Posted: Nov 11, 2018, 5:03am
OOC : Just ordering my thoughts. My laptop blew up so I have been writing this elsewhere. I have been adapting another story I was working on to weaving into the New Arcadia Story. Just for fun :) If you have been following these you will have read drafts of the next few posts before :)
Kara sat huddled in a blanket. She shivered as the cold seeped up from the flagstone steps on which she sat. Looking up she watched the churning clouds of the winter storm,. Those ink black clouds hung over the city of New Arcadia like a death shroud while she sat, cold and helpless beneath their gaze.
There came a soft creek as the double doors of her home opened behind her and a dim yellow light illuminated the gravel driveway. A heavy clunk caused her to turn and look up.
“Mistress calls for you young miss.” Came the deep metallic voice and Kara frowned up at the hulking Mechan. She stared defiantly into its glowing green eyes and turned away.
“Mistress calls for you.” The giant automaton repeated, taking another clunking step forward.
“I don’t want to go.” She snapped fighting back the tears.
“Shall I carry you?” The metal man asked and Kara half turned at that. When she was younger she had driven her parents to distraction by forcing the huge Mechan to carry her here and there around the estate like some kind of Olympian Empress. She almost caused a riot once when she ordered the thing to carry her to the market square to pick out a dress. “Tin Men” as the people called them were not a common sight outside of the Spires, where some, like her father, kept them at great personal expense. The creating and owning of Mechans was forbidden for all but the most privileged. So her father had lectured her that evening when the City Watch had delivered her and the old Tin Man back to the estate. That had been the end of the carrying.
Sniffing she scrambled to her feet and placed a hand on the Mechans leg to steady herself. The giant servant had no name. That too was forbidden. They were automatons, nothing more, but having him here gave her more comfort than any of the human servants in the house could provide.
“I will walk.” She said quietly as she made her way into the house.
“Very good miss.” Rumbled the metal servant as he turned and followed in after her.
They crossed the wide marble entrance hall, she and the Mechan in a sombre procession. Arriving at the bottom the of the stairs she turned and removed the blanket from her shoulders and handed it up. The Tin Man took it with a shallow bow and a flair of his green eyes.
“Wait here.” She ordered.
“Very good miss.” Came the reply as she began to make her way up the wide staircase.
Her slippered feet made no sound as she arrived at the landing. Seeing a lit candlestick sitting on a nearby dresser she snatched it up and made her way to the left. Tall shadows played along the wall as she approached the heavy oak door and she watched them as the candle light sent them dancing back and forth like the Meliae Nymphs her father had taken her to see in the Ash Groves.
So engrossed was she in the display and her own memories that when the bedroom door opened from the inside she almost jumped out of her skin. She was not the only one to take a fright as one of her mother’s nurses who was carrying a metal bowl and towels out of the room screamed out.
“Hells woman what is it?” came the doctors voice from within.
“Gods forgive me sir it’s just the girl, she was standing here all silent like and I…” the nurse began to stammer but the doctor cut her off.
“Off with you woman.” The doctor ordered and then in a softer tone, “Come in Kara your mother would speak with you.”
The nurse bustled out giving Kara a hard look on the way past and then Kara stepped tentatively into the room. The smell of sickness hung heavy in the air and she was forced to swallow back the bile that threatened to rise in her throat. She looked down at her mother lying there eyes closed, so thin and frail, her skin like tissue paper.
Thick tubes snaked out from the bandages on her arms and chest carrying poisoned blood and other fluids away and into the strange machines that sat bubbling and hissing next to the bed. Doctor Ashworth was not the usual sort of Doctor, her father had procured his services at great expense from the university. Kara watched him as he adjusted the controls on his equipment and wrote some hasty notes down in a small black notepad he had tucked in his shirt pocket. He was bald like old man Lake who sold ashbread down at the small market and he wore small round spectacles that made him look birdlike somehow.
“She is sleeping just now, but she will rouse in a moment.” He whispered without looking up from his important work.
“Should I come back?” Kara asked looking nervously towards the door.
“No.” he said quickly looking towards her, “Ellis may not.. I mean to say she wishes to speak with you now.”
Kara looked helplessly between her mother and the doctor and stepped closer toward the bed. Her mother was still sleeping, her breathing shallow and laboured. She had grown ill weeks before when visiting one of the orphanages in Sticktown, the city’s poor quarter. Her father Daniel Leyton had been angry at first, citing it as justification for his stern opinions regarding the plight of the poor. That anger had quickly turned to fear and then panic as the seriousness of the disease had become apparent. The doctors had quickly declared her case hopeless and so he had begun to search elsewhere for a cure. Her had found doctor Ashworth through his contacts in the High Parliament and had sought the permission of the First Minister himself to engage the services of this strange scientist and his otherworldly methods. Setting the doctor to the work of keeping her alive he petitioned for access to an airship to travel across the Wrath itself and seek the aid of the White City. Everyone knew that the flying city far to the east was a place of wonders, but that request had been flatly refused. He had heard then of scientists in Graymawl who were pushing the boundaries of allowed scientific practice and had taken the next train into the Pasture Lands to seek there aid.
“Ellis.” The doctor was whispering, placing a gentle hand upon her arm, “Ellis. Mrs Leyton your daughter is here.”
Her mother was silent for a moment and Kara held her breath until at last the words came and her mother rolled her head towards her, opening her eyes.
“Kara.” She breathed.
“Mother.” Kara replied, fighting back the tears.
“In the attic behind the…” her mother began and broke down into a pitiful fit of coughing. The Doctor leaned in and dabbed the blood that appeared on her lip and offered water which she sipped gratefully.
“Mother what is it?” Kara asked.
“You are in danger,” her mother closed her eyes, “And I must leave you.”
“Leave me? No…” Kara snatched her mothers hand and gripped it as tightly as she dared, “Father will be back soon with a cure and…”
“He will be too late I fear.” She took a ragged breath and continued, “There is so much I would tell you. So much you need to know.”
Her mother glanced up then as if realising for the first time that the doctor was present. “Leave us.” She hissed towards the man, who had been listing to the exchange with rapt interest.
“Mrs Leyton I…”
“Now.” Her voice grew fierce despite her frailty and the doctor gave a sudden bow before leaving the room. The door closed with a dull click and they sat and listened to his footsteps retreat away down the corridor towards the stairs.
“When I am gone,” he mother said at last, “you will not be protected.”
“Protected from what?” she asked in confusion, I do not understand.
“You will.” Her mother replied, “all too soon you will.”
“But father will return and then all will be well.” Kara felt that the words were empty even as she spoke them.
“He will do his best. He loves you very much, never forget that, and so do I. So very much.”
“Mother you are scaring me.” Kara sobbed.
“I am sorry my love but there is so little time.” Her mother began to reach then towards a thin silver chain she kept hanging about her neck. She tried several times to grasp it but her fingers were too weak and would not close about it. Kara reached forward then and helped her take old of it and at her mothers indication she loosened the clasp that held it tight about her neck.
“Take this.” Breathed her mother as she pushed the chain towards her and Kara found herself staring down at the silver chain that she must have seen a thousand time about her mother’s neck. Looped at the end of the chain was a tiny brass key with a head shaped like a snake writhing about itself.
“What is it for?” she asked.
“Go to the attic and look behind the large mirror.” Her mother ordered, “there you will find a small lacquered chest with a V on the lid. Open it and take what is within.”
“But I am not allowed into the attic.” Kara replied dumbly, she would of course find a way up there.
“I should have done this long ago, but now no time remains.” Ellis Leyton stifled a scream then as pain wracked her body. She closed her eyes and arched her back, blood trickling from her lips causing her to choke.
“Doctor!” Kara screamed as her mother cried out again, “Doctor!” she could hear the sounds of running feet now as her mother grasped her hand and looked at her with frightened eyes. She mouthed the words “I love you.” Before pain took her away once more and the doctor came running into the room. Kara found herself being shoved towards the door where the nurse put an arm around her shoulder and guided her away. She tried to turn back but the nurse was firm.
“Mother!” she screamed as the wails of pain filled the silence of the house. She clutched the key tightly in her hand as tears flowed freely down her cheeks. “Mother!”