Radiant, continued

Posted: April 26, 2011 in Fiction, Gaming

My stay in the town was to be short lived. The riders who pursued the remnants of the royal family of the old empire were relentless. I had scarcely reentered society when they found me again. I was a distinctive presence so it was no surprise the night they came for me.

“You have a name?” The commanding officer was taken aback.

“I do.”

“Um. What is your business…” He trailed off.

“Radiant. I seek repair and employment.”

“We do not have a wizard here.” He lowered his short spear. His men did not follow suit.

“I do not need a wizard. I can perform my own repairs. I need a smithy. I have money.” That last was a lie, but only a small one. I had goods that I could trade, and I am a capable craftsman. I could work off my debt.

“The townfolk won’t take kindly to having a golem traipsing about.” The captain planted the butt of his spear on the ground. He pulled his chain coif down with a mailed hand. “I’m going to have to assign a detail to accompany you.”

“Acceptable.” I did not care if the humans wanted to follow me around. I had no intention of harming anyone. The captain turned to his men. Most of them lifted their spear-tips. The captain selected three men to take shifts escorting and watching me. Four would have been better. Shorter watches always made for more alert watchmen. I did not speak. It was not my place to command these men, and men did not enjoy following my orders. Despite my efforts and success on the battlefield, the old empire had declined to promote me. By the fall, I had been awarded many medals for valor and bravery. I carried them with me because they were useful to me as raw materials for repairs.

“Golem, are you coming or not?” My escort was standing in front of me impatiently.

“Apologies. I will follow.” My mind had wandered again. The man clanked as he walked off, and I followed. Despite my construction, my movements are only as loud as an unarmored man, but as usual the noise would be attributed to me. As we walked, I performed reconnaissance. I stood a head and neck taller than anyone around, so visibility was no issue. Large main street. No walls. The tallest building was three stories. The look of the construction indicated that it would not hold my weight. No truly defensible positions. Conversely, the terrain could provide cover without impeding flight in any direction I chose.

The smithy appeared to be the most durable structure in town. I had not seen a garrison building, but it did not concern me. Three of the four walls were stone and mortar, with small circular windows hewn from larger stones and crosshatched with wooden supports. Adequate ventilation. The fourth wall was only waist high. It ran about half the length of the building and terminated in a massive cylindrical chimney. A fire blazed white-hot in the mouth of the furnace. The steady ping of a hammer and anvil sounded from under the awning. A dwarf with a dreadlocked mane of blonde hair swung a hammer at what would soon become a blade. The glow of the iron flickered as the hammer obscured it. A cigar hung from his mouth, but it did not impede his speech. “What ye need?” His voice sounded nearly as gravelly as my own.

“I require repair.” The dwarf looked up. His hammering ceased.

“The captain got us a golem?” My warden shook his head.

“I am no one’s golem. I am Radiant, and I need repair.” The dwarf came out from behind the massive anvil. He still held his hammer. He stopped in front of me and crossed his arms.

“Well, let’s see then.” He shifted the cigar from the left side of his mouth to the right using only his lips. I opened my cloak and showed the gaping hole carved in the upper right of my chest by a sword and the hole in my abdomen left by the tracker’s arrow. The dwarf raised a bushy eyebrow. “I s’pose I can fix yeh,” he said.

“I am capable of repairing myself. I would like to rent your shop to do so.”

“Nothing doing, golem. I got a blade to finish, and shoes to make.”

“I am not a golem.” I felt frustration. “I can work through the night. I do not require sleep.” The dwarf turned to the guard.

“You expect me to let this thing use my shop?” The guard raise a hand and shrugged his shoulders.

“The captain said we gotta keep an eye on it. One of us will be here with it.”

“I am male,” I interjected.

“Did he say the thing could use my forge?”

“He didn’t say.”

“I am damaged. I desire to repair myself in much the same way you would seek out a healer if you were to break your hand, dwarf.” My patience was wearing thin. I did not like being called a golem. I liked being denied repaired even less. No matter the disrespect the old empire had shown me, I was never denied proper repairs. The dwarf raised his hammer, his frown deepening to a scowl. “Before you strike, I would have you know that I like being called a golem as much as you enjoyed me calling you a dwarf. I would also have you know that I am treated as property in much the same way an arbalest or a catapult is.” The dwarf lowered his hammer at that. After a long moment of silence, he spoke.

“Ye may use my forge… Radiant.”

“You have my thanks.”

***

Mist rolled in just after midnight. I had been slowly folding the mithril skin closed, and my medals of honor waited in a smelting cup to be poured into the wound. The golds and silvers had marbled together; a strange and beautiful shine in the light of the fires. My keeper sat and watched me work. He was more alert than I would have expected. He leaned forward in his chair, resting his chin on a brace formed of his arms on his spear shaft. “Uh, Radiant?”

“Yes.”

“Does that hurt?”

“In a manner of speaking. I feel the alteration of my body, and I am upset if it is not whole.”

“Huh.”

“What is your name?”

“My name?”

“Yes. You used my name. I would honor you in the same way.”

“Oh. It’s Dorvan.”

“Dorvan. Thank you.”

“It’s nothing.”

“For you, perhaps.” I turned back to my work. The arrow hole was finally plugged, and used a pair of tongs to lift the smelting cup. I laid down and I tilted the thick iron cup until the iridescent liquid poured into the arrow hole in my abdomen. It filled up quickly. I felt the warmth inside as the heat leached out of the molten metal. It quickly dissipated. My body was cold in the night air, and I was not warmed by my exertion. Dorvan spoke up again.

“I hear horses,” he said to me.

“Does the town often see travelers at this hour?”

“It’s very nearly unheard of.” He hauled himself up with his spear. “Will you behave if I go have a look-see?

“I will stay here.” He nodded and clanked off into the darkness. I looked down and examined the gold and silver swirls in my repair. I laid back down, and started pouring the remaining alloy onto the lattice I had constructed to fill my other wound. As the heat warmed my chest cavity, I heard the sound of clanking rapidly approaching. I kept pouring.

“There’s trouble.” Dorvan was wheezing.

“What kind?”

“Five riders. Heavy plate armor. New royal standard. They say they’re looking for a golem.”

“Have you already surrendered me to them?”

“What? No!” He sounded indignant.

“You have my thanks.” I let the arcane fire that powers me build inside. My hands warmed in anticipation. “It is extremely likely that they have followed the sound of you running, Dorvan.”

“What? I – I didn’t mean to…” He spluttered. I raised a hand.

“It is not your fault. I’m afraid I must leave now though. If your captain questions you, tell him I struck you down.” I raised my hand and pointed it at him. He blanched. In the instant he shied away, I let a blast of bluish flame claw into the night. It illuminated a rider in full plate, and I watched his eyes grow wide in the fleeting light. The bolt plowed into him and lifted him off his horse. “Find cover, Dorvan, and do not watch me go.” Dorvan disappeared into the smithy. I stepped out of the awning and into the darkness. I could not see in the dark, but I let my senses open to the starlight and the magical. My eyes adjusted until I could dimly make out the town, and the feeling of all things enchanted prickled in my mind.

The fallen horseman was one such mystical pinprick. I stood over him and placed a heavy foot on his chest. His overly fancy livery muted the sound of my three-toed food splaying on his breastplate. “Why do you pursue me?”

“You are now the property of his Majesty, the King. In his name I order you to stand down, construct.” Anger welled up inside me. I crouched over him and leaned in close enough to see sweat beading on his brow.

“I am not property.” I growled. Anger turned to fury. I felt heat radiating in my chest.

“You are a weapon of the old empire,” the man protested.

“You are half-right,” I hissed. I placed both palms on his chest and poured out blue fire. Ice formed on his breastplate, and I stood up. I took a step back and poured more cold flame onto him. The snap and pop of the ice forming covered the sound of his sudden fit of shivering. I was suddenly pushed backward as a crossbow bolt slammed into my chest. I could feel my fury spilling out. I hadn’t planned on killing these men. I reached up and pulled the bolt out, then burned it to a cinder in my hand. In the light, I could see another man in full plate trying desperately to reload his crossbow. I heard a popping noise from my chest, and I looked down again. The fresh hole leaked flame for a second but it quickly pinched itself closed. Light poured from the larger half finished repairs too. The gold and silver were knitting together with the mithril. I was healing.

I looked back to the crossbowman, who was dropping another bolt into the groove. I raised a palm and jetted a vicious gout of blue fire at him. “I am no man’s possession, and if you chase me, I will RUIN you!” I roared into the night. The fire caught the man in the face, and he flipped onto his back like he’d been punched by an ogre. I heard the sound of hooves approaching. My anger had given away my position. I turned and ran for the nearest house. I blasted a smoking hole in the wall in a single shot. My earlier assessment was correct. I crashed through the remains of the wall and into the pitch black house. I stopped. I waited for the men to dismount and follow me. It took only seconds, but they entered the hole with torches lit and swords drawn. In the flickering orange, I could see the front door. I ran for it, but I turned space in on itself as I did. I flickered into existence in the center of the main street as a false image of me struggled with the door.

If Dorvan’s intelligence was correct, there was still another rider out there, but I didn’t care. I twisted space again and landed outside of the town. I looked down at my chest. I was unsure how, but I was completely repaired. My rage was tempered by the sudden peace that came with being whole once more. I would have to investigate this further. Rather than hunt my pursuers down, I pulled the chaotic energies I commanded around me like a cloak. A fight would decimate the small town, and I didn’t want to do that. At the very least, Dorvan had shown me kindness. I drew my cloak closed and wandered into the night.

[No news tonight.]

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Comments
  1. heidi says:

    I love this story.

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