Yesterday, I did not get to write at lunch – which sucks. Then around 5, I started to get a headache. By the time I was driving home around 6:15, my head was pounding and my stomach churning. No idea why. I took some Tylenol, which helped, but by the time I was able to sit down again around 10:30, I felt shitty enough that I decided to lay down instead – and fell asleep soon thereafter. Woke up feeling refreshed and head and stomach ache-free, so today – I wrote again! A little over 1,000 words! Seven and Julian continue on…
Seven Part 7
© 2018 Patrick Hester – All Rights Reserved
“Where are they?” Seven asked from the shadows of the trees.
The tower loomed before them, red-tipped top obscured by distance. She had never seen a tower as high as this one, nor did she know such a thing could even be built in the first place. The stones at the base were easily the width of a horse nose to tail, if not wider, and twice as tall. How had they moved them?
I don’t know. I expected guards of some sort.
“More Shades?” She asked.
I don’t sense them.
“You didn’t really sense them before,” she said, and added before he could object, “That is not accusation or fault. Merely fact.”
He made a fist and moved it up and down, a new thing they had decided on. His way of nodding.
Seven thought it quite clever when you couldn’t see someone’s head because they insisted on hiding within a magically-darkened cowl.
She sighed inward.
“I suppose there’s nothing for it, then,” she said. “Except to walk up to the door and knock.”
No attack came as they emerged from the trees, crossed a patch of green and stepped onto the road. None when they followed the road the scant few meters to where the steps of the tower began. None when they took those sun-bleached steps one by one until they stood just beyond the very low wall – barely rising to Seven’s mid-thigh – and before a pair of doors that curved into a point near the top. Both doors and frame had been intricately carved, the latter with an outline of the door shape that grew with each consecutive ring and gave the appearance of entering some sort of elongated tunnel. The former with beasts performing sexual acts in one scene, and ripping each other apart in the next, all in relief while runes etched deep into the wood appeared in odd positions and orientation, sometimes even upside down and mirrored – at least the few Seven recognized. The rest made no sense to her whatsoever.
This is a dangerous place, Julian said.
“Those are often the best kind,” Seven said. With a breath, she tossed her walking stick aside and drew her swords. “Open it?”
Julian reached a hand out but before he could touch the doors, they popped and slowly creaked open a hands-width.
Seven raised a foot and kicked as hard as she could. The door on the right sprang back to thud against stone or frame behind. She waited. No other sound came from within, so she kicked the other door and it, too, sprang back and thudded on something. A thin trickle of light illuminated the interior near the center. The only other light came from the open doors and ended a few feet inside. Everything else was cast in shadow.
“Hello the tower?” Seven shouted. She expected her voice to echo and boom throughout the open space. Instead, the room seemed to swallow her call, mute and suppress it, all at once. She blinked.
This is a dangerous place, Julian repeated.
Giving him a disgusted look, Seven strode through the door and made her way to the sliver of light in the center of the room. From there, she could make out a stairway in front of her and vague shapes around the edge of what appeared to be a circular room. The shapes were tall and she squinted at them. Were they people?
“I need the seeing magic,” she said.
Julian stepped close enough she heard his faint whisper of, “Nähdä.”
Her eyes tingled and the shadows became clear. Moving in a slow circle, she counted five statues of similar height, slightly taller than herself, arranged around the room. Each wore simple leather armor, much like her own, and carried stone sword or axe. Cast in the eerie light of Julian’s magic, the blank stares of these statues gave her chills. Raising her sword, she walked to the closest and slammed the hilt into its face with a loud thunk.
“I expected them to move,” she said into the following silence. “React somehow.” She turned to Julian, whose fingers flashed.
I sense nothing from them, but that does not mean you are wrong. We should be cautious.
“Yes,” she said, and looked up. The stairs spiraled up into darkness not even Julian’s magic could apparently penetrate. “We are coming for you!” she shouted.
Across from her, Julian covered his face with his hands.
Seven grinned. “What? I am ready to be done with this. Find a warm inn with good food and ale, some pretty boys and girls to look at. Maybe dance with. Maybe more. The sooner we kill this bastard, the sooner we are on our way.
“Come,” she said. “We have a lot of stairs-“
The words died on her lips. As the toes of her foot touched the first step, everything melted and spun in a whoosh of sound and light. When her heel touched the floor, she stood in a wide white room heavy with the scent of offal, blood and death. It brought her back to the arena unlike anything else she’d experienced in recent weeks, and for a moment, her head spun, skin flushed and she began breathing quickly.
A stone altar rose on steps in the center of the room. They were littered with skulls and dried blood stains that spidered out like tributaries to the edges where they could fall away and drip down the sides of the tower. She tilted her head at this, noting there were no walls here, only the columns in the corners to support the roof above her. Yet, there was no wind to carry the scents away from this place.
The stillness, too, made her hackles rise.
“You’re not the one I want,” said a voice.
Julian appeared beside her for a moment, then the world spun and whooshed and she was back in the room below. Cursing, she spun to the stairs and saw a stone axe swinging at her head.
* * *