Everdark: The New World, A Gothic Drama
Notes: I would like to thank Michael Panush for allowing me to use his setting, the Everdark, for this series. His pen name on this site is "Cthulhu is an Awesome God." IA! IA! PANUSH FTAGHN!
Dead In Their Tracks
In 1816, the Age of Enlightenment was literally extinguished. Due to some unknown cause, the sky had been blackened by perpetual night. In the famines and chaos that followed, governments of all sorts and all ages had fallen, replaced by the strongest-willed survivors returning to small villages. A handful of empires and states had arisen in the new dark ages, and one dominated the former northeastern coast of North America. The Order of Artificers, a union of elitist industrialists founded by rogue Freemasons, dominated many of the former cities. It is an exile from their state, and two of his strange companions, that we currently read about.
A brown-haired young man with a tricorne hat, old blue and white coat and pants, and flintlock repeating rifle and pack slung over his back walked through the pine forest known as the Pine Barrens. On his belt were a machete and an air pistol. The man, Thomas Turner, did recover the uniform from a dead pre-Everdark American soldier. Beside him was a manufactured man, a Wrought named Grendel. The Wrought was a combination of metal, greenish flesh, and machinery. The head was a metal sphere with two eyes under glass, with the entire lower jaw was a decaying, organic one, taken from some large human body. The torso was a combination of metal plating and enlarged muscle, with metal attached to his legs and arms. Finding where flesh ended and metal grafts began was difficult. Despite his fearsome appearance, Grendel was an intelligent creature. A rotary cannon, a hand cranked repeating weapon with several barrels, and hatchet were held over the creature's back. Beside the two material travelers was an ethereal one, the ghost of a US Army engineer, Captain Benjamin Adams. The apparition appeared in a uniform similar to one from life (which his companion Turner now wore) with a black shako over his head.
The trio had recently stopped to spy on an Artificer project in New Jersey. The foliage of the Pine Barrens transformed from its natural green color to a sickly gray after the coming of the Everdark. Many supernatural and mundane horrors lurked in the forests, from degenerate humans to fouler things. Thomas Turner had been observing an Artificer work camp for hours.
The camp consisted of canvas tents holding several workmen, and larger tents that held equipment, automata, and soldiers. A palisade surrounded the workers' tents, put more for keeping them in than attackers out. While the workmen were merely lower-class Artificers and workers from their 'protectorate' villages, the Artificer soldiers oversaw them, trying to prevent unrest or uprising. Each soldier wore a green and gray coat, a black shako bearing the compass and crossed pistol seal of the Artificers, and a gasmask that covered their face. The masks had green-tinted lenses, which allowed clearer vision in the dark. They held a variety of weapons: muskets, blunderbusses, repeating flintlock rifles, thin metal tube-like air guns, musket-like arc-rifles with strange wiring around them, and more rotary cannons. The guards were largely men, with a few women in their ranks. While the Artificers were largely male dominated, a few women did climb through the ranks. They had to be as ruthless as their male counterparts. Like the men, all were covered by their masks and uniforms. The Artificers stood guard both inside, and outside, of the camp.
Near the camp was a set of steel and iron rails. They were roughly a yard apart, and in parallel to each other. Two sets of rails were laid side by side. Riding on one set of parallel rails was a strange means of conveyance. The front was a machine on wheels that rode on the rails. The body was cylindrical, it had lights mounted on it, and had a small cabin for a driver or engineer. There was a flared smokestack, which belched steam into the air. Behind the locomotive was a car full of coal, and behind that were three box-like cars with various weapons and lights protruding from them. A flatbed car was located at the end of the train. A similar train was behind the first one, but was primarily used for carrying more rails, explosives, and equipment.
"What do you make of that contraption, sir?" the ghostly engineer did ask. "I have never seen an object of conveyance as that!"
Turner looked down the spyglass attached to his rifle. "It is a method of transport that was a novelty before the coming of the Everdark," he mused from his prone position. "Perhaps if the accursed darkness never came, it may have ushered in a new era."
"Yes, I overheard my father discussing plans to construct such a system to interconnect major Artificer settlements," Grendel explained. "It does become a draining on all parties involved, but not one totally without prestige."
"The steam engine is used to power the locomotive, which pulls trains of cars behind it," Turner observed the train. "I was aware that Artificers had constructed small scale ones within their enclosed cities, but to connect two cities would make transport and communications a much smaller burden."
"And it would allow troops and supplies to be moved much easier," Captain Adams noted. "Sir, you may see an expensive project, but I see some Artificer's plan to cement power in whatever cities are connected."
"It may well be both, Captain," Turner turned to the ghost. "Given your incorporeal status, do you think you can become invisible, and overhear them?"
"Alas, sir, I am unable to manifest or travel a distance too great from you, or in other forms than my current one," the ghost shook his head. "But perhaps we may sabotage their efforts? Those rails seem to be hard to lay, but easy to destroy."
"Master Turner, I am in possession of a weapon able to remove a large number of adversaries from this mortal coil," the Wrought suggested. "I suggest and am willing to use my rotary cannon on the camp."
"I would rather know who is in charge of this operation," Turner added. "If that is known, perhaps we may use the Artificers' conspiring nature to gain support. Whoever killed William Rudge likely has other enemies. I do have a few contacts up north that I trust, and if we are successful in commandeering this train, we may reach allies much more rapidly."
"A prudent idea, sir," the ghost soldier nodded. "Perhaps you may go in for a closer look?"
"My thoughts exactly, Captain," Turner said. "When I say so, perhaps you can manifest nearby, as a decoy? Also, when I request it, can you eavesdrop on someone behind any walls or obstructions?"
"Sir, you think in a very innovative way. If only we had more men like you back in 1812," Adams saluted the rifleman. "Perhaps Grendel may provide support if the quiet approach fails?"
"Master Turner, I am familiar with the report of your rifle. If it is discharged, I shall commence termination of all Artificer guards," the Wrought nodded. "Do you have specific orders?"
"Take care not hit the workmen. Most of them are forced here against their will," Thomas added. "Once you hear my rifle, head for the first train. I believe that may be a good defensive point."
"There are certainly a lot of cannon on that train," Adams noted. "A good place for defense, sir. Provided we can sneak aboard. Have you given thought to they method by which we will escape?"
Turner pointed to the train. "I believe these tracks shall take us all the way to New York. The Artificers had two teams starting from two origins. One from Philadelphia, and one from New York. I assume that they have only recently met."
"Sir, how are you sure of that?" Adams inquired. "Sir, I do not wish for you to board one of these machines, only to find the track ends abruptly over some ravine or raging river!"
"I merely had to estimate our position, and the rate that they had worked. I assume the work camp and those two trains are for clearing any Irrationals or raiders away from the tracks," Turner mused. "But let us talk the logistics of railway construction some other time. I prefer to act while they have not sighted us."
"Understandable, sir," Adams nodded. "I shall manifest around you. If there is one thing I have learned as an engineer, it is that no defense in this world is perfect."
The ghost walked into Turner's body. At first, the rifleman closed his eyes and did become tense, not knowing what kind of feeling to expect. He felt a brief chill, and then nothing. He opened his eyes, and relaxed. He could see his own limbs blur, and it took a few moments to orient himself.
"Try to match my movements unless I direct otherwise," Turner brought himself into a crouch. "And my good Wrought, ready your cannon. You may need to employ it soon."
"Yes, Master, I shall be ready to employ my weapon," Grendel readied the massive rotary-cannon. The belt-fed mechanism and hand cranked weapon were large enough so only a Wrought or large man could carry one.
Turner began to sneak down the side of the hill. He did know that the Artificers had special lenses that could see in the darkness, but it was not as though he was using the cover of darkness alone for stealth. Every footstep through the brush was slow, deliberate, and measured. Thomas Turner remained low in the gray foliage, making him hard to detect by both sight and sound. Thomas kept his machete and air-pistol out, as those were his two quieter weapons.
Upon reaching the edge of the work camp, Turner tried to note the guards and their patrol routes. Most of them were focused inwards, more concerned with an uprising from within than an assault from without. The camp itself was not totally defenseless from the outside, with makeshift towers with electric lights mounted on them. The searchlights scanned both inside and outside of the compound, looking for any fleeing workers or intruders. Sentries traveled in pairs outside the walls, never letting each other out of their sight.
The rifleman did have an idea. Their night-vision lenses worked by amplifying light. While enough light could theoretically blind them, they were vulnerable to not enough of it, either. Using his air pistol, Turner fired his weapon several times. As each round left the barrel, there was only the sound of a silent breeze. The first searchlight cracked, followed by the second, the third, and then the fourth.
"Break out the lanterns!" one of the guards shouted.
Turner moved at a brisk pace past the camp. He knew it would only be a few minutes before they readied their lanterns and began to search for their attacker in much larger numbers. He managed to make it halfway to the first train before he ran into unwanted attention. A guard holding a musket saw a dark shape, and fired in the direction of the rifleman. The musket ball found its mark, but it was not human flesh it came into contact with. Instead, the projectile passed harmlessly through Adams' translucent body, which the gunner was unable to note as immaterial.
Quickly, Thomas shot the guard in the stomach twice, and then between the eyes. The guard fell down, as lanterns converged on the location, drawn by the musket's report. Turner noted that there was one direct that the lights were not coming from, and instinctively headed for it. Instead of freedom, he found himself pressed against the side of a canvas tent. Suddenly, there was a much brighter source of light than the lanterns. It blinded Thomas for a moment, and he realized what it was. One of the guards had an arc rifle, and was charging an electric bolt.
"No, you fool!" a commanding voice shouted. "He's right in front of the explosives tent! You'll blow us all to pieces!"
"Sorry, Overseer Hooper!" the soldier apologized as the ball of energy dissipated.
Thomas Turner shot his air pistol in the direction of the commander's voice, hoping to distract them again. His pistol clicked empty, and he put it in his belt. Suddenly, his concentration was broken by a bright lantern shined directly at his face.
"Ah, aren't you a stubborn young whelp?" the voice he presumed belonged to Overseer Hooper taunted. "Thomas Turner, I presume?"
Turner quickly reached for his rifle, sheathing his knife. He did not plan to aim it, but instead just pull the trigger, and alert Grendel. "What does my name matter to you?" he asked, trying to buy time.
"High Artificer Graves informed me of the bounty on your head," the Overseer taunted. By now, Thomas' eyes had adjusted to the light, and he could see the Overseer. He was a middle aged man with black hair, dressed in a green and gray Artificer uniform, but did not have a mask or shako. Instead, he wore a long cloak, and had an ornate cannon-barrel pistol leveled directly at him. "I, Overseer James Hooper, will finally get enough prestige to leave this pathetic position behind! Take him alive, men! He's worth more that way."
It was then Adams manifested directly in front of Hooper, holding a phantasmal musket in hand. "I am afraid that he has reinforcements," Adams taunted, and prepared to cock the musket. A fusillade of gunfire blasted into the apparition. Adams fell down, pretending to have been killed by the volley. During this time, Thomas had taken cover, and had cocked his rifle. He pulled the trigger, and buried his head in his hands. Adams stood back up, and brushed off his translucent uniform. "A pity your weapons cannot kill the immaterial."
"What manner of creature was that?!" Hooper stepped back. "You have been dealing with Irrationals!"
"Nay, Overseer," Turner replied nonchalantly. "I have been befriending them."
It was at that point the first volley of rotary-cannon fire did tear through the ranks of Artificers. Hooper grabbed a hapless soldier next to him, and used his unfortunate body to absorb any of the bullets heading his way. He headed back for the train, and climbed into an armored train carriage.
"Get us moving!" he shouted, and several of his minions climbed aboard the train. Several of the remaining guards made a run for cover, with few escaping the torrent of gunfire. Thomas, now able to move, picked up his rifle and sniped at some of the soldiers heading for the train. Suddenly, his last shot was thrown wild by the ground shaking. Something large was running at him, and was approaching fast. Turning around, Thomas saw a large figure smashing through the confused mass of enemy soldiers. The torrent of gunfire no longer poured forth from his rotary cannon, but the Wrought now had a different goal.
The Wrought drew his hatchet, and smashed the palisade around the workers' camp. He swung the weapon again, cutting down the unfortunate Artificers in the arc of strike. Muskets and air rifles only irritated the Wrought. Seeing the train and Thomas in front of him, Grendel quickly broke into a sprint. In a fluid motion, he scooped up the rifleman, and rushed towards the train. He leapt onto a flat car on the rear as the train began to move. Steam bellowed from the engine, and the Wrought was almost knocked to his feet. He set down Thomas on a passenger carriage in front of him.
"Master, I fear I am too large in stature to fit through corridors of this train," the Wrought noted. "I shall cover our retreat from here."
"Thank you, Grendel," Thomas nodded. "It is good to have a fighter as yourself by my side."
"It is no problem, Master," Grendel replied. "My primary motive is to seek revenge for my creator's death, and assist a noble student of his."
"Think nothing of it," Thomas reloaded his weapons. "Had I had not been driven to flee, I may have not been forced to open my mind and treat Irrational beings with the same respect as people."
Suddenly, there was a gunshot rang out, and Thomas knelt down. Captain Benjamin Adams manifested before him. "Sir, I hate to interrupt you," he nodded. "But the sentries have noted our arrival."
"I'll be prepared to deal with them shortly," Thomas cocked his rifle and fixed the bayonet on it. "I shall see to them now."
Thomas aimed his repeating rifle down the corridor. He saw a soldier aiming a thin metal air rifle at him, and stood back behind cover. The glass window on the end of the train car shattered, and shards of glass grazed Thomas across the shoulder. He quickly returned fire, the loud rifle shot resounding down the short, enclosed train car. The air gunner fell, and two soldiers with blunderbusses ran down the hallway. He quickly cocked his weapon and shot both of them dead. He forced open the door, and scanned the train carriage for any more attackers.
"Behind you!" Adams' voice warned.
A blade slashed across Turner's back, causing him to grunt in pain. Instinctively, he spun around, and smashed his attacker with the butt of his rifle. Behind him were two automatons, each a three foot high brass clockwork construct with a glass lens for a head and blades for limbs. The lithe blade-carrying automaton was smashed against the wall, destroying it. Another automaton lunged at him from the side, but he ram his bayonet into its clockwork innards, stopping it permanently. Around the room was devoid of any motion. Unmanned cannons protruded from the sides of the train, bunks hung from some walls, and provisions were stored in nearby crates.
Seeing no more enemies in the train carriage, he proceeded to the next one. As he passed between he wooden cars, he could see the train had significantly gained in velocity. He saw a cloaked man rummaging through a crate, and saw that it was Overseer Hooper. He held a strange scroll in his hands, and a jar of what looked like blood. He looked behind him for an instant, and ran towards the front of the train. "Fools, stop him!" he shouted.
Three guards stepped out to meet their attacker. One blasted the door off its hinges with bolt of lightning from her arc-rifle. Another filled the doorway with a storm of lead from a rotary cannon. The third waited with her blunderbuss, hoping a target would appear. Soon enough, a target did step into the door frame, clad in the ancient blue uniform of a US Army engineer. He ran from one side of the door frame to the other, and then back. The woman with the blunderbuss fired point blank, but found her projectiles passed through the man without effect. The arc rifle-woman fired again, but the electric bolt did nothing. The man with the rotary cannon unloaded the remainder of his rounds into the target before realizing it was a phantasm.
"I can't believe you fell for that trick again!" Adams laughed before vanishing.
It was too late for the trio of Artificer guards, however. Turner emerged from cover, and shot his remaining rounds into the woman with the arc-rifle. He quickly drew his air pistol and machete, attacking the now-helpless gunners at close range. He slashed the man with the rotary cannon in the neck, opening up his arteries. He shot the woman trying to reload her blunderbuss in the back of the head with the air pistol. Inside that carriage was an electric generator, powering the lights on the the train. For now, there was little to gain by disabling it. With all hostiles dead or disabled, he ran into the next train carriage.
The train car was almost empty, save a more comfortable looking cot in the corner. Several more exotic weapons protruded from the walls, such as arc rifles and rotary cannons. Assuming this was Hooper's private carriage, Turner proceeded with his air pistol and machete drawn. In front of him, he saw James Hooper dumping the blood out a window, reading the scroll aloud. "Oh rider of the forgotten rails, oh terrible and great one who delivers the dead, oh bloody-handed one who walks between worlds, I do leave this blood for thee," he paused. "I do call upon the train and the driver. I do call upon the steed and the rider. I do call the bringer of terror, the betrayer of all life, and the Deranger who pilots it. I call upon Judas, the Betrayer of Souls and Chewer of Lives!"
"What foul ritual are you performing, Overseer?" Turner leveled his pistol at Hooper. The man grinned, dropping the now empty jar, and tearing the scroll up. "Such rituals are highly illegal among the Artificers, if I do recall. Irrational beings like demons are extremely hard to control, and demons are the worst sort to consort with under law."
"It is only illegal if one is caught summoning them," Hooper grinned. "But it does not matter if you kill me or not. Your own death approaches soon enough. You may thank Benedict Graves III for giving me such a scroll. What he traded for it, I do not know, nor do I care to. I shall join you in Hell, assuming you have a soul left."
With that, Hooper pulled out his pistol, and shot himself in the head. He died with a smug grin on his face, and the insides of his head now decorated the train carriage. Suddenly, Adams' voice echoed in the room. It was strained, and sounded as though the ghost was in great pain.
"Sir," a weakened voice added. "Some infernal entity that Hooper called upon is preventing me from manifesting."
"Do not concern yourself with it, Captain," Turner headed for the engine. "I feel we must increase our speed. I recall reading of no demons able to compare to fly fast enough to catch a fast moving machine as this."
"What if this demon is not flying?" Adams' voice said before it faded completely.
Turner moved towards the engine, and noticed there were no people driving the train. Instead, a complex clockwork mechanism seemed to move the train. Several gages and dials covered the wall. Noticing one reading "Engine Output," he turned the dial underneath it. A coal cute leading into the device opened, and more fuel poured into the engine. There was a jolt, and the train started to move faster. Thomas looked behind him, and saw Grendel climbing along the tops of the train cars. "Master!" the Wrought shouted. "A strange pursuer is on the parallel track to us!"
"Is it the other train?" Turner asked the Wrought. Grendel shoot his metal and decaying flesh head. "Something else."
"Climb up here and defend the engine," Thomas ordered. "I shall see if there is anything on the train that may slow them down."
Heading back into the carriage where Hooper had died, he could see something gaining on him from the parallel track. Quickly, he did position himself behind a swivel mounted rotary-cannon. Thomas turned down the tracks to see the train that had frightened even the mighty Wrought. As the lights from the train illuminated it, Thomas understood the fear perfectly.
Something came down the rails, roaring towards them. At first glance, it looked like a train, but it was something else entirely, something of flesh and sinew. Its wheels were hardened chitin, its steam was a white spraying mist, and its windows were fleshy eyes. Blue veins pulsed beneath its pale skin. Others cars rumbled behind it, long fleshy intestinal ropes holding them together. The fleshy locomotive itself was the most bizarre of all the cars. The locomotive itself appeared phallic, and eyes bulged out from from where the 'cab' would be on a standard train. Instead of a door on the side of the locomotive, there was instead a set of vertical jaws that began to chirp and chitter insanely.
Suddenly, a man climbed out of the cab, and stood on top of the train. He wore a phallic hat somewhat reminiscent of a hussar's shako, had a face resembling burnt meat, a rough vest made of a strange sort of leather, a belt made of twisted metal, and a strange pistol that resembled a phallus and malformed human fetus. "Greetins'," the warped man said. "I be the Deranger, and this here is mah rig, Judas. Ain't she a beaut?" The train chirped happily. "You be dinner, so jes slow down, and we'll make it quick."
While he had never seen such a demon before, Turner had heard that type of accent. It was a southern dialect, and also similar to some of the traders who had come from the west. Why the demon spoke that form, he had no idea. He did not have time to worry as he planned his counterattack.
"How about an appetizer of lead?" Thomas had to force himself to look at the disgusting train to take aim. He leveled the rotary cannon directly at the man, and started to crank the weapon. The Deranger was cut to pieces, but seemed to vanish into the train's flesh. Thomas relaxed for an instant, hoping it was over.
An instant later, he was proven wrong. Six more Derangers popped out of the compartment that the first one emerged from. Each held a strange weapon. Two held organic pistols similar to what the first one had, two others held rifle-like weapons of a similar form, and the last pair had sharpened bonelike blades in their hand. The bladesmen jumped to the top of Thomas' train, cutting through the roof of the carriage with him inside it. The gunners stayed on the train, shooting at his previous seat. They shot strange barbs that bounced harmlessly off the train.
Thomas quickly fired his air pistol upwards, causing the the two Derangers to find another entryway. They instead ran across the roof of the moving train, and headed for the engine. The two pounced at Grendel, who had his back towards them. As they came around, the Wrought smashed both of them with a powerful hook punch.
"Let us see if this flesh train can withstand this!" he aimed the rotary cannon at the living engine. He turned the crank, and a volley of bullets tore in to the foreskin of the engine. The Wrought aimed the weapon at the four shooting Derangers, cutting them all down with ease. He shot the train monster in the front eyes, hopefully blinding it. The train began bleeding, and hissing in pain. The train slowed somewhat, but it kept pace with the locomotive. Judas pulled a bit ahead of the train, so that the eyes along its length could observe the prey, instead of its recently wounded ones.
"You'se be cheatin'!" another Deranger popped out of an opening in the second fleshy carriage. "So I got me a new toy!" This time, he held what appeared to be his own version of the rotary cannon. It had several phallic barrels and a bone-like crank. A tube connected the gun with a fleshy sac on the Deranger's back. As he turned the crank, the weapon's report sounded like a child screaming. A sadistic grin appeared on the Derangers face as he blasted the carriage with the weapon. The shards he had fired before now had much more force behind them, and managed to riddle the carriage.
Thomas quickly ran into the carriage behind it, and fired some of the heavier cannons. While he could not perform on a broadside on the train, he would have to do the next best thing. The cannonball was absorbed by the train's fleshy folds, not slowing it in the slightest. Thomas ran to the next cannon, and fired a load of grapeshot at the nearest eyeball. The creature twitched and shuddered. However, there were far too many eyes and not enough cannons. Even the Deranger paused with his grotesque, screaming rotary cannon.
Seizing the opportunity, Thomas returned fire with his air pistol, distracting the Deranger from firing at the engine. Grendel mowed the distracted man down, before coming up with another idea.
"Master! Perhaps you should try some other weapons?" the Wrought shouted.
Thomas sprinted back to the carriage just behind the engine, and tried one of the mounted weapons he did not before: a mounted arc rifle. A blast of electricity blackened the flesh of Judas, and the engine winced in pain. In an almost reflexive rage, Judas lifted one of the rear carriages off the ground, and smashed it like a club into the rear of Thomas' train. The flatcar and rear carriage were derailed, and dragged behind the train. The speed of the train slowed, as it dragged the dead weight behind it.
"Master, the train may derail soon if those cars are not uncoupled!" Grendel yelled, hoping Thomas would hear him.
Thomas ran back into the second car behind the engine, and frantically began pulling levers. The derailed cars caused sparks to fly up on the rails. He pulled the lever that seemed to hold the cars, but nothing happened. He looked around, and saw the mechanism had been jammed. He smashed it with his heel, and the two derailed cars detached from the train. The horrible screeching sound stopped, and Thomas suddenly had an idea.
Back at the engine, Grendel was running low on ammunition. Another Deranger appeared from the engine, and this one had an intestine-like rope in hand. He began to spin it above his head, and threw it at the Wrought. Ignoring the organic rope at first, Grendel focused on shooting the nightmarish train. Suddenly, he could no longer feel his organic parts. The intestinal rope was around the manufactured man's torso, making movement hard. Where the rope made contact with his organic flesh, it grew fat, like a leech. Grendel tried ripping it with his bare hands, but the organic binding was too strong. The rope tightened, and Grendel felt increasingly weakened. Quickly, he grabbed his hatchet and hacked the intestinal rope off of him. He stood back up, and had an idea. With his extended reach, he could easily reach Judas' locomotive. He grinned, and hacked at the exposed flesh of the engine. The train began to wince, and squealed like a wounded pig. Blood gushed from the engine, and Judas slowed to a match pace with their train.
"Now look what you done and gone!" the Deranger shouted, pulling out his poison stinger pistol. "Gonna kill you slow, metal man!"
Grendel looked at the parallel set of rails. "If I were you, I would be more concerned with running out of rails."
"Ain't no big thing," the Deranger grinned. "Run 'em down, Judas!"
Judas' pace slowed more, and its chitin wheels began to unfurl in a manner similar to a pillbugs. Hundreds of chitinous insect-like legs emerged beneath the train, allowing it to keep pace with the steam train even after the parallel tracks ended. The train skittered through the woodlands, smashing down trees and obstacles in their way. The Deranger stood on top, merrily taking shots at the Wrought. Suddenly, all the lights on the train flickered, and went out. Grendel looked back, shouting to his compatriot. "Master Turner! Is everything alright back there?"
Turner emerged from the carriage directly behind the engine with a weapon in his hands. It was a previously mounted arc rifle, with an electrical wire connected to it. Turner was overcharging the weapon. "Quick, Grendel, shove this into one of his wounds, then pull the trigger!"
The Wrought stuck his hands out, and picked up the massive weapon, and inserted it into a bleeding hatchet wound he had made just minutes before. Then, squeezing one of his massive fingers around the trigger, he pulled it. It was that moment that a blast of electricity shot through Judas and the Deranger alike, causing them to spasm violently. The lights on the train flickered on and off, as the Flesh Engine and Betrayer of Souls was electrocuted. The train tried to whip the Wrought away, but he gritted his teeth and kept it close to his target.
The blackened bodies of Judas and the Deranger slid for several hundred feet until it was apparent they were dead. Their bodies began to disintegrate, vanishing into dust that scattered in the wind behind the train. Soon, their remains were gone, and the steam train continued down the tracks alone.
"It is finally dead," Thomas looked back. "Whatever it was."
"What manner of foul creature was that, Master? I know of no demon, Irrational being, or being matching that description!" Grendel exclaimed.
"Some demonic hussar that Hooper conjured, aided by a certain High Artificer," Thomas looked back. "I noticed it was extremely sensitive to the lightning, so I attached a mounted arc rifle to the generator, and overcharged it. Looks like that was enough to finish it."
Captain Adams manifested in front of both of them. "Sir, I can freely manifest again," he saluted. "Whatever that foul creature was, it was obviously some manner of supernatural one. I never hope we see one again, sir."
"Nor do I," Thomas leaned against the wall of the locomotive. "But I fear that is not the last unknown demon we have seen."
"Did you know anything about this High Artificer Benedict Graves fellow that the Overseer mentioned, sir?" Adams inquired. "He said that he got the scroll to summon that disgusting creature from him."
"Alas, Captain, what I have heard about him is not positive," Thomas shook his head. "While the Artificers technically do not have hereditary nobles, a number of families to ensure that their members receive more prestige than their abilities alone merit. Graves is one of these individuals."
"Ah, one of those fools born to wealth," Adams wrinkled his nose. "I know the sort from the Army. They assume breeding and family are more important than skills or experience. I almost died from an Indian raid due to the incompetency of a man like that, sir."
"William Rudge mentioned that Graves was one of his most bitter rivals," Thomas answered. "There were rumors he dabbled in the Dark Arts to compensate for lack of technical ability, and what we have witnessed here brings me to suspect those rumors have at least a grain of truth."
"Master, do you think that this Graves individual is the one who murdered my creator?" Grendel picked up his weapons. "He certainly does seems the sort."
"I agree with your guess, but I am still not sure about motive," Thomas continued. "It may have been mere politics or assassination, but I fear the demon proves there is more involved than some assassination attempt."
"Sir, just how are you going to bring the fight to such a powerful man?" Captain Adams asked, looking concerned. "Especially one with so many resources at his command."
"I have a contact in the Artificers who may be willing to help us," Thomas said. "A rival High Artificer, George Lambert, supported Rudge in many of his endeavors. He's a reclusive old Metis man, but his executor was an associate of mine."
"As long as we are not betrayed in the end," Adams remarked. "Sir, these Artificers hardly seem like trustworthy sorts."
"His executor was his granddaughter, Susanna Lambert, and former classmate of mine," Thomas paused. "The last I have heard of her, she had moved to New York."
"Well, that seems like a good asset, sir," Adams remarked. "Let us hope we are not shot on sight upon entering."
"I have another to contact her and gain entry," Thomas Turner grinned. "But let is concern ourselves with that later. For we should rest and resupply. Our pursuers were kind enough to leave provisions and munitions on this train."
The train sped down the track, as the three beings on board recovered. Ahead of them was a major Artificer city, and another step in their journey. While he was half asleep, Thomas Turner muttered a word to himself: "Essayons."
Hearing it made the ghost of Benjamin Adams grin.