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The Locked Tower: Chapter 4  

“Well?” Decimus rolled his eyes. “Should I be excited? Or will you just be wasting my time?”


Decimus drew his sword and stood to his full height. He no longer looked handsome nor noble. He looked like a fiend, his true nature in full display across his arrogant features.

“I couldn’t care less about your old father. Do you hear me? I swear I’ll personally kill all of you if you do not find out the secret of these stalks! Go now and bring me someone who can provide some answers! GO!”


The brothers split up, each resolving to search a different part of the city. They looked endlessly for someone who could give them some sort of clarity. It seemed, however, that the more they searched, the more they understood there seemed to be no one alive who truly knew anything about the locked tower. On the second to last day, they decided they would each bring at least one person who might be able to share something useful about the locked tower and the mysterious chest.


Decimus raised his eyebrows as he lounged lazily on his couch. The three brothers stood before him with three other people.

“Well?” Decimus rolled his eyes. “Should I be excited? Or will you just be wasting my time?”

“We’re not promising it won’t be a waste of your time.” Albanus coughed. “But it’s the best we could come up with. We figured something was better than nothing.”

“We’ll see about that.”

“This man is a sorcerer from the markets who says he may know of certain incantations that can awaken the powers dormant in the stalks.”

Albanus pushed forth a scrawny, dirty man wearing a black robe.

“How exactly do you plan on awakening the powers within the stalks?” Decimus wrinkled his nose.

The man spoke in a loud voice, a more dramatic tone than any of them expected. “I know the secrets of the ancient world, the art of summoning spirts. All I need to do is summon them, and I will have them at my disposal, available to do whatever I desire!”

“Even have them wash your clothes?” Decimus sniffed. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

“See it, you will.” The man’s eyes widened, making him appear like a crazy person. “Watch and be amazed!”

The sorcerer began humming and chanting, hopping from one foot to the other.

“Seriously?” Decimus looked at Albanus. “Best you could do, eh?”

“I’m not finished yet!” the sorcerer said, his voice trembling. “It’s about to work!”

He began howling like a wolf, moving in strange motions toward the chest, his head bobbing back and forth like a chicken.

“Okay, enough.” Decimus shook his head. “Just stop. Now.”

“Wait, maybe there’s something to it….” Albanus held out his hand. “Should we not let him finish, his, um, routine?”


The sorcerer threw open the chest and let out a shrill scream that almost shattered the glass windows.

“I sense the great power coming from these grasses. I now summon the spirit to transform these grasses into their true form, a giant diamond!”

Nothing happened. Which, given the past minute of observation, was surprising to no one.

“Are you finished?”

“No!” The “sorcerer” leaped into the air and whirled around.

“For some reason the spirit does not obey me now. It must be because of someone in this room…. Someone here is interfering with the process.”

“You!” The sorcerer pointed at Albanus. “You must leave the room, at least until I have successfully summoned the spirt!”

“Me? What are you saying?” Albanus growled. “I’m the one who’s paying you to come here, remember?”

“Ah, oh, yes, I forgot about that.” The sorcerer quickly spun and pointed at Albanus’s brother. “What I meant was that you should leave the room! The spirit always responds very quickly, and today you must be holding it back. The fault is yours, entirely. Please leave.”

“Enough!” Decimus roared. “Get out!”

“Pay me, please.” The sorcerer turned to Albanus with open palms.

“Get out of here before I draw my sword and finish you off!” Albanus shoved the man toward the door.

“Well, that didn’t go quite as planned….” Albanus looked at the floor sheepishly. “Perhaps my brothers had better luck.”

“I doubt it.”

Albanus’s brother stepped forward, pulling a rather reluctant looking older man who sported a long beard.

“This is Basilius. He’s one of the oldest historians in Rome. If there’s anyone who knows anything about the locked tower, it’s him.”

“Speak.” Decimus placed his hand on the hilt of his sword. “But beware, peasant. I’ve already used up whatever patience I had for today. If you proceed to howl like a wolf and dance like a chicken with its head cut off, I swear I’ll get up now and toss you out the window.”

“Don’t worry, my lord, I won’t be doing any of that.” Basilius tried to smile at the emperor, baring all of four teeth that he still had inside his mouth. Decimus frowned in disgust.

“Well, I suppose I should start from the beginning.” Basilius noisily cleared his throat. “A little background is in order, I think. You’re probably wondering how I came to be known as the greatest historian in all of Rome.”

“No, actually no one was wondering that.” Decimus slapped a palm to his forehead in exasperation. “Do you know anything about the locked tower, old man? Yes or no?”

“Of course I do, if my name’s not Bartimus!”

“It’s not Bartimus!”

“That’s right, it’s Basilius and I—”

“—know nothing that we don’t already know about the tower?”

“Well, when you put it like that…” Basilius swallowed hard, beads of sweat trickling down his cheeks. “Your servant said anything I could share would be better than nothing.”

“Get… out…”

Decimus stood up and Basilius turned and fled, running straight into the wall next to the door and flopping backward onto the floor.


This time Basilius the old historian managed to find the doorway and he disappeared.

Decimus tsked his tongue as he surveyed the brothers.

“You’ve failed me.”

“Tomorrow you will show up for your execution on time. Don’t be a minute late.”

“There’s still one more chance we can find someone to reveal the great secret.” Albanus took a deep breath. “We’re not finished just yet.”

And at that moment, the chest began to tremble.

to be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 905)

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