Prologue to the Story to be Named Later, IX
The soft rustle of fabric behind him brought Merrus back to the present. Turning quickly, he saw the tall slender form of Maedwyn approaching him slowly, her white dress and fair skin softly glowing in the magical illumination. The only Eldehil member of the Dreaming Tower, it was fitting that she should be the last visitor to the Elder Patrician; the pair of them represented the oldest of all of the mages who called the Tower home. She had been the first to give homage to him half a century ago when he was chosen as Elder, and now she was the last of them to say goodbye to him.
It was a melancholy smile he gave to her, one that was sorrowful and yet pleased by her presence. “Ahh, Maedwyn. I was afraid that you’d slipped off in the night while Escalion was making his speech.”
Her voice, melodic yet deeper than one would suppose from her slight frame, echoed her own smile. “Nay, old friend. It would be improper for me to fly the eyrie without paying my respects to my acknowledged lord. As Elder, you deserve both my grudging words of parting as well as my eternal gratitude.” She swept her arms to either side as she gracefully knelt into a formal curtsey.
“Elder?” Merrus scoffed with a gentle laugh. The Eldehil woman was at least two millennia older than he, making his three centuries of life seem inconsequential. “From you, my former title is a mockery, albeit a gentle one. Please, I am Merrus, simply Merrus, from now on. Now rise before I use the last vestiges of my office to censure you for unseemly obsequity.”
She took his proffered hand as she rose and squeezed it affectionately before settling both of hers on the back of the chair in the center of the Circle’s seats. Softly she asked, “Do you wish to know what I have Seen?” Maedwyn was the Tower’s foremost diviner; rarely did her foresight fail her, but her notorious reluctance to reveal the future brought her grief and resentment from the other mages. Merrus, with the wisdom gained from centuries, appreciated rather than resented this fact; many people purported the desire to know the future, and rare was the case that it held what they wished.
Merrus frowned as he pondered the question, gazing once again into the darkness above him. With a sigh, he gave a reluctant nod. “Very well. Nothing about me, please. I wish to know the outcome of Escalion’s rash vow. Also the fate of the city. There is little else of which I want to dread the coming.” He paused and opened his mouth as if to add something, then seemed to think better of it. His mouth shut as he shook his head.
Very well,” she answered. “Escalion’s vow to reopen one of the other Towers will fail, of course, and those mages and apprentices that follow him will mostly scatter. After some time, however, I See them gathered again, although the image is unfocused and difficult to read. There is a certain point at which I can no longer See.” Merrus’ sudden glance caused her to smile once again. “Fear not, my friend. It does not mean my certain death. Not necessarily. And if it did, it is my fate and therefore of no consequence to me.” Merrus was hardly reassured but she continued as if the matter indeed meant little to her.
“The Prince’s gambit will fail. The closing of the Tower will avail him nothing and he will be dead within the year. The noble Veletus will become Prince, removing the Elect portion of the title, and establish a hereditary succession plan. He will live long but not long enough to pass it to his children, as the Kingdom of Cor Andronus will fail before his own death.” Maelwyn shrugged. “The doings of men will continue, and the city shall remain, although other rulers will come and go.” She stopped and fixed Merrus with her violet eyes. “The matter that you do not wish to voice, the fate of Troius, I cannot answer. A cloak lies over his fate and I cannot See it. This only I know; his doom touches on our own.”
Merrus sighed once more. Many of the apprentices and not a few of the masters spoke of their own exile as the Curse of Troius come home to roost. Yes, they all followed his path, and Merrus would be the last of them to leave. Something gnawing at the old wizard’s heart and mind, however, told him that the Curse, should it exist, would not be confined to this exile. The Elde’s words merely confirmed his own suspicions.
Much later, after heartfelt words of reluctant parting, Merrus again stood alone with his ghosts, gazing up into the shadowed recesses. The Halls of the Tower were empty, the contents gone, portals shut, mystic circles scrubbed. The Seats of the Circle alone remained, and with a wave of his hand, they too vanished. The Dream was over, the last of the Towers of Magi fallen, an age where sorcery and the mundane coexisted peacefully drawn closed. In a century most of the walls would be gone, lining some shepherd’s shelter, the Tower a roost for birds and wildlife. Legends would talk of the fabled occupants of the abandoned ruin, their deeds and misdeeds becoming more fantastic with the telling.
After Merrus walked through the crystalline gates, he turned and gazed for a final time on the past. He lifted a hand, absorbing the last of the enchantments remaining into himself, and turned his back once again. As the crystal gates collapsed with the tinkling sound of a glassine waterfall into piles of reflective dust, Merrus, once Elder Patrician of the Last Tower, stepped forward and vanished into the unknown.