It is twenty-one days since I entered the Tower, the last devotion to what we were before death came to our world. It is not what I expected. I, who come from dying fields where the sun screams over the lone brook. I, who toiled between brook and field. I, with my spark of magic. I, who may be the one to revitalize the world. The promises in the arcanist’s eyes; he who brought me here, are partly fulfilled.
Related: The Arcanist (prequel)
It is a cold world in the Tower. My eyes tear up words on the ancient books I read. My fingers turn the pages in the spots generations before me have turned the page. Sometimes in my chilly stone room with only a square glance at the treetops outside I wish to be back in my fields where my magic pulsed the strongest, where I sang with the notes in the flickering stars.
I am here. I am meant to find the secrets hidden in the ancient books. The secrets of revival and life, yet my magic has never felt so dim. Without the moon or even the harsh reality of the sun, the books are crumbling paper weighed down with ink.
I meet her one day walking a corridor alone. The endless stairs lend muscle to my legs, but she is a tall and powerful woman with watermelons for breasts and whole walnuts for eyes. The inhabitants of the Tower; people like me brought here because of their wisps of magic, call her the Mistress of Copper. It is a pretty name, but I have seen her counting coins in her chamber. Slowly her pile expands.
She is a seductress. Love is the magic she knows. The arcanist, I am told, brought here her to offer one more reason to stay to those driven mad by the constant studying of writing from eons ago. She is a fly in the eye of her web of charm.
The Mistress of Copper is not the lady of the Tower, yet she walks in every passageway, scents every step, haunts every shadow. The Tower is her and she is the Tower. In the presence of the arcanist, she quails prettily but I see her hands form claws inside her billowing sleeves.
I come to feel her in the stone. I come to know her in my dreams. I come to understand the ridiculous joke we have played upon ourselves. The Mistress of Copper, she sucks the life from the books and feeds off the last sparks of magic in the world. She is the death of growth in our midst, a constant block against our efforts, yet it is also she who livens the grass outside the Tower and tends to the last trees.
I wonder. I wander.
In a passageway at midnight, I meet her. “Come,” she says, and draws closer to me with greed in her eyes. “Come to the Tower roof. The world is waiting to see you.”
I do not like her voice. She wants only for herself. In my fear I walk away strong. Behind me I feel the stirrings of hate.
The Mistress of Copper pursues me. She gets what she wants. She is what she wants. Her nails dig into my arm. “Your power is fading, girl. I feel you in my dreams. The fresh air is what you need. Do not think I do not know where your magic comes from.”
She is right. I am a girl of the outside world. I feel the life in death. To feel the wind is welcome. But not with her.
She draws blood with her nails when I break away. A red drop falls on the stone of the floor. I am gone before it falls.
It is inevitable. My heart whispers in my throat. Sooner or later, I will find myself in her web. Not tonight or the next. She gives up on the night and comes for me in the day.
I find myself alone with the Mistress of Copper on the Tower roof. We look out at the bubble of our green world; the last existing utopia in a planet turning to dust. She has brought me here for she knows the fresh air will refresh my heart and eyes and magic.
She wants to kiss me.
I do not like her taste; she is made of copper, it seems, and she bitters my tongue. I feel the life of the world flowing up through the Tower. It flows into her. With the wind above me and the crows shedding feathers overhead, I distract myself from the woman crawling over me by thinking of my dusty fields that comforted, of the sun that was hot but never burned.
I feel my magic revitalize, fingernail clipping by fingernail clipping.
At the edge of the Tower I stand. The Mistress of Copper stands in front of me, blocking out the view of the crystal blue lake that never swells nor diminishes.
I give her a small push. She falls. I fly. The Tower shudders. It is stronger than her; we are stronger than her.
© 2021 Jaya Avendel. All Rights Reserved.
Photo by Vishal Gautam on Unsplash
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