Of The Slowly-Flickering Landlight
Of The Slowly-Flickering Landlight
Once, a sailor soared across the seething waters of Pre-Wrathing Ahbon, during the Gleaming Era when civilisation thrived. Though from another face of the world he had come, and another side of civilisation he had witnessed. In the night time he accelerated back to shore, towards a slowly flickering light that he could only assume was that of a land mass. It was - how lucky for him. Before going out and telling everyone of his terrible findings, he thanked ever so dearly the creator of the light, telling him that his (accidental) invention should be on all shores throughout the coastline. The scientist responsible smiled, for his (what would later become known as a) lighthouse was no longer a tower of simply wasted time.
[Nearing the shore (very fast), Somewhere wet, Ahbon.]
Tripphire awoke with triple vision and a brain like a bowl of scrambled eggs. A bright light shone in her eyes, and for a moment she thought that she was back in Otum, and that the events that had transpired most recently were nothing more than a bad dream. Though as she came into a higher state of consciousness, she found that this was not the case - the screaming and the swaying of the ship were clues, but the dark sky was a dead giveaway.
Metal shrieked and wood snapped, and the boat collided with the jagged pebble-ridden shore. The Lieutenant shot up and reached for her sword - which of course, was not there.
“What in this wretched world was that!?” Yelled the Lieutenant, “Are we under attack?”
McKraken stumbled and grumbled out of the cockpit, “We done crashed ’cuz of this darn stupid lookout.” he pointed at ’Zurei with a broken lever, that really should have been attached to some control panel.
Behind her, Tripphire could hear Adrien crying again. Cracking her fingers under her thumb, she ignored him and made her way to the front of the ship.
“Well I can’t help it!” ’Zurei protested, “You said to warn you if I saw anything on the horizon, McKraken, and I didn’t!”
“Oh yeah? Well yee could at least -”
“Stop arguing!” Tripphire interrupted, now at the door of the cabin with McKraken - all of her fingers had been cracked but she still squashed them under her thumb. “You’re all filthy idiots.”
“EVEN ME, LIEUTENANT!” Irig blurted from wherever the blazes she was.
“Yes, even you.”
“I KNOW, THAT WAS A STATEMENT LIEUTENANT!”
Tripphire inhaled deeply and dramatically through her nostrils, ”SHUUUT UUUUP!!!”
Everybody fell silent, even Adrien’s wailing ceased.
“YES LIEUTENANT MA’AM!” Irig saluted with her arm across her chest and stood in silence again, though the waves still lapped against the boat.
The Lieutenant’s nerves were wearing thin, and she had run out of knuckles to crack. “Are you kidding me right now!? You must be joking! Really, it’s funny!”
She took a breath or two to attempt to compose herself, and her crew waited in silence on the boat that trembled every now and then in agony; it had a large gash on its underside. “Due to the mental degeneracy of all you mind-numbing, expectation-lowering globs of flesh and stench, we’ll have to proceed with my plan on land.”
This drawback was no fault of Tripphire’s, she thought, for she had been fast asleep for the past however-long.
But McKraken would have reasoned that it had indeed been her fault for exactly the same reason.
Anyways, the crew gathered whatever resources they could and hopped off the vessel with a shin-splintering clatter. The silvery waves washed up against the purplish pebbles of the beach that made glassy scraping sounds beneath their metal boots. The beach was narrow, and pressed up against an unscalable cliff-face that looked out over the black horizon, and the seas here were cold and vibrantly dark unlike those of Otum, which were dully warm and bright. They traversed the shore, across the rocks that impaled their ship and round the pebbled cliff to yet more, even higher cliff-face, though the mist that clung to this face now had a prominent violet light to it. McKraken stumbled onto a rusting, abandoned lobster cage - the beach was hard enough to walk on even for someone with two legs. It seemed as though they had entered an endless corridor in which walking was made torture by the difficult ground. But seabreeze brought joy in the form of a rickety wooden staircase - it led up the side of the cliff face, though rickety it was, and the less weighty members of the crew traversed it first. The structure shook and pulled away from the rock in places as the Lieutenant climbed, and she did not like that one bit. Soon though, she joined McKraken and ’Zurei at the top and waited for Irig and Adrien. At the summit the mist was thinner, and the source of the violet light was closer than before - a grassy plateau led away from the steep drop to the shore, and just across the cliff there imposed a silently tower - it’s two-toned body climbed upwards in cylindrical stripes, and just obscured by the mist there sat a round, open room.
“I HAVE MADE IT, LIEUTENANT MA’AM.” Said Irig.
“Ahh!” Replied Tripphire, who had been fixating on the strange tower. She hadn’t even seen the Dwarf, “Quit being so short!”
Below, Adrien crashed through the steps about a third of the way up, and in fact did not bounce when he reached the shore. He landed with a soft thump and the rattle of stones, and he started to cry yet again.
Tripphire had predicted this. So had McKraken, and ’Zurei.
“Alright, Adrien!” Called the Archer, “Don’t panic. We’ll find a way to get you up here!”
And at that, they disappeared inland and the torch’s light left Adrien in a dully purple place. “Oh, okay!” He called up, and looked for a nice place to sit.
Meanwhile the rest of the crew advanced towards the tower, but didn’t get too close - for its base was surrounded by little bushes and who knew what could be hiding in the bushes?
But McKraken seemed rather keen, which was a rare occurrence, “we sh’d go check it out,” He said, “Ah think I know what this is!”
“What is it?” Asked ’Zurei, “Is it dangerous?”
“Nae,” McKraken’s elderly voice strained as he was already making for the rectangular metal door at the base of the tower, “It’s a windmill!”
And a windmill it was - it was now that they noticed the great blades that swept across its cylindrical face.
’Zurei in fact knew all about windmills, for she had lived in one all her life! But this was not a windmill like the others in the Grassy-Hilled Windmill biome - it had no wheels for grinding corn, no spinning shaft down the centre, no fantail, but the blades pointed out to the ocean to catch the seabreeze. It’s not like ’Zurei brought this fact up, however, she had no idea.
The crew cautiously entered, following their silent Lieutenant who led them mindlessly inside without much thought on the matter - she was busy contemplating over other things. Their feet tapped on a long metal spiral staircase that wound up the inside for a very short amount of time, and were baffled when they saw that they had somehow reached the top of the tower in only a couple of seconds - they could see the strange, sickly height they had gained through a thin window. Just above their head lay a heavy hatch, and a small ladder to climb up on. And so they climbed into the room above that towered above the mist, and inspected the room like nervous agoraphobic ants with dementia - the room was huge, filled with intimidating tech, and they recognised nothing. The air was completely still - unusually completely still.
The windmill’s blades swept by outside and creaked on their wheel that powered some sort of electrical generator - or so McKraken had explained. This generator seemed to be the meeting place for lots of wires, which supplied energy to many different components of the room, though most curved upwards into some glassy contraption encased in a metal cage. It captivated McKraken, for he wondered if it was what he thought it might be. He investigated it further.
Meanwhile, Tripphire took herself off to the open inland-facing balcony, too deep in trance-like worried thought to acknowledge the deadly drop right below her nose as she leaned against the railing. All of a sudden she felt strange and somewhat void of discernible emotion - not empty, rather as if her mind were confused and stalling due to such a broken sleep schedule. Not worried, not exactly angry either, and only a tiny sliver of homesickness was detectable. Was this the mindset of a lieutenant, she wondered? Was this why they were always stone-faced and fearless?
She couldn’t be more wrong, for that mindset came with experience and finding comfort in discomfort, and surpassing all selfish feelings like rage and demanded total control. Control of your mind, heart, actions, and the best lieutenants had control over the same aspects of each individual in their squadron.
Out over the balcony the mist hung below like ghostly rolling hills, and windmill tope broke the landscape here and there. A bright purple light sent chills across the seething landscape. A cold breeze swept by and sent shivers down every spine in the biome.
McKraken was busy inspecting the main generator on the wall - it was quite obviously unused though the charge from the spinning blades outside created a dull electrical hum. The machine still ran, and a lever hung on the wall next to it.
It didn’t do anything.
Yet McKraken was persistent - levers usually did something, which meant that this lever was likely broken, or something in the mechanism it was built to activate was broken. So he followed the wires that trailed from it, upwards and into the metal cage to which a small white stepladder with black rubber feet helped the one-legged man climb up. A giant glassy bulb lay suspended in the huge cage, a transparent, curved illuminator roughly three meters in diameter.
“Is everything alright, Lieutenant Ma’am?” Asked ’Zurei back down at the floor of what seemed to be some sort of abandoned laboratory or workshop due to all the machines and neat drawings of inventions strewn about.
“Depends.” She replied absently, “Define ‘everything’.”
“Are you alright?” ’Zurei re-worded.
The Lieutenant paused, “I’m a disgusting bag of flesh encasing a collection of pus, phlegm, glands, bacteria, and other revolting parts. My consciousness exists only through that gooey ball of slimy worm spaghetti inside my skull, and to keep it alive I must digest, which is filthy in itself - nevermind whatever other functions of organism that ensues. Now tell me - what about that is ‘alright’ to you?? … I’m also sad.”
’Zurei decided it best to go back to minding her own business – which involved stumbling about blindly. “Alright, I was merely asking, Ma’am.”
“Well- … don’t do that again.”
Just then came a call from down below: “Hey! Guys are you up there!?”
It was Adrien - he had made it away from the beach.
“Adrien,” Tripphire sighed - she could not see him, but heard him at the bottom of the tower. “weren’t you supposed to be on the beach?”
He shook his head, “No no!”
The Lieutenant groaned, “Alright, come on. Maybe you’ll be able to help these defective minions out with whatever they’re trying to do - if you can make it up the stairwell without completely destroying it, that is.”
’Zurei was curious, “We were going to come back for you,” She called down to him, facing the completely wrong direction, “How did you manage to get off the beach?”
Adrien opened his trash compactor mouth to speak, but his words were severed by a sudden thought - which was a rare occurrence in his mind. The fog cleared as he turned around, and the silent being that had guided him seemed to disappear with it.
“Hey, don’t go!” He said, but the little girl was already leaving, looking back at him through the mist and waving goodbye with a wispy smile. She left, heading into the fog, and as Adrien watched her go he saw at the edge of the fog a tall woman with pitch black hair holding an electric lantern - the girl’s mother. She took the little girl’s hand and they disappeared into the rolling mist and hills.
The door was open, and Adrien let himself into the windmill. It was a squeeze to fit, but the stairwell supported his weight. It was a girl who had guided him up here, above the beach, but it had never seemed to Adrien like he had climbed anything. The path the girl had taken him had seemed completely flat. A shortcut? He didn’t know.
He took two steps up the stairs, before reaching a roof with a hatch on the top. He pushed the metal above his head - a hatch that was large, but perhaps not large enough for him to fit through without help. But before he could even try to fit through, he felt a fist pummel into his fleshy face, making him bite his own tongue.
Adrien started crying, wailing as Irig shouted at him for not announcing his presence before entering. Had she her axe, she likely would have killed him.
McKraken was completely stumped upon trying the lever another time - perhaps the generator itself was broken? To open it would require a screwdriver, and luckily for McKraken, ’Zurei had literally stumbled upon one not long ago, and he used it to open the generator’s cover - though the tech-maniac had no answers, and he scratched his chin with his only frail hand.
Adrien was now stuck with his head only poking out of the hatch, unable to fit through - and he had a sore, punched-up face. After a brief consultation with Tripphire, Irig decided that it was best that he stayed there, for the crew would be leaving soon anyway. He started crying a little louder.
In ’Zurei’s stumbling, she tripped upon a strange device - it was made of this strange material that this world called plastic, and upon McKraken’s inspection it temporarily drew his attention away from whatever he was trying to fix.
“What is it?” Asked the Archer.
“It’s a darn tootin’ tape recorder!” He picked up one of the many tapes lying on the ground, and with a spring in his movement he fumbled single-handedly to place it in the recorder. The old man reeked of enthusiasm. “Ah think this thing should play ’s-well!”
And as he pressed the button with the little white sideways triangle on it, on came loud static that filled the room, a raspy, popping overture to what was to come. A message: “... Ah! Finally, I believe it’s working now!” The voice said through the tape - it was a man’s voice, rich with a youthful energy. “Yes indeed, it’s spinning around!”
Tripphire was startled by this, and she looked swiftly around, “Who’s speaking??”
The warm and enthusiastic voice continued on the tape, “Well, this is my first time recording an entry in such a way, and it’s very, very strange. But, I’m sure I’ll get used to it! Besides, it’s for science!” He cleared his throat, clapped his hands together and continued: “I am Doctor Darrol O’licht, and From Today foreward, I have been announced as the head scientist under Lord Luciere, and as professor of non-magic sciences at Kaullej University in Atlantis, North Vo -”
Once Tripphire recognised that the source of the voice was a plastic box with moving parts on the inside, she drew her sword that still wasn’t there, “Kill it!” She demanded, spooked.
McKraken arthritically pressed a button on the recorder, and the tape flew out, trailing its thin black ribbon behind it. On it was printed a small white label marked with the numbers “14175”.
Tripphire hesitated in silence, then nodded seeing that whatever the machine was had been deconstructed. Now out of her thoughtful trance, it was around this time that she realised that they had absolutely no reason to be up in that tower whatsoever. “McKraken!” She demanded his attention, “What have you been doing up here all this time!?”
The old man backed off, his expression of enthusiasm turning to grumpiness yet again. “Ah’m trying na get this machine workin’.”
“And does that have any relevance to my plan whatsoever??"
The old man’s frail head gave a shaky nod, “Yeep, it’s like a big ol’ version of m’flashlight! It’s brighter ‘ere, but we’re still too far away from the star to see clearly. Ah could light this thing up and point it in the direction in which we be travellin’, see?”
Tripphire groaned, as in her panicking mind this was a major setback. “Fine, but this is a major setback!” She raised a heavy boot and kicked the box on the wall in protest. Then something happened that nobody expected to: the large light above turned on with a mighty click.
The Lieutenant, though trying to shield her eyes from the light above, played it off with a smug expression.
“Woah, how’d ye know t’ do that?” McKraken said in awe.
“Ah, well I uh… Am naturally a technological genius, of course!” She said, having no idea what she had just done or exactly why it was now rather uncomfortably bright in the room.
She ordered the crew to head out, and head out she did, before the brightness brought back heavenly memories. And down the pale tower she left - Irig and Adrien following - only returning once for the torch (the stairs, as she discovered, were still quite dark). She left McKraken with the order to turn the light towards their direction of travel withing five minutes so that it could actually be useful to them - see, at the moment the beam was pointing into the ocean, which would only have been useful to them perhaps half an hour earlier.
’Zurei had not been able to find the hatch before it had closed on her, and thus she was stuck with McKraken for the meantime, who politely declined her offer to help with the light. She felt around the ground for the tape recorder, and found it lying in a pile of what she could only assume were tapes. She placed one in the box, and upon pushing the wrong button it ejected itself right into her eye. It wasn’t as if she needed it, though it did hurt a bit.
“-*---_-...#. *” =” Said the static that came before the voice, which spoke exhaustedly and out of breath, yet in a tone like a spirit-lifting jolt of strawberry concentrate: “Holy Stones of Creation have mercy on my lungs!” Panted Dr. Darrol “I.... Ha... I need to find a way to make those stairs shorter or something... Or start working out... Nah. But I have BIG NEWS to record today! I’ll cut straight to the chase - Our Lord just pulled the sun from the sky! I’ll provide updates on the matter on a… A Future tape but… but how’d he... Ha... He just sort of, well, did it! I see it now, on top of the castle! He told us he had big plans but... Nobody quite expected... I don’t know what he’s going to - ”
“’Zurei could I get a hand here?” McKraken asked over the playing tape.
“Oh, yeah sure!” ’Zurei managed to pause the voice, and got McKraken to yodel until she found her way over to him through sound.
* * * *
Tripphire looked back up the stairs, and then out of the door. She didn’t quite know how she had gotten down so fast, but she wasn’t complaining. The light was still facing out onto the sea, and it was times like these where the Lieutenant wished for a nice warm coat or blanket instead of the cold armour to keep out the odd chills this place was emanating. She looked across the coastline - a glittering cliff spanning as far as the mist allowed her to see, above the pebbled shore.
“So, do you mind explaining just how you made it off the beach?” She turned to Adrien.
“YES ADRIEN I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO KNOW!” Irig... Stated.
“Okie dokie, yeah. Well there was a little girl who came from out of the cliff! Also she took me through the cliff and I popped out over there.” He pointed to a patch of ground a couple of meters away from where they stood. It looked completely undisturbed.
Tripphire gave him a stern look of a tangle of strangeness and frustration, “And by ‘through the cliff’ you mean through many feet of solid rock, yes?”
All sarcasm was lost on Adrien, “Yeah you got it! She didn’t say anything though, just brought me through the cliff and left.” He smiled stupidly.
Tripphire groaned and pushed her fingers into her two lower eyes, “Alright.” She said, “Thanks.”
At long last the Blindwoman and the Halfman managed to reposition the mirrors surrounding the light so that a path through the night was lit as best as it could be by the beam from the windmill-lighthouse. The grass sparkled under the strong light.
McKraken and ’Zurei re-joined their squad and the group continued to the next and hopefully final stretch of the journey to Atlantis.
’Zurei took the tape recorder with her - the box under her arm and all the recorded tapes stuck into the pockets of her wolfpelt waist armour.
They had sparked her curiosity.