God Forge: Forge of the Mind (book 1) [draft 2]

Component 01 - Awaken


–23 Arcolum, 21300 (Century of the Pheonix)

Snow blanketed the town. Long since renounced, it remained untouched by the recent world. Below the debris lay the laboratory of a once proud artificer.

If one took time to dig deep enough, they would have discovered a wealth of lost knowledge; tomes, recipes, alchemical gadgets and other, perhaps, darker things.

The most intriguing relic being a humanoid figure. Not elf, dwarf, nor even orc; just little more than a skeleton with iron plating, adorned with tubes, gears, and secrets. But no one had found it, not after one dark moon cycle, nor even two. Not for one hundred.

The deities had made certain that no one would return to Triden’s Gate by cursing the land with deadly monsters, savage races, and a perpetual snow unable to sustain life.

Not even ships made port without the risk of colliding with icebergs and wrecked vessels in the harbor. All lost to the ages.
If the gods had known what secrets remained under the dirt, just one giant’s height down, they would have left no traces—They would’ve destroyed much of Anhsook Del Iris in retribution.

This day, on the one-hundredth anniversary of its destruction, something shifted.

From beneath the lost laboratory, iron fingertips poked their way out of the snow, touching air for the first time in a century. If the rocks and wooden beams moved any other day, they would have gone unnoticed. But as fate would have it, two adventurers had come to town to brave the deadly land; a young half-elf girl, with auburn hair to her shoulders, and a tall elf fellow with short cropped blonde hair. On his back, the male held, a longbow and quiver; the girl, a rod made of the finest mythril.

She stopped and turned, staring at the building behind her. “Wait! Gavin, did you hear?”

The annoyed elf, over three hundred dark moons her senior, appeared from around a building and approached. “Lavina! Stop this instant!”

The girl tucked a lock of hair behind her ear as she leaned forth and examined a collapsed building. It looked to have been residential. There didn’t seem to be a sign belonging to an establishment.

She knew! Something had shifted, and nothing had so much as creaked since they arrived for their third tour of the cursed town. Not in all three days. “No, Gavin, you desist. I’m serious this time.”

“Every time.” Gavin gritted his teeth, behind quivering frosted lips.

Lavina’s thick winter boots left soft prints with each step as she made her way to get a better look. A budding archaeologist, she needed to examine as much as possible.

If she had known how vulnerable she looked in a dangerous place like Triden’s Gate, she still wouldn’t have thought twice about coming. For a half-elf, twenty-six dark moons was still young—not even an adult. No matter how old she tried to act, it didn’t change she was a child in the eyes of all elves. No one in the treetop city of Windale would see her otherwise.

Lavina stopped at the charred skeleton of a house. The noise came from there.

A chilled gust opened her cloak, revealing the fair skin of her legs and stomach. She didn’t wear armor like her companion. She was a caster, and it would only encumber her ability to weave even the simplest of dweomers. Thus, she suffered every time the wind blew.

Gavin rubbed his arms. “What this time then? Pray tell a warm hearth in this god’s forsaken ruin?”

“You’re jesting isn’t amusing.” Lavina turned and held a padded finger to her lips. “Hush, or you’ll scare it away!”

The man rolled his almond-shaped eyes and adjusted the hem of his tattered brown cloak to cover his bluing lips.

Gavin was full sol elf; blonde with violet eyes and a chiseled jaw, which trembled from the cold. Sol elves detested breath-revealing weather.

The out-of-place companions overlooked the ruins with intent. It was silent, save the wind. Gavin’s resound sigh broke that silence, and he turned to walk away.

“Lavina…” He stopped. “Should we spend much longer here I will not withhold this journey from your father, nor will I remain to serve as your personal guard.”

Lavina glared at her personal guard with contempt. Her goldenrod eyes narrowed, and she whispered a spell that would knock him off his feet, but stopped and scolded herself. She would never hurt someone who didn’t deserve it. It was wasting the arcane.

“You, sir…” She searched her mind for a proper insult. “Are no braver than a bullypig!”

Gavin snickered, and the tips of his ears twitched. Something approached, and it was nearby—crunching snow. Footsteps!

“Lady Lavina, you must hide! Something is coming.”

His companion cocked an eyebrow confused, for moments before he was acting as the back-end of a honkadonk.

“Do not play games.” She thrust out a finger. “You’re frightening me!”

It was the sol elf’s turn to hush her. Gavin’s eyes darted as he put his back to the wall. His demeanor startled, and she realized he wasn’t in the middle of a sour jest. He was serious.

Lavina ducked into the frame of the ruined building. She fell to her knees and hid behind a low stone wall. A small part crumbled as she bumped against it. Her heart hammered in her chest with such force she was sure it would either burst out or crack her ribs. She wanted to hear over the pounding but couldn’t; not even Gavin. Had he abandoned her after all?

With a deep gulp, she braved a peek. It was brief, but enough to see a score of cloaked figures walking out of the alley just across the snow-buried road.

Most of the group dressed in ripped-up and stained red winter cloaks, but four in the back stood out. They were in pure black, and their hoods hid their faces. She knew not what race the ones with hoods were, but the majority had sickly green skin.

Lavina wasn’t sure, having only read about them, but with their tusks, under bites and dirty yellow eyes, it was none other than the brutish orcs of the Moonbearer Mountains.

Far more unsettling was the truth they were a savage race of blood-crazed humanoids, was what they held in their hands was worse. Each carried a large obsidian battle-axe. They looked far organized for a typical battle party of the brutes.

The leader of the pack collapsed into the snow. As silent as death itself, Gavin’s arrow had struck the jugular of that first unfortunate orc. The second projectile would arrive in the eye of another and a third in one’s stomach—that one fell and gurgled blood.

Without giving the marauders a chance to organize a counterattack, Lavina saw her friend sprint away as fast as his long legs would carry him. One of the hooded figures lifted a cloaked arm and pointed at the elf with a long and boney white finger. The remaining Orcs hooted and hollered in excitement, but then a fourth arrow came and slammed into the chest of another. The remaining dozen marauders wasted no more time. They left the alley and rampaged after Gavin. The four dark ones stayed.

Lavina thanked her lucky moons that the orcs had followed Gavin, going along in his try to lure them away. But, she did not feel so lucky that the four most menacing ones remained. She might have slain an orc with a Firebolt spell or two, maybe a Shocking Wave, but the four standing around their fallen companions seemed much more powerful. Something dark was about them, something that permeated the air making it difficult to breathe.

At first, the innocent half-elf thought the figures meant to help their fallen comrades. Perhaps they would cast a Healing Bubble? Or at least speak their final rites? But that was not the case. The four figures all knelt beside separate bodies and ravaged the corpses with their bone claws.

Lavina sucked in air she became paralyzed with terror, and watched them rip apart the fallen orcs, flesh, blood and innards spraying the snow; forever staining the area with crimson. She could look away despite the gory scene. A lump formed in her throat, and she gave it her best try not to vomit, when they shoved chunks of meat into their hidden faces. What on Anhsook were they?

It was not the best time for that first mysterious sound to return, the one from within the building she now hid. But return it did, and right behind her tiny hiding place. Debris behind the girl shifted, and she turned her head around expecting a fifth hooded being ready to tear her limb from limb, but instead, she found a small mound of dirt rising from the snow.

At first, pebbles rolled and bounced to her feet as if a tiny mountain was forming before her—then a limestone colored hand exploded out and grasped around to grab anything nearby.

It took everything not scream and alert the cannibalistic creatures. She looked at them, and a piece of nightmare came to pass. They all had turned their heads in her direction, and she saw tiny blue pinpricks of eyes searching for the sound. Had they heard the shifting rubble? Might they pick up her scent?

She cursed herself for wearing her Amber Rose perfume she liked so. If they had sensed her at all, they hadn’t cared, for they stood in silence and walked back down the alley whence they came, leaving bloody footprints all the way.

The threat left, and Lavina realized she couldn’t breathe. She sucked in the cold, brisk air, causing her lungs to burn.

She squealed as the flailing hand grabbed the tip of her boot. In an instant, she pulled her knees to her chest, whimpering. She was out of reach and was cornered, unable to flee.
The ground gave way, but rose again in a geyser of rock, wood, and dirt. What looked to be horns emerging from the sinking pit; followed by an iron torso, complete with two iron arms.

From beneath helmet, she could see glowing yellow orbs of light.

The poor half-elf child had reached her limit. She screamed in terror.

The iron ‘man’, if that’s what he was—for he emerged from the dirt—had skin-tight armor that seemed to hug the contours of his every muscle, and plenty of muscle did he have.

If he were flesh and not the color of faded limestone, she may have blushed at his almost naked form. It wasn’t a typical creature, she knew right away. A golem? She’d only seen drawings. And if her memory served her, they were mindless creations of ancient sorcerers.

Its glowing eyes locked onto her and the metal around its lips rippled like liquid mythril. Then its expression transformed as if bearing skin. It opened its mouth in a gasp revealing what looked like the inside of a living creature’s maw, but instead silver.

Before Lavina could react further two pairs of filthy mitts grabbed her under the arms and dragged her over the wall which fell away to dust. The half-elf kicked and screamed sending more dirt into the air, but she could not get free. The hands were strong, and they belonged to a duo Moonbearer orcs. But then where was Gavin?

She opened her mouth to scream. She only hoped that he would come running to her rescue, arrows flying. But her hopes did not hold up as one hand smacked her across the face knocking her senseless. The world spun and flashed dark.

The steel-statue rose from the ground, a towering giant of at least eight feet tall.

A grime-covered orc stared up at him, unsure of what to do. The other jabbed an elbow into his stunned companion and grunted in the guttural language of his people.

Its stunned status ended, and the orc reached onto his back, drawing a battle-axe. Lavina didn’t make bets, for she detested such habits, but if she had to, she would place everything on mechanical man. Who was he slaying first, her or the Moonbearers?

The orc came on in a flash with a sidelong swing of his death-bringing weapon. But the steel-man had terrific reflexes and was ready.

His hand shot out grabbing a broken wooden beam, snapping it free of the building’s framework, and swung like a game of Firebolt Ball.

The impromptu weapon gave a sharp crack and splintered along the orc’s skull. Its head snapped around backward, and the ugly humanoid fell over dead.

The other orc still held Lavina in place, but she could feel the fear in its grasp, its fingers clenching in an uneasy rhythm. Without averting its gaze, it reached back for its axe. The metal man surprised them again. It spoke like a young man.

“Let. Her. Go.”

A sinister smile spread from one orc ear to the other as it instead drew a dagger, also made of obsidian and held it tight to the terrified girl’s throat.

The edge was so fine an accidental drop of hot blood rolled down her thin neck. A final mistake. For the giant charged like a raging bull—something the marauder hadn’t been expecting.

A large hand covered the orc’s head. The golem

Lavina dropped to the snow-covered ground, and the momentum of the giant continued. Together they went, the orc carried by the behemoth. They went right across the road and into the opposite wall which shuddered under a force that shook the ground.

When the dust cleared, the orc was hanging by its head, buried in a crater that now existed in the building’s outer wall.

The girl did not know if she should feel joy or accept a similar death was coming for her. She let out a whimper, one she figured was her last, and tried to crawl back. “W-What are you?” He hesitated, looking at its hands and arms as if it had never seen them.

He looked back up at Lavina and shook his head, speaking once again, “I don’t know.”

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