Chapter Twenty-One

Irian had just awakened, when he saw a tall, thin man stooped over the case of parts in his room.  He sat up quickly, but the pain in his face forced him back down.

“Caffeine withdrawal.  Try this.”

It was a shakla, just as he took his, though a bit on the strong side.  Irian drank deeply.  It helped to clear the cobwebs.

“Thanks.  Who are you?”

No one in particular, but you have a nice machine here.  Couple of flaws, and a few gears need remade, though.”

“And you would know because?”

“Because I taught the Queen of Engines.”

“Then you’re…”

The figure hobbled into full view.  He was heavily scarred, though strong, and walked halt of step on his right side.  His left arm was encased in tiny gearwork, and he carried a strange blade.

“Yes, the Prince of Brass.”

“I thought you had aether poisoning”

“You have much to learn.  But who’s to say I didn’t?”  His hair, shoulder-length and spiky, was an interesting shade of blue-green fading to emerald.  Much like brass verdigris, he noted.  He shouldn’t be able to walk on that leg, but he did.  Maybe there WAS a lot to learn, he thought.

“Come with me.  Bring a weapon.  I want to see what you’re made of.”

“But you’re lame.  Even if I go blind in my right eye, I’m ten times as fast as you.  It won’t be a contest.”

“Says you.  Come on.”

Irian grabbed the Damascus blade that he had used on the giant pleco and followed the limping man.  He took corridors that didn’t seem to be there until he passed, and finally ended up in a laboratory that beat anything he’d ever seen.  Aether flowed in hoses, gears ran faster than he’d ever seen.  Truly, he was the Prince of Brass.

He bent to adjust a fitting, then drew his blade.   Made much like an epee, the bent handle accomodated both hands.  He couldn’t make out what was integrated into the blade, though.  Something made with gears, but he couldn’t puzzle it out.

The Prince advanced.  Step by step, he closed the distance, until his blade winked out and sparks flew from Irian’s. 

“Still slow?”

Irian noted he’d had no time to ready a response, but his body had reacted for him.  Thank God for small miracles, he noted.  He brought his sword up and brought out his fan.  Sword in right hand, fan in left he charged the Prince.

The Prince parried the fan, spinning around to strike Irian in the face.  Vision winked out in his right eye.  Undaunted, Irian brought the blade around to bear on his opponent.  It struck the gearwork, and the Prince immediately backed off, and checked the gearing.  Apparently, it was something quite important.

He drew back, assumed a classic iaito stance and waited.  Sure enough, here came the Prince, and his blade trailed sparks from the stone floor.  Irian brought his blade down on the advancing blade, and was shocked to see the gears turn, and then the sword flew from his hands, as the Prince’s blade leaked smoke.

“All is not what it seems.”

“Apparently not.  What IS that thing?”

“A toy I developed.  I think I’ll call it a blackpowder blade.  Wish it were easier to load.”  At that, the other three charges went off, heating the blade to red-hot.  Irian’s strike was true.

“You owe me a blade.”

“So that’s a new head of hair and a blade I owe people.  Anything else?”

“Ah, so you cut Namid’s hair.  Between us, she needed it.  Pompous.”

They laughed.

“Yes, actually you owe me something else.  You’re now studying with me.  Your aether blade theory could use some of the materials I have available.  I bargained that to keep them from stuffing Namid in your room.  This way, you can rebuild that machine of yours.  If you want to, anyway.”

Irian sat down.  Too much in one day.  Thankfully, he remembered his manners before he fell asleep.

“The hope of the free world, a narcoleptic.  Ouray, you gotta pick them better…”

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Published in: on May 15, 2009 at 5:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

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