Article: 288544 of talk.bizarre
From: "Nikolai Kingsley" <>
Newsgroups: talk.bizarre
Subject: the Tower
Date: Sun, 1 Dec 1996 00:57:09 +1100
Organization: anarchartists
Lines: 355
Message-ID: <01bbdec6.61155720$>

Feren had been meaning to look at the foundations of the tower all week,
but then he'd discovered an important planetary conjunction in an old
almanac and the comfortable, familiar ritual of observation – polishing
the telescope lenses, checking the feather-clocks, digging out and
unrolling charts, then setting crystals on the edges to keep them flat,
centring important reference bodies in the cross-hairs of brass
instruments – all this had occupied his attention completely. One of his
faults was an inability to logically order his life; he got things done by
concentrating on them one at a time. Home maintenance could wait, he told
himself; significant alignments of the planets would not.

Gradually his scribblings in the margins of the charts took over from his
observations; the view had been interrupted by a bank of storm-clouds
coming from somewhere further down the coast. A glance at the energy
compass confirmed his suspicions and he clicked his tongue in annoyance:
those kids down at Lymas College were at it again.

"College" was a grandiose title for a group of teenaged males who had
stolen some books on magic from the ruins of an older, more sedate school
of thaumaturgy and had decided to experiment with them. Nine enthusiastic
young men of varying backgrounds and experience who now occupied an
abandoned raider's fortress, and hardly a clue between them. They usually
confined their experiments to the lower elementals, trying to summon
nymphs and dryads; however, when they got ambitious, the immediate
vicinity of Lymas College was best avoided.

He shaded his eyes from the early afternoon sun; peering through the clear
glass panes at the top of his tower, he saw a thin trail of smoke. He
uncapped his telescope and took a closer look; the building was burning.
Tell-tale fluctuations in the orientation of his energy-compass told him
that whatever they'd been doing down there had gone horribly wrong, and
the results were being mirrored in the sky; ugly dark blue and grey storm
clouds were gathering faster than any natural storm.

He leaned back from his telescope and frowned. It was at least two day's
journey on foot to Lymas College; unless Mizake the Mizan happened by with
his acorn-brandy-powered carriage, there was little he could do to help
them today. He had once considered sending them a cautious omen – the
crows which nested in the ruins of another old tower a few miles down the
coast were all good friends of his – but he'd learned that the Lymas
Collegians weren't particularly inclined to listen to the advice of anyone
who hadn't written a large, black leather-bound book and then died two
hundred years ago. He sighed, replaced the lens-cap on his telescope, put
the kettle on and went down to the base of the tower to inspect the

Besides which, he told himself, there's only so much you can say with a

His tower had once been a lighthouse, back in the days when men still
sailed the seas; Trolls had built it from huge slabs of bluestone shot
through with silver specks. The stones at the base were the size of his
bath-tub; near the top of the tower they were the size of his head. A
brass column as far around as his arms could reach ran the entire length
of the tower, right up the middle, the heavy wooden plank stairs between
each floor winding around it. At the top, the column splayed out into
eleven branches which supported the glass panes; at the base of the tower
it sank deep into the earth and reached down to a geothermal spring which
provided hot water flavoured with minerals. Many of his friends visited
just to enjoy hot baths.

The foundations appeared sound; the column was still seated firmly, but
there was a gap of a finger's width between two of the stones near the
ground-level door, a gap that hadn't been there last week. He was
examining the outer wall and considering various home improvement
strategies when a shock of wind swirled his cloak around him in a most
dramatic fashion – the storm was closer, and stronger than he'd thought.
He looked up and, to his dismay, saw the outline of the tower sway
visibly. His eyes widened and he rushed back inside to check the column;
there was now a hairline crack in the stone collar around the base. He
held his hands out, fingers spread, sensing the amount of give with his
eyes closed. It didn't look good.

He was leafing through an old copy of the Yellow Grimoire, trying to find
a good contractor that he could get in at short notice when there was a
distant thumping sound which he recognised as someone knocking at the
ground-level door. He made his way down the steps, still browsing the
grimoire, not looking forward to having to entertain visitors while his
house fell down around his ears. Passing by the first floor window, he
noted that it was now raining quite heavily. He sincerely hoped that
whoever was at the door had an umbrella.

She hadn't.

The first thing he noticed was that she had a considerable degree of
Talent; he could feel it radiating from her through the walls of the tower
even before he opened the heavy wooden door. She was a few years older
than him, with the careworn, no-nonsense look of someone who'd grown up on
a farm; dressed in rain-darkened brown robes, long brown hair tied back
with a brilliant purple scarf. She stood in the pouring rain, leaning on a
gnarled wooden staff, mouth crooked in a wry grimace. "You took your

She seemed familiar (he would remember her name presently, he knew) so he
quickly ushered her inside and fetched a towel for her, which she accepted
eagerly, vigorously rubbing her hair. "I was preoccupied," he said
apologetically. "My tower is about to fall."

She glanced up the stairs, taking in the reassuring solidity of the
stonework. "Are you being metaphorical?" Just then another gust of wind
hit the tower and the central column moved visibly. Her eyes widened and
she took an involuntary step towards the door. "I see not."

He remembered her name, now: 'Ashe'tara," he murmured absently.

"You remember me, Feren? We met at last summer's Convocation."

It all came back to him, now. He'd dropped in to the gathering primarily
to shop for herbs and had stayed for the feasts, singing and workshops;
they'd met at a panel discussion on Non-Gender-Specific Deities, and he
recalled that she'd had some sharp things to say about male solitaries.
Feren had left before the discussion had "degenerated into formal
argument", as the Sage Clarke would have put it, but had run into her
again later at the conference on Putting Down Rather Dark Things where
he'd dared to smile at her and had been rewarded by an equally warm smile
in return. He recalled that she'd seemed rather outspoken, but then his
experiences of women were limited to the occasional farmer's wives, who
came to him for advice on the weather. They tended to be rather
deferential, and not at all given to prodding master wizards and
declaring, "a big wand is just compensation for a small dick, you know."
He smiled at the memory and realised that she'd asked him another
question. "Pardon?"

"Do you have somewhere I can hang these clothes up?" He turned to face her
and blushed; she'd stripped off her robe and was holding it out to him.
Like most people in the Craft, he wasn't embarrassed by shows of casual
nudity but he did prefer a bit of warning beforehand; he wasn't of the
school of dancing-skyclad-at-the-Equinoxes. He accepted the damp clothing,
hung it from hooks attached to the column to dry and hastened to find some
more towels. When he returned, she'd taken down one of his thick black
velvet curtains and was wearing that, arms neatly threaded through two
holes which had been eaten by moths some time in the distant past. Perhaps
it was her strong aura, but the material seemed to be taking on a dark
purple tinge. "So, tell me about your tower falling." she said

He smiled, sighed and shook his head, one weary professional to another.
"Have you ever heard of the Lymas College?"

She rolled her eyes and laughed, a single derisive snort. "What have they
done this time?" He pointed out of the window at the roiling bruised
clouds sweeping past overhead. As if to emphasise the point, an angry fork
of lightning slashed across the sky, followed almost immediately by a boom
of thunder which shook the tower. In the quiet which followed the rumble,
he could hear disturbing creaks and groans from below.

She went to the window, pressed her hands up against it, eyes unfocused,
looking into the heart of the storm. Fingers fumbling as if blind, she
undid the catch and pushed the window open a fraction, cupped her hand and
stuck it out into the rain. She tasted the rainwater and then nodded.
"They've Called Up something – out of the earth – and it didn't want to
come. It's having a tantrum. It'll find its way back eventually, but in
the meantime that storm is going to get a lot worse."

Feren sat down in his favourite armchair with a despondent sigh. "In that
case, I'd better start moving things into the basement. This tower won't
survive more than ten minutes of the storm at its present intensity, and
if it's going to get worse –"

Ashe'tara raised her eyebrows at this. "Why don't you just reinforce the
tower with magick?"

Feren blushed and looked away. "I'm more of an astronomer. Structural
Integrity Fields are outside my competence."

Another peal of thunder shook the tower, which swayed sickeningly. "What
did your teacher teach you?" she asked incredulously.

"I'm a solitary, okay?" he snapped, remembering the things she'd said at
the Convocation.

She accepted this matter-of-factly and nodded to herself. "I'll teach you.
Where's the best spot for a ritual? Base of the tower, or the top?"

"There are some books stashed in the basement that don't belong to me.
Well, actually, they don't belong to this universe. I've never dared do
energy work around them; I think they'd get angry." She nodded, took his
hand and led him up to the observation cupola; a moment's observation of
the room showed her the best position. Casually, she grabbed the end of
his work-table and upended it, sending charts, crystals, pencils and
scraps of paper flying. She fetched two cushions from the couch and placed
them on the floor in a line running from the column towards the heart of
the storm; then she placed her hand on his shoulder and gently pushed him
down to the floor.

"Lie there – yes. One leg on either side of the column."

"This is all rather sudden."

"Well, we don't have a lot of time, do we? Perhaps it would be better if
you got undressed."

"This is all very sudden."

"Goddess bright, didn't anybody teach you anything? How do you expect to
raise any amount of Power at all with your clothes on?" She slipped out of
her improvised velvet robe and tossed it aside – it was definitely dark
purple instead of black now – and glanced at him impatiently.

Self-consciously he pulled his wizard's gown off over his head, revealing
a rather threadbare loincloth and a mismatched pair of socks (one dark
blue, one brown and out at the toe). She continued to stare; he blushed
and removed his socks.

"All of it, please." Blushing even more deeply, he removed his loincloth.
She looked at his nudity with the air of a farm wife assessing a pig she'd
considering buying; her own naked body was, of course, far from idealised,
but she seemed completely at ease. "All right, now, sit there again, with
your legs to either side of the column..." She sat in a similar position
opposite him, and placed the soles of her bare feet against his. He
shivered, feeling a strong jolt of Power as they made contact.

Another gust of wind assaulted the tower, and the brass column groaned
alarmingly. She reached out and took his hands, mirroring the position of
their feet, and an even stronger surge of Power flowed through him.
Despite that he'd never been very interested in overt displays of force,
this simple hedge-witch gave him cause to regret the time he'd wasted idly

She half-closed her eyes and began to chant in a resonant and surprisingly
deep tone. It was a basic invocation that even Feren knew, and he added
his own clear tenor a simple fifth above her. He dimly sensed the energy
weaving through the stones of the tower, reinforcing their stability, and
tried to assist the process by visualising the weaker spots that he'd
observed earlier, seeing the faintly purple energy flow through them like
a string going through beads.

Outside, the sky grew completely black, while the winds swirling around
the tower threatened to increase into a tornado. Hailstones clattered
against the glass panes of the cupola, and he heard a window on the lower
floor shatter, letting in the force of the wind. The combined vibration
and air pressure made the brass column sing like an organ pipe... eerily,
a precise two octaves below the note Ashe'tara was chanting. He barely had
time to wonder at this; a bolt of lightning struck the tip of the brass
column above them and crackling blue-green sparks danced along it,
singeing his pubic hair. His yelp of surprise was drowned out by the
deafening thunderclap which threatened to shake the entire tower to

Unfortunately, the Something that was driving the storm felt the magick
too, and decided to investigate; as it flew closer around the tower, the
storm got worse.

"This isn't going to be enough," she shouted. She scrambled to her feet
and drew him up, pulling him against her in a full-body hug. He felt the
strong current of her natural Power, mixed with an affectionate warmth he
realised he'd missed for far too long. This was pleasant, but Feren didn't
quite understand how they were going to raise more magickal energy in
time. The tower was definitely swaying back and forth now, and the
organ-pipe effect was growing louder. "There are only two ways to raise
enough power –blood magick and sex magick. I'm oathbound not to use blood

"You mean we have to... right now... here...? But we barely know each
other!" She spared the time for a brief giggle at his shyness, then pulled
his body closer against her own.

Truth to tell, Feren was inexperienced sexually, and quite shy with women.
Besides, he'd just had his genitalia singed by a passing lightning bolt.
She could feel his body's lack of response, even before he stuttered,
"Er... I don't think I can. Call it performance anxiety."

"Performance anx- sweet Goddess, we don't have time for this," she
retorted, reaching for the bright purple pouch that dangled between her
breasts from a cord around her neck. "Here. Inhale this, one pinch in each
nostril." She held up a minute quantity of finely ground leaves on her
thumbnail; it stung his nose and left an odd musty aftertaste in the back
of his throat, but the effects of the herb hit him almost instantly. This
time when he felt the surge of her Power as she embraced him again, it
triggered an equally powerful surge of lust that rushed straight to his
groin, giving him an almost painful erection. He noticed vaguely that her
eyes had begun to glisten, and realised that he didn't remember the last
time he'd been this sexually aroused.

She was far more experienced in this than he was, and apparently able to
keep control of her magick even when drugged and desirous. She pulled him
down onto the floor beside the column, guiding his own shaft into her
already-moist womanhood. She wrapped her arms and legs around him tightly
and she moaned softly as he entered her. Then she began to move beneath
him, until he got the idea and joined her in the ancient rhythm. He felt
her Power sweep through him with every stroke, and his eyes widened when
she resumed chanting in time and he felt the energy multiply.

The wind pounded, and the tower swayed, and the brass column sang, and all
these rhythms blended with the rhythm of her chanting, and the rhythm of
their bodies straining together... he didn't want it to stop, but even he
could gauge his own lack of control; inevitably, he felt climax
approaching. She sensed it and he could see the decision suddenly set in
her expression; she cried out in an odd language filled with hissing
Sh-sounds and rolling growls; not to him, he realised, but to the
Something angrily circling outside. Just before he came, the storm paused
in its deliberate fury as if gathering itself up like a cat preparing to
leap; and leap it did, down to the point of the brass column. His head
thrown back, he got a vague impression of some huge, diaphanous black
animal, something like a mole or perhaps a rabbit, twisting in the air
above the tower, and for one second their eyes met through the glass of
the cupola. Curiously, it didn't seem angry; he got a brief impression of
sardonic amusement just before he came, his eyes squeezed shut. She had
been lying more or less where she'd been previously, with her feet to
either side of the column, he kneeling between her legs; as he came –
noting that Ashe'tara came just after him – he was abruptly pulled back
against the column. The air around them both took on a brilliant,
scintillating blue-green hue, sparks leaping from point to point, from his
hands down to hers, from between his nipples to a corresponding place on
her body. The Something flowed down the column into the ground, drawing a
wake of difference behind it; he cried out with the wrenching sensation.
It was like being swamped in a small boat, or perhaps something like sand
would feel as it was raked. After it had passed, he just knelt there,
feeling rather peculiar (which wasn't at all surprising, given the
circumstances); his attention was drawn to Ashe'tara as she gave off a
post-coital glow and his heart leaped when she smiled up at him. When he
looked up again, the storm was clearing.

Naturally, she refused payment for her tuition services; he asked that she
stay for a few days, but she apologised, saying that she had other places
to be. He insisted she keep the velvet curtain-cloak, which was now
definitely more purple than black and, smiling, she didn't refuse.

Examining the mortar between the stones, he noted coppery flecks; he
recalled the blue-green aura of the Something, of Ashe'tara's purple
energy and thought, "Of course. Blue-green minus purple equals yellow,
more or less."

When she left, he accompanied her part of the way, enjoying the
after-storm smell of the greenery, running his hands through the leaves
and marvelling like a child as his fingers came away wet. She watched him
with approval, seeing that she'd broadened his horizons significantly.

They reached a point where he felt he'd either have to turn back home or
go on with her; they hugged and he found that he didn't want to let go of

Suddenly, she started giggling. Seeing the look he was giving her, she
pointed behind him; he turned back to look at his tower and noticed that
it had taken on a decidedly phallic profile, the cupola section elongated
slightly, the section just below narrowing before it resumed its usual
downward sweep. 

"Oh, very droll. You don't have to live there." He commented wryly. She
grinned back at him; they hugged once more and then parted.

On returning to the cupola, Feren opened one of the windows and gave a
shrill, chirring call. Perhaps a minute later, two crows landed on the
sill. He smiled up at them, beckoned them over to his desk and said, "If
you would be so kind, take a letter…"

(inspired by, and written in collaboration with Ace Lightning, as if you
couldn't tell)