The Golem Maker of the Tower, Part Three

The Golem Maker of the Tower
A Story by Aaron Canton
-Part Three-

“Mr. Bestle! Mr. Bestle!” called Laika as she ran up to the Vestigo Mage Guild. Arendal’s test was in just a few hours, but she’d finally finished putting all her plans together and was ready to advise him just as Mr. Renzeya had predicted. Of course, she had to get inside first. “Please let me in!”

Bestle chuckled as Laika reached him. “Hmm,” he said as he looked down at the girl. “That depends. What are you here for?”

“I’m here for Arendal!” Laika said. “He’s got a super-big test today, and he needs my help!”

“I see.” Bestle hesitated. “Unfortunately, we do not let guests visit our apprentices on days when they are taking tests performed before senior mages, as Arendal is today. Previous visitors distracted the mages who were proctoring the test and—”

“I won’t distract anyone! I promise!” Laika pressed her hands together. “During the test, I’ll be real quiet and sit up straight and won’t fidget or anything!” She didn’t know why adults didn’t like fidgeting, but guessed maybe mages were scared of it because if you were casting a big spell and moved your hands wrong you might do something silly like turn yourself purple instead of whatever you were trying to do. But whatever their reason, Laika knew she could make herself sit still if the adults insisted. “Please let me in!”

Bestle looked reluctant. “We really don’t allow…”

Laika waved a golem follower forward and took a box from its hands. Lily Naphkator, a capable warrior who hung out at the guild a lot, had taught her what she said was a very useful technique for when authority figures tried to get in the way of an important quest. Laika had never tried it before, but it seemed like the perfect strategy to get her past Bestle so she could find Arendal and stop him from being sent back to his boring old farm. “What if I bribe you?” Laika asked, giving Bestle the box. “Then will you let me in?”

Bestle’s beard quivered, and then he let out a deep belly laugh. “Typically you should not tell someone you’re trying to bribe them, Laika. Bribery is supposed to be more subtle.”

Now that Laika thought about it, she remembered Naphkator mentioning that. “Aww,” she said. “I’m sorry I messed that up. But, um, I can try again! I—”

“Do not worry,” said Bestle. He opened the box and blinked, then took out a very small golem. It was waving its arms and jumping around like a mighty brawler, even though it was only three inches tall. “Is this gold?”

“Uh-huh,” said Laika. “I made it out of my earrings and jewelry and stuff!”

Bestle inclined his head. “You must really want to see your friend if you’re willing to give up all your jewelry.”

“More than anything!” Laika pressed. “It’s really, really important!”

“Well…” Bestle was silent for a moment. “In that case…of course you can see him. And you can keep this.” He pressed the golem back into Laika’s hand. “Arendal should be in his room—”

“Third floor, I know! Thanks, Mr. Bestle!” Laika chirped as she raced past him and into the tower.

When Laika reached Arendal’s room and pushed through the unlocked door, she saw a scene of total chaos. Arendal was lying in the floor surrounded by planks of wood dyed several colors, boxes of nails, hammers, and other tools, and even a big tool chest in one corner. Half-completed crates and piles of rubble were scattered throughout the tiny room, including two on the desk and one at the foot of the bed. Arendal himself had raised his hands to the back of his head like he was afraid his hair would run away. “I can’t do this!” Arendal was groaning. “It’s impossible!”

“Arendal?” Laika ventured. “Are you okay?”

Arendal rolled over, knocking into another half-completed crate, wincing as he did so. When he saw Laika, a frown crossed his face. “Thanks a lot, Laika!” he snapped. “You got Master Cenard to think I can build these stupid magic boxes, and now I have to build a huge one tonight, and I can’t do it! All the older mages will think I’m bad at magic, and when they’re done laughing at me, they’ll throw me out! I’ll have to go back to the farm and—”

“Nuh-uh!” Laika held up a hand. “I have an idea!”

“Laika, you can’t have your golems build the box for me when the mages are watching. They know I can’t make golems; they’ll never believe it’s me doing it!” He shuddered. “A couple weeks ago I asked Master Cenard if anyone ever failed the test real bad. I was thinking of things like, I don’t know, using the wrong spell and turning the crate into a hungry tiger or something, but he told me about one time when the mages caught a student cheating. Apparently this kid had really rich merchant parents, and so she bought a magical crate like the one the mages wanted and tried to sneak it into the exam room with an invisibility spell she got from somewhere. The mages caught her and cast a spell to take her magic away! But they didn’t let her leave since her apprenticeship wasn’t done, and since she couldn’t do magic, the only way she could be ‘useful’ was by scrubbing floors and stuff. They kept her here until her parents gave the mages one of their summer mansions just so they could take her home.”

Laika shuddered as memories of her time slaving away for Mayor Maltra came back to her. “I wasn’t going to have my golems do it for you,” she said. “And I’m real sorry about doing it for you the first time. I got you in trouble, and I feel real bad. I hope you’re not really mad at me…”

Arendal said nothing for a few seconds before sighing. “Of course I’m not really mad,” he said. “I should have stopped you anyways, or at least told Master Cenard what happened. This is my fault too. And I know you were trying to help.”

Laika sat next to Arendal as her golems moved up behind her. “I still want to help you,” she said. “Because you’re a really good friend. And I know I can’t do it for you, but if I give you some advice, then you can do it yourself!”

“Advice?” Arendal smiled slightly. “Laika, you’re great with golems, but what do you know about wands or wards or other types of magic? This isn’t—”

“Not help like that,” said Laika. “I don’t know any spells for building boxes. But I know how to build stuff in general. Like these!” She waved her golems forward, and they obediently trotted up to her. “See? Before I put magic in them, I have to put them together! And if I do it wrong, they fall apart. So I got really good at learning how to design and build things.”

Arendal frowned. “But I can’t change the design of the box. I have to build it to look exactly like the mages want it to look.”

“You can’t change the final design, but you can change the middle design!” Laika scooted over to one of her golems. “When I had to build golems for Mayor Maltra, sometimes the people who bought them had real specific ideas of how they should look, but I couldn’t build them to look like that right away. Like, sometimes people wanted the wrists to be real long and thin like this so they’d look pretty.” She had her golem hold out its left arm; it had a very large hand, but its wrist was tiny and looked fragile. “But when I tried to build things like that right away, they always broke before I could finish magicking them to make them more solid! So guess what I did?”

“Um…” Arendal hesitated. “I don’t know.”

“I put other parts around the wrist first to brace it.” Laika traced the area around the golem’s wrist. “So the golems had thin wrists but also other pieces supporting them. Then I used magic to make the wrist real strong and tough, and when that was done, I could take out all the bracing stuff!” She reached out a hand, and the golem hauled her up just like she’d trained it. “And I bet you can do the same thing!”

Arendal tilted his head. “I don’t get it.”

“I’ll show you!” She grabbed Arendal’s hand and tugged him over to one of the half-built crates. “Okay, you need to put the red pieces at the top, right?”

“Yeah, but like I said, I can’t hold the wood and the hammer and nails at the same time.”

“So don’t!” Laika pointed at a spot in the exact center of the bottom layer of the crate. “Take a plank of wood and balance it on its end there.”

Arendal looked skeptical, but he picked up his wand and waved it. One of the pieces of wood shuddered and then floated over to the center of the crate before flipping about itself and balancing on its end. “What now?”

“Take one of the top pieces and balance it on top of that one!” said Laika triumphantly.

“…oh!” Arendal’s eyes brightened. He floated a red plank on top of the new beam in the center of the crate, then gently set it down and let it rest. “I get it! I don’t need to hold this one anymore because it’s balancing! I can pick up the hammer and nails by themselves to fix it in place!”

“Exactly!” cheered Laika as Arendal got to work. “That’s it!”

The nails soared into the air and positioned themselves over the plank as Arendal lined up the hammer. Then he swung it in a couple short, sudden thwacks to drive the nails through the top plank and into the planks that made up the walls. A few moments later, it was done, and he waved his wand one more time, removing the now-useless center post. “I got it!” he said, seemingly stunned. “I got one of the top ones done!”

“Yay!” yelled Laika, grinning from ear to ear. “See? You can totally do it!”

But Arendal’s smile faded almost as soon as it appeared on his face. “I don’t know,” he said.

“What don’t you know?”

“I mean, I can do one or two or a few…but the crate they want me to build is really huge, Laika.” Arendal gestured at the piles of wood all around them. “It’s got one hundred planks in it.”

Laika’s eyes widened. “One hundred? That’s a lot!”

“I know. And even if I can get some of the top ones up, I don’t know if I can do a hundred in a row.” Arendal sighed. “This is still better, though. Thanks.”

“Hey!” Laika shook her head quickly. “You can’t give up now; I’m not done giving you advice yet!” She trotted over to the crate. “I think there’s a way to make the planks real light and easy to move. You’re good at wards, right?”

Arendal shook his head. “I already thought of that. Sure, I know wards to make things lighter, so if I could write wards on the planks I could set up some to make the planks less heavy. But I already tried touching the planks with my quill, and my whole arm went numb. And then I thought maybe I could write out the wards on parchment and glue the parchment to the planks, but Master Cenard said I’m not allowed to use anything except what they give me, and parchment isn’t included. So what can I do?”

“You can be more resourceful!” Laika decided she really liked that word. Maybe, she thought, when she grew up and became a world-famous golem expert and people were coming from all the neighboring countries to see her golems, she’d give herself the title of “Laika the Super-Talented and Resourceful.” It had a nice ring to it. “Use your magic to pick up that nail there.”

Arendal did so. “Now what?”

“Carve the wards into this plank of wood with the nail!”

Arendal was silent for several seconds before a gigantic grin spread over his face. Moments later, he had lifted the nail with his wand and was busy carving a weird-looking sigil into one of the planks. When he was done, he let the nail drop as he swept his wand at the plank—and it rocketed to the ceiling, smashing into it with an audible crunch and sending splinters everywhere. “Wow!” said Arendal, marveling at the broken wood. “That’s easy!”

Before Laika could say anything, Arendal swept her into a big hug. “Thanks, Laika!” said Arendal. “You give great advice!”

Laika giggled as a warm, happy sensation flooded through her. She’d made up for her earlier mistake and given her friend real help. That felt great, even better than the feeling of biting into a freshly baked honey roll. “I know!”

Arendal eventually released her and began moving around the planks with his wand. They flew through the air in complicated paths, making Laika’s mouth drop, and slowly but surely, the crate assembled. After about fifteen minutes, both Laika and Arendal were looking at a freshly-built crate that matched what Arendal said the mages were looking for. “Perfect,” said Arendal. “I know for sure I’ll pass now. Thanks again, Laika.”

“No problem!” said Laika. “When’s your test?”

“It should be in half an hour or so. But I wish it was now; I want to get it over with!” Arendal beamed. “What are we going to do for half an hour?”

Laika thought for a moment. “Well, I have some honey rolls,” she said. “We could eat them and then play catch with my golems until your test! And I’ll be in the audience, of course. I’ll cheer for you when you pass!”

“That sounds awesome!” Arendal moved towards the door. “You’re a great friend, Laika. Let’s go!”

He hurried out of the room. Laika allowed herself time to grin wildly, profoundly happy at everything she had accomplished. Then she waved for her golems to follow her and hurried outside to join her friend.

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Michael DeAngelo

Michael is the creator of the Tellest brand of fantasy novels and stories. He is actively seeking to expand the world of Tellest to be accessible to everyone.