Chapter 2 Scene 2

by Richard Perkins
This entry is part 7 of 65 in the series Doormaker's Fall

Fronek again raised his mug to the audience. “Enough of business for one night. What entertainment would you have of this old wanderer? A mysterious tale of the nomadic tribes of the Great Desert perhaps? An intrigue from the Council of Doormakers of the Fertile Plains?”

Calls rang out around the hall, some for adventure, some for comedy, and a few for romance. Fronek listened to the requests, and then told a story of his own selection, as he always did. “Very well then, I will speak to you of the mages from the south.” Cheers of agreement came from the crowd.

“You have no doubt heard stories about the Doormaker Councils. Some of you may even have met a mage or two in your travels.” Again there were many Guardians who agreed with this.

“You have probably heard that they can achieve fantastic feats, like raising a flood in the highest desert, or summoning winds strong enough to blow down an army, or lifting enough mud and stone to build mountains where once there were only plains.” This statement brought whispers of incredulity, several knowing nods and a handful of isolated cheers of assent.

“Yet I’ll wager that none of you has ever seen Doormaker Citadel, the home of the Councils and place where the Doormaker Art was first discovered.” Judging by the whispers from the room, Fronek had piqued their interest. Devon was wide eyed with anticipation of this new story.

“Seasonturns and generations ago, before the Doormaker Councils united the Fertile Plains, before anyone even knew that such a thing as the Doormaker’s Art was possible, a uniquely gifted young man came to a growing town straddling the junction of two mighty rivers that separated the Great Desert, the Barrier Highlands, and the Fertile Plains. He entered the town as an anonymous migrant using a name that is now lost to history.” No one uttered a sound as Fronek paused. Only the crackle of the hearth fire and the creak of his settling chair punctuated the silence.

“No one remembers it because he later became known throughout the land only as the Scion of Doormakers. But before he was the leader of the most power order of mages in all the land, he was a humble migrant, unwittingly drawn to this town by destiny.”

Fronek paused to sip his cider, enjoying the expectant hush. “Now I can not reveal to you the secrets of the Doormaker’s Art. Those secrets are the Citadel’s to keep, and they guard them more closely than Geoff does his flock.” This elicited a few heartfelt chuckles.

“What I can tell you is that the young Scion began to make a name for himself first as a craftsman. He made small items, but of exquisite beauty. He worked with wood, gems, precious metals, and crystal, selling small sculptures, figures, and sometimes fine precision tools. He sold much of his work in trade fairs, but kept some of his best work private.”

“He began getting commissions for his works, usually from young ladies who were flattered by his charm. Oh yes, the young Scion was a dashing rascal by all accounts. As there are children in the crowd, I won’t go into the more sordid details.”

“Flame! Most of ‘em have probably told worse themselves! Bring on the sordid!” An exuberant retort from near the bar elicited its own roll of laughter.

Fronek raised a knowing eyebrow. “Suffice it to say that he had a string of affairs during these years, most ending with a debutante being married off to the country in some haste.” This set the crowd to laughing again as he paused to savor another swallow of cider.

“The young Scion became a celebrity of sorts, and soon was crafting for the city’s elite patrons, such as they were. The fame of his crafts brought him wealth and misfortune in equal measure. His passion for art was tied to his passion for life, among other pleasures best left unmentioned. Ladies of wealth were no more immune to his magnetism than the debutantes of the merchant fairs had been, and he carved a swath of broken hearts and scandalized husbands.” Fronek paused again in his narrative, knowing that the tone would be changing when he continued.

“Other artists crafting near the Scion began to notice peculiarities about his works. One fellow confided an incident to a constable friend after a few drinks and the constable recorded it in the city watch logs as a curiosity. He claimed to have heard unnatural noises when the young Scion was carving a marble bust one night. The constable of course asked what the fellow meant, and he said there was a low rumble as of stone grinding against stone or boulders sliding, colliding, and cracking. When he looked up, he could only see the young Scion gently scoring lines with a fine chisel.”

“There were other such mysteries, but most are difficult to disprove or confirm. There are some items from those times however, that can still be seen in the Citadel Galleries to this day. Two pieces that were commissioned for the Mayor’s daughter were reported to have an otherworldly appearance. The first was a hand mirror of polished silver set in a frame of rose quartz carved with a floral border.”

“The Scion reportedly crafted it to reflect the fair girl’s beauty. Unfortunately, shortly after he gave her the piece, the silver surface stopped reflecting entirely. All that could be seen in the marred surface was a hazy image reminiscent of an eerily lit cave of quartz and stone.”

“In an attempt to apologize for the flawed commission, the young Scion offered to craft a new work for the Mayor’s daughter. This time he created a white marble basin encrusted with lapis lazuli. The basin was set in the garden outside the lady’s window, along with clever channels connecting the basin to the two upstream branches of the river and a planed onyx slab connecting it to the downstream branch.”

“It was a beautiful work, combining engineering and art. Two matched clear rivulets of water from the channels met just above the basin and a smooth sheet flowed away from it down the dark slab. The slab was angled toward the balcony, so that in the evening when the young girl stood there and looked down into the garden, she would be able to see her own moonlit reflection in the cascading sheet of water. The gentle sound of falling water was reportedly intended to sooth the girl’s mind.” Fronek paused for a drink yet again, and the Inn’s patrons waited eagerly for the narrative to resume.

“I say ‘reportedly’, because it ‘actually’ was intended to disguise the noise of the young Scion’s clandestine trysts with the Mayor’s daughter so it would not carry through her window to the rest of the Mayoral household. As I understand it, she was appreciative of the young Scion’s attentions. Extremely appreciative.” Laughter broke out in the hall again, and took several moments to subside.

“The Scion’s art was unfortunately his undoing. In the middle of one of these amorous meetings, the river fountain ceased to provide the covering sound of falling water. The water didn’t slow in its flow, or become blocked, it just went curiously silent. The falling rivulets stopped disturbing the surface of the basin and the cascading sheet of water ceased its pleasant gurgle. The water continued to flow yet became as smooth as glass, and as with the hand mirror, the cascade stopped reflecting the moonlit balcony. Instead it showed a dark and murky image which brings to mind a broad expanse of tumultuous white capped ocean.”

“But the young Scion had more pressing concerns than otherworldly behavior from his artwork. It seems the Mayor had been having a formal dinner with other members of the town’s elite. Evidently they were discussing matters of moral impropriety and how important it was for the town’s leadership to set an appropriate example. The discussion was interrupted by the Mayor’s unwed daughter, who was setting a decidedly inappropriate example, judging by the sound of things.” Fronek grinned knowingly, and then emptied his mug during the ensuing laughter.

“The Mayor was so offended that he called on the city guard to haul the young Scion away clapped in irons. Six members of the watch burst through the young maiden’s door with the angry Mayor on their heels. The young Scion, confronted in the young lady’s bedroom by such a force, feared for his life. The Mayor and two of the watch remained by the door as the other four drew weapons and advanced menacingly.”

“Seeing that he was unarmed, they mocked him as they crossed the flagstone floor. ‘You’re in for it now boy! Just you wait!’” Fronek rose from his chair and brandished his empty mug at the common room.

“The Scion leapt from the bed and cast about for anything with which to defend himself.” Suddenly, and with startling agility, Fronek turned and vaulted up to stand on the back of his chair, balancing it on two legs.

“He lunged toward his assailants, looking to the window, but they had him surrounded and the way to the balcony was blocked!” The patrons gasped as Fronek tipped the chair onto a single leg and spun it and himself around in a full circle, a haunted look on his face and a strange fire in his eyes.

“In a last desperate move, he tumbled back against the lady’s nightstand and swept up the heaviest item he could grab, the flawed hand mirror he had provided as the lady’s first commission.” Fronek nimbly somersaulted from his perch on the chair and landed, catlike, by the hearth before the chair came to rest back on all of its four feet. He held the candlestick from the mantle in one hand and the empty cider mug in the other, both out and at the ready.

And there he paused. The room waited on his whim, breathless. “He prepared to defend himself from his attackers, but it was apparent that he had no training in arms. The watch captain laughed, then ducked under the Scion’s feeble guard and easily slashed the hand holding the lady’s mirror.” Fronek sagged, his eyes downcast. He continued his tale as he returned the candlestick to its place on the mantle.

“It was a mocking wound, enough to draw blood and temporarily disable an opponent, but no more. His hand slick with his own blood, the mirror slipped from the Scion’s grasp and clattered hollowly at his feet. The Scion’s heroic self defense was over before it had begun. He was sure that he faced certain death.” Fronek walked sedately back to his chair. As he resumed his seat, he roguishly held out his empty mug toward Mabel, tipped it over, and pulled a sad face. Mabel rolled her eyes and the rest of the common room roared with delight, knowing that Fronek’s threat to hold the end of the tale ransom for cider was an empty one.

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