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In the Shadow of the Tower by IgnobleBard

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Story notes:
Written for the October 2010 ALEC challenge "Things that go bump in the night"

MEFA 2011 Nominee
My death was agony beyond imagining, yet it was only the beginning.

Wounds to the spirit may be worse than any physical pain visited on the body. The pain I endured in life was acute but transitory, the worst being the moment my fae and rhaw were forcibly sundered. Both survived, after a fashion, but while the twisted, corrupted mass of animate flesh that was my rhaw is long since become dust my fae continues, bound to the world until the ending of it.

Why did I not answer the call? For me it never came. I suppose it has not come for any of us unfortunates whose bodies were stolen and altered through torture, transmogrification, and evil sorcery into creatures too grotesque to articulate. I do not know why Nmo has turned from us, from me, but to be an eternal watcher, helpless to participate in or control events is torment beyond expression.

When my fae escaped the tower of the Necromancer I made my way back to my home. For years I lingered close to my former talan but my family and friends slowly drifted away, moving to other areas and eventually far to the north, or so I gathered from their frightened whispers as they journeyed through my part of the forest. I called out to them but they looked over their shoulders in alarm and hastened away as though they could hear or sense me. I tried to follow, but after a few steps I found myself back in the same place I’d started. Since then I have been alone, watching the forest grow ever darker, feeling the influence of the tower spread throughout the wood.

Have I desired a rhaw? Of course I have. There have been times I would have done anything, even returned to the tower as the Necromancer’s slave, if only I could feel again, belong again. I never acted on the impulse, for the circumstances of my demise were such I could never visit that suffering on another. Yet the need is strong, and at this time of year when the separation of worlds is thin temptation is a constant, bitter ache.

As the midnight hour approaches I see an Elf making his way through the trees, approaching where I stand. He is tall and broad shouldered, his golden hair shining in the moonlight, his stride sure and strong. A sense of indescribable longing washes over me at the thought of inhabiting a rhaw such as this. It would be easy to take him unawares, force my way in at the very moment of midnight when resistance would be nearly impossible.

When he comes within twenty paces of me he slows as though sensing my presence. He stops and looks around. The wind ripples through the trees sending a scatter of dead leaves over the forest floor. Up in the branches an owl takes wing, flapping toward the full moon.

“I know you are here,” he says.

I try to answer but not even a whisper issues forth.

“You are houseless but not by your choosing,” he continues.

‘Yes!’ I think. ‘How does he know?’

“Follow me,” he says.

He turns and walks away. I follow.

He leads me through the forest toward the tower. I halt. When I escaped I vowed I would never return.

“Do not be afraid,” he says. “Follow. I have something to show you.”

Why I follow I do not know but his voice carries command and I cannot disobey. Terror whispers to me at the thought I might be trapped again, that the dark sorcery that took everything from me might turn my spirit to the darkness I once escaped and have shunned since at such great cost.

We break from the treeline, where the forest gives way to the hill upon which the tower stands. Had I breath I would gasp at the sight, for the tower is there no longer.

“Why did you not answer the call?” he asks.

‘There was no call,’ I cannot speak it but he nods as though he has heard. He closes his eyes. His brow furrows in concentration.

And then I hear it, a lordly voice calling my name. It carries a command but there is understanding too, and pity.

He opens his eyes and smiles.

“Yes, I feel it,” he says to the empty air. “The spell is broken.” He looks at me. “The Necromancer has been destroyed and now you can hear the call. Answer it and you will find peace in Nmo’s halls.”

“But how is it I did not hear it before?” I am startled at the sound of my own voice.

“The spell he used to separate you from your hra has kept you locked within yourself to the point you could see nothing outside. The tower was thrown down many years ago, yet you did not know it. It was only when Nmo realized this that he sent me to seek for you and others who have been held captive by the Necromancer’s dark magic. Look beyond yourself and your pain and you will be free to answer the call, if answer you will.”

I look and see that everything once denied to me is now before me. I feel the pain lift like fog from my unencumbered spirit.

“Yes, I am ready,” I say. “I will answer. But how will I find my way?”

“I will show you,” he says. He beckons to me and we walk together, the dark forest dissolving into light around us.