Collection: the Halleaux
Chronicled by Valhel
Nightfires pt II of III
As Ren made himself busy unearthing the treaders Mech stood surveying the dunes about them. The well drone lay in a mangled heap, and the threshold beacon in the distance shared a similar fate. Mech had hoped that the morning sun would grant him insight as to the nature of the monster that emerged from the dunes the previous night. In their retreat, Mech and Ren only caught a brief glimpse of the thing before ducking out of sight, the crackling tendrils of lightning and black legs that towered above the desert sand, and an odd pale glow. Now under the sun the monster's wake was clearly visible, but Mech only gained greater confusion from the scene.
Tracks more like small craters than footprints marked the path. Twisted wreckage loomed out of the sand where the beast had walked. Here and there were blasts of lightning had turned to sand to glass stood like explosions frozen in time.
"Well,' said Ren as he stepped up behind Mech, 'What do you make of it?"
"I think it might be dangerous to guess...' replied Mech as he continued to survey the trail, 'But it's safe to say there is something out here, something massive. Those frantic scouts weren't imagining it."
Ren nodded in agreement as he turned back to the treaders.
"Let's get a message back to Roanoke to warn Petra." said Mech as he followed Ren.
"About that, our comms are out. Fried by whatever electrical field surround that...that thing."
"Then I guess we'll have to tell Petra ourselves, let's loop back around and get back to base."
Ren shook his head, "Yeah, treaders won't make it that far. Solar array is dead and there's not enough juice left to go back without taking a b-line route...which could lead the thing right to Roanoke."
"Did the array fry like the comms or were your jerry-rigged panels incapable of staying attached to the treaders?" asked Mech with a smile.
"A little of both..."
"Right, well...I guess we better try to get to the next threshold beacon."
"You mean get ahead of the monster? As in, get in its way?" said Ren as he threw his pack back on his treader.
"Gotta signal for help somehow, besides,' said Mech as he ignited his treader, 'we need to get a better look at that thing."
Ren mounted his vehicle, squinting at the horizon, "We might also want to get out of sight too."
Concerned, Mech looked up as Ren pointed over the distant sands, "That dot out there, hovering just above the dunes...that is an Authority Airship."
The iron door of Petra's quarters slammed shut. She had kept watch over the walls of Roanoke all night in hopes of seeing Mech and Ren return. Instead she had only witnessed the vast and empty silence of the desert. Burdened with thoughts of despair and weariness, Petra wished only to have sleep on her mind for the next few hours. But something was wrong, something new. Something in Petra's room was not the way she had left it.
Although she could not precisely determine what had changed, Petra immediately brought her suspicions to the mysterious black chest. The chest had appeared within the walls of Roanoke, in the lab, a few weeks after Petra and the rest of the Haven defenders had arrived. That night there was a great din and the iron walls of Roanoke seemed to creak as if being bent or crushed. When Petra, Mech, and Marius came to the lab there rested the black chest, set neatly on a workbench. It was an unassuming thing, and still sinister. The small chest was rectangular, having plain walls and gilded only with a latch and handles. Beset by bravery, Petra approached the chest and opened it.
Mech and Marius never learned what therein Petra saw, what terror that drove her to hide the chest away and forbid all from examining it. They had their guesses, and even others within Roanoke began to whisper of Petra's fear. The next morning Petra personally over saw the sealing of the lower cells of the base, not content with locking doors-but settling for welding them closed.
And there it remained, the black chest stowed away in Petra's quarters, a plague of fear and doubt she believed to terrible to share, and too dangerous to leave alone. Petra took a cautious step toward the thing before pausing at a sound underfoot. Looking down she discovered tiny gains of glass beneath her boot. Looking back Petra saw her mirror had been shattered and the faint trail of reflective granules lead up to the black chest. Petra reached behind her shoulder and unfastened a clasp releasing her shield into her grasp.
Raising the shield as a weapon, Petra reached out to the latch upon the dark face of the chest and lifted it.
In betrayal of all her fear and anticipation the chest quietly opened. Regardless, Petra remained vigilant as she peered within. Something new was inside its wooden walls, not the terror of that first night- that had withdrawn. Petra reached down into the box, the air within chilled her hand, and she withdrew a small leather bound journal. Petra's mind began to race as she came to recognize the book as that of Valjean.
Valjean had been the leader of the Haven Resistance until the previous November when he was lost to the blast of a grenade that Petra herself had thrown. She intended to destroy an enemy in a moment of rage, but Valjean had intercepted the explosive, himself intending to cease bloodshed. Mech and Marius were the only Haven Defenders that witnessed Valjean's demise at Petra's hand, and in honor of their friend and Valjean's wish for Petra to lead, they kept his fate secret.
Valjean had often used the journal to record clues, or strange occurrences he witnessed through this travels, never really keeping a daily catalogue. And he never set it down, it was always on his person, which made the discovery all the more interesting to Petra, as the journal should have been destroyed with Valjean.
Petra set down the shield and parted the pages of the book. There were crude sketches of weapons and persons, glyphs and maps, intentionally vague entries on the clans of the Mountain or the whereabouts of Roanoke's secret location, and then the last record before Haven base was lost. Expecting blank pages to follow Petra was astonished at discovering more entries that had been made after Valjean's demise.
Some of the new entries looked like they were written in Valjean's hand, cryptic scrawls of nearly unreadable names and words, "...wander... Cosette has... the sea...I have lied... there can be no absolution... ...Sentinel keeps watch..."
Petra kept turning the pages, discovering bizarre sketches of shadowy creatures and five stars and eyes over and over again. Then something altogether foreign met Petra's eyes. The ink stopped. Instead small raised punctures were arranged in patterns upon the pages. Petra ran her fingers across the series of bumps, wondering what their purpose was.
On the last page was perhaps the greatest discovery, a new entry made with a new hand,
"Clans ready. Mountain secure. Please advise.
Petra set the journal down and tried to hide a smile as she began to look for a pen.
To be continued...
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