Elbin, like so many young Vibranni, had crossed the border with dreams of a new life only to land in the backstreets and alleyways of Argenstrath. A few jobs here and there kept food in his mouth, but it wouldn’t last for long. Too scrawny for dock work and not skilled enough for a trade, of course he would take whatever job he was offered without question. Perhaps a few questions would have kept him from the cell where he currently resided.
His head lowered against his arms wrapped around his knees, Keeger sighed in despair as he stared down at the stone floor.
“I should have never come to Antiford,” he sighed. He had woken up there just moments before, entirely new to these surroundings but not frightened.
“Elbin,” he said to himself. “What have you gotten yourself into now?”
“You ‘wake?” asked a hissing voice from the other side the steel door, one large, reptilian eye blinked through the small, bared window as it was peering in on him.
“Y-yes, I’m awake. Don’t kill me?”
The eye narrowed suspiciously. Soon after that it disappeared and the door creaked and groaned before slowly opening up to reveal a discouraging sight. There were so many doors just like it, dozens. Some coated with dark splashes, and while a few had blazing flames licking through the window bars. Elbin considered himself lucky that wasn’t his fate, but not that lucky.
“Come,” asked the strange creature that appeared from around the door it had opened. It looked almost like a small alligator, but walked on its rear legs. Its mouth not moving as it spoke, but its voice was coming from an odd wooden box with a speaker that danged around the creature’s broad throat with a series of wires which ascended up to its head.
“Play your cards right,” Elbin whispered to himself, “and you might just live through this one.”
“Where are we going?” Elbin asked, but he wasn’t surprised the creature didn’t answer. It led him down the discouraging series of cell doors and dimly lit lanterns as screams and groans echoed all around him. Elbin tried to peer into some of the windows, but the thing leading him would grumble loudly each time he got close to any of them.
“Alright, I get it. No peeking,” sighed Elbin. “Well, what’s your name?”
The thing stopped in its tracks and turned that long face back to the Vibranni. It stared suspiciously for a moment.
“I, Pif.” The creature pointed to its chest with a clawed, webbed digit. “You follow.”
“It’s um, a pleasure to meet you Pif. I’m Elbin. I came up here from…”
“I PIF! YOU FOLLOW!” hissed that voice box as the creature began to breathe heavily.
“Right. I follow. Got it.”
Pif turned back around and began to strut a bit faster. Elbin noted the odd waddle the thing made though it seemed to be getting about just fine on two legs for something that wasn’t intended to.
“YOU ENTER!” hissed Pif as they reached the end of the hall. Elbin found himself at another door, only this one didn’t have a porthole or the same massive lock mechanism the others seemed to have. Instead it opened with slight effort as the creature pulled it back. Elbin didn’t complain, but stepped inside cautiously.
“Hello? An alligator told me to come in here and…” Elbin began as he entered the laboratory. Around him were tables, various medical implements, machines grinding and puffing away and splashes of blood coating almost everything in sight.
“Ah!” gasped a friendly in tone yet utterly terrifying voice. “So kind of you to come. Please, join me over here.”
The voice had come out of nowhere, but Elbin began to wander the room deftly to discover the source.
“Don’t worry, I don’t want you to die just yet,” said the voice though it gave Elbin very little comfort. “I want to show you something.”
Elbin gulped and continued further in, knowing there wasn’t much choice in the matter.
In the dim light, he came across a slender, hunched over figure sitting upon a stool as it seemed focused on the meticulous work in front of it. It raised a blood covered glove in the air.
“The long, curved one please,” it asked.
Elbin blinked and then scanned the area. There was a tray of what appeared to be medical instruments on a tray nearby. He fetched the one which matched the description the closest and placed it into the twig-like fingers.
“Ah, perfect,” the figure said. “Just give me one moment to finish this up. Have a seat.”
Elbin again looked about his surroundings and spotted another stool partially revealed in the light.
“Wait….no…no….there it is…” the figure spoke to itself as it worked. “If I can just…no…damn! Give me the things that look like hooks with little holes in them!”
Elbin jumped up and quickly snatched all three on the tray and pushed them into the waiting hand.
“Yes, and the cord?”
Elbin handed that over next.
“Yes! Haha,” the figure laughed with confidence in his work. He stood up and Elbin immediately stepped back at the sight. The figure was significantly taller than the Vibranni, taller than any man he’d ever seen. It turned and greeted Elbin with a vicious, jagged tooth filled grin.
“We did it!,” the man explained. His eyes barely visible as the shadows played across the pale, sunken features. He slapped his hand against the motionless corpse a few times before burying the scalpel effortlessly into its skull.
Elbin stared at the sight as the color completely left his flesh. He gulped and nodded to the upright scalpel as the blood spilled out around the blade.
“Oh, don’t worry about him,” the man said. “Come, I have much to show you.”
The figure swiveled and began to walk deeper into the room. Elbin could make out the shape of the lab coat it wore as it trailed in the air behind the surgeon.
“My name is Thyous, does that mean anything to you?”
“Should it?” replied Elbin as he kept close, but out of arms reach.
“No, I suppose it’s best that you haven’t heard of me,” the tall man answered. “I’m something of a pioneer you see? History tends to idolize pioneers, despite their present shunning and despising them. Did you know the man who invented the adjustable leather, strapped boot was beaten to death by cobblers?”
“No, I did not know that,” Elbin replied with a gulp.
“Something as innocent as a shoe,” Thyous continued trailing off.
They came to steel figure strapped to a table at waist height. The figure moved around to the other side of it and motioned for Elbin to approach.
“As with the man who invented modern footwear, I seek no power for myself, Elbin,” Thyous said. “I merely wish to assist Orr in its inevitable evolution.” Thyous extended a scrawny arm across the metal figure, guiding Elbin’s eyes to various details.
“The shoemaker never saw how his invention changed the world, but I intend to see my own creations prove their worth. It will lead to conflict, struggle and strife, but I will see my world, my Orr, realized.”
Elbin noted to himself how the metal body looked like much like a suit of armor from a long ago period of Argenstrath. It had gloves, boots and an open helm. As terrifying as it was in appearance, Elbin could tell the thing in front of him was meant for war.
“Would you like to see it too?” Thyous asked from the shadows.
“Sure, why not?” Elbin shrugged nervously.
“Good,” Thyous replied. His broad, hideous grin came through the darkness and into the light to smile in Elbin’s face. It was then the Vibranni caught sight of those wild, milky white eyes staring at him from a scale covered head.
The Vibranni tried to scream, but realized his throat had been swiftly cut open. He grabbed at his throat in desperation as those eyes came down upon him. Elbin grasped at the metal body as his neck gushed blood all over it. All the while those jagged teeth parted in laughter.