Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Center Cannot Hold: Maralda and Lahm

It was like any other day.

I'd stayed up too late the night before studying for another of Professor Ames insane enchantment exams.  My eyes hurt.  I stumbled as I slid down one pipe.

"Really Maralda?"  Lahm chided me.

I glared at him.  Too bad I was Bard.  A little evocation and maybe I could've taught him to leave me be.  "Its too early for this Lahm."

Lahm rolled his eyes at me.  Lahm's a Tiefling.  He's got horns and glowing red eyes.  He looks the part of the devil like in one of those old Tomasi Dramas.  His red hair never stayed put, though.  He never had a problem with mornings.

Monstrous of him.

"Too early?"  Lahm shook his head, biting into a apple.  "You still cramming hard for Ames' exam?  I thought Bards didn't have to pass that class."

I shrugged.  "I've told you Lahm- I want to know Enchantments.  It sounds handy to know."

"Artifice works enough for me."  Lahm pulled out his pocket watch.  Brass and rusted green copper gleamed in the morning light.  "You can always scrape a few coins off the stuff you make.  Besides.  You labor under a false premise, Maralda."

I sighed.  "Which is what?"

He flashed his watch at me.  I nearly fell over.  I'd been going through the motions of my normal morning.  A hurried half eaten meal, while hurrying up Rebecca's steps to reach the top of the Skullmount.

Lahm smirked.  "I know.  At least I told you before you went up there."

"An hour?  I-"  I shook my head.  "How did I wake up an hour earlier than normal?"

"You need a new clock girl."  Lahm said.  He put a arm around me.  "I'm your friend, Maralda."

He gestured out at the hill rolling down before us.  Sunrise in Crux.  Rooftops glittered, while a thousand different reds, grays and blacks colored the sky from the chimneys they emerged from.  In the distance I could see the University.  Its ancient buildings.  The clocktower, the laboratories, the training grounds and myriad other buildings that had collected on the Skullmount over the seven thousand years the University had stood there.

The skullmount always fascinated me as a child.  When I looked out at it, I could see the sockets of the massive skull that the University sat on.  So large it looked more like a massive hill, hulking over the Sleeping Strait.  It was the center of Crux, the city at the center of the world.  The City of Curses.

I glanced down at my hands.  Despite Lahm's friendly demeanor, I didn't feel comforted.  I had been doing a good job keeping control over the secret part of my nature.  That aspect of my life needed little to no sleep if I embraced it enough.  I didn't want that, though.  I wanted to sleep and pretend to be human.

I felt the sun warming my skin.

"C'mon."  Lahm beckoned me.  "Let's get something for breakfast.  Unless you want to do your usual hurry."

That sounded great to me.  "Of course-"

A nearby sewer grate slid open.  A pair of hands, bound in iron and glowing blue runes emerged from it.  They struggled to get out.  What made me paused was the sound of crying.  I turned to her, to the Android trying to get out of the sewer.

"Hey."  I went to her.  I grabbed her hands and pulled the Android out onto the street.  I glanced over and saw Lahm on the Android's other side.  Lahm took her arm, helping the distraught Android to sit down on the ground.

The Android was sobbing, her wax skin filthy.  She had some rags on her, but she'd been in the sewers long enough to stain all of what she was wearing.  Her blue runes glowed bright.  The nameplate that hung from her collar read '8511.'

"Its alright."  Lahm told her.

8511 looked up at him, artificial tears still streaming down her face.  "I-I..."

I tilted my head and smiled.  "Its alright, I'm sure we can help you find your Master.  What's that you got there?"

The Android girl glanced down.  She briefly gazed into the silvery mirror she clung to.  "I... My master..."

"That's right."  Lahm was looking around, apparently trying to look for some sign of the city watch.  Although I was pretty certain they wouldn't care what happened to 8511.

8511 whispered something.

I moved closer.  I looked into her face.  "I'm sorry.  What was that?"

I tried pouring on that Bardic charm I'd long been trained in.  After all, whats the point of being a Bard if I couldn't indulge a bit of sweet talking?

8511 blinked her eyes twice.  "Maxmidan...  My master is Maximidan."

Lahm let out a annoyed sigh.  "Professor Maxmidan?  Did she just say, Professor Maxmidan?"

"Great."  I shook my head.  "We just found Professor Maxmidan's renegade android."

"Boy, that old stick up his ass will really be glad to see us."  Lahm said.  "Could we maybe hold off-"

"We better do it now."  I told him.  "Besides, he doesn't like both of us, remember?  Better to get it done then-"

"Yeah, yeah."  Lahm agreed.  Behind him, I could see the Blacksun rising, its dark circle following the Sun into the sky...

Next Part (Part 2)