Top of the World | Short Story

“Are you ready?” Anthis asked with a smile.

The three siblings stood in front of a door that none of them had opened in their entire lives. They had walked past it hundreds of times as they walked, ran, and wrestled through the castle. And today it was unlocked.

Banis shifted in place as he eyed the door. “Is it safe?”

Inpherna rolled her eyes before answering, “If it was safe it wouldn’t be an adventure!”

Anthis smiled. “It’s safe. There are workers who go up there every year or so to fix the roof.”

Banis eyed him skeptically, “What if the roof caves in?”

Inpherna answered quickly, “Then you would fall inside instead of off the roof! Way safer.”

“Well that doesn’t make me feel any better…” Banis complained.

Anthis looked at his little brother. Banis was two years younger at 13 and his sister was a year older than Banis. Anthis didn’t want to get him into something he wasn’t ready for, but he also didn’t want to leave him behind.

Anthis put his hand on his brother’s shoulder as he spoke. “It’ll be okay. And it’ll be better if we do it together. That way if anything goes wrong we can help each other.”

Banis let out a deep breath before walking to the door. “Fine, let’s get this over with.”

The door was hard to open from lack of use, but finally it gave way to reveal the room hidden behind. It was a short rectangular room with the long side facing the door and plain steps on the short side. A long platform ran along the long side before reaching the steps of the next short side. This continued on and on as the stairs spiraled up to the top.

Inpherna entered the room with her head tilted up. She couldn’t help but marvel at the sight.

“It just keeps going and going! How come we’ve never been in here before?”

Anthis shrugged before looking up the tower. “The castle has lots of cool places that we know about already. This is kind of just a look out spot.”

Banis staggered a bit as his mind took in the height. “They didn’t put as much work into this as the rest of the castle. What’s it for?”

Anthis thumped his fist on one of the wooden beams holding up the stairs and it gave a solid thud in return. “They used to have guards posted at the top to watch for arriving travellers and invading armies.”

Inpherna rushed up the steps past Anthis. “Then let’s go see if we’re being invaded before it’s too late!”

Anthis followed with Banis right behind. Hesitating, Banis turned back to the door that was still open. “Should I close it?”

Inpherna’s voice echoed down the tower as she spoke. “Yeah, Mum will probably catch us if we don’t. Then we’ll never get to the top!”

Banis swung the door shut with a bit of effort and hurried up the stairs.

Anthis caught up with Inpherna as she looked over the railing and up the top. “You could drop straight from the top to the bottom!”

Banis replied from the lower level across from them. “So much for falling through the roof being the safer option.”

Anthis pointed to the top. “Novaborn guards could have safely jumped from the top to the bottom! Flaring their fire out of their feet to slow their fall. That way they could quickly announce someone’s arrival!”

Inpherna’s eyes lit up. “And they could use the different levels for training! That’s why they have these flat platforms. We should train on these when we become Novaborn!”

Banis spoke as he reached their level. “Or the platforms are for fighting off invaders”

Anthis shrugged as he continued up the stairs. “Maybe both. Maybe the answer is at the top. Onward!”

As they continued, Inpherna began scheming. “If I had to defend the castle I would have four guards on the tower watching in each direction.”

Anthis looked back at her as he continued climbing. “What if they come from above?”

Inpherna thought on this for a second. “Then I would need a fifth guard to lay on their back to watch the sky.”

Anthis nodded in agreement. “You should have them switch spots a lot so whoever is laying on their back doesn’t fall asleep.”

Banis replied from behind. “What about from below? What if they dig their way in.”

Inpherna thought for a bit “Hmmm, I don’t know how you would stop that.”

Banis replied, “They used to have buckets of water to watch for ripples made by tunnelers.”

Inpherna turned around and put her hands on her hips as she stared down Banis. “Did you just answer your own question?”

Banis looked around embarrassed at this discovery.

Anthis spoke from the level above. “Banis with protect the underground, Inpherna the land, and I will protect the sky!”

Inpherna chased after him. “You don’t get to lay on your back sleeping while me and Banis do all the work!”

They arrived at the top of the tower and sat down to catch their breath.

Inpherna laid down and spread out  on her back on the platform. “Let’s stay up here a while. There’s too many steps to go back down!” She stared at the slanted underside of the roof realizing that they still needed to climb that too.

Anthis pulled out a water skin from his pocket. He took a drink before offering some to Inpherna who lazily reached up with her arm. “Phern you have to sit up. You’ll spill it all laying like that!”

“Fine.” she said as she overdramatically pulled herself into a sitting position. Banis walked over to them and sat down as Inpherna gave him the last of the water.

Inpherna leaned over to Anthis to ask her question. “So we’ve reached the top. We’re rested. What’s next?”

Anthis stood up and walked to a door on the flat side of the tower's top.

“The last step is to go out this door and climb that roof”

Banis fidgeted nervously with the water skin. “Isn’t coming this far good enough?”

Inpherna turned to him and raised her arms in exasperation. “You came all this way and don’t want to finish the adventure?”

Anthis nodded in agreement. “We’ll take it slow. But if we don’t do it today it will bug you forever.”

Banis set the water down and thought for a minute before getting up. “Let’s go then.”

As Anthis opened the door a gust of wind blew the door wide open. Bright blinding sunlight filled the room.

Inpherna shielded her eyes. “I’m blind!”

Anthis stepped through and disappeared in the light.

Inpherna got up and followed as Banis watched her disappear. Banis slowly walked up to the door and crossed through.

Their eyes soon adjusted to the bright daylight as they looked over the city. Although they were not the highest building in the land the tower was still quite tall. They could see the tops of roofs continuing on into the horizon as flying chariots and small ships buzzed around them like insects. Though a few large ships in the sky still looked quite big from far away.

Anthis examined the roof for a good path. The roof was at a pretty steep angle but had a solid stone railing to keep them in if they slipped. He found a chain leading all the way to the top and gave it a tug. It held firm and he knew they had a way up. He had to shout to be heard against the wind. “We can use this chain to climb up! But only one at a time!”

Inpherna gestured for him to start. “It was your idea! You get to go first!”

Anthis grabbed hold of the chain and began to half climb half crawl to the top. It was difficult at first but once he got the rhythm of it it was easy. Once he reached the top he sat with one leg on either side of the roof to keep his balance and he looked back down at his sibling below. He raised an arm in triumph to let them know it was safe. Well, at least possible.

At the signal, Inpherna began to climb faster than Anthis did.. When she was a quarter of the way up,  her feet slipped. Her heart jumped into her throat for a moment, until she realized her hands were still gripping the chain. Once she regained her footing she started again, slower this time. Anthis helped her get onto the peak as she steadied herself. “Wow! This is reeeally high!” Anthis laughed. It wasn’t much of a difference this high up from the bottom of the roof.

Now it was Banis’s turn. He looked up and down the chain over and over.

Inpherna shook her head. “He’s not going to do it.”

Anthis thought for a bit before responding. “He just needs some encouragement.”

Knowing that he couldn’t be heard he began to beckon him with his arm. Inpherna followed as Banis looked on. Finally he began to climb the chain. The siblings cheered him on as he slowly climbed higher and higher. When he reached the top they grabbed him from either side to pull him onto the middle.

Banis hugged the roof for dear life as the winds buffeted them. “This was dumb. This was the stupidest idea you’ve ever had!”

Inpherna and Anthis laughed. “You’re right,” said Anthis, “But we did it! And now we are on top of the world!” Anthis let out a loud shout followed by Inpherna. Banis slowly sat up and gave a short shout before announcing, “I’m done. Back to the ground.”

The siblings helped Banis down to the chain as he began the descent.

Inpherna turned to Anthis with glee. “So what’s the next adventure?”

Anthis gave a short laugh before responding, “I’m still enjoying this one! Where do you go after the top of the world?”

Inpherna smiled as she pointed up. “You just keep going up!”

Anthis looked up into the sky with a smile. “You’re right. We’ll have to plan for that next.”

Banis had finally reached the bottom and Inpherna began her descent. Anthis looked down at his two siblings and then to the city around them. From this height he could understand just how big the city was. So many people living their lives who would never even notice three teenagers climbing a roof. But to them, it was the top of the world.

Anthis looked down to see Inpherna waving at him and he waved back before beginning his climb down.

…...............................................................................................................................................................................

Anthis pulled hard on the door handle in vain once again. In all his plans for this adventure, he’d never thought they would get locked out of their own home. After he and his siblings had made their way down the tower staircase, only to find the door at the bottom was locked.

Banis began to pace back and forth as the panic set in. “We’re trapped. And if someone does rescue us we’re grounded”

Inpherna didn’t say anything. Her mind was rushing as she looked for an answer that wasn’t scaling down the side of the tower.

Anthis braced his foot against the door frame and pulled with all his might. They were so close. All that stood between them and home was a stubborn piece of metal. If he could just pull hard enough…

The door flung open and Anthis went flying backwards. The two siblings watched him roll to a stop on the floor before they all turned to see their rescuer.

Father stood there with a confused look. As if a dragon with a knot in its neck had been sitting on that tower floor. The three children ran forward and hugged their dad with so much force he almost fell.

Steadying himself with his cane Father looked over the trio. “What in the stars were you doing in there?”

Inpherna panicked for a second before answering. “We were… watching for invaders!”

Father stared her down with a doubtful gaze. “Oh really. And did you see any?” Inpherna shook her head. “Nope it’s all clear!”

Father let out a sign before speaking again. “Alright then. But from now on let’s keep this door closed and never open it again.” The three let him go and nodded in agreement.

“And,” said father pointing a judging finger at each of them. “You will get cleaned up right away. If your mother finds out, you’ll wish you’d stayed in that tower!”

They all nodded and turned to run to the baths. Father smiled as each one slid around the corner.

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