The Flame of Time
The Six led the children out of the morgue and walked down a five hundred foot tunnel from the bottom of the East Wing of Brighton Asylum through the great hill on which the Sanitorium sat. One side bore hewn steps to allow the asylum workers to enter and exit the hospital unseen. It was used to transport the dead, recently this consisted mainly the bodies of the poor souls who suffered Dr. Miklos’ failed experiments. The other side had a set of rails and a cart powered by a motorized cable system so that supplies could easily be transported to the top. They left the tunnel and stepped out into the rain, they breathed in the fresh air for the first time in a month. They came upon two odd vehicles. They looked like regular stage coaches save for the fact that instead of horses, there were two metallic arm-like appendages with sharp claws. Darella sat in the driver’s seat and messed around and roguishly managed to start the contraption’s engine. Oren, Leomourn’s silent friend sat in the other and started it up. The children boarded and they pulled away. The claws dug into the earth skillfully, pulling the cart forward and made for a surprisingly smooth ride even on rocky terrain and worn roads. Brighton Asylum burned in the night sky on top of the hill, they watched the West Wing crumble as they rode off.
They rode through the night and after a long while of silence they started to get to know each other. They all realized how tired and hungry they were. Suddenly they all heard the sound of tree trunks breaking and the growling of a large beast along with the screaming of a teen-aged boy. This all sounded like it happened right off the road, and some thought they could actually see a monstrous silhouette through the trees. Clara had a confused look on her face, but no one saw this.
They ordered the children to stay in the stagecoach, Clara was on watch and Typhus was told to stand guard outside. The five Keyholders walked into the forest. Many trees were felled giant lash marks accented the land around including the trees still standing. There was no beast, only two teenaged boys laying among the wreakage. Their bodies suffered the same long gashes that the trees did, one boy’s body was so ruined that it was hard to look at.
“Where is it? There are no tracks only the claw marks.” Leomourn said looking around the perimeter.
“Where did the beast go, son?” Delgen said as he knelt beside the boy still breathing. There was not a sound, but a cough of blood from the boy’s mouth.
“Let’s just get him out of here, we have no time for any more trouble.” Darella said. They cautiously returned to the stagecoach after Delgen said a short blessing over the pieces of the other boy’s body.
They got on the vehicle and continued into the night. Oren looked over the boy and started to heal his many wounds, but he stated that the wounds were many and sever and that it would require focus and time.
As the the wounds started to heal and his bones began to mend the boy started to whimper and breathe heavily.
“Easy.” Delgen soothingly said.
“Help! Help me! It’s coming again! I am so afraid, it’s coming for me again!” The boy screamed and reacted violently, he was surprisingly strong for an adolescent of his size. It took Oren, Leomourn, Delgen and Typhus’ combined strength to hold the kid down.
“Calm down, we’ve got you now you’re safe. There is no beast, we’re far away now and we will protect you.” Delgen said to the boy.
“You don’t understand, I can hear it. It’s coming and you are not safe either.
“Calm down and explain to me what happened.” Delgen urged.
“Tolm and I got this new tincture off the streets of Athanor. We came out into the woods to try it, it was amazing; but then this…monster came. It is so evil and…it makes you feel sad, scared, depressed and just…bad. It’s terrible.” The boy said, when talking of the drug he relaxed only a little and his pupils dialated.
“What is this drug called, and from whom did you get it?” Delgen asked.
“It was called ‘The Beast.’ I got it in the Fire District.” The boy said this and then his face froze as if he heard something. He resisted their hold and this time with explosive force. He grappled out of their grabs and kicked the door of the stagecoach off, it flew off into the trees fleeding by. Oren reached out and grabbed the boy’s tunic and held fastly.
The boy was hanging off the side of the moving contraption pushing away from the tenacious grasp, Oren did not breathe heavily or seem to be struggling, his face was as stoic as ever.
“Let me go! It’s coming back for me! Ah, It’s right there!” The boy looked back behind them and forgot to resist. He was hanging with his feet planted on the inside of the vehicle his arms went instinctively over his face, he was held from falling from the moving thing only by the grasp of Oren.
The boy started screaming as cuts started to appear all over his body. Flesh and cloth rained from the moving carriage. The boy’s screams echoed in their ears. But to the eyes of those in the vehicle, there was no beast. The boy’s body was tearing apart in front of them but in the thin night air.
“What do we do?” Leomourn screamed to Delgen. Before the cleric could utter a word the screaming stopped, and what Oren held in his hands was a gruesome sight.
“Don’t let the girls see this. Braxton, pull off to the side of the road.” Delgen said, and the pulled off the trail.
Clara was in the carriage ahead and had watched the whole thing, but remained silent.
They rode the short distance to Athanor. Their sombre mood muted the din of excitement and of roucous merriment. They went to the gates and agreed to the coin and blood tax of entrance with no resistance, barely a word was uttered. Delgen handed out two handfuls of gold to the children and told them to go get some food and to have fun in the carnival that they noticed as they passed through the gates into Athanor.
“What’s all the bustle about?” Delgen asked Typhus.
“Oh, must be time for the carnival, has it been that long?” Typhus said.
“Carnival?” Leomourn butted in.
“Every year there is a twelve day carnival where all alchemy is allowed on the streets, no Chymist’s license needed.” Typhus said, as he looked into the crowd, hungrily.
“Run along then. You’ve had a long day.” Delgen said handing the boy some coin.
“Mr. Shardhammer.” A voice to the dwarf’s side spoke.
“Aye.” Delgen said looking askance.
“Dr. Krown would like to see you all as soon as possible.” Myles said.
“One pint first.” Delgen said, Leomourn nodded.
“Alexei is asleep and well thanks to you all.” Dr. Krown said behind his desk. He ordered drinks for his guests.
“I don’t really remember why or how we got into Brighton, let alone why we needed to save Alexei.” Leomourn said, sipping on his drink.
“Alexei is very special. In the last few hundred years weird things have been happening. The population started to change. Mutations started to occur, people could do things; and until recently we didn’t know what caused them. Alexei has the ability to bestow an attained mutation from an individual who is mutated to a non-mutated indivdual. This ability is a great find for both science and your cause.” Dr. Krown said.
“Our cause?” Darella spoke.
“Yes. When we first met you told me you were from a different world. At first I did not believe you, but knowing the things I’ve seen I did not doubt you. I trusted your word and wanted to help you. I have a theory that being from another dimension, you are of a different vibration or wavelength if you will. You are all out of synchronization and need to remind the universe and yourself who you are. As you mold yourself and change the energy you are sending out to the universe, she as well as you, will remember who you are and you will attain all your old abilities; and hopefully save lives on both your side and this.” Dr. Krown said.
“Alexei can help us get all our old powers back?” Leomourn asked Amarella.
“First you must find ways to remind the universe who you are. Before you left for the Asylum, I evaluated you all; that along with my short discussion with Clara has lead me to believe I have found certain Attenuators that will aid you in the advent of yourselves.” Dr. Krown said.
“So…we find these things and we can gain our old powers back?” Leomourn asked. Darella glared at him, he shrugged.
“Hey. Looking for the next level?” A voice asked.
“Excuse me?” Leomourn asked the hooded figure.
“The stuff I have will.” The voice said.
“What?” Leomourn said, looking around; he was alone in an alley.
“Do you want drugs?” The voice said, annoyed.
“Oh, like Nish?” Leomourn asked.
“Sannish? The stuff I have will take you farther than that wolf’s-milk poison ever will.” The voice said assuredly.
“Sure I’ll take some, what is it called?” Leomourn said.
“‘The Beast’” The hooded figure said.
“Cool, how much?” Leomourn asked.
“Oh, the first time is always free.” The hooded figures said with the sound of a smirk on his voice.
“Okay…thank you.” Leomourn said. The figure pulled a vial from his cloak and handed to the archer, in doing so his grip on another vial was lost and it slipped. Leomourn caught his drug and the other figure grasped clumsily at his other. The grip was too strong and the glass broke. Silver liquid fell from the man’s fist and he looked up to Leomourn, muttered something and ran off into the shadows.
“So I found my ‘attenuator.’ Where are my powers?” Leomourn asked.
“You haven’t taken the drug yet.” Darella said pointing to the liquid in the vial.
“Oh, I have to take it?” Leomourn asked, and drank the libation.
“Ah…very well.” Delgen said.
“How do you feel?” Amarella asked.
“Do you feel wolfy?” Delgen asked.
“I…feel…great!” Leomourn said.
“Really?” Amarella asked.
“I can feel and smell and hear everything so much more. I feel energized and invincible. It feels like time is slowed. I can see every hair on your body, I can move faster than you can perceive.” Leomourn said, as he moved in mock slow motion.
“‘The Beast,’ huh?” Darella asked.
“The rest of our attenuators are found in the same location, according to Dr. Krown.” Darella said, her finger pressed hard on one point on the map, called: Starforge Temple.
“Starforge Temple!” Leomourn screamed to the blind monk, who greeted them off the trail.
“He’s blind, not deaf.” Amarella said.
“Moradin be with you; brothers, kindly point me in the way of the Starforge Temple.” Delgen said to the first pilgrim on the road before a monastery.
The monk began a narrative of how the first dwarves surfaced from the ground and were struck blind by the sight of the open sky. He described, in great detail, how he was ceremoniously blinded in honour of this origin story. He mentioned also that he and his fellow monk-brothers were supposed to make the capstones for The Great Road, and that the lack of ore coming down from the Starforge mine has halted the production. Thusly resulting in the delayed completion of The Great Road.
“So…Starforge temple is…?” Leomourn asked.
“That way.” The monk said defeated.
The Six walked to the end of the path which led to the point where an aqueduct and a river intersected, a small group of the Asylum kids followed in anticipation. There were mechanical gondolas build into the aqueducts. They all cautiously sat and watched as they rode the slow way up the valley of the morning mountain range. They readied their blades and plucked their bows.
The gondola stopped and they got off. The stone path lead them deep into the mountain, at times the tunnel became a stone bridge over large caverns. They came to the end of the path where there was two choices, left and right.
When they looked to the right they saw the doors of a large chamber being closed. They charged the door and were able to gain entry.
The chamber was a large nave with four sections of pews there were stone pillars decorating the hall and most impressively in the center of the chamber in front of the raised altar there was a large forge. It’s fires raged so fiercely and bright that it left after-images on the eye after a prolonged glance. Standing above the forge, near the Altar was a deranged looking dwarf with an odd fire in his eye. He was hammering away at something, the altar being a large anvil. Sparks rained down from the altar as the Dwarf was screaming something and laughing.
“I’m assuming this guy is the cause of…whatever that other dwarf was complaining about.” Leomourn said looking at Delgen.
“This is a holy place. This is one of the most beautiful, simple temples to the All-Father that I have ever seen. That forge is very impressive. It really angers me that it is being tainted by that dwarf.” Just then four metallic bipedal contraptions approached them and launched an assault of short blasts of green electricity.
“Whoa! These little things are dangerous!” Leomourn screamed getting singed by a near miss. In their dealing with their new foes, they were unawares of the two large statues that walked out of the shadows in the back of the apse. The stone dwarf statues walked to the end of the dais and jumped down with a crash, the front row of pews were reduced to tindertwigs and splinters.
Green light shone from the statue’s eyes and there were weird contraptions on their backs, four round metallic things with knobs and wires that connected the statues’ backs. Four long glass tubes projected from these metal emplacements, green energy arced from these tubes.
“Those columns have the same energy!” Darella screamed, pointing at the four pillars on around the altar, sheathed in crackling green energy. There were green glowing runes around the base and tops of these Doric columns.
“If we destroy the pillars those things will power down.” Leomourn screamed. They all flooded the room and dodged the stunning bipedal robots and focused their attacks on the pillars arching with power.
“Finally, my greatest creation.” The corrupt cleric called out from the altar, there was a sort of pilot light on his armour below his chin, as he spoke his breath caught fire. He stepped back and looked on work. A figure sat up on the altar and hopped off. It was a dwarf-sized figure seemingly made out of stone. Bat-like stone wings erupted from his back, and horns from his head.
The creature jumped on top of the altar and perched on the top of the forge. It was the grotesque scene of a gargoyle in the flame of the forge. It jumped down in the foray and entered mêlée with Amarella.
“There are weird glowing runes all over his body.” Amarella noted to Delgen as the we pushed to each other’s back.
“Sorry, brother.” The creature said as he swing his marble claws at the warriors. Before Delgen could raise a hand Leomourn had shot the creature’s leg and disrupted the runes. It’s left foot took the form of flesh. Amarella fought hard and pushed the gargoyle back and she kicked it square in the chest, pushing it into the forge. It fell back into the fires and had a look of peace carved on it’s face.
The corrupted cleric stepped into the light and for the first time they noticed that he was sitting in some sort of mechanized leg contraption that sparked as it advanced. Zorril ran up the altar and dove off selflessly but not before loosing a putrid cloud of stench. The dwarven cleric screamed in the direction of the skunk-boy, his fiery breath ignited the miasma that Zorril expelled.
Leomourn ran past the cleric in the mechanical legs and shot it in the joints sparks flew and the thing felll down as a leg was detached at the hip. The cleric fell to the ground and out of the vehicle. The six warriors and the kids jumped down the length of the altar and slid down the marble floor into the shadows, right as the stone ceiling fell in a loud cacophony. The temple crumpled in when the third pillar was taken out by gunfire.
The walked down a fire-lit hall that showcased many dwarvenmade masterpieces hanging from the walls.
“These are fine works.” Delgen said admiring the weapons. Leomourn was grabbing the weapons from the wall as they continued deeper.