Tales from Forgotten Europa

Adeptus Mechanus

Through a brass cog darkly

He toils under the polluted soot-grey clouds, just like always. This is Hell, but only a dreary souless one. The absence of life, of emotion, of purpose. For some Hell is but the absence of god. For some, Hell is merely the absence of hope.

He stands and stretches his stiff back and shoulders. Fitful rain drizzles down, acrid and bitter, stinging his upraised eyes. His skin has gone the deep charcoal of the chimney sweep, of the bootblack. It might wash off, but not in this polluted rain. His hair and beard have grown so long and remained dark in spite of the miles and years in his life. So old for one whose life has seen but a few dozens summers. Somedays he feels like a grandfather, creaking back, bleary eyes, and pained joints. But he is no grandfather. THAT much is certain. Oh yes, very much certain. No grandpere he.

He shakes his head to clear it of foul water and fouler thoughts and fetches up the oilskin satchels he is to carry to the Factorum Obscurata. Such an ugly place. A tremendous edifice, built in the Low Gothic style, replete with minarets and a huge collection of rain-deformed gargoyles. Stiff tan walls made of cured local stone, the Factorum lacks windows of any size, and as a result was either damp and dreary or damp and horridly stifling. He prefers the cold weather of autumn that had only recently arrived. He has seen over a dozen winters here and definitely prefers the cold to the heat. The heat would kill you, if the Factorum or the work didn’t.

He reaches the immense iron-bound door when he is startled by a lightning strike, slamming into the building far, far up in the sky. The flash of light is so stark and brilliant and the boom of thunder so close and vast, that he loses his bearings entirely, head turning upwards instinctively. Ten feet from him, perched on the door’s great arch is a blackened figure, crouched and staring. Runnels of what might be blood cascade down its freakish features, tracing under its stark glimmering eyes, and pours from its somehow-grinning mouth in a freshet. Worst of all, every inch of its skin is crawling in the obscenely-inhuman light of the thunderstroke. He KNOWS this thing, and it has come for him. The scream tears itself from his throat and he crumbles into a heap, dumping his satchels, spilling the contents of one all around him.

He breathes. The rain patters down, and the echoes of the thunder begin to fade from his ears. He lifts his head and looks again, and sees only one of the hundreds of acid-scarred gargoyles perched on the lintel above him. Mute, dense, and stupid, gazing at him with a face nearly washed away by decades of poor weather. Only a gargoyle. Only mute stone. Stone has never hurt. Until just now, he would have said the same of the rain too. He had never feared storms.

He exhales a long shaky breath, half sob, and begins gathering up the tubes and cogs which spilled from his satchel, and lay in the shallow brackish puddles around him. He needs to bring them inside immediately. The Mechanus Overseer would be looking for him soon. He does not look up again, not willing to tempt the fates or dare another look into his yesterdays.

For some, Hell is the absence of hope. For others, Hell can be torture, nails and chains and fire and blood. And for even some others, Hell is something you carry in you. A memory, a promise, an unanswered prayer. No matter how you fill your mind or your time, no matter the weight of wine or years, Hell waits within. Patient and cunning. For any chaotic storm to bring it to the fore once more.

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The Mad Viking

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