Vault of The Starborn Machine

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Chapter 2: The Sea of Margr

Part 4: Suprisingly Fragile

(This correlates Ellomyer Update #7, and is continued directly from Chapter 2, part 3.)
A child’s voice rang out from the automaton’s side. “Look out, Hiero!”

The knight looked towards the voice to see his sidekick, Ro, standing on a 20-foot-high cliff. She was pointing behind him. He turned just in time to catch a boulder to the chest and face. Electricity sparked from his skull, and plates of metal dislodged into the air. The knight went crashing to the ground several feet back. “Ow.” He groaned as he shoved the large rock aside and stood up. “Ro, what did I tell you about including directions into your warnings?" The knight’s sensory equipment tried to refocus.

“Another one!” Cried the child.

Hiero reacted faster this time. He punched a fist down so that it just missed the boulder, and the stone rolled up his arm and off his back with a shower of sparks. “What’s wrong villain? Don’t you have more than one trick?” He looked up to see the giant black margr he had just previously buried beneath a rockslide. “Okay, so I guess coming back from the dead is a pretty good second one.”

The monstrosity smiled as it hefted a third stone onto its shoulder, and began walking towards the knight. In its free hand, it lifted a broken dagger. “Your body is even harder than it looks. It broke my knife.” The creature threw its old weapon aside, and gripped the stone with both hands, “But that armor doesn’t do as well against something trying to crush it now does it? Thanks for the idea.” The beast growled as it stepped away from the rock pile it had been buried beneath.

The creature wasn’t entirely wrong. It still normally took a two-handed maul for the average person to actually dent Hiero’s body, but this creature was much bigger than the average person, and the boulder was much larger than the average maul. Hiero wasn’t in the best condition for another big fight either. The battle against the ‘ghosts’ earlier had left his structural integrity at what his mind was estimating to be half strength, the targeting equipment in his flickering right eye was no longer fully functioning, and he had already used over a fourth of his remaining starlight beating down the margr already. Still, the damage this margr had taken should have killed even some of the tougher of his species already. The optics within the knight’s left eye zoomed in on the beast. Among spotting a few newly forming bruises, he noticed the creature subtly shifting its gait in an attempt to hide a few broken ribs. Hiero could work with that. Hiero could give him a few more.

The knight strode forward towards the creature with black and silver armor gleaming in the midday sun and his dusk colored cape sashaying along. “I can see that you are quite confident, monster. What you don’t understand however, is that I’ve faced much deadlier things than you in much greater disrepair than this. Take note of how I’m the one still here.”

The massive margr seemed to ignore him in favor of stopping to stare off into the valley. It seemed to be considering something, which was a feat in itself for a margr. There was a moment of silence as it allowed Hiero to get within 15 feet of it. Then, after a few moments more, it spoke, “The way the sunlight shines through this valley is almost beautiful don’t you think?” The way it chewed the word ‘beautiful’ made it almost sound ugly.

Hiero narrowed his eyes. “What game are you playing fiend?”

The giant turned to Hiero, “I was just taking in the battleground.” It readied its weapon to fight. “It’s a fitting place for a hero to die.”

Electricity crackled along the automaton’s arms. Hiero would have to make the first move. The boulder was to heavy for the margr to lunge with, and a single missed throw would render it without a weapon. The smart thing to do would have been to back up and blast this creature at range. The heroic thing to do would be to stay close enough to the monster to rush it if its stance changed to throw the rock at the unconscious woman.

The margr started slowly circling so that it wouldn’t need to change its stance.

Hiero, wasn’t going to let it. With a puff of fire from his back, the automaton shot low once more, this time faster and using the size of the margr’s rock to hide his movements. He winged a bolt of lightning. Electricity tore just above the ground and struck the creature’s leg. The roar of pain was satisfying to the hero, but the spasming leg muscles even more so. He rushed forward, and, within a second, a metal foot planted on the ground between two cloven ones. Hiero punched his mechanized arms upwards. His palms slammed into the bottom of the stone, and he shoved it up towards the margr’s head.

The giant, unable to keep his balance any longer on one good leg, staggered back as he tried to keep hold of the stone that was now almost above him. His stomach was wide open.

Hiero let go of the rock with one arm, and let energy gather within it “STAAAAAAR...”

Suddenly, the margr let go, and pushed off the stone as it leapt back.

Hiero reached for the beast, but now found it too far away. The energy is his palm coalesced to give chase, only to be distrupted by the falling boulder as it knocked down the knight's arm. Hiero growled. Still, the beast had only bought itself a little more time. Hiero wouldn’t give it the space it needed to pick up another stone. When the boulder hit the ground, Hiero leapt atop it, and readied another bead of energy.

Just then, Ro shouted, “Take this, monster!” A spear hurtled through the air with surprising precision towards the margr’s skull, but with too little power or speed.

A black hand flashed, and the spear stopped a foot away from the creature. The spear then twisted and slammed into the joints of the mechanical arm that had stared reaching for it. The black margr quirked it head towards Ro as it watched Hiero pull backwards. “Thanks.” The beast said, replying to the little sidekick.

Equally unwilling to break eye contact with his enemy, Hiero shouted, “Ro! Rule number: I thought I wouldn’t have to say this so I didn’t number it: DON’T HELP THE BAD GUYS ATTACK ME!”

“I’m sorry Hiero, but you don't need to yell. I already feel bad!”

“You’re not the one getting STABBED!” The knight shook his head and reassessed his situation. He hadn’t factored, ‘assisted friendly fire’, into his calculations. The mostly wooden spear still wouldn’t allow the margr to use enough of its incredible strength to do serious damage to Hiero, but it was a much easier weapon to throw at the unarmored woman and child. That meant less room for mistakes even if the margr had no intention of attacking the other two. The knight couldn’t risk the possibility.

Suddenly, the black margr spoke, “Well it’s about time.”

“About time for what?” Hiero asked. “If you think a spear is enough to kill me, then I’m afraid you’re mistaken. Gravely mistaken!” Hiero wasn’t entirely sure who’s death his play on words was meant to reference.

“But they’ll do just fine on your allies won’t they.”

The knight narrowed its eyes, “I won’t give you the chance to throw it.”

The creature smiled, “I can see that you are quite confident, metal man.” It was never good when bad guy started echoing the hero. “What you don’t understand however, is that I’m not the only one here anymore.”

Realization hit like a sack of bricks. The knight was suddenly all too aware that the creature had been stalling this entire time. He should have realized it. An abhuman this size would almost certainly have a larger band accompanying it than normal margr leader. Even more obviously, margr didn’t take breaks from killing people to contemplate on the ways the sunlight dappled through a valley without ulterior motives.

The knight began backing up to cover the unconscious woman, “I need numbers and locations Ro!”

The head margr didn’t wait. It hurled its spear at the woman, and Hiero had to dive to knock it aside. “Bring me a hammer,” cried the black creature, “and kill the humans. The metal man is mine.”

The margr that had arrived at the edge of the battlefield, did exactly as instructed. Suddenly, Hiero was standing over top the woman knocking spear after spear out of the sky, and yelling for Ro to keep her head down.

“Hiero,” Ro yelled, “I counted four to your right, and…” There was a pause, “There are two to your left, but I think they are coming up after me.”

Heiro punched another spear away and shouted, “If you want me to yourself demon, then you should call off your horde!”

A large hammer-like club in hand, the margr replied, “You’re the one interrupting their fight.”

“Humanity is my fight.”

“Humanity is our fight.” Echoed Ro.

A worried thought crossed the machine’s mind, but he pushed it away. The knight would have trust Ro to hold her own at least until he could finish his own battle.

Hiero blocked a final thrown spear. The margr had expended their extra weapons and were now breaking into a charge. The black margr was joining them.

Meanwhile, Ro threw her second to last spear at one of the margr that was climbing over the lip of the cliff after her. Unable to dodge without letting go of the cliff, the margr was struck in the shoulder. Gravity and a 20-foot fall worked in her favor to finish it off. Unfortunately, her attempts to jab the final one away were met with less success as it had chosen to follow a more stable path up to her position. She had the high ground, but she was also dramatically weaker when it came to physical strength. The margr seemed to know this. It hadn’t tried to stab back at her, but was instead trying to catch her spear as she thrust.

Down below, Hiero readied himself for the charge. If he could take out the big guy, then he could likely force the others to surrender. The tricky part would be doing that quickly or carefully enough to stop the monster’s hammer from doing too much damage in an extended fight, while also stopping all of the smaller margr from landing even a single strike against the woman. Truly, the distressing shortage of redundant critical organs that humans possessed was among their greatest flaws. And so, at Asimov’s and his own heroic behest, Hiero centered himself and redirected as much processing power to defense as he could.

Then, the knight remembered Ro up on the hill alone. Plasma began to leak from two dozen exhaust points along the machine’s body. Hiero had decided that he was done being careful. He took several steps away from the woman so as not to burn her, and stomped the ground, sending a shower of blueish embers and sparks off his body. Fists at his side, he sank into something that could almost be described an angry sprinter’s position, and his cape flared. Hiero, had decided to take a few risks, and do things the quick way.

A moment later, the margr made the mistake of stepping within ten feet of a desperate warmachine. The last three things the first creature ever heard was a crazy automaton shouting ‘shooting star’, an explosion behind said automaton, and the far subtler and less well-known sound of a fiery robotic fist punching clean through a fleshy chest.

Almost every margr, even the black one, gave pause after that.

Hiero didn’t. Thruster’s surged, starfire burned, and he was on to the next.

Unfortunately, the one margr that hadn’t stopped, was the one that was attacking Ro. It had a stab wound in its left arm, but it had Ro’s spear in its right. Though the mutant was also holding the weapon, step-by-step she was being driven back, and towards the edge of the cliff.

The hero down below didn’t know how badly Ro wanted to cry out for him in that moment, but he had an idea of how she was feeling. That was why, when he pulled his fist out of the first margr, and spun around to deliver a flaming backfist to the next, he made sure to enjoy it.

It was as he smashed the second margr's skull that a third had the brilliant idea of trying to leap past Hiero to kil the woman behind him. Stopping his momentum with his jets, the knight raised a hand and blasted the creature with a bolt of plasma. The energy hit home and the monster stumbled back and into the stone the woman was against. It was still alive, and far too close to the woman for Hiero’s comfort. The blazing machine leapt at the half toasted margr, but found a hammer smashing into his chest instead. The crater it left in his lower chest was impressive. The hammer then swung round, and Hiero has thrown back away from the woman he was trying to protect.

It was exactly the position the black margr wanted the machine in. The monster thought the automaton would have to run past it. It was very surprised when the metal man instead tried to run through it.

The bluring comet of blue starfire that occasional stopped in one place long enough to be identified as Hiero, collided with the head of the hammer that the black margr had raised to defend itself. The force of the blow partially crumpled Hiero’s hand, but also sent the hammer into the black margr’s face even as it was still holding it. Then, Hiero gave a roar of, “METEOR RUSH,” and proceeded to deliver a series of three fiery punches that shattered an equal number of ribs. The knight then finished the assualt by opening his hand, and slamming the star within it into the giant’s chest. The blast lifted the monstrosity off the ground, and back into its nearest living ally. The two-other living margr froze. Hiero lifted his fist to deliver another strike to the quickly weakening giant.

That was the moment Ro hit the ground.

Now, even Hiero froze. Eventually, he let himself look, and saw his sidekick lying at the base of a 20-foot fall in a pool of blood. The margr on the cliff had its spear raised to throw.

The automaton took a single second to look back at the giant margr. The machine knew it could kill the margr. What it wished it knew was how quickly, or rather, if it would be quick enough. The monster still seemed to have some fight in it. Hiero had to make a decision.

The knight leapt to the unconscious woman, and took her up in one arm. Then, he hurled a warning bolt of lightning to distract the margr on the cliff, and power-jumped to his prone sidekick. The knight hit the ground running, and scooped the child up without breaking stride.

The black margr called for its lessers to give chase, and, after a second shout, they obeyed.

Hiero let them follow until the valley grew narrow, stopped, and placed his two companions on the ground. The margr continued their pursuit until Hiero turned sideways, and raised a hand to them with energy gathering at its center. “Prominence blaze.” Humorless, Hiero let the 50-foot cone of solar flame wash over his pursuers. Two died, and two more ran away patting out flames. The black margr alone remained. It smiled looking at the knight’s damaged body, and thinking that Hiero had just used the last of his power. Another bead of light began in the automaton’s hand, and the margr’s eyes grew wide for a moment. It gave a seething growl, and, like a monster withdrawing into the night, it finally backed away.

The knight watched it until it finally left. Then, he turned back to his two companions, and let the grain of flickering light in his chest glow upon them.

Fear began to well up where the starlight once existed. He laid the two bodies face up, and reached a hand over each of their hearts. He closed his eyes, and prayed he was wrong.


All good things, came to an end.

It was one of the fundamental laws of life, human life especially. Youth withered. Food went stale.
People died.

Good people often went sooner than the rest.

This was in part due to another such law of life;

Life need not be fair.

All good things came to an end, and life need not explain how, why, and most certainly not when.

The chance to say good-bye was gift,

And not one always given.


Hiero waited.


He continued to wait.


Time stretched on for an eternity, and eons passed in seconds.

Then there was a sound.

Thump thump, thump thump.

A heartbeat.

Thump thump, thump thump.

A second.

Hiero nearly collapsed in relief. Their beats and breath were faint, but they were alive. Ro, was still alive. He pulled out some bandages, and did his best to staunch their bleeding before taking them to back to town. As he walked back, he contemplated suddenness with which Ro could be taken from him, and decided that he would fix up an assorted plate of Ro’s favorite metals for when she woke up. He also took solace in the knowledge that while all good things ended, so too did most of the bad.

This day for example.

He couldn’t wait for it to be over.