Vault of The Starborn Machine

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Chapter 3: Growing Up

Part 1: Magic

The next few days after the battle passed in a blur. Hiero, the mechanical knight, and Ro, his mutant, koi-colored squire, spent much of it doing their best to make repairs to the knight’s body and doing their best to keep morale high. To many people’s surprise, the automaton continued to offer his morning training sessions. To Hiero’s surprise, several people continued to attend. Over the next few months, when he wasn’t making repairs or teaching, the knight helped the people of Ellomyr rebuild. Hiero watched as the village slowly rebuilt itself, his students began looking ever more like real guards and fighters, and the people of Ellomyr returned to lives of relative peace. The people of Ellomyr had indeed been strong, and, in time, Hiero realized the village had grown into a true town. It was a solemn moment for the knight. Unfortunately, one of the hardest parts about being a hero was similar to the hardest part about being a parent. If one did their job well, the ones they had protected, loved, and guided for so long would eventually no longer need them. After four months of helping Ellomyr recover, Hiero finally realized that there was little left for him to do for the town, but let it grow. He left Belara, one of his first and brightest pupils in charge of continuing the training sessions, and said his farewells to a handful of friends. Then, with far less fan fair than he had arrived, he left.


As Hiero walked away from the town with Ro following behind, the young mutant decided to ask the question that had been nagging her. “Hiero?”

“What is it, my fearless sidekick?” Replied the knight.

“Where are we going?”

“We’re going on an adventure! An educational adventure!

Ro frowned. “You mean you’re going to teach me to read and do math?”

“What? Of course not. Since when has reading ever saved lives? As for math, that’s about as far away from an adventurer as…well…” Hiero actually couldn’t think of anything as unadventurous as math. Even sleeping carried the chance of having an adventurous dream. “Never mind. We are going on an adventure to teach you something incredible.”

The girl quirked her head like an interested dog.

“We are going to find someone to teach you magic. There are too many problems that can’t be solved with just a spear.”

Ro frowned as she recalled how powerless she had been to help Nir. “Okay, so we’re leaving to find a Nano or an Aeon Priest? Are we going to Qi?”

“Ha, heavens no! Those eggheads wield the power of ‘science’. I want you to learn to use real magic.”

The young mutant scrunched her face, “But I thought that magic is just science that we don’t understand.”

“Exactly! There’s nothing more heroic that wrestling barely understood forces in order to save the day. Besides, do you really want to sit at a desk all day learning science with some dusty old geezer who has never stepped outside the safety of his university?”

Ro considered the knight’s words. A dramatization of herself quite literally bored to death, and lying prone over a sea of scientifically dense literature flickered through her head. The mutant girl gave a look of horror at the thought. “Nope!”

“Good, then let us continue onward towards new adventures.” Hiero thrust a finger towards the wilderness, and the wind picked up as if in sympathy with his excitement. His cape fluttered.

Ro smiled at the heroic sight of her hero, and a curious thought worked its way to the front of her mind. “Hiero, if I learn magic will you teach me to do that thing you do with your cape?”

“Huh?” Hiero turned to his squire with a look of utter confusion. “What in the world are you talking about Ro? It doesn’t take magic to put on a cape.”

“No, the thing. You’re doing it now.” The girl said, pointing behind him.

Hiero looked back at his flowing cape. “Billowing?”

“Duh. How do you make it do that?”

Another confused look from the knight. “I don’t do anything Ro. I just put the cape on, and when the wind blows, it moves a little.”
“But…it always…” Ro’s mind boggled. She had never considered Hiero wasn’t aware of his own cape’s uncanny nature. “I’ve seen it moving like that indoors though!”

Hiero shrugged. He was starting to look at his squire as if she had sprouted three heads. “Well, it was probably just a drafty building. Oh, or maybe the wind of a door opening caught it.”

“It’s always on time though. Every time you do something dramatic it’s like ‘Woosh, billow, I’m a cool cape on a cool guy’.” Ro said waving her hands in imitation, “Every time! Are you sure your cape isn’t magic?”

“As often as I have to replace my damaged capes?”

“Then WHY does it always move like that?”

Hiero raised a fist to his chin and struck a pose of deep thought. “Hmm, I think I understand now. You aren’t the first person to tell me that my cape acts strangely. Clearly, I’m just such an incredible hero that when I pose, the very world itself can’t help but pose with me!”
Ro’s brain nearly caught fire trying to find some other rational explanation. “That doesn’t make sense though. The world can’t do that…”
Hiero clucked a nonexistent tongue at the child. “See! And that’s just the kind of thinking we are going teach you to change. This world is full of things that don’t make sense, and many never will.”

“Like your cape?” Ro asked quizzically.

Hiero nodded, “There are lots of things like that, magic, realities beyond comprehension, love, nonlinear time, life, and why I still have a 300-million-year-old sorfet jingle in my head saved amidst my most precious memories. Sometimes its best just to learn to accept things rather than waste your time running around in circles trying to figure it all out like those egghead in Qi.’

Ro seemed to carefully ponder Hiero’s words for several moments. Then she spoke, “What’s a sorfet?”

“It’s a word from a past world. You see, one-day humanity will likely rediscover the lost art of making moving images. You know, like we what we once saw that Nano do. Except in the future everyone will be able to make them.”

“That sounds amazing.”

“Ha, you would think so, but all I can remember about them is that you humans used those moving images to advertise, and would make these really annoying things called ‘sorfets’ which would loop again and again until you bought what they were trying to sell you.

“Never mind, that sounds awful.”

“It was.” Hiero briefly got a distant look in his eyes and phantom jingle played on loop within his mind. Then, he snapped out of it and shook his head. “But that doesn’t matter anymore. Those demons are a thing of the past and the future is waiting for us, big and beautiful. Now let’s seize the day my noble squire. I’m going to take you to a place I once visited that few people in the Steadfast and Beyond have heard of. A place of magic and nature, Lostrei, the land of spirits!”

Ro beamed at Hiero’s resurging enthusiasm and gave a cheer as she raised her hands and ran off down the road.

Before he followed, the knight glanced back at Ellomyr one last time. Something about the place made ancient senses deep within him buzz. The dark energy that had brought him to the town had faded after the margr attack, but something destructive still loomed. It was distant, but big. Hiero didn’t know what it was, but he was certain that he would one day return. When Ellomyr needed a hero once more, he would be there.

As Hiero turned back to see Ro waiting for him a thought leapt to the front of his mind. “Wait a minute! Dd you say earlier that you don’t know how to read?”

“Yeah. Didn’t I tell you that before?”

Hiero frowned as he jogged after his cheeful sidekick. He was suddenly recalling a number of times Ro had walked right past clearly labeled warning signs. It painted several of their past misadventures in an entirely new light. Perhaps, he considered, a couple reading lessons could save a life.