. The writing was hard to read, in a script that hurt the eyes unless you squinted or looked at it sideways. The parchment was old, faded, as if weathered by many years by the time he had found it. The message was cryptic, but he had had plenty of time to figure it out.
Three years to gather funds, another to find the people, this last year to make everything right, to assemble all the pieces. Now he scanned the lines again, looking for anything he might have missed.
To free her, the Warrior must understand this verse.
The walls are more than stone, their mortar blood and bone.
The guards are more than men, knowledge in an ancient tome.
The Tower is hidden, with eyes it can't be seen.
Within Magic is she trapped, by all unseen.
With heart can she be found, with soul can it be seen.
To gain her love you shall need nothing,
But to return it you will need everything.
The walls, they strive to keep her in,
The guards, they live to keep you out.
To break the curse be absolved of sin,
To free her, have no doubt.
He knew what the largest part of it meant. The Tower was some kind of arcane building, the guards were constructs or demons, and he would need everything at his disposal to break the curse. The last two lines were the hardest to figure out. It had something to do with the church, but which church, he was unsure. To be free of doubt, but doubt of what he didn't know and couldn't figure out.
Leaving the parchment on the wall, and his dinner on the stove he removed his belt, unclipping the scabbard and placing it in the sword rack on the mantle. Next to it lay a simple, functional dagger. The dagger was perhaps the most potent weapon he would carry. It was as much a tool as it was a weapon. It could slice food, break chains, crack stones, help spark a flint. A mundane weapon, but useful as more than just a blade.
The next half hour passed in relative silence. Tori sat with his feet propped up on the arm of the lounge and Stella curled up contentedly on his lap. He ran through his requirements for the morrow, making sure to remember to ask about blessing the armour, and whether it would interfere with any of the enchantments.
Dining alone could be depressing sometimes, that's why he had let Stella stay, despite the fact she wasn't exactly a brilliant hunter, and made a pretty useless guard animal, immediately rubbing at the ankles of anyone who came through the door.
As he slept that night Tori dreamt of the Tower, the Maiden trapped within, the walls and the guards. He remembered little of the dream, aside from the fact it had seemed so vivid, so real. He could almost recall the feel of the gravel crunching underfoot, his blade hanging at his hip.
Putting aside those thoughts he swung out of bed and buttoned up his pants and shirt. Breakfast, then off to the blacksmith's once more. On his way out the door he turned back for a moment, taking the dagger from the mantle, thinking to ask about how much it might cost to put but one rune upon its blade.
"Seven golds!" Tori exclaimed. "Seven, for just a single rune, on a small dagger?"
"Yes," the warlock replied, trying to cultivate an air of sagacity with his cultured, even voice. "It is not the size of the weapon here, but the potency of the rune that counts. If you had something you valued more than the golds, we would ask for that instead."
"Because the material poured into the Unbaraki rune must have the strongest possible connection with the item's owner. Did we not tell you this with the Ege rune on your blade?"
"You did, but you know that I know very little of Magic, and even less of the Runes."
"Yes, yes. If you have something with a stronger connection we can refund your golds now."
"I think… I think I do," Tori said softly, unclipping a small silver chain under his long, unruly hair. Hanging from the chain was an old symbol, a cross within a circle. "It was my brother's."
"Excellent!" yelled the warlock exuberantly. "This is exactly what you need to forge the Unbaraki rune properly. With this connection the blade, nay, the entire weapon, will be unbreakable until you die."
"What happens then?"
"The weapon disappears completely in a wisp of red-black smoke. To where, we cannot say."
"Alright, but keep one of those golds as your fee."
Leaving the chain and the dagger with the warlock Tori moved back to the armourer, still beating the first piece of plate over an anvil. Sparks flew from the red hot metal with each strike. The heavyset man's brow was furrowed with concentration and slick with sweat from the heat. A spark or two slowly smouldered in his thick, bushy beard.
Tori sat patiently, watching his armour being beaten into shape. He also saw the warlocks, through the door to the back, turning his brother's cross into liquid before pouring it into the rune they had etched onto the blade of the dagger. It shone with a soft blue-white glow as it fell, congealing into a pure, blinding, white as it spread through the rune. With a flash it was over, the rune a slightly different silver to the rest of the blade. A different warlock walked over to him.
"If you wish, we can test the strength of the rune, but first you must hold it, to complete the ritual."
"Alright, hand me the dagger."
As Tori took hold of the weapon the rune on the blade pulsed with a blood red light, as if driven by a beating heart. With a start he realised the pulse matched his own. The pulsing light died away, leaving the blade as it had been before he touched it.
"Thank you Salvatore Perenno, now we may test the blade. Follow me, and please be quiet."
Tori followed the warlock through the back room out onto the range behind the smithy. The other warlocks crowded behind him, taking the dagger and placing it well downrange. The coven tested every magic they had, from draining effects to annihilation spells to simple breaking cants. Nothing had much of an effect, although the most potent spells caused smoke to wisp up off the rune as it glowed with red heat.
The blacksmith's assistant helped test it against mundane weapons, from other daggers to greatswords to poleaxes and maces. For the final test the smithy produced its ultimate weapon, a black powder cannon. The rune was so powerful it caused the cannonball to crack on impact, shredding the dirt beyond the stand upon which it had been placed.
Tori was suitably impressed.
"You do good works, and I'm glad to provide custom for you. Now, have you reviewed the planned enchantments on the armour?"
"Yes," said another different warlock, this one with a long and wispy beard. "They are good, but there are some jealous runes in there you may wish to avoid. Mixing the Diraz and Zoren runes, for example. Just one would serve your purposes."
"Then I leave it in your hands to decide which rune is better for my purposes. There is another question: will a holy blessing on the armour interfere with any enchantments?"
"It all depends on whom you beseech for aid. Given the number of enchantments the runes bestow, we will search carefully for a patron suitable to bless the armour."
Tori slipped a due of golds into the old mans palm.
"Be very thorough, use everything you need. Now I think I hear the armourer calling my name."
As he walked back through the door to the workshop the armourer bid him to stand where he was, taking the freshly beaten and quenched armour from the barrel it had been sitting in. It locked around Tori's torso with a simple but effective cross pin. Currently it was still black with soot and had no padding inside. Its weight was expertly spread across his shoulders and back, proving how finely made it was.
"Take it to the Fitter's when everything is made," the armourer advised him. "Padding and harness, so it feels lighter and rides better."
The rest of the day was filled with more armour fittings and discussions about when to have it enchanted. He also briefly considered adding gold filigree around the edges of the armour. It just seemed a little too ostentatious. He needed a functional suit of armour, not a decorative one. Perhaps a little silver edging if the armour was made black. Surely that would be no task for the coven of warlocks, changing the colour of a substance. He would have to ask the warlocks while the padding was being fitted into the plates.
That night he dreamt again, the dream more vivid than last time. He stood on a vast plain covered in gravel, or perhaps some kind of ash. The guardians flickered around his peripheral vision. The Tower dominated the skyline. He could see it far more clearly this time, as the keep of a fortress. The Maiden was not in this dream, but he wore armour, jet black, engraved and inset with silver filigree. At his left hip hung the scabbard for his blade.
The blade itself was in his right hand, the dagger in his left. Both were held loosely, point down, but ready. The first guardian, moving like a congealed shadow, attacked. The blade cleaved it in twain, the wound devouring the guardian with a baleful fire.
He awoke, drenched with sweat as if he had just run several miles. He had felt the impact of his blade against his not quite real foe. He could still smell the still air, feel his scalp prickle as magic was being charged. Already the dream was fading, as if he was not meant to know any of this.