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Volume 16, Issue 5: Similitudes

St. Rule's Tower

Douglas Wilson

The wound in Andrew's knee was garish, but not deep or severe, and soon he was able to walk almost normally, so he and Beow began making good time again.

One day about mid-morning, they came over a rise and looking down on a vast, bowl-like valley. At the center of the valley was an ancient stone tower that looked as though it had been deserted for centuries. The top of the tower came level to where they were standing, and Andrew could make out the crennalated wall at the top where archers once stood. Although the sun had been up for some time, there was still steam rising off various ponds and brooks in the valley. The picture was green and brown mystic—wonderful.
"What is the tower?" Andrew whispered to Beow. He did not know why he was whispering.
Beow did not whisper in return, but he spoke quietly. "That is St. Rule's tower. This is the place where the word of the Lord Christ first came to Greenland. But the Kale abandoned it long ago, and now it is a haunt for spiders."
"Who was St. Rule? And was he the one who brought the . . . word of the Lord Christ?"
"Yes, he was. He came here from Caledonia in your world, where he brought the bones of your namesake, St. Andrew. He built a tower there, and buried the apostle. Afterwards he had many adventures, and finally came here. This is his second tower."
"I don't know where Caledonia is."
"I believe another name for it is Scotland."
Andrew scrunched his eyes together, and rubbed his forehead. More and more things were coming back to him, but he could not remember anything about a Scotland—though he had a feeling that he ought to.
They continued to look across at the tower without speaking. Andrew could see the remains of an ancient circular wall about fifty feet in diameter, with the tower at the center. The land that had been the inclosure was full of boulders and stone and patches of heather. Outside the wall was long grass across the rest of the valley.
Andrew took a deep breath. "Let us go see." The path they were on led down the hillside easily, and right up to the remains of a gate in the wall. They both stepped through and made their way to the gaping door at the base of the tower. Andrew stepped up to the doorway and could feel that the air inside was dank and clammy. Beow put his head in over Andrew's shoulder and looked to the right. Around the inside of the wall was a narrow spiral staircase winding to the roof. "I can't go up," Beow said.
But Andrew was feeling both curious and adventuresome both. The longer he had been in Greenland, the more he had felt his spirits rising, and the less he feared meeting the dragon. In fact, on some mornings, he was almost looking forward to meeting the dragon. And maybe there was something here for him to fight. Maybe a little dragon for practice.
"I want to go to the top. Wait here."
Beow did not try to stop him. Aelfric had not warned them away from the Tower, or from any side adventures. In fact, he probably would have encouraged them because it is always bad to fight dragons if you are squeamish about dark holes along the way. Andrew stepped into the pale darkness and moved over to the staircase.
He stayed on the far right of the staircase, feeling the wall with the butt of his spear as he went. He thought more than once that it was probably a good thing that he didn't have to touch the wall with his hand. A few minutes before reaching the top, he could see daylight falling down, and he stepped on on the roof blinking. The flat surface of the roof was about twenty feet across. At the center was the shattered remains of an old table, and in the middle of that rotting wood was a black, gleaming obsidian knife. Andrew stared at it a moment, and then stooped, picked it up, and turned it over in his hands looking at it curiously. There were no carvings in it, no runes, no jewels in the hilt.
When he turned to go, he carefully put the knife in his pouch. As soon as he did so, he heard a screeching howl from below, and he knew that it was not because he had touched the knife—it was because he had taken the knife. But rather than put the knife back, he turned to the stairway, lowered his spear, and went cautiously down.
He clambered without running, and soon he could see light coming in the doorway where Beow had been standing—but Beow was gone. Just inside the door was something that looked like a giant spider, but just for a moment. Andrew blinked and there instead was a beautiful woman, with a red sash and a white robe, raven hair, and eyes as black as the knife in his pouch.

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