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.

Arthur and Merlin approached the oblong, white-bricked tower. The two had journeyed far and had overcome many perils to reach this place. Their goal was to reach the top. What Arthur sought awaited him there. Dangling around his neck was a silver locket.

Arthur did not initially wish to bring along a companion on this journey but the wizard informed him that he would not be able to even enter the place without his assistance. It became readily apparent what the wizard had meant. The tower had no doors. Arthur was puzzled. Merlin assured him there was a way in.

The wizard touched the wall. A door appeared. He opened it to reveal a large, spiraling flight of stairs. Arthur followed him. They entered a circular room. The two were approached by a giant knight clad in black armor. Merlin told Arthur he would provide a way to the next floor after he had defeated the knight. Arthur decided there was but one course of action. The knight was ready. He gripped the handle of his blade.

Arthur took a swing. It was easily parried. Again and again, he tried, but he could not land a blow. The knight was never the instigator nor the aggressor of a blow, choosing to deflect with an all-out defense. Yet, he still proved to be a most formidable foe.

All manner of tactics were tried. Arthur attempted to dash past the knight, attacking from all different sorts of angles. Those blows were countered with ease. Different weapons were used along with several types of diversions. Plan after plan was implemented. Attempt after attempt was made. Nothing worked.

“Did you not notice?” Arthur heard a voice. He looked around. It didn’t come from the wizard nor did it come from the knight.

Arthur could not sense where the voice was coming from. He answered anyway. “What do you mean?”

“Observe the knight closely.”

The man did as instructed. He scrutinized every inch of the knight but noticed nothing amiss. He was about to give up when he noticed a small and seemingly insignificant spec of silver at the knight’s feet. Arthur could not help but wonder what could have caused that discoloration.

Was he able to land a significant enough blow that it chipped the armor? No, he couldn’t have. None of his strikes landed. Then why?

He had an epiphany. The black color on the armor wasn’t paint. It was soot, dirt, and grime. Silver was armor’s true color.

“Reveal the truth,” the voice said. Arthur placed the rucksack he carried on his back onto the ground and reached in to pull out some wax and cloth, both of which he carried in order to clean his blade after a skirmish. He walked over to his foe and began applying the wax to the armor. Sensing no threat from the man, the knight allowed him to do this. Sparkling silver armor was exposed underneath the black grunge as the man waxed. Arthur could only clean up to the knight’s knees but it revealed enough.

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

“My armor is black.” The knight was resolute in this notion.

“Reveal the truth,” the voice repeated.

Arthur applied wax to his sword and lifted it high into the air. The knight looked down and saw the reflection. The truth was revealed. The knight fainted and landed on the ground with a sickening metallic thud which caused the armor to dissipate like sand. It was then scattered by the wind.

Left in its wake was a contorted, feminine mess.

Her limbs were twisted in a sickening manner. Bones were evidently shattered. Some were even exposed. Blood poured from various wounds. A large gaping hole allowed a person to see through her chest. Her eyes, poking through her dirty, matted long black hair, though lifeless, seemed to scream in anguish. Arthur vomited upon seeing the woman’s corpse.

“Do you deny?” the wizard asked.

Arthur wiped his mouth. “No.”

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

The stairway seemed never-ending. Time lost all meaning. Day and night seemed to cycle with every step. Arthur felt more tired mentally than physically. His legs never lost strength but his mind constantly berated him for not turning around. The next room seemed perpetually out of reach. Failure felt inevitable.

Yet he managed to press forward partly because of the indomitable spirit of his companion. If the wizard felt fatigued, mentally or physically, during the trip, he certainly did not show it nor did he express such feelings aloud. His constitution was resolute. It emboldened Arthur with a sense of courage.

Eventually, they reached the top of the stairwell. Arthur felt a strange mixture of relief and joy. This feeling did not last for long.

It was daytime when Arthur placed his first step into the circular room. Night fell when he placed his second. Like the room below, there were apparently no doors in this room except, of course, the entrance. For a moment everything was pitch black. In pairs of twos, starting at the far end away from the entrance, candles sitting on tall candelabras lit up as if they did it on their own.

The moon shone through the room’s singular window. A black figure lied in the middle of the room. The beast’s giant white fangs were stained with blood and shone in the lunar glow. Arthur’s eyes widened as they gazed onto the furry creature.

Standing before him was a werewolf. He let out a ferocious howl. Then he stalked towards the man, raised a mighty claw and attacked. Arthur’s sword deflected the blow just as it was about to land. Undeterred, the werewolf continued the assault with strike after rageful strike.

Arthur managed to resist the onslaught though just barely. The werewolf was unrelenting. Arthur did manage at times to swing a counter-blow, but though his sword would often hit its target it would fail to pierce the werewolf’s skin. Attrition was on his opponent’s side. Arthur knew this. Fatigue was already setting in but try as he might, Arthur could not think of a way out of this predicament. Out of sheer desperation, he grabbed a nearby candelabra and pointed it at the creature.

Animalistic instincts took over. Though the flame was barely hot enough to singe his fur, it still scared him. The werewolf only knew that fire was bad. He would shortly learn that the small bit of fire was nothing to be afraid of. Once he recognized this, Arthur was doomed.

Yet at this point, Arthur’s fear had dissipated as certain gesticulations started to betray the werewolf’s true form. As Arthur observed him under the light of the candelabra, it grew ever more clear. The beast’s feral manifestation belied the true nature of the man that lied beneath. Learning this filled Arthur with pure, unadulterated rage.

Something else feathered the flames of his anger. With every swing of the sword, the locket bounced and struck Arthur several times in the face. It was a mild annoyance at first but it grew to be maddening. Every time the locket collided with his chin it reminded him how much it weighed him down and restricted his movement. The locket was once a source of comfort. His queen gave it to him after all. He once considered it a prized possession. Now he couldn’t stand the mere sight of it. A simple glance filled him with an unbridled, unquenchable rage.

That is when he thought of a way to rid himself of both the wolf and the locket.

Keeping the candelabra in one hand and pointed at the creature, he walked towards another candle. He unclasped the locket with his free hand and held it over the nearby flame. It was melted until it was nearly putty. Arthur then set the candelabra down, applied the silver gel to the tip of his blade, then drew his sword.

Seizing the opportunity, the werewolf leaped towards the man. More out of fear than reflex, Arthur turned suddenly towards the creature while pointing the 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.

These blows never came. Arthur opened his eyes and found, staring at him from the end of his blade, a blemished, bespectacled individual who was more boy than man. His lung was punctured by the sword. Blood poured down the wound and flew from his mouth each time he’d cough. Arthur callously removed the boy from the tip of his blade The motion caused the boy to land on his back with a sickening crash. Arthur then tossed the sword aside recklessly and pounced on top of his fallen foe.

He pounded the young man’s face with his fists while straddling his chest. Every blow was 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, slurring his speech and whistling as 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 strikes gradually slowed. His wrath faded.

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 faded into the ether. Arthur was left alone still on his knees as he stared into the abyss.

“Do you anger?” the wizard asked.

“No.” Arthur walked toward his sword, picked it up, then sheathed it.

“Then we may proceed.” The wizard 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 others, 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 a fight. 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 pricey for just leaving, but maybe I can provide one for you. I can get you a lady at least.”

My queen. She’s the only one I want.” Arthur reached into his bag and pulled out some gems. “Perhaps if I offered you some of these?”

“How about this? A sword and a beautiful lady if you leave now.”

“I only want my queen. Maybe there is something else I can offer you.”

The negotiations continued for several days. Both men were unrelenting. Arthur’s offers became more and more extravagant. 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.

The demon’s offers were equally enticing. A kingdom and the love and admiration that comes with it, dominion over all things, and the love of a beautiful queen. However, since the woman would not be his queen specifically, Arthur declined.

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

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

“You know what you must do.”

“Must I?” He had found a strange comfort with the demon. Arthur was adept at making money having mastered the art of the deal. Rarely was he able to meet someone who he’d consider a peer. The demon was one of them. He was equally skilled in the art of trade. This made Arthur consider him almost like a friend.

Yet he knew he what he had to do. Arthur drew his sword. The demon’s eyes widened. He begged the man to be reasonable.

“Do you bargain?” the wizard asked.

“No.” Almost as if compelled, Arthur swung his sword and slew the demon, cleaving him in half. The demon’s screams were barely able to escape his lips before his bifurcated body hit the ground.

“Then we may proceed.” The wizard 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.

A man was there, facing the wall on the opposite side, and sitting alone. His arms were around his ankles and his face was buried in his knees. He muttered to himself, oblivious to the two visitors.

Suddenly, Arthur felt a pall. He froze and could not enter. For a moment he wanted to flee. Bolstered by his wizard companion and inspired with thoughts of his queen, he willed himself to move forward. Consciously moving one leg after the other, Arthur walked and approached the man. The man did not acknowledge Arthur. He continued muttering to himself. Arthur placed his ear next to the man’s lips. His words were completely incoherent. Yet somehow Arthur was able to understand every single word.

Suddenly, Arthur was suddenly overcome with despair. It was as if the man had cast a spell on him. Arthur fell to a knee and as he did so, he reached his hand out aimlessly and brushed the man’s shoulder. The man turned around. Arthur saw his own face looking back at him.

The entrance suddenly closed. Tears flowed down the man’s face, not as mere trickles but as a torrent. It was as if two large spigots were opened. Higher and higher the water rose. Rapidly it reached Arthur’s waist. A few seconds later, his entire body was submerged. The entire room was soon engulfed.

Yet in spite of the dire circumstances, Arthur did not panic. He did nothing. Despair had overwhelmed him. He was ready to die.

“Are you really giving up?” It was that voice again. It was barely audible at first but then it crescendoed until he could hear nothing else. Not the rushing water, not his mind telling him to let it end there. He heard nothing but the loud yet serene voice that told him what he needed to hear.

“The purpose of your adventure was to give up here? Was that really your intention? Do you think this is what she would have wanted?” This was enough to break the enchantment.

Arthur willed his arms and legs to move through the water. Though each motion burned his limbs, he managed to swim to the crying man, albeit incredibly slowly. When he reached the target, Arthur grabbed the man’s arms and looked directly into his eyes. The water prevented speech but somehow they manage to communicate.

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

“That time is over.”

“You will never forget her.”

“Nor do I want to.”

“The misery will never leave.”

“Sorrow may not but depression shall.”

“Cry with me.”

“I have no more tears to shed.”

The crying man pointed his head towards the heavens and let out an anguished scream. A loud bang commenced as his body exploded into a myriad of tiny little 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 the wizard and Arthur. While Arthur coughed in an effort to breathe properly again, Merlin calmly adjusted his blue hat.

“Do you despair?” the wizard asked after he allowed Arthur to catch his breath.

“No.” Arthur still felt sadness but he no longer despaired.

“Then we may proceed.” The wizard 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 to reach 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 now seemed to be a permanent fixture in the sky as it shone brightly through an open window. It provided welcome warmth and comfort.

Maybe the harrowing near-death experience gave him a new appreciation of life. His suicidal thoughts were completely eradicated. 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.

When they reached the final room at the top of the tower, it was, like the others, circular with no doors leading out. That was about its only similarity with the others. The environment was tender, inviting, and pleasant. The floors were golden except for a red carpet that led from the entrance to a large throne resting against the far wall.  Around the room were various trinkets, paintings, and decorations rivaling the greatest artists and craftsmen in the world. The room befitted royalty, which Arthur immediately realized, was apropos.

Arthur did not notice the ornate decorations. His eyes were fixed upon the lone occupant of this room. A tall beautiful woman with fair skin and the most beautiful pair of blue eyes he ever did see. She was wearing a silver dress, not that he noticed. He could not think at the moment of any other thing but her, the one he longed so desperately to see, his queen.

Arthur shouted as he ran toward 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 hand moved through her long luxurious black hair.

“How I missed you,” Arthur said. “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, when he opened his eyes, the woman was being pulled away by an unknown force. His queen was an apparition 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 because you are the man I love and deserve it.”

“I will love you always.”

“I will love you always as well.”

“Shall I ever see you again?”

“We shall see. You must continue to live for there to be any hope.”

She mustered the courage to smile through her 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.

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

“Do you accept?” the wizard asked.

“It still hurts.”

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

“Yes. Yes, I do.”

“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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