It was a brisk morning when the fire mage, Balaz Fai, hastily used his powers to shove open the door to his grand library. They shot open with a loud bang and he strode through, no time to waste. He had to keep it safe. He had to keep it safe.
Candles lit of their own accord as he strode across the room clutching a large crystal to his chest, his other hand holding his red cloak over it as if it would dissolve in the light.
He reached about halfway across the spacious room when a tremor shook the building. Bal stumbled but his heavy black leather boots kept him grounded and he continued to a specific bookshelf with a sigh,
“They got here quick.”
He pulled a book and the whole section sunk back into the wall before sliding to the left to reveal a secret passage. He moved to go in, nearly tripping at another tremor.
“Can they not use the front door?” He grumbled disappearing into the shadows in the secret passage.
Meanwhile, the cause of the tremors stood outside the wizard’s mansion. On the left side of the building, his wall now had a large crack in it. A large knight pulled back a bronze hammer asking her smaller knight companion the same question.
“Could we not use the front door?”
“No!” the brunette snapped, “We are dealing with a wizard here. He probably has 1000 booby traps at the front so it would be suicide.”
Not convinced but at least resigned to the task, the dark-skinned, redhead swung her weapon again and the wall crumbled against the mechanical great hammer. It opened to the ground floor of the mansion and smaller knight, Ethel Argi, drew her rapier and her flintlock pistol, darting forward as soon as the last of the rubble had settled.
“No time to waste, let’s go.” She ordered and the taller, Ash Proditor, who followed on a bit more cautious.
Ash’s dark eyes took in their surroundings as they passed. The room they had broken into was a dining hall with a large table in the middle. The table was a mess, sprinkled with books, notes, drawings, bottles, vials and cold cups of tea.
"Keep up!" Ethel ordered her, already part way up the stairs.
"Slow down. You were the one that wanted to be careful and now your rushing?" Ash snapped, annoyed.
Ethel skidded to a halt at the top of the first set of stairs and glared down at Ash who had yet to ascend the first step.
"The longer we leave the stone in his hands the more chance he has to use it for his evil deeds," Ethel argued, adamantly.
"We don't even know what it does. It could be harmless." Ash countered.
"It doesn't matter. Anything can be dangerous in a wizard's hands." Ethel stated, closing the argument by refusing to wait any longer and pushing on.
With a sigh, Ash followed on, at the very least she had to do what she was paid for, even if the lack of information annoyed her.
She knew it wasn't through lack of trying, at least. Since magic had been outlawed a lot of the knowledge had been lost. The king could only tell them that the stone was magical and old, which normally meant very dangerous if recent disasters had been anything to go by. But in the end that was all they knew.
Ethel, despite her blunt outside, had been wondering something. Balaz Fai was one of the strongest wizards around but he was, in the end, a fire wizard. He lacked the skills to break into the king's vault and steal the stone, or at least he wouldn't have been able to do it without being obvious and there had been little evidence that the vault had been broken into.
The two knights ran down a dark hallway and got their answer as a blue arrow whistled through the air.
Ethel just about heard it in time and managed to twist out the way, demoting what would have been a direct hit to a simple graze. She growled and stumbled, her thin leather armour leaving a small stinging gash in her leg.
Her muddy green eyes narrowed and she shot her pistol into the darkness.
“Come out, coward!” The knight barked.
In response another blue arrow flew her way, looking in the right direction this time, Ethel was able to effortlessly dodge.
“Ash, get moving and get the stone.” Ethel told her while reloading, “I’ll keep this pest of our backs.”
“Pest?” came an indignant whisper from the shadows before blue arrows started to fire rapidly.
Ethel shoved Ash out of the way then proceeded to block and dodge each arrow with the grace of a dancer. She moved out the way of some and deflected others with her rapier.
Ash gave one last glance to her partner before running to complete their objective.
Ash charged up a last flight of stairs. Her thick armour, like knights of old, making a racket as she raced up the stairs and giving Balaz all the warning he needed to know she was coming. Ash had to quickly dart out of the way of the ball of fire that flew towards her. She regained her balance and glared at the wizard who stood in the door of his grand library.
“Just one of you?” The short brown haired man asked, disks of flame in both hands ready for a fight.
“I’m more than enough for you spell slinger. Where’s the stone?” Ash readied herself,
“Safe. Safer than it was with your king.” The finely dressed mage also readied himself.
Ash did take a moment to note his clothes. A white shirt under a red waistcoat with some smart black trousers. All topped off with the red cloak.
Not a speck or armour between his flesh and her hammer.
But then…as important as this mission was, he who knew about magic. He was someone who could potentially give some information that would help the kingdom's situation. Ethel wouldn't bother to listen but Ash saw her opportunity.
“What do you mean?” Ash didn’t relax, hands still gripped her hammer ready but the mage seemed to appreciate being given the chance to talk and relaxed his position slightly.
“The stone is the cause of the misery that has plagued the kingdom the past year. I stole it to stop it.” He explained.
Ash glared, warily.
“Can you prove it?” she asked.
“Old royal records can.” He answered.
“I don’t believe you,” Ash was sure that was a lie.
Old records had been examined in every possible way lately in efforts to find a way to combat the current threats. If there had been anything in there, Ash and Ethel would have been warned.
Now with Balaz’s villainy confirmed Ash charged. Balaz readied himself again but just as the two were about to clash in a battle of might and magic something very…unexpected happened.
The roof suddenly started to give in and rubble fell from the sky. The two were quickly forced to forget about each other in favour of making sure they weren’t crushed beneath it. Books flew across the room and stone rained around them. Ash gritted her teeth, glad it eventually slowed down. Was the mage so desperate not to face her he tried to crush her with his own mansion?
“What the hell kind of magic was that?” Ash growled at the man when the roof was but broken pieces of their feet.
Balaz’s hazel eyes were fixed on something behind the warrior.
“That wasn't me, sir knight.” He pointed behind her and Ash turned.
Its talons tightly gripped what was left of a wall, its massive black leathery wings spread and smoke steamed from its nostrils like the chimney of a factory. Its skin was covered in dark scales glinting slightly in the morning light. The dragon's blood red eyes barely registered the two puny humans before them.
“Well,” for reasons beyond the comprehension of those who saw this beast, Ash smiled, “Aren’t you a pretty birdy?”
The dragon responded with fire.
Ash had gotten out the way of the funnel of flames and Balaz extended a hand. A black tinted door shield of energy blocked most of the burning inferno leaving embers that hissed as they hit his skin.
He should have moved out the way. Even with fire being his speciality he knew he couldn't stand the breath of a dragon for long.
But he was painfully aware of what was behind him. Painfully aware of the unique treasure that lured the dragon here. Even just a sniff or a glimpse of the stone would have brought this beast. A dragon would never be able to resist something so powerful and unique.
Considering the last year of mess he shouldn’t have been surprised for a dragon to turn up.
He then spotted the second knight dart past the dragon, then him. Ethel darted straight for the room that had been hidden by rows and rows of books but was now painfully exposed with the roof gone.
Lucky for Balaz the Dragon’s fire stopped, as a blue arrow mildly annoyed it and buried in its neck.
“Go stop her!” came a fourth voice.
Dripping blood from a rip in her leather trousers, a woman stood in the door adorned in a hooded, short sleeved jacket, half her face covered by a mask and a blond plat falling out her hood.
“Dragon’s mine, stay out of it.” Ash roared at her.
“Then kill it already!” She snapped back, firing another arrow.
Between the two, the dragon was kept busy and though Balaz tried he couldn’t catch up to the speedy Ethel.
“Don’t touch it!” He yelled in a feeble attempted to stop the inevitable.
Of course, Ethel didn’t listen. Her target was the stone and only the stone. She grabbed it and as soon as she lifted it from the runic seals it had sat on it gave off a sudden blast of dark magic.
The next moments were in slow motion as fate took an unfortunate turn.
In reaction to the dark magic, Ethel’s hand was thrown up and the stone slipped from her grasp. It was left airborne. The stone flew up and up and, sadly for them, the dragon saw its moment.
Its black wings drew curtains over the sky as it lifted itself from its perch, successfully dodging a hammer and ignoring the quickly fired arrows as it soared to the flying stone.
It then opened its mouth around the stone and in a swift movement, swallowed the precious treasure down into its belly.
“What have you done?”
Before any of them could do more, the dragon, having achieved its goal, beat it's great wings and flew far out of reach. Miles and miles away, taking their objective with it. Ethel and Balaz looked defeated, Ash looked annoyed, muttering something about a cowardly lizard.
“Am I still going to get paid?”
The silence of defeat was interrupted as the thief’s blue eyes rest on Balazs.
“Seriously?” He sighed already knowing their fate.
“No.” Ethel said her teeth grinding from the rage of defeat, “Balaz Fai and Hel Chizoba, by the Valrad crown you are both under arrest.”
The fine silver point of Ethel’s sword flew to stop at the mage's neck.
“Wait, how’d you know my name?” The thief asked, unfazed by the declaration.
Ash watched Hel carefully expecting her to run.
“Blue arrows. Hel Chizoba, the most wanted thief in the kingdom, whose only evidence is that a guard and only ever one is hit by a blue arrow during or before your thefts. Your name was given to us by one of your old clients who was paid nicely for the tip.” Ethel explained.
“Oooh,” Hel clapped, “Nice to know I’ve made it to most wanted. It’s nice to be wanted, isn’t it?”
The blond pulled her hood down and her mask before throwing her wrists forward, “Okay, prison it is.”
“You’re not going to run?” Ash marched up to the small thief and restrained her.
“With this injury, Speedy over there would catch me if I tried.” Hel shrugged, cheerfully letting herself be arrested.
Ethel sighed but tried not to let her captives see her disappointment. She was not looking forward to giving the king the news...
Thank you for reading the first part of Magic and Machines.
This story is already complete though it's very old now so I'll be improving it section by section as I post it. If you are interested in keeping up with it you can follow me on facebook, twitter or subscribe to my newsletter to notified when a new part if out.
Magic and Machines is based off a radio drama I wrote in college. It was so much fun to write and record at the time. I've had to change characters and story quite a lot since the original had quite a few plot holes and the characters were, once upon a time, us radio hosts. So I've changed up names, races and moved the setting into the industrial revolution because it's slightly more interesting than a medieval setting and now it's not a radio drama I can take time to explain things. Yay!
Next time on Magic and Machines:
King Taiken is not please with loosing his family's stone and the capture of the kindgom's most wanted thief and mage to little to lighten his mood. Balaz manages to get a reluctant king to listen to his story while the knights lock up the mad thief who seems unfazed by it all.
Read Part Two here!