Mechamillennium: A Clockwork Apocalypse!
MECHAMILLENNIUM: A CLOCKWORK APOCALYPSE
A Steampunk Roleplay Created by Tysyacha, and Starring Many!
Part One: Problem
"And you won't understand the cause of your grief,
But you'll always follow the voices beneath..." --Heather Dale, "Mordred's Lullaby"
IT WAS THE END. The schematics were finished; the clockwork machine had been built; and it had accomplished the one purpose for which it had been designed. For centuries--nay, even millennia--the mortal beings of this world had struggled with the age-old question: "From where does evil come, and how do we eradicate it?" Many people had presented their theories, from the highest scholars and sages down to the lowest of peasants. Ultimately, only one answer had been unanimously agreed upon by the Council of Mechamagic. Five completely different souls, accustomed to petty bickering, had at long last come to a consensus about the nature of evil and how to destroy it.
The priests said that an evil spirit, known in many tongues as the Adversary, spoke to the hearts of men and influenced them to do wicked things. This answer was not accepted, as the Council did not believe in such things. With no physical, tangible proof of such a spirit, they were bound to dismiss it as a fairy tale. Evil, the Council said, had no supernatural cause.
Then the peasants, speaking from the bottom of their humble hearts, said that the root of all evil was hunger, poverty, and disease--desperate need. With no food in our bellies, they said, of course we're bound to steal and kill, and lie in order to survive. Their answer was also rejected, because the Council of Mechamagic pointed out there were others who were also hungry and poor, and yet did not do such things. Thus, this theory was disproven.
The sages, hoping for better luck through the sheer vastness of their collective knowledge, said that evil was based on ignorance and fear. If one did not know how to make one's way in the world, they said, then of course one would be tempted to use the most brutally efficient means possible in order to do so. It was ironic that their view of evil dovetailed with that of the peasants. However, whereas the peasants suggested that evil would be cured through making sure all had enough to eat, the sages proclaimed that the answer to evil was learning, and gaining knowledge. The more one knows, they said, the less one has to turn to methods deemed 'evil' in order to live. The Council dismissed this third answer, saying that plenty of intelligent people devised and carried out malevolent schemes. The sages fell silent.
In the end, it was the voice of a child, a sickly ten-year-old Gnomish boy, that convinced the Council and provided an answer to the whole conundrum! He said:
"Evil's in the heart. And the mind. If you think bad thoughts and are mean to others, then you'll do bad things, but if your thoughts are good and you're nice, then you're not going to steal, or kill, or do much of anything wrong."
The Council members gaped as if a bomb had been detonated in their midst. Of course! How could they have been so blind, so stupid? It was obvious!
Thus, the Mechamagicians set out to build a machine that would detect evil in the hearts of men, and Elves, and Dwarves and Gnomes. No creature would be spared its scrutiny, or its wrath. All would be tested, and if they failed...
YERY WISDOMGIVER WAS DEAD. Well, not completely dead. Not yet. Amidst the charred and burning wreckage of her home, a labyrinth of tunnels carved deep into a mountainside, the young Gnome lay mortally wounded.
"I...I'm sorry..." she rasped, her voice rising into the empty air, filled with ash. "I should...have seen. Didn't. My life's been wasted..."
She thought of her friends, her family--all those who had died because of that infernal machine. No clockwork in existence had ever done as much damage as it had. The irony was that it had been designed to protect and to guard! Now, here she lay, her limbs bleeding and broken, with sweat matting her copper-red hair. Yery closed her eyes, which were filling with tears. Nothing could be done now. Nothing could be done, because no one was alive. The scent of acrid smoke and blazing metal filled her tiny nose.
In her final moments, all she could think of to do was bow her head and pray:
"I'd give...my life...in for a second chance to reverse this wrong! Great Powers of the universe, come to my side and spare me...for a while longer. It's a fair trade--a carefully--calculated exchange!" She choked on a lungful of dust. "Please, let me live so I'll...fight...win..." The Gnome convulsed, stiffened, and then breathed her last.
"I feel only misery for myself when I / Look through the eyes of someone else."
~ 'The Obsessive Devotion', Epica
Memoria stalked slowly down the street, the collar of her leather jacket popped up against the faint but cold wind brushing against her face, gently ruffling her hair; she absently pushed it out of her eyes and tucked it behind her ear. She walked with her hands entrenched in the pockets of her jacket, pulling it tight across her stomach both to keep out the wind and to better conceal the glinting silver hilts strapped to her waist.
Her eyes surreptitiously scanned the near-total darkness all around her while her ears strained to detect even the slightest sound: a single body, most likely a bum or beggar, shifted listlessly in the alley just to her left; a small group of men were shouting and laughing outside a pub a street or two over; the gas lamps placed every dozen or so feet along the edge of the street hissed quietly. She meticulously catalogued each sound, then just as carefully dismissed them - they were all of them unimportant, distractions at best - and focussed on the one sound she knew was important. A pair of horses tugged at the reins of a large coach somewhere down the street from behind her, and she resisted the urge to spin around to watch it pass. Her fists clenched inside her jacket, but she stared resolutely forward.
As the carriage moved swiftly up beside her, she closed her eyes and focussed her senses. She latched onto the sounds of the horses; the steady rhythm of their hooves on the cobblestone street, their heavy breathing and snorts, the rumbling of the carriage pulled behind them. And steadily, ever so faintly, they began to slow. The high rumbling and crunching of the carriage's wheels deepened, the hoof-beats of the horses slowed, and their breathing seemed to stop altogether. When she opened her eyes, their normal steely grey had turned entirely black. Even the whites of her eyes had given way to blackness. She turned her gaze up to the carriage, reaching her right hand down towards her belt and clutching the hilt of her rapier.
The driver of the coach looked down at her in slow motion, a friendly smile creeping almost disturbingly slow across his narrow chin. His hair was a whispy sort of white beneath his hat, and his cheeks, nose, and ears were the rosy red of a man who'd been travelling through the chilly streets for a significant time. Hate burned in her chest, and she snarled. She lunged forward, grabbing hold of the side of the carriage and using it to propel herself onto it. The man's smile slipped from his face almost instantly, and time rapidly shifted back to normal.
"D--demon!" he stammered, releasing his horses' reins and sliding backwards along the seat in a panic. He reached into his jacket as the carriage leapt up onto the curb, the horses straining to bring it back to the road without their master's guidance now. He clumsily pulled a cross from beneath his clothing and held it before him, straining the thin metal chain on which it hung as he struggled to force it towards her.
She laughed mirthlessly, lashing out as the cross, clutching it briefly in her hand before tossing it carelessly to the ground. She heard a distinct crunching noise a moment later, and her smile widened at the look of terror spreading across the pale face before her.
"A beast like you has no business calling on the Almighty, Pimp," she hissed. She slid her rapiers from their sheaths, calling again on the power of her senses. The pimp's arms rose labouriously slow, lifting towards his face in a futile effort to protect himself from a power he didn't even understand.
She moved quickly, flipping her swords in her hand and sliding them effortlessly into the soft tissue of his neck. They crossed in his throat; she leapt backwards, allowing her momentum to pull her blades free. A spatter of blood followed her, but flew just as slowly as the body from which it had come fell, lying lifeless on the bench seat of its coach. The horses sensed something was wrong, and pulled to a sudden halt. The carriage itself, though, kept moving. It slid sideways, crashing back into the curb as Memoria landed weightlessly back on the walkway. Time returned to normal as she landed, and she spared only a fraction of a second to watch the cart tip over, landing on top of its dead rider and pulling the horses to their knees.
In the blink of an eye, she was gone, and to the small crowd of panicked onlookers assembling around the crashed carriage, hopelessly clambering over it to reach the driver and desperately trying to calm the terrified horses, it was as if she had never been there.
((NOTE: Please don't kill this unassuming fellow yet. He has a part to play...))
The Dwarf, aged and having been without a beard for nigh on fifty years, could only give a start and sprint toward the chaotic scene before him. It seemed that a carriage had just crashed and tipped over on its side. That much was obvious, but the cause of the accident was not. The carriage had not run into a post or a brick wall. Indeed, it had been traveling out in the open, seemingly minding its own business, when suddenly...A burgeoning crowd was beginning to swarm, like bees to a hive or flies to a corpse.
"Keep back! Keep back!" shouted half a dozen young men who were just now arriving. Police officers, from the look of their brandished pistols and dark navy uniforms. This is just what I need, thought the Dwarf. A multitude of meddling morons who are trying to shove me out of the way, and lawmen besides! If this is not the work of blind Fortune, then it's foul play. Murder. Exactly what my comrades and I set out to eliminate through...Agh! Why didn't I join them, wherever they are? Why did I tell them I'd watch and wait? They're all somewhere hidden, safe and warm, whereas I'm--I'm a fool!
Yes, indeed. He was a fool. Brom Gearturner, of the Clan of Broken Stone, had lost his only chance for salvation. He had informed his fellow Creators that he would serve as a sentinel, a watchman of the world on the ground. The fallen world, which was scheduled for its final reckoning any day now.
Unless I do something to save those who are truly good. Perfectly pure.
Would it be able to discern those who were, and who were not?
Of course. That's what we designed it to do. Her. The arachnid is a female. A mechanical queen spider impervious to damage, either magical or not. If my mental arithmetic is correct, she will reach this city in 24 hours' time. If I find even one person who's worth saving in this filthy place, then I'll take them with me. Somewhere where we can contact the rest of my brothers and sisters, and then we will join them where they are. If not--well, then I'll have to flee alone. Not even I can control her after what the five Engineers did.
A sudden shiver ran down Brom's spine. Maybe that's why they didn't try harder to convince me to leave the Tunnels! I was just the construction foreman! A pawn!
Abandoning his previous plan in the span of a heartbeat, Brom turned and fled. If he were quick, he would leave the city in enough time to escape.
"Men are not driven by altruism. Deep down, there are always agendas."
Robert walked into his old, dusty shop, looking at the various tools hanging on the walls and laying on the wooden tables. He had used the tools to make clocks and repair machines, and then he had been recruited to make the Clockwork, along with dwarves and gnomes. He hadn't realized what he was working on until it was too late, and had been wracked with guilt ever since.
Now, he wanted to try and stop the machine, though he admitted it was mostly for selfish reasons; he simply didn't want to live with the guilt of building an abomination the rest of his life. Looking around in his old shop, he took whatever he deemed useful - be it a wrench, screwdriver, hammer, whatever worked - and began fastening the things onto his belt. He the walked out into the gray, cloudy city street that his shop was located on. Robert was determined to track down the machine, or die trying.
It was a beautiful afternoon on the wastelands. As nice as a day on the desert can be. The setting sun could inspire poets, as would the tranquility of these lands. The only sounds heard was the blowing of winds. But as insipid as the wastelands were, that vast expanse of barren nothingness was bad news. Somewhere deep within it something had gone terribly wrong and many were killed. Clockworks spreading havoc sightings were reported.
And that was all Anita needed to hear from that caravan before resupplying and paying the terrified nomads. The cowards were in a definite hurry toward the county she had just left to, according to them, "find shelter from that mechanical demon". Anita would not flee from a mechanical abomination, though, specially if going to the site of the incident meant a rendezvous with the bastards that had taken all away from her. She had not let any of it go and, instead, cultivated those inner dark feelings, her mind was one-track now, she had no goals other than taking revenge. And those twisted desires fed her power; she would serve herself of the infinite sea of the dead to that single purpose.
Her only ties to this world was her aging but still gifted with insurmontable celerity white stallion.
"Easy," she said, gently patting the colorless horse's back with her hands. "Our revenge may come at last. I need your speed."
As if acknowledging it's owner words, the horse's body stiffened and readied itself for a run. Anita spurred the animal and took hold of the reins firmly. Rider and horse sprinted to the mountains.
"And so, in seeking to eradicate evil, we become the very thing we sought to destroy."
Good, the rumbling and the screaming have stopped. That timorous beastie must have forgotten about me. I warned them this would happen. I protested against allowing such slaughter. I told them that if that thing were let loose, we'd be just as bad as, if not worse than the people this thing is hunting. Time to get out, I guess. Anthony thought, examining the lock on his cell. That's it? They must be dumber than I thought. He then rolled up his left sleeve, reached into his clockwork arm, and pulled out his Shifting Key, another Clockwork device of his own invention. It was designed to fit in a standard lock, but its teeth could shift in order to match any cut of key. With a few turns, he managed to get the door open.
"Is anyone still alive in here?" He shouted, but not hearing any response, he immediately ran for the evidence locker, and retrieved his guns. Time to finish what I started. That automaton is going down. He said to himself, heading for the exit.
((THREADMASTER'S NOTE: This post is from the arachnid's point of view...))
Directive: Sense evil. Locate, then eradicate. Click. Whirr. Tick-tick.
I know why I have been designed. Must fulfill directive. Tick-tick.
YEESHA was a beautiful and monstrous thing. Built of copper plating many feet thick, fortified and coated with twenty-four-karat gold, the clockwork arachnid was a glorious sight to behold. She stood as tall as a high hill, if not a mountain, and the span of her eight legs sprawled exactly one thousand feet, combined. She had eight eyes around her head--lenses of massive proto-cameras--and almost-invisible wire-hair sensors all over her body. YEESHA had a head, thorax, and abdomen, as natural spiders did, and she was technically female. However, since she was mechanical and not organic, she could not lay eggs. This was her one flaw. In all other respects, she was perfect. Impregnable. That was the way that the Council of Mechamagicians had built her to be, and she would serve the purpose for which she was built.
As for her nervous system and "brain", they utilized aspects of technology and magick, with organic and synthetic parts. The core of her being was a glowing icosahedron of sentient essence, which was being carefully monitored--and, unbeknownst to the primitive YEESHA, enslaved--by the mechanical device, a metallic tape-loop, that housed and read off the parameters for being 'eradicated', feeding them into her barely-sentient proto-consciousness. She was an intelligent being, but not yet a reasoning one. Little by little, it caused YEESHA actual pain in her organic nerves to listen to these parameters over and over. However, this pain was so subtle, so slight, that it was absorbed by the metal plating. This would not always prove true.
Once more, the Young Evil Eradicator, Suppressor, and Hemisentient Arachnid sensed the parameters that she was being fed.
The parameters continued on and on, almost without YEESHA'S conscious knowledge, until:
Non-procreative carnal acts...evil.
Non-marital carnal acts...evil.
Hurting others' feelings...evil.
And, finally, the one parameter that had even broken Yery Wisdomgiver's will:
At the end of these parameters, there came the hoped-for results.:
THERE WILL BE NO MORE SUFFERING.
THERE WILL BE NO MORE WRONGDOING.
THERE WILL BE NO MORE CHAOS.
Click. Whirr. Tick-tick-tick. Directive. Must discern if parameters met.
Unbeknownst to her massive frame and tiny spider brain, YEESHA felt...pain.
A heavy sound of metal against metal filled the room as the door was unlocked, and a small, dim chink of pale gold light carved itself a path through the blackness of Memoria's apartment. Memoria herself stepped quickly over the threshold and pushed the door closed behind her, re-locking the door and sliding the deadbolt across before reaching into her jacket pocket for a box of matches. She marched across the room, deftly stepping around the short wooden table in her path towards the windowsill, on which rested a single candle silhouetted against the faint light coming through the window. She struck one of the matches on the side of the box and lit it before raising it to shoulder height and casting her gaze about the room.
The apartment's single room was sparsely furnished and had the air of a space that was abandoned most of the time. In the corner furthest from the door stood a small bed with a thin mattress and one raggedy blanket. Directly to the right of the bed's head was a small table, on which rested the second of the room's three candles. In the middle of the room was a small wooden table, bare apart from the room's third candle and a yellowed newspaper almost three months out of date. There was no other furniture in the room, and the walls were bare.
She ignited the two unlit candles, bathing the room in gently flickering light. She warmed her hands briefly around one of them before stripping off her leather jacket and tossing it across onto the bed. It was soon joined by her belt, to which her swords were still clipped. Then, without really thinking about it, she bent down next to the nightstand and reached under the bed, pawing at the ground in search of something.
A moment later she found it: a small box, starkly at odds with the simplicity of the rest of the room because of the delicately carved floral pattern across the lid and around the sides. She fingered the carvings gently, her eyes unfocussed and an all-too-familiar deadened sensation sinking into her chest. She felt tears well up in her eyes, and was amazed at how easily they still flowed after almost fifteen years.
She slid open the small metal latch and lifted the lid, slowly because of the cracked dowel in the hinge. Inside rest a number of assorted objects: two identical iron rings, the gold paint that once encased them chipped completely away but for a few flakes along the inside; a small bundle of thin waxy paper, through which she could see a strand of black hair mingled with another of blonde; and a single small reddish brown stone, incredibly smooth and with a lustre that made it look as if it were enamelled.
A knock at the door made her jump, nearly dropping the box. She managed to keep a hold on it, though; she snapped it closed and clutched it tight in her hand, throwing a cautious look towards the door. It was well after midnight - who had reason to call on her at this time of night?
She remained crouched on the floor, her hand reaching slowly across the bed towards her swords. "Who is it?" she called, her own voice sounding unnaturally loud in the cold still silence of the apartment.
The reply was a rough and gravelly male voice. "Benton," it growled.
Benton was the landlord. He lived in the large apartment on the ground floor, specifically and unabashedly so that everyone coming into and going out of the building would have to pass his front door, and therefore within earshot of either himself or his grumpy old bulldog, Gus.
Memoria rose from her crouching position next to the bed and moved towards the door. She slid open the deadbolt slowly and deliberately, then unlocked the door. She pulled it open a few inches, peering out through the crack with one eye.
"Good evening, Mr. Benton," she said.
"Don't you 'good evening' me, bitch," he grumbled scornfully. "Just what in the hell kind of time do you call this?" he asked, pushing against the door in an effort to force it open.
She put her foot firmly behind the door, which stopped with a dull thud. Her foot was bare, so it hurt; but she ignored the pain and stared at Benton evenly as she replied: "Well, sir, when the sun sets and the gas lamps come on, it's called night. I think they're still on, but I can check if you'd like."
He gave her an ugly look, half glare and half sneer, shaking with mock laughter. "Hahahahah-- **** you," he spat. "Where do you get off crashing into the building and banging about up here at this time of night?"
She rolled her eyes. She had gone to great pains to be as quiet as possible coming into the building, and her apartment was two floors above his. There was no way he'd heard her moving around, and it was unlikely he'd been disturbed when she came in. He was simply looking to pick a fight to satisfy his fragile ego.
She knew from experience that giving him such a fight only served to make him more belligerent, so she merely gave a false, sickeningly sweet smile and said: "I'm very sorry, Mr. Benton. I'll keep it down. It won't happen again."
He continued to glare at her for a moment, his shoulders sagging slightly. She saw his eyes flicker down to her hand, which still clutched the sealed box from under her bed. After a moment he puffed out his chest and grunted, meeting her eyes once more. "See that it doesn't," he said shortly.
With that, he turned on his heel and stalked down the hallway towards the stairs, muttering and cursing under his breath as he went.
Memoria snapped the door shut, then relocked and bolted it. She cast a mournful look around the depressingly spartan apartment, her eyes lingering on the occasional burn mark on the floor where previous tenants had tipped over candles; the narrow window was framed by a pair of thin, ragged curtains that had lost their colour many tenants ago. She felt the familiar wave of self-pity and -loathing that she always felt when she spent the night at "home", accompanied as always with a wave of anger.
Her knuckles grew white as she balled her hands into fists, the carved wooden box in her right hand making a faint cracking sound. But she didn't hear it. Her breathing came in ragged gasps, and her eyes burned with tears of shame and misery. She lashed out in frustration, throwing the ornately carved box across the room with a cry of anguish.
Her cry echoed inside her head, stretching into several second that should have been silent. The box arched gracefully across the room as if through water rather than air. She rushed across the room, her hand outstretched, panic rising in her chest.
By the time it had reached the other end of the window, she was there; she felt the corner of it dig into her palm, where it drew a small line of blood as it slid from her grasp. She scrambled for a moment, her concentration slipping and her surroundings snapping back to reality. She clutched the box to her chest, closing her eyes and letting the tears pour steadily down her face.
((The Doctor, I am always amazed by how well you write...))
Deep inside the realm's grandest mountain, vast and endless tunnels stretched. Once, they had been filled with bustling activity--Gnomes, Dwarves, and even a few carefully-selected citizens of other races going to and fro, scheming and building. Building a machine that would eclipse all others, one that would serve to save the world. Building YEESHA. Now, all were dead, including one young apprentice Eidetic. Their corpses, strewn about their subterranean city, gathered no mourners. They did not even gather flies--they had not reached that far. No insect could. The tunnels were dark, painted with abstract blood-art. YEESHA had devoured every single one of them, as a spider devours each fly that comes to its web.
Two strange things could be noted about each of the dead, save for one. The corpses had all been drained of blood, except for the droplets which spattered the city's walls. For one, most of them were coated in a thick, viscous substance, almost exactly like organic saliva except for potent anesthetic properties. The Designers, those who had set and programmed YEESHA's final parameters, had lobbied against this "unnecessary" addition to their mechanical creation, but in the end common sense (and mercy) had prevailed. Secondly, each of the bodies--except for one--had been pierced in two places: the heart, and the place in the spine which would lead through the ribcage toward the heart.
In short, YEESHA had pierced each victim and fed upon the very lifeblood which sustained him or her. She may have been mechanical, but she ran upon purely organic fuel. More specifically, the fuel of anyone who had ever done an evil thing in their entire lives. That was how the Designers had programmed her. It was their intention, this massacre. It was what they had waited and hoped for. After all, had not the ancient gods of myth tried to destroy this wicked world with floods and fires, earthquakes and electrical storms? Why should they not have had their turn, the ten people who knew how the world should work, and what had caused it to malfunction so dramatically?
Only one corpse did not fit this grisly pattern. It was Yery Wisdomgiver's.
YEESHA had reached her.
YEESHA had scrutinized and judged her, knowing her every deed at a glance.
YEESHA had found her guilty, as she had all of the others she'd eradicated. However, the young Gnome had said something to her, and it was this something which the mechanical tape-loop, and the endless reading of its parameters, was designed to block out. The Designers had foreseen this.
What was it? How, in all possibility, could Yery Wisdomgiver remember now?
She was dead, frightened out of her wits by pure and simple shock. As she'd waited for YEESHA to coat her with anesthetic saliva and drain her body, the mechanical spider had meditated upon her words. Then she had moved on.
Alas! It was too late now. YEESHA had escaped, and was roaming free.
Wolfgang Doppelganger rather enjoyed the dark mist that shrouded the even danker streets of the town. For someone who understood that logic was merely a poor statement for the status quo, Wolfgang rather liked the theatrical.
His black leather coat flowed through the mist as he strolled merrily down his way, casually pushing bystanders to the side using a small cane that rested on his shoulder. Had the poor pedestrians been able to see under Wolfgang's stylized mask, they would've seen a bright, toothy, grin that emanated with a happiness that....really didn't have a reason for being there.
Nonetheless, it was there, and Wolfgang Doppelganger liked it.
Suddenly, two men grabbed Wolfgang by both arms, pulling him backward onto the cobbled road. He immediately observed them to be members of the local police force, clad in black coats and pompously tall helmets that bore the symbol of their branch.
The first one, a tall man with a bushy black mustache, spoke in a booming, accented, voice,
"Hey, you there! You've gowt a fayce...err..mask....that seems oddly recognizeable."
The second, a much shorter, more portly man, followed quickly behind.
"Yes, indeed, I recall your mask as well! Have you done your country evil, eh?"
The officers laughed as they hauled him, in an unruly matter, to his feet. Wolfgang's smile grew, he was disappointed they couldn't see his face.
"As a matter of fact, this isn't really my country...but I've certainly done a few misdeeds here and there....not my fault...but....."
The tall one with the mustache scowled, "Aw shutup....we're gonna check you anyways."
He pulled out a pair of cuffs and clamped them on Wolfgang as the other began searching for weapons. The short officer pulled a flask from the madman's belt, which caught Wolfgang's attention.
"Uh huh....what 'ave we got here....a drinker, eh?"
Wolfgang's eyes widened and his voice went high in pitch.
"NO NO...no...NO...no....No, this is not so! That's hardly what you think it is! It is...."
"Makes little matter to me, got one meself..."
To Wolfgang's terror, though, he'd said it too late. The portly officer tossed it, cap opened, towards the adjacent (hopefully empty) flat.
"Oh dear...." Was all Wolfgang managed to say as the liquid made deadly contact with the building, exploding instantly.
It looked like ruins long forgotten. The cave threshold was mostly intact but that was it; the tunnel net inside looked magnificent enough to have been a capital of an empire of eons past. Much of the artificial brick walls were torn, as well as entire sections, which were brought down by an unknown force. Gory bodies adorned the visceral setting.
It was more than she could ask for.
Anita approached one of the several lifeless bodies on the corridor she was in, crouching next to it. The causa mortis of that human male was not apparent on first sight: besides the mildly bloodstained garments on the abdominal region, there was no other detectable abnormalities that could have helped that man meet his maker. Closer inspection thickened the plot further as Anita unbuttoned his shirt and verified there was no injury on that region or anywhere close, nothing that could justify that amount of blood, tiny as it was or otherwise. His skin was very dry but that was not uncommon on dead bodies.
Of course a Necromancer could just resurrect a dead person and ask him what had killed him in the first place. But knowledge was every sorcerer’s power, especially to those that dedicated themselves to the dark arts. Knowing as much as one can about the dead one is about to perform a resurrection spell on gives a huge edge to the Necromancer in question. This way the sorcerer can more easily control his new pet, instead of having to deal with a box of surprises. Reborn people are unpredictable; some may wake up mad and with a violent and/or irrational behavior; others are brought to life again amnesic, from short term memory loss to not knowing who they are or how to do the most basic chores, like breathing (the incidence of second deaths moments after a resurrection is mostly by choking and asphyxia); most, though, make their comebacks the same way they were in life, in the point their life was taken from them, by illness or arms – never by age, something that requires an entirely different ritual, more Necromancers and possibly sacrifices.
But it was another kind of Reborn (plainly, as resurrected people are called by Necromancers) Anita was interested in, the husk, in which the Reborn was nothing else than an empty shell of limited intelligence, ready to do whoever was responsible for granting him life again bidding. In that case, asking the Reborn anything would be fruitless as he would not respond, incapable of complying with an order that required a free brain. Furthermore, if she wished a husk, she’d need much power and more than average knowledge of her target. Since she did not know this man in life, all that was left to her was knowing him in death.
Resuming her scrutiny of the dead man’s body, she finished her analyzed with not much to proceed with and decided to carry on with something that should be obvious: she removed his shirt completely and turned him on his belly so she could have a clear sight of his back. She was spot on. There was a rather small hole craved on the man spine, covered with a sticky, colorless substance. It sure wasn’t big, but it went deep enough to do some damage. It looked as if someone had dug that with a giant straw and sucked the man dry of his fluids. That seemed plausible as an explanation; the few blood droplets on his clothing were leftovers from a job done in a hurry but with clockwork precision. She had enough to start the summoning spell with little chance of failure now.
She turned the man on his back again and leaned further, kissing his cold lips softly. The dead man woke up from his slumber.
((Are you resurrecting Yery? If so, Yery is a female gnome. If not, then carry on!))
Robert inspected the large tunnel made by the clockwork. It had probably been made recently, as, though there were corpses everywhere he looked, the smell of decomposing bodies was not particularly strong. Upon closer inspection, Robert realized with horror that the bodies had been drained of blood, leaving behind little more than shriveled shells. As Robert scanned the passage, he noticed a dark haired woman who appeared...angry? Robert couldn't tell for sure, but he did realize that the woman was reviving or attempting to revive someone. Just in case this woman was a hostile, Robert took out a large wrench he had acquired while working on the clockwork machine, to use a club, and walked over to her.
"Hey, you," he said, in a light British accent. "Who are you? And what are you doing here?"
It was a most unusual way of resurrecting someone, for sure. The process of waking someone from death was shrouded in mystery for the uninitiated, but truth was virtually no ritual was necessary – save in some very special cases. All you needed was deep knowledge of the target and that of the art of Necromancy. The rest was taught in grimoires, by the damned old sages at academies and by one owns experience. Had those conditions been fulfilled, all that was needed was a single significant gesture and life flown back at the dead. That was Anita’s way.
The man sat on the floor, underpinned by his arms, panting heavily. He still had a cadaveric paleness and his eyes were almost popping out. Anita had little doubt he would be sweating bullets if he had any liquids left on his body. He tried to talk but no voice would come, instead, he was whooping a dry cough. That condition wouldn’t do. She took a small, plugged vial with a sky blue liquid inside that was tied up to her belt and took off the plug. She then offered it to the Reborn man who drank it instinctively in a whiz. He dropped the empty vial as he took his hands to his mouth. All of a sudden, he was sweating and color came back to his skin and lips. He took a few moments to recollect himself before asking that inevitable question:
“What happened?” he asked, with an obtrusive look on his face as he skimmed through Anita’s face.
“You were dead until a few moments ago,” she answered plainly, “If you’re back to the realm of the living it’s thanks to me.”
The man knew she was speaking the truth. He remembered his last moments before that… thing they were keeping down there came in a flash and killed everything that attempted to fight back and everybody that tried to save themselves from the carnage. He was part of the last group and had no shame on admitting it. He was merely a gate guard, paid to watch the entrance to the facility, check credentials, keep tabs on who came in and out and, most importantly, fend intruders from the outside. If something like that came from inside the mountain then it was outside his jurisdiction – and paycheck.
“Then indeed, thank you,” he said to her, trying to get on his feet.
But before anything else could be said, another male voice was heard. A young man holding a wrench on both hands stood menacingly down the hallway leading deeper into the cave. But despite that, Anita didn’t see the need to draw her holstered short sword just yet. He wanted a name and a purpose.
“That is Anita Baudelaire, plunderer,” she told him with her severe expression unchanged, “My businesses here in none of yours’, but I assure you they’re different from whatever you have on your agenda. Loot away, I won’t interfere… provided you care to answer a single question.”
After hearing other movement, Anthony decided to hide, suspecting Yeesha might have returned. When he heard human voices, he stepped out from the shadows. "I might be able to help with that." He told the woman who had introduced herself as Anita. "You don't seem like a mere looter, so I get the feeling you know something about this place, and the monstrosity it unleashed. I doubt he's here simply to loot either. This is a place of great evil, which is ironic when you consider its purpose. Before you ask, Anita, Beaudelaire, my name is Anthony Peterson. I worked here, or at least I did before my conscience and my inquisitive mind got the better of me."
When Anita laid her eyes on Anthony's arm, she shivered noticeably for an instant. It was clockwork. She instinctively reached for her sword but managed to hold the urge, not without some mental effort.
“If you’re looters or not is of little consequence to me, Peterson,” Anita told Anthony in a purposely unmannered fashion, “Same goes for this graveyard or this monstrosity you spoke of. Still…” she stepped back, standing beside the Reborn man and distant enough to see both men’s faces, “My question was: who is responsible for this? A man? Many men? If so, I’m looking for the murderers.”
Before Robert could respond to Anita, another man appeared and introduced himself as Anthony. Anita then wondered out loud what could have possibly caused so much destruction.
"I believe I can answer that. A clockwork machine - called Yeesha - was created underground, and it's purpose in life was to purge the world of all evil. However, a couple of....glitches in the system led it to believe everything and everyone is evil," Robert explained, lowering his wrench to show that he meant no harm. He then realized he hadn't introduced himself.
"By the way, my name is Robert O'Leary. In case you're wondering why I'm here, I'm after that mechanical abomination, as I played a part in creating it. I would not be able to live with myself if I just let it run wild."
((Time for another post as YEESHA...or, rather, the ones watching her...))
THE ZEPPELIN FLEW HIGH above the Earth, almost unnoticeable at such an altitude, but those with a discerning eye or binoculars could spot the oblong shape that was trying to blend in with the birds. This was the magnificent Revelator, and it was surveying the landscape that would soon be saved. Saved from war, mayhem, violence, and, most of all, itself.
There were ten ABOARD the flying ship--five Gnomes, two Dwarves, two Humans, and one magically-inclined Elf. They were the Designers, who created and supervised the building of YEESHA, and the ones who had implemented her third and final set of parameters. It was they who controlled the message that was being fed into the arachnid's consciousness, and as long as she survived, she could not help but hear and obey it. The Designers were proud. All but one, and it was this one the other Nine were glaring at. He was--or had been--the Mechanical Loop Engineer.
Right now, he was gazing out of the viewing portal and shaking his head.
"How is YEESHA?" asked the Elf, gazing pointedly at her colleague.
"She's fine," the Gnome responded, "although she appears a bit lost."
"She should," chimed in one of the Dwarves. "She's never been outside the confines of Mechopolis, and in all these wide open spaces, of course YEESHA would feel a bit disoriented." Out of all the Designers, that Dwarf was the only one who called the mechanized arachnid by her "name". The others merely referred to the arachnid as "the tool", "the project", "the machine" and such like. It helped to assuage their part in her creation as well as their massive, collective guilt (that is, if any of them save the Gnome felt any guilt).
"What's with you, Aldebaran?" asked the Elf. "Why so pensive today?"
"Did she really have to kill so many?" he asked. "The whole of Mechopolis?"
"It was our only choice," the Elf responded. "We wanted to rid the world of all evil, and so that was why we had to be so strict when we activated the third set of parameters for YEESHA. Fortunately for us, we did not 'activate' her fully until we were safely in the confines of this zeppelin."
Aldebaran swiveled his head around to face the Elf. "Doesn't that make us evil as well?" he said. "We escaped the carnage, and YEESHA's wrath, and left others to die. Who are we to judge, when we are the ultimate murderers?"
The Elf smiled slowly. "We will spend the rest of eternity atoning for our sins, and overseeing the creation of brand-new life. Life without evil, my friend."
Aldebaran raised an eyebrow. "And how are we going to do that, my dear?"
"That's for a later date, Engineer. One that you won't live to see."
With a curling motion of her hands, the Elf squeezed the life out of the Gnome and carried him to the Boiler Room to be incinerated. Now there were Nine...
“Then perhaps now you know that such thing as a clockwork is not to be trusted. Ever,” said Anita to both men after Robert finished his explanation. She glanced at Anthony’s mechanical arm one more time. “It’s your mess to clean and I have my objectives. However, I feel that there may be a good chance that I find my target faster if I find this scourge. If you’re looking to stop it I’d get along.
“One thing I’ve learned that the fastest way of killing something is to learn more about it. Do any of you know something that might be of help on the quest?”
At this moment, the man who had just been resurrected let out a hem. “Eh, there was a bunch of gnomes working closely on the project downstairs. They might know a thing or two.”
Anita didn’t hold the gnome race in a very high esteem. To her, they were abominations. Creatures with true and natural affinity with magic that had forfeit their magical talents in detriment to working with clockworks. She wasn’t exactly disgusted but the thought of enlisting their help didn’t amuse her. At least it would be fun to watch them destroying their own work.
“How deep should we go?” she asked, turning to Anthony and Robert, “To find these gnomes, I mean.”
"Anything?" Gavin Mitchell asked curiously. He'd shooed the usual bystanders away to give his companion a little extra seclusion, in the hopes it might help her concentrate. With a grimace, Marisa Tyler stood, ran a hand through her bright red hair and shook her head.
"That's the fifth try, Gavin," she said softly. "I still haven't seen any of the pieces we've identified as trademarks of a Tempus hit. It wasn't Tempus."
But Gavin was sure it was. "Try again," he ordered.
With a resigned sigh, Marisa crouched beside the dislodged sewer grate, took a deep breath, and brushed her fingers against its cold metal bars.
"... getting out! We... it's too... not ready!"
"Something's escaped," she murmured. "Something that shouldn't."
Scattered images came to her mind. A massive metal leg crashed down, followed eventually by seven more. One of them overturned the grate, sent it flying a great distance.
Marisa's eyes shot open. "This grate is further displaced than we thought, Gavin." She rose to her feet and bolted, slipping her right hand back into its glove. "Come on!"
Gavin followed her to the edge of the little town, right up against the mountain, and he almost ran into her as she came to an abrupt halt. Looking ahead, he saw why; a gaping hole had been ripped in the side of the mountain. Slowly, cautiously, Marisa moved forward to the edge of the hole and she bit her lip.
"What could cause such destruction?" she asked softly.
"Nothing I want to meet," Gavin answered sharply. "Let's go."
But a patch of bright red had caught Marisa's attention and she stepped over the threshold, into the descending tunnel. She fell to her knees beside the patch of red and realized it was hair, attached to the head of a young gnome. Pale, Marisa touched her fingers to the gnome's neck.
"Gavin!" she said sharply. "She's still alive. Get the healer!"
Gavin shook his head and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Marisa, if she's that far gone, I couldn't get the healer back here in time. Let her go."
Marisa shook off his hand. "No!" she argued stubbornly. "If anyone saw what happened here, it'd be her."
"Unless some massive creature that lives underground came out for a snack and dropped her on its way back," Gavin suggested darkly. "Mar, we've got to go."
((There, Ctrl Alt Del. Now, you might have the random guy you resurrected before suggest they head back toward the mouth of the tunnel. Maybe he saw several gnomes fleeing ahead of him right before he died?))
YERY WISDOMGIVER AWAKENED at long last. Truth be told, if she were left cold for a few more minutes, she would have been beyond all hope, but her primitive brain sensed warmth and help nearby. Either that, or those who had saved her knew the ways of Resurrection, a type of ultimate healing magic, or Resuscitation--a darker, eerier form of raising people from the realm of the nearly-departed via technological means. It wasn't Necromancy by any stretch of the imagination, but it was close. The Gnome gave a start, her blue eyes flying open wildly.
"YEESHA?!" she cried. "Where are you? I--oh, no. No. No..."
Out of the corner of her eye, she could see nothing but destruction. Corpses. Red stains spattering the walls of her fair city, Mechopolis. Total devastation.
She gave a few short breaths, almost hyperventilating. "No, no, no..."
((I officially declare this one dead, since all my roleplays are pretty slow now and this one is...turning out way weirder than I thought it was going to. Thanks for trying, everyone!))
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