King Edward, Part V
Chapter 5: In the Crystal Tower
Inside the Tower, Edward's first impression was of whiteness. Floors, walls, ceiling, all were white and radiated light. Their footsteps made soft crunching noises on the rough floor surface. Except for that, it was very still ... with occasional soft, unrecognizable far-off sounds. Moraelyn moved confidently through winding halls and long rooms. He seemed very black in all that white. They passed long pools of water with fountains that sparkled in the light. "Where is everyone?" Edward whispered. "At table, I hope. I'm hungry. Aren't you?" "No." Abruptly a big, broad ugly shape appeared in front of them and roared a challenge. Edward grabbed for Moraelyn's arm with both hands. Moraelyn shook him off irritably. "Gods, boy, don't grab my sword arm if ever you do spot a monster. Stay clear!" But Moraelyn didn't reach for his blade. He stood still while the monster wrapped its long arms around him and pounded on his back, still roaring. Moraelyn roared back and pounded on the monster's chest. Then he introduced Edward to the Captain of the Archmagister's guard. "Don't hug him," Moraelyn warned the troll, who grinned at Edward showing pointy teeth. "He'll break." "I thought trolls were dangerous!" Edward gasped as they ascended a long winding stairway. "They are. I'll have bruises for a fortnight. I'd have shielded, but I didn't like to hurt his feelings." "He likes you?!" "Oh, aye, it can be done, you see." "Why does the Archmagister keep troll guards?" "They keep the rats down." More trolls, but these paid them little heed. Another long stairway. More corridors. A sort of guardroom where three trolls appeared to be gaming with bones. One of them shambled to his feet and led them down a shadowy passage. A row of cages with huge rats, then some with small odd creatures that looked rather like elves seen in a badly distorted mirror (though Edward kept this observation to himself). They gobbled and squeaked as the elf and boy paced quickly by. "Goblins," Moraelyn said with distaste. They turned a corner and went past two cages that held only large stone statues. There seemed to be more cages off down other hallways. The troll unlocked a huge black metal door. It clanged shut behind them. A very large green and yellow hooved creature sat man-like in one corner. Its unwinking eyes didn't flicker as they passed quickly and climbed still another stair. More white halls. These were patrolled by huge black dogs that sniffed at them as they passed. Edward stretched a hand to pet one, but it snarled at him. "I wouldn't." Moraelyn said. "Yes Sir." They came to another massive black metal door. A voice sounded. "What is black and white, has one body, two heads, four arms, four legs, two red eyes and two brown?" "That's disgusting!" Moraelyn yelled at the door, hands on hips. "You are correct, mortal. You may pass." The door swung slowly open, creaking. There was no one behind it, just a narrow stairway that wound sharply. It seemed dark above. Moraelyn raced up the stairs, leaving Edward clinging to the bottom rail, shaking. There was not a thing to do but follow. "Welcome, Edward." The Archmagister stood white and gold in the center of a large dim room. Huge windows looked out on the purple twilit sea below. "Come here, child. Give me your hands." Edward put his hands in the Archmagister's who smiled down at him. Edward's fatigue and fear vanished instantly. He smiled back at the Archmagister, who said softly. "It is well. You may go," to the furious dark elf who stood glowering to one side. Edward was barely aware of him, his whole attention occupied by the Archmagister. "Goodbye, Edward." "'Bye." Edward didn't take his eyes off the Archmagister. From far away he heard the dark elf go down the stairs. "He calls you son," the Archmagister said. "Yes sir. I asked him if I might call him father." "But you are not entirely comfortable about it." Edward sighed. "No sir." "That may be as well. You will return to Daggerfall one day. And then you must be Corcyr's son. So let the claim be on Moraelyn's side." The Archmagister moved companionably to the windows with him. The dusk was fast gathering as Edward stared out over the hill through which they'd journeyed. A dark figure appeared below and strode swiftly off into the night. "That's Moraelyn! I thought he was going to stay the night. It's dangerous out there alone in the dark. There are evil things out there. Can't you--" "Dangerous for any evil that meets Moraelyn in his present mood. He will go safely, I promise you." "Oh. But I haven't thanked him. He's been very kind, really. Why was he so angry about the door? It was just a silly question. The answer was him and my mother, when they're asleep and I'm not there. How do you make a door talk? Is it an illusion?" "That's three questions. Which of them do you want answered? Aren't you hungry? Would you like a bowl of stew?" "Yes, please. I'd like to hear about the door, please." "Ah. You think the talking door may prove more comprehensible than a surly dark elf? More interesting? Or safer?" The Archmagister's large golden eyes regarded the boy thoughtfully. "I don't know if I, uh, like him. Sometimes I think I ... and then other times I ... do you understand about liking? He said he didn't." "You would be more comfortable if you felt the same way about him at all times, yet you do not." "Yes, that's it, exactly. You do understand." "Moraelyn is not a comfortable man." "Well, I don't mean that exactly. Sometimes he is. Like when we rode the dragon." The Archmagister laughed aloud. His laughter reminded Edward of chimes. "Yes, yes. I find comfort myself in having Moraelyn near at hand when dragons are about." A young high elf brought in a bowl of stew and set it down on the table. Edward felt a bit disappointed that the stew had come in such an ordinary way. Until he remembered that the Archmagister hadn't sent for the stew. "The priest at home in Daggerfall said it was a mark of evil things, that they cannot bear the light," Edward said between mouthfuls. "Moraelyn doesn't like sunlight. And he's black." "I see. Do you know what evil is?" "Um, well, if you do bad things, then you're evil?" "I see. If the cook had burnt the stew, would he then be evil?" Edward grinned. "No, just a bad cook. But if he did it on purpose, then I guess he'd have done an evil thing ... but maybe he wouldn't be altogether evil. Maybe he was just angry about something." "Or perhaps the sort of person who is pleased by spoiling others' pleasure?" "I guess that'd make my little brothers evil. They sure like to spoil my fun." "And you?" Edward felt his face redden. "I don't take any notice of them," he said quickly. The Archmagister's large golden eyes regarded him steadily. To his own dismay, Edward began to cry. He bawled like a baby. "I don't know what's wrong with me," he gasped. "I never cry, really, I don't -- hardly ever --" "Why ever not?" Edward looked up. His tears had blurred his sight, but there seemed to be tears on the Archmagister's face. His hand reached up to feel the wetness. "You have been very alone, have you not?" the Archmagister said. "Yes. Until you brought the unicorn for me, I was all alone. They endure no evil," Edward sighed with satisfaction, feeling relaxed and comfortable. The Archmagister was wonderful. "We summoned the unicorn, Moraelyn and the dragon and I and others. It's a great magic and one no single man or woman may command. But don't trouble yourself overmuch with judging good and evil. That's a human notion. Life is complex; I know of nothing that is wholly good or wholly evil. Not even the unicorn." Edward's time in the Tower passed quickly. There were few other novices and the youngest of these was several years older than Edward. The boy spent several hours each day with the Archmagister. He learned to cast a few spells and to open his mind so that he could renew his magicka quickly while he slept. But often they just talked. Sometimes Edward was given a book to read. Other times he was allowed to choose one from the thousands in the library. He usually tired of them quickly. He didn't read Elvish script easily; his tutor had taught him the letters, but their few books were in Bretic. Spellcasting was more fun. Fire spells came easily to him and he learned to shield himself readily, but to his chagrin, he couldn't Heal at all. He invariably made things worse for the unlucky rats he was allowed to practice on. "I don't know what I'm doing wrong!" Edward cried out in frustration. He sent a dart of fire at the writhing rat and it turned into a charred corpse. "Edward, it will be well if you let the Heal spells wait awhile yet." "Moraelyn said Light Heal is the first spell anybody learns," Edward said sulkily. "Did he? Well, he is a practitioner of magic, not a theorist. Even I would hesitate to say what a Breton might or might not learn, and when he might learn it. You are the first of your people with whom I have worked. Certainly Moraelyn has had no experience with your race, except for your mother, of course." "My mother can't do magic." "No, but we think the ability lies within her. She has not been able to learn to master it, possibly because she was too old when she first tried. If you want my opinion it is your thoughts and not your hands which are causing your difficulty. Weeping might help." "I don't feel like crying," Edward said rather sullenly. He felt more like kicking something, although incinerating the rat had helped relieve some of that. "Meditation might help, then."