This is a sword and sorcery flash fiction I wrote to take a break from writing my novel, the Hour of the Red Queen, another sword and sorcery tale, which is very different.
In the town of Hemsol, there is a Spiral Tower. It has thirteen stories and raises itself over the thatch-roof cottages that constitute the village. Of all the stories of this tower, only the topmost three are used.
The eleventh floor is a pantry filled with foodstuffs and preserved foods--dried herbs, onions, potatoes, grains, aromatic flowers for cooking, tea, spices, blackroot--and it is maintained by the grocer of Hemsol.
The twelth floor is a library. Bookshelves filled with dusty tomes, grimoires, and papyrus scrolls criss-cross this floor, and implements of writing are there: ink, goose feather quills, wax, and penknives. It is maintained by the scribe of Hemsol.
The third floor serves many functions: dormitory, scriptorium, laboratory, brewery. This third floor is the private chamber of the sorcerer, Phantops, who built this tower.
In the chamber of Phantops, however, there is ladder reaching up to the flat roof of the tower, which is a platform. Along the edge of this roof-platform are set balustrades of dark metal, ornamented with sculptures of evil, crouching things and black triangles. And in the center of this uppermost platform stands an obelisk of pure silver, its surfaces unmarred and glimmering as mirrors or stars.
It is known that when it is storming, when the lightning flashes as swords of light, when the great black clouds roll in, that Phantops, robed in crimson, wearing a long conical hat, works magic with his hands and the obelisk.
Of late, the grocer and the scribe have grown worried. They are the only folk of Hemsol who discourse with Phantops. They report at town conventions that Phantops has been... changing.
"His eyes are hallow," says the grocer.
"His fingers are longer than usual. I have spotted knuckles where none should be!" says the scribe.
"His teeth--by the gods, they are becoming fangs," says the grocer.
"His shadow! I saw it! It writhed as a monster bound, of its own accord, irrespective of Phantops position!" says the scribe.
"His shadow--by the gods, it tried to strangle me as I hefted a barrel of pickles into the pantry, and Phantops called it to desist as a hunter calls to an over-excited dog," the grocer says.
"His voice echoes as many voices," the grocery and scribe said in unison.
There was silence. The villagers did not speak.
"How does a shadow strangle?" the villagers asked.
Meanwhile, the storms continue to rage, and the scribe and the grocer hew to their duties, and Phantops continues his weird work, whatever that work may be.