Collection: Ages of Youth // Weird
Chronicled by: Valhel
The heavy doors of the forlorn chapel crept open as the grim gathering of the Watchers broke their fellowship. Silently they placed masks over their faces and forgoing farewells the ghostly host departed into the the night. An unearthly darkness hung over the land, the shadows of night had been deformed somehow, a deceiving veil cloaked threats unseen that would otherwise be visible by torchlight. The Watchers slipped through these shadows back into the mist swept streets and alleyways of their village, the lamps along the way flickering as if in salute to them before they resumed the long vigil before dawn.
"They still wear the masks?" asked Pandora as she looked on from the chapel doorway.
"Obscurity is invaluable when one cannot know who is watching from the shadows.' replied Desmond as he replaced his mask, 'We wear the masks to protect ourselves. What may stalk us in the the cover of night may learn of the shadows in our basements and homes that even the daylight cannot reach. And we wouldn't want to bump into these things there."
"Those dreadful beasties...' said Auric, 'Pandora, what did you say those things were again? Some foul magic."
Auric's copper raven beak mask could barely disguise the sneer he wore upon his face, just as well for Pandora's helm could not conceal the contempt upon her face.
"No magic.' she sighed, 'There is no magic, it is a plague. And I will cleanse it."
"Forgive me.' chimed a new voice, 'But how do you intend to cleanse a disease of monsters?"
Pandora and the others looked back to see one Watcher who had not departed the chapel, Clandestine.
"I mean, if this is a plague, what medicine could you possess that heals land and banishes fiends?", asked Clandestine.
Desmond stepped between Clandestine and the rest, "Watcher, you should return to your post-"
"-No, Desmond. It's alright.' said Pandora, 'These creature are not things, Clandestine. They are not biological, barely material. And they appear to be following...something. I intend to find that thing and remove it."
"You make it sound so easy." scoffed Auric.
"It will be once you lead me to where the lightning strikes, Auric.' Pandora turned about, the five silver eyes of her helm glaring down into empty sockets of Auric's mask, 'Or are you too afraid of the dark?"
"Auric, we don't have time for your hostilities. Get a hold of yourself!" growled Desmond.
Auric looked down and back up again with a grin and sarcastically gestured to the chapel doors, "It's all fun and games, Pandora, right this way."
Pandora and Auric started down the road away from the village toward the forest. Soon Desmond would follow but not before instructing Clandestine to assume his post outside of the town.
"What do you make of this place?" asked the Sentinel.
He and the Wolf were cautiously proceeding down the muddy road toward the sleeping village.
"I think I don't like the mud." replied the Wolf.
"I mean of the time."
The Sentinel held back his tongue.
"Oh, right!' exclaimed the Wolf jokingly, 'Time travel time! I forgot you came here by using, what was it...rocks?"
"Yes. The Crown of Stone. So what do you make of this place?"
"Well, you're not in Kansas anymore."
"What is Kansas?"
The Wolf sighed dramatically, "Nothing, Dorothy."
"What is Dorothy?" asked the Sentinel, himself now annoyed.
"Nothing, nothing.' said the Wolf, "Long story. Girl travels with her little dog, Toto, to a strange and magical land. It's a joke."
"A wolf is a sort of dog, does that make you Toto?" chuckled the Sentinel.
The two drew nearer and nearer the fog choked village. Shadows seemed to glide through the fields beside them like monsters lurking just out of shot and sight. From time to time a faint clicking could be heard from the tall grass, and the Wolf more than once directed their attention to what he thought were eyes watching them from the darkness.
"You have not told me how you came here, Wolf. Is it more believable than my tale?" asked the Sentinel.
"I could tell you, and you wouldn't believe it."
The Wolf sighed, annoyed by his own tale and the constant shifting of the mud beneath his steps.
"You ever hear of the Halleaux, of skyscrapers, and crazy stuff like that?" smiled the Wolf.
"Yes.' replied the Sentinel as bluntly as possible, 'That is where Valjean and Pandora are from, yes? They were in my land not long ago."
The Wolf stopped in his muddy tracks, "Wait...You've seen Valjean? Recently?"
"Yes. He was aiding Pandora. He left with her."
The Wolf turned back around bewildered, "Valjean's been dead for years."
"You are mistaken, I've known him for a long time. It was the same Valjean from the day we met as the day I last saw him." said the Sentinel.
"That's not possible..." whispered the Wolf.
"What do you mean?"
"Valjean was killed when we stormed the Authority city.' said the Wolf, 'In my time, the future, Valjean lead our resistance against the Authority. And in our last act of defiance he was killed along with most of our people."
"Are there many Valjean's that lead revolutions where you come from, Wolf?" asked the Sentinel.
"No.' pondered the Wolf, 'There aren't."
"What about Pandora? Who is she to you?" asked the Sentinel, this time hoping for information instead of puzzling looks.
"She...she.....' the Wolf snapped his fingers, 'She! She did this!"
"Please stop and explain something before moving on." sighed the Sentinel.
"Pandora! She was one of the survivors, if you can call it that. When Valjean lead us into battle it was our last ditch effort to reclaim our liberty. Freedom for our faith, and we went in guns blazing. But it wasn't enough. The Authority was ready for us and we were nearly annihilated."
"Sounds like a bad plan."
"It was our only plan. We had no where to hide, no food, and no other option but insurrection. Valjean gathered his lieutenants, which is where Pandora comes in, and each battle group attacked the city with heavy losses."
"This is not explaining how Valjean is still alive."
"That's the thing, he isn't!' said the Wolf excitedly grabbing the Sentinel by the arm, 'Valjean and most of the resistance died that day. Others were not so lucky...the Authority hunted us down, imprisoned our families, or finally eliminated us. Pandora was leading our retreat back into the underground when the Authority caught up. To buy us all time Pandora stayed behind to cover us. She sealed the iron doors behind us and made herself ready for a final stand. But there were no enemy soldiers, no tanks, just a chemshell of blinding mists."
A shrill screeching noise pierced the distant gloom of the woods. The Wolf readied his rifle, but soon all would return to an uneasy silence.
"So, Pandora's dead too? This isn't helping." said the Sentinel as he started back down the road.
"No, she's very much alive. The Authority found her blind and defenseless before the iron vaults of the underground. And that's where they left her, robbed of all faith and even her own sight. Everything that Cosette had believed in, had hoped for, was gone... After the Authority drew back what remained of the resistance tried to make contact with Pandora...but it wasn't her anymore, she was blind but had...new vision." the Wolf hung his head for a moment.
"Anyways, a few days later someone broke into one of the last weapon caches that the resistance had and the one cache that contained our experimental stuff."
"Time travel." said the Sentinel.
"Exactly, an early prototype time gate, but no one had ever managed to get it to work. But just because we have the gate doesn't mean it's unlocked.' said the Wolf scornfully, 'But she found a key."
"Or it was unlocked from the other side." suggested the Sentinel.
The thought of something "unlocking" the way for Pandora had never occurred to the Wolf, the notion was unsettling. Something would have had to wait for Pandora to find the gate.
"So, how did you get here?" asked the Sentinel in a bid to keep the conversation alive.
"That prototype leaves anomalies behind when a jump through time is made. Traces of temporal energy." said the Wolf.
"You followed her here."
"Exactly, I've been tracking Pandora by the breadcrumb trail of anomalies left behind." said the Wolf.
"Anomalies like the one at the Crown of Stone?"
The Wolf realized that the Sentinel must have found his own breadcrumb left by Pandora and patted the Sentinel on the shoulder, "Well, I guess your story is just crazy enough to be true after all!"
"This still doesn't tell me how I saw Valjean." said the Sentinel.
"You see, that's the funny thing.' said the Wolf as he continued to walk toward the dark village, 'There was only that one time gate, but somehow Pandora is still moving through time. I think she may have improved on the tech."
"What does she use now?"
"Can't tell, but whatever it is doesn't need to recharge and could be built out here in this place.' said the Wolf, 'Anyways, Pandora must've changed something, altering the past to change the future."
"How do you know I did not witness Valjean in the past before your battle?" asked the Sentinel.
The Wolf gave a short laugh, "Here's where things get real interesting. The resistance has never used time travel before. Pandora, she was the first."
"How is that possible? Valjean has used time jumps to reach us multiple times."
"Well,' said the Wolf, 'I guess there is more than one Valjean that leads a resistance where I come from. Because where I come from we've never been to your Mountain, or picked up ancient Books from pirates or any of that nonsense you've heard of. The Valjean I knew is dead, but this must be a new path in time that Pandora carved out. So the Valjean you know is alive."
"And up to no good." said the Sentinel in a solemn tone.
As the two drew closer to the town they compared details from each of their experiences with Pandora and Valjean. Both agreed that something must have been altered that allowed the resistance to discover time travel so Valjean could gather the Bible and recruit allies in distant times like the Mountain. Some elements aligned in both the Wolf and Sentinel's accounts. The Wolf met Marius before he was lost to the ill fated attack on the city. Inspector Javert was also a familiar name to the Wolf, who was more than concerned that the Sentinel had encountered the Authority commander in the distant past. Captain Petra, however, was completely unknown to the Wolf, though she had befriended the Sentinel after traveling from the wind swept islands of her own age.
"I'll ask again, where do you think we are?" said the Sentinel.
"Good question.' said the Wolf, 'This time was the first time Pandora jumped to. I'm not exactly sure, but I think this place exists in a time before the industrial revolution that gave way to my age, and sometime after the time of the Mountain."
"What makes you say that?"
"The people here have begun discovering ancient technology from the time before the second dark age. They seem to have the wherewithal to at least replicate it through bizarre chemistry and machinery that imitates the much more advanced relics they've uncovered."
"So Pandora didn't jump that far." said the Sentinel.
"No, hundred or so years back for me, hundred or so years forward for you."
"What did she come here for?"
"That's what I still don't know. Pandora has journeyed to this age several times."
"She must have something here, an ally or cache that aided her schemes." said the Sentinel.
Suddenly there was a splash in the muddy road behind the pair and the air began to churn with a strange energy, "Hold there, please, and lower your weapons."
The Sentinel obeyed and raised his arms, but the Wolf turned on his heels to fire but not before his rifle was shot out from his hands.
"Last warning! Please, stand down."
Standing before the Wolf and Sentinel was a figure garbed in black clothing and a cloak, boots, and a dark hat with a brim that nearly shadowed a silver mask that rested over the face of woman.
"You are trespassing here, what is your business?" asked the Watcher with her strange rifle pointed at the Wolf.
The Sentinel relaxed some and spoke, "We are travelers seeking Pandora. We have questions and we believe she has answers, have you seen her?"
"Pandora?' said the Watcher, 'Are you friends of hers? Your companion here nearly shot me, but his armor is not unlike hers...advanced. If you were friends I don't believe he would've tried that."
"Don't say anything." cautioned the the Wolf.
"We are not her friends." said the Sentinel.
"Great, get us killed. Thanks." sighed the Wolf.
The Watcher looked on for a moment before continuing, "What do you want with Pandora?"
The Sentinel lowered his hands, "We have been tricked by her and we seek a way home. At least for my part."
"And his part?" said the Watcher gesturing at the Wolf.
The Sentinel looked over at the Wolf before answering, "He's excitable. But wants the same thing."
The Watcher stood silently holding her captives for several minutes without speaking. Shadows seemed to be teeming in the fields beyond and the moonlight almost appeared to grow dim.
Finally she spoke, "I am Watcher Clandestine. Pandora has not been seen for two nights, and you'll follow me if you want your answers."
The Sentinel nodded in agreement.
"Then follow me. These lands have grown dark lately, and the shadows have become even more restless since she vanished.' said Clandestine, 'You'll want to pick up that rifle again if you hope to survive."
Without hesitation Clandestine stepped out of the muddy road and into the tall sweeping grass of the whispering fields, beckoning the Sentinel and Wolf to follow.
"Could be a trap." said the Wolf as he pulled his rifle from the mud.
Looking out to the darkness of the road behind him the Wolf saw what he thought were red eyes blinking in the distance, watching them.
"Then again, so is the road."
To Be Continued...
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