The Tower of the Sun by Ben Taylor

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The Tower of the Sun

I lifted my gaze up the rugged path and caught my breath. There was the Tower, at the pinnacle of the mountain. The Tower of the Sun was the crown of the Dividing Mountains and the keeper of all the land of Bel Arneth. The dwarves built it eons ago of pure Illenium, a metal even they can find no more in the world, which shines with golden light. Since the ancient sun was felled from the sky, the Tower has matched its glory, giving a waypoint for travelers, a beacon for the lost, and a shield against the dark lands where Shalkus dwells.

I had come to the base of the mountain to meditate in the light of the Tower, for those who can withstand the blinding light draw much strength from the Illenium, and increase their magic. I was very near the Tower, and its glorious light had already begun to warm my spirit, when I sensed the presence of evil. Long had I warred against Shalkus, even venturing into the lands beyond the Dividing Mountains; so I knew the smell and taste of his wickedness. Shalkus was the lord of deception and fear, and his food was darkness, therefore he hated the light of the Tower of the Sun. The Tower defended Bel Arneth from his armies, and from the shadow ghouls, his offspring by spells and concoctions.

At that moment, the mountain path wavered before my eyes. Searing pain stabbed into my head and I collapsed in pain. Slowly I overcame the pain and struggled to my feet. I looked up at the tower. Its light was hazy, as if seen through smoke and fire. "Strange," I thought. "My eyes must be tiring."

But then I saw what I knew was no illusion. The Tower's light began to soften and dull. The metal lost its luster and faded from blazing gold to leaden yellow. Clouds gathered above the tower and enveloped it, blown by a cold wind from the far side of the mountain. I caught a breath of the wind and gagged. It was wet and stunk of rottenness. But even more terrible was this: the Tower went dark. All the lands on which the Tower showered light were plunged into darkness thick as water.

In fear I turned and gazed behind me into the valley of Bel Arneth. On the horizon, the Lamp Towers of the distant realms shone stillóMaladir, Quendir, Pishnia. Each land's tower was like a star, covering it with light. But, at the border of Bel Arneth, the light abruptly faded. Darkness had descended on the whole land of Bel Arneth.

I touched the palm of my right hand with the finger of my left, feeling my handstone. The handstone, a small emerald embedded in the center of my palm, signified my membership in the League of Guardians, giving me unordinary magic. The coldness of my handstone told me that a vile presence was near. "I need light," I whispered to myself. Scouring my memory, I produced an enchantment:
Knowledge come, fear take flight.
Truth eternal, bring thy light!
Inside my handstone, a light flickered and stirred. It began to swell, until rays of pale green light burst forth. I raised my hand to illumine my surroundings.

Suddenly, the light reflected off a ring of polished swords and stared at me through the eyes of the warriors of Shalkus.

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