I am a warrior. It’s the legacy that my father gave to me. Standing here in this hard and cold tower, I could only wonder if it would be the legacy that died with me.
The thick log walls of the room seemed more of a stout prison wall than a protector from the elements. The windows were small and a metal bar ran through the middle of them. A stone wall built with old, chiseled blocks started the tower at one end of the room. Stairs spiraled upward in a long sweeping arc. There seemed to be no way out up there.
On the opposite end of the room, a doorway led to the main entrance room. There in that room, a group of warriors stood poised to attack. But they were no ordinary warriors.
“Dopkalfar!” my mind screamed. They were a mythical race found in tales to frighten children, and I was looking at a group of them through the doorway. Legends told of a tall race with dark hair, dark eyes and a savage blood lust. And indeed, they were tall with dark hair and a darker complexion than most. I hoped that was where the truth to the legends ended.
“Dopkalfar,” I thought again. My pulse throbbed just above my temple. The sweat in my hand gathered in small droplets. I had trouble believing it. A race that lived forever and supposedly ate people for breakfast. Some people say, a Dopkalfar could make a whole town disappear with the wave of his hand. The warriors in the entrance room stood poised to kill us all.
Lylle, or whatever was now Lylle after some spirit had invaded his body, waved his hand at them. Each of us had been asked to give up our body and let a warrior take over. I couldn’t decide. I needed to see Megan first. A howl started and roared into a major windstorm as it moved from Lylle’s hand to the Dopkalfar. My teeth ground at the piercing scream of the wind. The Dopkalfar were swept out of the room. The lucky ones were just thrown backwards to land outside. Others, who had managed to enter the room, were battered against walls and thrown about until finally, they flew out the door. Once the wind died, more took their place. I sensed a presence next to me.
“Megan,” I said, turning towards her. She held a knife in her hand and there was a fierce determination in her green eyes. Her red hair cascaded down around her shoulders in waves.
“Raphael, we have been apart too long,” she said, placing a hand lightly on my arm, her eyes looking straight into mine. “Never again.”
“No,” I agreed, covering her hand with my own. A slight chill from her fingers seeped into my own. “I’m sorry for the pain that I have caused you.” I pulled her close and kissed her lightly. A single tear rolled down her cheek and I wiped it off, letting her hand go. My beautiful wife of nearly four years was by my side again. I had wondered if I’d ever see her again. Shortly after our handfasting, she had fallen under a spell. It had taken me almost three years to free her from the spell only to get injured in the process. In my self pity, I had hurt her feelings one too many times and she had left me to return to her mother. How she had managed to get trapped in this tower in which we now stand, facing the Dopkalfar, I did not know. She will tell me eventually. For now we had to stand our ground. I stooped to pick up my straight cane. With a twist, the top quarter of it separated and I pulled out my sword. It was a gift from my father. Illiena bless him. More Dopkalfar could be seen outside the door.
“We aren’t getting out alive, no matter what happens,” I thought.
“Let them kill you!” Lylle yelled as he turned and flew up the stairs of the tower. While the body was Lylle, the voice was not. The Dopkalfar tensed and for a moment, I thought they would charge. Something held them back, though. Perhaps it was the two of us left in this room. Whatever it was, it did not stop them from slowly and cautiously advancing. They held swords and daggers and there were many more outside waiting to enter. I thought about my two travel companions Lylle, a boy on the verge of manhood, and Merrif, a mage with powers that went awry more often than not. Without their help I wouldn’t have found Megan. Lylle, or Lylle’s body, had fled up the stairs. Meriff stood transfixed and immobile.
“I love you,” Megan whispered in my ear before kissing my neck. I shivered as I felt her soft lips touch my skin.
“And I, you,” I whispered back, not taking my eyes off the advancing warriors.
“I …” Merrif began, full of fear. He looked at the Dopkalfar and made his decision. “Yes!” he said with strength and determination. “By Illiena’s favor, yes!”
Merrif changed as the figure of light entered his body. Turning, Merrif flew up the stairs. Niatha quickly sprang towards the stairs to follow. Megan and I were the only ones left.
“To the corner of the room,” I said. We moved. She was on my left side and next to a bookcase. The corner provided protection from behind us and it allowed whatever Dopkalfar to run straight through to the stairs. Having fewer warriors to fight is always a good thing. The wonder over seeing what I once thought of as fantasy and legends was fading fast. Our lives were at stake here.
“Where’s Anam?” Megan asked. I gave a quick glance around and couldn’t see him. Anam was a wolf that I had saved as a cub and had raised. He had come with me to search for Megan.
“I don’t know,” I replied as Dopkalfar warriors sprinted through the room to the stairs. All hesitation was gone from them and there were both male and female warriors that dashed up the tower. I didn’t get to wonder about Anam, though, because some of the warriors walked toward us.
They weren’t in a hurry and they looked confident. Most of them were holding swords, but some carried knives. Three, maybe four could attack us at one time. I was glad that none of them had spears.
“I am Megan!” she told them. I felt her move away from me for a moment. “I’m the protected one!” she said. I didn’t understand what she was talking about and didn’t have the time to care. The Dopkalfar on my right stabbed at my gut.
I calmly flicked my sword up just enough to deflect the attack. He retreated. They now knew I was trained and could defend myself.
Another lunged at me. It was a feint for a second attack from another warrior. I eluded these attacks as well. They were testing me and they were working together to do it. It wouldn’t be long before they found an opening.
“Who gave the order to attack?” Megan asked. “Who is in charge?” A book flew through the air and barely missed a warrior’s head. Megan was throwing books. She knew if they got close, we wouldn’t survive the fight.
Another book flew through the air. It missed its target, but I caught glimpses of movement to my left. They were closing the distance and attacking Megan!
“Illiena save us!” I yelled as I thrust my sword out straight. Sidestepping to the left, I avoided one blow. Twisting and striking to my left, I cut a gash across a chest. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Megan slash a warrior with her knife.
“Not enough time,” I thought as I feinted at one warrior and flicked the tip of my sword at another’s eyes. Megan screamed and my spirit went numb. I couldn’t look. My sword pierced an arm and cut a large swath as I turned to strike another warrior.
I felt something hot run through my side and my head nearly exploded with pain. As I dropped to my knees and turned, I swished my blade in an arc in front of me. I felt contact several times, and then the whole building shook. I nearly fell and some of the warriors did. As I completed my turn, I saw Megan.
“Oh, Megan,” I heard myself groan. I couldn’t feel anything, then. It was as if all hope had left me cold and barren and empty. There was a knife sticking in her leg and a deep cut ran from her shoulder to her hip. Blood was flowing down her leg. She had her hands wrapped around a warrior’s throat.
As I lunged forward to block a thrust at her, the building shook with an even greater force. Megan fell, but as she did, she took part of the warrior’s throat with her. He gurgled and gagged as he, too, fell to the floor. Illiena was with me and I kept my footing. I thrust my sword into the side of a female warrior and ripped it out in an arc to block an attack on me.
Pain lanced through my back and legs. I tried to turn, but fell instead. Rolling backwards, I avoided a knife and a sword. I wanted to kick out, but my legs wouldn’t move. Instead, I snapped my wrist and let my sword keep them at bay, for the moment.
One of them threw a knife at me and it hit my chest with the pommel. “Illiena must be looking over me,” I thought. The building shook again and a section of a wall fell. I could see outside; it was bright and shiny. The cold air swept in and covered us all in a blanket of ice.
“Ne lera Faretha auna spira,” I heard one of them cry out. His voice was filled with pain, but from what I could not tell. Crawling to Megan, I ignored the Dopkalfar. Their final blow would come soon enough, but hopefully I could look into her deep green eyes one last time. Slowly, with every bit of strength I had, I crawled and watched Megan slip quickly away from me.
“Just a little more,” I thought as the room spun around me. I heard her call my name and I cried out for her. Everything was blurry and fuzzy. Then the pain was gone. “Is this the end?”
“Raphael,” someone called my name. It was female and accented, almost like the Dopkalfar.
“Am I not dead?” I groaned, only seeing blackness but feeling no pain. My words echoed strangely inside my head. How long had I been unconscious?
“No, short-breather, you are not dead. You only need to open your eyes and the world will come back to you,” someone else answered, definitely a male Dopkalfar. Hardness covered his words and hate tinged his intent.
“Megan?” I asked, opening my eyes. Long wooden timbers with dark grain running through them assaulted my eyes. The wooden beams above me ran the length of the room and strength ebbed from them. There was a sharpness and crispness to what I saw that had never been there before. I noticed every bud that had been stripped from the wood and bits of bark left on them. The room shimmered in light as if I could almost see the air itself. “Wha–?”
“Raphael!” the female cried and I heard love, fear, hope, and life in that voice. Even though it did not sound like her, I would always know Megan.
“Megan!” I yelled and tried to stand. A pair of Dopkalfar arms and legs swam before me and I yelped in surprise and threw myself backwards to get out of their way. As I landed and tried to roll, I noticed those arms and legs were my own.
“Stop!” yelled another Dopkalfar, or so I thought. His voice was a bit different though. There was more of a musical quality to it. “I am Aedrill and I am Ljosalfar. No more harm will come to you or your friends, but you must not move quickly or you will hurt yourself. You are safe here in my home.”
“What?” I babbled as I knelt and looked down at myself. It wasn’t me anymore. I was in a Dopkalfar’s body. “What did you do to me? Megan?”
“I’m here,” Megan called. A Dopkalfar female sat up against the wall across from me. “I think I’m going to be sick,” she said. I heard Megan throwing up and I clenched my teeth to keep from following her.
“We honored our word,” Khytyrh told me. He was the first one that had spoken to us. His words were bitter and full of hate.
“The only way to save your lives was to use the magic and transfer your essence into bodies that were whole,” Aedrill explained. I looked at the two of them and saw the differences. Not just noticed them, but I saw their spirits whirling around inside them.
Aedrill leaned heavily on his staff, his body stooped as if he was barely holding himself up. But more than that, I could see that he was weary, both physically and mentally. Only his pride and stubbornness held him standing. The wind gently played with his long blond hair and his blue eyes pierced me in a strong stare. I couldn’t look away until he let me. With a small smile, he turned away and slowly walked over to another Dopkalfar body. His staff clicked on the wooden floor at each step.
Khytyrh, however, held himself straight and upright with pure tenacious willpower. It throbbed throughout him and built into a pulsing beat that I could almost feel. He was tall and thin, too, but unlike Aedrill’s pale skin, Khytyrh was a bit darker, like he’d worked in the sun all his life. His black hair matched his dark, brooding eyes. I didn’t look away from them, not because I couldn’t, but because it would have lowered me in his view. I knew that. And I also knew that there was nothing I could say to erase the hate in his eyes. We stayed locked in that stare until I heard Megan.
“Raphael, help me,” Megan called. Instantly, I turned and tried to stand. My balance was gone and my fighting center was displaced. I wobbled and teetered, but I stood. Slowly, with one foot in front of the other, I stepped over to Megan. She used the wall to climb herself to a standing position.
“You look funny,” she told me. I watched a giggle form in her eyes and then saw it spread out to her throat and lips.
“You should see yourself,” I replied. I looked at her with new eyes and watched the emotions build and express themselves. Small things that she used to do, like the giggle and the way she smirked and the way she looked at me with those green eyes coalesced inside her and I found Megan once again.
“Megan,” I whispered, looking up into crystalline violet eyes. She stumbled into my arms and I held her tightly to me. I had found that no matter what physical form she took; I would always love her.
“What happened to our bodies?” Megan inquired.
“They are broken and cannot be healed,” Khytyrh replied. “We honored our promise. That should be good enough.”
“Not to kill those who were innocent. The tower held two Fretheod mages as prisoners and when they attempted to escape, we had to stop them at all cost. She,” Khytyrh pointed at Megan, “was trapped in the tower by an old magic and could not leave.”
“Where are Merrif and Lylle?” I asked, wondering if they too were here.
“Merrif is Dopkalfar as well and healing,” Aedrill replied slowly.
“Lylle?” I asked. Aedrill shook his head slowly.
“Anam and Niatha?” I asked, dreading the worst.
“The wolf and the creature?” Khytyrh said and for a brief moment, I thought I saw a smile. “They are well and a handful.”
“I want to see my old body,” Megan said.
“Megan, why?” I said. “We’re together again, nothing else matters.”
“It matters to me,” she replied slowly. “I feel, I’m being drawn back and I want to know why.” I looked at her then at our hosts.
“Is it possible?”
“It is, but I wouldn’t advise it,” Aedrill said reluctantly.
“Then show me!” Megan demanded.
“As you wish,” Khytyrh sighed and waved his hand. A part of the wall became translucent and we looked at an outside scene. It shifted as if we were moving and the tower came into view. Zooming inside, we saw that Merrif’s and Lylle’s bodies were still on the ground. Then I saw Megan’s body, propped up against the wall of the tower and a bit further was my own. Megan and I watched for several menes, taking in every detail. I was about to ask them to stop the view when I noticed three people approaching the tower. A black-haired woman dressed in the garments of a bard accompanied by two men. I felt Megan stiffen next to me.
“Simona,” she whispered. I looked at her in surprise. I had heard about Megan’s twin sister. While Megan insisted that one day she would see her sister again, that she was alive and well, their mother believed Simona died when she was six.
“Are you sure?” I asked Megan.
“I can feel her.” We watched as the three people discovered first Lylle and Merrif and saw the horror on their faces when they noticed Megan’s body against the tower. The woman ran towards her and cradled her body. She seemed to be crying.
“I have to go back!” Megan said. “I have to go back and tell her.”
“Go back where?”
“Back to my body.”
“No! She won’t recognize you,” Aedrill spoke up.
“You don’t understand; she’s my twin sister. I have to tell her! Tell her where to find our mother, tell her …” Megan said, agitated that her request was denied.
“There cannot be anyone alive in the outside world who knows the Dopkalfar still exist.”
“I won’t tell her,” Megan promised.
“No! She will see you and know. There is no way this can be allowed.” Khytyrh crossed his arms in front of his body.
“Then find a way,” Megan yelled. “Haven’t I been through enough? First I’m ill all the time, and then my sister is taken from me. When I finally find some happiness with my husband, someone places a curse on me. While I hear and see everything that is going on around me, I cannot act upon it, cannot show my husband how much I love him. No sooner am I freed to make a journey to see my mother, I get trapped in this tower. If you think for one moment, I won’t make it possible for my sister to find our mother, you are mistaken. If you don’t want my sister to see me in this body then find a way!”
Aedrill and Khytryh stood against Megan’s outburst, but then they turned and walked to the other side of the room. For several menes they spoke to each other. I grinned inwardly. Megan’s temper was still the same no matter what form her body took.
“We will give you two menes of your time to speak with your sister, but not as Dopkalfar,” Aedrill said.
“How?” Megan asked.
“Khytryh will sustain your old body so you can talk while I transfer your spirit, first to your old body, then back into this one. It is risky. If we leave you too long, you will die. You will not tell your sister about us.”
“I promise,” Megan said solemnly.
“Then lie down on the floor,” Aedrill instructed. Megan complied. I watched as Aedrill lifted his hands and the light inside my wife formed into a small, white ball, exited her body and flew into her former body. I noticed that Simona seemed to stop crying and instead listened intently and then Megan’s spirit returned. For quite some time, she lay still on the floor, breathing slowly. I wondered if this had happened to me as well when my spirit had entered this body for the first time.
“It is done,” Aedrill said. “Once those three have left, the tower will be no more.”
I helped Megan to her feet and embraced her. She smiled at me and my heart beat faster. Simona had gotten Megan’s message. Megan and I were together again. Merrif, Niatha, and Anam were alive. We would mourn for Lylle later. Right now, Megan was in my arms and well. Nothing else mattered.