Tower of Renk

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The Tower of Renk was one of the greatest marvels of the Age of Mankind.  The wobbly white marble tower, a mere forty feet in diameter, rose a hundred feet before the sloped roof came to a crooked point.  From a distance, the tower resembled a wizard’s hat and looked like it might blow over in a strong wind, but it was sturdier than it seemed.  The tower had only three windows, and they moved about, never staying in the same place too long.  Anyone lucky enough to catch a glimpse through the glass would see only long empty hallways that couldn’t possible have fit inside.  The single entrance was a grey stone door with a red crystal knocker, shaped like the letter Y in tribute to the Spires, Tarik told me, and he ought to know.

For thousands of years, Tarik made his home in an idyllic, hidden oasis on Tyrnavalle.  He mostly kept to himself but over time, tales spread about the wizard of the blue lagoon, which in the end was the most famous of his names.  Certainly Gerard, his favorite in Tirel, didn’t have half the star power.

After centuries at the blue lagoon, Tarik was lonely for some company and made his way to Renk in the year 450 RT, where he offered his services to the city elders.  That’s when he started using “the Wizard of Renk” as his name and title (they were one and the same during his stay in Renk).  He never gave them any other name and it wasn’t until later that anyone learned he vacationed at the blue lagoon.  The wizards following Tarik in the tower adopted the Wizard of Renk title also, mostly for the tax advantages.

Now, all wizards need a sanctum in which to work and Tarik was no exception, so his first order of business was to build the Tower of Renk.  The tower was an artifact of the highest order, equal to Nammydan’s scrying sphere or Nammoran’s staff.  The only items on par with it were the great pearls of the Dolforro and of course Caerycal, which was in its own league.  The tower was larger inside than outside, in both height and layout, and in complete defiance of the laws of physics.  If you were to wander the halls, you could easily get lost following the twists and turns in the passages.   The tower also worked like a giant battery that stored energy from the Spires of Thought allowing Tarik to push his already vast spellcasting capabilities to near infinite levels.  Even when lesser, human wizards controlled the tower, their command of the Spires far surpassed ordinary wizards.  Even without the other perks, commanding the tower was by itself enough to make Wizard of Renk an enviable position.  The tower’s master could scry into and instantly transport to any location in the tower, he could make the walls speak, light the darkest cellar or fill the halls with obscuring mist.  At his command, any door could swing open or slam shut, lights might dance in the halls like will-o-wisps in the swamp, and phantasmal guardians would appear to defend the tower.

One night in the year 750 RT, Tarik departed with no explanation besides one lousy note on tower maintenance.  I asked him why, many years later in Arvon, and he didn’t have a good reason.  He said that he’d just tired of city life and was ready to return to the blue lagoon.  I knew he was holding back, but not why.  I mean, really!  By then, thousands of years had passed and no one remembered that Sangrar had ever existed.  How could it hurt to tell me the truth?  But, I got even.  When Tarik asked about the Greater Realm, I let him stew on it.  Served him right.

Nystari, Tarik’s disciple, was as surprised as anybody that his master taken off during the night, but glad that Tarik had left him the keys to the tower (figurately speaking, the actual key was a red crystal ring) and doubly glad that the council concurred.  Nystari reported that Tarik’s last words, per his goodbye note/repair manual, were that the Tower of Renk was a beacon of hope for everyone following the light, a beacon that must never go out.  Blech!  That sounds nothing like Tarik.  I always wondered whether Nystari made it up to solidify his claim on the tower.  Nystari was always a goody two shoes and a regular at several houses of worship, including Deridean’s, which got under Tarik’s skin, though he couldn’t do much about it except make a few snide comments since he was incognito during his entire stint as Wizard of Renk.  Later, I did ask Tarik what he really wrote on the note Nystari read, but he just grinned in that annoying way of his.

Tarik’s wishes, or possibly Nystari’s, were followed.  The Tower of Renk was occupied by a series of powerful wizards over the years that followed.  The city council was choosy and willing to let the tower sit empty until they found a suitable replacement.  They weren’t short on applicants, but a great wizard can take a while to find.  You don’t want to make a mistake – once they’re in place, they’re hard to get rid of – and you’d be amazed how often people lie on their resumes.

Listed below are the Wizards of Renk after Tarik and the gifts they left behind, a tradition Nystari started even though Tarik tried to take credit for this innovation.  He claimed that he’d been the first, that the tower itself was the greatest gift of all, but that was all after the fact.

 

The Wizards of Renk

Years according to the Renk calendar (RT)

Note:  the dates below are the years the wizard’s dominion over the Tower of Renk started and ended.  None of them were young when they took occupancy of the tower, but not all were old as wizards reckoned time.  Most died in office and not of old age – the Wizard of Renk wasn’t a job easily retired from.

450 – 750                Tarik, high adept, child of the Harnae, Lord of the Silver Birch and  Wizard of the Blue Lagoon came to Renk and built the tower over thirteen days and night.  While the tower was under construction (that’s not quite the right word, but I’m not sure what is) a pall of sorcery hung over the city and the sky exploded with fireworks.  When the smoke cleared, the tower was standing in the center of the city.  Tarik also fashioned a red crystal ring from a shard of the Spires (it’s true, I confirmed it with Tarik, though he wouldn’t tell me how he came by it), and whoever wore it had mastery over the tower.  Whenever a new wizard was chosen, a ritual bound the wizard to the tower through the ring.  If the ring was ever removed, the bond dissipated over the next tenday unless the Wizard put it back on.  Tarik also left behind a gnarled staff of oak.  To him, it was a trinket.  Back in the day, he’d had enough staves to fill a golf bag, but to the Wizards following him in the tower, it was a powerful staff of elemental command.

 

750 – 821                Nystari, Tarik’s apprentice, takes over the tower.  It should go without saying that he didn’t possess half Tarik’s strength, though he did have prayer on his side.  It wasn’t really a fair comparison.  Tarik was a unique being from the Elder Days and Nystari, for all his magecraft, was still human and, like all human wizards, could only touch the Spires through the Towers of Sorcery.  Nystari’s gift to the tower was a serpentine ring of white gold with blue diamond snake eyes that made his charms nearly impossible to resist.

821 – 825                 No wizard lived in the tower during these years.

826 – 937                Sarven of Colcester takes command of the tower, the first of several Wizards of Renk with ties to my alma mater.  If you’re looking for a wizard, a university is a natural place to look and the university at Colcester was the best.  The brightest minds were attracted to the university and bright minds make good wizards.  Sarven taught arcane arts and followed the discipline of the pentangle, a school of magikal thinking that divided spells into five “schools”.  At Sarven’s request, the university opened a branch of the magik college in Renk.  The school flourished early on and eventually became a full-fledged wizard’s guild after breaking ties with the university.   Sarven was an outgoing, exuberant soul who came to love Renk like he’d been born there.  He perished in 937 defending the city he called home during the Siege of Renk.   Before passing, he created a set of white gold bracers patterned with blue diamonds (matching Nystari’s work) as his tower legacy that warded the wearer from all forms of attack, be it sword, arrow or spell.

937 – 1088              Derrin’s appointment to the tower was the most controversial.  When Sarven died, Derrin was very young, too young some said, to hold such an important position.  Further complicating matters was Stergil, one of Sarven’s students, who thought the tower job should go to him.  To settle the dispute, the two went head to head in a duel arcane and Derrin emerged victorious, becoming the first Wizard of Renk born on Tyrnavalle.  Derrin had a long stay at the tower and the years were peaceful and prosperous, allowing him much time for arcane research.  His legacy to the tower was a set of purple satin robes trimmed in white (that was the default skin, the robes could transform into virtually any outfit) making Derrin’s already powerful illusions even more believable.  When Derrin died battling an ancient evil from the Elder Days, he pulled an Obi-wan and his body vanished without a trace.  Some thought he’d earned a hall pass for his good deeds and went right to the Blessed Realm without stopping to chat with Bangal.

1088 – 1126           Garahim, also of Colcester, had a relatively short stint as the Wizard of Renk after being forced into early retirement.  The records from that time were pretty shoddy, but indicated that Garahim was cowed into submission by a mage of the black robes from Bayor, a new city in the east founded upon the ruins of Carrack.  Garahim was not Wizard of Renk long enough to leave a proper tower legacy.

1126-1128              No wizard wore the tower ring during these years while the search for a proper replacement continued.  After Garahim’s embarrassing performance, Renk’s council was determined to find the right man for the job.  Had this vacancy been given a name, it would have been the Really Short Interim.

1129 – 1202           Tort, of Halitai royalty, becomes Wizard of Renk.  The kingdom of Halitai had disbanded in 418 RT after the assassination of King Halifax, but people still lived in the city on Tyrnavalle’s northern shore and among them were a few of Hali’s descendents, one of which was Tort.  Tort had a commanding presence like the Lord Wardens of old and mind-bending powers, a vestige perhaps of his family’s ancient ties to Thar who was  Umbar.  A genius, Tort was sent to Colcester at a young age and after his studies were complete, he apprenticed under Morlandis, a mage in Big Enlas specializing in the study of music’s influence on sorcery before being selected to succeed Garahim as Renk’s Wizard.  He proved his valor many times before perishing in the 1202 dragon rending of Renk by Pelavin the Conqueror.  Tort left the fabled Eye of Tort as his legacy to the tower, a gold locket rimmed in emeralds that opened to a crimson satin lining.  Inside, Tort kept a lock of Cymara’s hair that had been handed down from Hali.  The amulet could open the way to folds in the Girdle.   Despite his many sorcerous accomplishments, Tort is most remembered for his last act, gathering the bards to sing for Renk while dragon fires burned across the city.  Tort’s few remaining relatives didn’t outlive him all that long.  The barbarian triumvirate of Pelavin, Ardallin and Torlach razed Halitai in 1205, wiping out the last of Hali’s blood.

1202 – 1536           The Long Interim.  During the barbarian occupation and for several decades afterward, the Tower remained uninhabited.  While the barbarians were in power, they wouldn’t allow a wizard to sit in the tower and once they were gone, it took longer than anyone wanted to find a suitable replacement.

1536 – 1592           Oronte, the only wizard from Bayor to ever wear the tower ring, became Wizard of Renk and though he didn’t hold the tower overly long, he left his mark on it and the world at large.  After three centuries of less than attentive barbarian rule, the city-states of Tyrnavalle were in shambles.  Everyone was too busy rebuilding to think of waging war and so, during Oronte’s stay in the tower, relations between Renk and Bayor were at an all-time high, helped in no small part by his extensive contacts back home.   Oronte died in 1592 of natural causes after fifty-six years in the tower, which is a pretty long time for a mortal king, but not so long for a Wizard of Renk.  The tower wizards tended to live unnaturally long lives and Oronte did too, it’s just that he was no spring chicken when he donned the tower ring.  His gift to the tower was the Oromals, a race of magikal creatures that worked in the tower as servants.  Standing only four feet tall, the creatures were covered in soft orange fur and had long, dexterous tails that could function as a third arm in a pinch.   Looking something like a cross between a cat and a monkey, the Oromals were mute, but could communicate telepathically with the tower’s master and also knew an intricate sign language.  By the time of Varzin Albaster, the last Wizard of Renk, four hundred Oromals lived in the Tower.  The creatures were neither male nor female and lived into their forties.  They reproduced asexually, but only when the Wizard performed a certain ritual, and when they died, their bodies crumbled into dust that was absorbed into the tower.

1592 – 1624           Bitris of Colcester becomes the Wizard of Renk.  He was another of those whose tower stay ended too soon and tragically, when he became the victim of Derrel, a mage assassin working for Quirto, an evil Bayorian wizard.  Not much is known about Derrel, assassins with big paparazzi followings didn’t make it to the big show, but this Derrel, if that was his real name, was very accomplished … possibly elite.  Sneaking into the Tower of Renk was no small feat.  If you weren’t at the top of your game, you’d get caught … or worse, and worse when you’re talking about a wizard of Bitris’s caliber could be very, very bad.  For his gift to the tower, Birtris made a silver headband studded with topaz that allowed him to change into the shape of any creature.

1624 – 1626  The wizard Spates from the Eastern Isles holds the distinction of being the shortest lived Wizard of Renk.  He held the post only two years before dying in a laboratory accident, though some think him Derrel’s second victim.  Spates was not Wizard of Renk long enough to add an artifact to the tower’s armory.

1626 – 1718              The Short Interim.  Once again, the city elders of Renk found themselves in the unenviable position of having to fill the vacancy in the Tower of Renk.  You’d think such a prestigious post would attract interest from all corners of the globe, but after one or possibly two assassinations, no one was beating down the door.

1718 – 1824           After a long search (headhunting never took off on Sangrar, except in the tribal sort of way.  Job hunts were more local than global and word of mouth was usually sufficient), Renk finally found a wizard from Sangrithar named Sren qualified to take over the tower.  Sren had a last name too, all of the wizards in this article did, but like Bono and Beyonce, they didn’t need them.  If you were the Wizard of Renk, you were a rock star in the world of magik.  Sren was quite the scholar, he would have been very much at home in Colcester, and just what the doctor ordered for the tower.  Time had eaten away at the tower’s secrets and Sren was determined to rediscover every scrap.  He spent years researching, cataloging and recataloging the tower’s endless libraries, and writing down his system so future occupants of the tower wouldn’t have to suffer like he had.  Officially, his legacy was the 106 crystal shards kept inside a velvet lined silver box.  With a shard, a Wizard of Renk could summon one of his predecessors for advice (the dead ones, the shards didn’t work on Tarik) and when the Long Night began, 83 of the 106 shards still remained.

Unofficially though, Sren’s more important legacy was his son, Srenson.  For the first time in the history of the tower, the ring passed from father to son.  Why hadn’t that ever happened before?  Well, I can’t say conclusively, but the fact that Sren was the only Wizard of Renk to have a family might have had something to do with it!  Let’s face it, from a romantic angle, the group of men holding down the tower over the centuries were as fascinating as stale bread.  They were all old when they took the job, cranky and set in their ways and for the most part, loners by nature.  All had decades to make family a priority and hadn’t (or if they had, it was far enough in the past that their chicklets had flown the coop).  Now, I’m not suggesting all wizards are loveless, not by any stretch, but the Wizard of Renk job seemed to attract those who were.  Getting to the top of your field, of any field, requires sacrifices, and for the Wizards of Renk that meant family.  Sren was the exception.  He’d married while living in Sangrithar and when the council had hired him, they’d agreed to the entire family.  His wife died on the journey to Tyrnavalle and Sren raised Srenson, who was only five years old at the time, as a single dad in the tower.

1824 – 2001           Srenson, son of Sren (say that three time fast!) became the Wizard of Renk and by the time he hung up his robes, he’d been in the job longer than anyone.  Srenson did inherit the job, but it wasn’t a case of nepotism.  Sure, growing up in the tower gave him advantages over the competition, but he earned the ring.  The tower was huge on the inside, a combination of Hogwarts and Warehouse 13.  When a new Wizard took control of the tower, it usually took him years to master its secrets, but not Srenson.  Having grown up in the tower, it was a piece of cake and he hit the road running.  He made two artifacts for the tower.  The first was a twelve inch diameter crystal ball that turbo-charged divination spells.  With it, he could scry for miles and miles.  The second was the tower rod, a one foot long, diamond-tipped platinum scepter.  The rod could heal magikal woes – curses, geases, enchantments and things of that ilk.  If you caught a cold or the flu, a tablespoon of Robitussin would help more, but if an evil wizard’s curse turned you into a frog, the rod was just the ticket if there wasn’t any princess nearby to kiss you back.  On the first day of the year in 2001, Srenson did something that no other wizard had done since Tarik – he quit.  He’d grown homesick for the land of his birth, which he hadn’t seen in nearly three hundred years.

One other noteworthy comment.  Srenson brought Bartholomew on board.  It was in the mid 20th century, 1954 I think, that he’s first mentioned.  Srenson had been on a scouting expedition in the Eastern Isles, where there were rumors of an evil wizard named Gart stirring things up, and when he returned, Bartholomew was accompanying him.  Srenson introduced the old man (Bart looked old as Methuselah, from his first day in Renk until his last) as his assistant and Bart acted like a personal secretary or butler, keeping the Wizard’s schedule, preparing his meals and opening doors (he was an especially vigilant doorman), but it was also obvious that he was a wizard of perhaps not inconsiderable talent.  Bartholomew liked being cagey about the strength of his wizardry.  Many adventurers came knocking at the tower door begging favors from the Wizard and a little mystery helped keep them in line.  A hint here and there was usually enough but every so often a cocky one would mouth off and Bart had to teach him a lesson.  When Srenson left Renk, Bart stayed behind and kept the tower tidy until Varzin showed up.  He stayed at the tower until the end of days, serving Varzin and then Moose, (during the Bayorian occupation), and then Varzin again after the Bayorians were driven from the city.  Unlike Varzin, Bartholomew retained his wits through the worst of it.  I ran into him twice in the new world, before the founding of Tirel and before Tarik unraveled the Herald’s curse, so I didn’t remember him and then, when I did remember, I tracked him down.  He looked the same, but he’d forgotten everything, every last drop,, and I didn’t have the heart to poke and see what woke.

2001-2004              After Srenson left, the tower was vacant again while the council searched for a replacement.  During this period, Moose, an evil archmage from the jungle on the eastern seaboard broke into the tower and stole Srenson’s rod.

2004 – 2127           Varzin Albaster of Colcester is selected as the next Wizard of Renk.  His induction ceremony / job orientation session was held on the first day of summer – that’s the first day of the first tenday of the month of Finbardin (June) – in the year 2004 RT.  The service in the center of town was disrupted by Moose, the same evil wizard who had stolen the tower rod.  Ego is always the bad guy’s undoing.  It can show up as megalomaniacal bragging at the end, when the villain has the hero in his grasp, or at the beginning, when the villain discloses his plans for world domination.  In Renk’s case, Moose chose option 2.  Instead of launching a full out attack, Moose sent a warning shot over the bow to Varzin and the city council, reminding them that they had unfinished business.  In the spring of 2008, Nyllen’s month (May) to be precise, Moose kidnapped two council members in what proved to be the opening gambit in the latest Renk-Bayor war.

Renk was particularly vulnerable when Moose struck.  Marsham was newly returned to the city after leaving the previous Aerdran (September) to find the tower rod.  After he left, an earthquake had ripped through the city, on the 4th day in the third tenday of Harnor’s month (December), leaving devastation in its wake.  When Marsham returned with the rod in Lillandra (March, if that’s easier), 2008, the city still hadn’t recovered.  The quake had left a jagged crack running through the southeast corner of the city and hundreds of buildings had been destroyed.  With construction underway everywhere, Moose found the city easy to infiltrate and he captured the council clerics, but he left a breadcrumb for Varzin to follow and the two faced off over the clerics.  To all appearances, Varzin finished dead last in the duel arcane (more emphasis on dead than last), but as it turned out, he wasn’t dead after all.  Moose had trapped Varzin’s soul deep in the Abyss.  Dallan, the high cleric of Deridean, divined that Varzin still lived and ran off to rescue him without telling anyone.  Dimwit!  Along the way, Dallan met up with Sir Mervin the One-Armed knight (I think he had two arms at this point, it was an on again / off again arrangement) and the two joined forces.

Meanwhile, back in Renk, to everyone else it looked like Dallan had run off in the night, so they branded him coward and traitor and installed Marsham as the new high cleric of Deridean.  Time is the lens through which history becomes clear and though it became obvious later, it wasn’t at the time.  It turns out that the purpose of the kidnapping was to draw out Varzin, before the Bayorian armies appeared at the city’s doorstop.  The breadcrumb was intentional, intended to lure Varzin into Moose’s trap, and the plan worked just like he’d hoping.  Snaring Dallan was just an unexpected bonus.  Without its greatest heroes, Renk fell to Bayor and became an occupied city.  Moose took up residency in the Tower of Renk, though without the tower ring, he couldn’t command it.

Eventually, Dallan and Mervin brought Varzin back from the depths of the Abyss, but by then, most of Renk’s remaining leaders were hiding in the countryside after five long years on the run.  Everything came to a head then, this would be in Spollnar (April) of 2013, but it’s too much to go into here – lots of groups were involved, including Galamark (no longer blind, after Marsham had recovered the rod), the knight orders local to Renk and the Riders of Nimrodel and Saint Phaedron.  The latter two were travelers from another world who had fallen into the rabbit hole.  By the time the dust had settled, Varzin was back in the tower, Moose was dead, and the Bayorians were driven from the city, but much the victory was costly in terms of blood.

Varzin remained Wizard of Renk until the end of the Long Night came.  When the Spires toppled, the power of the Tower of Renk was broken.  Some wizards tolerated the end of magik better than others, Varzin wasn’t one of those.  Losing the Tower of Renk was like a punch in the stomach, and he never got his breath back.

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