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Vault of The Starborn Machine

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Chapter 2: The Sea of Margr

Part 2: Good Things

(This correlates Ellomyer Update #6-7)
  
Ever since the dawn of humanity, there have been a series of immutable laws that have been recognized to govern life. Among these laws, perhaps the most well-known, and the most commonly forgotten, was that all good things eventually came to an end. It was truer than the sun rising in the east, for even the sun would eventually end, and this law would remain. Youth withered. Food went stale. People died. Good people often went sooner than the rest.

All good things, came to an end.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Things had been going rather well for Hiero and Ro. The mechanical knight, Hiero, had been continuing his morning training sessions with the village, and his class size had grown to reliably contain over 20 eager villagers each day. His lessons had even recently expanded from teaching the basics of wielding a spear, to the proper handling of a shield. He noticed even more people than usual coming to his class lately. Apparently, many people took a sudden interest in how to better cower behind a slab of wood when an army of murderous abhumans was on the horizon. Who would have thought?

It had actually been during one such lesson that Hiero overheard that there was to be an expedition to a place known as the Valley of Sin. The last time Hiero had heard the name of a location that sparked his heroic flame in such a way was when he was told of the Cave of Kicked Seskii Puppies. Just as he had been then, the mechanical knight was determined to boot the collective butt of everything in this evil valley, save for any puppies of course.

Signing on as guards for the expedition, Hiero, Ro, and the expedition party managed to brave a menagerie of dangers. Lives were lost, but the machine knight had managed to thwart at least a dozen grizzly deaths over the course of the adventure. Had things continued in such a way, Hiero would have likely walked from the valley with his companions hard-earned respect, but then one of the explorers touched the wrong ancient device. Hiero pushed him out of the way, and was rewarded for his heroics by being teleported halfway across the valley, and bathed in glowing transdimensional energy.

It was that very event that had resulted in the frustrated silence that accompanied the automaton and mutant as they now scouted ahead back towards the village.  

“Sooo,” began Ro, “Are we going to talk about what happened back there or….” The young mutant pursed her lips as she trailed off.

Hiero responded by continuing to march back through the valley in indignant silence.

The young girl frowned. Words were failing her. She had never actually seen Hiero like this before. It was true that she had seen him angry, she had seen it the day they first met, but this was different. This was a frustrated rage bordering on embarrassment. She scratched her head with the shaft of the spear she was holding, and stared at him. The gloss of his black metal shell had been scratched off in several dozen places, and there were a handful of deep fissures along his form that went all the way through his armor plating. The little girl frowned as she thought back to the cause of it all.

It had taken about thirty minutes to find Hiero after he had disappeared. When Ro and the rest of the party foundd him, he was fighting what must have been every single ‘ghost’ in the entire valley. To make matters worse, after the ghosts had spent several long minutes clawing in vain against Hiero’s thick armor plating, they had started to get more creative. It was in one of these fits of creativity that Hiero’s saviors had found him. The sight of several such phantoms working together to swing the 600lb machine through the air in circles by his feet was a memory that would earn its very own page in many a journal. Even after the ghosts had been dispersed, Hiero’s allies had been unable to contain their laughter watching as the mechanized hero stumble about like a newborn with transdimensional energy flooding his sensory equipment. Any respect he might have earned from the adventure had been thrown out a five-story window, run over by stampeding aneen, and then promptly shot.

Twice.

“Um, Hiero? Are you alright?” The child said, trying once more to break the silence.

Suddenly, Hiero stopped walking.

Ro did the same.

The mechanical knight then twirled around with a finger raised in exclamation. “Ro, my dear sidekick, I’ve come to a shocking realization: Ghosts are terrible.”

His ally just stared back up with a startled look.

“Yes, an astonishing thing considering that ghosts were once people, but clearly the afterlife has drained those poor souls of any semblance of redeemability they might have once possessed. Therefore, after much heroic consideration with my flawless mechanical mind, I’ve come to the decision that, henceforth, all ghosts are to be considered evil, and be punch in their stupid faces with righteous fury!”

“Hold on,” Ro said furrowing her brow, “Are you ‘ghost’ racist now?” The young mutant sidekick paused and jumped to the logical conclusion of her hero worship, “Am I ghost racist now?”

“ABSOLUTELY!”

Ro’s brow dipped even further. Racists were the people who used to hurt her and her friends before she met Hiero. She wasn’t exactly fond of becoming one herself. She was even less fond of Hiero becoming one. A bead of guilt that had been building up within her roiled around in her belly. She clenched her fist and tried to summon the courage to speak. She squeaked out a, “Hiero”, but looked up from the ground to find that he had already started heading away. She reached out for him, but then stopped. ‘Brave’, she told herself. She had to be brave. Hiero had taught her long ago that heroes needed to have the strength to face the consequences of their actions just as much as the enemies they fought.

The young girl took another deep breath, closed her eyes, and shouted, “Hiero!”

The knight startled, “What is it Ro? More ghosts?!” His blue eyes darted from left to right, “Come back for a second round have you? Well the jokes on you this time. I’ve replenished my power with the ruins, and have a right hook of justice waiting for you, so devastating it will kill you back to life!”

“I’M SORRY!” His sidekick shouted.

Hiero froze. “I’m sorry…What?” he asked in confusion.

“I’m sorry I laughed at you when you were all dizzy with that glowing stuff. I thought it was funny, but I didn’t stop to think about how it made you feel.’ She stopped to bite her lip and draw up a few more inches of willpower, “I know you’re angry at me, but could you please forgive me? I don’t like it when you’re all quiet and secretly angry like this. It’s scary, and I’m really, really, really, really…” She continued.

Hiero turned around to look at his companion. The bald child was in that tense pose children always seemed to adopt when the expected to be punished. She was too busy staring at the ground to see him, so he quirked a smile. The child’s conscience was too strong for her own good. Hiero hadn’t been mad at her. He wasn’t even upset about all the other humans laughing at him. People laughed at him all the time. What had been catching in his gears had been the feeling of impotence that he had felt while under attack by the ghosts. He had told the others that he had only been under attack for several minutes, but had failed to explain that, ‘several minutes’, meant all thirty minutes that they had been separated.

There was only a certain amount time one could be attacked for without being killed before the victim started to conclude that their attacker’s motivations had shifted from hunger to amusement. Thirty minutes was enough for even Hiero to grow suspicious. His mechanical mind swore it had even picked up on patterns that indicated rules of play being established. A part of Hiero fumed just thinking about it. Being a villain’s prey was one thing, but being treated as a villain’s play was another. He hadn’t even gotten the catharsis of killing any of them since they had just faded through the walls once Hiero’s backup arrived.

“…really, really, really…”  The girl was still going.

The knight gave a mental sigh. As unheroic as he felt right now, there was still no excuse to take out his frustration on a small child.

“…really, REALLY sorry.” Finished the child.

Hiero walked back to the kid, and placed a warm metal hand on her shoulder. “I accept your apology. I feel much better now that I know you didn’t intend to hurt my feelings. Thank you for having the courage to let me know how you felt.” Hiero flashed a picture worthy smile. “It meant a lot to me.”

A warmth welled in the girl’s chest, and she smiled without looking the automaton in the eyes. She still felt bad about what she had done, but was now feeling good about admitting that she felt bad, and she wasn’t sure how she felt about that. It was probably good, but feeling good made her feel guilty right now.

Unfortunately, before she could finish sorting through her emotions, a deep roar of a voice echoed through the valley. “These are mine!”

Several weaker voices followed,
“Me want fingers!”
“Me want her pretty skull!”
“I get eyes!”

There was the roar of jets at the bottom of Hiero’s feet for one moment, and in the next, he was 100 feet in the air, hopping between stone formations.

Ro stood stunned for a moment, and then realized what Hiero had.

Someone was in danger.