The Wash of Fear
The Brass Automaton Saga Part VIII
This saga was started by Mark Gardner over at Article 94. He explains the origins of this Snow White / Terminator mashup as a preface to Part I, “The Brass Automaton.” I would recommend starting there. I contributed Parts III and IV before Mark took over again adding Parts V and VI. Last week I took it back for Part VII, and here is my setup for Mark’s grand finale. I hope 🙂
|| Ceridwen ran from her apartments screaming for her Tenyks, “Below! Below! There is a tunnel below the keep! Rally! Rally all! Head down and defend the Keep! Defend to the last!”
Tenyks ran from her, some heading down straight away, others issued orders to the groups they were charged with. Ceridwen felt a wash of fear creep over her. Her Tenyks greatest weakness was having to rely on their own initiative, a situation unavoidable when fighting in dark, unknown tunnels.
She bit her knuckle in a mix of fright and fury, only to knock her tooth on its smooth, brass surface. She had lost complete control of the spell, and her true, metal form had almost consumed her again. Given the current threat it wasn’t worth the expenditure of Magick to mask. She may well yet need the reserve from the men she’d already killed. One and half, really, she thought, as her mind returned to its cold pragmatism. She needed a contingency plan for herself. With no reflections she couldn’t use the Mirror’s Magick shard to guide the battle as she had before. Her only hope was that it wasn’t too late and the Tenyks could overwhelm Snow’s forces.
Queen Snow looked out over the ranks of her Sisters. There were more of them than she had ever thought possible. Their uniforms were not just for ready identity in battle, but also to make determining their number that much more difficult for the Ceridwen’s spies.
“My dearest Sisters,” she said, choking up just a bit, “You have always filled me with such pride. Whether it was in the desperate hours of our flight, the carving of a new life for us below ground, or even-” she paused to gather her breath and thought, “When we did everything, everything, that had to be done to ensure our safety. You have stood tall against every challenge. And now, we have one last battle to fight.
“We have been waiting for this moment a long time. It has taken years of patience and fortitude to reach this point, to align ourselves so the blow we strike will be a killing one. Ceridwen’s power in immense, but I shan’t give her the honor of Queen or Ruler or any other title beyond, ‘Criminal.’ Today we march. We shall strike the final blow in our war against her, and our freedom shall finally be at hand!
“Ride my Sisters, ride! It is our past, our present, and our future that we shall now avenge! RIDE!”
King John removed the Golden Apple from the scale, turning his back on the creaking door to the secret chamber. The glass shard in his other hand had gone blank after briefly clouding over as a mist from a swamp. He felt the weight of both, no longer surprised that the shard weighed more. He looked up to Heaven in supplication for strength and confirmation of his path.
The Gods though, as ever, were silent to him as he slumped to his knees in despair.
Snow walked from her mount as the last of her Sisters left the cavern. She had but two more pieces of business before she could join them. “Friend Dwarves,” she said to the awkward seven figures before her, “My gratitude is upon you. If you wish to fight I will not stop you. If you wish to stay I will not implore you. You have already done your part better than I could have dreamt.”
“We will do as we intended,” said Odc, “You do not rule us.”
“I know, King Odc, I would merely offer a thought.”
“I knew it!” said Prymgu, “I told you all! She’s never going to be done! Well!? What would you have us now?”
“Easy on there,” said Odc, taking the conversational reins again, “What is your ‘thought?'”
Ceridwen walked down corridors suddenly gone quiet as the last of the Tenyks descended into the tunnels. Each step of her brass legs echoed that much more across desolate halls as she planned for, and against, the possibilities. Thoughts ran through her head; looking, seeking, for connection, but they stuggled against the quietus of her solitude.
The Tenyks were all in the tunnels…
They were all in the tunnels, leaving her alone...
“It’s a trap!” she screamed into the emptiness.
Continue on to Part IX, “The Accord“