Jack's Rise to Glory

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Chapter 9

In the regular meetings, the most interesting inventions were presented by the attendants, one of them being two lux that had somehow been linked. A movement of one was always perfectly mirrored by the other without a visible connection and at any given distance, at least that´s what the creator claimed. Bernard saw a tremendous potential in the area of weather forecast and transmitting messages, the latter being done with aid of the alphabet, arranged in a circle around a linked lux with a needle to tranfer a word letter-by-letter.

This particular method seemed to be harder to learn than everything else so far; even after days of study, Jack only had mediocre success in creating a linked pair himself.

The members had already implemented a handy appliance of lux in their homes, namely a small icehouse to keep food cool and prolong decay. Although they had mutually agreed on not spreading any information about their craft before they had gained a good base of knowledge, this particular invention could be seen with increasing regularity in the common households of the city.

Jack himself had replaced his old-fashioned forge with a set of sophisticated lux that were satisfied with a quarter of the coal, also the temperature could be easily regulated by implementing the technique of linked lux.

One day, while he was working on a construction to rapidly cool the gleaming-hot metal, a strange whistling made him arch his eyebrows for a second before he continued the examination of a metal plate in his hands.

His work was then rapidly brought to a stop when something the size of a fist flew through the open window, knocked the metal out of his grip and bounced around the room at incredible speed, making him duck and cover his head. Dust was kicked off the floor and a few tools left their assigned place.

The bizarre object came to a halt in the liquid-filled barrel he had used up until now to quench the blades.

Jack slowly approached and found it to be a wooden sphere, covered in lux, that hovered above the water surface and oddly dented it.

Then, an old, short man entered Jacks workshop, visibly exhausted and sweating.

"I´m terribly sorry, sir, an invention of mine got slightly out of control", he opened while wiping his sweaty forehead with a handkerchief.

"I hope it hasn´t broken anything or injured something....", once the man had looked at Jack´s face and saw the forge behind him, a realization opened his eyes further.

"Ah, you are Jack, aren´t you? I know you from Bernard´s lesson. If you excuse me....", and then he fished the wooden ball out of the barrel with a filigrane-looking metal claw that must have been attached to his belt.

He extended one hand, which Jack shook.

"Kenneth it is. I´ve been trying to invent a toy for children, a ball that will bounce off whatever it hits, without quite touching it, but I haven´t quite, er, adjusted it yet. Busy yourself, I see?", he asked as he saw the metal plate Jack had examined just a minute ago laying on the floor.

"Aye, at least until the sudden interruption. I´m working on improving my forge, I´ve been neglecting my old profession in the last time.", Jack replied.

"Haven´t we all? If you want a task, I could use a little something for my own work. Nothing fancy, just a hand-sized stick with four parallel extenending spring-loaded prongs." A chuckle interrupted him.

"A marvelous idea haunts me since weeks, not very practical, but aesthetically pleasing. You think you could find the time?"

"Why yes, a short break probably wouldn´t hurt. And I´m certainly no one to turn down a challenge."

Kenneth clapped his hands. "Marvelous! Take your time, just hand it to me on one of the courses. I´ll pay you, obviously."

After a few minutes filled with conversations about their most recent inventions, they parted and Jack began drafting his task, welcoming the chance to practise his old profession for a change.

It was indeed a challenge, but in the end, Jack could only marvel at the result. His new, improved forge worked like a charm and made sure the steel was tempered to perfection.

Kenneth had hardly given any details, thus most was up to his own imagination.

The result was a construction about two foot in length that at the first glance seemed to consist of two metal cylinders, the lower one serving as a grip and easily embraceable by a hand and the upper one about as thick as a forearm.

However, once a ring close to the connecting part was pulled down, the larger part split into four pieces, each parallel to the shaft and connected to the center section by two spring-assisted joints and a perpendicular bar of metal.

Kenneth gladly accepted the construct at the next meeting and promised to make his payment as soon as his work with said object was finished.

Rougly a week later, he presented the result in front of the assembled course.

As soon the four prongs split apart, a dim, semi-translucent red fog emerged from the center and slowly licked around within a space confined by the prongs, almost as if the time around a common torch had become thick as honey.

Kenneth then demonstrated the safety by piercing the strange mist with his hands, which rippled just like smoke.

No one could quite explain the phenomenon, not even Kenneth himself. Bernard, however, immediatly deduced it to a new kind of lux cappable of spreading its effect for a short time.

It certainly was a good intermediate of the classic torch and a light source of newer origins.

Another topic of that day was the spreading of this new profession. Bernard had planned to send a part of the course members out into the world to found organisations in the likeness of this one and thus plant the seed of knowledge in new soils.

Even before he supported his urge with promises of wealth and prestige, the largest part volunteered to be one of the heralds.

Jack himself hesitated, the knowledge still seemed to be lacking in some areas. For example, what if some deranged person got his hands onto this knowledge? With all the new possibilities, how could at least a degree of safety still be provided?

Bernard met this criticsm by predicting that surely someone would invent something to deal with this problem early enough, and then glanced at Kylogue who reacted confused.

This evening, Bernard excused himself and left hours before the usual closing time. The common common discussions started nonetheless.

Kylogue later tapped Jack on the shoulder and beckoned him to separate from the collective chatter.

Once they where out of earshot, Kylogue wandered in circles, arms akimbo and visibly startled.

"Jack, you are one of the few I trust. Most of the others are but cattle, with Bernard as their shepherd. You, however, still seem to have your wits on you. Haven't you noticed something strange about Bernard?"

- "Well, he seems to have already thought of a purpose for every specialized lux we invent."

-"That's putting it mildly. It rather appears as if it simply was a repetition for him. Whatever, his latest act caps it all off!"

-"Is it about this protection against ill-doing I demanded?"

-"Indeed! I've thought about it as well and consider myself close to a solution. Now, the thing is, I have tested nothing so far, written nothing down, spoke to no one about it. So how by the four does Bernard know about my thoughts? You 've seen his anticipatory look.

There's something odd about this all. After all the centuries, of all the alchemists, scholars and monks, why would he be the one to make the great discovery? It just seems suspicious to me.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to make sure my doors are locked firm. Mark my words."

Without further ado, Kylogue left the inn. Jack still stayed around for a minute or so, but then departed since the short conversation still weighed heavy on his mind.

The days got shorter again, he mused, as he saw the thick shadows outside. The eponymous stylized first of black stone however was brightly illuminated by a lux-powered light. Street lamps were still in the works.

On roughly one quarter of his way home, a hulking great frame leaned against a wall.

Once the person heard footsteps, he turned around and Bernards face was revealed, covered in sweat and strangely shifting between apathy and concern, eyes wildly darting around. He tightly gripped Jack's shoulder and muttered something, apparently wrestling with every word.

"We collect, they come........it's too late........the price is too high....not what I wanted....prepare, brace. Whole mountains will rise."

The stammering was ended by a loud shout of "Onslaught!", after which Bernard opened his iron grip and darted into the dark.

Kylogues bold claims had not quite persuaded Jack, but this scene certainly convinced him that something strange was afoot.

The next day, the common habit resumed, and during the following days and weeks, not a single act of Bernard raised the slightest suspicion.

In the meantime, the cause of their group had gained substantial momentum.

Members left to spread their profession and knowledge in the world and new faces appeared to take the vacant places, some of which vanished again after only a few days.

Some rumours must have spread beyond the city walls, as more and more strangers roamed the streets, craving for information about the new technique.

Townspeople are all too human after all, and thus snippets of mind and matter changed hands, more often than not for a horrid prize.

The city council, urged by Bernard, now subsidized the building of agricultural equipment, mostly focussing on what should replace the ox-driven plow on the field: A crude carriage, bare of ornaments but instead equiped with large wooden wheels, adorned with orthogonal strips of wood to enhance the grip on the soft soil, a tool of brute force.

The machine's simplicity kept the price low and with sophisticated lux, only a few logs of wood sufficed to do the work that had previously consumed a whole week within three days. The farmers where certainly delighted about being able to spend their time on other tasks or extend the farmland.

Everything was going well, progress was visible and yet Jack had gnawing doubts. A persistent dream of a locked door, shaken by heavy hits, filled most of his nights, accompanied by the sound of coarse rocks grinding against each other. Sometimes a disembodied hand pulled back the locking bar and then an avalanche of stones came bursting in and buried him.

Even more disturbing however was a single nocturnal occurance, the vision of two objects orbiting around each other in a sea of endless black, one of them of a pure, blinding white and the other one somehow even darker than the background, like a ghastly maw, made to devour everything there is.

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