Nights were the hardest to get through for Beovid. He had been cursed by the land’s adversary two months ago and was now a living statue. His awareness was the only thing left to him. Touch, sense, smell, and anything else he might've felt was gone. All he could do was gaze forward at the trees in front that had been devastated by the fight. Birds sometimes visited him and perched on the dagger handle that jutted out from his chest. He was very happy to know that living things were nearby and that he wasn’t utterly alone.
During the confrontation, only he was able to get close enough to inflict physical damage to the mad mage. Several other party members had perished, and Beovid had done all he could so that their sacrifice wasn’t in vain. He had succeeded in ending the adversary’s physical form, but the mage had a last malicious spell to use. As he died, he cursed Beovid to forever witness his triumph, but never revel in it. When the words were said, the artifact dagger the adversary used to channel his hateful magics pierced Beovid’s chest. The blade began to bleed gray in outward waves, and Beovid’s flesh quickly transformed into stone. His posture at that moment was very heroic - one foot forward, the other back for support, his sword vanquishing the evil from the land.
The survivors from the party struggled with the leftover magic from the adversary’s final curse but were able to forge a path through. Rowise, the party’s mage, studied Beovid’s features and touched the stone that used to be his skin. The king’s envoy approached as well, but she touched Beovid’s cold cheek. Her name was Shara and had been sent by the king. Her task was to journey with the party and keep the monarch informed of the party's progress. Shara and Rowise spoke for a few minutes as the others slowly backed away. Their joy at being alive soured thanks to Beovid’s condition, but as they got further and further away, jubilance returned to their faces and postures. Rowise was frank about the situation. He didn’t know what was happening and how exactly it was done, but he had a keen mind and rightly deduced that the dagger was to blame, and it was somehow responsible for Beovid’s malady. Rowise reached into a pocket and got out a stone with etchings on it and put it close to Beovid’s forehead. The etchings became blue and shone brightly, even during the day. Shara put her hands over her mouth and began to weep quietly.
“I’m sorry, my friend,” Rowise said, looking at Beovid’s frozen eyes. “I know you’re in there somehow and that you’re alive.”
Rowise’s look became fierce, just as it had been while battling the adversary.
“I’m not sure how, but I will find a way to get you free, and we’ll have that victory drink you promised,” Rowise smiled sadly and stepped to the side.
Shara came close and tried to speak. Her lips only quivered for a few moments, but she got her emotions under control and stood up straighter, the resolution on her face matched that of Rowise.
“I’ll do the best I can to help Rowise get you out. I promise,” she said with a steady voice, then leaned closer and put her lips to Beovid’s.
Feeling nothing, he continued to watch as the party left to celebrate their, be it costly, victory.
Days passed, and few party members came to see him. Speaking to a statue was very awkward for them, so after a few months, they stopped visiting. Shara came every other day in the beginning. That gave Beovid comfort, but as the days grew many and Rowise’s attempts proved fruitless, Shara stopped coming. Beovid felt betrayed and abandoned, so he blamed her at first. But time delved those feelings away. Rowise’s determination, however, wasn’t that easily extinguished. He came each and every day, usually carrying a book, from which he tried incantations deep into the night.
“The moon looks so big tonight,” he pondered out loud and went back a few pages in the book he was holding. “I’ll try with an external power source this time. Moon rays are especially potent this time of year.”
He began to speak the words written in the book and soon after a silver spear formed into his free hand. He gripped the spear and stabbed its head into the handle of the dagger. The resulting magical explosion hurled Rowise back. As the mage flew, he twisted his body and managed to avoid any big injuries.
“Whew,” Rowise exhaled as he came back close, “almost broke my neck on that one.” He wore a dumb smile on his face, and his resolve seemed ever untempered.
“Really big adverse reaction there and the exchange of energy was bigger than expected,” he spoke out loud and scratched his shaved jaw.
“I’ll have to take bigger precautions it seems,” he removed his hand from his face and looked at Beovid again. “I’ll have to purchase some supplies and order some texts to be delivered so I’ll be away a few days, but don’t you worry. When I come back, we’re really going to get working.” With that upbeat statement, Rowise disappeared from Beovid’s limited view.
The following days were lonelier than ever. Shara had not been by for months, and Beovid didn’t hold a grudge against her anymore. They had feelings for each other, true, but never anything close to the ballad’s they’d both heard at taverns and gatherings. Beovid felt a fair amount of affection for Shara, and judging by their time spent together, so had she. Now, feelings were a thing of the past for Beovid and so was animosity or, gods forbid, actual hatred. Now he was semi-conscious most of the time. Days turned into night, and nights bled into light. Nothing changed for Beovid, and so his mind protected itself by hibernating.
About a month of solitude later, Rowise returned with a whole gaggle of people. Most were builders, and the rest looked like Rowise’s personal retinue of servants.
“Hello, my friend,” Rowise said with a wide smile, “I’m sorry I was absent for so long, but procurement was harder than imagined.”
As the others gathered around, Beovid saw reverence in their postures and the looks they gave him. As Rowise explained what, where, and how the things he wanted to be built should be, all the workers stole glances of Beovid. After that day, the next couple of months were a hive of movement as a manor's hall was erected around Beovid. Ten steps led up to the small pedestal on which he now stood. At the foot of the steps was a giant table at which all discussion took place. From ongoing construction to the day to day activities set out for the servants. Half a year later, the chamber housing Beovid, the grand hall as they called it, began to receive magical reinforcement. Rowise brought all manner of weirdly dressed men and women, which wove their magic into the stone, strengthening it so that the experiments could continue. One year into Beovid’s encasement, Rowise began to work in earnest. Most of the things he tried were so powerful that the whole building shook each day or night of the attempt. Soon, Rowise began to garner success due to his growing knowledge. His fame spread wide among the magical society, and more and more young magicians came begging for tutelage. He sent them away each time, citing that his work was too important for sub-par practitioners. His words were out of consideration and not self-importance, of course, but the king thought otherwise. Soon after, Rowise was pressured into hosting a royal ball at the manor. The kingdom's elite used the function to appeal to Rowise's patriotic sensibility and share his newfound knowledge of previously unstudied fields of magic. Beovid was privy to all of this, his presence dwarfed and ignored thanks to Rowise's immense talent. The other mages were mostly pandering to Rowise so they could get to his secrets, but he wasn’t foolish, and he hadn’t forgotten the promise he made to his friend.
“Fine,” he caved to their demands finally after three days of what he called pestering, “I will create this establishment on one condition.”
The room fell silent, and every gaze was on Rowise, who turned his back to every important person in the kingdom and looked at Beovid.
“My condition is that in order to graduate, each student learning at this yet-to-be academy has to complete a final test created by his elders in the craft and additionally, has to attempt to free the hero Beovid from his stone curse. The second part of the condition can only be removed once the hero is free to walk the land again,” Rowise smiled at Beovid then made his features serious once more and turned around. “Is this agreeable to you esteemed ladies and gentlemen of the court?”
There was a short wave of murmurs from the crowd of royals and mages, but everyone soon agreed to the terms, thinking that the second part of the condition was a ploy to keep face, as Rowise’s promise was known nationwide. With the creation of the magical academy, the coming days became more and more eventful. Builders came again and began to work on dorm rooms for the students and other necessary additions to the structure. With living quarters completed, the great hall became a place of faculty meetings. When those weren’t in session, all cutting-edge magic was tested in the space as it still had the strongest available protection. As the years went by, freeing Beovid spawned several new fields of magical study. Reinforcement magic became so advanced that it was one of the main fields of practice now. Beovid felt sad when he saw students go beyond their limits and lose their life as the brand of magic they tried to free him with was too destructive for their own bodies. Progress was not stifled by loss of life, however, and advancements soon followed. One day, Beovid was surprised to see a gray, old man with a familiar smile, look up at him from the bottom of the stairs.
“Hello, old friend,” Rowise said in a rickety, painfully unfamiliar voice, “I’m sorry I haven’t visited you for a while, but my health hasn’t been all that great.” He lifted both of his hands to show the black snaking lines going from his fingers up to his shoulders.
“Seems like that moonlight spear incantation was more than I could handle,” Rowise lowered his hands and narrowed his eyes. “And don’t you feel responsible for that. I knew all the negative effects it could have, and I was foolish to attempt it without the necessary protections. Putting mortal woes aside, I just came today to visit and to restate my promise.”
Rowise stood up straighter, even though the posture visibly caused him pain.
“Neither I nor my family will allow you to be a prisoner in that accursed rock. Someone after me, or after them, will find a way to get you out, and they’ll share with you the drink I don’t deserve,” Rowise lowered his head down a bit, and Beovid saw tears glistening in his eyes, then the old man chuckled. “I’ve got a special vintage for that fateful day, so don’t you worry.” Rowise leaned on the walking stick he was using and nodded his head, smiling.
“That’ll be the day,” he said after he turned and slowly made his way out of the great hall.
The following day was the commemoration for the esteemed Rowise, first Archmage of the Academy for Magical Arts. The Archmage's peers brought his body into the great hall and placed it atop an unlit pyre. Each person took two steps back and began to chant in unison. A moment later, Beovid's last friend became white vapor. A few days after the event, they erected a statue of Rowise next to Beovid. The statue stood at floor level, much as the man had done in his final hours. Beovid did not see where the statue stood exactly, but it was somewhere to his side, just out of view.
The death of his friend put Beovid in the same lethargic state he had been in before the manor, now academy for magical arts, had been created. People moved around Beovid, and sometimes he heard them talk, sometimes they moved too fast for him to understand. Rowise’s descendants tried their best as well, but after the third generation had failed in their task, Beovid stopped paying attention altogether. He was now fully inside his waking dream, not quite conscious but not dead either. If he had the presence of mind, Beovid would most probably liken it to oblivion. During the endless days, something caught Beovid’s attention - an object glowing with almost painful brilliance. Beovid’s mind sped up, and he actually felt the power coming from the object as the man holding it came closer. As their proximity grew, Beovid saw that the man coming closer looked strikingly like Rowise. He was, in fact, a different man, but the way he carried himself and the magical object, reminded Beovid of his dear friend. The man got closer and closer, but it looked like something was trying to push him away. Each step taken made the dagger in Beovid’s chest vibrate as if it was afraid. The man grit his teeth and began to speak words that Beovid did not understand. The object in his hands grew dimmer, and Beovid saw it was a hammer. The strain on the man seemed to lessen, and he made three more steps. With six to go, he said something again, and the hammer blinded Beovid. An unknown time later, the light diminished again, and the man, now visible, made two more steps. With only three steps left to go, the hammer started to shake as well. The man gripped it in both hands and made the final excruciating steps.
Beovid expected a strike from the hammer, but the man simply grabbed the knife and pulled it out. Stone retreated from Beovid’s body and began to seep down from the man’s hand along his arm. Beovid tried to speak, but his voice did not come out, and he fell to the ground. The pain he felt in his knees made him cry, and through those tears, he saw the man bring the radiant hammer closer to the hand holding the dagger. The stone wave consuming the man’s arm halted and began to move back towards the hammer as if drawn to it. The man touched the hammer’s surface to his skin, and the gray matter began to go inside the light. The more stone was absorbed, the weaker the light became, finally dying out completely as the stone curse was vanquished. The man smiled and collapsed next to Beovid.
“Whew, that was tough,” the man panted and smiled, “Glad I’m finally able to meet the fabled hero. I’m Bren, and it's my pleasure to free you.”
“Hello, Bren,” Beovid said in a quiet voice, “believe me, the pleasure is all mine.”
Both of them laughed in unison after the exchange, right there on the floor. People began to pour inside the hall, and soon a huge cacophony of voice filled the room. There was talk of prodigies, mastery of craft, and endless possibilities for the newfound technology. Bren sat up from the ground and endured as much as he could. Beovid watched as the young man politely listened to the words of those around him. With each voice not waiting for the last to finish, Bren grew more and more annoyed until he seemed to have had enough.
“Stop!” he yelled with a magically reinforced voice that made everyone in the room cup their ears. “All of this can be done later. Right now, its time to drink!” He snapped his fingers, and a tray with one wine bottle and two glasses drifted through the air and into the room.
The spectators shook their heads and moved back, with obvious displeasure at the occurring interruption. Bren offered the glass to Beovid and waited patiently for him to grab it. With a shaky hand, Beovid took the glass and did his best to keep it in his grip.
“To your renewed health, hero Beovid, and to promises fulfilled.”
Beovid nodded, and their glasses clinked with a pleasant ring. The liquid touched his tongue and then cascaded into his stomach to fill him with a warm feeling. Beovid had never tasted anything so sweet in his entire life.
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