Advertisement
Remove

A note from Wutosama

Voting for the novel :: Voting button  

With Mathias tailing at a distance, Gwen and Evia strolled through Cliveden's extensive grounds, eventually arriving at the rosarium. Elvia paced beside her companion as they passed each floral archway, made shy by the suggestive Grecian statues. With each step, she could sense her friend delving into a deeper deliberation of her aborted duel.
 
What was Gwen feeling? Elvia wondered. She could see from the knitting of Gwen's brow that her friend was no longer enjoying herself. If anything, the way Gwen wetted her lips every so often indicated that some nefarious plot fomented in her friend's mind.
 
Was Gwen's humiliation so great? Elvia wondered. At the pavilion, Gwen had not appeared nearly so afflicted. Desperately, she wanted to offer a word of wisdom regarding House of Holland. Unfortunately, Elvia had no idea where Exeter even existed.
 
"Mattie?" She turned to their resident expert. Knights were made to study the peerage.
 
"Yes, Lady Elvia—" Mathias walked a few steps closer.
 
"What can you tell us of the Exeters?"
 
Mathias appeared sympathetic as well. If anything, Elvia could see that her Knight was confused by Gwen's tight-lipped passivity. But then again, Elvia supposed. Mathias did not know Gwen as she did. All Mattie could see was a firebrand sorceress with powers beyond her ken, eating Trolls and befriending Dwarves. Elvia, however, had seen Gwen wearing all of her multifaceted facades.
 
"Exeter is located East of Dartmoor and west of Devon. In the Frontier of Exeter, located on the River Exe. It's the traditional seat of power for the Hollands."
 
"Are they a powerful clan?"
 
"They are." Mathias nodded. "Equal in dignity and history with House Ravenport, though not so involved in politics. The House of Holland is well known for producing rare bloodlines. An ancient House, their lineage can be linked to Henry the Fifth."
 
"I see…" Elvia turned to her companion to check if the information was any help. "Gwen, are you feeling alright?"
 
"I am fine, Evee." Her friend's voice was calm and collected. "I was just affirming how far I've overshot my tangent."
 
Both Elvia and Mathias gave their companion questioning looks.
 
"I believe I've done a little TOO much since arriving in London." Gwen tucked her hair, allowing the light from a lumen globe to catch in her eyes. "It's a wonder that, thus far, without context or background knowledge, I haven't run headfirst into a wall. It's a bad habit, I am afraid, grasping at opportunities like that. Think of it, Evee— I overleapt Heathrow, then confronted Mycroft, shared Hall with Ollie, communed with Lady Loftus. Then after that, I went to Wales and fought Trolls, saved Dwarves…"
 
Gwen rattled off a list of events so packed that in concert, even Elvia found her friend's ten-day continuity incredible.
 
"… almost all spontaneous and off the cuff." Gwen winced. "I don't mean to say I regret any of it, but today, facing that idiot? It awoke me to just how haphazardly I've been forging ahead."
 
"I do envy your achievements," Mathias confessed, then loudly exhaled. "Though I wonder, Miss Song, for one possessing the power, why did you allow yourself to be humiliated?"
 
"Was I humiliated?" Gwen grinned back. "Or perhaps, allow me to subvert your enquiry. Should I have humiliated the Exeter twins, at a party hosted by Lady Astor? Could I emerge an overall victor?"
 
Mathias swallowed. "You would have floored them with your Void Bird, I presume. But then of course…"
 
"Comes the endless, ceaseless retribution." Gwen shrugged her shoulders. "If China has taught me anything, folk like Edward Poins are a special feature of any society built on inheritance. The geography changes, the landscape changes, but some things remain immutable. I am a Frontier girl, and they're blue-blooded nobles; no impression will change their minds. If even in a socialist country, these self-same fools sprout like mushrooms, then what hope do I have in an Empire where blood holds sway? To prove them wrong, to subjugate them, nothing short of total power will do."
 
Mathias visibly squirmed at Gwen's seditious sentiments.
 
Elvia watched as Gwen touched her hand to a blooming rose, cut the base with a mote of Void, then smoothed out the spiked stem in the same fashion. The demonstration showed excellent control over so volatile an element, something the old Gwen would have never managed.
 
"Evee, for you." Her companion struck the bloom rose behind Elvia's ear. "It's lovely here, why don't we let the Spirits out for some air?"
 
Elvia agreed, then conjured Kiki; who patiently waited while its mistress produced a jadeite container housing Sen-sen. For fear of desirous eyes, the girls had decided to keep the Draconic Ginseng well shielded in a party were megalomaniacs were as common as the canapè.
 
"Kiki!" The floral Spirit pulled at her companion. "K!"
"Sen?" Sen-sen yawned.
 
It took a jolt of restorative energy from Elvia to revive the dormant Sen-sen, who then rushed off with Kiki to speak to the roses.
 
"Ariel, Caliban—" Gwen released her Familiars as well, with strict orders that Cali should under no circumstances consume any part of Lady Astor's ensorceled rosebushes.
 
"EE-EE!"
"Shaa!"
 
With great gusto, the Familiars chased one another through the rosarium. With a glance, Elvia willed Mathias to linger elsewhere. Once she was alone with Gwen, surrounded by a delicate redolence, she made themselves comfortable on a Woodshaped bench.
 
"Roses in December, blooming among the snow," Gwen remarked with a snort. "Too rich for my blood."
 
Elvia exhaled mist as she leaned on the sorceress' padded shoulder. "Gwennie, don't say that."
 
"I think it needs to be said," her friend insisted. "Everyone's been overtly polite so far, and it's created a false facade of London for me. Think about it, Evee— Lady Grey was the definition of courtesy, Lady Astor, up until the incident, was a thoughtful host. Even my nemesis, Ravenport, kept our bickering civil. I think Mattie's not so bad once you get to know him. Ollie's alright, and Dominic's a charmer. Hell, even Hanmoul was a vision of respect compared to what we saw today."
 
Elvia did her best to read Gwen's ambivalent expression.
 
"What I've come to acknowledge," Gwen explained, drawing her closer. "Is that an invisible stratum will always separate the folk here. Look at how the nobles treat each other. Lady Astor's rich and famous, right? Even so, the Hollands made fun of me in the middle of a party she hosted, even after she said I was an especially important guest. When they interrupted my duel— that's a big no, no, Evee— no one intervened. I even heard laughter from some of the blue-bloods outside. The guy was a total wanker, yet, Lady Astor's guests humoured the boneless-chook wrangler. They were laughing at both of us, Evee— out of lark for me, out of fear for Poins."
 
Gwen continued. "I've taken my share of Mages by now, and I can tell the brothers aren't just walking egos. I can't guess how skilled they are unless I fight one for real, probably until one of us maws the other. But I've sensed the same confidence in others as well, though not nearly so full of volatility— Prince Inti, for example, or Uncle Jun before he gets worked up. These are folk who have taken a lot of lives callously; you saw what they did to that poor Bugbear. They are what I don't want to become."
 
Gwen then sighed, which made Elvia unhappy. In a way, she felt personally responsible. It was her desire that compelled them to come to Lady Astor's party. They could have spent Christmas camped outside Westminster to listen to the choir or take a pleasure cruise down the Thames. Instead, they came to Cliveden because she couldn't really say no to Lady Astor's expectations, and now her friend was hurt.
 
"I am so sorry."
 
"Hold up— there's nothing to be sorry about." Gwen caught a lock of her hair when she bowed, tucking loose strands back in place. "I reckon tonight was a good showing, Evee. I needed the perspective before I got on with business in London. Your invitation has saved us, I'd say. Can you conceive of the shit show that could happen if I dumped crystals into the printing press without realising the extent to which irrational arseholes ruled London as well? Big o' asses that could crap all over us at a moment's notice?"
 
Elvia grimaced. For one so gifted in gab, Gwen often revelled in her working-class origins.
 
"Hahaha… sorry," Gwen snickered. "Anyway, at no point did I intend to fight that swirling ball of compressed narcissism. I need to find and enlist Walken soon. That old snake will know how to navigate all of this, not to mention digging a big-ass dunny-pit."
 
DING!
 
The abrupt Message Glyph made Elvia flinch. Who would call Gwen on Christmas Eve? Who did she even know in London?
 
"Yes?" Gwen kept the channel open and public.
 
"Gwen." The voice on the other end belonged to Ollie Edwards. "Sorry for the late call, but the matter is urgent. You and I have been invited by Hanmoul Bronzeborn to tour the Rotary Guild. We are scheduled to visit from the 25th to the 27th. Lady Grey has authorised our attendance, meaning we are to leave as soon as possible, ideally at first light. The Dwarves can be particular about punctuality."
 
"I see." Gwen gave Elvia a look that spoke volumes of their earlier conversation. "Thanks, Ollie, I am in Cliveden at the moment, does that help?"
 
"Can you fly to Merthyr Tydfil? I am catching a Teleport first thing in the morning." Ollie's voice brimmed with excitement. "This is an important milestone, Gwen. We'll be the first Humans to enter the Red Citadel in almost a decade outside of politics. Please don't be late. I need to speak to you as soon as you get here."
 
"Gotcha," Gwen replied chirpily. "See you in Merthyr Tydfil then?"
 
"Will do."
 
The Message died.
 
"Speak of the devil." Gwen shrugged at her friend. "See? I told you I was overcommitted. My timetable is bursting at the seams. I made all this time for you, and now I've squandered it."
 
Elvia knew that Hanmoul's invitation was not one that could be turned down. If Gwen refused to go, the insult would cause a diplomatic incident. The fallout would make Edward Poins' dickery appear a childish tantrum.
 
"You have my support, whatever you choose," she promised. "Do you have to go now?"
 
"I'd rather not trouble Lady Astor for a Teleportation Circle," Gwen said. "How about this? Let's enjoy ourselves a little more. Then, I shall head for Merthyr Tydfil. Mattie?"
 
"Yes, Miss Song?"
 
"Can you see Evee safely home?"
 
"I will. I shall."
 
"And while I am away, you'll still have to go with Elvia to the isle. Wally should have things in hand, but they need a bigger presence than maids, an ex-Military Mage and two dozen dogs. I'll leave Evee a few thousand HDMs as a contingency if supplies are low. Make sure you keep a close eye on things."
 
The Knight inclined his head.
 
"I'll do my best as well," Elvia promised in turn. The Isle was Gwen's domain, and her friend trusted her enough to leave it to her care. The folk of the isle had just seen hope in the face of a custodian who cared about their welfare, and she would very much like to keep it that way. Even now, thinking of their happy faces, she felt a peculiar heat ignite inside her bosoms.
 
"Alright then." Gwen readjusted the flower in her hair. "Let's take a stroll, Evee. It's not every day blooming roses surround a girl in winter. Tell me, where do you see the isle in a few years?"
 
 
 
 
Before the party's departure, Emily, one of three Head Maids of Cliveden, visited Lady Astor's notable guests, conspiratorially proffering up a scented card "for Miss Song's eyes only."
 
Nonplussed, Gwen offered to share the Message. Her companion, however, was adamant that if Lady Astor desired a private conversation with Gwen, she would have no part of it.
 
"Please return safely," Elvia pleaded. "No more adventures."
 
"I'll do my best. If you're worried, there should be Divi-signals near Merthyr Tydfil," Gwen assured her friend. "Though probably not inside the Red Citadel, but we'll see. I'll bring back some Lumen-pics, assuming we can take pictures."
 
At first light, Gwen took to the air to orientate her bearings before blasting off toward Ystradfellte, using Oxford's distant silhouette as a landmark, aiming for the fog-ridden River Severn.
 
Once her trajectory was assured, she pitched a shield to stifle the buffeting air, then opened the card from Lady Astor.
 
An illusory projection instantly sprang into place as the ingredients empowering its magical ink ignited, dispensing a scent of roses.
 
"Gwen— is Elvia with you?" Lady Astor's beaming face announced. "No matter, she may attend if she so desires— Elven illusion-ink is costly, so please excuse my brevity."
 
"Foremostly, Miss Song, I would like to offer an apology for the events of tonight. I was, I am sorry to say, wholly aware that Edward Poins and his brother, Benedict, would be present— and that it was out of morbid curiosity that I had anticipated your friction."
 
Gwen bit her tongue. At least the Lady was honest.
 
"Please don't take their ill-humour too seriously. The twins are notorious enough that their actions should not tarnish your reputation. Rest assured, your refusal to participate in their bear-baiting has left a good impression on both myself and the Middle Faction. Exeter, as you can imagine, often antagonises our cause. Nonetheless, I shall repay your upset with a show of goodwill. Next cycle, the Telegraph's articles shall lean in your favour."
 
"And naturally, in the future, you are welcome to visit Cliveden and make use of its grounds. If Elvia wishes to raise funds or build on the fame of her Charity, you shall have my full support."
 
Gwen allowed a coy smile to touch her lips. If she could tap into Lady Astor's network, then she would take two Poins at once.
 
"Ah yes, one more favour. I am led to understand that Maxine, your housemistress, is keeping tabs on your performance. I shall deliver a Message to your patron and inform her of the happenings at Cliveden. Finally, I wish you luck in the Murk— remember, stay away from the Deepdowners!"
 
So Lucy Astor knew that she was visiting to the Dwarven city? The Lady must have friends in high places, or at least Arcane Eyes all over the gardens to pick up on something so private. If so, was that last bit of encouragement an "advice"? Or was it a warning that as she, like Mycroft Ravenport, could make her life in London exceedingly interesting?
 
Gingerly, she stowed the card. Such considerations were for later. Now, Gwen had to focus on getting to Merthyr Tydfil without getting lost in the damned fog.
 
 
 
 
Ollie Edwards audibly ground his teeth when his sorceress appeared, not in the air, but inside Hanmoul's Strider. Beside him, Magister Hanford delivered a good-natured snort.
 
"Would you believe I got lost, ahaha…" Gwen laughed off her awkwardness. "Flew straight to the mountain like last time. I saw Hanmoul and his team making his way down, so I followed them."
 
"Lass almost flew into the vents." Hanmoul leapt from the Strider's capsule, landing on the cobblestone with a thunk before he longingly stretched his back. "Ancestor's cogs! I'll have ter adjust the inertia dampeners."
 
"It was a bit bumpy." Ollie's House-sister mirrored Hanmoul's groan as she performed a vertical downward dog against the Strider, making Ollie's stomach tingle. "Not much vertical space in there."
 
"Yer can flitter until we reach the outskirts," Hanmoul advised. "After that, yer'll have ter crowd the Strider til we reach the Rotary Guild."
 
"Naw." Gwen wavered the offer, shaking loose her limbs. "Well, Ollie, shall we?"
 
"Gwen, I need to speak to you in private." Ollie felt out of breath. "Commandrumm, do you mind?"
 
"Not at all, I'll take a gander around town if ye don't mind."
 
"Do help yourself," Magister Hanford, who had risen early to welcome the return of their resident Omni-Mage, bade them be at ease. "The villagers have been instructed. Business is booming. Try our ginger sours?"
 
The Tower's representative struck a thumb toward the crowded main street, where dozens of sticky-beakers had stopped to gawk at the three Dwarven Striders parked outside the inn. Compared to before Gwen's Purge, the town positively bustled with activity. Without Trolls eating the prospectors, raw crystals and ore by the truckload were hauled from the Red Gulch, racing the restoration of the deep tunnels by their original inhabitants.
 
"Gwen, this way…" Ollie retreated into the inn.
 
Gwen followed, hailing an appreciative Hanford along the way.
 
Once inside, Ollie initiated a silent Message exchange.
 
"Gwen. I asked you to meet up with me first."
 
"I know," Gwen agreed. "Sorry, Ollie, it sort of just happened."
 
The Praelector scratched his scalp, then handed over a data slate. "Here, a quest from the Shard."
 
"A Quest, from London Tower?!" Gwen was incredulous. She wasn't even a ranked member, and she certainly hadn't received a stipend. Was this a War Mage thing?
 
"Just read it."
 
Gwen scrolled through the letter.
 
"... It says to compose a comprehensive report on our opinion of the Dwarves' war potential, including Golem units, types of Golems, their standing military, and other objects or places of interest, such as the leadership of the Guild."
 
"Yes."
 
"Holy shit, Ollie." Gwen endured a pang of guilt. "Are we spies?"
 
"We're Mages," Ollie reminded her. "We do what's required."
 
"Aren't we're being invited as a gesture of goodwill?"
 
"Not really," Ollie refuted her claim. "You're being invited as payment for saving Hanmoul, something the Dwarves call the Debt of Haj-Zül. I am your attachè— since the Commandrumm knows me by name and we are House siblings, which in their terms, makes us family of sorts."
 
"I don't know…"
 
"Just keep an eye out, I'll do the reporting if you're not willing."
 
"Can't we come clean to Hanmoul about this?" Gwen reread the data slate. The quest awarded a minimum of 300 CCs, with more to come pending on the value of their information, and if their data could be ascertained. "Can I ask Hanmoul straight up if a girl could take a gander at his armoury? For evaluating future treaties, that sort of thing?"
 
"Are you looking to sabotage the Tower's request?"
 
"Alright, alright..." Gwen felt ambivalent. Hanmoul seemed a good bloke. That they were going to double-cross the Dwarves' genuine intentions sat wrong with her. Espionage was a necessity, she knew, but she didn't like it one bit. "Jesus, Ollie, I thought you're one of the good guys."
 
"What does virtue have to do with this? You and I are foremost Humans, then citizens of the Empire, then members of Cambridge, Peterhouse—" Ollie's tone grew firm. "You'll be a Magister one day. How do you think that works? The Shard signs a certificate stating it's fine with you doing whatever? The Tower's support comes with commissioned requests every few months."
 
Gwen was beginning to understand why Gunther had put off his Magisterhood for so long.
 
"Besides, I'd imagine Cabal No. IV already has data on the Dwarves defences. We're merely verifying and cross-correlating existing data."
 
"If you say so." Gwen stowed the slate in her ring.
 
"The Tower says so," Ollie assured her. "How's your memory?"
 
"Very good, actually," Gwen said. "It's not eidetic, but if I concentrate, I can recall most details with perfect clarity."
 
"Good." Ollie stood to straighten his robes. The Praelector was in his officious Cambridge field-garbs, which meant he wore a half-shoulder sash of scarlet silk over his bible-black double-breasted blazer. An ermine-fur hood hung from his back, affixed to his breast by a golden badge minted with Peterhouse's golden stripes in gules. "I've brought your sash and your badge."
 
"I am not even a student yet." Gwen opened the box and marvelled at the luxurious attire.
 
"Well, these are a Magus' icons. Start getting used to it," Ollie declared. "You've been given provisional honours by the College. The Tower has also permitted the unorthodox promotion for this special occasion. We're on a diplomatic mission, so to speak."
 
"Very well." Gwen wasn't one to say no to free titles. Sliding the sash overhead, she observed with pleasure as the quasi-magical attire repositioned itself so that it covered her with a cropped-cloak down to the hips. Asymmetrically, her other shoulder sported a scarlet sash and the red-gold emblem. The colour was mildly jarring against her white armour, but the overall effect was unexpectedly handsome. "Oh, this is nice."
 
"Of course. It's all made in-house by our Sister-Enchanters at Lucy Cavendish," Ollie boasted with relish. "May we proceed?"
 
"Let's rollout." Gwen tugged at her new attire.
 
Outside, they waited another twenty minutes for Hanmoul. When the Iron Born returned, he seemed well pleased.
 
"Got the lads some Overland souvenirs." The Dwarf flashed a blocky looking Storage Ring. "Ya ready to ride, lass?"
 
"Ready as ever." Gwen made her way to Hanmoul's Strider, ensuring that Ollie had to ride with an assistant. "Commandrumm, lead the way!"
 
 
 
As before, Gwen hugged her knees and curled into a ball while the Strider Beast crashed through the snow, its multi-limbed mechanism churning up clumps of clod and ice. As Hanmoul had promised, the ride was smoother once the dampeners were adjusted, saving her skull the danger of getting intimate with the canopy.
 
Watching Hanmoul steer the beast was a marvel in itself. The Iron Born cranked knobs and levers with the expertise of one commanding living limbs. Between the Dwarf's legs, a multi-layered set of pedals allowed the driver control of the mechanical beast.
 
"Lassie, have ye got some knife-ear blood in ya?" Hanmoul asked suddenly. "For a female, yer taller than yer mate, skinny as a strider, an' yer fuller than a mana tank."
 
"I am taller than most," Gwen replied, unsure of how to explain her stolen VMI. "Won the bloodline lottery, I guess. Are Dwarves more homogenous?"
 
"Always," Hanmoul grunted. "We like things to be measurable and orderly. You'll see when we getter the Citadel. Ay buildings tend to follow the Ancestors' Scales, as do our constructs. There's nothing quite like the sight of a hundred Hammer Guard standing in a row— not a centimetre out of place."
 
"You use METRIC units for measurement?" Gwen was surprised to hear Hanmoul's choice of diction.
 
"Yer mean YERS use it? The Ancestors' Scales belongs to us— you Humans 'borrowed' it," Hanmoul complained, then broke into a hearty laugh. "Aye, lass, weren't ya ever taught that yer Empire plagiarised our arithmetic?"
 
"I am afraid not…" Gwen confessed. Who in Blackwattle would bother teaching her about the origins of the International Metric System? She didn't even know the history behind the Imperial Spellcraft system.
 
"Am nae surprised." Hanmoul pulled on a lever. With a hiss, the Strider accelerated. "As ay lore tells it, the Seven Ancestors each left our folk with the knowledge ta measure one of the Seven Constants of the Underworld— length, mass, time, current, temperature, luminosity, and substance. From this, the Deep Dwarves derived the know-how to control machines, create Golems, build our cities, and fend off the Murk. You'll see their monuments soon enough; every city begins with the path ay the Journeymen."
 
"Wow, you live and learn."
 
"Ain't it?" Hanmoul appeared pleased by her open-mindedness. "Now, when we enter the city, yer'll be our official guests— the first Humans to step into the Citadel in decades. Ya're welcome to ask onie questions yer like, but yer mustn't touch anything— especially others ay our kin."
 
"Oh?" Gwen's lips form an O. "Biosecurity?"
 
"Ha!" Hanmoul barked with a coarse laugh. "No, lass. Religion."
 
"R-religion?" Gwen's nostrils shot out twin streams of air. "Truly?"
 
"Aye, the Murk's been volatile in recent years. Reclamation isnae gonnae as smoothly as the Deepdowners hud hoped. We've got dozens of the buggers stuck with us up in the Murk, they're desperate to git back down ter the deep dark, but nae luck, eh?"
 
"I am not sure I fully understand." Gwen tried to picture their conversation. "So, there are three strata to the Dwarven world? Something called the Murk; then a place called the Deep-Dark? I take the last one is the surface?"
 
"Ye're a speedy one." Hanmoul applauded her comprehension. "Aye, the surface, or 'Himmseg', isn't something our kin are keen on, mostly because there are foes aplenty apart from Humans and knife-ears. Underneath the earth, where there's still light, dae's the Murk. Deeper, rooted in caverns that stretch as far as the Elemental Plane, exist a network of low-ways connecting the Dwarven cities of old called the 'Dyar Morkk'. Say, yer've nay heard o' this, lass? I'd thought it's common knowledge even fer Overlanders?"
 
"That's privileged information for me since I am not from around here," Gwen explained. "I am afraid you're chosen a bumpkin for a friend, Hanmoul."
 
"Haha… then I wish all humans are bumpkins like yee—" Hanmoul remarked, then quickly added. "Though I hope they nae as handy with that wicked magic. The Murk's choked full of chaos as it is."
 
"Troubles at home?"
 
"Aye, big trouble, same with you Humans." Hanmoul was so forthcoming that Gwen couldn't help wondering if straight-shooting was a Dwarven trait or just the Commandrumm. "Back during what you folks called the Beast Tide, most of the low-ways collapsed, filling wi' monsters an' Magical Beasts. Now, fer the last three decades, we've bin tryin' tae re-link the Murk and the Dyar Morkk. Nae luck though, it's twisting the Deepdowners' something proper."
 
"So these Deepdowners… are they priests?"
 
"Nae, not like that— they're keepers of knowledge. I suppose." Hanmoul's voice took on an edge. "We need them to bless the Forge and the Manufactoriums. Without their secret arts, we Murk Dwarves willie have stout trouble maintaining our cities. If yer sees one, whatever you do, don't touch 'em. You'll recognise them by their armour. They're distinctive."
 
After the talk of Deepdowners, Hanmoul's appetite for conversation appeared to wither. For the next hour, both lass and Commandrumm travelled in silence, lulled by the rhythmic churning of the Strider Beast's pistons.
 
A little sleep-deprived, Gwen found her mind drifting in and out of hazy catnaps until a mail-gloved hand patted her knees. Snorting loudly, she pulled herself away from the thrall of Hypnos.
 
"Did yer have a good nap, Lass?"
 
"Whoa…" She looked up.
 
The whole ground was vibrating.
 
God knew how many tons of snow slid from a lifting plank of impossibly large metal, slowly rising from the floor of a cresting hill. Gouts of steam hissed every which way, misting her surroundings so that a proper bearing was impossible to apprehend.
 
From below the elevated plank, two dozen humanoid machines that Gwen recognised as the Hammer Guards in Golem Armour marched out from the dark to flank the three Striders crawling into the iron maw of the mountain. As Hanmoul had advertised, apart from their disuniform weapons, the line up was not an inch out of place.
 
As the Stride Beasts clanked into the interior, there was a brief moment when daylight persisted, then, abruptly, the glimmering snow disappeared, plunging the world into a dim-darkness.
 
"Let yer eyes adjust." Hanmoul popped the canopy. "Ah— unburnt liquid Crystal, the smell of home."
 
Gwen made do with Almudj's Essence. Her viridescent irises glowed momentarily rainbow, allowing her pupils to expand like a feline's.
 
"Wow…" Gwen gasped at the descending architecture. "I— I am in awe."
 
Hanmoul puffed out his chest. Below, the Hammer Guards saluted as one.
 
"Aye Lass, welcome to Eth Rjoth Kjangtoth."
 

 

Advertisement

About the author

Wutosama

Bio: I write on the phone and edit at home. Times are tough!

Achievements
Comments(125)
Log in to comment
Log In

Log in to comment
Log In