Rain drummed on the copper roof, dripping through that which was missing to hold it together. Water streamed through the cracks onto the moulded wood, soaking through the third floor, then the second, onto the first. The musky smell that had been overpowering upon entry subsided as he ascended the stairs to the top floor. The wind was fresh but chilling and howled in between the gaps where the wall had once been whole. A mist came out his breath as he looked through old books, vials and trinkets. The vials still stood neatly on their shelves with green mould which fused the glass to the wood. The vials were filled with colourful substances as wide and varied as a prism. He didn’t know what they were for and he didn’t care to find out, it wasn’t why he was here, after all.
He searched the wall until he found a shelf filled with books. They were also neatly stored, except on the lower shelves, where they had been torn out in a flurry.
He grinned hungrily at the sight.
There was always something valuable to salvage in these ancient towers, especially in old spell books. Even if only half the formula was readable he would still get a fair price from a collector or a scholar, which the city had many. But a frown touched his lips as the pages turned into a slush as he opened them. The tower was old… too old, it seemed. He should have known it was too good to be true to find such a tower so close to a village, seemingly untouched. He glanced through a gap in the wall and looked down at his vessel – it was still there.
And why shouldn’t it? He was alone, after all. Though, there were the tales…
He shook his head and continued rummaging. He’d stayed one hour too long with the old coot, her tales getting to him. Course, the forest was haunted in one way or another, they always were; stories to keep children from getting lost in the woods or adults away from treasure.
He glanced through the gap again and saw his boat still there on the shore waiting for him.
He considered leaving then.
With his eyes fixated on the vessel, the building howled louder than it had ever before and he shot to his feet. He stood frozen with his blade half drawn, listing. The howl died as the wind did and he swore beneath his breath. He swore again, louder. He stomped on the floor to create noise but stopped as he saw the mushy footprint his shoe had created. The silence; the gloomy surroundings; and the stories, they were getting to him. He kicked the pile of books on the floor and rummaged much more carelessly.
“There’s got to be something…” He murmured to himself.
“Worthless… Garbage… Disgusting,” he announced as he found them. Everything in the tower seems to be one or the other, often all three at once.
After an hour of searching, and the floor littered with items, he sat by the pile and looked at them. This was pointless after all, he thought, letting silence engulf him, once more. Then, there was a faint growl, reverberating through the wood and his body. He stood, slowly, and looked out the shore – his vessel was still there.
It was time go.
With careful steps, he made his way down the first floor and to the outside. He jerked his head around and watched the tower, seeing how it was crooked and parts of the wall littered the surroundings. He wondered why he’d dared to set foot in it and then remembered the promises it had held; it didn’t seem as bad when it held potential treasure… He pushed the vessel into the muddy water and climbed aboard. The mist went thick the further from the tower he went, surrounding him in a dark, yet luminescent, green. Another growl echoed as he went, creating waves in the water. He turned nervously and saw a faint murky light shining, spiralling up and down the tower that was now fully out of sight. Maybe there was something to those old stories, after all?
© Christopher Stamfors
Featured image by ChrisCold