"Childe Roland To The Dark Tower Came"

The Never Ending Quest - Episode 17093

An impossibly tall tower in a huge field of red roses. The clouds overhead seem to twist bout it, rotating around a point just above the strange edifice....

Something is going on all over it. Nothing that can be seen if one looks at the Tower straight on. Rather, it's flickers of activity all over it if one looks at the thing from the corner of their eyes.

"They're fixing it," whispers Synizn, guessing the truth.

Indeed, a massive, invisible effort was underway to fix what had been damaged.

None of them, Champion or not, knew how they knew this....but they knew.

Roland, tears in his eyes at the dream finally realized, steps forward towards the Dark Tower, only to be stopped by Astra giving him something.

A horn.

"The way isn't barred....but I figure that....." she says simply, smiling.

She remembered the poem, and Roland did as well.

Why not?

And so Roland blew his horn. The very air seemed to shiver in anticipation. Astra remembered the poem.....

"Childe Roland To The Dark Tower Came"
-Robert Browning

I

My first thought was, he lied in every word,
That hoary cripple, with the malicious eye
Askance to watch the working of his lie
On mine, and mouth scarce able to afford
Suprpression of the glee, that pursed and scored
Its edge, at one more victim gained thereby.

II

What else should he be set for, with his staff?
What, save to waylay with his lies, ensnare
All travelers who might find him posted there,
And ask the road? I guessed what skull-like laugh
Would break, what crutch 'gin write my epitaph
For pastime in the dusty thoroughfare,

III

If at his counsel I should turn aside
Into that ominous tract which, all agree,
Hides the Dark Tower. Yet acquiesingly
I did turn as he pointed: neither pride
Nor hope rekindling at the end described,
So much as gladness that some end might be.

IV

For, what with my whole world-wide wandering,
What with my search drawn out through years, my hope
Dwindled into a ghost not fit to cope
With that obstreperous joy success would bring,-
I hardly tried now to rebuke the spring
My heart made, finding failure in its scope.

V

As when a sick man very near to death
Seems dead indeed, and feels begin and end
The tears and takes the farewell of each friend,
And hears one bid the other go, draw breath
Freelier outside, (since all is o'er, he saith,
And the blow fallen no grieving can amend;)

VI

While some discuss if near the other graves
Be room enough for this, and when a day
Suits best for carrying the corpse away,
With care about the banners, scarves and staves:
And still the man hears all, and only craves
He may not shame such tender love and stay.

VII

Thus, I had so long suffered in this quest,
Heard failure prophesied so oft, been writ
So many times among The Band- to wit,
The knights who to the Dark Tower's search addressed
Their steps- that just to fail as they, seemed best,
And all the doubt was now- should I be fit?

VIII

So, quiet as despair, I turned from him,
That hateful cripple, out of his highway
Into the path he pointed. All the day
Had been a dreary one at best, and dim
Was settling to its close, yet shot one grim
Red leer to see the plain catch its estray.

IX

For mark! no sooner was I fairly found
Pledged to the plain, after a pace or two,
Than, pausing to throw backward a last view
O'er the safe road, 'twas gone; gray plain all round:
Nothing but plain to the horizon's bound.
I might go on; naught else remained to do.

X

So, on I went. I think I never saw
Such starved ignoble nature; nothing throve:
For flowers- as well expect a cedar grove!
But cockle, spurge, according to their law
Might propagate their kind, with none to awe,
You'd think; a burr had been a treasure trove.

XI

No! penury, inertness and grimace,
In some strange sort, were the land's portion. See
Or shut your eyes, said Nature peevishly,
It nothing skills: I cannot help my case:
'Tis the Last Judgment's fire must cure this place,
Calcine its clods and set my prisoners free.

XII

If there pushed any ragged thistle-stalk
Above its mates, the head was chopped; the bents
Were jealous else. What made those holes and rents
In the dock's harsh swarth leaves, bruised as to balk
All hope of greenness? 'tis a brute must walk
Pashing their life out, with a brute's intents.

XIII

As for the grass, it grew as scant as hair
In leprosy; thin dry blades pricked the mud
Which underneath looked kneaded up with blood.
One stiff blind horse, his every bone a-stare,
Stood stupefied, however he came there:
Thrust out past service from the devil's stud!

XIV

Alive? he might be dead for aught I know,
With that red gaunt and collapsed neck a-strain,
And shut eyes underneath the rusty mane;
Seldom went such grotesqueness with such woe;
I never saw a brute I hated so;
He must be wicked to deserve such pain.

XV

I shut my eyes and turned them on my heart.
As a man calls for wine before he fights,
I asked one draught of earlier, happier sights,
Ere fitly I could hope to play my part.
Think first, fight afterwards- the soldier's art:
One taste of the old time sets all to rights.

XVI

Not it! I fancied Cuthbert's reddening face
Beneath its garniture of curly gold,
Dear fellow, till I almost felt him fold
An arm in mine to fix me to the place,
That way he used. Alas, one night's disgrace!
Out went my heart's new fire and left it cold.

XVII

Giles then, the soul of honor- there he stands
Frank as ten years ago when knighted first.
What honest man should dare (he said) he durst.
Good - but the scene shifts - faugh! what hangman-hands
Pin to his breast a parchment? His own hands
Read it. Poor traitor, spit upon and curst!

XVIII

Better this present than a past like that;
Back to my darkening path again!
No sound, no sight as far as eye could strain.
Will the night send a howlet or a bat?
I asked: when something on the dismal flat
Came to arrest my thoughts and change their train.

XIX

A sudden little river crossed my path
As unexpexted as a serpent comes.
No sluggish tide congenial to the glooms;
This, as it frothed by, might have been a bath
For the fiend's glowing hoof- to see the wrath
Of its black eddy bespate with flakes and spumes.

XX

So petty yet so spiteful! All along,
Low scrubby alders kneeled down over it;
Drenched willows flung themselves headlong in a fit
Of mute despair, a suicidal throng:
The river which had done them all wrong,
Whate'er that was, rolled by, deterred no whit.

XXI

Which, while I forded,- good saints, how I feared
To set my foot upon a dead man's cheek,
Each step, or feel the spear I thrust to seek
For hollows, tangled in his hair or beard!
- It may have been a water rat I speared,
But, ugh! it sounded like a baby's shriek.

XXII

Glad was I when I reached the other bank.
Now for a better country. Vain presage!
Who were the strugglers, what war did they wage,
Whose savage trample thus could pad the dank
Soil to a plash? Toads in a poisoned tank,
Or wild cats in a red-hot iron cage-

XXIII

The fight must so have seemed in that fell cirque.
What penned them there, with all the plain to choose?
No footprint leading to that horrid mews,
None out of it. Mad brewage set to work
Their brains, no doubt, like galley-slaves the Turk
Pits for his pastime, Christians against Jews.

XXIV

And more than that- a furlong on- why, there!
What bad use was that engine for, that wheel,
Or brake, not wheel- that harrow fit to reel
Men's bodies out like silk? with all the air
Of Tophet's tool, on earth left unaware,
Or brought to sharpen its rusty teeth of steel.

XXV

Then came a bit of stubbed ground, once a wood,
Next a marsh, it would seem, and now mere earth
Desperate and done with; (so a fool finds mirth,
Makes a thing and then mars it, till his mood
Changes and off he goes!) within a rood-
Bog, clay and rubble, sand and stark black dearth.

XXVI

Now blotches rankling, colored gay and grim,
Now patches where some leanness of the soil's
Broke into moss or substance like boils;
Then came some palsied oak, a cleft in him
Like a disturbed mouth that splits its rim
Gaping at death, and dies while it recoils.

XXVII

And just as far as ever from the end!
Naught in the distance but the evening, naught
To point my footstep further! At the thought,
A great black bird, Apollyon's bosom-friend,
Sailed past, nor beat his wide wing dragon-penned
That brushed my cap- perchance the guide I sought.

XXVIII

For, looking up, aware I somehow grew,
'Spite of the dusk, the plain had given place
All round to mountains- with such name to grace
Mere ugly heights and heaps now stolen in view.
How thus they had surprised me,- solve it, you!
How to get from them was no clearer case.

XXIX

Yet half I seemed to recognize some trick
Of mischief happened to me, God knows when-
In a bad dream perhaps. Here ended, then,
Progress this way. When, in the very nick
Of giving up, one more time, came a click
As when a trap shuts- you're inside the den!

XXX

Burningly it came on me all at once,
This was the place! those two hills on the right,
Crouched like two bulls locked horn in horn in fight;
While to the left, a tall scalped mountain...
Dunce, Dotard, a-dozing at the very nonce,
After a life spent training for the sight!

XXXI

What in the midst lay but the Tower itself?
The round squat turret, blind as the fool's heart,
Built of brown stone, without a counterpart
In the whole world. The tempest's mocking elf
Points to the shipman thus the unseen self
He strikes on, only when the timbers start.

XXXII

Not see? because of night perhaps?- why, day
Came back again for that! before it left,
The dying sunset kindled through a cleft:
The hills, like giants at a hunting, lay,
Chin upon hand, to see the game at bay,-
Now stab and end the creature- to the heft!

XXXIII

Not hear? when noise was everywhere! it tolled
Increasing like a bell. Names in my ears
Of all the lost adventurers my peers,-
How such a one was strong, and such was bold,
And such was fortunate, yet each of old
Lost, lost! one moment knelled the woe of years.

XXXIV

There they stood, ranged along the hill-sides, met
To view the last of me, a living frame
For one more picture! in a sheet of flame
I saw them and I knew them all. And yet
Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips set,
And blew. Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.

And then....

And then they found themselves inside. Not the false "inside" as what others who'd dared enter into it's hallowed halls upon it's discovery so long ago. Not that crass seeming.

No, they were in the real interior! And Astra as they are escorted to the hearts of the Office of Order and then to the Office of Choas.....realized from descriptions from Sigin 2 and of Li'reth of their first encounters with the Rules and Agent that there had been Champions who'd been here before! That is, there had been those in the Thessamer/D'Honaire/John clan who'd somehow ended up within the very Dark Tower before now!

However, those tales pale in comparison to what the group sees....


Back on Terra Prime, not even seconds after Queen Astra had left....

"....inside," Queen Astra finishes up as she snuggles against Willian in bed, "Too strange for me to explain easily.

"That aside," she continues, "It boiled down to this. Since the return of Arthur Eld, also known as King Arthur on Roland's world, Roland's bloodline had been the key to the heart of the Dark Tower. Roland felt the distress call of the Tower most strongly, but only until later in his life did he understand on some level what it meant. Roland had within his very blood the means of repairing, destorying, or even what the Rules and Agents did with the Dark Tower in the end."

Willian looked down at Astra, who smiled back at him as she paused deliberately.

"The Tower still stands....but it's no longer quiet as centralized as it had been," she finally explains, "Now there are backups for backups (i.e. spare Dark Towers) and EVERYTHNING has oversight on it. Before, when the Demons had intruded into the business of the Agents and Rules in order to gain the upper hand with the Angels, there had been little to nothing for that. When the Demons started interfering with the Beams, which is the backbone of the Tower as well as the powers of the Rules and Agents....it had been deemed necessary by the Gods that the Rules and Agents must become sentient and free willed in order to put everything back to right. The rest....we know."

Willian nods, seeing that.

"We also saw Flagg's head on a stake," Astra added, remembering the grim smile that had brought Roland, "It had happened there in the Tower, but events were still playing out leading up to it outside. Time travel can be so confusing."

"And speaking of time travel," Willian put in, "You said that Roland and the others will be arriving back at the very spot where they'd been wed by you.....in the near future. What of Doctor Who and his friends? You say that you had meet their earlier selves?"

"Probably very soon they'll be returning to Nantucket," Astra guessed, "If only to satisfy some burning questions I saw in their eyes before we departed. Inquirer, especially."

I'll have to return there myself soon, Astra thought to herself, I'd made promises to return.....

  1. And what of the Doctor's group?

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8/27/2001 8:40:33 AM

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