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The Locked Tower: Chapter 3

He gasped in surprise. There was nothing in the chest except a large sheave of grey and green stalks


Albanus could hear soft shouts of excitement as the others discovered what was apparently treasure and items of great value. But the energy humming in the air that drew him away from the others in the dark tower grew ever stronger as he walked. He was determined to follow the source of the energy, regardless of the risk.

Lantern in hand, he found a trapdoor toward the end of the tower, bent down, and grasped the large handle built into it. He lifted it up and discovered a rickety ladder leading into the bowels of the tower. He descended the ladder, taking each rung of the ladder slowly as he moved deeper underground. Finally, his foot found the bottom.

He was in a small room, and there was only one object there: a dusty chest lying on the floor, with a large golden handle. He made his way to the chest and placed his fingers around the handle. It felt warm to the touch, and now the air itself seemed to be vibrating as his own body trembled with excitement and fear.

He opened the chest and swung his lantern over the top so that he could see its contents.

He gasped in surprise. There was nothing in the chest except a large sheave of grey and green stalks. He placed his hand inside and yelled in shock. The stalks were fresh and even a little bit moist, as though they had just been placed there a few moments ago!

“What’s going on down there? What did you find?”

Decimus slid down the ladder, drawing his sword as he landed on the bottom rung.

“T—this c—chest…”

“What’s in it? More treasures? You should see the amazing things we found on the main floo—”

Decimus fell silent as his eyes fell upon the sheaves.

“And what is this…?”

“I—I have no clue. Here, feel it. It’s fresh, as though it were just left here.”

“Perhaps it was…”

“Impossible, I think. No one — no one — has entered this tower for longer than we have been alive. I believe there is some sort of power being worked here, these cannot be ordinary stalks of grass and grains.”

“Obviously.” Decimus snorted. “I can also feel that energy humming in the air. Get the others and bring it up. We need to get everything back to the palace before people begin waking up.”


Under the cover of night, the entourage left the tower and hurried back to the palace. Their horses were weighed down with treasures, and of course, the mysterious chest.

Back at the palace, Decimus set the heavy chest on the floor and opened it.

“What do you think, Albanus?”

“I don’t have any idea.”

Albanus’s brother, the servant standing in the corner, stepped forward.

“Perhaps whatever power the grasses have will be activated once they’re cooked or threshed?”

“And what if you’re wrong?” Decimus sneered. “Imagine if we destroy these stalks in fire just to discover they burn up and are gone forever? No, it’s too big of a risk to do anything with them that could damage them.”

“Let’s summon practitioners of the dark magic,” Albanus’s third brother and servant to Decimus volunteered cautiously. “Perhaps there’s a spell that will turn these stalks into something like gold and silver.”

“Now that’s a better idea. Smart brothers, eh?” Decimus smirked at Albanus. “Go with your brothers and summon anyone you think who can enlighten us to the nature of these grasses.”


The brothers set out to fulfill the wishes of the ruler. Their efforts proved to be in vain, however, as no one could do anything to tap into the power clearly locked into the sheaves. Unfortunately for the brothers, Decimus flew into a rage, and he became obsessed with the mysterious chest from the locked tower.

“Let me make myself clear,” Decimus paced around the three brothers in his royal throne room. “You three are now responsible for telling me what the secret of these sheaves are. You will travel across Rome to find me any human being who has any knowledge about the locked tower and what was kept inside of it. Search out people familiar with witchcraft, the elderly historians who know about the history of Rome and its rulers.”

“We will do our best.”

“That’s not good enough, Albanus.” Decimus swiveled to glare at the soldier. “If you three don’t get back to me with answers that solve this mystery soon, I will have all three of you killed.”

“Killed for not figuring out what a bunch of grasses are for?”

“Don’t get smart with me! You know as well as I do that there’s something extremely special about these stalks. If it was hidden in the depths of that locked tower, then someone wanted to make sure they would be safe from any war or famine that would ever occur in Rome. Someone once knew what these stalks were and hid them carefully for good reason. We all can feel the strange power oozing from the chest; if I can discover the secret, I will be granted great power!”

Decimus paused and took a breath. “Bring me someone in Rome who can answer my questions about the chest in seven days, or I’ll have you all killed. Seven days. That’s all you have.”

“Please, have some mercy on us and give us more time.” Albanus threw himself at Decimus’s boots. “You have to understand that it’s not just about us; we have an extremely old father who needs our service. We take turns caring for him during the week, and its extremely time consuming. He cannot even eat properly by himself. We’ll find out about the chest, but not in seven days…”

The brothers held their breath as Decimus’s eyes began to flash in anger.

to be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 904)

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