Magic and Machines Part Two
Last time of Magic and Machines:
Knights Ethel Argi and Ash Prohito were sent to take back a magic stone from the fire wizard Balaz Fai before he could use it for dark deeds. The mission does not go as planned though. The thief hired to steal the stone stands in their way and worse a dragon showed up, swallowed the stone whole and flew away. Ethel and Ash arrested Balaz and the thief, Hel Chiboza, in the aftermath and now wait for the king's judgement.
The mage and thief were taken to the royal castle, an odd place. Most of the walls were still exposed stone bricks; the floor was a single red carpet on a patchwork of wooden floorboards. It was the invading technology that made it odd. Badly installed wires stretched down the side of hallways, ducking under carpets, connecting one room to another. All together it made for the very first computer network in the world. It was the King's pride and joy. Even if the large metal blocks with screens looked so very out of place.
The King, King Taiken Brandon, wished he could smile at the capture of the kingdom's most notorious spell caster and most wanted thief but alas, they had lost a powerful magical artefact and Hel’s cheerful smile stole any feeling of satisfaction he could have had at their capture.
They stood in his throne room, brought to face him for judgement. He shook his head, arising from the golden and red throne that sat before a large buzzing metal box, the wires fanning out from the pedestal like the start of a spider web.
“Sir Argi.” He addressed his knight.
“Your majesty,” Ethel responded, bowing her head.
“Take them to the dungeons, they will be executed as an example to thieves and spell casters of their place in this world.” He ordered.
Ash took Hel by the arm and started leading her away. Hel gave her no trouble. Balaz was not as patient though. Ethel took his arm but he struggled, looking the king in the eye and pleading with him.
“King Taiken, before you do that I need to speak with you on the power of your family’s stone. I did not steal it for my own gain, if left unchecked it could put the very world in danger.”
Ash stopped at the door, curious. Hel blinked her large eyes confused by the stop as the taller knight looked back into the room. Why was he still pushing that story...?
“That is an interesting way to try save yourself.” The King brushed it off.
“If you give me a chance to explain.” The mage continued to argue, “I can even provide you with evidence from your own records.”
“We’ve been looking through our records thoroughly, Mage. There is nothing you could tell me that I haven’t already read.” The King rolled his eyes.
“Yes there is,” Balaz spat right back at the king, “You can not even access some of your records after banning magic can you?!”
The king faltered.
“I can unseal the documents and give you all evidence you will need,” Balaz added calmly seeing his victory.
The room fell silent, except for a sniker from Hel who was very entertained.
The king was silent for a while as he weigh his options. It was indeed true that some of the royal records had been sealed away with magic. Annoyingly, they were usually the ones that pertained to magic and it's creatures, information the kingdom was in dire need for right now. He gritted his teeth reluctant to have to rely on magic, reluctant to give Balaz a chance to prove himself true. He was still pretty sure this was some attempt to keep his head on his shoulders but whether it was or not, getting those seals removed was something he couldn't ignore. His kingdom needed them, badly.
“That look on your face is great.” Hel giggled and Taiken turned all his frustrations on her.
“Prohito! Throw that lowly thief in a cell!" He barked out all his frustrations at her with a not, Ash took Hel away,
“Don’t miss me too much!” The thief yelled.
She was ignored as the king took a deep breath before turning to his knight.
"Sir Argi, accompany me and the wizard to the library.” He requested.
"Yes sir." She nodded.
The king stepped down from his platform and lead the way to the library, Ethel keeping between him and Balaz to stop any attempt at an attack.
“So Fai,” The king did not look back as he walked, “I’ll hear you out. I will not believe you until I see the evidence but I will at least listen.”
“So you can at least put your people first,” Balazs said admittedly a bit bitter, he could put people first as long as they didn't have magic.
Balaz just thanked whatever god there was that his brothers managed to get away and he was able to pretend the gift of magic skipped him in his family for a little while. His parents though, the court wizards before the outlawing really weren’t so lucky.
Taiken gave a glare and Balaz glared right back at his parent’s murder.
“Your stone holds the sealed powers of a demon,” he began to explain as the approached the library, “A long time ago it was kept under protective seals but since you outlawed magic those seals got taken off and the demons dark magic started to escape. I took it to suppress and re-seal the magic again before it could cause any more damage or worse.”
Ethel waited a few moments but seeing as her king was not going to ask she wanted to know.
“Worse?” Ethel dared ask,
“The demon gets her powers back and decides to take over like she tried before.”
“Hmm…” The king considered the story but was still reluctant to accept it, “We’ll see.”
It only took about ten minutes for Balaz to be proved right. He undid the seals his formally noble magic family put in place and quickly found the exact documents they were after.
Accounts of a battle against this demon that fit with their records of an uprising hundreds of years ago. Stories on an angel that sacrificed her place in heaven to stop the demon. A human family taught angel magic to back her up and tells of a successor with the power to stop the demon should she arise again.
The death toles these records showed. The amount of back up the angel had needed to just seal her powers away had been immense.
The king read over them troubled. A large part of him wanted to believe that Balaz had somehow conjured these records but too much of the timelines fit with other records he'd seen before. The signatures, the official crests. Balaz would have had to have the entire history of that era memorised and smart as he was he doubted he could remember it to this detail.
He was forced to accept this whole demon story was true and if that was the case then the monsters they had been fighting would be nothing if she got her powers back. If she ever did get those powers back, even if they could find this successor he wasn't sure his kingdom had what it took to help them.
"I know the successor the angel left but..." Balaz sighed, "A book of angel magic he would need to pull off sealing the demon again has been lost for some time now."
The king sighed. There was only one option left to him.
They had to get that stone back.
“Sir Argi, release the wizard and get Prodito. We need to discuss this.” He ordered.
“But Sir...” Ethel glanced warily between the king and the wizard.
“Balazs will not attack me. Not now I don’t have a choice but to help him.”
“I swear I won’t do anything.” Balaz gave his word, vengeance wasn't high on his priority list when there was the threat of a demon looming over them.
“Keep your word, Mage.” Ethel snapped at him reluctantly left.
The king turned to Balaz, "Can you at least get in contact with this Successor? Even if they cannot seal her away he should be knowledgeable on her, correct?"
Balaz nodded, "I'm not sure he'll want to work with you but I'll get a message to him at least."
The king nodded, somewhat understanding.
They gathered in the King’s throne room, again. Ethel’s green eyes burrowed into the mage and Ash just looked confused,
“I take it you found the evidence he was talking about.” She assumed,
“That we did,” The king gave a sigh still not wanting to give these orders, “Long story short, we need to get the stone back.”
“But that means…” Ethel frowned but Ash,
“We’re going after the dragon!” She smiled like a wolf ready for the hunt.
Balaz just stared at her, “Why are you so happy about that?”
“Prodito here is a dragon slayer I hired specifically to deal with you.” The king explained, "I believed she would hold up well against your fire."
Balaz raised an eyebrow looking impressed, "I underestimated you..."
The king turned to the slayer, “I take it dragon slayers have a way to track dragons?”
Ash’s mood darkened at that question, “The beasts are notoriously good at hiding their homes. We are rarely able to track them back to their horde and when we do it's usually days of riding at its heels after it's fled a battlefield.”
“Then how do you normally do your job?” Ethel asked.
“We normally draw them out using some valuable. We have some good bait back home I can-“ She was stopped when Balaz hesitantly started to talk.
“That may not be necessary?”
Ash paused, not sure whether to be annoyed he was encroaching on her territory or curious about a new way of doing this.
“How?” Ash questioned.
Bal went to talk but-
“I can see where this is going.”
Their eyes shot to the door where Hel leant on the wall playing with her braid.
“You!” The king glared.
“Get back in your cell!” Ethel darted for her and Hel giggled darting away and playing chase with the small knight around the room.
The king seethed with rage while Bal and Ash just watched Hel hop onto side tables and jump over the knight laughing as she went. Ethel…well, you could swear there was steam rising from her with how pissed off she was getting.
Ash rolled her eyes and guessed she should help but then she realised something. Hel was moving around pretty well all things considered.
“Her legs healed…” Ash noticed.
“Like magic, huh.” Hel chirped then squeaked as Ethel drew her sword.
Quickly, she climbed up a tapestry on the wall like some kind of spider and sat on the ceiling beams. “Good view.” She commented, pleased, getting herself comfy.
“What are you doing out of your cell?” Taiken barked, both him and Ethel looking like dogs barking at the smug cat up a tree.
“I was leaving,” She said honestly, as she lay down lazily on the beam, “But then I remembered I never got paid for stealing the stone in the first place so I came to find Bal-Bal. Then I got here and realised what you guys are talking about.”
“Bal-bal?” Balaz repeated the odd nickname, questioningly.
“This conversation is not for a lowlife’s ears.” The kings hissed.
“Actually….” Balaz came in and the glares of Ethel and Taiken turned to him.
“What…?” They growled.
“Well, you see, Hel has a way to track those she’s shot with her arrows.” He stated,
“No matter how far they have gone, no matter how long ago it was I shot them. I can always find them again.” Hel added.
“More magic.” The king’s eyes narrowed,
“Yep!” Hel sat up and cheered.
“You’re a magic user?” Ash tilted her head,
“Just like my dear family, who all got killed under the outlawing," She paused for a plastic look of sadness before smiling and looking at the king "Thanks kingy,”
“And there I thought it took some intelligence to wield magic.” Ethel hissed at her.
“Ha! Careful speedy, I'll turn ya into a toad.” Hel glared down at her.
“As if someone as dumb as you could-“
“Enough!” The King came in and Ethel stopped,
She took a deep breath, “Sorry sir.”
“Good puppy.” The thief snickered.
“Hel Chizoba! Shut. Up!” The king's voice boomed and echoed around the room.
Hel stared at him like a startled cat and with her being silent for more than two seconds the king took a deep breath to calm down himself then asked,
“Can you track it?”
“Yup,” She nodded.
“Will you take my knights and Balaz Fai there then?”
“Depends.” She leaning forward and resting her head on intertwined fingers, “What’s in it for me? I do nothing for free, even if it means the end of the world.”
Taiken growled even though everyone knew it was coming.
“Pardon for your crimes so far,” He said reluctantly
“So far,” He confirmed, “If you are caught again I will kill you.”
“No deal.” She said simply shocking the room.
“Then what? Immunity from the law?” He wasn’t offering.
He’d say no if she said yes, which was what he was expecting but a yes was not what he got,
“HA! Hell no.” The thief laughed and sat back, “Where would the fun be if there was no one to catch me?”
She gave a wink Ethel’s way and she just growled.
“Then what!?” Taiken roared losing patience with the odd existence that was Hel Chizoba and it just made Hel all the happier to see him suffer.
She giggled at the red hue of anger that painted his face, disgusting looking pulsing veins appeared to match
“Woah kingy, temper, temper. A low life like me shouldn’t be able to get to you this easily.”
He just glared daggers that didn’t reach past the calm amused smile of the thief who admittedly was a little disappointed he didn't rise to her more than that.
She sighed, “The usual, gold, jewels, that sorta stuff, please. Paid in advance due to the nature of the situation.”
“You mean, so you can run away,” Ethel growled.
“After I lead you to the horde, yes,” She admitted, “And before you say you want a grantee that I have to come back and won’t pay me in advance then let me point out you don’t really have a choice. Either I help you or the world might die. That’s the deal right, Bal-Bal?”
“Yes, I’m sorry.” The mage admitted, not to support the thief but because that was the plain fact, as much as they could use the dragon slayers way of doing things by the time they lured the dragon out it may have already...deposited the stone in its horde.
“Fine.” Tiaken had to admit defeat, “I’ll arrange payment and you’ll all leave first light tomorrow.”
“We get to stay the night?” The thief piped up.
“You get to spend the night in a jail cell when you get down.”
“Then I’m sleeping here.” The thief lay down on the ceiling beam, curling up and getting comfy.
“What about me?” Balaz asked.
“The servants will find you a room.” The king looked away while telling him.
The mage genuinely wanted to save his kingdom, though he hated magic the king could at least give him a good rest for the service he was about to perform.
“Thank you Tiaken.” Balaz nodded.
“That’s King Taiken!”
Balaz ignored the protest.
I hope you enjoyed Part Two. It's really been fun to revisit these characters and polish up this story, I forgot how crazy Hel was.
Next time on Magic and Machines:
Our three heroes and Hel set off on their journey but don't even get to the city gates before the dark magic that has been plaguing the kingdom rears its head. People are in danger and Ethel's pride as a knight won't let them ignore it. Just what kind of magical fiend will they face in a district full of factories and machines?