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The Bard and the Keep

By kidrevenger All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Other

Chapter 1

The metallic walls that surrounded the town, along with the gear-driven doors, betrayed the wooden and straw housing they contained. It seemed like a small outpost town; hardly a structure that stood over its owners was more than just that, over its owner’s head. But it was the inside of these buildings that made things more curious for the Bard as he walked through. The smoke rising from each structure was far more than a warming fire would ever produce. He tried to not think about it, instead moving along his path.

Though the market, where he had stopped to barter for some provisions, prompted his morbid curiosity to resurface. The items in the shops were of incredible quality, some fashioned from the softest, most delicate fabrics known. Yet, as his fingers traced the elegant cloth, a thought trailed through. One that prompted the questioning of the shop keeper, who informed the Bard of the lord of the land, a man who was a known weaver of elements and an enchanter, but had recently started bringing to the attention of the city some pieces of machinery that allowed almost incomparable things. The cloth was one small piece of this new technological boom, as the shopkeeper also pointed out the blacksmith, making his wears at an almost staggering pace. Also to the tanner, who was now able to do in a morning that which his father taught him would take days. All this piqued the Bard’s curiosity, and after receiving another answer, and purchasing quite a bit of the cloth, he moved to the keep, a small fortress that stood on the edge of the town, built into the defensive wall that surrounded the town. All that met the Bard’s eyes as he entered was things that made the world around the keep seem almost caveman-like. Gears running through the walls, moving others to do things he did not see, steam moving through metallic pipes rising from floors and disappearing into walls and ceilings. The pure machinery around him was staggering, and he knew that it was all wrong. There should be no way that this level of technology should exist here. He followed the sounds of the machinery, soon finding the stairs that allowed him to finally get the answers that he sought.

There stood the keep’s owner, standing in the middle of a room that was full of tables, boards on walls, and all scattered with drawings and blueprints. The Bard stood and listened, the keep’s master speaking in something of a hushed tone, telling the focus of his attention to hurry with something he had not heard of. The Bard flushed against a wall as the occupant turned, leaving the room and ascending the staircase across the chamber from the Bard. Curiosity again reared its head, and the Bard stepped forward, looking around at the intricate plans that were strewn along the long tables and vaulted walls of the room. They were plans for machinery that was foreign to this world; machinery that even the Bard really did not know how to decipher. The goal of his curiosity was the pedestal in the middle of the room, standing to the Bard’s chest, a sphere held aloft from it. The Bard scanned the area once more, and then looked down at the sphere. Another sphere lay inside it, and the sight that met his eyes made them widen. A city scape, the buildings small but noticeable, occupants of the city, almost invisible to the naked eye, but under the reflective sphere became but a speck. The city that lay before the Bard’s eyes was a metropolis, lined with streets, towering structures, waterways, and parks. It was an incredible sight to behold, and it sat in a sphere that the Bard knew was smaller than his own head. He scanned the walls again, and then the pieces began to fall in place. He looked down at the sphere, and knew what must be done.

The keep’s master returned to the room, a smile across his face. The most recent projects had attracted the attention of the King’s court, and if he could show them how all of the marvels he had come to own operated, and could be used by the people, he would be richly rewarded. All was falling into place for him, and he needed one final piece of the puzzle. He walked forward, his eyes shut, almost gloating in his own power. He stopped in the middle of the room, eyes now open and looking at all that the walls offered him. He looked to his small servant city, knowing that it all would finally work out.

Except for the missing sphere.

What sat in its place was a note. Penned in a steady hand, the print was a simple line, but the words there made the blood race in his veins. All his plans had fallen apart in this one instant. None of these machines would work without the technology and information that the cloistered city offered him, having only been able to transport the plans and machines from the city. He looked once more at the paper, crunching it in his hands before throwing it to the floor in a rage.

The Bard walked the beaten dirt path, eyes forward. He never looked back to see the sudden burst of flames that shot through windows of the keep. All he knew was that the small citizens were liberated, now offered a place of permanent residence on his mantle, the fluorescent light of the lamps, and the knowledge that their machines would be theirs. Of course, the small nation offered rewards to the Bard, who at first refused, but then had to give in.

All that he knew was that his house would be a little more unique.

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