Tuesday, August 18, 2009


The stormy night rose around the tower as walls of rain and crackling lightning. The wizard took a glance out of one of the two little windows that were set high up in the stone walls. Unnaturally tall though he was, he still had to rise to the tips of his toes to peer out of the diminutive opening. The crown of his head was bald and shiny, wreathed by a mane of long thinning and matted black hair. His eyes, a keen pale blue, peered into the maelstrom which held him prisoner within his tower. A dark mood descended upon him, sired by the whip like arcs of light that rose from the earth all around his keep. The corners of a big mouth set in a broad face shaped like an inverted spade turned down and the thick black brows over his eyes lifted as if they might slide from his brow in resignation. The clang of the old clock striking eleven roused him from silent observations and he hurried back to his wooden table where 17 small figurines fashioned of wax were lined in three neat little rows. There were yet 18 figures that must be made before the stroke of midnight. Despair seized his heart and for a moment he contemplated sinking to his knees and enduring his imprisonment until starvation eked the last of his life from him. Then he recognized such apathy as the spawn of the malignant spell that raged all about him, and thrust it heavily aside. One candle burned on the little table, nearly down to the nub. He would need more wax. Bending his gargantuan height, he threw open an oaken chest and rummaged hastily about and seized three more tapers with his massive hands, not as much as he could want, but it would have to do. His faded olive robe flagged out behind him as he hurried back to the work table with heavy steps. One hour remained to complete his work. Whether it could be done or not he turned his will unwaveringly to the task.

* * *

Lucien passed over the green hill littered with gray stones that had once been the walls of a keep. He picked his way carefully among them until he had passed into the circle of ruins which were once the foundation of a tower. There was little in the way of relics to be found, others had come and carried away the most alluring items long ago. Lucien found a spoon lodged halfway beneath one of the fallen stones. Then he wandered out of the foundation and lifted his lithe body onto a boulder to survey the area. Among the stones and green grass, the burnt remains of four trees stood black and forlorn against the overcast sky. To the west, a river rushed hastily along its course. Lucien sighed and slid onto his rear. His mind turned towards his homeward voyage, towards his empty handed return to the old woman who cast the bones. He would tell her that there was no tower, and that there was no wizard with thirty five warriors of wax with which to defeat the Demoness of Berg. He supported his head in his hands and felt the ache in his feet. The sound of the rushing river reached his ears. It seemed for a moment as if it were singing a song, the words of which were almost decipherable by him. He shook off the eerie perception.
The journey home would be disproportionately longer than the journey here had been, now that he would have to bare the weight of disappointment. He resolved not to return. He would go on searching for another way to combat the Demoness, even if there was none to be found. He would search to the ends of the earth.

Thus thinking, he leaped down from the boulder and proceeded to pass by one of the burnt trees. His eye caught sight of a leather bound book resting at its foot. He wondered that he had not noticed it from his vantage point atop the boulder. Lucien’s heart fluttered. He could read. When the old woman had cast the bones for the six lords of Almerne she had insisted that a scribe and not a warrior be sent to retrieve the thirty five. Eagerly, he opened the book and flipped through the pages, glancing here and there. He let out an excited cry. Recipes and rituals were scrawled on the pages and notes about the weather and the writer’s deepest feelings. This was the journal of a wizard. He found the last written page midway through the book. On it was written,
“The thirty five are complete now. Their singing never ceases.”
The remaining pages had been left blank.

Lucien stood quite still for a moment. The mention of thirty five could not be a coincidence. This was a mention of the thirty five warriors he sought. He spoke the words softly to himself, wondering, hoping that something further would be revealed to him. The babbling of the river reached his ears again, almost melodic. He snapped the book shut with a start. Could it be?
Springing to life, he ran the distance to the river. Smooth white pebbles populated the bank . The rush and roar of the foaming water thundered in Lucien’s ears. He could hear the song it sang more clearly now. He gazed into the watery depths and searched through the changing liquid shapes.
At first, he saw only the green river ferns swaying beneath the surface. Then, as he listened intently to the singing of the river, the water seemed to adopt new shapes before his eyes. The bubbling and rippling water outlined the contours of fine faces and athletic limbs and subtle but feminine bosoms. These were not the men of wax that he had expected, but women of water, dressed in armor and helmets and wielding spears.
Lucien stepped back from the water, frightened and awed. He paced along the bank counting their translucent forms. Thirty-five. Here was the wax army of the Green wizard, transformed to water, singing battle songs beneath the river’s rushing surface to pass the time while they waited. And if they were here, waiting in the water, then the wizard that could command them must be somewhere as well. And if they were no longer wax but water, then he was free.
Lucien searched the sky and wondered. He looked carefully at the pebbles under his feet and at the hills around him. He sat down upon the river’s bank and searched with his eyes and with his ears and with his heart for the green wizard that could awaken the thirty-five. Whether it could be done or not, he would find the wizard. He would awaken the mage who must be hidden somewhere, everywhere, waiting to be roused.

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