Killigan Ghor was moving through the woods behind his village, intent on exploring its unknown contents and boundaries. The trees were spread apart in wide arcs, were dried husks of their former selves, and the dusty lands were devoid of any life and water. The sun was free to let loose its heat that one could compare the temperature to the atmosphere of an oven. A rogue gust of wind kicked up some dust, causing the boy to cough. Killigan Ghor was a young man, barely fifteen years old, and he was rather scrawny for a blacksmith who needed to carry heavy materials around. His hair, reaching the tip of his shoulders, was a golden, shiny blonde, was dusty and grimy from his trek into the dry forest.
With a hammer to his chest, the boy surveyed his surroundings diligently. The further he went into the dead forest, the stranger it became. More plant life appeared on the floor, its alien appearance slithering around like amber veins with bubbles in their bodies. Purple vines with spikey leaves hung from rocks and dead trees and jittered whenever Killigan approached them. The various dead shrubs and skeletal trees made way for sludge-like bushes and tall, dry trees with foul-smelling leaves that appeared to be decaying on the trees themselves.
He pushed away some of the leaves in his path, but they still dripped into his hair. “Ah! Gross!” He swiped away at the slime and cursed under his breath when he saw them on his hands. “All this just to make a map for the Aelfyce Cartographers.”
The trees grew fatter and stronger the further the boy went, and their forms started to melt with bark dripping into the growing body of stagnant water. The first time he ever set out to explore, Killigan did not go any further than this and returned to his home to plan for his little excursions into unknown territory.
This time, he defied common sense and made his way through the forest and into lands unknown where the air became heavy and humid. Bugs buzzed around the strange, mucus-green plants growing out of the murky water, complimenting the decayed appearance of this swamp. The boy was startled more than once by an inhabitant of the murky depths who would violently splash about and dash off into the distance.
“Eugh. I hate this place. Even the forge isn’t this suffocating,” the boy complained. He took his backpack off and pulled out plastic jug of fresh water. “At least I know what I’m doing...I hope.”
The boy found himself swatting away bugs, smashing his hammer against a plant because he was startled by the leaves, and getting stuck in thick mud. Whilst cursing under his breath and wiping thick chunks of mud from his boots, he noticed something unusual sticking out of the mud. It wasn’t shaped like the rest of the melted terrain and some unusual colors caught Killigan’s attention.The item contrasted with the drab shades of mucus and rotting brown of the swamp, although the boy couldn’t identify the colors.
“What is that? Red? Purple? Gold?’ The boy swiped away at bugs. “The mud and mist here isn’t letting me see very well.”
Cautiously, the boy walked towards it, taking in his surroundings before approaching, then leaned close.
“What is this supposed to be? Some kind of mutant plant? It doesn’t fit with the rest.” Killigan’s eyes sparkled with a sudden realization. “The Imperator Bulentse will give a nice reward to me if I bring this in. Not only will we get some money from my exploring, but we’ll get even more for discovering some strange plant!”
Killigan hurried over to the plant, crouched, wrapped his hands around it, then started to pull. His hands slipped off multiple times and the pain he received from his hands scraping against the residue of wood and stone in the mud angered him. He looked at his hands and contemplated leaving the swamp.
He huffed with irritation. “Ugh. What does it take to pull a plant out of muddy water? Maybe if I tried wiping the mud off?”
Killigan Ghor took a clean towel out of his pack and used it to clean the plant, only to discover that it was not, in fact, a plant, but a pair of golden gauntlets enclosed upon each other. There were little bits of paint still present on them, but they were dried and peeling off.
“What...What is this?” The boy pondered for some time then just shrugged. “Whatever they are, I’m certain I could make something out of them”. Maybe my dad even knows what they are, but I can’t pull them out of there like I did earlier.”
Killigan took some large pieces of wood from the surroundings and used them as a lever to push the gauntlets. After some difficult struggling resulting in falling in the mid several times, a loud pop rattled the boy’s ears and a large amount of gunk fell from the entryway of the gauntlets and onto the ground, making the removal of the objects much easier.
Finally, Killigan could see what they were. They were significantly heavier than he thought and created quite a struggle to haul them over to a tint patch of dry land nearby.
“Good grief. So heavy. And they’re easily five times the size of my own hands.” The boy panted and looked over the two gauntlets while he tried to catch his breath. “What are they even holding?”
With the mud having become more fragile, Killigan managed to break the remnant serving as glue between the fingers and pry them open. His eyes widened when he saw what the gauntlets had clamped onto and fell onto his rear, stunned.
“I need to get this to my house and quick. If anyone sees this they’ll probably try to steal them from me.”
Struggling just to drag them along the ground, the boy ended up using a large plank of tree bark he recovered from its resting spot between tree roots. It served as a makeshift sled to place the fists on. What he didn’t notice were two hands still within the gauntlets, although they had long since withered and decayed. Disturbing their rest made the mud around them unstable, and so they sank into the swamps for their long awaited rest.
Killigan slid into his village, avoiding as many eyes as he could, although it was quite difficult seeing what he was trekking behind him. Despite being a recent expansion of the planet, his village still possessed houses made from metal and brick, resembling sturdy huts more than proper homes for people of the Terran Expanse. The boy took his sloppy shirt and coat and tossed them over the gauntlets to hide them.
“Hey, Killigan. Went where you weren’t supposed to again, eh?” a villager asked.
The boy let go of the plank and leaned over against his knees, exhausted. “N-no! I was...looking for...wood.”
The villager raised an eyebrow. “Oh? In a muddy place, when water is nowhere around here?”
“We still have water from the well there,” Killigan pointed to a metallic column jutting out of the ground in the middle of the village.
The villager looked to it then back at the boy. “Yeah, except it’s all pumped from the Spire Conglomerate in the distance.”
Killigan tapped his fingers together nervously. “Don’t say anything to my father.”
The villager chuckled and walked away. “I won’t need to.”
Killigan reached his home and hid the gauntlets away safely behind a few large barrels near his house. He tried sneaking into the immense smithy of his father, but was foiled by the sound of a hammer hitting an anvil and creating a loud bang.
“Where were you?! What were you doing?” a man bellowed.
The young boy coughed nervously and casually walked through the dark smithy to take his apron off from the wall. “Uhhh, I was exploring the woods. I was mapping everything for the Aelfyce Cartographers.”
“You what?!” Killigan’s father bellowed. “Again?!” he yelled even louder.
Killigan’s father, named Barlatan, demonstrated his impressive physique by pushing the anvil he was using away with both arms. He stomped towards his son and glared down at him. His height was intimidating enough for Killigan, who flinched by it alone.
“It would give us more money!” the boy explained. “Help us out a little more.” He looked to the side and tapped a massive clamp holding a large metal beam. “Let us get newer equipment and make better things.”
Barlatan grabbed Killigan by the shoulders.. “Son, those wilds are dangerous! I’ve told you this several times before. There’s a reason why there are armed expeditions that do this task themselves.” He paused a moment to stare his son in the eyes. “This isn’t the first time you’ve gone into the dry plains behind our village.
Killigan took his backpack and opened it, revealing several maps and notes of what he had made, hoping that their sight would mull over his father’s rage.
Barlatan grabbed the notes and looked them over. His anger and worry slowly transformed into a sense of amazement the longer he looked at them. “I...Wow. I don’t know what to say. This is quite amazing. You really surpassed my expectations.”
“So...you’re letting me continue to explore?” Killigan smiled sheepishly.
His father looked up from the paper and glared at his son. “No.”
“You got lucky.” He put the notes back in the bag. “There’s nothing left for you over there, and all this will lot us a nice amount of money after we’re done with the pistol our special customer ordered.” He grabbed a chisel, block of stone, a laser cutter, and markers. “Now help me with the mold. I want to create a few prototypes first before anything.”
Killigan wrapped his own apron around his waist and looked over the new addition to the smithy. “So our client sent us that giant, sharp looking block of metal with those glowing blue veins all over it?”
Barlatan pulled the object open, revealing several clamps to hold materials, an open, circular section in the middle to hold molds, and several transparent pipes flowing through the machine and linked to both funnels above it and pans on the bottom of the opening wings.”
“Yes. This shaper isn’t a lease, either.” He pulled a box out from an empty compartment at the base of the shaper and pulled out several small vials filled with glowing, colorful powder. “They said we could keep this, so long as we give a product they would appreciate.”
Killigan was none too pleased at what just transpired for him, but he had his own little project to work with. If an opportunity presented itself, he would use it. The next day, his father left to deliver some construction materials to a small customer in a nearby village, letting the boy scurry towards barrels next to his house.
He pulled the gauntlets away into the smithy, cleared a table of bits of metal and several tools, and placed the items atop it with the help of a mini-pulley. Killigan slammed his palms together and rubbed them, eager to see the contents. He pried the gauntlet open to see bits of what appeared to be a blue medallion. They glowed with a gentle, baby blue light, and the more the boy looked at them the more a realization came to mind; This was a Soul Hyrst: A medallion imbued with just the smallest bit of the Mana Magis’ deific powers.
“That shouldn’t be. Only the most decorated of pillars and magus get them.”
Mana Magis. It was the ‘deity’ that controlled all magic within reality and that humans ‘adopted’ as their figure of worship. As such, any relic with just a tiny bit of its power was considered a holy object that only the most revered and select individuals were allowed to possess. They were also extremely valuable to those who could even come to possessing them, but…
Killigan started trembling. “I should hide them. If the Magus Imperators catch wind of this being in my possession…” He pushed the thought back into the recesses of his mind.
Killigan walked towards a corner where all his personal crafts had been piled and grabbed one of many strongboxes he had forged for himself. He used it to hide the Hyrst within it, making sure to place the box in his own room rather than risk someone digging it up outside.
Killigan wiped his forehead and leaned against the table. “I’ll never be able to wield these things.” He took a deep breath and thought deeply. “I’ll have to use the pullets every time I try to move them, it seems.”
Killigan started working on his most ambitious project yet: An exo-suit to be able to carry and use the gauntlets. However, this was a very difficult procedure.
“Let’s see, I need a material strong enough to support the weight of these things without shattering or bending under immobile strain.” Killigan started fumbling through the surprisingly well organized, rotating shelf next to his table. It held samples of all the metals his father ever used on many levels, and stopped on Telimun. “Ah. This is perfect.” Killigan grabbed the shard of metal from the drawer and analyzed it. “Heavier than titanium but much easier to forge with.” He pulled out a thin sheet of paper and started calculating the use of the metal. “What are the pros and cons of Telimun again?”
The first test was to determine if the material was indeed appropriate for the determined weight it was to carry with the use of balances, counterweights, and many chains. Luckily, there was enough metal to test out every theory, and after a few failures, Killigan found the right balance of Tellimun for a scaled-down weight of the gauntlets. Barlatan witnessed his son cleaning up the mess he had created and snuck up behind him.
“What are you doing there, son?” he asked.
Killigan was too focused to be startled, and answered calmly. It was too late to hide the gauntlets now. “I’m cleaning these gauntlets I found in the swamps before you told me not to go.”
“Before…” Barlatan leaned forward to see the massive objects on the table. “Gauntlets, you say? And we have swamps?”
Killigan pulled a high-pressure hose dangling above him and sprayed the gauntlets. “Yup.”
His father inched around to get a better look at the gauntlets and tried to lift the freshly cleaned one, only to find himself struggling with as much difficulty as Killigan did despite his muscle mass.
He gave up and nearly fell backwards while his arms relaxed. “Oy. What are these things? They’re--”
“Super heavy? I know. It was horrifying to bring them back. I think I lost half my body weight bringing them back here.”
Killigan’s father cocked an eyebrow. “Right...Are you trying to renovate them?”
“And use them, preferably.”
“U-use them? How?! They’re much too heavy for even I to use!”
Killigan stepped towards an adjustable, wire frame mannequin and held it in front of himself. “I’m going to make an exo-skeleton!”
The young boy’s father tapped his son on the back. “I’m proud of you! Taking on your own project.” He took another look at the behemoths of metal. “Although I’m not sure how you’ll manage such a feat.”
“I don’t know either,” Killigan lamented. “But I’ll figure it out, no matter how long it takes me.”
“Don’t be discouraged then. The first tries are always the most difficulty.” Barlatan dropped onto a nearby stool and took his shoes off to let his feet breathe a little. “And if you need help, I’m right here.”
“Okay, dad. I will.”
The blacksmith lifted a finger momentarily then lowered it. “Not exactly, but close enough. Go ahead. I’m eager to see how your project will end up.”
The young boy used a wire frame doll after a few weeks of testing and redesigning to test his first iteration of the exoskeleton armor. Just like before, he used a block of metal relative in weight to the gauntlets and was glad to see that the doll could lift one arm with the suit on. Killigan was a bit too quick and eager after such a success that he immediately placed a gauntlet on the right arm. He had barely pressed the remote control that the entirety of the doll fell to one side and crumbled.
The boy dropped the remote and stomped the ground angrily. “Stupid...accursed...” Killigan rubs his forehead. “At least I had the foresight to use a frame instead of myself.
The boy spent a further three months trying to perfect the exoskeleton and iron out its problems, but it was quite difficult. In the mean time, Barlatan had already finished his gun and was waiting to finish its outward appearance per the client’s specifications. During a moment of resting, he noticed Killigan slamming his head against a wooden barrier and rolled his eyes.
“What’s wrong, son?” he asked as he stepped out of the workshop.
“It’s this stupid thing!” Killigan presented the device. “I can’t get it to carry weights properly. It keeps breaking when I apply weight relative to the gauntlets I found.”
Barlatan looked over the metallic frame and flexed the joints several times. “I see the problem,” he started. “You see these?” he pointed to the arms. “This is your issue. It’s common with the rest of this frame.” He picked up a nearby barrel and held it over his head. “You’ve got the joints and the material for the frame, but unlike my arm, you have nothing to support the main body while it carries weights. You have no ‘tendons’, so to speak.” He lifted and lowered the barrel multiple times, displaying his tendons and more developed areas of muscle. “Essentially, while you got the weight carriage right, you didn’t account for weight distribution.”
Killigan facepalmed. “I knew I was forgetting something.” He looked back at his exoskeleton and dropped his head. “It’s going to take much longer to finalize, then.”
Barlatan nodded. “That’s the price of attempting new things.” He put the barrel back down and grinned. “But when you do something once, it becomes easier afterwards.”
After several more months of trial and error, and with the continued insight of his father, Killigan finally finished his exosuit! He was going to wear it today. After a bit of cleaning and polishing, the gauntlets had obtained a golden sheen caused by years of decay in the swamps. The paint had fractured off of it and the sun bleached what remained of the bare metal into the pale shimmer Killigan enjoyed.
The young boy took his exosuit off a wooden mannequin at the entrance of the workshop and put it on. Several metal bars imitating the emplacement of bones in the human body with a reinforced back, collarbone, and arm joints was all that was needed to support the weight of the gauntlets on his arms. He moved his arms to make sure that the ‘tendons’ and ‘muscles’ of the frame moved and folded properly before continuing.
He took a deep breath and lowered himself to the gauntlets. “Alrighty then. I’ve done all the tests. I know this will work.”
Killigan slid his hands into the gauntlets and, after a minute of mentally preparing himself, lifted the gauntlets up with relative ease, although the sudden increase of weight in front of him caused him to lose his balance.
“Woah! This is incredible!” He moved his hands around and stretched his flexed his fingers several times..
The gauntlet was a solid piece of thick metal. In fact, the fingers were so thick they seemed disproportionately stubby in comparison to a normal hand.
“Nice.” He looked around for something to use them on and found his prey. “Let’s see what they can do against those empty crates over there.”
Barlatan had returned from the delivery of his gun a rich man, eager to tell his son the good news. He just caught a glimpse of his son reeling his arm back whilst wearing the gauntlets. The fist not only punched the crate with extreme force, but whatever the fist was made of caused the crate to become naught but splinters and dust. The kinetic force it multiplied Killigan’s punch with caused the boy to fly forward and land on his stomach.
Killigan’s father thought deeply. “Wait, it couldn’t be. That kind of impact force. That raw, destructive power. Weapons of the Pillar Scieldans?!”