Zander, Emma, Nkosi and Master Felix made their way through the dark, foul smelling tunnel system which ran directly underneath the city of Brookhill. They were trying to get to their destination, the residence of House Starc, an old but minor noble house. The current head of House Starc had sent an urgent message to Prince Zander a week before, calling for the young price to come to Brookhill as he had made a revolutionary technological breakthrough that he does not want falling into Malverys’ hands. Leading the group through the dark hallways was Master Felix who was familiar with Brookhill’s secret underground tunnel system. The elderly mage illuminated the path ahead of them by using the purple orb that was affixed to his staff as a light source. Although reaching House Starc’s manor would have been much faster and pleasant if they travelled above ground through the city, doing so was just not possible, as there was a garrison of Malverys’ soldiers who occupied the city. Travelling on the surface meant that there was a high chance of them being caught by Malverys’ soldiers, a risk that they dare not take.
“Are we near the exit yet?” asked Emma, pinching her nose. “My nose can’t take much more of this foul smell.”
“You’re not the only one,” added Nkosi, also pinching his nose.
“We’re almost there,” replied Master Felix. “We just need to take one more turn further up.”
Goddess please let this rotten foul smell go away or at least dissipate. My nose can’t take it any more. Zander thought. He was amazed, however, that Master Felix did not appear to be perturbed by the foul smelling air that permeated the tunnel.
“I’m still wondering what this revolutionary invention Lord Starc has invented,” said Zander.
“Patience, Prince Zander, we will find out soon enough,” replied Master Felix.
“Whatever he invented must be something big if he does not want Malverys getting his hands on it,” said Nkosi who was guarding the rear.
“Well, hopefully it’s something we can use to win this war,” voiced Emma to the rest.
“You and me both,” chimed Zander.
The group, following Master Felix, took a right turn into another hallway. After walking down the hallway for a brief moment, they soon found themselves staring at a wall. They were at a dead end with no where else to go to.
“Did we make a wrong turn?” asked Zander, looking at his elderly instructor.
“We must have,” replied Emma.
“I do not think we did,” voiced Nkosi as he walked towards the wall in front of them. “I have a feeling that something here is not what it appears to be.”
“Your intuition serves you well, young Nkosi,” said Master Felix, smiling.
Master Felix approached the wall and then proceeded to lift his right arm, placing it mere inches away from the wall. What’s Master Felix doing? wondered Zander. Master Felix began chanting an incantation, an incantation that Zander did not recognise. As soon as he did, the wall in front of them began to glow a bright blue before disappearing altogether, revealing a flight of stairs. That’s amazing, said Zander to himself.
“Wait, what’s that?” said Emma.
Zander turned his attention towards Emma to see her pointing towards where the wall use to be at. The young royal guard was pointing at an object that was located at the base of a flight of stairs.
“It looks like a...barrel,” answered Zander.
“Why would anyone place a barrel here? Out of all places?” asked Nkosi.
Zander shrugged. “I don’t know.”
Zander and Nkosi walked over to the barrel and began examining it closely. It’s just a normal barrel. It doesn’t appear to be special in any way, thought Zander to himself as he studied it. Just then, the barrel began to vibrate and give out a deep whirring sound which echoed throughout the hallway.
“Step back, Your Highness!” ordered Emma to Zander who was still studying the object curiously.
Emma, seeing that Zander had not moved back at all like she had asked him to, reached for his hand, pulling him back. Nkosi, seeing that the object was beginning to vibrate even more violently than before, took a few steps back as well. Without any forewarning, the lid of the barrel began to rise up, revealing what appeared to be a rectangular like head with a pair of yellow eyes that lit up. What in the world? muttered Zander to himself. The upper and bottom sides of the barrel then opened up as well, revealing a pair of wooden arms and four crab-like legs respectively. As the whirring noise had all but stopped, Zander could hear the sound of Emma drawing her rapier, before pointing it at the object, ready to attack it if it posed a danger to the group.
The object’s mechanical eyes blinked. “Oh my,” said the object moving back ever so slightly with the use of its crab legs upon seeing Emma’s rapier being pointed at it. “P-Please don’t hurt me.”
“It can...talk,” muttered Nkosi.
“Stay your blade, Emma,” instructed Master Felix. “It means us no harm. Isn’t that right?”
“Quite right, Master Felix.”
“What are you?” asked Zander curiously to the object. “I haven’t seen anything quite like you in all my travels throughout the kingdom and abroad.”
“I am Gizmo, Your Highness” answered the mechanical object. “Mechanical assistant to Lord Starc and his family.”
“Why are you down here?” asked Nkosi.
“I was put down here by my master to welcome His Highness, Prince Zander and his entourage, and to take them to him.” Gizmo turned to face Zasnder. “If you are ready, Your Highness, I can take you all to my master now.”
“Lead the way then,” said Zander, smiling at Gizmo.
“Right away, Your Highness!”
Gizmo escorted Prince Zander and his entourage through the last stretch of Brookhill’s secret underground tunnel and up to his master’s stately manor, all while regaling the four about the history of manor and House Starc. This is truly educational, thought Zander as he listened intently to Gizmo as he explained all of the previous famous members of House Starc and their accomplishments. House Starc’s manor was tastefully decorated with polished wood furniture and framed portraits of famous historical members of the family. The manor also smelt of freshly cut flowers, which was a much welcomed smell to Zander’s nose.
“Here we are,” announced Gizmo to Prince Zander and his group before opening a door in which they stood in front of.
The mechanical being along with Zander, Emma, Master Felix and Nkosi stepped into the room. The room was large and was partitioned into two separate sections, and light entered the room through a series of tall glass windows. For a lack of a better word, the room was filled with various strange looking contraptions and objects. And on the walls of the room were papers which had strange drawings and wordings on them. Truly fascinating, said Zander to himself taking in what he was seeing.
“Lord Starc, your guest are here,” announced Gizmo.
There was no reply.
“Coming, coming,” said a voice from the other section of the room.
While waiting for Lord Starc, Zander studied the many schematics that was pasted on the wall closest to him. The one that had caught the young prince’s eyes was a schematic for what looked like a boat. Like many of the larger boats found throughout the realm, the boat illustrated in the schematic had two mast and two sails, five sets of oars, and a large anchor that was located at the front of the boat. But unlike any other boat Zander has seen before, this boat had a hull that was placed on top of the boat’s bottom structure, providing the bottom structure of the boat protection. The hull that was placed on top of the boat’s bottom structure in itself was interesting as it had arrow-slits as well as sharp iron spikes on it. And on the bow of the vessel was a mounted structure of a dragon head. This is truly fascinating, thought Zander as he marvelled at the schematic of the boat. I’ve never seen anything quite like it before.
“I see you’ve taken quite an interest in my turtle boat schematic, Your Highness.”
Zander looked away from the schematic he was studying and turned towards the direction of where the voice had come from. He saw a man who had a finely kept beard and neat combed hair. He wore an elegant dark grey robe which appeared to be made out of fine cashmere. The man also carried with him in one arm a small rectangular box made out of polished wood that had the symbol of three large gears on it, each of them in different sizes. This must be Lord Starc.
“Honoured guest, may I present to you my creator and lord, Lord Robert Starc, Head of House Starc,” announced Gizmo.
“I think they know who I am, Gizmo” said Lord Starc. The head of House Starc walked towards Zander before taking a knee in front of the young prince. “Your Highness, it is an honour to finally meet you in person.”
“It ’s an honour to meet you as well, Lord Starc,” said Zander as he motioned Lord Starc to rise. “I have heard many good things about you from Master Felix. ”
“So tell me, Your Highness what do you think of my turtle boat?” asked Lord Starc, getting back on his feet.
“It’s truly magnificent,” answered Zander. “I’ve never seen such a vessel in all my years. Tell me, Lord Starc, have you built one?”
Lord Starc shook his head. “No, unfortunately. I just don’t have the coin to do so. But if I did, the turtle boat will revolutionise naval warfare as we know it.”
“So is this why you’ve asked to come?” asked Emma. “Because of this turtle boat you’ve invented?”
Lord Starc shook his head. “I’ve called you all about something else. Something far more revolutionary and dangerous than that.”
“Which is what, Robert?” queried Master Felix.
“This,” answered Lord Starc as he opened the small rectangular box he had been carrying with him.
Inside the box was an item that Zander had never seen before in his life. The object had a straight horizontal metallic barrel that was attached to a polished wooden handle which curved downwards. Next to the curved handle was a trigger that looked similar to the ones used by crossbows
“What is it?” asked Zander curiously.
“I call it a pistol,” answered Starc as he took the item out of the box.
“What does it do?” queried Emma, cocking her head slightly to the left.
“It fires bolts of energy that is made out of pure magical energy,” answered Lord Starc.
“And how does one use this... pistol?” asked Master Felix, stroking his beard.
“It’s fairly simple,” began Lord Starc. “One just needs to press and hold down the trigger to collect the magical energies and release it to fire a bolt of energy. I must note that the amount of time one holds down the trigger determines how powerful the bolt of energy is.”
“That’s it?” asked Nkosi. “Nothing else is required for one to use it?”
“Not exactly,” answered Lord Starc. “The user must first have the ability to channel and wield magic.”
“Could you demonstrate its usage?” asked Zander. “I am curious to see it work.”
“But of course, Your Highness.” Lord Starc turned to face his mechanical assistant. “Gizmo, go fetch for me an unused flower vase or pot.”
“Right away, Lord Starc,” acknowledged Gizmo before scurrying off out of Lord Starc’s workshop.
After a few moments, Gizmo returned to the workshop with a cracked flower pot. The mechanical assistant to Lord Starc placed the flower pot on one of the less cluttered of his master’s work desk before moving aside. Lord Starc trained his pistol on the cracked flower pot as soon as Gizmo had moved out of the way. He pressed and held down on the pistol’s trigger for a brief moment before releasing it. A small orange bolt of energy surged out of the barrel of the pistol and hit the pot, shattering it into many pieces.
“Amazing,” voiced Zander aloud.
“It truly is, isn’t it?” said Lord Starc, keeping the pistol back in its box.
“Could you craft more of them?” asked Emma.
“Of course I can, given that I have enough coin and time,” answered Lord Starc. “But I won’t.”
“Why not?” asked Nkosi. “This invention of yours could turn the tide of the war in Prince Zander’s favour.”
“True, there’s no denying that,” agreed Lord Starc. “But there is also a chance that they might fall into Malverys’ hands if I begin crafting more of them, and if that happens-”
“Then the tide of the war could turn against us,” finished Zander.
Lord Starc nodded. “Exactly, Your Highness. And that’s why I cannot, and will craft more of it. I will not allow my invention to fall into the hand of a murderer. This invention will never see the light of day.”
“So why not just destroy it then?” asked Emma. “Why ask us to come all the way here?”
Lord Starc was just about to answer Emma’s question when the door to his workshop flung open. In stepped a tall but portly man in his mid-thirties with short dark brown hair who wore a simple leather armour. Zander could see that there was a sense of urgency etched on the man’s plump face.
“What is it, Butch?” asked Lord Starc.
“My lord, there’s news circulating down at the tavern that Malverys’ soldiers will be coming to take you and the family to the capital.”
“Oh dear, oh dear,” voiced Gizmo.
“I guess Malverys has grown tired of me always rebuffing his calls for me to present myself before him. Now he’s going to drag me to the capital by force and use my family’s safety as leverage. I always knew this day would come, but I never thought it would be this soon.” Lord Starc turned to face Zander. The young crown prince could see that there was fear in Lord Starc’s blue eyes. It was a look he himself was well acquainted with. “Prince Zander, would you please protect me and my family from Malverys’ men? Goddess only knows what he will do to my family to get me to work for him.”
Zander nodded. “Of course I will.” I can’t allow you to be captured by Malverys and his men, less he uses your inventive mind to shift the war to his favour.
“Thank you, Your Highness,” began Lord Starc. “You won’t regret it.”
Zander smiled at Lord Starc. “I know I won’t.”
“Do you know how long we have until Malverys’ troops descend on us?” asked Master Felix, looking at Butch.
Butch shook his head. “No.”
“Then we better get moving then,” said Emma. “The longer we stay here, the higher the chances of us being caught by Malverys’ men.”
“Agreed,” said Nkosi, nodding. “We should try to get as far away as possible from Brookhill when Malverys’ men discover that Lord Starc and his family has fled.”
Lord Starc nodded, agreeing with Emma and Nkosi. The head of House Starc who was in his late thirties then turned his attention towards Butch and Gizmo. “Get Lady Catherine and Thomas, tell them we’re leaving.”
“Right away, my lord,” said Butch and Gizmo in tandem before leaving the workshop to carry out their orders
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