Eventually, Chemmer was living in his own tower, and I’d opened his mind to his own magic. Later, after Skul took me down to the world, I had more apprentices, but now they tend to learn from each other. Only Erin built another tower, most of them simply made houses and fell in love, creating what turned out to be the town of Seven-Step Cross. The legend says it took a giant creature seven steps to pace the first cross. Actually, it’s because there were only seven houses at first, each with a step. The cross part came later, just tacked on when the town began to grow that way. Now, of course, the town bustles, and there are several small villages and hamlets on Fexil Plateau as well. The best business tends to be in charms – travelling merchants love the things. The bestsellers tend to be ‘Fortune’s Favours’ (little scraps of parchment that really do bring good luck) and ‘Endurance Bells’ (silver bells that are stitched to clothes or harness to bring endurance to the wearer, and work best if touching skin). The best market for these, however, is at Clifftop Village, near Chemmer’s Ascent.
Clifftop Village sprang up in response to my first apprentice’s ‘graduation’ project – the beautiful water staircase that moves up and down, conveying people, horses, wagons and goods up and down the mountainside in record time. It moves incredibly fast, and although I don’t think he’s ever used it to come up, became known as Chemmer’s Ascent. He worked for months on that beauty, while the others went in for smaller, less grandiose, projects. It is now the major, and by that I mean only, commercial route up the mountain, since none of the strange flying machines the people of the empire have built work within several miles of the sorcerous bubble that protects the plateau.
The bubble is a work of art, if I do say so myself. The first thing I did when I arrived here was to protect it with the best I could produce, and nothing I’ve ever done has surpassed it. It drains magical energy to power itself even when I’m not around, so usually it ends up feeding a little off everyone. I didn’t know until people began to use it that it drained electricity as well. Nothing electrical works on the plateau and since I forbid disgusting vehicles like cars, all toxic fumes, my home is as yet unspoiled.
The only problem merchants have up here, apart from their calculators all failing, is the winding road through Mistdaemon Forest. It starts at the north of the grazing land of the Star Plain, and heads in a great loop through a large glade where the landing stage for the river to Northspring is located, bridges it, and heads east again before emerging and slitting into two roads across the fertile southern plain, that covers just over half the plateau. It is that way for a reason, to create my symbol, a potent magical shield, over the plain, and the taverns and inns across the forest are comfortable and warm, but merchants will be merchants. It passes within a day’s journey of the Screaming Tower at one point, but nobody goes there anymore, especially not them. The creatures of the mist and the Hounds of the Goddess (special version of my apprentices) do not countenance trespass in Mistadaemon Forest, and the name is accurate.
The tower is a sorry place, hulking out of the trees; dark grey stone fitted tightly together rising to a black roof. There is no visible door, and no windows but for the ring at the very top. The tower screams from dawn to dusk, every day, sometimes sobbing and cursing, others begging for release, the people say. I can shed light on that. It is not the tower that screams so horrifyingly. It is the occupant. Many, many years ago, I visited a world by the name of Aia. Beseeching the goddess there, I stayed and watched in fascination as the world developed, as I had not seen my own do. Sometimes, at first at their goddess’s request, later at my own whim, I aided the people of Aia in difficult quests against the forces of darkness.