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Vault of The Starborn Machine

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Chapter 3: Growing Up

Part 1: The Decision

Hiero looked ridiculous.

Even amongst the many other avant-garde fashion decisions that had been made by those attending the masquerade, Hiero not only took the cake, he had licked it and called ‘dibs’. In truth, the knight looked much the same as he always did; like a 6’3” machine dressed in bulky black and silver trimmed armor. The ridiculous part, was that someone had deigned to try stuffing the armored man into a bright pink, three-piece suit. The people at the party didn’t even bother trying not to stare. It was like putting a tuxedo on a tank, and trying to pretend it was normal.

A bright hot pink tuxedo.

The knight made a mental note not to ever trust Ro with purchasing clothes ever again. He should have known better than to trust the girl whose idea of dressing up nicely was making sure that none of her clothes had more than one hole in it. Unfortunately, by the time he had realized his mistake, she was already holding up the suit with her orange puppy dog eyes. The knight mentally sighed. He looked much better in neon blue.

The damage however, had already been done, and there was only one thing left to do; work it for all it was worth. Thankfully, that was Hiero’s specialty. He shrugged at all the people staring at him, and strolled into the party with the sort of overwhelming confidence that made a couple people wonder if they were the ones doing something wrong.

That said, Hiero wasn’t too worried about how he looked anyways. He wasn’t here to impress people. He was here to see if the people he met impressed him. The town itself had already done so. Hiero remembered standing outside ready to face the Iron Wind when there was a flash, and the entirety of the storm had vanished. He had learned later that the village had received a series of crystals from energy beings known by some as plasmar. The knight glanced at a pillar of light that depicted one such creature. It resembled a three-dimensional silhouette of a human, and radiated a corona of bright starlight. Hiero chuckled inwardly. It amused him to no end that out of all the beings to he could have been shown up by, it was the plasmar.

After Ellomyr had survived, one of the townspeople known as Caspyr Múm, had decided to throw a masquerade ball in celebration. Every important person in town was in attendance. It was the perfect opportunity for Hiero to judge the future leaders of Ellomyr, and determine if whether the village he had helped mature would blossom into a bastion of virtue, or a sea of debauchery.

And so, Hiero began to mingle, and time began to pass. He got about halfway through the night before she showed up.

“Boo.” Said a voice that sounded like a very tired ghost. Hiero turned towards the speaker and found a woman with brown skin, blue eyes with no pupil’s, and a deep indigo dress hovering, half-transparent over his shoulder. “I’m a scary ghost, and I’m here to haunt you. Ooh-gah-di-boo.” The floating woman lazily flailed her arms in a way that she presumably thought was scary.

The knight gave the woman, Rasava, a bemused look. “Because I really needed more reasons to dislike you.”

The woman seemed to take his remark as a compliment, “By the way, you look terrible today, what happened?”

Hiero shrugged, “I heard there was going to be a blind person at the party, and wanted to wear something that even they couldn’t miss.” Hiero threw open his arms to show himself off in all of his hot pink splendor. “You’re welcome!”

The blind seer ignored his comment. Her natural eyes were nearly useless, but she could see the world quite clearly from the telescopic sight of the satellites that orbited the world. The thick material of the roof had been difficult for her vision to penetrate, but even so she could make out the numerous creases and slash marks on Hiero’s suit. “Do not sass me machine.” The woman said poking one of the holes in the knight’s clothes. “How did you acquire such horrendous wounds in such a place as this?”

“Ne'er do wells of course!”

“A single villain made such a mess of you?” The woman said absently as she phased back into reality to peruse the hors d'oeuvres.

“No, several! It’s been like this all night. Every time I try to start talking with someone I catch another person in the act of trying to kill somebody. Why, I bumped into two assassins while taking a third to the guard station. I think they might be running out of cells by this point!”

The woman placed a thoughtful finger to her lips. “How did you know the two people were assassins if they were not at the party?” She asked in her usual dreamlike manner.

“They had giant poisoned crossbows and were aiming them at the windows of this building.”

“Oh, I see.” The seer suddenly gasped. “Travesty upon travesties, they’ve run out of yol puffs.”

Hiero shook his head. “Please don’t gasp like that. I thought you had spotted another assassin or something.” The knight folded his arms and began to pace. “I just don’t know what to make of this crowd. Most of these people seem fine, but this is the second largest number of assassins I’ve ever caught in a single day. Perhaps there’s some sort of secret evil organization hiding just beyond the veil of their smiles….or…perhaps I’m just being paranoid because I want to justify staying here for a little while longer.” Hiero frowned. Even after the Iron Wind, Hiero could still feel a dark presence hanging over the town like a foul omen, but had no idea when or what that presence was going to reveal itself to be. He was torn between waiting around for it to come, and leaving to fight more immediate evils. He wanted to stay. He was eager to see the paths the town would take as it grew, and be there to help it along the way. Constantly travelling was also likely taking a toll on Ro’s development. He wanted her to have some degree of stability to her life other than just him. However, Hiero was a hero, and he couldn’t justify staying in a town if it meant neglecting other lands that needed him more. What Hiero wanted more than anything right now, was to discover something that could convince him there was enough evil lurking in this town for him to justify staying.

As Hiero continued to pace, the seer nibbled on a piece of cheese and watched him eagerly. She counted down the steps.
Three, two, one. Hiero fell through the floor.

In the hole, the knight shook his head and let his sensors readujust. When they did, he found himself inside an underground tunnel with one other guilty looking man, and a large bundle of explosives planted beneath the ball. Hiero blinked.
The man blinked back.

“Thank you,” said the knight, “You just helped me make up my mind.”

Five seconds later, Hiero emerged from the hole with the man held aloft and overhead. The automaton proceeded to jog out the front door, and off to the nearest guard station with a joyful skip in his step. He had come to the conclusion that if hadn’t been there, many of the future leaders of Ellomyr would have died tonight in a fiery explosion. That meant to the knight, that at least for now, the town needed him. It meant he could stay a little while longer.

……………

Back at the ball, the seer poured herself a drink and calmly nursed it as she scanned the crowd for any source of entertainment. Seeing the world as she did, she saw nearly everything that happened within 50 feet of her with eagle like vision and acute senses. Without even trying, she had already become aware of at least a dozen different conspiracies and plots all while talking with Hiero. In time, she even grew aware that there was a supernatural reason Hiero had stumbled upon so many assassination attempts. Someone was bending fortune in their favor, and increasing the likelihood that something would foil an assailant’s plans.

Fortunately for all involved, a life spent seeing people’s secrets had left her numb to intrigue. She found the entire scene utterly boring, and left without speaking a word of what she knew to anyone. The thought of spoiling Hiero’s mood by informing him that if he hadn’t found the man, some other inconvenience would have intervened instead, humored the woman. Thankfully for the knight, Ravasa was feeling unusually benevolent tonight. She would let him keep his delusions. He had so many already. A one more couldn’t hurt.