Chapter 7: Climbing the tower

Stale air hit Ainsley as soon as she crossed the threshold of the door. The strange light from outside lit the short corridor that opened up into a vast expanse of darkness. She was surprised the interior of the tower didn’t stink but smelled more like an old town library, like old books and dust. The tower felt surprisingly peaceful.

Ainsley tentatively walked ten paces into the tower when the doors behind her swung shut with an ear-piercing shriek. Maybe maintenance spells weren’t a thing back then she thought to herself.

She stood in the gloomy darkness, surprisingly unperturbed, then reached into her satchel to find her wand. She pulled it out and waved her hand over its tiny helmet, muttering an incantation for light. A soft glow winked into existence inside of the helmet, gradually brightening and bathed the floor around her with a visor shaped beam of light.

She paused and smiled as she recalled a memory of Morne teaching her the light spell during a summer camping trip. He went on and on about the properties of light and how to manipulate it through frequency, amplitude and wavelengths to achieve your desired effects. She sighed fondly at the memory then pursed her lips he should know; everyone knows he’s a prodigy when it comes to light based magics.

Ainsley shook her head out of her reverie and returned to the task at hand. She shone her light around inspecting interior of the tower. It might have been her imagination but the inside of the seemed even bigger inside than it was outside but Ainsley couldn’t be sure. The damage on the outside of the tower didn’t seem to be reflected on the inside of the tower.

The circular floor expanded outward from the entrance into darkness. Ainsley shone her light along the walls but as she continued her light became swallowed by the distant darkness. She shone her light at the floor, illuminating a cut stone path that led her towards the center of the tower.

As she walked further into the grand chamber, a massive, white-marble spiral staircase came into view. It wound its way up into the dark, reaching towards the top of the tower. Interconnected bridges branched outward from the main spiral staircase at regular intervals leading to floors that disappeared into the tower’s gloom above.

Ainsley realized she had a long climb ahead of her.

As Ainsley climbed, she bore witness to large scale frescos of a history she could never have known existed. She hadn’t paid much attention in history class but this was nowhere near the little bits that she actually had paid attention to.

There were many depictions of gargantuan animals painted on the walls during her ascent. One was of a pack of six-legged wolves that towered above a treeline, another a haloed whale whose face separated into three sections, many others were wholly alien and incomprehensible.

Further on, a painting of a ship coming from the sky and depositing a group of people onto a landmass. Ainsley paused to stare at the painted continental maps realizing that they resembled the ones she’d seen at school but were far bigger.

It struck her as strange that the countries surrounding hers where different from what she’d learned in school. For now, she knew that it wouldn’t change anything and so she climbed on.

Hours later, Ainsley finally caught sight of light shining through an opening at the top of the stairway. She couldn’t say how long it had taken her to reach the top of the tower, and she had to take many breaks, but she was proud that she had made it. Steeling herself for the final push, Ainsley rubbed her burning quadriceps then pushed herself to climb the last steps of the stairway.

Ainsley’s final step was through an open archway to the top floor. She paused there, panting, holding the frame for support. Why did I think that was a good idea? For a culture that paints space ships you’d think they would have something like an elevator. She brushed away the sweat from her forehead as she looked around.

The room was an open circular space almost entirely taken up by a large horn hanging from thick metal chains. It was comprised of a segmented spinal column fused by gilded plates adorned by magical etchings. Roughly thirty feet across at the bell, the bones tapered gradually before forming a large loop which shrank into a small mouthpiece that sat upon a raised dais. Ainsley’s eyes bugged out as she gawped at the elephantine instrument. The bell of the horn extended outward exiting the rotunda from a large opening in the wall that overlooked the forest.

As she drew closer, she stopped at the base of the dais. She could see it was decorated with by carved pieces of bone intertwining themselves around and throughout the horn. Skeletal hands supported the horns base and sides, supporting the instrument with their bony appendages.

Ainsley moved forward taking the first two steps up onto the dais.

“Are you ready?” Mike’s ghost apparated into view from beside Ainsley.

“Jesus!” she jumped away from the spectre. “Don’t friggin’ do that Mike!” She yelled. “Where have you been?”

“Something seems to have been preventing me from communicating.” Mike frowned as if trying to remember. He raised his head looking into Ainsley’s eyes “Regardless, will you blow the horn?”

“That’s what I came here to do isn’t it?”

“That is what you said. Yes.”

“Is there anything special I have to do?”

“You have to blow into it.” Mike said dryly.

“Yeah, but like, anything else?”

“No.”

“So, nothing special at all?”

“Nothing.”

“Is this going to bring you back?”

“Yes.”

“Okay then.”

Ainsley took a deep breath and approached the horn.

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