The Refuge and the Star Stone
It was nothing more than a charred pit with a lump of metal in the centre. On the night that the child was born, the star had fallen from the sky, burning a clearing into the ancient forest. The father was advised by his soothsayer that the child would be his undoing. ‘He will bring an end to your rule!’
The man was a tyrant who ruled with an iron fist. When his wife heard the prediction, she sent the child away with a trusted retainer, wept over a tiny empty coffin and acted like one bereaved. In fact, she was bereaved, for she would be denied the joy of nursing and rearing her firstborn… The child and his guardian had escaped through the gates at the very moment the father's proclamation was announced, condemning his child to death.
When the child was sent to safety, the retainer bore as well with him a letter from the Lady to the renowned builder, Wolves Bain.
‘I will do it,’ Wolves Bain told the old man who knelt before him after careful thought.
In the clearing created by the fallen star, ‘The Refuge’ was built with a piece of the fallen star set into the floor at its entrance. To any one who approached, the building appeared to be almost a solid block of stone. The doors would not yield to any but the owner. Neither battering ram nor enchanted words could penetrate but when the young child placed his palm upon one of the double doors, they would open easily without a sound.
Windows there were none, or at least that was how the building appeared to any one outside the castle. Nothing would betray the child’s existence to hostile eyes. From within, however, the windows soared in intricate splendor, delighting the child and giving him hours of pleasure as he watched the creatures of the wilds play, unsuspecting of the presence of humankind.
From the metal fallen from the heavens, the aged retainer forged a cunning blade of pattern-welded steel. Renowned as a smith long ago, he had chosen instead to serve his Lady and her son, knowing her child would be the one to save the lands from tyranny. The Lady was a sword mistress in her own right, nor would she deny her son either her love or her training, despite the risks. She visited ‘The Refuge’ secretly as the years passed, teaching her son a love of justice as well as expert swordplay. When she returned inevitably to the royal palace, she marked the hours until the appointed hour of deliverance.
At the boy’s own request, the pattern-welded sword had been placed on a low table in the centre of the upper floor the castle, wrapped in a wolf skin. Each day at dawn, the boy would climb the twisting ramp to take the sword in hand and practice all the techniques he had been taught by his mother. Each day at dusk, he regretfully would wrap the blade once again in the pelt of its guardian, shaking his head.
‘What do you seek?’ the old servant asked him one day, after watching him execute a dazzling set of manoeuvres. ‘Your skill is exceptional!’
What more can you desire?’
‘I am waiting for the sword to teach me something that belongs to this blade alone,’ the boy responded quietly.
‘You are wise beyond your years, young Lord,’ the retainer declared.
‘If I have any wisdom, it is due to my mother and to you, good friend.’
The day finally came when in the midst of his practice, the sword appeared to take on a life of its own, dancing and weaving in his hands like a sliver of moonlight. The boy was 16. He had mastered more than the art of the sword. He could speak to each creature of the forest, charm any bird from the sky, match the speed of a cat and the cunning of a fox. He could bind any wound but had the strength and will to dispatch any who suffered without any hope of recovery.
When his mother next visited the Refuge, she brought another horse with her.
‘But how did you know, Mother?’ he asked.
‘How could I not? I am your Mother, after all,’ she replied with some amusement.
When he rode through the gates of the Royal Palace, the soldiers on guard threw down their arms. Rumors flew of the return of the Young Lord. Women and children ran to greet him with flowers and garlands and in every Church tower, the bells began to ring.
The tyrant watched his doom approaching, recognizing the boy he had believed dead. A coward at heart, he fled into the Forest, pursued by the sound of the bells in every tower as they rang with jubilation at the liberation from tyranny. He fought his way through brambles and thick undergrowth, startling birds from the nests as he passed, cursing and swearing at all that obstructed his path. At length, he found his way to the clearing.
When he beheld the castle, he summoned the last of his strength, but when he reached the door, it would not open. He could find no lock, but the door would not budge. In a rage, he hammered upon it with boulders and sticks, at length thrusting his sword into the crack to pry it open. The blade snapped but the doors would not yield.
Night fell and with the darkness came the howling of wolves. The tyrant shouted his curses upon the castle that refused him shelter, cursed the forest then and all who dwelled therein.
Foolish man, to have broken the blade that might have served him! No longer howling, the pack surrounded the enemy of the Forest and enemy of his own people in absolute silence. The man hurled himself against the doors in one last attempt to find protection, but to no avail. As he shouted and cursed, the leader of the wolves silenced him efficiently, tearing out his throat in a fluid motion.
At Castle Row, Wolves Bain smiled quietly… ‘The Refuge’ was one of his more satisfying works. A castle that can discern between the innocent and an enemy of mankind and animals alike is far more than mortar and stone…
This story written by our own group member
I truly thank her for allowing me to use it
Story by Freyashawk, Castle by Wolves Bain