Chapter 22 - Book of Fates



The Fates decided the knight will hear Compie out. See the results here.


Compie’s wicked tale could have ended right here and now, my divine Fates. It could have become a bronze smear on the bottom of the knight’s iron boot. Of course, rash actions like that tend to end in houses falling from the sky, so maybe you were right to stay the Eternal Knight’s rage.


***

“You miserable creature!” The knight snarls at Compie. He yearns to destroy the evil contraption, but something holds him back. “Give me one good reason not to break you in pieces.”


“Hey! I’ve done nothing to deserve threats, you golem!”


The oar drops to the ground with a clatter. Ren lunges to catch Compie, but hesitates mid-movement and his gauntlet closes on thin air. The box scampers out of arm’s range and struts circles around the knight with a chicken-legged swagger in its step, kicking up colorful confetti.


“Cursed box,” Ren seethes. “You almost killed me and Dawn. If it wasn’t for a stroke of luck, we’d be dead by now.”


“Okay, sure, I give you that, but one construct speaking to another, it’s hardly a reason to hold a grudge. It’s not like you or I am properly alive. And the elf is too silly to survive anyway, in my estimation.” The Knight growls and makes another grab at the mincing box and misses.


“Now, now,” continues Compie, “Right now we want the same thing — we need to work together, you tin imbecile! We’re on the same side!”


“The same side?” Ren snaps. “What craven betrayals are you planning now, box?”


“You wound me! My betrayal of you was downright brave. But now let’s talk about saving lives. I know how you can save the town, the miserable slaves included. But I can’t tell you if you destroy me.”


“Why do you care about the town, let alone the slaves?”


“I don’t!” says the box. “But Nitanna has put a bond of servitude upon me to save her mangy little community from the mutant attack. My plan was brilliant: have her blacksmith make replicas of me and lift enough houses to save the citizens. Except now the blacksmith is gone and my plan is in ruins."


"Nitanna has already ordered me to bring back the runaway blacksmith."


"Bah. It's too late to be running around the jungle looking for a dwarf. It's time for plan b. You will never guess what it is!"


“I’m not in a guessing kind of mood.”


“Spoilsport. We make the whole town float. Ta-dah!”


“The whole town?” The knight sobers, hearing the outrageous statement.


“It’s simple and ingenious, if I say so myself. Master Turcifa would have been proud.”


“You’re not serious.”


“Look, golem,” said the box, adopting a condescending tone. “Is it that hard to imagine that powerful magic could lift a town this size? First off, it isn’t even that big. Second, I’m that good at my craft. Just imagine how convenient it would be. No one would have to stick around to die a horrible death in the hands of the mutant horde.”


“If it’s so simple, why haven’t you done it already?”


“Well, there are a few difficulties with the plan. Even one as talented as me can’t do it without the right ingredients, you see.”


“And there it is: the empty promise.” Ren stoops down to pick up the oar where he had dropped it. Safest to smash the treacherous thing… and yet, the knight is held back once again. The box is not done talking.


“Now wait and hear me out,” Compie says hastily as the oar thumps against the cobblestones, ready for a strike. “If you help me earn my freedom, I will conjure a new arm for you."


The knight stays silent. Compie takes it as a sign to continue and says: "There are two ways of completing a spell of this caliber. The first way is by making a Soul Sacrifice. My suggestion is to sacrifice Nitanna. That will solve the problem of my freedom once and for all and you'll get to play the town-saving hero."


"No," Ren says. "No deal."


"Well, I suppose we could use the golden armor that’s joined your party. Anyone can see you’re not too friendly with her. We could easily harvest her energy and attach it to a more useful form. You simply must hold her down in the center of the ritual circle while I do my part.”


“I don’t imagine she would enjoy becoming a sacrifice,” says Ren, glancing back to be sure the Handmaiden is nowhere in sight.


“No, I don’t imagine she would. But sometimes sacrifices have to be made. Human lives, which you seem to hold so precious, are at stake. She would be the fastest power source to obtain, if not the most powerful one.”


“What’s the most powerful?”


“Yes, but also the most difficult one to get our hands-on. There is a source of great magical power in the underground cavern where these townspeople grow their food, away from the Noxis curse. It's an orb that generates light that I could harvest for my spell."


"Why hasn't Nitanna given you this orb?"


"Says the town won't be able to sustain itself for long without it. Personally, I think she's being too picky for a woman facing annihilation.”


Ren hesitates. He should have destroyed the box before it started talking. But now he has more choices to make. I've made too many promises, the knight thinks. I've promised Dawn to save the whole town. I've promised Nitanna to find her blacksmith — but I have no intention of bringing him back to slavery. I want to save the town, but so far I've just driven myself into a corner.


He racks his empty helmet for the right answer. Compie offers an easy way out of this bind, but are they the right choices? Then again, if I don't take Compie's suggestions, I probably won't be able to fulfill my promise to Dawn and the town will be destroyed.


Compie begins to prance around the knight again, muttering, “Nitanna is nothing compared to master Turcifa. No elegance, no poise, no nobility! I would never have entered this bond of my own free will. Never!” It stops, looking up at the knight, “But now you’re here and we can help each other out: help me save the town, and I’ll give you a new magical arm and I get my freedom. Win-win. So, what will you do, metal man?”


***

Ah, the age-old ‘win-win’ scenario that omits another ancient wisdom: ‘one person’s gain is another person’s loss’.


Option 1: The Eternal Knight betrays the Handmaiden for Compie’s ceremony. It’s about time one might say.


Option 2: The Eternal Knight steals the town’s magical artifact. The townspeople will live to fight another day.


Option 3: The Eternal Knight won’t listen to Compie’s suggestions. Let it rot serving Nitanna, while the knight will walk away from this place, looking for the blacksmith.


***


<<< Go back to the PREVIOUS CHAPTER


Author's note:

Happy New Year, wonderful people!

During the New Year's Eve in Finland, there's a tradition of melting tin (molybdomancy). As kids we did that every year. After melting the tin you pour it into cold water where it solidifies and then you interpret its shape which will give you a prediction of the coming year.


We couldn't get hold of tin this year, so we dipped into an old Polish tradition of melting wax (Andrzejki) and ran with that.


Silver got a solitary island with a single structure in the middle, while Kaya got a woman, sitting and swaddled in fabric, with a bird flying away from her. Go figure...

See you next week!


Love,

Kaya & Silver





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