Short Story Saturday: The Tower

Short Story Saturday: The Tower - Photo by Pixabay from Pexels
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Hello everyone! As part of Short Story Saturday, I have posted another short story, this one entitled The Tower. Please enjoy.

A pair of adventurers approached an oblong, white-bricked tower. The two had journeyed from afar and had overcome many perils to arrive that day. What Arthur sought awaited him at the top of the tower. Dangling around his neck was the most valuable thing in the world to him, a silver locket given to him by his queen. He looked over to his wizard friend and heaved a deep sigh. Initially, he did not wish to anyone along on this journey. The man acquiesced, though, when Merlin told him that entrance into the tower was impossible without his assistance.

Arthur then scrutinized the edifice. He quickly surmised there were no doors or windows. Once again he looked over to his confidant. Merlin merely smiled before he took five steps forward and touched the far wall. A door appeared and within it, they could see a short hallway leading to a large, spiraling flight of stairs. The wizard, with a gentle flick of his wrist, bade the other man to follow before leading the way inside.

Together, they ascended the steps until they reached the first floor. They arrived at a circular room. Their eyes immediately focused on its lone inhabitant, a seated giant knight clad in black armor. A sword was firmly gripped in the knight’s gauntleted hands. After taking a quick peek around the knight, Arthur noted there were no exits outside of the stairwell that had led them to that place. Merlin acknowledged this and then informed him that the only means to access the next floor was to defeat the knight.

Upon those words, the armored figure rose. The sword was lifted over the knight’s shoulders. Though the knight’s helmet obscured the eyes, Arthur could almost feel the look of determination. He was being challenged, he knew this, and had no intention of backing down.

Instead, Arthur drew his sword from its hilt. Its silver blade glistened as he removed it. Then, he drew it back and sprang forward. The moment he came within striking distance, he took a mighty swing at the guard aiming for the heart. It was easily parried. Another attempt was immediately made, this time the target was the head. His second attempt was no more successful than the first. Again and again, he tried, each time directing his strikes toward different locations and from various angles while mixing up his rhythm and timing. No matter what he did, though, he could not land a blow.

During this, the knight was never the instigator or the aggressor. Instead, the guard allowed the attacks to happen seemingly satisfied to merely deflect the all-out attack with inhumanly quick reflexes. Because of this, the knight proved to be a most formidable foe in that no matter what Arthur tried, he could not best his foe.

Indeed, when his fencing skills proved inadequate, Arthur dashed to behind the proverbial roadblock hoping that perhaps a back-stab would prove successful. The knight was too fast and too quick, able to turn and counter his with attempt ease. Different weapons were then drawn. Diversionary strategies were then used. Plan after plan was then thought out. New attempt after new attempt was then made. Nothing worked. All seemed to be lost. The frustrated man shouted curses to vent his anger and frustration from his defeats.

Then he heard a voice. “Did you not notice?”

Arthur answered though he could not sense the origin of the voice for it wasn’t the wizard who was speaking to him. “What do you mean?”

“Observe the knight closely.”

Arthur did as he was instructed. Starting from the top, he scrutinized every inch of the knight. He noticed nothing awry. After almost a minute, he was about to turn his head away from the knight and dismiss the voice’s instructions as folly when he noticed by the knight’s feet there was a small almost insignificant spec of silver. He wondered whether he had managed to land a significant blow that chipped the armor. The man quickly realized he couldn’t have for all of his attempted strikes had been easily deflected. Realizing this, though, left him no closer to the answers he desperately sought.

Suddenly, he had an epiphany. The armor wasn’t painted black. It was covered by soot, dirt, and grime.

“Reveal the truth,” the voice said. Arthur nodded. He now knew what to do.

Arthur placed the rucksack he had been carrying on his back onto the ground and retrieved from it a bottle of wax along with a clean cloth. Both he had carried with him to cleanse his blade such as after a skirmish. He then walked over to the knight and began applying the wax to the armor. Sensing no threat from the man, the knight allowed him to do this. It took a long time but eventually, the man’s efforts revealed beautiful and radiating silver armor that was once underneath the black grunge. He could only clean up to the knight’s knees but it was enough.

“Are you not truly a silver knight?” he asked.

“My armor is black.” The knight, despite being wrong, was resolute and earnest.

“Reveal the truth,” the voice repeated.

Arthur applied wax to his sword and lifted it high into the air. The knight looked down and even though the reflection only showed the knees, it was enough to see the armor’s true color. The knight fainted upon seeing the truth, a truth that had been denied for too long. Falling forward, the knight crumbled onto the floor with a sickening metallic clank. The armor shattered upon contact. Almost as if by magic, it dissipated like sand and was scattered by a mysterious incoming wind.

Left in its wake was a contorted, feminine mess. Her limbs were sickeningly twisted. Her bones were shattered. Some were even exposed. Blood poured from various lacerations. A large gaping hole went through her chest. Her eyes, poking through her dirty, matted long black hair, though lifeless, still seemed to scream in anguish. Arthur vomited upon seeing the woman’s corpse.

“Do you deny?” Merlin asked.

Arthur wiped his mouth. “No.”

“Then we may proceed.” Merlin touched the far wall. A door appeared. He opened it to reveal a large, spiraling flight of stairs. Arthur took his rucksack and followed the wizard.

The stairway seemed never-ending. Time lost all meaning as day and night seemed to cycle with every step. Arthur felt more tired mentally than physically during their ascent. Indeed, while his legs never lost their vitality his mind constantly berated him for not turning around. The voice in his head only grew louder when it seemed, after hours of climbing, that the top of the tower was perpetually out of reach and that failure was inevitable.

Yet, somehow he found the strength to press forward, perhaps because of the indomitable spirit of his companion. If Merlin was fatigued or mentally exasperated during the trip, he certainly did not show it on his face nor did he express them in any way. His constitution seemed as resolute as steel. It emboldened Arthur with a sense of courage such that together they were eventually able to find the top of the stairwell, naturally, to the great relief of Arthur. It was a relief that did not, unfortunately, last for very long.

It was daytime when the pair arrived. Like the room below, there were apparently no doors on the second floor as well, except, of course, the stairwell. Night suddenly fell and everything was pitch-black. Before a single word could be exchanged, in pairs of twos, starting at the far end away from the stairwell, candles sitting on tall candelabras lit up as if they could do so on their own. They revealed a black figure lying in the middle of the room. Its white fangs stained with blood shone in the fiery glow. Arthur’s eyes widened with recognition. Standing before them was a werewolf.

The beast let out a ferocious howl. His long, thick, and sharp claws scraped against the stone floor as he sprinted toward the man. As soon as he came within striking distance, he came to a sudden and hideously screeching halt, stood on his hind legs, and raised both of his mighty paws before forcing them downward to strike. A sword deflected the blow, striking the claws, just as it was about to land. Arthur barely managed to unsheathe it in time. Undeterred, the werewolf continued the assault with strike after rage-filled strike.

Arthur, to his credit, was able to resist the onslaught. He even managed to land a couple of counter-blows himself though his sword failed to pierce the werewolf’s skin. However, he knew he could not keep up his efforts forever. Attrition was on his opponent’s side, a fact that became more evident a minute into the contest. His arms felt as though they were rubber while the beast showed no signs of fatigue.

During the melee, though, Arthur noticed something. Whenever a parried attack resulted in the creature nearing candelabra, the beast reeled back, with eyes wide and mouth gaped, as if in fear. An idea suddenly formulated. The man gripped the nearest candelabra with his free hand. It was surprisingly light, so much so he was able to easily point it at the creature. Animalistic instincts enveloped the werewolf. Though the flame was barely hot enough to singe his fur, it still scared him. He only knew that fire was bad.

Arthur, having bought himself some time, ruminated on the situation. It would take the werewolf a bit of time but eventually, he’d realize that a much greater blaze than what could be produced from a candle wick was necessary to do any real harm. Once he did, the man was doomed.

Despite that, though, Arthur’s mind then wandered. He didn’t notice it at first. The beast’s feral manifestation belied that a man ultimately lay beneath the fur, an issue that was only exasperated due to him having to constantly defend himself from the barrage. A moment of quiet, though, allowed him to realize that the werewolf had revealed certain inclinations and behaviors that betrayed his true human form. He closed his eyes and then reflected on this.

Then he thrust open his eyes, eyes that were now bloodshot with rage, open. He knew who the beast truly was and knowing this made him feel nothing but pure, unadulterated fury. It compelled Arthur to toss the candelabra aside and continue the attack with his sword. Wild swings and gesticulations followed. His fatigue was practically gone. Rage has a way of invigorating.

During this reckless assault, the locket around his neck perpetually bounced around and struck Arthur several times in the face. It was a mild annoyance at first but it quickly grew to be maddening, perhaps even more so than the earlier aforementioned revelation. Every time it hit his chin, it reminded him how much it had weighed him down, how it restricted his movement, how it was the albatross around his neck Yes, it was an albatross. True, the locket was once a source of comfort. After all, his queen bestowed it upon him. It was once a symbol of happy halcyon days. Now, it was emblematic of what he’d never have again.

He paused from his assault to scowl at the locket. Then his eyes immediately shifted once more at the beast in front of him, still reeling but quickly recovering from the previous attack. Arthur’s began to quake. His adrenaline rush born of his earlier ire had dissipated. The end of the fight was near. It was the moment of truth, one last melee to determine the winner. His head jerked as if struck as a revelation revealed itself to him. He knew what he must do.

Arthur roared and unclasped the locket with his free hand and held it over the nearest flame radiating from a different candle of a different candelabrum than the one he had tossed aside earlier. It melted quickly until it was nearly putty. Arthur then applied the silver gel he had just formed to the tip of his sword. Attempting to seize the opportunity, the werewolf leaped towards the man. More out of fear than reflex, the man turned toward the creature while pointing his blade upwards. The weight of the creature drove Arthur to the ground. He closed his eyes and braced with apprehension, shaking slightly while waiting for the beast’s sharp nails to skewer him.

Those blows never came. Arthur opened his eyes and found, staring down at him at the end of his sword a blemished, bespectacled individual who was more boy than man. His lung was punctured by the sword. Blood poured down the blade and sailed from his mouth each time he coughed.

Arthur callously pushed him off the blade. After tossing his sword aside, he pounced on the young man now lying on his back on the ground with his wound still gushing blood. While straddling his chest, he unsympathetically pounded his face with his fists, every blow harder than the last.

The young man was unaffected by these strikes. His face showed no signs of bruising, no marks or wounds, no sign that the beating was affecting him at all. Arthur’s fists also felt nothing with every punch. It was as if he was hitting the air.

“I’m sorry,” the young repeatedly said, his speech slurred and whistling each time he spoke. “I’m sorry. They pressured me. I didn’t even want ta take a drink. I didn’t want ta keep takin’ the drink. I made-a mistack. I didn’t mean ta hurt nobody. I’m so sorry. I just wanted ta get home. I wanna go home. I wanna see my mom and dad ag’in. I wanna go home!”

Arthur’s fists slowed. His wrath faded to despondency. He panted heavily atop the boy contemplating his next move.

A voice echoed in his head. “Forgive…forgive…forgive…”

“I…” Arthur paused for a moment. “I, I forgive you.” The boy flashed a relieved but solemn grin before he dissipated into sand and was scattered by a mysterious incoming wind.

“Do you anger?” the wizard asked.


“Then we may proceed.” Merlin touched the far wall. A door appeared. He opened it to reveal a large, spiraling flight of stairs. Arthur packed up his things and followed the wizard.

Again they climbed. The same day and night cycle commenced. Undeterred, the two men continued their ascension until they reached the third floor. Like the other, the room was circular and had no door except the entrance.

A demon was waiting for them.

Arthur drew his sword. The demon bade him put it away. He had no interest in fighting. There was only one thing on his mind. Bargaining.

“If you leave now,” the demon said, “I’ll let you have a legendary sword that will let you conquer your enemies. How does that sound?”

“I would rather have my queen with me,” Arthur answered.

“A queen? Seems a little bit too much, if you ask me, for what you’re offering. But, hell, maybe I can find one for you. I know I can get you a lady, at least.”

“I want my queen,” Arthur retorted. “She’s the only one I want.” He then reached into his rucksack and retrieved several gems. “Perhaps if I offered you some monetary compensation you will bring her to me.”

The demon rubbed his chin. A smile formed suddenly on his fangs as he lifted his clawed index finger. “How about this, instead? I’ll give you a weapon and a beautiful lady if you leave now.”

Arthur shook his head and growled. “I only want my queen.” He then tapped his chin before smiling. “Maybe there is something else I can offer you.”

The negotiations continued for several days. Both were unrelenting. Arthur’s proposal became more and more extravagant with every passing second. He offered money and jewels, weapons and gold, exotic pets, and foods, all sorts of wares, and other spoils he had discovered during his adventures. To his credit, the demon’s offers were equally enticing often involving kingdoms and the love and admiration that come with it, dominion over all things, and the love of a beautiful queen. When it was confirmed that the woman would not be his queen specifically, though, Arthur declined.

The voice returned. “This isn’t getting you anywhere.”

“I know,” Arthur whispered. “No matter how much I offer, I cannot win.”

“You know what you must do.”

“Must I?” Arthur, during this bargaining session, had found a strange comfort with the demon. He in an earlier life had mastered the art of the deal and though he had forced the joy of its application to become dormant, it suddenly resurfaced when a rival equally as skilled suddenly appeared. At times, it felt almost like he was talking to an old friend.

Yet, indeed, he knew what he had to do. Arthur drew his sword. The demon’s eyes widened as he reeled back in fear, showing his palms. He begged the man to be reasonable.

“Do you bargain?” Merlin asked.

“No.” Arthur swung his sword and cleaved the demon in half. His screams were barely able to escape his lips before his bifurcated body hit the ground and dissipated into sand before being scattered by a mysterious incoming wind.

“Then we may proceed.” Merlin touched the far wall. A door appeared. He opened it to reveal a large, spiraling flight of stairs. Arthur packed up his things and followed the wizard.

Another long walk. Another abbreviated day-night cycle. Another circular room at the top of the steps.

Unlike the rooms before, Arthur felt a pall upon entering. He nearly fled. However, before he could take a step back, his resolve was bolstered by his wizard companion who inspired him by mentioning his queen. Upon hearing her name, he willed himself forward, consciously moving one leg after the other, into the room.

A man sat alone on the other side. His arms were around his ankles and his face was buried in his knees. He muttered to himself, oblivious to the two visitors. Arthur moved next to him and placed his ear next to the man’s cheek. His words were incoherent yet, for reason unbeknownst to Arthur, hearing them crushed his spirit. He had suddenly become overwhelmed with feelings of despair. It was as if the man had cast a spell on him.

The crying man suddenly turned around. Arthur gasped. It was akin to looking into his own reflection.

The entrance suddenly closed. Tears flowed down the crying man’s face, not as mere trickles or even a stream but as a torrent. It was as if a pair of dams had been broken. Higher and higher the water rose. It only took a few seconds for the water to rise to Arthur’s waist. Before he could react, a few seconds later, his entire body was submerged. Seconds later, the room was completely filled.

Arthur, despite the dire circumstances, felt strangely at peace. Gazing into the crying man’s face had allowed him to see clearly. Death was preferable after discovering the forbidden knowledge. He was ready to die.

Then he heard a distant voice. It was barely audible at first but the voice crescendoed until he could hear nothing else. Not the rushing water, not his mind telling him to let it end here, nothing else but the thunderous yet serene voice that told him what he needed to hear, the same voice he had heard before.

“Was the purpose of your adventure to give up here? Was that really your intention? Do you think this is what she would have wanted?”

Upon hearing those questions, Arthur forced his arms and legs to move through the water. Each motion burned his limbs and at times, it seemed that the distance was impossible to close. Every stroke made the prospect of giving up all the more palatable. Yet, knowing he’d let her down was enough to make him complete the swim to the crying man.

Arthur grabbed his arms and looked him directly in the eyes. The water prevented speech but they could somehow still communicate.

“You must despair,” the crying man seemed to say.

“That time is over.”

“She will never return.”

“She never truly left.”

“You will never forget her.”

“Nor do I want to.”

“The misery will never leave.”

“Sorrow may not but despair shall.”

“Cry with me.”

“I have no more tears to shed.”

The crying man pointed his head toward the heavens and let out an anguished scream. A loud bang commenced as his body exploded into a myriad of tiny little sand-like pieces that eventually dissipated into the ether.

Another loud bang followed with the opening of the entrance door. The water poured out rapidly and soon the room was empty except for Merlin and Arthur. While the latter coughed to eradicate water from his lungs, the former only needed to adjust his blue hat.

“Do you still feel sadness?” Merlin asked after Arthur caught his breath.

“Yes, of course,” Arthur said.

“But do you despair?”


“Then we may proceed.” Merlin touched the far wall. A door appeared. He opened it to reveal a large, spiraling flight of stairs. Arthur packed up his things and followed the wizard.

Unlike the other stairways, there were only a few steps to climb before they reached the final room, or at least so it seemed. Perhaps it only felt that way because Arthur suddenly found himself invigorated. Maybe the seeming end of the rapid day-night cycle birthed his newfound enthusiasm. The sun shone brightly through an open window and it seemed to follow the pair as they ascended. Then again, perhaps the harrowing near-death experience gave him a new appreciation of life, or maybe he somehow sensed that the end of his journey was near. Regardless, the trip to the final floor was much simpler and almost, dare Arthur think it, fun.

Like the other rooms, the room on the top floor was circular with no doors leading out though for once this was not surprising. Yet, outside of these superficial similarities, it was nothing like others for it exuded a completely different ambiance. It was warm, inviting, and pleasant. A beautiful plush carpet lined the ground and a red carpet led from the entrance to a large throne resting against the far wall. Adorning the room were various trinkets, paintings, and decorations rivaling the greatest artists and craftsmen in the world. Everything within it befitted royalty, which Arthur immediately realized, was apropos.

In fact, Arthur did not even notice any of the ornate decorations. His mind and eyes were completely focused on the lone occupant in the room, a tall beautiful woman with fair skin, luxurious black hair, and the most beautiful pair of blue eyes he ever did see.

She was the one he was looking for his entire journey. She was the one she longed to see. She was his queen.

Arthur shouted and ran towards her. “Gwen!”

“Arthur!” she called back and ran to him as well. The two met in the center and shared an embrace along with a deep, passionate kiss.

Arthur’s hands moved through her long luxurious black hair. “How I missed you. I wish this moment could last for eternity.”

“As do I, my love,” Gwen said. “But I’m afraid it is not meant to be. I cannot stay.”

Arthur wanted to ask why but before he could, he became fixated with a strange sensation in his hands and arms. He felt movement. For a moment he thought his love was simply restless but quickly realized the woman was being pulled away by an unknown force. The woman he loved, the woman he had moments ago been hugging and kissing, was an apparition who was literally slipping through his fingers.

“Where are you going?”

“You mustn’t hold on to me.”

“You’re the only one worth holding on to.”

“You must move on.”

“It was all my fault.”

“You mustn’t blame yourself.”

“You left to pick me up.”

“You were working late for me.”

“I was working late for greed.”

“You couldn’t have known what was going to happen.”

“I could have prevented it.”

“You must forgive yourself.”

“I’m not sure that I can.”

“You can. You are the man I love and deserve it.”

“I will love you always.”

“I will love you always as well.”

“Will I ever see you again?”

There was a slight pause. “We shall see. You must continue to live for there to be any hope.”

The woman began to sob yet she still mustered the courage to smile through those tears. Arthur begged and pleaded with her to stay. As much as he tried to stop her, she eventually faded away.

Arthur fell to his hands and knees. He could not stop the tears.

“I wish to return now,” Arthur said through his anguished howls.

“Do you accept?” Merlin asked.

“It still hurts.”

“As it will always, but that is not what I asked. Do you accept?”

“Yes. Yes, I do, Doctor Merlin.”

“Good. Then we shall return. I think we’ve made some real progress today, Mr. Collins.”

If you enjoyed this story, then perhaps you’d be interested in reading more by pressing the “short story” tag below or clicking this(short story) link or this(genre and tags) link or this(story list) link. I would also urge you to share this story with others and comment below. Please check out my books page as well by pressing here. Thank you for reading my story.


2 thoughts on “Short Story Saturday: The Tower

    • Thank you very much. I really liked how it came together too. I kind of thought of it on a whim. It took several revisions but I think it came together all right at the end. Glad you enjoyed it.

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