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"The Origin of the Dark Tower" by Xander (Dark Tower)

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Babbling Loonie
Stratics Veteran
Stratics Legend
Part One: The Beginning

The pre-dawn fog hovered knee-deep above the ground. Tall grass, still heavy and wet from the rainfall that had just subsided, wavered in the chill wind. Thunder rang, as lightning exposed thick clouds hanging threateningly in the black sky. A lone gypsy lad shivered beneath his damp blanket by a dying fire. There he sat playing an old pipe whose tone was rendered off-key by years of constant use, its sad, quiet song intertwined with the wailing of the wind. The song faltered and grew silent. Puzzled, the gypsy lad studied his pipe, finding nothing wrong with it. Then thunder rang once more and the boy turned, startled by the revelation of three cloaked figures steadily making their way up the hillside. He looked around, not knowing why, just knowing that he did not wish to meet these visitors alone. But the brightly painted wagons, so garish by day, grew ominous in the flickering light of the fire. And no one stirred within their midst. The lad stood as the three figures drew to the edge of the camp. And if he noticed that their passage did not disturb the grass beyond them, he was too frightened already to react. One of the three drew a silver coin, reflecting the fire crimson. "Is she here?" he asked, in a voice that spoke of death and things decaying beneath the ground. Vaguely aware that he was pissing himself, the boy nodded. his eyes involuntarily darting to a wagon illustrated with a macabre collection of eyes. The three walked past him in its direction, the coin falling into the embers of the fire.

It was warm inside the wagon. Bits of nightshade clung to the interior of a cracked mortar. A bluish liquid bubbled over a low flame in the corner. A candle perched atop a skull burned low. Behind a table etched with arcane symbols, an elderly woman sat, her eyes closed. The thick curtain covering the entrance drew aside and the three figures entered. The wind came with them, but was not responsible for the candle fluttering out. "Sit. I will need a personal object," the old gypsy rattled off routinely, eyes still shut. Then she opened them. Only years of exercising a strong will kept her from running out the back screaming mad with fear. Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to glare at them, somehow matching their eyes. "I still need that object!" One set down a blood colored gem containing the still beating heart of an infant, his firstborn. It throbbed on the table, its gentle rhythm vibrating precariously balanced candle. The second laid down a vial of blood, the heart's blood of her parents, drawn as they lay dying, slain by her own hand. And the third produced an eyeball, that of his own twin, slain to augment his own power. As it was set down upon the table, it swiveled to look at the crone, imploring her to end its torment. "Place them in the circle," she croaked, bile rising in her throat. She drew out her cards and her hands managed not to drop them, despite shaking horribly. Holding them above the objects, she intoned Words of Power in a guttural voice that turned into a shriek. The circle glowed and flash and the woman dealt the cards. Whether by sleight of hand and the dim light, or by imagination, the images on the cards seemed to move of their own volition. One showed a bearded king wielding the ankh as he furiously declared his justice. Another showed a spectral figure riding a nightmare across a great distance to carry out a task. And the last showed a world consumed and ruled by darkness. The gypsy woman, swallowed, reading her own fate in the cards as well. Recovering dignity and the shreds of her will, she looked up and spoke in a clear voice. "There is One who wields authority over you by the might of virtue. Secure his death and power will be yours." One of the three smiled. And what was left of the old woman's self control fled.

The gypsy lad watched as the three cloaked figures emerged from the fortune teller's wagon. Even before he saw the blood still wet on their robes, he knew he was going to die. He lurched to his feet, struggling to run away, but felt some weight holding him in place. He watched as the first of the flames began to emerge from the interior of the crone's wagon, quickly spreading to those nearby. He listened to the horrified screams of his family, each of them somehow waking and knowing that they were dying. He watched as the flames surrounded him, offering no hope of escape, and only then did he feel that he could move again. Falling to his knees, he wept, wailing against the evil that brought this upon his people. And as the fire reached him, he began to scream.

The three watched as the sky turned grey over the burning remains of the wagons. The sun would rise from behind a screen of clouds this day. As the frozen wind carried the smoke across the sky, thunder shook and rain began to fall once more. The three cloaked figures stood motionless, unfazed by the ill weather. The third turned to his brethren, seeing the truth in his Eye. "He is too strong for now." The second nodded, holding aloft her vial of blood, and read the possibilities. "We would need to build our powers, summon forth allies."

"But He would seek to stop us," the third replied, his Eye seeing. The rain began to fall in fat drops, beating the grass down onto the ground. But fire burned on, its arcane energy unaffected by anything so mundane as weather. The second nodded, turning the vial about on her palm. "We need to find a place, then, where we could build such power. A place that is beyond his reach." Water pooled at their feet as the rain fell still harder and harder, as if it sought to quench the flames of their power. In that pool, One gazed, seeing an endless stretch of ocean, twin serpent pillars arising from their depths. The heart in his hand throbbed and he looked up. "I know where such a place exists."

-Mike McGirr
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