The streets were pandemonium.
Molly and John followed the swath Ironitsa cut through the bedlam while Jack scrambled to the rooftops to catch a glimpse of the White Queen’s Castle.
They kept moving throughout the day and into the night. The rioting was reaching a crescendo and the entire city was engulfed. As the hours wore on John became more nervous and agitated. He stopped appealing to them to be sensible as they seemed the only sensible people in the entire city.
Molly would beg him to remember who he was but he would shake his head. In the dead of night, with sirens and breaking glass surrounding them he finally told her he had worked to so hard to forget and did not speak after that.
The Whispering began soon after. They all let out cries of exasperation except Ironitsa, who just bowed her head. Yet they pressed on, moving quickly in as straight a line as Jack could guide them, in a desperate bid to escape the Shadow.
Finally it became apparent they could not move faster than the Whispering Shadow. Ironitsa turned back and stood her ground.
They were almost to the gates of the Castle when Ironitsa fell. They last thing she saw was two dead children in a river.
And so the fairytales fell to their knees and waited for the end. The Whispering Shadow surrounded them and moved in. Jack stood in front of Molly and Molly shielded John and just like that they let themselves fall and be taken.
But John sang.
John stood and opened his mouth and what seemed like a cross between a chant and a sermon in a foreign language rang out and shook the very air.
The Shadow froze and the Whispering was silent.
John sang the Word and walked towards it. Jack and Molly had tears streaming down their cheeks and a look of tortured bliss on their face.
The Baptist filled the darkness with his song and as he reached out towards the Shadow, the Shadow seemed to flinch. Then he touched it, and it dispersed.
The Baptist was silent and for just a single minute, the troubled city was silent with him.
Then the three of them turned and entered the gates of the White Queen’s castle.
The Story Of Piston Pete:
Once upon a time there was a Railman named Piston Pete. He was one of the elite RailCorps, the finest group of mercenaries to ever build a railroad.
It was a time of iron, steel and steam. Every city state was desperate to build a rail line reaching out from their city, through the countryside and to a neighboring city state, provided they were on good terms. The financial boost in trade was irresistible and the entire Land was consumed with railway fever.
However, it was every city-state for itself, and so there were hundreds of small companies building areas of track. Some were in direct competition with one another and every manner of double dealing took place.
One company might build its line towards a certain point with the promise that another company would have its line waiting there to connect with. However, when the first company reached that point, at great expense, they might find they had been set up and ababdoned, and unable to produce more funds to tear down and build another line, the company would collapse, defeated by one of many heartless rivals.
Outright vandalism and sabotage was common place. A professional saboteur could grow wealthy working endlessly as an independent contractor, sometimes in the same week being hired back and forth by the very companies he was sabotaging.
Companies of mercenaries accompanied each building site along with he requisite whores, gamblers and workers. Small military skirmishes were quite normal. All out attacks on railway builders were common.
Out of this, a former special ops commander built a Corp of Railway professionals that could face all these challenges, rise above, and for a very high but worthy price, build your stretch of rail regardless of circumstance. They were each of them part soldier, part engineer, part explosives expert and all of their bodies were modified, replaced with pistons, anvils, metallic machine parts which made them super human railway workers.
They could lay a stretch of rail 10 times faster than any human counterpart. They could fight and slaughter an entire battalion of mercenary soldiers while drilling their way through a mountain. They were the finest and the best, men who for whatever sad or dark reason had given up on their other lives and chosen a new life as a member of a hard, gritty elite crew who name sent waves of fear against all competitors.
One of the finest and most driven of these men was Piston Pete.
Piston Pete, Petah, had been raised in the deep forest by Druids. His people had been a notable tribe of Druids for thousands of years and the very forest itself would cater to their whims and wishes. His parents were priests and he was taught from an early age how to coax a seed to sprout using hand gestures, converse with trees and see through their eyes and bring rain with song amongst other skills.
He and his sister were expected to become leaders of the tribe one day, members of the Circle of Elders who made the most important decisions.
In very particular circumstances, where a sibling pair might both become high priests incest was encouraged, and thus it was with Petah and his sister Sarai. Encouraged is however a misleading word. The fact is, the entire Circle of Elders were responsible for a carefully conceived plan throughout Petah and Sarai’s young lives to draw them together into sexual union. It was masterfully orchestrated and occurred on a careful timetable.
An extraordinarily rare planetary alignment had been coming for centuries and an offspring of Petah and Sarai was central to a plan that had been in the works for generations, a plan that would give the Priests of the tribe energy and power beyond anything the Tribe had accomplished before.
Petah and Sarai did in fact conceive and even became aware of all the fuss and planning just prior to the ceremony. What they hadn’t realized until the actual moment of truth was that the entire ceremony centered around a blood sacrifice. Sarai’s fetus was to be sacrificed and when Petah realised this he tried to fight. This had been expected and he was easily subdued. Mother and child were ritually slain and the Druid priests of the tribe were bestowed with extraordinary power.
He kept going until his reached a city. He kept going until he became hard and the dirt and grit from the city filled his very bones. He drifted to the railways and when he heard about the new RailCorps he joined up. the training was excruciating but unlike some of the recruits he lived through it. He championed a railway line that would run by his old forest where his old Tribe lived, and then championed a path straight through their village.
He led the team of Railcorps who were tasked to lay the track through the forest. Sure enough his people showed up to oppose it and they were armed with all their new magic and potent spellcraft.
Their opposition was negligible. All their power and magic was no match for steel, pistons and the technologies of war that Pete had at his disposal. It was barely a fight.
Pete derived a small satisfaction but hardly enough to quench the pain and rage within him. He would not be satisfied until he lay rail over every inch of the earth, and every blade of a grass, delicate flower, patch of dirt and field of wheat was ripped asunder and covered by steel, iron and concrete.