BANNER OF ENTROPY
A beautiful, cloud-piercing city adorned a lull inside a massive mountain ring, filled with chatter and noise. Smoke billowed out of massive behemoths of the buildings with strange, metallic chimneys blowing out gray ash into the sky. The entire architecture of the place was odd and eerie, with most being built out of brick and concrete in a very simplistic style, floors stacked evenly with hundreds of windows altogether and across.
All streets bounding through were paved with concrete, oil-powered lanterns lighting them up with overhead, fist-sized bulbs hanging in strings, providing further light throughout the city. Massive gears spun on the outside of a few buildings, inter-connected through complex mechanisms to create a somewhat strange of a sight. Yet, none of this seemed all that strange to the many people who were racing crazily through the street, seemingly unaware of everything and everyone surrounding them, their destination the only thing on their minds.
Two rivers cut the city throughout, causing several bounding bridges to arch over the waters; some were built out of stone, yet some seemed made entirely out of metal. Furthermore, throughout the entire city -- bounding it in a flat circle -- ran strange boxes on wheels, connected through metallic poles, wheeling over the steel and iron rods, smoothed over with two put in a perfect parallel all throughout. From time to time they would scream out like beasts and spit out a billow of smoke from the far front where a windowed chamber lay with dozens of odd levers and buttons across the metallic board beneath the front window.
The city seemed like no other both in make and process, with even the clothing people wearing seeming truly strange; leathered, black coats and tall boots up to their knees and plain, simple shirts dyed in dull colors. Fashion seemed universal, as there was hardly distinction between a man’s and a woman’s save for perhaps the latter wearing plain-looking hats from time to time.
Children, too, could not be found outside of a single building at the center of the city, walled off with at least twenty-meters tall fences, bunched up into a single courtyard, sitting on the floor and listening to an middle-aged woman for hours on end and staring at the massive screen behind her where, seemingly magically, image after image was projected.
“We are the Gods!” the woman spat out, her neatly-tied hair shimmering for a moment, her glassed-over eyes piercing into those innocent ones beneath. “The Seed-chosen ones!” most of the children exclaimed softly in awe as they nodded, their gazes focused on the picture behind the woman depicting a strange machine similar to the metallic box rounding the city, only on a much smaller and more uniform scale. “We are the Creators, the truly endowed; while others linger on in battles with no purpose or true cause, we prosper. It is our calling. Your calling. What is the point of a war? To obtain something! But... why would we if we can create it? No, not just create it -- but make it a hundred times better? That’s who we are!”
The children, all seemingly aged under ten, cheered and clapped as the woman left the slightly elevated platform and entered one of the dull-looking, brown-bricked buildings on the side. Insides mirrored the exterior, yet depicted a certain sense of order and uniformity.
She entered through one of the doors on top of which stood a plaque spelling out ‘Mrs. Warren’s Office’. Inside was stacked to brim with books and parchments, hiding away dull-dyed walls and barred windows. She cried out for a moment as she saw a figure sitting on the sole chair in the room, looking over some of the documents. Quickly recovering, however, she walked over and punched the table, causing the figure to look up. It was a man slightly younger than her with broad, square jaw, full cheekbones, black hair and a pair of honest-looking brown eyes.
“How many times have I told you not to barge into my office unannounced?!”
“... seven hundred forty-four,” the man replied with a faint smile. “Wow, we’re almost at a thousand!”
“... aah... what do you want?” the woman sighed and relented in the end, walking over to the corner and pulling away a chair underneath a pile of books.
“A wonderful lecture, as always,” the man said. “You really had the minds of those kids in a tailspin.”
“As was mine,” she said. “I’m tired of lying, Warden. I think I might retire after this year.”
“... that would certainly be a shame,” the man said. “You’re a wonderful inspiration to kids.”
“... enough of that. I am fairly certain you haven’t broken into my office just to praise my orator skills. What do you want?” she asked somewhat hastily.
“We haven’t been Gods for quite a few generations now, Edith,” the man said with a rather painful expression. “And, really, for all the fascinating things we have created since... truth is, we are just buying dreams.”
“Tell me something I don’t know.” she scoffed coldly, seemingly irritated at him.
“But, I may have found a way to change that...”
“The Empyrean.” the man said with a faint smile.
“What of the murderous bastard?” the woman’s faint interest vanished as her gaze hardened.
“Take a look,” he said as he suddenly handed her a small, rectangular object with two holes at the center sporting two gears, both of whom were covered by a strange sort of a tape. “Those few kids that came back brought the tape with them.”
“... I’ll see it later,” she said, taking the tape and putting it into one of the pockets of her coat. “Just explain yourself already.”
“... ah, visual stimulation would have given me a better chance to persuade you, but, whatever.” the man chuckled bitterly for a moment before continuing. “The Empyrean just fought and defeated the Dragon Aspect of Fire up in the North.”
“W-what?! That hell was because of them?!!” the woman suddenly screamed out, reminiscing about the few years ago where massive earthquakes struck them repeatedly, practically putting the entire city to fearful sleep for hours.
“Indeed,” the man nodded. “They really went all out. But, weren’t you listening? The Empyrean won.”
“So? Dragon Aspect of Fire... that’s Vy, right? The two should just get married. I bet they’re perfect for each other. You’re not thinking of asking the Empyrean to liberate us, are you? If you are, I will put to vote your execution during the tomorrow’s meeting.”
“... ouch. As blunt as always, hah. But, yes, I am.”
“... you really don’t value your life, do you?” she asked angrily.
“... I know we belong to different Parties Edith,” the man said with a serious expression. “And although our ideologies may differ, they are underscored by the same desire: to restore our Legacy. By any means necessary.”
“... are you even listening to yourself?!” she flared out after a moment’s silence, jumping off her chair. “The -- the -- reason we’re in this mess to begin with is because we sold ourselves to that whore!! Now, now you’re proposing we sell ourselves again?! I’d rather rot in the ash of our garbage Tom!”
“Not sell -- partner with,” the man quickly corrected her. “The Empyrean didn’t merely fight Vy, Edith, he fought him off -- fighting for the Mages of the North. Meaning he’s hardly the maddened type.”
“So, if we offer him something, he might Liberate us in return,” the man said quickly. “We have so many things the rest of the world doesn’t, and however normal and even boring they may seem to us, I’m guessing he might find at least a few fascinating purely out of curiosity at least. It won’t cost him anything to Liberate us, yet we could gain everything.”
“You really believe he is that altruistic?!” Edith remained steadfast. “What does the Founding Script say, Tom? What is literally its first line?”
“Put forth trust in thineself, and distrust in the World’s Crowned -- The Mother, The Father, The High Lords and the Writs. That’s what it says. It was written specifically to remind us not to repeat our previous mistake ever again, yet you are suggesting exactly that. I understand, Tom -- I am desperate as well. But, we shouldn’t be that desperate.”
“... I’m not putting my trust into the Writ, Edith -- but the human behind it.” Tom said. “I only ask we meet him at least -- nothing else.”
“Human? Huh? Have you forgotten what the Writs are, Tom? Individuality ceases where the power begins; even if he agrees to help us, he will ask for far more than just our inventions, Tom!”
“All are born the same,” Tom suddenly spoke out solemnly. “Change does not determine the value of an Individual Soul; all that is corrupt can be cleansed, as all that was clean was corrupted; prejudice is the murderer of Freedom and Liberty; fear is but an oxymoron -- what we fear is the implication, not the reality; we fear heights not due to altitude but due to the fall; we fear dark not due to lack of light but what it may hold; we fear fire not because it is warm but because it may burn us; we fear Others not because they are evil but because they might not be; we are all Free, given inalienable right to Exist and Thrive -- shall you give thyself that Right yet deny it from the Other, you have failed.”
“... how dare you quote the Scripture to me, Tom?” she asked with a faint trace of hurt in her voice. “I had it in my heart before I could even write properly.”
“... I’m not asking you to do anything, Edith, but meet him... and talk with him. If he truly is mad, if he truly is too demanding, I’ll send him out myself and I’ll immediately retire from the Party. All I’m asking... is to hear him out.”
“... aah...” she sighed after a few moments of tense stare-off between the tow. “Very well, Tom. But, if this comes back to bite us in the ass... I’ll throw you under the bus no questions asked.”
“You won’t have to,” the man said, getting up with a wide grin plastered on his face. “I’ll throw myself.”