Master Solomon's home towered over every other building in the tiny village of Sacca. Most of the homes and businesses there were small one or two story structures, mostly made out of wood and mud. Master Solomon's tower, was made almost entirely of cinder block, was seven stories tall and reached eighty-two feet into the air, measured from the ground to the very top of the pointed roof.
Master Solomon was one of the few master wizards still around. The need for wizards and magic had fallen away over the last one hundred years as technology made life easier and easier for the humans of the world and as the need for them shrank, so too had the number of novices wanting to study the ways of the wizards. After fifty years with only a few novices a year beginning their training, the number of accomplished, senior, or master wizards had fallen off sharply as the older, most experienced wizards continued to die, often without anyone to take their place. Most expected that the secrets of the arch-wizards, otherwise known as battle mages, would die off with this generation.
It was rare for anyone to choose to approach Master Solomon's tower unless they were required to. Young Elwood, alternatively known as dumb Elwood or brave Elwood, depending on you asked, who was a stock boy at Gaylord's General Store, made the trip to the tower every Tuesday and Friday to deliver the old wizard's groceries. Mason Welford, was the only mason in village who would go near the tower, was called to the tower two or three times a year to make repairs to the ancient tower. Then there was old Dulcie, who most thought of as the town crazy, who entered the tower every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to clean up after Master Solomon.
Most of the residents of the village of Sacca were born and raised in Sacca and had heard all of the stories - the real, the assumed and the imagined - of what the old wizard did up in that tower all of their lives. So it was rare to see a citizen of Sacca approach the tower to ask the mage for a spell, potion or even a cup of sugar. Most of those who did approach the tower to ask something of Solomon came in from out of town to do so and usually didn't spend much time talking to the locals. If they did, they often left without ever approaching Solomon's tower.
Like all the other citizens of Sacca, Chrystanna had heard all the horror stories. She had heard how wizards were all power happy, how they sat in their towers and plotted and planned to overthrow the good King Yudell and put a wizard in in his place. How they wanted to call the dragons and giants back down from the frost-covered caves near the top of the Jora mountains where the last wizard King, Sig the silent, had demanded they be entombed hundreds of years earlier. Stories of how wizards loved to abuse young children – the wizards hated young children as it brought back memories of their own childhood which had been ruined by their own desire to learn magic – and women, whose pleasure they were forever denied for fear of the woman stealing the wizard's heart, and his magic with it.
Chrystanna, like most reasonable adults, knew that most of the stories about wizards, and especially those about Master Solomon specifically, were really nothing more than tales told by adults to frighten their children into behaving. There were tales from long ago, so exaggerated and changed over the decades and centuries, that there was no way to decipher what was real and what had been created from the minds of some terrified human. Then there were the incredible, imaginative, often colorful stories made up by a child, or children, who misunderstood something that seemed ominous to a child but was actually quite innocent.
Chrystanna's mother had been born and raised in Sacca, her father was born and raised in a nearby town and moved to Sacca in hopes of finding a bride. Chrystanna had gone to school in Sacca and had married a boy from Sacca.
Chrystanna's husband, Vian, was a carpenter and had spent every day he had off of work, building them a beautiful little cabin in a small clearing near the road just east of the center of town, less than a mile from Solomon's tower. Chrystanna had given birth to Vian's son, Parlan, in that small cottage and the three were oh-so-happy.
Vian was off work on a beautiful Monday and had agreed to stay home and care for Parlan while Chrystanna walked into town to shop at the farmer's market. Normally, if Vian was at work, she would have to take Parlan with her, making her legs and back ache from the strain, so she happily whistled a tune as she walked, carefree, into the village square. Chrystanna had picked up some cabbage and spinach at the market and some lovely cuts of pork at Wakely's butcher shop and was looking for someone selling carrots and beets when the news spread across the market. To the east of town, black smoke was rising above the trees.
The village of Sacca didn't have a formal fire department, there just were not enough fires to make it necessary but the small town did have some of the newfangled fire fighting equipment and every man in the village was a volunteer. The garage where the fire fighting wagon was stored, was thrown open, two, random nearby horses were drafted to pull the wagon and were quickly hooked up. Seven men jumped onto the fire wagon, dozens of people, including Chrystanna, who realized the fire was somewhere very close to her cottage, followed the dust trail the wagon made out of the market, out of the village and to the small clearing where Vian and Chrystanna's cabin had been only an hour before.
There was no way to determine how the fire had started. By the time the fire wagon got there, the cabin was little more than a pile of charred wood. They found Vian's body in the embers, baby Parlan was wrapped, protectively, in his father's arms, clutched to his chest. Chrystanna broke down, fell to her knees and screamed her agony out for the whole world to hear as they loaded Vian and Parlan onto a makeshift stretcher, covered them with a blanket and, followed by a somber parade of mourning town folk, made the long march to the north end of the village were Chrystanna's husband and son were buried.
Chrystanna's mother, Nettie, was brought to the grave site to comfort her daughter and mourn the loss of her only grandchild. She took Chrystanna home and tucked her into bed and fed her soup and bread trying to keep her alive, and beer, hoping to help her forget. Chrystanna didn't leave her childhood bed for near two weeks and then, only at the insistence of her father who dragged her from the bed and ordered her to clean herself up and dress or he would "throw ya out into the streets exactly as ya are." When Nettie tried to protest his treatment, the old man backhanded his wife and told her to get her daughter cleaned up.
Chrystanna luxuriated in the feel of the warm bath water until the water grew cold and she did feel better after a good scrubbing. She dressed and her mother brushed out the tangles in her hair, just as she had when Chrystanna was younger. Now decent, she faced her father who told her she couldn't stay with them.
"Women can not own land, Gowan, where is she to go?"
"I'd recommend finding a new husband to support her.""She's still in mourning," Nettie shouted.
"Nettie!" Gowan growled at his wife's insolence.
"No man in town will have her, Gowan," Nettie said, quietly and with much more respect.
"Then she'll need to move on," Gowan stated. "I'd recommend Everton. It's an easy days walk and it will take you right past Old Solomon's tower."
"Solomon's tower?" Nettie whispered, almost afraid to say it. "Why would she wish to go there?"
"For a man to marry a widow, especially one as young as Chrystanna, is bad luck, everyone knows that. To capture a man, even one who knows nothing of her past, she will have to lie and say she's a virgin maiden, an orphan I would think, to explain why she has no family traveling with her. For her to be believed as a virgin maiden, her maidenhead must be restored. I've heard that wizards can do that."
"You wish me to say I have no family?" Chrystanna asked, tears streaming down her cheeks. "You wish me to deny, not just my love for, but the very existence of, my beloved Vian and our son, your grandson, Parlan? You are a cruel man, father. Much crueler than I ever imagined!" Chrystanna turned and ran back into her bedroom. She threw herself onto her bed, buried her face in her pillow and cried again.
Gowan stood from his chair, gave Nettie a withering glare to keep her silent and in her place, then steeled his nerve and followed his only child into her bedroom. "I don't say and do these things easily, Chrystanna. I say and do these things because they must be done." Gowan sat down on the edge of the bed he had built with his own hands some twenty years earlier, as a birthday present to his beloved daughter on her fifth birthday. He placed his hand in the middle of her back. "Your mother and I can not support you and no man in this town will have you. You must move on, Chrystanna. You must find yourself another husband but no man will marry a low woman, and only a low woman would lay with a man before she was married. If you tell them of Vian, then you must tell them of his death and death of Parlan, and no man wishes to marry a young widow.
.... There is more of this story ...