The Clockwork Sea

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Enter the Villain

A millions lights speckled the twilight waters where the great tree grew. Kura, the city state academy, towered until its reflection stretched for minutes ahead. In night the tree that met the bottom of the ocean seemed even bigger.

It was due to this size and Kura’s notable connection to the lands above that a turn who had a habit of talking to himself chose Kura as the place he’d go to travel up. He had done the paperwork, made the connections, but by the time he was ready to leave his ship was no longer there.

It had been stolen by a band of pirates.

In effect, he was stranded.

The stranded man paced back and forth in an empty room in one of the many higher branches of Kura. He had one hand held behind his back, the other more mechanized one held in front theatrically. The room was far too large for one man. Chairs and tables were piled on one side while a wall wide mirror hugged the adjacent one.

He watched his silver reflection as he paced back and forth. He thought himself particularly handsome that day. He wore violet robes and hat that clung to him loosely. His copper hairs were light, airy, and it moved as he did as he paced to one end of the room and back to the other.

His voice boomed all the while.

“So why did you start the mechanization?” He stopped mid walk. “No that’s not right. Why did YOU start the mechanization. Gah. Still no.”

Knocks came from the lone door to the chamber and the man turned, dull silver face and all, to see the door already open and his escort standing there.

“Webly!” he greeted the new comer.

“I was told I would find you here,” said the sergeant.

“Yes I was practicing. Did you hear? What did you think? A little too strong or not enough? I am told I’m at my best when I’m passive.”

Webly took a step in and leaned against the wooden wall. He had his arms crossed.

“Not very soldier like,” said the silver faced man.

“We’ve been through this,” sighed Webly.

“Oh must you make a villain out of me? You know how much I enjoy teasing you,” said the silver faced man as he reassumed his walk. “To taunt you as you dispel your habits on my behest. I don’t like salutes, dead faces, the works of formality. I want to see the real turn beneath the fake one. It’s the least you can do after--”

“We lost our ship. Yes yes, we’ve been over that to,” Webly fixed his posture abruptly. “Which is why I came to see you. We’re leaving. Tommorow morning.”

The silver man held a breath, “You found a ship?”

“By the Hours’ will we have. General Tat has momentarily forgiven our blunder in the hopes we may hunt our quarry.”

“And that quarry would be?”

Webly let out a longer than usual sigh, “We’ve. Been. Over. This. The nature of our hunt is of no concern to a journalist.”

“I write for the Empire’s Hand,” said the man in a matter-of-fact tone.

“Then you know full well the importance of censoring information that would threaten the Empire.”

Then and there, the man with a silver face stopped smiling. His hand fell from his back, and his incessant pacing died. He had known for a while the foul word ‘censorship’. It was the invisible control, the hand cast over innumerable turns with strings dangling down out the fingers, one string for every reader.

He wanted to ask why it would threaten the Empire? Why a General and not an Admiral would seek this quarry out? He wanted to cut the strings and he had hoped he could do so once he was a part of the hand that held them.

Only then did he realize the presence of another hand above the first.

He was powerless, a pawn, a seeker of truths who wrote lies. So until he found the truth that nobody knew, he would remain a liar. The liar formed a liar’s smile, a tilt of the head, narrowed eyes, the usual, “On the Morrow, yes? Then I shall be there.”

“Very good,” said Webly. The sergeant attempted a salute, paused midway, and proceeded out the door with a shake of his head.

The silver faced man studied his own reflection as the door thundered shut. His yellow lamplight eyes peered back. Lines, like mechanical scars cut across those eyes, spilling lights further across his satin face. He sneered at his own reflection and covered his face with the tip of his violet hat.

“I need air,” he muttered before storming to the door.

It opened before he got there.

“Webly…?”

“Heh. Not quite,” the owner of the voice revealed himself. He was a short full turn with a black hat and a face that was skeletal. He leaned against the doorway, “I read what you wrote in that Empire’s Hand.”

“Ah a fan.”

“I am, aye,” the man’s red eyes traced the silver-faced man’s own. “Particularly of the Interview with the Mad Tinker.”

“I didn’t write my name on that. How did you--”

“I’m acquainted with Webly’s crew. Asked around, filled a pocket, the works. You could say I have a vested interest into the workings of our favorite tinker.”

“So much for discretion,” said the silver faced man. “What of it then? You want to bribe me for information? Share notes? Or perhaps you have information I may want?”

The short man stared at him for an uncomfortably long time. The black hat marked him as a pirate. The face of bones possibly a witch doctor. He was not the kind of turn one would expect to have been associated with soldiers from the mainland. He was strange, an outsider and possibly one who knew what the silver faced man wanted to know.

Minutes passed before he answered, “None actually. I just wanted to meet ya.”

“Oh.”

The man quit his lean, “You have the look of a turn seeking answers. Very well.” The man spun away, and his footsteps patted. His voice dimmed with his steps, “You’ll find what you’re looking for. That and terrible more.”

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