The Sign of the Bronze Hammer
Part Nine – The Way Forward
The room inside was not exactly how Blade had expected to be, and in some regards it reminded him of Old Anja’s shop, for it was cluttered with all manner of paraphernalia and devices, which, for the most, he had no understanding of their purpose. Some were of glass or metal, of wood or crystal or substances he did not know. They hung from the ceiling or the walls, stood on the floors or were precariously balanced one on the other. If there existed another means of leaving the room besides the way they had entered, he could not make it out behind all the clutter.
They looked around, searching amongst assorted odds and ends for any clue as to what to do next, or for Habd’al himself so they could deliver the package. As they made their way through a maze of shelves and tables, the room plunged into sudden and unexpected darkness, the light vanishing from view. Blade heard Peregrine let fly in her native Aedring at the development, cursing he suspected.
“I am beginning to find this experience more than a little vexing,” said he. “I do not feel that stumbling around in the dark will be the wisest course of action.”
“Agreed,” Peregrine said. “If it is a matter of returning to the entrance, then I can recall the way, but that will not aid us.”
“We can go forward,” Blade pointed out, “Though it will require an effort on my behalf. I had not planned for this and nor that I would be called upon to use the Mysteries again.”
With a gentle whistle, one that lighted spirits oppressed by the dark and brought remembrances of the warmth of the sun upon the face, he began to call up a source of light, an orb of bronzed illumination. Without the dust that would normally have served as the catalyst for the orb, it proved a more draining exercise, yet in the end it sprung into being. Over his hand a small glowing ball hovered and the room became bathed in the soft glow of it.
The room around them had changed fundamentally during the darkness, with all of the clutter having vanished, leaving behind an almost empty space, empty but for the figure before them. A tall form of black iron and wood all woven together, instead of hands it had pointed stakes, ones caked in blood. From its eyes, or rather where eyes would have been, a burning light reflected.
“Now this I can handle,” Peregrine snarled. She set the package down and her sword leapt into her hand. She stalked forward, as focused as a swooping hawk upon its prey.
The construct reacted and it groaned as it moved, lumbering towards her with clumsy step. With no weapons, and his concentration in part focused on keeping the orb alight, Blade found there was little he could do but watch on.
Peregrine leapt as she closed upon the construct, her sword a flashing blur. She moved with a wild and deadly grace, flowing with a minimum of effort. The blade struck the construct upon the leg, chopping a shard of wood free yet it had no effect upon it beyond that. In repose it stabbed down at Peregrine with the stakes. She danced around them in a deadly blur, easily avoiding the inelegant stabs.
Blade had never seen anyone fight as she had before, for she fought not with a cool, composed style as he had been taught to, but full of passion and energy, a force of nature given form, and yet none of her actions and movements were wasted. The stumbling construct could not come close to her as she tore into it, spinning away from its attacks, and hacking away at it in return with blows that would have cleaved mortal men into ruin, and yet, given the nature of that which she opposed, they succeeded only in a slow whittling away at it, one that would take many days to reduce it.
Then back she retreated, breathing deeply. She shook her head as she raised her now notched sword. “We have best devise another means for this,” she stated as the construct came lumbering on towards her. “If it could be destroyed by hand then I would have done so already. I can fight on but that will only serve to simply distract it, not defeat it.”
“Distracting it may be all that we have at the moment,” Blade told her.
Peregrine feinted to one side and then darted to the other, her sword slashing out at the lumbering construct as she ran passed, sending more wooden shavings aloft. “I do not like relying upon the vagaries of the supernatural, for they are fraught with danger and true strength must come from ones self, but wave your fingers or whatever it is you do and magic this thing.”
“It does not work that way,” Blade replied. “I can not use the Mysteries to harm or destroy.”
“Then of what use it is it?” Peregrine asked, ducking another stab of the stakes.
“Well, for one thing, it allows us to see at the moment, which I consider a reasonable state of affairs given the alternative.”
Peregrine laughed, stepping aside as a stake thrust at her. Then she hacked down, the sword in her hand driven by muscles of iron. The blade struck and cleaved the stake from the body of the construct, leaving it with but one remaining. “If I can not beat it then at least I can render if of no great threat to us.”
Once more she hacked down, this time at the other stake, and once more the wooden shaft was hewn in twain. Peregrine retreated as the stake fell and bounced across the ground, leaving the disarmed construct behind. She passed her sword over to Blade and picked up one of the fallen stakes. The broadsword was heavier and clumsier than the weapons that Blade was used to wielding, relying more on strength and brute force that precision, but in the hands of one with the strength to use it, it was a vicious weapon.
With the stake in hand, Peregrine stalked forward once more, gripping it like a spear. Low to the ground she moved, her head thrust forward and feet apart. Then she sprung forward and drove the stake towards the head of the construct with a fearsome cry. It struck home, driving in deep. The stake snapped in her hands, leaving half of it embedded in the construct.
It staggered back, tottered and then fell, crashing to the ground with such force so as to set the room to trembling. Peregrine tossed aside the broken remnants of the stake and started to pull a few splinters from her hand. “Anything can be defeated by the strength of an arm and a brave heart,” she stated, “Even to a thing of supernatural origin such as this”
“Were that it was always so,” Blade replied. “Still, in this regards you were right.” Looking around, he noticed a door where before he had not seen one. “The way forward has been known to us, it would appear.”
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