Written In Blood



World News

A banging at his door made Krett spring up from his work and knock his head against something thick and heavy. A low-toned, gong-like sound rang throughout his small cottage. Holding his hands tightly against the back of his head, he looked up with one cocked eye to see a golem head, swinging on its neck support. He backed away from the body of the machine, wincing at the small throb in his skull, and wiped his hands on an oily rag. He tossed it down as the banging continued on the door. “I’m coming!” he half mumbled.

He worked his away across the floor around piles of his projects. Bits of golem lay in semi-completed forms in a pattern than could have passed for an obstacle course with random papers lying everywhere as if they had fallen from the canopy of a giant tree above. Clocks lined the walls, although half had been covered by hastily sketched plans that had been pinned up. As he made his way through the maze, piles of documents spilled behind him and small tools tinkled to the floor. The banging on the door resumed just as he came near and pulled it open.

“Krett! You are home!” said a man in leather armor with a bow on his back.

“Shamino? Ah… you’re early! Come in, ah… come in!”

Krett stood aside to allow the famous ranger to enter the cottage, although the room was limited. Shamino looked around at the piles of half-formed mechanical beings and found the image a little disturbing.

“Am I early? I should be right on time.” The ranger curiously prodded a strange assembly of gears on the floor with his foot.

Krett maneuvered his way back towards the nearly finished golem on the other side of the room. “I must, ah… have lost track of time working on this fellow over here. What time is….”

His voice was cut off by the sound of dozens of clocks ringing all at once. After squinting for a few moments at the shrill sound of the tinker’s time pieces, Shamino looked at his friend with a smirk.

“Oh, six o’ clock, you are right on time,” Krett said, moving the head of a golem up onto a table.

“Krett, I sent you word of my coming because I would like your help. I think your expertise could come in most useful.” Shamino sat casually on an upturned golem leg.

“Me?” Krett asked. “What, ah… what exactly is it you need me for?”

“Your knowledge of these mechanical men.”

“Golems,” Krett said absentmindedly.

“Pardon?” Shamino asked.

“They’re called golems, Shamino, or ‘Por-Xel-Agra-Lem’. Can’t really compare them to men. They, ah… they may look like a man, but they have no free will. No more than your bow or my tools.”

“Por-Xel… what?” Shamino looked puzzled. “What exactly did you just say?”

“Ah… as far as I can tell, it means ‘golem’ in the language of the gargoyles. I’ve had a chance to study a lot of their language from, ah… bits and pieces that explorers have returned with. Very fascinating.”

“Well…” Shamino looked around the small workshop, “I suspect no one has more knowledge of their work than you, friend. You are currently Britannia’s golem expert and because of that, I’d like you to come with me. Your knowledge could come in handy. You may even help us learn something about these Gargoyles.” He stood up and walked over to Krett to watch as the man deftly used his tools on the large golem sitting on the floor in front of him. “Nystul sent a party into Ilshenar to find out more about where these are coming from. They haven’t returned yet, and he’s asked me to go in and look for them.”

“Why do you need me to come along? I, uh… I can surely examine anything you, um… bring back to me here.”

“Yes, but out there you may see something the rest of us would miss. I have two guards with me from Britain, you’ll be safe,” Shamino promised.

Krett looked up from his work briefly, as if focusing on the conversation for the first time. “I’m… not much of an adventurer, Shamino. I’m much more comfortable here with my work. I am a tinker. I… well uh, I tinker.”

Shamino walked slowly around the man and his project. “You know… from what I’ve heard, the golems have been changing slightly since they first appeared.”

“That is true!” Krett’s voice echoed from inside the chest cavity of the golem he was working on. “Whoever makes them has changed the design more than once. The internal parts look different in the, ah… newer ones. It wouldn’t surprise me if they changed it again.”

“And do you want someone else to be the first person to see the new ones? Come now, Krett, this is a chance to see one of your metal men actually working. Maybe even get a chance to see the Gargoyle city itself.” He leaned in closer with a smirk. “Think of all there is to learn.”

Krett sighed and pulled his head out from his work, being careful to push the golem’s head aside this time. He stared at the floor in deep thought for a long moment.

“I’ll, ah… I’ll get my pack.”

* * *

Krett dismounted his horse, glad that he did not often have to ride one of the beasts. He felt as if one of his golems had come to life and shaken him for about an hour. He looked through his pack to make sure all of his tools and books were in order. Shamino and the two imposing guards also dismounted and began searching the area.

“Welcome to Ilshenar. Are you well, Krett?” Shamino asked, a slight expression of amusement on his face.

Krett looked up at his friend as he stood. “I just spent an hour, ah… having my brain bounced around the inside of my skull. If you wanted me to, uh… learn anything I think the hopes of that are over.”

Shamino grinned at his friend. “You’ll be fine; you’re just not used to horse…” He paused and looked around as if focusing deeply. “There’s a golem nearby… that way.” He looked to the guards who nodded and started running in the direction the ranger had pointed.

Krett looked puzzled. “You… you heard a golem?”

“You didn’t?” Shamino winked.

The two started in the direction the guards had run. After a few minutes of walking, they finally found the two guards lounging over the remains of a golem as if it was nothing but a stump in the wilderness. They hadn’t even broken a sweat destroying the creature. The mouth of a cave stood behind them. Shamino smirked as he watched Krett approach the golem excitedly and pull his tinker tools from his pack, along with a thick book he had been making notes in.

“Thomas, stay here with Krett while he investigates his new toy.” Krett grinned up at Shamino as he lifted a metal plate off of the chest of the golem. “William, come with me. We’ll scout ahead in the cave a bit. According to my map, this leads to the Gargoyle lands.”

Shamino and the guard walked into the opening of the cave until darkness enveloped them. Krett continued to remove parts from the inside of the golem as Thomas stood by and watched curiously. Occasionally, the steely guard would prod at a piece of the golem with his halberd.

“What is this!” Krett exclaimed as he pulled a component out of the cavity of the mechanical being. “This component is, ah… yes, ah, different than it was in older golems! Fewer parts…” He could see a slight glow coming from inside the metal box. He continued to work furiously with his tool kit. “I think we have something… here.”

“We do?” inquired Thomas in a deep voice Krett never wanted to hear in a dark alley at night.

“Er, um… yes. You see, in the older golems that I’ve, uh… had a chance to tinker with, they had an extra component in this bit. As far as I could tell, it was some sort of switch that went off when the golem shut down. It always had, uh… small pieces of some sort of crystal inside. This one, however…” he opened another panel, “That’s it. The crystal in this one is still intact! The older golems had a device that would destroy the crystal when they stopped moving!”

The guard wrinkled his brow.

“Do you know what I can do with this crystal?!” Krett was practically hopping up and down with excitement.

“KRETT!” Shamino’s voice echoed from the mouth of the cave. “Come here quickly!”

Krett looked to the guard and the two of them ran into the cave. As he lit a torch, Krett could already see blood and bodies around the newly carved cavern. He did his best not to become ill. He was no warrior and had never seen a dead man before.

“I’m sorry, friend. I know this is not a pleasant sight, but there may be clues.” Shamino led Krett deeper into the cave. “This is what is left of the party Nystul sent a few days ago. I’m not sure what killed them, but whatever it was did a thorough job.” Krett tried to focus on the walls of the cave and not on the corpses. “I know this doesn’t sit well with you, Krett, but the guards will protect you. We need your knowledge.”

Krett walked around slowly with his torch. He jumped slightly at the feeling of a human hand underneath his boot and swallowed, trying to contain his nervousness. He held his torch lower to reveal the rest of a corpse. The man had died here, but not before writing on the cave wall with his own blood. “Shamino, ah… uh… I think I may have found something! One of them tried… he, uh… tried to leave us a… um… a message. It’s only one word, but um… I… I don’t know what it says.”

“Something in the Gargoyle tongue?” the ranger’s voice echoed back.

“I’m checking, um… I’m checking that now.” Krett paged through the thick stack of notes he had made of the Gargoyle language. He knew his knowledge of the language was limited, but he was still disappointed that he could not find out what the word on the wall meant. He wasn’t even sure that the word was in fact Gargish.

“I’m sorry, Shamino. I, um… can’t tell what this word, ah… what this word means. It could be a name, a place, a city… I’m not sure. It’s not, ah… in my texts, but I think we should learn what it means. This man died trying to give you this message.”

“What is the word, Krett?” Shamino asked, walking closer in the torchlight.

Krett looked at his friend and then back at the wall. “It says… ‘Exodus’.”



From the Britannia News Network - The Journal of Ultima Online, October 25th, 2001.