Vault of The Starborn Machine

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Chapter 3: Growing Up

Part 4: Heroes

Hiero stood atop a tower overlooking a city.

Ellomyr had grown, and the knight was happy that it had. It had been four years since the Iron Wind had come to Ellomyr and the machine knight first decided to stay in the town long term. In those years, he had come to see the town as something of a home. He still roamed the world every now and then whenever wanderlust took over, or he heard news of another village in danger, but he always found his way back before too long. It was probably the skyskrapers that did it. They drew him in like a magnet with their sweet whispers of nostalgia. It was almost criminal how much Hiero could like a single piece of architecture.

They reminded him of his earliest days. He missed them. He missed the late summer nights spent atop skyscraper ledges looking for people to help. He missed the days of staring out over a city and feeling the pride of being its guardian. He missed sitting out atop a roof with his goofy prime creator, and his over-the-top teacher as they laughed with him in the way only best friends did. The years used to go by much slower back then. He was over 300 million years old now, and though he had spent much of that time in periods of inactivity, he had still been alive long enough for the years to feel as if they flipped by like seconds. Relative to him, people seemed to appear in his life one moment, and disappear the next.

It was why humans often referred to immortality as a curse.

Hiero however, saw his long life as a blessing. It was true that he had watch many close friends pass on, but each sorrowful death was only so because he had been gifted with the opportunity to experience their lives along with them. Though his crumbling memory core meant that he could no longer retain any but his most valuable memories for more than a few decades, it had taught him to appreciate those thousands of beautiful little moments that made up a life all the more.

The knight looked out over the city of Ellomyr. Its familiar streets had been sown with a thousand moments both happy and sad. They were all beloved. He cherished the feelings of camaraderie as he had laughed and made merry with the people of Ellomyr within their tavern halls. He treasured every second of joy he had felt as he had danced and built play castles with the children in the park and village square. He even treasured the warm sorrow he felt as he consoled grieving families, and attended the last moments of dear friends like Rundyn*.

One day, nearly all of those memories would become lost within the mire of eternity. However, he had learned that if he could live and love every part of those moments, good and bad, with all of his heart, he could transform them into something transcendent that would remain with him long after everything else faded. It had been the greatest, and final, lesson that his creators had ever taught him: To laugh from the depths of one’s stomach, to cry from the depths of one’s heart, and to love from the depths of one’s soul.

The knight turned towards the orange and pearly skinned mutant dangling her legs over the edge of the tower. She was 15 now, and had grown just as the city had. Puberty, hadn’t so much as hit, as it had left a post card. A dubious “I-Owe-You”, if you will. For this reason, Ro largely just resembled a ganglier, taller, and slightly better dressed version of her past self.

Emotionally however, Ro had also grown a great deal. She was braver, more confident, and all around even more mature than she had been as a child. She still idolized Hiero, though not quite as blindly as she once did. Her teenage rebelliousness had decided to take the form of a sassy streak. Even so, the girl still often tried to mimic the knight’s bravado and over the-the-top nature. Unfortunately for her, she had just enough dignity to occasionally realize how silly she often looked, and would sometimes grow bashful around more judgmental crowds, or young cute boys near her age.

After all was said and done however, Ro was very much the same girl that had once looked up with fearful and defiant courage to a mechanical knight and demanded for the machine to teach her how to be a hero. The greatest difference was that the fragile and childlike hope she had once held, had begun to grow into something stronger. Hiero wondered briefly if Ro knew she had begun to radiate a similar presence as him.

“Ro?” The knight asked.

“Hiero!” The girl shouted back.

“Do you consider yourself a hero?”

The girl glanced over to Hiero and raised an orange scaled eyebrow. She then turned toward the army of Iron Wind mutated margr that had surrounded and was attackind the city of Ellomyr. She clucked her tongue. “You know, I have this memory of a time where I had nearly lost you to a similar army of margr, and you told me then that you refused to leave me until the day I learned to see myself as a hero. So, to answer your question…” The girl stared out at the army with a solemn expression. She then let out a sign and turned back to face the automaton. “No.” She gave a cheeky and razor toothed grin. “Sorry, but I’m not letting go of you quite yet.”

Hiero shook his head but smiled in spite of himself. “I didn’t realize I had raised such a selfish hero.”

The mutant gave a criticizing look to the knight. “I’m plenty selfless. You’re the one who insisted we stay way back here on this tower while the rest of the city is actually fighting. Shouldn’t we be at the front walls inspiring and helping people? You know, like heroes?”

Hiero laughed at the girl’s question, “I’m afraid not Ro, they have generals for that sort of thing. We have another purpose right now.” The knight looked out over the city and recalled all of the incredible people that had come together to make it possible. Hiero and Ro, were not the only heroes in this city.

There were glaives like Gilthk, a creature made of stone, who was often found accompanying and protecting the vital expedition parties when they left to find lost wonders, and helping to keep peace in the city with his might whenever he returned.

There were nanos like Arkwiss and Faël who brought their mastery and knowledge of the past worlds magics to protect, inspire, and create.

There were jacks like the young woman, Elita the Watcher, who used her wit and mystic gifts to expose the secrets of the wicked and powerful in a weekly publication known as The Ellomyr Informical, and had sold much of her land to create a park, known as the Vansk Commons, for the people of Ellomyr.

There were Arkai like Vico, who now spent his days as a teacher, the head of a the Bank of Tommorows, and an unmissable pillar of Ellomyr’s society who supported the community with a nurturing, and careful hand.

There were also Arkai like The Savior, Xandra, who had created a network of peacekeepers for Ellomyr that could do the sometimes noble and sometime subtle work needed to keep the city safe.

There were the Delves like Almsqu who braved ancient ruins to unearth the secrets and treasures that fueled the many wonders of the city.

Lastly, there were the Wrights like the ones who had started the Ellomyr Sanitation project to reinvent the lost art of proper plumbing, and, in doing so, had likely been the ones most responsible for convincing travelers to stay in the city.

None where like Hiero, yet he believed that each and every one of them had become a hero in their own way. Some had first needed to leave behind their darker pasts, and some still struggled against their demons, but all of them had eventually come to strive to make Ellomyr in one way or another a slightly better place.

The knight continued to watch the city from up high as the many heroes of Ellomyr stood strong against the horde. Minutes passed and eventually the army was driven back without the help of either the knight or his sidekick, “Ro, what do you think a hero is?”

Ro gave a confused look. “Someone who saves people?”

“I’ve met plenty of heroes that have never actually saved a life.” Hiero chided.

The girl scowled, “Okay, so what do you think a hero is?”

Hiero raised a hand to stroke his chin, and stared off into the setting sun like a brooding wizard. A funny thought tumbled through his head. Once, prior to his most recent reactivation, his body had been worshiped as a god of sunlight. The thought tickled the knight. He could never have asked for something better than being interpreted as an avatar of the sun. It was the reason, upon his reactivation, that he had chosen to keep the name he had once been called, Hiero Sol.

“What were heroes, Ro, if not the promise of the sun?” Hiero said, waxing poetically.

The teenager rolled her eyes. Common sense said not to humor him, but she had long abandoned common sense. “And what promise is that?”

Hiero grinned like a madman, “The promise that exists at the core of our heroic souls! The promise that no matter how dark and terrible the night, nor how hopeless the fight, the dawn will eventually come.”

Ro pondered for a moment and then remembered the knights earlier words. “Hiero, you said we had another purpose here today. What was it?”

Hiero smiled. The earth began to shake suddenly. An enormous creature rose up and out of the center of Ellomyr just as the people of the city had finished driving off the margr. “To save our strength so that we can lead the charge against that thing.”

Ro stared at the building sized creature in awe and terror. “Did Ravasa tell you this was going to happen?”

Hiero shrugged, “She hinted at it.” His thrusters warmed as he prepared to leap towards the newest threat. “You coming? I think the city could use a few more heroes right now.”