Glimpses of The Artificer's Journal

in #fictionlast year (edited)

The Dragon's Head Tavern and Inn, 1439 ATC

Venser closed the door of the barn behind him. The faint snores of the horses mingled with the chirps of the crickets, while thunder rolled in the distance.

"I hope it pours. Rain can be rather nice. Some of my best memories were in the rain..." Venser thought as he moved to the little window that looked toward the tavern. His mind tried not to flash back to a few certain memories from his early life, before he came to this world, but he pushed them back. Back into that foggy vault that he did not like to re-open.

For the moment, the world outside was quiet and still. The barn stood dark, the rest of his family tucked safely and comfortably in bed several hundred miles away, and the tavern itself was quiet and calm tonight and high above all of Laguna, the moon shone full and bright. Laguna was his home, and Venser Karkaldwin didn't need to think of the home and the life before this one.

Looking around, the man inhaled deeply, the scents of rain and nature filling his nostrils. With a sigh, he pulled himself away from the window, pulling a flask of his signature mixed drink, Pink Footed Booby out. Unscrewing the lid, he inhaled deeply and the alcohol fumes dried his sinuses.

"Hmmm..." Venser loved the taste, the feeling of alcohol. When everything became hazy and dream like and when he would feel invincible. When he would be so drunk he would go off on some random adventure and lost most of the memories of said adventure the next day but know he had a good time.

Memories flashed in her mind, random and chaotic. He grunted, snorting in frustration as she pushed the memories away lifted the flask as he wandered through the barn, intending on drinking more tonight thinking about the inevitable pounding headache the next morning.

The strawberry vodka hit the back of her throat in a rush, burning its way down to her belly, and she swallowed before doubling over into a coughing fit.

Venser also did not cry. Not a single tear. Everyone he had lost when awakening the Luektorem. He pretty much had shut down and refused to process the emotional aspect of things.

Thunder boomed directly above as Venser downed another swig of strong strawberry vodka. The liquid in the silver flask was decidedly lower now, and he had lost count of how many times drank and thought about the spares he had on him. His belly felt full and bloated.

The memory that had taken hold finally faded, falling back into the darker recesses of his mind. He didn't like thinking about that day. Why had he even agreed to it? Nadine and her companions would have done it anyways, and all of the soldiers that were able to take down the infestation of magical cyborgs covered in porcelain that died were simply doing their jobs. In this world they would be considered heros but all of them had some family somewhere that would have mourned their needless sacrifice.

What about Alex and Marvella? They did their duty to Vorland and didn't need to die. He wasn't even conscious when it happened and now he would never see their beautiful faces again. Scout had injured her wing but it was not permanent, he would see her again.

An odd mixture of guilt, sorrow, and anger would boil up when he did, throwing her into emotional confusion and turmoil. Venser really didn't like to sit too long to contemplate anything, but with how confusing everything had been lately it was wise to actually slow down and ponder life.

Rain poured down, pelting the large barn with large drops and filling the man's ears with noise. Thunder boomed in the distance. Maybe it would fully snow soon?

Venser gazed into his trusted flask, at the strong leftovers of his last fill. He could go to the bar and serve himself, he could go talk to Bree or Natalie or just talk to himself eith one of the shadows clones but he decided not to. No eventually he would just go grab a couple bottles for himself and come back to the barn to be alone.

Maybe some Ayinger's Special. Malty and dark with nice brown sugar and caramel notes... An expensive, comfort beer.

The alcohol was clouding his mind, making him feel happy like he was in a fairy tale dream. But lurking underneath this feeling was another... A dark cloud, reaching out to him with long, spiky tendrils.

Those old emotions where stirring. Jockeying for position. Swimming to the surface to find release.

Lightning flashed and thunder boomed as he sent out his anger, forced it out in a long, sorrowful screech. Neck muscles stretched, and the scream slowly transformed into a deep, sobbing wail as Venser shot a fist into the nearby wall.

And now the man allowed himself to cry. Tears streamed down his shaven face, seeming eager to compete with the great pelting rain outside. The thunder drowned out his sobs, masking them from being overheard.

Venser didn't have to hide away. He didn't have to be alone to drown his sorrows. He let everyone down when he should have brought everything he had to fight the ancient evils that lurked underground which cost so many people their lives. And Venser had to get up and destroy them all and find out what happened to Nadine's remains.

He let himself cry, he had every right to grieve even though the orange haired artificer didn't like him beyond "the annoying useful acquaintance" but all the soldiers, Marvella, Alex shouldn't have died despite doing their duty to defend the country. Venser wasn't wasn't there when they were killed in the battle he helped cause.

"Come on now... Let's just see if she left anything behind. Just don't think about it..." The man said aloud, taking another swig and straightening himself up and moving to the back of the barn. House Rust soldiers had confiscated Nadine's entire workshop and he was met with nothing but barren dirt floors and high roofs, with some hay littering the back. Bright red boots traced along the dirt as he surveyed the room, fingers tracing along a table where she worked. Nothing was left, no tools, no materials, and none of her creation.

Venser stood there in thensilent emptiness for what seemed like forever, his mind racing. Perhaps she buried something? Her journal. Her massive book had to be somewhere. That was the most important possession of Nadine's.

He took a few steps around and then heard a slow, metal tapping at the window.

Milla, Nadine's mechanical raven. Her familiar. She looked like any other raven but lacked detail and was entirely animated metal, her skin had a chrome metal finish and eyes that glowed an eerie pale blue much like a Luektorem drone. Venser blinked a few times and unconsciously rubbed Nadine's sapphire bracelet he wore on his left wrist, approaching the metallic bird that silently watched. He pulled up the window and examined Milla curiously, where had she been all this time?

The animated metal bird craned her neck at him and directed her beak at her deceased owners bracelet, and then back up at his face, opening her beak and mimicking her deceased owner's voice.

"Bungalow."

He blinked his serpent like eyes a few times hearing that, and a second later Milla spread her chrome wings and took off into the rainy night, towards the lake about a couple of miles behind the tavern, prompting Venser to jump out the window and pursue the raven.

Venser ran and looked out at the forest proper. Milla was on the wing, soaring by the tree lines of her own generation. Perhaps it was the same way the buried Luektorem temple flew? Anti-gravity. Occasionally she would stop, hover, and stare at the man with her eerie blue eyes in the darkness.

He could have easily teleported to his cozy bungalow near the lake but he figured a qalk in the rain would do good, distracting him from his thoughts as hr pushed through the undergrowth in the direction of his lakeside home as the beautiful and deadly artifact soared above, inspecting a comfortably-distant patch of forest from on high.

The impenetrable clouds from which the rain poured parted, allowing the light from the setting sun to cast its radiance on the cold world below. The light danced amongst the falling raindrops, setting the sky ablaze in ever changing colours only to be consumed by a large lake alight in golden splendor.

The interior of the cabin was much like the exterior; red walls, roof, and flooring. The size was somewhat small and basic. However, it was decorated. On the left of the entrance way was an open room, where he and others he brought could eat and spent their evenings in front of a large stone fireplace on the opposite wall. The room was dominated by a large, worn carpet that spanned the entire floor, it's thread tinted from age and use. A set of shelves was lined with various fishing and hunting related items. Opposite the entrance spanned a short hallway that led into the bedroom. Closing the door behind him Venser glanced out the window at the lake, the boat was still docked where he had left it last. He scanned around for the shiny silver raven, hearing only the arrhythmic pattering on the glass.

Tap tap tap... Came from the bedroom.

Extending his left hand, his narrow flashed greenish white for a second and sparks flung from his fingertips, lighting up a fire in the hearth and closed the cast iron door.

Entering, his large bed rested opposite the door, a skylight built in over head where Milla was hovering, the glowing blue eyes unmistakable. Besides a small work desk, the room was bare, largely undecorated but it was cozy and did the job. He had bedded Galaxteah here and spent several long seconds trying to think about how many women he bedded here in particular. That didn't matter and he pushed it aside going over to the desk and rooting through the drawers.

Nothing but papers and bits of charcoal, a couple of cigars and a tinderbox he had stashed. A unmarked bottle of wine but wine regardless, Venser set it aside and closed the drawers, peering at the bed.

"Under the bed? So obvious." The man shook his head and mumbled, getting on all fours and looking at a small crate directly in the center.

"So obvious." He looked up at the skylight and Milla had disappeared, flown off to who knows where.

The crackling of a hungry fire begged to be fed, it's warm glow casting across the carpeted room. Licks of flame danced rapidly back and forth, creating a battle of light versus shadow across his face as Venser sat on the couch in front of the fireplace. He had popped open the bottle and took a swig of the wine, not caring for the partoculat flavor but appreciating that it had a little bit of bite. Opening the crate his eyes widened a bit.

"There it is..."

Nadine's precious journal. He immediately set down his bottle of wine and opened the book, the forbidden tome that she didn't allow anyone else to touch, and now Venser was able to flip through its contents. From the couch he was nesting on the heat was just right to soothe his wet body. It began to storm, listening to the arrhythmic pattering on the glass, he opened to the first page. Which was filled with small doodles of clouds and the words, "Property of Nadine Tenma."

"So she did have a last name..."

It was mostly notes about building and creating at first, followed by notes and drawings of weather around Laguna and then other places he did not recognize. Other planes. Venser felt uneasy thinking about the multiverse and things foreign to this simple land. Except for himself, of course, as a hypocrite would think. Flipping on he saw that the tangerine haired artificer had put a lot of thought into drafting and creating artifacts, specializing in flying constructions, mainly birds that looked just like Milla. He was fascinated by Nadine's notes about being able to integrate natural and organic constructions with her artifacts, and construct various mechanisms entirely from organic material as if it were metal.

Cybernetics. Prosthetics. Just like the porcelain hand that Doulocel of Luektorem grafted onto Venser after their duel.

He set the journal back down in the box and reached out for the bottle with his left hand, entirely flesh and blood. Venser compared both of his hands, becoming bothered by the asymmetry and his missing hand. Replaced by a strange combination of magical metal and porcelain. Such a thing should not have existed in this medieval world. Technology corrupted.

Further notes were schematics for artifacts designed to generate protective barriers for short periods of time, (dropwalls) spellbombs, and the like. Venser was able to make perfect sense of the bomb schematics, nodding to himself. Flipping a few pages deeper he came across sketchings of humanoid cat people, some had very fascinating tattoos of lines that ran up and down their bodies. The long lost Kundalandian race.

"Kundalandians: A highly advanced ancient civilization once native to the world of Laguna, largely concentrated in the eastern regions of the continent of Posiil. These cat folk are a "precursor race" which means they were an ancient advanced civilization. How they started or how long they were around is unknown never said, it's all very mysterious. But it is known they were around before a Cataclysm that devestated the entire planet about 1500 years ago. Their entire race vanished around the same time. Perhaps the Kundalandians themselves caused it?" Venser yawned and took another swig of wine as he continued reading. Narrowing his eyes at a few of the sketches on the sides of the pages.

"The Kundalandians created many useful magical artifacts during the golden years of ruling rhe continent. None of which have been replicated by even the most skilled of artificers, forcing mercenaries and the like to search old ruins in order to get their hands on them. As with many records and cultural artifacts have also been lost best still appear in the hands of nobles and private collections all over. Most importantly were the weapons they left behind, Stoneforge masterpieces. Their swords, made of both stone and an unknown metal are greatly enhanced and glow with powerful energy that hit eith the force of a boulder. Some were even crafted purely from simple stone somehow. Their edges sharp to monomolecular level, enabling them to cut through anything.""

Page turn, and a sigh. Venser knew well about those swords and most noble family each had their own thay was a family heirloom and would have preferred to sell their own daughters rather than sell an incredibly rare and powerful sword. He himself had taken a retractable shield from that collector and now Nadine's sword. He remembered he had a few other friends somewhere but figured the orange haired artificer would want him to use the items she left behind to avenger her.

Avenge her friends, and the home she lost long ago.

""On the subject of artifacts, one artifact I am fascinated with is this projector in the of a boulder that is powered by geothermal energy and can project laser holograms, though in much lower quality than a psionic illusion. There exist pyramidal crystals that could be used to record moments in time but sadly these are mostly lost."

Venser pondered for a moment. He had one just like thay in his collection. A red one, if memory served right. Nadine did not specify what color these crystals were and was not sure if it actually mattered. He had never seen such a device. But perhaps it was in the possession of some scholar somewhere. He turned the page and was met by a familiar illustration of a four armed monster with a face like a four eyed, cat like skull.

Doulocel of Luektorem. Followed by sketches of other similar, humanoid creatures covered in porcelain armor, their faces covered by a blank porcelain made out of bone that also formed their shell.

"A collection of species turned into mindless drones by the Collective. An ancient pseudo race dwelling beneath the surface of Laguna whose only purpose is to "assimilate" beings into their collective and wire them to the hive mind and many groups are ruled by a single "Marchisor" that think independently or the hive. Much like an insect colony. The Luektorem seem to have no ultimate goal other than to assimilate the unique traits of other species and discarding what they don't need as a form of perfection."

Okay. Venser sighed and took another heavy swig of wine. This part he did not care about. He needed to know their origins, how many there were, and how to stop them. But really any information was scarce and he deduced that the ancient Kundalandians with all their lost magic technology created the Luektorem in their arrogance.

"Technology corrupts." Venser murmered aloud, bottle in hand and looking out the window at the beautiful rain outside. The sky was always filled with visible stars and galaxies, even during daytime. And that was his favorite part. There was no pollution, no distractions from daily life, everything here was simple and yet magical at the same time. No heavy industry that spread across the world like a cancer and reckless behavior of the elite to destroy the only world they had.

Laguna was his home, and Venser would never leave it. Hypocrisy ran across his mind again, looking at his prosthetic hand and flexing the fingers, he shouldn't have this. He should go sever this and let it be a stump.

No.

He curled his right hand into a fist and shook his head.

"Technology corrupts in the wrong hands." He concluded if he ever came across any artifacts or stumbled across any Kundalandian/Luektorem ruins again, then he would hoard everything in there for himself, and destroy anything he couldn't keep. Venser didn't know who to trust with any of this aside from himself, his family, and his Queen. Speaking of hoarding, Nadine's journal would end up in his study. The man couldn't bring himself to destroy all of her notes, even if it meant sparing everyone the dark knowledge of the vast multiverse. All of its beasts, it's shadows, its influence and corruption onto this simple magical world.

Why did Milla even lead Venser to Nadine's journal? Many things about the multiverse, the Luektorem, her saga scrawled inside. Of course. There was something inside that could help. Perhaps she wanted him to rebuild her Interdimensional Engine? No way that was going to happen, Laguna needed to be closed off to anything not of this world.

He flipped the page and his eyebrow raised, perhaps this was what Nadine wanted him to find...

"Many civilizations built pyramids as monuments... Yeah... It's a form of stone building most likely to still be standing in a recognizable shape after thousands of years.... Uh huh." Nadine did describe as the Lair of The Luektorem as a temple, and when they awoke the temple itself was able to defy gravity and rise out of the ground, floating over the land before Venser managed to bring it down. The stories he had heard, the site itself was a massive white stone and metal cube. On the page were drawings of such a gravity defying cube that housed many Luektorem drones and other nightmarish things that caused Venser to shudder imagining what else they could have collected and stored in there. He pondered just how many of these cubes were buried on the continent.

"... The average Luektorem Foundry function optimally at lower temptress outside the main forge... Every Luektorem Cube has a smaller sphere located inside of it as a scouting/escape vessel." Venser stopped right there and tapped his pointer finger on that written text.

"That's what I'm looking for. That's how those drones and constructs were all the way in Jalerno. Searching for metal, bone, people to convert." Doulocel had to be in the Swamps of Jalerno somewhere, hiding in a massive bone white sphere that nobody could miss.

Jalerno bordered small parts of Vorland as well as Ayalia, and a majority of it was swampland and a minority veered down to the southern coast where a majority of its population lived. Rarely they sent West to trade their tea, it was mostly only traded via the sea as the lands shifted constantly and with how dense it was even a well trained astute army could even get lose marching in circles.

But where, exactly? Who would he take? No doubt he would have to speak to some sort of Ambassador of Jalerno to allow him entry into the country, Y'vonne was mostly likely doing that for him ever since the Floating Temple Incident. King Rian of Vorland conscripted him into working for him whenever he called. Everyone wanted the Luektorem wiped out, lest they spread across the continent like a cancer.

No. Venser would locate Doulocel's Spherical Ship himself, and would bring only those he trusted, only those he needed. The Vorland Army, the Ayalian Army, all of their houses and soldiers could defend their own borders and didn't need to risk their lives.

Closing Nadine's journal, and cutting his learning the knowledge of the multiverse short, Venser and his team would go in there and destroy every trace of those unnatural, porcelain cyborgs.

"Fuck my cock I hate save the world situations..."

Firrst he needed another drink to calm his nerves before bed. Maybe two. Maybe three. Venser began to get restless now, standing up and pacing around the room while the silver raven perched in the window, watching, her glowing blue eyes never leaving Nadine's bracelet that began to sport corrupted, green cracks on the polished sapphire stone.

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