The Wizard's Bracelet

The old wizard’s body was failing when I found him in his derelict tower. It had been gutted by a recent fire, likely of his own mad design. The floorboards had been dissolved into ash days before, but the fine stone masonry of the stairwell and the top floor was still as stable as it ever was, so secure was the magic embedded in the red granite. His robes were stained in soot and his finger nails were black and ragged. Obviously he had spent the last several days scrambling through the ashes looking for something. A pile of metal scraps adorned the far corner. The place was probably his workshop.

I didn’t know it then, but that moment would shape the rest of my life. My parents had always told me that the wizard was a bit touched in the head, so mad was his ramblings about extra dimensions, mechanical automatons and empires that spanned more than the stars. A young lad at the time, I did nothing more than ferry his taxes to the magistrate and perform the odd, mundane chore on occasion. It was rare, but sometimes he’d give me lessons on alchemy.

But as I rushed toward him, so weak and pathetic looking a strange feeling came about me. Tears welled up in my eyes like I was losing my best friend. He offered a warm smile and coughed, the soot in his beard sending a cloud that filled the wood ash smelling air.

He was enormous to me, even in his sickly state. He was bigger than most humans, and even the smallest of his kin would have two lengths on my father any day.

His giant’s hand ruffled my hair into a sooty mess. I didn’t mind.

“Rit, my boy. I knew you’d be the last. You’re right on time.”

“I’ll- I’ll- I’ll get the doctor!”

I stammered. I’d never seen a dying man before. I didn’t know what to do.

“Your doctors can’t help me now, boy. There’s only a couple men in this world who could make me well again. But.. it’s been so long since I’ve seen any of them. I think they’re still alive. But they’re too far away. It’s probably for the best anyway. I betrayed them too long ago for them to care about what happens to Ol‘ Aeolus.”

I didn’t even know his name. I had always called him “sir,” like my parents taught me. He never offered his proper name. How wrong he was about his companions. I’d discover later that long after his death in my own manhood.

He was shaking, but he managed to prop himself up against the wall using me as a crutch. Aeolus smiled, his green eyes devoid of much life.

“Be a good boy and listen, won’t you?”

I nodded, my tears turning the soot on my cheeks into mud. I was so young and naive.

“I’ve spent many years in your village, Rit. I was an old man long before your grandfather was born. There was a time when you would have been given a far grander education, a time when your life would have been much more fulfilling. That’s why I exiled myself, my boy. To give some of you a chance at becoming something more. The others, they didn’t think you were ready. But I’ll prove them wrong yet!”

Old wizard Aeolus fished around in one of his pockets for something.

“The fire, ugh. It’s destroyed much of my work. My eyes are not as good as they used to be. I wasn’t as careful as I should have been. But this.. this is more precious than all of what this tower used to contain by a hundred fold. I almost lost it, too.”

He narrowed his eyes, producing a beautifully crafted metal bracelet. Tiny rubies studded the entire work at regular lengths and as it caught a ray of sunlight, it shone. It was sized for a Halfling, it would never fit on one of his own kind. Even where he touched it, the bracelet stayed beautiful and clean.
“When I die-… and I will die Rit, no matter what you have to say, people will come looking for me. Tell them of me as you knew me before this moment, Rit. Tell them that I’ve missed them so very much, but I had to do it.

“They won’t hurt you or your family. There will be a small man with eyes and skin like mine..”

He coughed for a long time. Flecks of blood found their way to his sooty beard.

“Tell him that I never stopped loving him. Even after he stopped loving me.”

As I stared at him, he took my wrist gingerly in his enormous hands and slid the bracelet on me. The rubies gleamed and produced a light of their own. I could feel an itch inside my head, as if something was wiggling around in there.

“Never tell them I gave this to you, not even the man with my eyes. They won’t understand. They’ll steal it from you and pulverise my tower into the ground. I’d like them to think I left this world contributing nothing.”

I couldn’t fathom what I was being told. Why me, of all the people in the village? Was I the only one who he knew?

“Sir, … I don’t understand.”

I said, rubbing my wrist. The bracelet felt oddly secure, like it was part of me. I’d later find out that was exactly the case.

“Of course you don’t. How could you? But you will, oh.. you will.

“Keep it on, always. Get plenty of sun. And talk, a lot. If there’s anything she likes, it’s that.”

She? Was the wizard really as daft as everyone thought he was?

But as I was mulling over his sanity in the back of my head, the little life that was left in the wizard’s eyes had bled out. He looked so pathetic and undignified. I had never seen a dead body, and I was so scared.

So I ran. I could hear soft sobbing as I sprinted through the forest toward home. At first I thought it was my own but as I distanced myself from the tower, I came to the sudden realization that it was a woman. And it was coming from my own head.

I came to a sudden halt, terrified. That was then that a hot wind blew through the forest, and I could see ghostly shapes materialize in the direction from which I came. They coalesced from nothingness. They shouted a language I still don’t understand to this day.

That was when things got really weird.


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