"Your culinary fortitude is matched only by your finesse with a sword and your fantastic strength, Jurn. This is simply flawless."
Jurn looked happy with this praise, if also a little confused. It was the eve of the scheduled 'demolition' of the tower, and Jurn had made stew for himself and his friends. It was nearly sunset, and he had been in a rush to finish before the commotion started, but he had done a stand-up job regardless.
"You cook stupendously, my dear friend. My satisfied stomach sends its regards."
This explanation removed nearly all traces of confusion from Jurn's face. "I'm just glad I can help our cause outside of the battlefield."
"You certainly can! Fighting famished will never have a fortuitous outcome."
Wren felt a tugging once more and turned his attention to Markus, who looked confused by something and proceeded to draw an 'F' on the table with his finger.
"Don't mind Wren, little guy," said Jurn. "Sometimes he does that... allitration... thing."
"Alliteration, my jolly chum. Was I doing it again? I hadn't even noticed! What a queer habit I seem to have picked up."
"Its presence does not bother me," interjected Stone. A clear lack of emotion in the statement indicated she was quite busy with her current activities, off by herself in the corner. She was seated on a stool, and scrawling furiously in a voluminous tome, but her gaze was firmly and pointedly stuck on young Markus.
Markus seemed to have only just noticed this, and was shying away from her line of sight and behind Wren's thin frame. Stone's neck extended slightly, in tandem with Markus' own movement, until she could no longer stretch it any further. At this point, she stared instead at Wren, with muted curiosity in her eyes.
"Pay it no mind, Markus," said Wren. "I would imagine she is simply sketching your likeness into her record book. She likes to keep notes on our doings, and you, my young miracle maker, happen to be our latest doing."
"Markus of Fraghelm, age unknown, presumed to be roughly seven years old," began Stone, reading what she already had written in her book. Markus seemed upset by this, and popped out from behind Wren to emphatically wave eight fingers at her.
Stone scratched something out and wrote in, "Eight years old---" She looked back up at Markus, who was violently swinging around a half-raised finger, trying to get her attention. "Eight and a half years old," she corrected, making the proper changes in her book. If she was agitated by having to make so many changes, her desire for accuracy in her record keeping overrode it, and the irritation didn't show outwardly.
"Rescued by Wren of the Sky, Jurn the Giant, and Stone the Liberated, from the clutches of the evil spellsmith Arl Pellathy and his Tower of Horrors, Fraghelm, in year 20 King Lorne. Arl Pellathy was keeping children with magical potential (like Markus) prisoner in his tower, for use in his fiendish experiments. When he was defeated, the rest of the children were returned to their parents, but Markus had no memory of his past and no parents came forward, so Wren of the Sky decided to take him in."
She glanced up at the others, gauging their reactions. Wren and Markus looked delighted, and even Jurn, who disliked being called a giant, would have been forced to admit the story had a nice ring to it. Satisfied, she continued with her reading.
"Markus does not seem able to speak, perhaps because of some magic in the permanent Metusbreath collar he wears, or due to burns sustained when the collar was first applied. In either case, it seems that the collar was created for this exact purpose, as a means of prohibiting the boy from using his highly above-average spellsmithing talents. However, in the aftermath of the battle at Fraghelm, he developed the ability of silent spellsmithing. His impressive magical abilities will most likely make him an excellent addition to the defenders of the Kingdom of Thrown Shoe Valley."
She smiled a light smile as the boys applauded, but quickly went back to her writing, flipping to a different page this time, titled simply "The Tower."
The Tower The Blazing Tower
Located in the foothills of the Thrown Shoe Mountains, overlooking the Royal City, the tower was originally built in year 60 King Andrew for the Tainted Knight Ivan Darkacre by a fleet of enslaved Metus. The tower is entirely composed of the hazardous material Metus can emit from their vile maws at will, known as Metusbreath, which, when hardened, is the strongest known substance in existence. It is unbendable, unbreakable, impervious to physical weapons and destructive magic, and yet more able to hold enchantment than any material other than a Frag-orb, making the tower's defenses nearly impenetrable.
In year 7 King Lorne, the hero Wren of the Sky defeated the Tainted Knight in single combat and claimed the tower as his new home. He was later joined in his occupancy by his companion, Jurn, and the freed Tamiri slave, Stone.
In year 20 King Lorne, the evil spellsmith Arl Pellathy set fire to the tower by magical means, hoping not to destroy it but to kill its inhabitants in their sleep. Wren of the Sky, Jurn the Giant, and Stone the Liberated escaped with their lives, but were unable to douse the magical flames, which were permanent by nature. Only after taking the battle to Arl Pellathy and rescuing the young spellsmith Markus were they able to return to their home, thanks to Markus bending the terms of the spell to prevent it from burning them. The methods used
Distracted by a loud scraping noise, Stone looked up from her writing to see that Markus had left Wren (who was now washing dishes with Jurn and humming merrily) and was pushing a chair over to where she was sitting. This accomplished, he climbed up onto it and beamed at Stone, who returned a polite (if inquiring) smile. It took a moment or two of the toothy smile being frozen in place on Markus' face for Stone to realize he was posing for her.
Dipping her head to hide the hint of laughter in her features, she found Markus' page again and began scratching his features across the rough paper with her quill. Or, more accurately, attempting to, as Markus' patience was thin and he did not hold still for much longer.
At one point, after the other two were done with the dishes and had sat down to watch her draw, Markus raised eight fingers again, pointed to himself, pointed to Stone, and shrugged.
"I am very old by human standards," she explained without looking up from the detail she was embellishing. "But I only just came of age."
"Hey, Stone, when is your birthday? I know Wren's, and mine is in the winter, but you never told us yours." Jurn liked birthdays. Birthdays meant presents, and few things were better than presents. He didn't even care what he received, as long as it was a gift.
Stone was silent for a moment. "My eightieth birthday was today," she finally said, still not looking up. "I see no novelty in a birthday, though. That is why I failed inform you. It seemed unimportant."
"What!?" Jurn exclaimed unhappily. "Today? Stone! You should have said something! I have to get you a gift!" He lumbered out of the dining hall before anyone could get a word in edgewise.
"You're eighty, my fair friend? I wouldn't have guessed a day over twenty, myself," said Wren, smiling a smile eternal.
"Such is the way of a human. It comes as no surprise that you incorrectly assumed I am younger than you."
"Incorrectly? I beg to differ, my awry ally. I am indeed your senior."
Stone's brow furrowed, and she looked as though she intended on questioning him, but the ground beneath their feet chose that moment to shake violently, and she was understandably distracted.
"I think perhaps Jurn wishes to give me an earthquake for my birthday," Stone commented. However, the shaking then stopped, and started again, and stopped, and started again, all very abruptly, throwing even more doubt onto this hypothesis.
"Ah, but that's not it at all. Your birthday illuminations have simply begun," Wren noted, gesturing out the window. In the low light of the sunset, the Royal Artillery could just be made out by the flashes they made, firing upon the tower. The munitions mostly ricocheted off of the tower, but a few flawed ones were shattering on impact, creating a sight not entirely unlike fireworks.
"Come and see!" Wren insisted, waving Stone and a not-quite-afraid Markus over to the window beside him. Markus, curious as ever, immediately rushed to the window, and Stone followed behind him. After a moment of watching, a shy smile came to her face.
Here, under fire from the King's cannons, in a tower alight with magical flames, and with the strangest of friends, she felt at home.