I am starting to embrace the fact that I am going to end up rewriting most of this anyway. Yesterday was a real struggle to push through roughly 2000 words. Its like now that I know roughly where I am going, this is no longer as exciting of an act for me. Previously it is like I had been running off the adrenaline created by envisioning an entire world, but now that I know what is going on it is no longer as exciting to me. It feels as though all I am really doing now is just documenting the thing I already created, and as a programmer I tend to hate documentation.
However I have committed to do this thing, so onwards we go! I figure I will let it sit for awhile after finishing and then revise the living shit out of it. All the things need work, but right now I am just trying to brute force out the story. As always take what I have written with a grain of salt because it is likely to change, but here we go with todays installment. At this point I am just shy of 20,000 words. Here is the story so far, if anyone is reading this and wants to catch up.
- Shadowed Stone
- Little Giant Girl
- Birthday Wishes
- The Gifts
- The Incursion
- The Watch
- Rough Landing
- Dragon Bone
- People of the Storm
- The Lady
11 – Cambridge Beneath
Pico had always been intrigued with the old tomes she found laying around the various ward houses she had worked out of. She took every available opportunity to travel to a new one to see what great secrets should could unlock. It was during a summer at the London house that she first found the library. She had taken a day trip up to Cambridge to check the restricted section of the library for any veiled watch related references. It was there that she had followed a series of watch symbols on the shelves and uncovered a hidden panel. Upon opening the panel she uncovered a staircase winding down deep within the bowels of the earth. At the bottom she found what appeared to be an ancient watch house.
She wondered why they had moved to the London house after having such a elegant and well hidden one at Cambridge. The walls of the corridors were ornamented in various tapestries depicting creatures and places she had never seen before. Each chamber was filled with thousands of leather bound tomes, depicting the history of the watch. It would take her decades to pour through them all, she she grabbed a few of the more choice looking ones and carried them back with her to the Lonestar watch. She was certain that the answer to how to repair the wards was laying somewhere within the walls of that catacomb.
She had teetered back and forth on how to explain to the watch that she had uncovered a vast tome of knowledge… but had kept it completely secret all these years. It is not that she meant to be selfish, or had wanted the glory of the discovery, it is more that she wanted to be the first person to have read it all. It took her awhile to work up the courage to explain to Farragut where they needed to go and why she was so certain what she was looking for would be hidden within those chambers.
She had however explained and after giving her a stern scolding and a long speech about duty and honor, he agreed to send her to the archives. The cost however was that she would have to also explain to the London house where the entrance was and turn over the contents to them. While definitely not a complete history of the Cambridge house, the books she had been able to recover seemed to indicate that the Ward Watch started there. If there was any place that would have the information on how to repair the wards or even where to find that knowledge it had to be there.
More importantly than that, she was hoping to find more information about the illusive Order of Merlin. The tomes she had recovered made it unclear if this group was associated with the watch or not. She pondered all of these things and more as she was trapped on board the disguised watch cargo plane headed towards the Cambridge airport. As far as planes went this one was rather nice, and the inside was furnished out in a series of individual suites. She was able to do some work while on board because unlike most airlines, this one had onboard wifi.
No matter how posh a plane is a fourteen hour flight is enough to make anyone a bit claustrophobic. By the time they landed at Cambridge she was up, packed and pacing the plane until she was given leave to depart. She rushed out onto the tarmac and was greeted by a rather cheery fellow named Alfred Sterns. She was reluctant to get back into another vehicle, but she knew that walking really was not that practical. The van she was ushered into was marked like some sort of delivery company, which she assumed was a needed ruse to get them onto the Cambridge campus without serious questioning.
Thirty minutes later Pico and Sterns stood in the restricted section of the Cambridge library. Once again her forged credentials had worked like a charm. She followed the symbols like before that lead her to a false panel. She explained how the process worked to Sterns, and pressed the correct inlaid panel. There was a grinding sound briefly as panel swung inwards revealing a stone passageway. The pair followed it to the staircase and downwards the eight flights of stairs to the ancient watch house. It was as she remembered it exactly, in fact she could still make out her footprints from the last time she was here in the dust.
Pico had spent roughly five hours pouring over the books when she found something that looked promising. It was a narrative description of the founding of the wards. The watch went further back than she could have possibly imagined. It seems as though the Watch itself was founded by the offspring of the order of merlin. She had long wondered the significance of that name. Growing up like any of us, she thought Merlin and King Arthur were just a myth. But according to the tome Merlin at the least was very real.
Nearing the end of his unnaturally long life, Merlin determined that mankind was better off not living in the shadow of Magic. The passage referred to him devising machines using the “Magic of Man”. They were comprised of Dragon bone, that much she knew from the earlier diagrams she had found. However it went into further details that included black iron, and sapphire and amethyst bearings much like the jewels in a watch. The design itself was deceptively simple and from what she could see from the text it simply calculated the decimal places of Pi.
She had been to one of the wards before, deep beneath Dublin… the Green Ward as the watch called it. The dragon bone was cracked deeply, and while at the time she did not understand what the material was, she assumed that this was causing the drop in the ward levels. If all of the wards were suffering similar wear, she would need enough bone to replace them all in order to stop the decay of their power. The problem is… Dragons were not real, at least not as far as she knew.
Reading further into the text she found the source of the wards names. Each of the wards was named after the species of dragon that was slain to build it. The first ward was built out of the bones of a green dragon. She was afraid that this had significance and potentially amplified the power of the machines. Pico sighed deeply… where was she going to find a single dragon, let alone green, black, white, blue, orange and blue ones. She would have to find a way to cross over, and do so with a large enough strike team to be able to take down one or more dragons.
This was a puzzle she just didn’t have the answers to. The analytical weapons did their job on the mortal plane, but it was completely unknown if they would have any effect at all in the shadowlands. On top of this, she didn’t know if conventional weapons or even the laws of physics worked the same. If she could contact the Order of Merlin, she might have a chance and they might be able to tell her just what she needed to do to accomplish her mission. There was the sounds of movement in the hallway as Sterns entered the doorway of the room.
“Miss Pico, I believe you should come see this” Sterns had a look of concern on his face. Pico nodded and followed behind him. He moved down the hall to a chamber at the end. She remembered on her first trip she thought the room was curiously sparse, but in the presence of so many chambers filled with books she ignored it. Alfred it seems did not have the blinders on that she apparently did. “I came across this chamber, and it felt wrong. I followed the same pattern you did above in the library, and found that this panel opened in a similar fashion” Sterns explained triggering the switch and causing a stone doorway to swing inwards to another tunnel. She followed him down the tunnel to a large circular room at the end of the corridor.
The walls of the chamber were covered in intricate carvings, the likes of which she had never seen before. In the center of the room was what looked like a stone picture frame, free standing. She wondered if maybe there had once been a tapestry hanging there. Her eyes moved to stone chests resting on either side of the frame. Above each chest was an indentation and running her finger over it she found no clear purpose for it. “Help me lift the lid off this chest” she said crouching down to slide the stone slab off. It was far lighter than she would have expected and between the two of them they removed it easily.
The moment the lid had shifted the chamber was flooded with a blinding blue light. After removing the lid she saw that there was a small crystal pulsing with a humming blue light. The stone case seemingly had muffled the sound, but now it was absolutely deafening echoing around the circular chamber. She had a hunch and lifted the stone out, and it slid neatly into the side of the stone frame. Alfred gave her a cautioning look of shock as he had not expected her to act quite so carelessly.
LIke an excited child on christmas morning, she moved swiftly to the second chest and found that she could easily slide the lid off without assistance. Once the lid slid free this time a red light poured out of the chamber with a similar humming in a slightly different pitch. Together the stones bathed the circular chamber in a purple glow. Just the same as the blue gem, she was able to slid it neatly into the slot. Immediately upon doing so the chamber was flooded with a blinding purple light and there was what she could only describe as wind.
When Picos eyes adjusted to the brightness she found herself staring at a glowing ring of purple light. Shockingly instead of the other side of the room, she now saw what appeared to be a stone chamber on the other end. It was similarly decorated but had completely different symbology. She had read about these in one of the tomes she took the first time. “It’s a waygate” she said half to herself and half for the benefit of Alfred. “These used to exist as stable portals between the mortal realm and the shadowlands”.
She had found her way to the other side. “Alfred, once I go through contact the Ward house. We have to guard this. Tell Farragut what I have done, I will take his scolding when I get back.” Alfred looked her over cautiously “Miss Pico, are you certain this is entirely prudent?” She shook off his concern “We don’t know if the stones have enough power to open the doorway again. I have to take this advantage while I have it.” She grabbed her pack, not that she had anything in it that would help her slay a dragon, but she felt more prepared with it on her back. Closing her eyes she stepped through the portal and vanished from the circular room below Cambridge.