chapter 7: THE TOWER

this card, 16th of the Major Arcana, here signifies Catastrophe, Disaster, Loss

"Arrest that Sorcerer!" Aleister called down.  Prince Elro ran 
down the stairs and onto the Place, sword in hand to avenge his
beloved Wand.  The Captain of the Guard stood before the
Sorcerer with sword also drawn, and ten guards backed him up
with halberds and spears and other weapons of violence.  But 
they were not especially confident: their opponent had a 

"Surrender by the authority of the Emperor!" the Captain ordered.

Otius the Old and Evil stood tall and unafraid inside his 
protective circle.  The green flames Luminata had sent down still 
flickered around him, but he was untouched by them.

He scowled. "Surrender yourself!  For I'm the only one with any 
real authority here.  I am Otius of Darkstone Himself!" 

The guards cringed back slightly in fear of that name.  There 
was whimpering in the ranks, and whispering in the crowd of
civilians that stood behind them.  Everyone moved back at least 
a step. 

Everyone but Prince Elro, who ran up to face Otius. "Villain! 
You have murdered my beloved!  DIE!"  And he stabbed at the
Sorcerer with his sword. 

But the sword could not penetrate the magic field surrounding
Otius, nor could Elro self, as he tried to throw himself upon 
the tall old man in black.  He tried again and again, to no 

The Captain said, "My Prince!  You can avail nothing that way. 
This is a matter for the Royal Sorceress."

"This is a matter for morons!" spoke Otius, with a rasping and
unpleasant voice, "if you harm me you shall never see the girl
Wand again!"

"She lives yet?" Elro asked with hope in his voice.  Only now
could one see wetness in his eyes.

"Indeed she lives.  She is already at Castle Darkstone, as my...
guest, and soon to be my Apprentice."

"Your Prisoner, you mean!" Elro stated.

"Of course.  Who would volunteer to serve under Otius the Old 
and Evil?  I have a bad reputation, you know."

The old Sorcerer turned away from Elro and addressed all who
could hear him: "I have no time for pleasantries.  I want the
Powerstaff of Tarro!  That Clown has it.  Bring it to me or your
City will perish!"

Then he raised his Powerstaff, and as he did so lightning slashed 
the sky to pieces in an unbelievable display of energy, the wind 
shrieked shrill and cold and violent.  Roof-tiles shredded loose 
from buildings and came raining down into the streets with deadly 
velocity.  People fled into the buildings--many already had when 
they first heard the name of Otius.  Some buildings began to burn, 
ignited by lightning strikes.

Otius, safe inside his magical shield, calm and methodical, 
pointed his staff at the palace and a ray of red sliced through
the stone wall, crumbling and tumbling the face of the
magnificent building.  The Royal Balcony cracked in half and
Emperor and Royalty went running inside in search of some
nebulous safety.

Otius waved his staff with a casual flick of the wrist and the
fine old Clock Tower across the City Place was shorn apart,
crashing down in a spray of stone and wood, metal gears and
sheets of glass tinkling and clattering.

Then he spun easily, not like an old man, back to face Prince
Elro.  "Shall I now turn this power against you?  Deliver the
Powerstaff unto me."

Elro was beyond fear; he felt only rage and hate.  "You are a
coward, Sorcerer!  I challenge you to do battle honorably!"

"Foolish boy," Otius spoke sternly and with sarcasm, "we have
done battle.  You have lost."

"Honorable battle, sir!  You and I, alone."

"Ah, but you are young and I am old.  There can be no honor in
such a battle."

"Make no farce of it, witch-man, I know you have powers.  But I
challenge you for the return of my Wand and the life of my

Again Otius smiled not nicely.  "Ah, you would sacrifice
yourself for love?"

"I have Faith that Love will Prevail!"

Now Otius even laughed, softly, and that wasn't especially nice
either.  "Ah, well, then, yes.  You alone may step into the

Elro crossed the line.  Inside the circle was as inside a room;
the noises outside the circle were fainter, the wind did not

He faced the ugly old man, who stood at his ease, staff relaxed
between his hands.  Elro raised his own sword in a traditional
salute, then attacked.

Effortlessly, Otius deflected the blade with his staff, and
electrical sparks ran up it to Elro's hand.  Elro screamed and
dropped his sword.

But undaunted, the young man reeled and charged again against 
the old man to do battle hand to hand.  Otius' old hand snapped
forward with unseeable speed and caught Elro by the throat,
lifting the boy as if weightless and strangling him.  Elro
struggled to break the death-grip but he was absolutely helpless, 
for the old Sorcerer had monstrous strength.

Before Elro would die, however, Otius dropped him, to lie in an
undignified sprawl.  Otius the Old and Evil preferred not to
kill young men: he had too good a use for them.

As Elro struggled to rise the old man pressed the base of his
Powerstaff to the young man's brow.  There was a frozen moment
when neither moved, then a subtle flash of orange light, and a
dreadful cry from Elro.

Otius stepped away with a firm and youthful swagger, and Elro
slumped to the ground like a deflated balloon.

The crowd was gone, the Royal Balcony ruined and empty, there
were few to witness the scene.  The Captain of the Guard and a
few brave men loyal to their prince had tried assail the circle 
to no effect.  They now saw that the wizard's flesh was full of 
vital power stolen from the barely living shell of the young man 
at his feet.  It was then that they too broke ranks and ran.

The only other witness was Luminata, watching helplessly without her Powerstaff. She was coming down from the tower to battle Otius, armed with several close-range magical devices, but she knew that Otius was at an advantage inside his magic circle. The Clown had the Powerstaff! Where was he? The fate of the entire City of Tarro--and Wandii!--in the hands of an idiot. If she but had her Powerstaff she could confront Otius, she could blast him with all the power contained within the Tower of Tarro, he would be in her territory and at her mercy. But the wily old wizard had arranged it all too well. She came to the palace stairs, which had crumbled, destroyed by a passing of Otius' red ray. She could not descend at this end of the palace; she would have to take the back courtyard exit. Luminata paused a moment to concentrate. A psychic force connected her to the Powerstaff and worked as a beacon. She could sense it. It was coming closer to her. Below. "Clown!" she called out.
Benutio and Clown were behind the Palace. "We must get this to Luminata," Benutio said, holding the Powerstaff gingerly, only she knows how to use it." "Loomy-nattle?" "Wand's mother." "Oh, Loomy-nattle!" Clown smiled, reminded who she was, "and Wandle?" he asked eagerly, tongue hanging out slightly. Behind the palace there was no entrance open. Heavy gates of thick wood were shut and unattended, no one heard them pounding upon them. Benutio surveyed the wall. There was a window three stories up. "Clown, take this to Wand's mother!" he commanded, tying the staff to Clowns sash. "Where she at?" "Somewhere inside the palace, go through that window. You'll have to find her. Now hurry! Climb! Climb!" "Okee-dokee!" Clown went up the stone wall, fingers and toes obtaining almost nonexistent purchase on thin stone joints, but somehow just enough. Once he came to the first window he could have gone inside, but didn't manage to think of that. He climbed the entire wall to the roof, eighty feet up. Below, Benutio bit his nails as the boy dangled from the wall, not absolutely certain Clown could make it, but of course he did. As we all knew he would, right? Above, Clown looked for Wandle's Mommy. The wind blew more fiercely up here, and the lightning scared him as he wandered around the ramparts. He clutched the shiny stick in a firm grip, even though it was tied to his sash. He knew from Benutio's face that this was important, so he kept reminding himself of what he was doing. It was always so hard to remember things. He was looking for someone. Who was it? Oh, yah, Wandle's Mommy. Forgot her name. Too bad, he could have called it out... if he'd thought of that.
Now the Powerstaff was above her somewhere! Luminata ran up the stairs that still did exist. Up to the ramparts, but there was no one there. The Powerstaff tugged at her mind from below again. Luminata allowed herself to curse the Clown for his stupidity. "Stay where you are!" she commanded the empty air.
Clown stopped where he was. The Powerstaff tingled in his hand. He scratched his head. "Crown can't stop, gotta find... somebody." So he continued on until the hallway was blocked with rubble and he couldn't go that way anymore. Well, there were lots of doors. He went into a side room. It was a nice room, quite fancy. Most of them were, since it was a palace, you know. He was feeling a little hungry, maybe there was some nice food. No, but there was a nice painting. And a door to the balcony. He went that way.
Luminata ran down the hall, feeling the magic getting closer, turned a corner--and was stopped by the rubble that blocked the hallway. She could sense the Powerstaff just on the other side. Now it was going to the left. She too ran into a side room with a balcony.
Clown balanced on the edge of his balcony high over the palace gardens. There was a room on the adjacent wall he could see into and there was a mirror. Clown loved mirrors. He could make funny faces into them. He felt sometimes that mirrors were the only ones like him. He'd like to get over to that room, but he'd have to jump over to the other balcony, which was just a little bit farther than he was sure he could jump, and it was a long way down if he missed. Luminata came into that room with the mirror. She saw him, still balanced above disaster, making faces and rolling his eyes, but he hadn't noticed her yet. "O Clown! Give me the Powerstaff!" Clown jumped in surprise, almost falling off the balustrade. Luminata gasped in dread. "Oh, hi, Wandle's Mommy!" He had forgotten his mission already. But he was reminded that he had A Stick, which reminded him of a Stick Game he'd often played with Agra and Devo. "Wanna play Game?" he called, innocent smile under painted face, ready to run and hide because He Had The Stick so it must be His Turn. Luminata stopped, calm only out of necessity. One false move and the Clown could fall or flee, taking the Powerstaff with him. "No," she told him, "this is not the time for a game." "Aww." "Clown, Wand needs your help." "Where Wandle?" "She's in trouble. I need the Powerstaff to know where she is. Can you throw it to me?" "Crown ruv Wandle." "Then give me the stick, please." "Okee-dokee!" Clown leaped from his balcony to hers, she gasped, for it was too far across and too far up, but he made it anyway--just barely, waving his arms for balance as she pulled him into safety--and handed her the Powerstaff. Luminata immediately locked her key rings into their proper slots and the magical circuits inside the ancient device pulsed with energy. Out in the river the Tower throbbed. She ran through the palace to a window facing the City Place. Looking down, she saw Otius alone in the great square except for Elro at his feet, most of the buildings around the Place were damaged and burning, and still the red ray slashed and cut. Luminata aimed her Powerstaff at her Silver Tower, triggering a relay there. A bolt of blue light lanced down from the Tower to connect with the magic shield around Otius, evoking a great flash and sulfurous smoke. Otius cried out, his defense penetrated at last. Otius turned and sent a beam at the Silver Tower, believing the attack to have come from there, but the Tower was negatively polarized now and only reflected the ray back at Otius. Sparks sprayed from his magic field and smoke rolled up. He was unharmed, but temporarily blinded. Now Luminata spun her staff and sent a green ray at Otius before he could locate her. There was a rumble and the pavement beneath him ruptured upward and split apart, spraying rock and mortar, disintegrating his circle and pentagram and the shield they generated. His protection gone, Otius set about escaping. Even as a white ray beamed to freeze him he called upon the forces of his Black Cloud, which had been hovering invisibly in the night sky to the north, his eldritch chariot. A streak of lightning came for him as one had for Wand. It hit him and he became a glowing ball of incandescent energy, which shot away and into the Black Cloud so rapidly that the eye could not follow. Luminata cast a spell after the cloud, but a flaming exhaust blasted out of it, and it rocketed away to the north, untouched. Otius had made his escape.
end of chapter 7

Chapter 8: TEMPERANCE <BR> <BR> <BR> <a href="chaps.htm">List of Chapters</a>