The Lone Tower of Berklath....
The Tower of Berklath stood out on the Plain of Despair, just like a white spear, brilliant and glorious, its surface extraordinarily enriched with a thousand friezes, all engraved on the massive wan-coloured stones, each one representing a different ornament taken from the ancient mythology of the Realm.On the eastern side there was the inscription pointing at the Sky, generated by the Male God, while on the southern front the depiction of the Female Goddess showed off. On top the Sacred Flame was twinkling.
The tower, as high as a twenty- storey palace, had been built up more than nine hundred years ago in that place to defend firmly the northern borders of the Realm and there were many of them, eighty kilometres distant each from the other, raised from powerful mages long gone which no one could create again nowadays.
Moreover, those powerful magic users had been wise enough to plan all of them- like a protective circle- a long time ago, almost as they already knew what kind of awful danger the demons would have become in the far future, as though they’d have presaged their out-of-proportion-growth which was going to increase their ranks so to make them approach for mustering on the borders of the human lands, waiting for entering just to feed on their riches, men and resources.In fact, the Sacred Flame kept away both the demons and all the other evil beings living mainly in the mountains surrounding most of the Realm which, at times , came down to the plains…
There were lesser demons, “daemones minores”, that represented – usually- not serious threats and greater demons, “daemones maiores”, that occasionally turned out to be powerful adversaries even for the most experienced Adept.
Fabous had been wondering at times how the First Humans exactly reacted when they discovered that -at the other end of the enormous plain which covered most of the mainland they lived in- the boundaries were made up of passes which had been settled long ago by every kind of malevolent creatures,like the demons…This was the main reason because the Tower of Berklath stood there, and so the other buildings like that, too.
Consequently, that sort of construction- all those constructions- had been run up as one of the strongest bulwarks guarding the Human Lands.Other than that , according to tradition, every tower had to be looked after by means of a lonely Yeoman Warder chosen - after a long training period- among all the Adepts of the School of Magic of the Greater God.Adept Fabous -only twenty years old- was the chosen one for this specific Tower and had been sent here to guard the place, living alone for the following months.
Days had passed by fast, actually there were a few things to do just outside the tower, no village next to it and no point of interest, the ground was always barren and cold, the unpleasant weather didn’t spin the young receding- haired man to go around even for a walk, of course.Within the tower, everyday, Fabous had to study the magic texts, review the religious rites and chants and be prepared for whatever would come to threaten the borders and the building itself.The Adept sometimes sat back in contemplation of the barren surroundings in the distance from the main balcony.
And nothing had happened for a very long time, apart some demonic spies just next to the wooded slopes and a few flying creatures, very small in size…But, one day, unexpectedly, the appointed Yeoman Warder had seen a sort of strange figure in the distance, following a weird flight path in the sky and heading for the tower.As it became nearer and nearer, Fabous understood that it was a greater demon attacking the building.The warlike being had come nearby the observation point the Adept was in, ready to defend the tower ( that way it would have never been able to enter anyway, but he could have spied on him from outside, and that was not good at all…).Fabous fought bravely in the following confrontation and finally defeated the evil flying creature, but- just before he could complete the rite to destroy the corpse of the dead demon, fallen at the base of the brilliant building - which had not to be allowed any longer just in the vicinity of those sacred structure- it had exploded all in a sudden, mucking up his body, wounding him hard and hitting his own blue eyes, depriving him of his sight!
After desperation, suffering and hatred, the Adept had drawn self together and gone inside his quarters just to try to heal himself.He deprecated his inappropriate disregard before and thought of himself as nipper just gypped easily by that sudden assault!Anyway, when susprise had passed away and Fabous had come again to his senses, he soon discovered that the wounds were really too deep to let him see again as he did before.And that was terrible, very bad for him and for his present assignment, for his religious tasks and for all…
All the learning he had had before made him enough self- controlled and he didn’t let it get to him, moreover, after a while, he reminded himself of the very good protection of the tower, of every useful device the ancient magic builders had endowed the entire structure with, so no evil creature would have been allowed to enter in the immediate future, notwithstanding his present severe disability.So, the only thing he had to do was sending the message to the far School of Magic, waiting for his replacement who had to be sent there and then going back to town-accompanied by some well armed guards- to be properly healed by the high magic the Old Ones did know well.
Anyway, he knew that - in the following weeks- many things could have occurred…so he had to be patient, give special attention to everything, make his usual rituals, provide the Sacred Flame with linseed oil and act properly everyday…
Many days went by and fortunately nothing really happened, apart the shedding of most of the curly black hair of the man cause of the previous wounds.But Fabous sometimes felt confused, tired and worried, his slim features drawn and weaker than usual.The ornamented blue- grey robe from his Order he commonly wore began looking untidy, shabby, he was unwilling to attend at it as he did before…
One evening, while he was walking along the passageway in the lower levels, he heard a voice which alarmed him at once.
-I inform you that several demons are approaching fast and the Sacred Flame is not well lighted up at present…this way your enemies shall not be stopped and could even enter the building this time…-
Surprised for that fact, but unable to see what kind of individual was speaking direct to him and doubtful whether the things which had been said were true,the Adept used both ears at his best to figure out the exact position the words were coming from.Then, unable to be sure, raised his left hand ready to activate an enchantment that was supposed to be violent enough to kill at once every attacker nearby.
-And who are you…?- Fabous asked the voice in the passageway.
-I am Vermo, a demon…you would define me as a lesser demon…-
-I do not know if you really are what you claim and I can’t find out how you entered these well protected premises, but be sure that you shall not be allowed to go any further…-
-Stop at once your attempt to find me, Adept, I am not inside your tower…I’m still out the defensive boundaries of your Realm and I’m speaking to you from afar…-
-And how can I hear you…?- the Yeoman Warder was conscious there were many different demons in the mountain passes, and some of them were also capable of telepathy, in a way.So the danger was not so near as he had thought of…
-It’s thanks to my powers, of course…we lesser demons are not so famous as tough combatants, but we possess some other means…Anyway, as I told you, many demons are approaching right now…-
-Yes, they are the same kind as you…so why are you telling me this…?-he had to be very careful, as such creatures were very good at conceiving every sort of guiles to get to what they desired…At home the Old Ones had been very clear about this fact during the training, but of course they would have never been able to explain all the intrigues they were used to but the most common ones.
-There is too many of them, this time it’s likely you shall not stop their advance…and then the Sacred Flame is extinguishing now…-
-The magic protection of this tower is stronger than you think of, poor demon…your allies will not suceed…-
-But maybe this time there’s something you do not know of…- the voice without a face said.
-What are you speaking about?I’m the Yeoman Warder in charge here, I was trained to stop your kind…-
-And what if your message had not reached its destination?What if nobody is really coming here to help you on time in the next days?-
“How did he know about his message?”Fabous was very suspicious now…-Don’t even try to confuse me, horrible creature! I’ll be given the help I asked for, of course, it’s only a matter of a brief time…-
-Well, maybe…but what if this doesn’t happen…?The demons are gathering there, and you are not doing anything to fight them…-
-Even if so, they can’t violate the boundaries of the Realm…-
-Maybe…or maybe not.If you only saw what big amount of demons are out there, you would think differently, and probably would really mind…-
-And why do you think those creatures can come in this time…?Whatever would let them in….?-
-It’s simple…your actions will let!As you remember, the flying greater demon you destroyed some time ago - which wounded you in return, yes, you remember the one…- did more than that….in fact, it contaminated you, instilled into your head some remnants from its evil being, some parts of its corpse which made you act differently, forgetting your duties, your usual rites, making you weak, unprepared as you feel today, don’t you…?Your Sacred Flame is extingushing, as I just said, did you forget?How would you allow this to happen if you were still in your right mind?-
-What…?How come…?- Fabous floundered.
-The little parts of the demon which hit you made this possible...Just think of it, would you ever let aside your duties about the Sacred Flame in any other circumstance?Did you ever forget about it?-
-I didn’t forget anything!- the Adept cried out.
-Are you sure?- the voice replied immediately.
Fabous thought of it with awe…Maybe the demon was really right, something had been able to interfere with his own mind…The Adept was feeling weak at times, he didn’t remember precisely the place where he had put his belongings, couldn’t find at once the books of rites he had placed on the table the day before…his dreams were confused, probably something evil had made him act while he was unwilling, or simply unconscious…who knows?
-You seems to figure out I am sincere…-
If all that was true, then the tower was in peril…After all, how had he ever forgotten to provide the Sacred Flame with linseed oil otherwise…?He began being really worried,indeed….
-But here’s the solution…I can heal you,really!Of course, I want something in return…-the demon laughed.
-Heal me…?And why should I believe in you?You’re a demon, an enemy, not different from all the other myriads waiting outside the boudaries for an opening to go past our defensive protections…-
-Actually, even among demons there are many factions…we are not so different from you, the Humans, in the end…and I have allies down there, but also any enemies, and several of them can’t wait to have me defeated and destroyed…but I am clever, more intelligent than most of them, and I resolved to find a new ally where they would never think of…a man, or an Adept, just like you…-
-Sure thing, nobody among your own kind would have ever thought of it simply because it’s impossible…we can’t be allied, no human can ally with a demon…!Nonsense!-
-But you need help, that’s true…so, I see nobody else around capable of being of aid to you…and you know you can’t beat alone all those creatures in your present conditions, especially if you can’t even believe in your own action, if you can’t rely on your full memory and mind… -
-And is it you that can help me…?That’s unlikely…-
-But necessary…Let me help you and then I’ll explain how to kill the many demons of my own kind, especially my worst enemies, of course, a thing that you’ll do for me,in exchange…we all profit by this temporary alliance, don’t you think? With your sight being recovered -well, it will not be forever, we demons can’t make miracles…but it will last enough to allow you to do what you need to…-you could arrest the advancing demons, secure your tower and waiting for the coming of your replacement, do you agree…?-
“If one of the Old Ones had ever listen to such a proposal of an agreement, he would have immediately been banned from the Circle of Adepts…” Fabous considered in silence”…but what other choice he had at present?He needed to be recovered to be able to resist…and he neeeded an aid indeed as he couldn’t rely on him and his own actions now…”
-Do you think to be clever…?Using a man to destroy your demonic enemies…?-
-This is what turns a lesser demon into a greater one…I am not powerful enough to beat a big guy among my own kind, but I can manage to find someone else who can do that for me…-
-Very good of you, demon…- the Adept nodded- Assuming your words are true…so what do you want me to do?-
-Just stay there and open your mind…it will take only a minute…-
Soon the Yeoman Warder’s head began feeling better, a warm sensation which made him relieved at once, then his eyes regained strength again and the man could look carefully at the passegeway he was in…
-You did it!-
-Yes, as I promised…- the voice pointed out.
-How did you…?- Fabous asked surprised.
-No questions, please…my demonic powers are not of your concern…And now, if you want to act according to our deal…-
-Yes, yes…the Sacred Flame!- the Adept stated.He run along the stairs, going to the top of the tower, entered the last chamber and tried it best to revive the faint fire.”Just on time…” he aknowledged”Only some moments more and…”
From the high balcony the Adept was able to look at the many demons gathering around the building, many of them were still going to enter the premises given the weakness of the flame…but as soon as the fire went on, everyone stepped back at once.
-Now do your part!- the voice demanded- Hit them in the middle by means of your Enchantment of Light, that will kill the greater one and destroy all the demons next to him…-
Fabous did as he was ordered and everything went exactly as the voice had told him.Pieces of malevolent creatures were thrown at every corner, flying high, but this time he was well protected within his balcony.
When victory was accomplished, the Adept asked the voice- I made it.But don’t you think I could use this secret technique you told me about to kill all the other remaining demons, included you, from now on…?-
-Well, frankly not…-
There was a brief pause.Then the voice added- I must confess to you another secret of mine…You did not destroy the demons outside, you did not revive the Sacred Flame….actually, you made the fire stop working…-
-What?You’re wrong, what are you saying…?-
-You see, now…but you see what I want you see…we demons can’t make miracles at all, I told you,so you’ve been watching the demons gathered outside just because of my power, you thought you was enabled to destroy them because of my abilities, too, and you sounded overconfident that the Sacred Flame needed to be revived only because I let you see that…but in reality it was just you that made the fire cease!-
-You…what do you think I am…?A dupe? A stupid?-
-You are what you are…and now that the flame is extinguished all the demons can enter the boundaries of your weak lands, without problems…So I well served my greater demon, it’s the duty of a lesser demon as I am…-
-What have I done!- Fabous cried out “The Realm had never been invaded since the building of the towers, it had been he himself who had made that disaster possible…Greater God!”
His sight began turning faint, the chamber the man was in became overshadowed, the Adept was going blind again…- I failed! I made the worst thing every single man was ever capable of…I have disappointed all the Humans in the Realm, all the Yeomen Warders of the School of Magic! My Master would call me every name under the sun if he only were here…-
-Oh no, my dear… Your Master had well chosen you for this difficult assignment, as he knew you were not strong enough, he was sure you would have failed this test and in fact you acted accordingly…so he put you in the current position on purpose…- the voice chortled -It was all part of our common secret deal made long before yours…-
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I'm an Italian public servant who graduated from Law School working in the public real estates branch. I've published a Fantasy RolePlaying illustrated Manual, WarBlades , of more than 400 pages.Some of my works and short- stories have been published on American Aphelion, WeirdYear Webzine and Another Realm Webzine. I am also a scale modeler who likes mostly Science Fiction and Real Space models, some of my little Dioramas has been shown also on the American site StarShipModeler, MechaModelComp and SFM: UK.
Labels: Sergio "ente per ente" PALUMBO