Vault of The Starborn Machine

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Chapter 2: The Sea of Margr

Part 5: Humanity

(This correlates Ellomyer Update #8)
As the army of margr coasted over the horizon like a grim sunrise, the villagers of Ellomyr braced themselves to fight. Many of the villagers were armed with nothing more than simple weapons and looks of growing horror. There had been the appearance of courage amongst them earlier, but the chittering of the approaching hoard had drawn mortality sharply into focus.  The sea of margr seemed to grow infinitely larger as the monstrous army continued to rise over the hill and into view. In a twist of irony, many of the villages began to notice that the wooden barricades almost resembled the pen of a lamb waiting to be slaughtered. Hopelessness settled firm over the town.

Hopelessness however, was always a term used in hyperbole. Amidst any sufficiently large crowd, there was always at least one idiot too dumb to realize how desperate the situation.

Enter Hiero, a mechanical knight so delusional in his bravado that he would mentally calculate the exact percentage chance of failure, and then flip a table and shout, “Never tell me the odds!”, before running out of the room towards his next adventure. Sometimes he remembered to open the door before running through it.

The man, the myth, the walking joke, Hiero, now stood atop a balcony overlooking the many townsfolk. The star at the center of his chest made him shine like a beacon in the evening gloom, and drew the attention of many before he even spoke.

“Hello there citizens of Ellomyr, I'm sure most of you have heard of who I am through my many incredible exploits, amazing adventures, and daring do-goods. However, I'm also sure there are a handful of you that have been living under a rock, too busy crying your weird human tears of fear to have realized that the hero you had been praying for has been here all along. I know this because when I look out at you all today I see faces of terror, despair, and an utter soul-crushing hopelessness that couldn't possibly exist if you knew the truth. So, for the few of you rock people out there, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Hiero Sol, Champion of Starlight and Guardian of Humanity. Yes, a daring claim to make, I know, but daring is my middle name, or at least one of the three. Now, I'm sure you're all dying to know why I'm standing here speaking with you." Hiero noticed several people flinch, "Oh, I’m sorry. Did the word DYING bother you?” The knight smiled. “Well I’m certainly not surprised! I can see quite clearly that each and every one of you are wondering whether this day will be your last, and I'm here to tell you that if you keep thinking like that, then it sure as heck will be. I almost can’t blame you. Just look at yourselves. You're small and squishy, you have no natural weapons, armor, or any real means a defending yourself, and your greatest asset is a brain so flawed, unnecessarily convoluted, and self-contradicting that’s it’s a miracle you can even remember to keep your heart beating. Oh wait, never mind, it’s called a heart attack. I mean really, the greatest accomplishment of humanity is perhaps that you've managed to survive this long.”

The crowd was beginning to grow restless. A few were looking annoyed, but just as many looked simply disheartened by Hiero’s words.

“Yes, I know what you’re thinking. ‘Hey you, crazy robot man, shut the front door! We don’t need to put up with your salsa. Aren’t you supposed to be motivating us or something?’ Well you’re right! I am supposed to be motivating you, and I’m doing a right sour job at it aren’t I?” Hiero gave a synthetic sigh, and shook his head as if ashamed. “Well, that’s because I wasn’t built to stand up here and stroke your ego. Your ancestors only made me to thwart villainy in all of its forms, and lying to you about your chances today would be villainy indeed.” Hiero stopped to stare out over the crowd. He caught a small rock that was thrown at him, and casually lobbed it behind his back, “But tell me, did any of you catch the important part I just said right there?” 

More silence.

Hiero placed a hand on his forehead. He thought the answer was obvious. “You made me. Let me repeat that. You. Mankind. Made. Me. Your ancestors, who by every rational law of the universe, should have died out hundreds of millions of years ago, managed to construct something as complicated and powerful as me. For all their flaws, they had found something within themselves that gave them the strength to move mountains. That’s why I’m here. That’s why you’re here. Each and every one of you is a product of your kind’s relentless drive not only to survive all obstacles, but flourish in the in the face of them. You may think, ‘Oh, but I’m not like the humans of the past’, and I’m here to tell you that you are every bit the same. 

Look to your left and right. Each and every one of you could have run for your lives, but you chose to stay and fight. I’ll repeat that. You heard that an army of monsters was coming to murder you, and you chose to stand your ground and fight. And I know there are some of you out there thinking, “You’re wrong Mr. Hiero, I couldn’t leave. My family is still here.” That’s malarkey and you know it. No one chained you to the earth. Your family didn’t hold you to the ground and keep you from running. You stayed because you gave a damn. Because this village isn’t just a village, it’s your home, and these people aren’t just people, they’re your family! So you fed the earth with your sweat, and tears, and you raked it with worn, bloody knuckles, and from it you raised defenses the likes of which these margr have never seen, and never will again. Don’t you understand? Any beast with a grain of common sense and desire to survive would have run for the hills by now, but not you. You aren’t satisfied with SURVIVING. You want to LIVE! You all still have the same unrelenting will as your ancestors. The same drive that made them never settle for good enough. The same indomitable will that let them shape the stars!

“Let me tell you another thing. I am not the pinnacle of creation, astonishing I know, but true. I've seen past worlds rise and fall, and I can tell you that I have seen you do so much more than me, and so much more than this.” Hiero gestured to the margr hoard. “After everything that’s tried to destroy you, and EVERYTHING has tried to destroy you, you’re still here, and the defacto rulers of this world. I said your greatest accomplishment is that your kind has managed to survive this long in spite of all the odds stacked against them. Do you have any idea of what an accomplish that is? Scholars say that mankind was among the first intelligent life on this planet, and I’ll bet my left arm it will be the last.”

“I dare you to look me in the eye and tell me that knowing your ancestors crossed the heavens wide, you draw the line of impossibility at driving off a bunch of spear toting umlan goats! For crying out loud, I can train a seskii to herd goats. I know you’re afraid to die today, but you have so much more to lose than life. Don't you understand? These margr aren’t coming to take your life, they coming to take away everything that makes life worth living. That shouldn’t make you scared, that should make you FURIOUS! How DARE they think that they can march into your home without being invited! How DARE they think that they can take everything you have worked so hard for! How DARE they think they can hurt your friends, family, and children!”

“Well I got news for you people, they think they can! They THINK waltz into this village and take your lives as you cower fear. Well let’s show them what WE think about that!”

A flag bearing spear pierced the sky, “Now who here is with me!?” A chorus of battle cries rang out. “I don’t think they can hear you out there! Louder!” The cries intensified into a roar. Hiero amplified his voice to rise over the dim, “Do hear THAT margr? The children and friends of mankind stand ready to face you, for we shall bow to no one! Now quicken to battle stations my defenders of Ellomyr.” Hiero turned towards the hoard. “Tonight, we fight for justice. Tonight, we fight for our families. Tonight, we fight for ELLOMYR!”

And with that, and his flag toting pike held high, Hiero leapt to the sky towards the approaching army. He hit the ground, and continued in a sprint with a brilliant star, bright like day, clutched in his glowing white fist. A thousand and one alarms screamed in the knight’s head. Some hundred about overheating. Some hundred more about having drawn out nearly all of his starlight. The knight ignored it all. He ran like Prometheus stealing fire from the gods and delivering it to the margr. The very first abhuman to approach him received the gift. A cone of starlight erupted from the knight’s molten palm, and washed over dozens of margr. Swaddled in the embrace of searing plasma, many died, but the army was merely dented. Every grain of common sense the knight had screamed for him to run and recharge, but Hiero couldn’t allow the villagers behind him to see anything short of unwavering courage. So, he clutched his melting hand so that it would solidify into a fist, and raised his war banner high. Then, with his body begging him to reconsider, he broke into a charge.