Monday, 19 May 2014

The Quest for Verdisc (part 3)

Thaddeus Mist raced from his observatory and across the cobbled streets of Port Vincent. He leapt over the market stalls that were being packed up, his back arched to make him as aero dynamic as possible. He tripped for a second, but the momentum of his running kept him going forwards and a push with his sword kept him up straight. He passed through the large gates, ignoring the shouts of 'Friend or Foe' and continued across the courtyard where Marcus had been working earlier. The king was across the way, observing some knights trying to scale the crown room tower.
"Ah, Thaddeus!" He exclaimed. "Your Rapunzel Rope is brilliant. My men have been holding all onto one piece of it and it hasn't broken. I say, whatever is the matter?"
"As you know, sire," Thaddeus replied, "my building is the only but yours in the city that can see the beautiful oceans."
"Of course, I nearly had a heart attack when I was informed of your planning request."
"I was looking out of my telescope merely minutes ago and I saw something quite terrible on the horizon! An armada of spectre battle ships are surging towards our great kingdoms, ready to attack."
The king gave Thaddeus a sceptical look. "I already have a court jester, Thaddeus."
"I'm not joking, sire. I'm telling the truth."
The king gave Thaddeus yet another sceptical look, and then realised he wasn't kidding. "Arthur, come here now!"
The head of guards ran over to join them. "How can I help you, sire?"
"Thaddeus seems to believe that the spectres are going to attack us, I want you to accompany him to the battlements and send out a message. We're under attack. Everyone should barricade themselves in."
"Of course, sire." He formally saluted and turned to Thaddeus. "Follow me!"
They marched to the large oak doors that led into the castle and Arthur randomly gave orders to people, like, "Toll the city bell." or, "Amass the troops on the seaward wall," a statement that was pointless seeing that they lived on an island.
They followed the long corridors and finally came out in the barracks. They climbed up a rickety stair case and into the armoury. It was a large room, with row of weapon after weapon and lots and lots of different equipment. Arthur grabbed a collection of small bales of hay, and instructed Thaddeus to bring two buckets of flammable liquid. They rushed to the corner of the room and ascended the limestone blocks, arranged as a spiral stair case. They climbed seventeen stories and came out into the top of the tower. It was a dusty space, with the decaying strings of spider webs hanging from the rafters. There was one window. It was small and had an arched top, and Thaddeus stuck his head out immediately, so he could breath. He was looking out, away from the nearest wall, meaning he was looking south. He turned around to look north and saw a large door, which Arthur was pushing open. It swung open and they saw the wall, about half a metre away from the gap. Arthur took a large plank of wood and slid it out, across the gap, until it was lined up with the balcony connected to the wall. "What's that?" Thaddeus asked.
"The entrance, sir."
"To what?"
"The innards of the great wall."
Carrying their cargo from the barracks, their arms numb and tired from the seventeen flights of stairs, they crossed the plank and walked through the small gap into 'the innards of the great wall.'

Marcus and Emilia got to the gates. They had never seen anything as frightening as the spectre armada advancing across the sea, and it was as they were requesting permission to walk through the gates, using Thaddeus' name, that something dawned on them. Nobody had a flying machine any more, not after the war of the angels, so there was only one way you could leave.
By the sea that surrounded the island.
"And why would you be wanting to go through the gates?" Asked the gate keeper. He was a reformed  dwarf, probably from New Tunisia,  and was just over average height. 5 foot 2. He wore a rain mac, made of some plastic, and the lapels were turned down. A scraggily beard sat around his face, and the parts of his face you could actually see were as red as the average human beings, after a cross country event. He wore a helmet, but there was hardly no crime in Port Vincent, so Marcus had no idea why.
"Going for a walk." Emilia replied.
"Good enough reason for me." He pulled a lever and was buffeted by a blast of steam from a vent behind his head. His tufty hair was messed up, and he looked disgruntled, but the levers functioned wasn't impaired. The large metal gates swung open, flakes of silver paint trickling down from years of bouncing off the rocks behind them. Marcus and Emilia thanked the gatekeeper and started to walk down the narrow pathway, which had been carved by nature, and erosion. When they were firmly out of sight, having slid down a crumbling slope, they set the mechanical wizard on a rock and gave him the wind up required for optimum use. They heard a click and a clatter and then all of a sudden, the mechanical wizard sat upright. There was a sound like that of the typewriter Thaddeus had made and then a similar ding. A trail of paper slid out of the printer gap and Emilia grasped it, reading it out. "'Hello, Master Marcus and Mistress Emilia,'" She stopped and looked at Marcus, "whatever happened to ladies first?" She returned to the paper. "'I am Mechanical Wizard Mark 1 (prototype.) Your parent/guardian (delete where applicable) had decided that you need to be protected on a hazardous journey to... the Permaline Recesses. I will act as your guardian and navigator, as well as your official guide to the brilliant world around you. There is a display screen beneath my head. This will flash when I have something interesting to point out. Simply press the button to the side and I will play one of the many automated informational recordings contained inside me. Should you need to be defended, I will do what is required. Simply voice a command out loud. Please remember to wind me every six hours, otherwise I won't be able to help you. Have a nice day!' How refreshingly polite." Emilia said.
"I love it when Uncle Thaddeus' prototypes are polite." Marcus replied, standing up from the rock they'd been standing on.
"It's a very rare occurrence, isn't it."
"That it is. Come on. We need to get going."
Emilia nodded and stood the Mechanical Wizard up. "Let's go."
They started walking, following the MW Mark 1 (prototype) and the arrows that lit up on it's back.

The Innards of the Great Wall was a lot busier than Thaddeus had expected. It was like a submarine. The walls were packed with sweaty, hot, busy people, receiving inputs, talking to people down radio transceiver, turning valves and shovelling coal. Half of the population had gone missing when the walls were made, the rumours dictated. Thaddeus smiled. He had just found them. Arthur led him through a doorway and they walked up yet more stairs. They followed some steps and came out on the top of the Great Wall. It was a lot bigger than Thaddeus had expected, with an entire walkway on the top. But most of it was taken up by one of the many inventions they had kept from Earth, all those many years ago. Fire Slingers. Most of them were already being prepared by soldiers, but Arthur managed to find one about half way down that he and Thaddeus could work on. They shoved one of the hay bales into the large catapult dip and doused it in the flammable liquid and waited for the order. Thaddeus looked over the edge of the wall down at the sea. He started counting. He passed one thousand. Two thousand. Three thousand. Four thousand. He gave in at six thousand. Six thousand spectre war ships. And they didn't look happy.
The archers got into position and pulled back their draw strings. Another guards voice echoed in the tranquil calm before the storm. "In the name of Port Vincent, and the residents of this great city, we fight with honour and justice. For the heart of the king and those he protects, we fight with courage and a sense of rightfulness." A single arrow fired from the bow of someone who couldn't hold their drawstring. The guard sensed that it was rolling on too long. "For the honour of the Innards of the Great Wall, we fight with everything we can! Fire!"
All one hundred and ninety eight archers released their drawstrings and the sun was blotted out by arrows. Then the sound of swooshing filled the air and the sky rained arrows upon the warships. Then the Fire Slingers were activated. A match was dropped onto every bale and they exploded into flames. Then the levers were pulled and all the bales were propelled forwards, surging through the air, burning like hellfire. They hit the warships, and they set on fire too. But, as they reloaded the Flame Slingers, Thaddeus noticed it made no difference. They just kept coming. It looked as if it could only end as a hand to hand fight.
The Spectre warships stopped about six metres away from the island shores, and seemed to wait. More and more burning bales were blasted at them but it made no difference. Then there was the first cannon explosion, followed by continuous fire for about five minutes. One explosion after another, after another, with large chunks of concrete falling from the great wall by the end. Once they had run out of cannon fire, the spectres fired grappling hooks up to the wall and began scaling it. The guards took axes and began hacking at the grappling hooks. Entire ropes full of climbing spectres snapped, dropping into the sea, the spectres instantly dying, but not all the ropes were broken. Half the guards, including Arthur and Thaddeus, were sent down into the courtyard, incase the spectres managed to get past. After ten minutes, they did. Almost all of them. They swarmed out of the towers and the corridors and raged towards Thaddeus, Arthur and the other guards. Thaddeus drew his sword and as loud as he could, cried, "The Games afoot: follow your spirit, and upon this charge, cry 'God for Harry, England and Saint George!"
They raced towards the Spectres and began swinging their weapons, hoping to slay a few of the invaders by luck, not masterful fighting techniques, like the guards or had perished before them. Thaddeus beheaded one spectre within the first ten minutes, but searching around him he found he was perhaps succeeding much further than the others. About five spectres were dead so far, including his, and two of them had been casualties of the initial attacks, having been pushed from the top of the Great Wall, or battlements if you would. The amount of guards were dropping dramatically as well, beside him and Arthur, there were about twenty, maybe thirty guards left alive. He decided that the decision to send the children on, no matter how hard it was to make, was the correct one. And he was glad about that.
His sword sparked as a spectre engaged him in battle. The Spectre was tall, towering over Thaddeus who was a tall man himself, and he wore a long black cloak, raggedy and ripped. His face was hidden behind a theatrical mask. Thaddeus believed this specific one was the tragedy mask. Before Thaddeus could make any further observations, he had to block a lunge, then another and another and another. The Spectre controlled the sword like an extra limb, and Thaddeus was knocked back against the wall finally, ready to embrace his death. But it didn't come. The Spectre just turned his back on Thaddeus and watched the fighting. Thaddeus decided to do the same. It was horrific. The Spectres simply massacred the guards, until no-one was left, but Arthur and three others. There were twenty thousand Spectres left. And only a quarter had left the Warships. 
"Who is the highest ranking of you?" The Spectre asked.
Nobody answered.
"I will slay all of you unless you answer."
"I am." Declared Arthur. A spectre dragged him up by the scruff of his neck and forced him back onto his knees. The Spectre raised it's sword.
"Stop!" Thaddeus exclaimed. "I'm the highest ranking."
The Spectre looked at Thaddeus. "You do not count." He swung his sword the full way and Arthur's head and body dropped to the floor, but the head rolled away. One of the spectres raced after it and lifted it by the hair. "We shall use this as a way of showing rank, as we search for the wizards."
Thaddeus looked up. "Do I not count for I am a wizard?"
"That is correct." The Spectre said.
"What are you going to do to us? Will you kill us?"
"No. We will preserve you."
"For the grand purpose."

Marcus and Emilia had quite a nice day, strolling down the path towards the large mountain at the far west. The Mechanical Wizard moved very quickly, and often they would have to call for him to defend them, so the flash of light would tell them where on the horizon he was. They approached the mountain quite late that day, by which time they could see smoke arising from within the walls. It was a horrible sight. They stopped for a rest, and ate some of the bread and cheese Thaddeus had provided. The final part of the path was so eroded on either side that it was sudden drop all the way to the beach if you strolled off it. It led across to the winding path that led around the mountain, all the way to the top. According to the Mechanical Wizard, there was a doorway about halfway up, which led down a triple helix all the way to the port at the bottom. The only part of the entire Port Vincent which stood up to its name. Far away, they could see the horizon, painted with thousands of Spectre Warships. They longed to return to the city and see Uncle Thaddeus, and they realised something they had miles and miles to go. Halfway across the world, they reckoned, and they were homesick already.
Not the best way to start an adventure. 
The same noise was made and a piece of paper slid out. Emilia took it. "'I'm so sorry to interrupt you, but I really think we need to get going! Would it help if I played one of the three pieces of music that I have been given. Should you want me to play music flick the Yes switch on my torso, else flick the No switch. Thank you!' What do you?" Emilia asked. "Want some music to listen to?"
"No." Marcus said, flicking the no switch. "But I think we need to set off."
"Okey dokey." Emilia replied. She stood up and helped Marcus up. "Let's go."
They set up across the narrow path and followed the winding path up, with the sea to their right. "MW?" Marcus asked.
The Mechanical Wizard printed out a slip of paper reading, 'Yes?'
"What do we do when we get down to the port?"
"'There is a vessel down there we can escape on. However, it will have had left within the hour, so we need to hurry.'" Emilia read. 
They rushed up the winding path and stopped, having finally found a doorway to their right. They rushed in came out in their doorway. There was a staircase above them, and there was one beneath. Beyond the staircase, there was a large empty chasm, across which you could see other windows. They ran down the steps, taking it in turns to carry the Mechanical Wizard. The triple helix was an interesting concept, three separate spiral staircases, all assembled in the same shaft and all leading to the same place. It was brilliant, a feat of engineering, and if there were tourists, it would be a tourist attraction. 
They came out of the bottom of the triple helix and onto a large wooden circular platform, above the sea. They could smell the fish and salt of the water. It was intoxicating, but in a good way. Separate jetties led away from the circular platform and to boats. The Mechanical Wizard looked, if it could see, at the different boats and then led them away down a jetty. The boat in question wasn't that big, about the size of the average personal yacht, but shaped more aerodynamically. It had gigantic propellers inside cages on the back, that could create enough air to propel them forwards. There was a  raised deck at the back, in front of them, with a gigantic wheel that connected to the propellers and sails on either side that could be used to direct the boat. If you walked down the steps at the front of the raised deck, you would get to what could only be described as a shed, which opened to reveal steps going further down, into the heart of the ship, where presumably the crew would sleep. Around the front of the ship were cannons and other weaponry, as well as the top of the figurehead of the ship, a female pirate. The boat's name wasn't written in English and half the letters were missing, so the children couldn't read it. L ét ult vé. What ever that meant?
Marcus and Emilia, carrying the Mechanical Wizard, climbed aboard and sat down, waiting for the captain to turn up.
They waited an hour then there was the familiar tapping, like a typewriter, and then a ding. Emilia read the Mechanical Wizards statement. "'I believe we should probably set off. Thaddeus informed me that if the captain didn't show, we were to take off without him-'"
"Why didn't he tell me that?" Marcus asked.
"He didn't tell me!" Emilia exclaimed. "I'm reading what the Mechanical Wizard has said."
"Oh. Sorry."
"Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, 'we were to take off without him. I shall go and raise the anchor. There is a pedal. Stand on that to get the propellers going and turn the wheel to steer.' Come on then. To it!" Emilia announced.
They set off. They travelled for two hours and were far in the middle of the sea when they asked the Mechanical Wizard to navigate. He was at the front of the boat, so they went to find him. Emilia was reading something out, her and Marcus facing towards the sea, when Marcus felt something cold and sharp pressed against his neck. He turned. There was a man there. He was wielding a silver trident that he was pushing into the neck of Marcus. He wore mainly blues and greens, and he had a large sailors hat on his head. He chin was speckled with stubble and his eyes were like the sea he travelled. He spoke with a deep, commanding voice. Powerful. "I am First Mate Octavius Davelron of the Trident Holders. I am assuming command of this ship. Who the hell are you?"

To be continued...

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