#23 – The Minstrel

The minstrel, the merchant and Golden Throat emerged out onto a wide plain of grass, within the walls that surrounded the tower’s quarter. The gargantuan structure filled most of the area, leaving a strip of natural ground to wrap around the base. The three walked around the north side of the base, and turned into a circular doorway which manifested against the smooth plum surface. Golden Throat led them through a twisting of passageways, made out of timber and brush. The lights above were piercing bright, and the minstrel had to shield her eyes. The passage ended in a domed room, eight men high at it’s center. Three doorways were ajar at the opposite end.

Golden Throat, stood aside. “This is where you two split up.” He looked to the merchant, and waved a hand toward the middle door.

The merchant was hesitant as he stepped forward alone. He looked back, expecting some more words, but Golden Throat simply replied with a lazy smile.

“And me?” The minstrel asked.

Golden throat waited for the door to close behind the merchant. “You are quite the exception. The tower’s host will see you personally.” He turned back, and retreated into the tunnels. “Please, follow on. The tower’s layout can be quite disorientating.”

They came to a wide pillar dominating the center of a round room. Two enormous shields imbedded into the pillar, slid apart, revealing an elegant, shimmering shaft. A platform dropped through the shaft and stopped at their feet. Golden Throat stepped in, and gestured for her to follow. Inside, the shields sealed back up, and the minstrel felt the ground press up against her. She gabbed for the walls in panic. Golden Throat remained stoically calm as the platform ascended. When it stopped moving, either pair of shields in the wall parted, and out stepped the minstrel’s guide. The hall was round, and branched out to the edges of the structure like a spider’s web. In the far distance, the minstrel could see the city’s night lights shining through wide windows. She followed him in the opposite direction, but lagged behind as she kept slowing to examine the images plastering the walls. When she caught up, Golden Throat was waiting aside an open pair of shields.

Crossing the threshold, the minstrel became disappointed. The room was quite ordinary in size and attractions. There was nobody else present except for a wall of black mirrors. She turned back to ask Golden Throat what she should do, but the doors had already sealed themselves silently.

Her legs were sore from the day’s efforts, and she looked for somewhere to sit. As she searched, a center tile of the floor slid apart, and cushions rose up from darkness. Still cautious, and thinking of the knight, she sat on the arm of the chair. The central mirror came alive, with the adjacent ones following.

The same voice she had heard in Ka Rosha, emanated from everywhere around her. “I am so relieved to find you within these walls. I had lost hope when your mother sent you traveling.”

“My mother, you know of her?”

“I am quite familiar with your whole family. Your great grandfather, thought you never knew him, was of this city, and a good friend to me. He was born just outside these gates, and grew up in Southwall. If you ever get the chance, I recommend you visit his old home. There is still a living statue with his resemblance.” The screens showed pictures of a young man who looked quite similar to her grandfather. “We have a great wealth of knowledge here, is there something you wish to know?”

The minstrel’s thoughts were of her homeland, and she tried to remember what she was taught. “I want to know about me. Where do I come from?”

“You might want to get comfortable, as the answer you seek is a long one… There is a land to the far north-west, past the deserts, mountains and seas. Your people spread across the world before The Great Chaos, expunged the land, over twenty-two hundred years ago.”

“A little more recent please.”

“Certainly. Your grandfather’s father was found by us, when he was only thirty-one months old. He was found within his late mother’s grasp. He was adopted into a meritorious Southwall family. He stood out as a particularly bright mind, and so I asked him to serve the tower. He grew to become a Golden Throat, and then a council member. When news arrived, about the knight who fell from the kingdom above, your great grandfather was the ambassador I sent. He developed a good relationship with the knight known as Tanchuck, and promoted the advantages of cooperating with us.

“Without his aide, many lives would have been squelched, within, and outside the city. Your great grandfather ended wars with his words. For his contributions to peace, he was welcomed back with great honors.”

“Wait. I thought you couldn’t return if you left.”

“If you choose to leave, you may not return. If you are sent out on a task, sent by me or the council, your return is expected and appreciated. Do you seek further explanation, or shall I continue?”

The minstrel, nodded, and the mirrors understood.

“When Tanchuck was done with his fighting, your grandfather did choose to leave the city, and assist the knight with managing his freshly carved empire. Before he left, I was proud to bestow a gift, which he has passed on through his bloodline. He was eventually given the domain your grandfather still rules. The rest of your history you have lived through, but I would be happy to refresh your memory for you.”

“How do you know all of this?”

“The tower is connected to thousands of eyes and ears. In the lands where I don’t reach, oral history is evaluated and integrated. When it comes to your family, I learnt from the source. Your grandfather’s father brought one of the black mirrors with him, and we shared time together until he passed. Your grandfather inherited it, and then we too became close. Would you like to speak to him?”

“Speak to whom?”

“Your grandfather. Please, take a moment for him. He will be so delighted to see you again. ”

“He is here?”

“Only in voice. He is still back ‘home’.” The mirror to the left of the center became a blurry brown, which clarified into an image of an old man, with furrowed brows. He had the same stony look that made lower men avert away.

“Home.” The minstrel’s said to herself slowly, staring at her family’s study. The view was from the black mirror hanging above the mantel. The minstrel’s mother and grandfather waited. They initially looked bothered, but then they turned ecstatic, with softened eyes.

She spoke is spits, between tearful heaves. “Mother, Papa. It’s me.”


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