The city skyline was awash with monolithic buildings of copper and bronze, speckled with hazy globules of shimmering streetlights that illuminated the night sky with a filthy orange glow. The smell of gaseous vapours clung to the air as the city burned away the peace of the night. Standing atop of one of these buildings and leaning over the edge of the terrace rooftop, was the Bronze Apostate.
Draping the Bronze Apostate’s body was a hooded cloak of dirty brown that billowed behind—its threadbare edges trailing along the city currents. On the Apostate’s face was a bronze mask; rusted with scrapes, dented and worn, and riddled with tubes and valves—the most prominent being that which resembled a mouthpiece, which shot out little spurts of steam on either side as the Bronze Apostate breathed. Two large circular discs of glass sat were the eyes should be, protruding outwards slightly and emitting a phosphorous glow of mechanical orange that obscured the true eyes peering out from behind. Peering far out into the distance, and into the Del’Mar estate.
The balcony shutters lay ajar. Inside, there was a gathering of folk who wore Venetian-styled masks and nothing more. It was a celebration of flesh—free from discrimination—and the men and women lay with each other, atop of red velvet fainting couches and leather chaise lounges. Intoxication fuelled their movements, where opioids and wine moved freely between hands, enticing them into their sensual dance. One stood out from the others—a young man, broadly built and comely to all. But he did not wear a mask, for he would not dare cover his face in his own home. He was Louis Del’Mar, heir to the Del’Mar estate.
The Bronze Apostate, having seen enough, stood up from his hunched position and reached deep into his cloak, pulling out from within a bronze vial—which he held tentatively with his gloved hand. Along the vial’s metal casing were slits of glass and jutting out from the bottom was a thick metallic needle, roughly the length of a finger. The Apostate brought the vial up to eye level to inspect the viscous silver liquid within; watching as it tumbled over itself with thick, molasses-like movements. The Apostate then pulled his cloak aside to reveal a copper breastplate. It contained an intricate array of small, delicate gears that resembled clockwork—some partially visible and some connected by thin sinewy valves and pipes that ran inwards, under the Apostate’s outfit and out of sight.
The Apostate brought the vial to a small circular socket protruding diagonally from the breastplate. He then inserted the vial needle first. It slid in easily, gliding into the socket until the needle was no longer visible where it then met resistance. The apostate gave a half-turn of the vial. Then there was a loud metallic click as the mechanisms inside the breastplate latched onto the needle. Suddenly, the clockwork came to life.
The first gear began fitfully before settling into a smooth spin—which in-turn spun the next gear, and the next, and so on until the breastplate clockwork cascaded into a whirling mass that whined in unison. There was a hiss from the valves and a gurgle from the vial as the silver liquid rapidly drained into the pipes. Then—as quickly as it began—the clockwork stopped, and the vial was empty. The Bronze Apostate exhaled deeply; either from pleasure or pain or relieve, or perhaps a combination of the three. He then unlatched the vial, tossed it aside with little care, and stepped closer to the edge of the rooftop.
The Apostate’s toes hung perilously over the ledge. Below, steam-powered motors raced along the cobblestone road, hued orange by the filament streetlamps, and polluting the air with noise from their spluttering engines. The blustery winds rushed upwards, threatening to tear the Apostate’s cloak from his back—but the Apostate embraced the winds with arms outstretched; and he began to tilt forwards, gradually, steadily, until the weight of his own body dragged him over the edge and he was forced to fall.
The fall was long and it was a great distance to the bottom. The wind whistled in his ears. The building windows became streaks in his peripheral vision as his descent quickened; yet the Apostate remained steadfast with his arms outstretched. On the back of his left glove was a mechanical dial consisting of three rings—an outer, middle, and inner ring—and engraved on each was a series of alchemic symbols. Three thin metal arms protruded from the centre of the dial, ending with a circular hoop that hung over a ring of its own. Suddenly, the alchemic symbols lit up with a dim blue glow.
The ground was rapidly approaching.
The rings of the dial were now spinning this way and that, turning independently of each other as if some invisible hand were guiding them. The rings suddenly stopped when a specific combination of symbols lay under each hoop. Then the dial locked into place with a soft click.
The Apostate was only mere seconds from impact.
All the symbols stopped glowing, except for the selected three which were now crackling with arcane energy. Bolts of electric blue forked outwards, tracing the engraved lines on the dial until circling back on itself, completing the transmutation circle. And as quickly as it began, the arcane energy dissipated.
The Apostate was no longer falling. Instead, he was now suspended in the air—gently swaying in place as if he were riding the waves of an unseen ocean. But there was no ocean to be found, nor of any source of propulsion that would keep him aloft in the air. The street below remained twenty-feet below him, and steam-powered vehicles continued chugging along the road and folk continued to walk to and fro alongside, oblivious to the mysterious man that hovered weightlessly above their heads. There was no explanation, the Bronze Apostate was simply flying.
The Apostate, keenly aware of this fact, flung his arms to his side. Then, like a projectile being shot from some unknown origin, he began speeding through the air—skirting the walls of buildings as he curved around corners, navigating with ruthless precision to the Del’Mar estate.