Beyond the Walls

Mikhel furrowed his brow as he inspected the circuitry of the broken-down Device that Old Nily had brought him. He was only an apprentice Karma Engineer, and many conservationists criticised his “sloppy” methods, but he was also widely regarded as the best among the younger generation of Engineers of Illaryon. Not even he could make heads or tails of the mess Old Nily had brought, however; for starters, the thing was at least some eighty years old, and it didn’t seem to have seen a repairer’s hand in almost as much. Scratching his excuse of a beard, Mikhel contemplated his options; disassembling the whole thing and going from there had its merits, but the risk of permanently breaking it was high, and Old Nily was known to be stingy with his stuff – and his coin. On the other hand, there wasn’t much he could do if he didn’t know what the main problem was, either, and he didn’t want to waste so much time on trial and error while fixing the old machine; the “less sloppy” methods the conservationist Engineers preferred, using standardized tests for discovering the most well-known problems. Usually he would have loved the challenge of meddling with such old equipment, and proving the superiority of his methods was always fun, but today was his date with Lynn, and he absolutely must not be late for that. Things were not looking good for him, but Mikhel knew he couldn’t simply pass on this job, either; there was more than just the coin of it for him, as each succesful job increased his renown and increased his chances of being formerly recognized as a professional Karma Engineer.

Sighing, the young man took the small Core he used in his daily work, a beautiful little thing enhanced by himself which allowed him to Weave threads much thinner than he could without them, and also amplified the response of other Karmic circuitry; a very useful and handy tool to have with you while working. Carefully Mikhel probed the damaged Device with a wispy flow of Air, channelled through his Core and into each small nook and crane he could find in succession. This was one of the cruder methods of analysis, but also one of the safest; there was little chance of a bit of air damaging the inner workings of any of the Devices he knew. It was inevitable that, no later than a mere fifteen minutes into his checks, Mikhel had already lost himself to his work, applying increasingly complex Weaves containing tiny threads of other elements Woven together with Air, exploring not only the physical boundaries of the damaged Device but also its Karmic nature. Despite its condition of disrepair and its age, the Device was amazingly well-conserved, which made it easier for Mikhel to find his way around the old circuitry’s maze of effects and connections, thus resulting in him determining that the Device was actually malfunctioning because of a very simple short-circuit in one of its main components. It was a stroke of luck, truly, to have found the single piece that had broken down the entire Device so fast, but luck was a big part of Mikhel’s work, and he had come to accept it as natural.

Replacing the component took no longer than five minutes, and Mikhel was happy to see that the entire repair had taken him a little less than a full hour. He wouldn’t have all the time he had wanted to prepare himself, but at least he would be able to take a bath and change into a nice set of clothes before going to meet Lynn. Not that she was one to put too much stock into clothes, but anything he could do to impress her was welcome; this was one of the areas where he absolutely must not trust to luck, and where he absolutely had no experience with. He didn’t even know how he had mustered the courage to ask her out, or what she had on her mind when she said yes. Mikhel was not one to discuss with his luck, however, and it was with a grin on his face that he dropped the fixed Device in the small box behind the small shop’s counter, already addressed to Old Nily. Kidd would care of delivering it later that night; he took care of repairs, and Kidd dealt with deliveries, while their foster father ran the shop proper and dealt with finances. All thoughts of the shop or the Device fled Mikhel’s head as he climbed the stairs at the back of the shop, leading to their home, with a grin plastered on his face. He couldn’t contain his excitement.

A quick bath was followed by a lengthy perusal of his clothes, none fancy or expensive. Hard to impress Lynn with what he had, but Mikhel had to work with what he was given. Choosing the less battered of his black trousers, he passed on his usual hardy leather coat in favour of a more gentlemanly grey linen shirt, the best he had, in addition to the sky-blue scarf he had gotten as a birthday present and never really gotten used to wearing – that was why it was still brand new, unlike the rest of his second-hand clothes. Whistling to his own image in the mirror, Mikhel felt confident for the first time since Lynn had accepted his invitation, and a smile bloomed in his lips. Picking out the flowers he had bought for her, he checked the final minor details, making sure everything was just so, and departed to the Mozarra Square, where they had agreed on meeting.

It began while he was still in the streets. The earth began to shook, the sky turned red and green in turns and all around him people screamed, people ran, people died. Mikhel had heard the news about yet another foolish army camping at their doorstep, doomed to fail in conquering the unconquerable city, and yet scenes from his worst nightmares unfolded in front of his eyes, buildings crumbling and the earth being torn asunder by the strength of the invaders. Tossing his carefully-picked flowers aside, Mikhel sprinted the remaining distance towards the Mozarra Square, arriving in time to see a wide-eyed Lynn frantically trying to understand what was happening around her, frantically trying to find safety in the middle of the chaos and destruction. A sigh of relief escaped his lips as he saw that she was still alive; he would get her to somewhere safe, and they would get through this attack somehow. She turned in his direction, and her eyes filled with hope as she began to run towards him.

A shaft of Fire and Lightning descended from the heavens, a spear of death and destruction, tearing through Lynn’s stomach and exploding at her feet, throwing her into the air. Mikhel screamed, rushing to her side as she muttered his name and blood flowed from her mouth and the wound at her stomach.

“Citizens of Illaryon, hear me out. I am Dorian Belzess, Commander of the Armies of Dusk. Your Shinning Walls lay like rubble at my feet, and your soldiers dead at my hands. Your city has fallen. Avoid further grief and destruction by submitting yourselves to my rule and forfeiting all previous allegiances; none that do so will be harmed.”

Hot tears streamed through Mikhel’s face as he held on with all of his strength to the dying moments of Lynn, as she tried to say something that would not come up due to all of the blood and the pain, as she smiled sadly and whispered gently “I love you,” and as her hand finally fell away and her eyes glazed over in the eternal rest of the dead. He screamed then, a scream that tore through his throat and his entire being, cursing the heavens, cursing the earth, cursing the man who had killed his love, “Burn you, Dorian Belzess! Burn you and your Armies to the ground!”

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2 thoughts on “Beyond the Walls

  1. This is great–it really sets a different tone for the whole battle. One thing I always wondered about in terms of writing is why it’s always the “important people” and “big issues” at the heard of a story. That is, of course, because otherwise there would be no story to tell–but it always fazed me that the “normal” people in a story get glossed over. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
    What you’ve done here is take a very “normal” person with real stakes in this battle–though he doesn’t realize it–and, in telling his story, revealing something important about the larger impact of the battle. And I think this scene drove home the *consequences* of this war more than any of the previous ones. By showing us this tragic love story, it seems suddenly real. Very nice!

  2. Thanks! :D

    Yup, I’ve sometimes wondered that as well – which is, in part, what drove me to write this piece. Seeing things from the eyes of a normal person can sometimes completely change the perspective of a scene or situation, which can lead to interesting developments!

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