Branagh’s Story: Part 2

This is a continuation of the story I started way back here I had a breakthrough while working in my morning pages today, so hopefully there will be more of this soon.

Branagh’s students were at the south door of the holding tower when he approached the dam bridge. They were speaking to one of the riders, while the other strode toward them in the easterly part of his pacing. The babble of water through the dam stones covered their words, but the rider gestured emphatically and Mara, a widow of upper middle age, stood with her arms akimbo. She was clearly putting the new comer in his place, and that place would be a low one. Mara’s blood was as pure and high as one could wish, and had only started exploring her magic after her widowing.

The holding tower itself was build of dark grey local stone, grown over with velvety green moss, stained rusty around the crenellations. The hexagonal tower squatted above six wings, each with an exterior door of its own. The doors opened onto stairs into the perpetually flooded cellar, two wide bunk rooms for student and visitors, a two stall stable where the pony lived in glorious isolation, and moldy room that had been the library but now held jars of canned goods and other things that could be stored and not too damaged by the damp. The last door, the south eastern one, led into a hall and then the main room of the tower.

Outside of the tower there was a small muddy yard of stony packed earth and back into the woods where a was a small shady garden plot and a duck coop. The yard was fringed by uneven stone walls that may have once been neatly crenelated. Now, the grey-black stone was softened by thick green moss and lichen.

Branagh reached into the darkness of his heart, stealing an hour of his own lifespan to reinforce him now. His spine straightened, his stride firmed and lengthened, and his gaze extended; piercing the man pacing the wall into swinging around in search of the spirit raking against him. He pointed at Branagh and barked to his partner, who stepped away from Mara’s down-dressing to watch the old man briskly close with them.

“Good day once again gentlemen. I suspect that I could have saved us all time on the road, had I known you planned to actually come here. The more fool I, I thought you were looking for the turning. I am Branagh, master of the mageholding. What brings you to this place?”

The speaker had his back to Mara now, and she was fuming. The pacing man had cocked his hip against the dam wall, folded his arms, and let his gaze drift into the middle distance. Somehow, Branagh felt he was still keenly observing the interplay.

“You are Master Branagh? The mage of the battle of Laughlin Hill? I thought mages didn’t age.”

The speaker’s voice was flat with disappointment. Laughlin Hill had been a bloodbath in the blush of his first youth, more than 60 years in the past.

“I haven’t been a battle mage in the years of your natural life, boy, and everything ages. If you’d like to sacrifice the power of your own life, I could look like a flushing boy again, but that wouldn’t gain your cause anything. Did you come to stare at an old man and judge the way I live my life, or is there some other point to this?”

Grimacing, the beefy young man bent his knee and bent his curling head in belated and perfunctory courtesy. “I am Alistair of West Shepsford. This is my cousin, Laughlin. Welcome seeking your aid. A foul magic is killing the children of our home, and the king and mage counsel refuse to help us.”

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