Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hound Hunting - Chapter 19.



“Alright,” Glitch advised with an aura of authority. “This is very important, so listen well.” He had hurried back with an incredibly well worn satchel bag of leather that was more patches and stitching than anything else. The package was placed by his side just before he started to pace in a circuit that took him back and forth before me.

“What I am about to do is tedious and tricky. Working my way into the core that was crafted for this thing is delicate business. You’ll need to provide me plenty of space and as much concentration as you can. So; stay back. Don’t interrupt me or make any sudden movements. But most importantly; once I have secured the sample it’ll only be able to maintain its magic fleetingly once removed. There won’t be any time to spare, so once you can sense it in any way you’ll need to commit as much about it as you can to memory. I can’t guarantee I’d be able to perform the same procedure a second time – in fact this could be a single attempt scenario.”

Glitch gathered a handful of tinker-tools to himself from the satchel and then laid an old oil cloth out before him. Gently he laid the solidified sap down onto the cloth and took a deep breath. “You ready,” he asked me solemnly.

“Yep,” I answered him with all the eloquence I could muster at the moment. The gadget-savvy gremlin turned to focus his attention on the amber and I was left to try and anticipate what manner of danger he might have been implying about. Surely it couldn’t explode or engulf my home in spellcrafted flames… right? I mean, he must have meant that he might merely break the tiny trinket and then be unable to fix it. Yeah, that had to be it I tried to console myself. But I wasn’t buying it. So I took as silent of a step as I could backwards and tried to remain quiet.

The only sounds to hear was Glitch humming a soft tune and the tiny rhythmic clicks of his tools. Methodically he probed at the perimeter of his target and systematically set himself into whatever strategy he had formulated. It was all gibberish to me as I watched. But as he worked his own brand of magic, my ears perked up and my toes twitched.

Something was stirring from deep inside the diminutive device; it was just beyond the edge of my senses. It was almost akin to feeling something was on the move in the night when you were in the forest without being able to see of hear it. Whatever the little gremlin was doing, it was having some kind of impact. My pulse improved its pace a step toward a light hammering.

Glitch’s face had become a blank and barren thing, bereft of any expression or sign to guide my understanding. I hated having to set there and stand by, especially while being basically blind. While Glitch worked at untangling the mysterious magical threads that had been intricately woven into the amber, I wrestled with trying to discern between my imagination and my instincts.

Slowly sweat began to bead its way down Glitch’s brow as his efforts took their toll on his body. This must be a different kind of strain, one just as tiring as running down a rogue ruffian but in another way. It could take an untold amount of time to invest in magically manufacturing a trinket such as this. Glitch was trying to delicately disassemble it in a mere fraction of that – all while doing it without damage. The latter part was probably the most difficult, especially for me since I had concerns what kind of repercussions that could take.

Then the room around us started to darken as the light itself seemed to be consumed by whatever hungered at the heart of the amulet. I risked a quickly cast glance aside to check on the reactivated spellcrafted security system Glitch had installed and found it was acting oddly as well. The softly shimmering silver glow it gave off pulsed with a thrum that deepened and paled. Conjured crafted forces flowed from it all around the room and made me feel like I was standing in a rising tide that would soon leave me in need of swimming.

What had he said about how he predicted the amber amulet might be being made to function? I tried to recall his little lecture of conjecture but the only thing that stood out was some notion about it pulling in other arcane energies to twist them into powering its altering of perceptions. Should I disengage the guardian gadget? Glitch had been quite clear that I was not to take any action that might interrupt his efforts or concentration. But what if the magic of one object might have some unforeseen reaction on the other that even Glitch hadn’t anticipated?

Hesitation hovered over my heart as I weighed what option might be the more optimistic of the two. Do I stay my hand and risk some spell-fueled calamity or do I take the gamble and potentially spark off something that could create some destructive disaster all its own. The rippling power palpitated into even greater ranges that went from near fading to brilliant beams of bright moonlight. Flares of starfire seized on my stress and tipped the scales of my judgment enough to force me into action.

I could hear a rising roar of raw rushing arcane energies as I reached to touch the tiny gizmo. In response to my fingertips it hummed with the firm feeling of a foundation that had been built to withstand impressive attempts against influence. Obediently it answered my implied command to collapse its active awakened attentions and returned to a sleeping state. And as the wildly fluctuating forces failed, a fiery hiss of hellish frustration erupted from the center of the room.

My head snapped around so fast that my neck screamed in objection to the sudden assault of self-inflicted discomfort. Glitch was still seated in a huddled hunch over the tiny trinket his full focus had been trained on. As if it punctuated his proclamation of pain, a puff of spellcrafted essence rolled up into the air.

There wasn’t any time to process what error in judgment I might have just become responsible for having caused. Launching myself forward I closed the distance towards it as rapidly as I could and threw every available aspect of my attention into memorizing it. The smell of it was the ambiguous aroma of a warm spring morning of moss still drizzled with dew. To my eyes it was a mixture of mildly mellow green’s, gold’s, and earthy browns that was brimming with the light of life. My ears delighted in the departing song of nature’s nurturing with only a faint hint of heralded hazards.

It was nearly too far faded to pick out but there was an element to it that couldn’t completely marry itself to the melody that had been made for it. Just as fast I heatedly hurried to commit every detail down I had to struggle against it slipping away. Desperately I clung to all the information that I could keep fresh in my mind and fought to form it as a clear image. But even as I did, things were trailing away. Only vague vapors were left to linger with me to make the moment bittersweet at best.

Defeated and disappointed, Glitch sat slumped for a split second as I assumed he was already trying to examine what could have gone wrong with his efforts. In a matter of moments he seemed to reach some conclusion that explained everything and spun to stare at me. Those pale pink eyes had taken on a vibrant almost violent life to them as he pinned me down with them.

“What did you do,” he demanded viciously. His eyes narrowed to hone in on me as he probed into me for an answer. “Didn’t I ask you to be patient, to not interrupt me? I almost had a good clean sample to draw out and hold long enough for us to examine. And right as I start the process of pulling it out something caused everything to come crashing down. The core is crashed, worthless and wasted. That little glimpse was all we’ll ever see!

So, please, do tell me; what were you able to accomplish that granted us this grand gift?” My own shame had started to solidify a feeling of sheepishness as I considered what I had done. “All I did was turned your little gadget guard off…” I muttered. “At least nothing terrible happened. We’re still here and my home isn’t a pile of pieces.”

“You could have started a chain reaction,” Glitch exclaimed with a wild wave of his arms. “As long as it had a steady source to supply it, I was able to work my way around. But once you shut off there was nothing to flow in and keep everything intact around what I was doing. There is no telling what could have occurred!”

“But it didn’t,” I countered with a returning grin forming on my face. “We could have…” Glitch tried to continue arguing, but I cut him off with another satisfied smile. “And yet we are fine! See, Glitch, everything and everyone is alright.”

He blinked at me as that detail sunk in. It probably had to work its way around all manner of complicated scenarios and estimated evaluations of things that could have all occurred. My guess was that Glitch had been so concerned with such things that the simple truth had been overlooked. Thankfully, we were both still alive and I didn’t have to start looking for another place to live. Although, I did have to concede that I couldn’t rule out any fast thinking on Glitch’s part wasn’t somewhat responsible for our safety.

“Good work,” I congratulated him with an accompanied pat on the back. The blow jarred him slightly and seemed to shake him out of his stunned expression. “Next time I ask for hazard pay,” he grumbled.

“Look, I may need some more involved help on this one,” I admitted, rubbing at the back of my neck. “I’d like to hire you to provide that assistance. Would this about cover any concerns you might have?” I offered him a shiny Silver Sigil and waited for what his answer might be.

His eyes held it tightly fixed, admiring every angle of light that played across it. Doubt seemed to dance around in them as well, a question of how honestly the offer might really be. I couldn’t blame him, I had just been offered far more than one Silver Sigil and I still felt like I was being bribed to dive into deep dark depths. That and I were asking him to step into some seriously dangerous circumstances after almost being the cause for an arcane accident. Even if he had just advised me against doing precisely what I had.

“If there are more things like this being used, it might be far too dangerous to leave you unsupervised around them,” he commented. “For one Silver Sigil now and your word that another will be provided once my service is completed I could be persuaded to offer my help. But that is strictly charity rate you understand, I can’t have it on my conscience that you were off running around being the cause for creating chaos. I’ll provide advice and you’ll listen to it or else you’re on your own.”

“Deal,” I declared immediately. And just like that I learned how to make a gremlin’s jaw drop. Apparently all it takes is offering to pay them in silver. It was either that or promising to take their advice and treat them respectfully as an equal. I figured it was perhaps more likely the pay and filed that fact away for future use.

“Well, partner, let’s get some rest while we can. We have some sniffing around to do and we’ll need our wits about us while we do.”