Richardson seemed to just be having a bad year... but then, he'd always had this kind of evil luck. The thought of all the troubles he'd had over the years brought a scowl to his face. He wondered once again what he had done to deserve the fate he had, to be beset by troubles at every turn... "Ah, well, never ventured, never gained..." He quirked a slight smile at the thought, a few of the old crones in charge back at the guild could use a large lesson in that proverb.
A creak from the back trailer brought him back from his philisophizing; when he arrived at Metamor, he'd have to get his vehicles fixed. And, with the experience gained from this nasty trek, improved slightly. "Note to self, next time always get the good steel instead of being a scrooge and going for the cheapest iron that works." A jolt brought him back to his similarly abused body. "And bring more weapons next time." The little green menace nearly knocked his block off, but it was a good thing he brought his bow along. And he still wanted to know where he had left his staff; it would have saved him a lot of trouble back there.
"What is that?"
Richardson looked up to see who said that, but was semi-shocked to see something completely out of place. It was what appeared to be a humanoid deer. He took his hands off the control bar of his cycle long enough to rub his eyes. He took another look, it was still there, and it was looking at him with an equal amount of shock. It began to shout a warning.
"Look-" The thud of Richardson's cycle's front wheel hitting a tree and dislodging Richardson into said tree drowned out the rest of his cry. "Too late, I suppose. You alright?"
Richardson slowly picked himself off the ground, annoyed that his jacket was soaked with snow, melting from his body warmth, but he discarded that worry with the immediate one. "I'm hallucinating a human deer, wearing armor. I suppose that could be from the bump I just got, but then again, I'm more likely loosing my mind, so no, I'm not alright," he spoke with the tone of someone who knows he is insane.
"The last time I checked, I wasn't a hallucination. Then again, this isn't the worst meeting I've had. To where are you headed? There isn't much north of here, just to let you know." The deer seemed to find Richardson's observation of the situation humorous, though there was a twinge of concern near the end.
"To Metamor, I've hear there's a curse, but I've got orders to go as far north as I can, and set up shop there. Besides, there can't be such a thing as curses, all that 'Magic'," he spat the word from his lips, "is a fairly good way to fool the senses, it's not the power it's made out to be. The only power I know to be true is technology, the concrete." What he didn't let on though, is that he was starting to get un-nerved by the evidence of what he thought did not exist....
"Okay, but I'm telling you, the land has been cursed; if you go back now, you should be fine, but as a victim of Nasoj, I'm telling you, you're in for big trouble if you keep going." The deer seemed majorly worried now, but Richardson dismissed it out of hand.
"Can't go back now, my vehicle won't make it back." He gestured to his cycle. Its front wheel was slightly bent out of shape, and the connection holding the trailers to it was twisted. Richardson would consider himself lucky if the chain connecting the drive wheel to the pedal system made it until the end of the day. "Just tell me how far it is to Metamor Keep."
"Just over the next ridge actually. I'm surprised you made it this far without getting seen and reported."
"Figures, my luck, even when it seems to be good, always works against me. Thank you, I'll press on." Richardson got back in his seat, and got his cycle back into the road. He felt the two trailers hooked to the cycle grate into motion, but they were dragging.
"Well, whoever you are, good luck at the keep. And may the gods have mercy on your soul."
"Ah, humbug." It was going to be a long uphill battle with the damage the cycle had sustained...
Richardson's first sight of Metamor Keep was the tops of the towers, peeking over the crest of the ridge as he made the last few yards up the hill. "I've got to admit, for a bunch of supposedly evil and demonic people, they've got a nice place. Even if it is the coldest place I've ever been to." As he began down the down slope, he could see that the keep had seen better days. The smoke of multiple smoldering fires could be seen, and it looked as if the place had just won a siege. Along the road, he could see what looked like more humanoid animals, and many others who were hauling in timber, and cleaning up dead bodies, most like the thing he had killed a while back. Then he had to turn his attention back to keeping his limping cycle from dumping him again. "I've gotta figure out how to make a braking mechanisiiiiiimmmm!" The cycle picked up speed, its hobble exaggerated by the velocity, giving Richardson a painful ride as he zipped past the workers, rattling up a storm and basically scaring everyone he passed out of their fur or clothes, whichever one was more plentiful on them. Then he hit the long upslope to the gate. About halfway up, the cycle slowed to a stop, and then Richardson franticly pedaled, trying to get some kind of forward motion going before he ended up in a pile at the bottom of the ridge.
Richardson finally figured it was time to surrender and pull the cycle and trailers to the gate, when someone came to his side. "Hey, mister, what is that?"
"Whoa!" He hated it when people snuck up on him. He turned, only to find a kid, one slightly bruised, but still bursting with energy. "Oh, pheew... Well, kid, it's a cycle. A little something I came up with a while back."
"Looks cool." The kid seemed to be following him, or at least following the cycle. "Can I have it?"
"Maybe I'll build another when I get set up, kid. As is, I don't think you could operate it, it's too big for a little guy like you." Richardson felt the routine melting of his heart. Somehow, kids always found the exact tone of voice that could overwhelm even the stoniest of hearts.
"Halt, and identify yourself." Richardson looked forward, and it seemed he had made better progress than he thought while talking to the little menace to free thinking, for the gate towered over him, and guards stood before him, barring the way. Both looked like that had come out of a nasty battle, confirming his suspicions about a recent siege.
"Richardson, of the Tinkerer's guild. I've come to work here."
"Very well, proceed." The guard motioned for Richardson to keep going.
"Thank you, it's nice to know that people are welcome here." He trudged through, the little kid sticking by his side. He passed through the killing grounds, and into the town. The sight that greeted him was worse than he expected, the town had taken huge damage recently. "Kid, aren't your parents worried about you? I mean, the place is pretty beaten up, it's no place for you to be running around."
The kid's face down turned almost instantly. "I don't have any anymore."
"Oh..." Richardson knew what that felt like, he had lost most of his own family early on himself, at the hands of one of his families own. "Who's watching over you then, and what's your name?"
"I'm Halion. Nobody is watching over me, I'm going to live by myself!" The kid, no, Halion, was adamant about this.
"Well then, do you have a job? You need one if you live by yourself. Or what about a house?" The kid didn't know what he was getting himself into, the world was a harsh place, and unforgiving to the innocent. The kid gave him a slightly dejected look.
"I don't know what a job is, and my house got smashed by those mean lutins."
"I'll tell you what, I'll let somebody know you're gonna be living with me, and I'll teach you some cool things, and you can stay with me." The kid pondered that for a second. Richardson knew trouble was being invited over for dinner. "Heck, I'll even work with you on what you like."
"Really?" The kid knew a good thing when he saw it. "Hmm, better talk to..."
An hour later...
Richardson felt a headache coming on. The kid had enough curiosity to kill a thousand cats, it seemed, and some of the accusations thrown at him had not helped either. He had barely managed to get the kid into his care, though, and now all that was left was finding himself and Halion a place to stay. He pulled his cycle up the to side of the main keep building, and pulled out his moneybag. A sudden commotion startled him.
"Come on, there's a strange new room up there!"
"Yeah, it's got all sorts of strange equipment in it; Misha is having a fit trying to figure it out!
"Anyone want to point me to it?" Richardson had a good idea of what that equipment was (it was his job to know), as well as finally figuring out what had been nagging him about the name of this place. His grandfather had visited this place once, or at least he said he did. Supposedly the keep created rooms itself... heh, he had never put stock in that story, and his grandfather had always spun 'em big, but it couldn't hurt to check. The crowd turned to stare at him.
"Um..., I guess you can try to follow us."
"Good, c'mon kid, I think I know where we're staying." Richardson followed the crowd into the maze of corridors, keeping Halion close to him. It seemed like the corridor went on forever, twisting and turning, until a door came into sight, a door of a type well familiar to Richardson. "Wow, nice blast door..."The crowd looked at him as one, then parted as an annoyed fox left the room. Richardson took advantage of the opportunity, and made his way in. What he saw instantly made him feel at home. To the right side of the door was a mini-workshop, equipped with tools of the trade barely experimented with, and every gadget he had ever read about, or worked with. To the other side was a bookshelf lined with technical manuals, and oddly enough, a few kid's books at the bottom. The setup looked slightly re-designed from his private workshop back at the guild, made more child friendly. At the back was a bunk bed, the bottom bunk covered in colorful quilts and an overstuffed pillow, the top made in compliance with the regulations of the guild. There was a door across from the beds, beside the bookshelf, that appeared to lead to a washroom, and a large dresser sat beside the bed, with a small drawer at the bottom. The walls were lined with flame-retarding material, as well as the floor, and Richardson knew, with all certainty, that he had found a new home. "Kid, welcome to my new place."
"Neato!" Richardson knew that he had a lot in common with this kid...
The next day...
Richardson woke, feeling some of the hurts of the day before in his bones, and especially in his head. He could hear the kid, Halion, stirring in the bottom bunk. He mulled over this for a few seconds, wondering when he had picked up a kid, then he remembered the last half of the previous day; the oddness of the people here because of the supposed curse, heh, the damage to his cycle, the kid meeting up with him by the gates, and his adoption. The kid had actually been rather handy with helping him take apart his twin traveling trailers attached to the cycle. They were now stashed away in one of the bottom cabinets of his workshop, while his cycle was being worked on. "Hey, kid, rise and shine, we've got a cycle to work on."
"Wha..." The kid seemed to be still groggy. Then... "Whoa! Cool! We got more room!"
Richardson turned his focus to where the main room of his new quarters was. There was a new wall in the room, and the bunk had been pushed into a new room, with some new things and the wardrobe. There was another bookcase, this one empty, and a desk under a new window, set up for writing and blueprint making. "Interesting, kid, get dressed, I think we've got ourselves a little work."
"Cool!" Halion bounded out of his bed, running for the wardrobe, and one of the sets of clothes that had come with it earlier.
Richardson took another look around the room to see what he had missed. There appeared to be a rack on the wall, designed with his staff in mind. This set something off in his mind. "So it's not entirely out of my reach then, if that's what that's supposed to mean..."
"Just get dressed kid; it was just a musing of mine." He continued his look around the room. There appeared to be a reading chair by the new wall, next to the door, with a small lamp above it. It looked somewhat oddly designed, but Richardson had a good feeling he'd have plenty of use for it. The few sketches he had brought with him were now hung on the walls, in which he supposed, he was supposed to get inspiration from. There was a colorful rug on the floor, and what appeared to be a toy chest by the foot of the bunk. He wanted to care about the fact that he had gotten completely switched around, but he was just too plain tired to even give a second thought about the matter. "Well, kid, I don't think we'll have to get much furniture, somebody brought some in for us."
"Telling ya, there is such a thing as magic, and the Keep is magic, variable geometry what-ya-majiggy and all that phooey. It re-arranges itself, which is what happened last night, I guess, 'cause of me. I think we caught the keep by surprise." The kid seemed rather pleased at this, and Richardson groaned as he slowly climbed down to the floor.
"And I tell you there is no such thing as magic, I hope." His unbreakable wall of doubt now had a miniscule crack in it, from the events of the day before, and the oddity of this day. He slowly shuffled his way to the new door, which seemed to be a different type from the door to the entire apartment, Richardson was too tired still to tell what it was, but it felt like oak with steel crossbeams and hinges. What greeted him when he stepped out of the bedroom was a much different area.
The room had been moved around in the night, stretched some, maybe. There was now a small dining area by the window, with seating for him and the kid, and two guests, and there was a small kitchen, maybe good for a few people, beside it, separated from the rest of the space by a countertop, seemed to be granite. The workshop seemed to now be completely cut off from the rest of the apartment, accessible only through another blast door. The area by the door had turned into a small gathering area/library, with the wall the bookshelf stood against before now completely inundated by shelves. A rug covered the floor in that area, there was a pair of chairs in front of a fireplace, and the entire area was separated by a table from the dining and kitchen area, its purpose unknown. The doorway to the small wash-up area seemed to be the same as before, and presumably the room beyond as well. "Hey, kid what do you want for breakfast?"
"Huh?" The kid bounded into the room, and skidded to a halt beside Richardson. "Cool! Um..."
"Hmmm, I guess that means you won't mind trying something southern then?" Richardson realized he was still dressed in his nightwear. "Give me a moment." He slunk back into the bedroom, shutting the door behind him, and re-dressed.
"Hey, cool, check out the workshop!" The kid's words brought Richardson back to the present. He hurriedly pulled on the work-boots, and ran to make sure the kid was all right. Luckily, he had nothing to worry about.
"Thank goodness you're alright, kid, I could have gotten in some major trouble if you had gotten hurt, Halion." The kid had been remarking about a smaller bench that was suited for someone just starting out, and was relatively safe compared to the main workbench in terms of tools. "Hmm, I guess the keep figured out that you've got the capacity to become an eventual member of my guild, if you want. Heck, you'll learn all sorts of weird and cool things if you want, right?"
"You mean I could build my own cycle?" Halion's eyes lit up at the thought.
"Yep, and a whole bunch of other strange things. You up for it?" Richardson already knew what the kid would say.
Noontime, communal dining hall.
"So, now do you get how my cycle works?" Richardson had quickly adapted to the role of teacher with his willing new student, Halion. He figured that since the cycle was what had Halion so interested, he'd use it to explain some of the basic physical laws.
"So, um, basically, you can pedal, and that's what makes the chain go round and pull the back wheel on it?" Halion was having trouble understanding though, but then, it was understandable, he was only ten.
"Yeah, the force from your pedaling is re-directed by the chain on the pedal wheel to the rear wheel, and can be multiplied by whatever size pulling gear I attach the chain to. The smaller the pulling gear, the less distance is needed to turn it, and thus turn the rear wheel, which increases how fast you can make it turn. Get it?" He chuckled as he saw the look on Halion's face; it reminded him of when he was starting out himself, a curious mind trying to wrap itself around strange new concepts.
"Um, sorta..." The kid got his food, a simple sandwich of some sort of sausage. Actually, it looked like pepperoni, he'd have to get some for their mini-kitchen, later.
"Good. When we finish our lunch, I'll show you some basic stuff, eventually you'll get to my level, but I've been a tinkerer for almost 7 years now, so don't expect to be able to do stuff like me just yet..."
"Anything else you want to see before I go to look for this 'Misha'?" Richardson was interested in this seemingly fellow worker of things mechanical, and wanted to give the kid something to do for a bit.
"Could you let me try your bike, since you straightened it out?" Richardson knew he was about to do something he might regret later, but he decided to let the kid have some fun.
"Sure, adjust the seat though, and thanks for that idea. See if you can get yourself balanced though, it ain't easy." Richardson shut the door to the lab, and locked it so the kid wouldn't get hurt, and helped him lug the cycle into the hall. "It took me a couple of weeks to figure out the balance, so don't try to go nuts on..."
Halion managed on his first try, even with it slightly out of proportion for him, and was weaving down the hall... "YIPPIE!"
"That kid is gonna be a menace to my stability..." And so Richardson went muttering in search of Misha, hoping he'd find him at a good time.