gaisce: (Stay with me)
Flourishing Verdantly ([personal profile] gaisce) wrote2010-02-18 12:36 am

[Adventures of Sinbad] Evolution (1/2)

Suffering from a death flu is a good enough excuse as any to look through my early writings. This is (thankfully) the only story that seemed to survive on the internet. And wow, sixteen year old self:
-you're adorably pretentious
-and redundant
-mostly pretentious because I can totally see you using that awkward Latin there
-...the sense of humor remains just as immature now as ever
I'm just going to leave this here the next time I need to laugh at myself and my creative endeavors.

Title: Evolution
Series: The Adventures of Sinbad
Spoilers/warnings: set in the magical alternate second season that had Maeve and Mustapha
Wordcount: 20,700 (jeez, I wish writing came this easily now)
Summary: Maeve and Firouz have to step into the realms of science and magic in order to stop a madman who plans on destroying them both.

The crew of the Nomad was relaxing about in the local port bar, taking some much needed rest from their legendary exploits. Doubar was busy challenging those foolish enough to take him on in an arm wrestling match and one could hear the yelps of pain as their hands hit the table with a resounding force.

Sinbad laughed, cheering his brother on, though he didn’t need it. At the sign of another man lost to Doubar’s inhuman strength, Sinbad turned to the other crew members. Mustapha and Rongar were sitting across from him and chatting. Noticing his captain’s stare, Mustapha looked around the bar in interest as he put down his mug.

"Hey Sinbad," the swarthy man asked as he continued to scan the busy room, "Where'd your girlfriend and the inventor go?"

Sinbad pursed his lips at the mention of 'girlfriend' before letting it pass. "Firouz found some science convention to go to and dragged Maeve along for the ride." With a wary smile the captain sipped his mug and gave Mustapha a knowing look. "I think she said she'd rather deal with the boring lectures of science than your conversation, Mustapha, if I'm not mistaken."

Rongar smiled, giving his friend a consoling glance, as Mustapha tried hard not to look insulted. The slam of another hand and Doubar's booming laugh signaled victory for the first mate and interrupted any further discussion as all three turned to see him.

"That's an ale you owe me!" Doubar chuckled to the young sailor tenderly nursing his crushed hand close to his chest. Concern washed over the giant's features as he took the man’s limp arm to inspect it. "I didn't hurt you too much did I? Hey Sinbad!" Doubar beckoned his younger brother over with a wave. "Where's Firouz? I think I hurt this one!"

"I don't think he'll be back for a while. You know how he can ramble on when it comes to dealing 'in matters of science'!" the captain quoted in the same excited tone Firouz always used.

Doubar clapped the young man beside him on the back, causing the him to blanche and nearly fall over. "Well it looks like it might be a while, why don't I buy you a drink instead?" The man nodded eagerly if not for the drink then out of fear of refusing the first mate’s good will as Doubar guided him over to the bar for a drink in apology.

"At least I don't bore someone to death," Mustapha grumbled sullenly to Sinbad when they returned to their conversation.

Sinbad chuckled, "Believe me, after all the harrowing near death experiences we're so used to I'm sure Maeve would welcome a chance at boring. I mean, how much trouble can you really get into at a science fair?"

"Not one word Firouz, not a single word." Maeve grumbled as she tried to wipe the last of the viscous gel from her vest. The sorceress looked very as if she was ready to set fire to anything in her vision, which resulted in Firouz hanging back so he was walking guiltily behind her and out of arm’s reach.

"I'm truly sorry Maeve, but I never knew that Daljin's invention would go off like that. I mean, it was so unexpected!" The inventor stammered in apology. "You should have let them try out that new cleaner on you, it might have worked..."

"Oh no!" Maeve huffed and turned to face her friend. "I'm not going to let anyone come at me with a tube and bellows calling it a cleaning machine! It was your science that got me messy in the first place!"

Firouz looked hurt for a moment at her words. "And your magic has yet to solve those problems. We are trying to improve the world with out ideas! The least you could do was be willing to experiment with the possibilities from so many bright and innovative people. That marketplace was a utopia for the new minds centered on the progress of mankind."

Maeve rolled her eyes. "Yes, and many of them just looking for attention. There was even a man who claimed the Earth was round."

"I believe it was quite well founded, my dear," Firouz countered with a self-engrossed smile. "He brought up some interesting ideas on the curvature of the horizon as well as the difference of lights wave properties—"Maeve shot him a dirty look at the prospect of hearing yet another lecture and the inventor clamped his mouth shut from continuing. "Well, I at least found it interesting."

"Oh you would," Maeve muttered under her breath.

"You didn't seem to mind it so much when you were talking to the handsome man explaining the theory of the light spectrum," inventor grinned knowingly.

Maeve continued on nonplused, pulling out the small crystal shard from the pouch on her belt. "Aye, he had something very interesting to say about that. Especially with those new light spells I was learning, I thought I could understand them better." She tossed the small prism in her hand nonchalantly and smiled. "And I got something out of it for free too."

"He gave you one of his prisms for nothing?"

Maeve's satisfied grin grew wider. "It was a fair trade. I showed him a fireball or two for him to study in exchange for this—" She rummaged through the leather bag to pull out a black container in the form of a triangle with a slit on the side. The prism shard snapped into place beside it and Maeve turned the device over in her hands. "He said it could identify the amount of energy from light."

"Ah," Firouz murmured, leaning over to inspect the strange black object with his usual curiosity. "That is one of those spectrum scopes I keep hearing about. But it can't work with sources like sunlight, Maeve. There are too many factors to make an accurate hypothesis for such a primitive design. Maybe if we had better technology or a more accurate means of controlling the different variables..."

"Magic isn't like sunlight," Maeve responded, cutting off the inventor's speech. "Well, at least not all the time. Anything magical gives off some kind of energy. Master Dim-Dim claimed it could be a form of light out of our range to see with our own eyes, but it depended on the power of the sorcerer or sorceress."

Maeve lifted the 'spectrum scope' and looked into it with one eye. She squinted in the eyepiece and held up the other hand, flexing her fingers to spark the beginnings of a fireball.

"Maeve?" Firouz asked and tugged her sleeve.

Maeve snorted in annoyance as she tried to see if anything would develop in the box's spectrum. So far there was just blackness, not even an orange color! "Not now, Firouz! I'm busy."

"Maeve, this is important," Firouz argued more urgently, "You really should see this."

"What?!" Maeve snapped and glared at Firouz. What she saw worried her. The inventor's face had paled with his mouth hanging slightly agape. She followed the line of sight from where his widened eyes stared out in front of them to an astonishing spectacle. Maeve had to cut her breath short.

Standing in front of the two was a battalion of armored warriors, thirteen in all. Not soldiers with plates and chains of iron to cover their bodies, but an entire anatomy confined by the suit of armor. Where the muscled plates met their hinges, only an absence of body could be found. Even the heads were merely a helmet with a red plume contrasting against the golden tint that shined in the sunlight. The area where the smooth face mask stopped, a place that would usually show the eyes of a warrior behind it were merely soulless embers that glowed with an unholy thrum against the empty shadow of the interior.

"What on Earth?" Maeve murmured, tensing up into her battle stance.

"Not Earth, Maeve," Firouz corrected as the automatons began to make their way towards them with slow clanking stomps. "What man could create these?"

"Someone who's going to be a little upset I ruined his toys," Maeve retorted to the silent machines as she let the growing sparks in her hand swirl and intensify to become a fireball. Firouz drew his sword in preparation as Maeve called out her ultimatum to the impending reach of their opponents. "Move out of our way or I make you move!"

The metal men did not respond, nor did they even flinch as Maeve lifted her clutched hand and let the first fireball loose upon the leading machine's breastplate. The machine stumbled in response, taking a step back before continuing to its slow advance. The others did not even turn their head to their comrade before reaching out with their metallic hands to grab at the two dazed crew members.

Firouz reacted first, pulling Maeve away from the leader's grasp just as he lunged for her. Maeve snapped out of her surprised daze and turned to the inventor. "There's not even a scratch..."

"Then I suggest we make a strategic retreat," Firouz pressed as he turned to run. Maeve nodded, pulling out her broadsword, and began to race after the inventor. The machines simultaneously turned their heads up with a screeching jerk. The embers seemed to glow with a brighter intensity as the pace quickened for each automaton and they hurried after their quarry.

"This way," Maeve ordered as she grabbed Firouz with her free hand and pulled the inventor in a sharp turn into the forest beside the road. Both Firouz and Maeve darted through the trees, pushing branches out of their way with sword and free hands. Maeve's brown eyes darted about frantically for some sort of cover ahead, or something that might help them escape their tireless hunters.

"I believe there's a ravine just over this ridge," Firouz panted breathlessly as he took a moment to rest by leaning on his sword.

Maeve sheathed her sword and pulled Firouz to his feet with both hands, urgency in her actions. "Then we better reach it before those bucket brains reach us."

The clanking of the armored troops spurred both sorceress and scientist into movement. Maeve glanced behind them every so often, her hands clutched in preparation for the formation of another fireball should they need one. Firouz was rushing headlong into the forest, his feet nearly taking him over the edge of the steep precipice as he tried to break from his speed. The inventor snatched at a tree trunk with his free hand, the other plunging his blade into the ground for support. A loose piece of the ledge crumbled, sending fragments of stone to clatter downward and fall into the deep chasm.

"Oh dear," Firouz muttered.

Maeve stood with her back to him; her body tensed in preparations for the mechanical hunters who would follow them up the path and set upon them at any moment. She turned around slightly, anger flaring in her brown eyes. "What do you mean 'Oh dear'?!"

"Just that this is more of a problem than I thought it would be." The inventor said, more to himself than to the sorceress as he began searching for something to get them across. "Give me a moment."

Maeve turned her attention back to the forest, where one could hear the shatter of wood as the battalion thrashed the outcroppings that stood in their way with crude efficiency. A tree crashed to the forest floor as one of the soldiers on the right flank struck it down with one swing of its geared arm to let the machines behind it keep going. The three in the lead lifted their metal heads; the armor shining in the shafts of light that filtered through the forest. Maeve gripped the small fireball in her hand, insignificant to the brutish power those thirteen forces of destruction showed.

With a grunt the sorceress let her spell fly from her hand. The ball of flames sailed towards the machines that stood there in distant curiosity. The leader lifted its head with a clanking motion, the amber eyes glowing even more brightly. The fireball arched and flew down as the machine's eyes hummed before a beam of red light shot out through the glowing sparks, tearing through Maeve's spell with ease, and continued its destructive path by barreling straight at her.

It was only with her instinctual reflexes that Maeve ducked the blast. The beam from the automaton struck a tree behind her with a blast and sent it falling into the brush with a thud. Maeve flinched, knowing full well that it could have been her as easily as that tree to receive its death.

"What does it take to kill these things?" she muttered before standing up again.

"Maeve!" Firouz called out as he ran across the ravine. The inventor sheathed his sword and began to take measurements with his hands. "I think I know how to cross the canyon!"

"Then do it!" Maeve snapped, and ducked from another one of the eye blasts that was shot above her. She covered her head with her hands as bits of wood fell in shattered pieces about her.

"I need your help," Firouz said and beckoned her towards him with hurried hand motions. "More accurately: your magic."

"Firouz, wait," Maeve gasped breathlessly as she ran beside him to the edge of the ravine. They both turned their heads as the crash of another tree echoed behind them.

The inventor spun to where a tree leaned precariously over the edge, some of the winding roots peaking through the ground in its titled base. He pointed to an area near the bottom of it with his finger. "Hit the base with one of your fireballs and we can use it for a bridge to get over the canyon and then destroy it when we've made it over."

"I don't think...I have enough...enough energy for another," Maeve muttered in ragged breaths and leaned on his shoulder. "I'm sorry."

"An exploding stick!" Firouz exclaimed to himself and rummaged through the pouch that hung on his waist. "If you can just light it we can... Oh dear."

"You know, I'm really beginning to hate you saying that."

"I left them with Doubar for safe keeping. I thought they might be dangerous to carry." The inventor glanced up with a contrite expression, "Sorry."

"Oh, and these things aren't dangerous?!" Maeve growled incredulously.

"I said I was sorry. Perhaps another alternative?"

"I've got an idea," Maeve said with a grin. She clapped Firouz on the shoulder and stood resolutely facing the direction of the warriors, her second wind coming and a plan formulating in her head. "Just get out of my way and run across as soon as that tree falls."

"But what if you're-"

"Do it!" Maeve ordered as she shoved him away from where she stood. The sorceress turned as the clanking legions finally arrived through the maze of trees. She was still exhausted from before, but if all went right, she wouldn't have to do anything to get the tree to fall.

"Come and get me you clanking excuses for scrap metal!" Maeve shouted in the loudest voice possible and waved her arms. "You couldn't hit the broadside of a ship with an army bolts for brains!"

If it were possible, the phalanx looked agitated with her taunts. The leading line of the machines moved forward from the rest, raising their heads as the eyes started to glow again.

"Come on, come on..." Maeve whispered to herself, her fingers twitching as if to make them come forward any quicker. The brightness in the eyes became near blinding and Firouz watched on in horror as a huge beam of light shot out from four faces and barreled straight towards Maeve's waiting figure. The sorceress ducked out of the way at the last minute and let all four red columns of destructive force hit the wooden trunk.

"Now!" Maeve shouted to Firouz as she clambered over the flaming remains of the severed trunk and began to run across the tree. Firouz followed right after her in their escape, albeit without the same grace as he balanced himself and ran across the trunk. The inventor stopped in the middle of his run and turned around to see the machines gather round the edge of the ravine.

"Firouz! What are you doing?!" Maeve shouted to her friend as he stood precariously balanced in the middle of the makeshift bridge. The sorceress looked as if she might return and drag him off but he waved her back with the confidence that she knew to trust.

"Just a moment, just a moment;" Firouz muttered and waved her off distractedly. He paced across the trunk in thought, as if trying to find something in its bark.

One of the automatons reached the trunk and stepped on it, the golden boot crushing the wood beneath it with its weight. Maeve screamed more urgently, "Firouz!"

"And the distance to the fulcrum is inversely proportional to..." Firouz muttered and looked above him while Maeve screamed for him to get off. "Maeve I will need you to give everything you have to push this thing..." Firouz stepped back once while another two clambered onto the log, "about...

"Now!" Firouz shouted as he threw himself to the edge of the ravine. As he suspected, his in the center weight balanced the already teetering log to support the three other automatons. Without his ballast, the tree would go out of balance and effectively fall. That was if his removal could allow him to survive as well by reaching the safe stability of the cliff. Maeve struck at the trunk with her sword to cut the base away and sent it falling. The three machines that were following them toppled along with the tree and one could loudly hear the crash of branches and gears when they reached bottom of the crevice.

"You are absolutely insane," Maeve muttered and grabbed Firouz's vest in order to pull him up over the side of the cliff. They lay breathless next to each other and the sorceress shot him a mock glare. "You're a genius but insane!"

"It-it-it was n-nothing," Firouz stammered happily, "Just basic proportional values in accordance to the distribution of weight."

The sorceress didn't care that she couldn't understand a word he said but she was glad he knew what he was talking about. "Let's get out of here in case those things figure out how to build bridges."

"Agreed," Firouz said and they stood to make their exit.

But it seemed the automatons didn't need bridges to cross the ravine, as one knelt down before it's mechanical strength sent it up in the air by twenty feet to land on the edge of the precipice. Firouz fumbled for his sword while Maeve threw a front kick at its chest plate to send it teetering over backwards from its precarious position.

The victory didn't last long however, as the remaining nine crouched in the same kneeling position to launch themselves in a golden fusillade over to the other embankment. Their landings were announced as the ground began tremor slightly before the mechanical drones started off again. Maeve, who was limping from striking her bone against that thing, was lagging behind her friend. Firouz ran back and steadied her under one arm as they ran frantically to outdistance themselves from the inhuman machines.

"We have to make a stand somewhere," Maeve told her friend. She stopped and pushed him away from her as she brought out her sword. "You keep running and find the others; I'll stall them."

"B-but, you're not match for them!" Firouz argued. He pulled out his sword and stood by her. "We have a better chance with our combined might. And I won't leave you."

"Oh, you stupid, stubborn..." Maeve cursed as another blast from the mechanical army detonated beside them. She brushed the wild hair from her face and looked to where the automatons were advancing.

"You think you can try some magic?" Firouz asked timidly.

Maeve closed her eyes and opened her palms to face their opponents. She braced herself for what might happen if she could not focus the energy of the spell. "Close your eyes, Firouz. I'm going to shed some light on these things."

Firouz did as he was told, wondering silently if these machines could see or be affected by whatever Maeve had planned. But he thought of the glowing eyes and how they seemed to be getting their power source somewhere. Despite everything he smiled faintly. Maybe Maeve had an observant scientific mind after all.

"Increpito caecus et productum!" Maeve chanted cautiously, hoping that the new light spell she learned would work. A web of blinding red light out from her fingertips that seemed to entangle the machines from their once single objective of reaching them. The automatons stumbled as if blind and began to wander aimlessly, bumping into each other.

"Perhaps it would be a good time for some scientific input," Firouz intoned and pulled out a glass orb, filled with some translucent liquid. The inventor tossed the sphere to the still disoriented machines, having it shatter against the metal surfaces. The two automatons it struck sparked flames and shuddered from malfunction as the turned to each other and began a fight between the two.

"What was that?" Maeve asked.

"I was trying to find a new kind of varnish formula for our equipment," Firouz said and drew his sword along with another of the glass balls. "I made a miscalculation and found it to be highly acidic instead. I was going to dilute it and see if this could be used to disarm a human from bare contact but right now I'm glad I didn't."

"Just as long as it takes those things out," Maeve replied and smiled at the small degree of victory. But it was short lived as the machines gained their bearing once again, making their way towards Firouz and Maeve purposefully. For a brief second, Maeve thought to try the spell again and raised her hand to begin the chant. "Increp-"

In a rush, one of the automatons moved forward in a charge and crushed her hand in its mechanical grip. The others followed its example and began to encircle their prey with clanking steps. Maeve let out a half whimper and tried not to let the feeling of having her spell break and its force being sent back into her.

"Let her go!" Firouz demanded and swung his sword to hack at the thing's chest. The only reaction was Firouz to recoil from the vibration of his blade against the metal armor. The machine did not seem to react but instead backhanded the inventor to its companions where the surrounded him.

Maeve spun and tried to flip the machine over her shoulder. But before she could find her footing the automaton's arm wrapped around her and began to crush against its chest. "Firouz!" She screamed in concern as she saw her friend try to fend the things' reaching arms by waving his sword around. It was a fruitless defense and the machines soon overtook him, blocking the inventor's flailing body from view. A sickening crack and the thud of a human form announced his defeat as one of the machines lifted the limp form up onto its shoulder.

"No! Stop it! Help! Somebody help us!" Maeve shouted frantically and tried again to break her captor's steeled grip. She kicked and thrashed against it before something hard and metallic struck the sensitive area where the neck met the shoulders and Maeve slumped into unconsciousness.

"Objective: Capture and containment of subjects confirmed. Awaiting further instructions," the machine holding Maeve cited off in a mechanical tone to some unknown source.

"Return to the lab," a cultured voice emitted from the small area on the chest that glowed. "Place the female into the siphon chamber for her assimilation. Have the male brought to the guest quarters, he may yet prove useful to my project."

"Understood," the machines echoed in robotic unison, and began to carry their prizes away, leaving the forest to return to its natural serenity.

"They should be back by now," Sinbad muttered worriedly as he paced the floor of the tavern.
"Calm down little brother," Doubar chuckled in his usual jovial manner. "Or you'll wear a hole through the floor."

"Where are they?" Sinbad asked no one in particular, oblivious to what Doubar had said. "It's way past the time they were supposed to meet us."

"Is he always this crotchety?" Mustapha leaned over and whispered to Rongar. "Or is it just the whole thing with the redhead?"

Rongar shrugged with the enigmatic smile that made one think he actually might have an idea or two about the subject but would use his silence to stay out of it.

"I heard that," Sinbad growled and continued to pace. "With Firouz's knack of having something go horribly wrong in addition to Maeve and her short temper I have plenty reason to worry."

"You're the one who usually gets us into the trouble," Mustapha drawled and leaned over the table. "Besides, it's a science fair, the only hazard would be death of boredom. You worry too much."

"Did I hear you speaking about the science convention?" asked a curious observer.

The crew turned around to find a handsome young man walking up to them. He looked very dashing with pitch black hair and a beard that contrasted the darkness of his olive skin. His clothes were also well kept, a silken vest to match the current style for merchants. As he approached bowed politely and spoke to them with a soft accent that sounded as if he were from the southern island cluster. "Apologies for my imposition."

"Aye, what's it to you?" Mustapha asked warily and sipped his ale.

"Nothing, it's just that I couldn't help but overhear that you mentioned your two friends were at the science convention, am I correct?"

Doubar nodded. "Right."

"Well, I just happen to think that I saw them. A tall redhead accompanying a shorter man with curly hair? The former with no real interest in what was going on?"

"That sounds like Maeve, alright," Mustapha chuckled.

"Where is this going?" Sinbad asked, trying to get to the point.

"Oh, I was talking to your Maeve for quite a long time. She came to my booth asking about the effects of the light spectrum on certain magical elements. I found her to be an enchanting person to converse with. So intuitive and very beautiful."

Sinbad's lips pursed in annoyance. "What happened to them?"

"Oh, that crackpot, Daljin, spilt some of his invention over her and they left soon after. That was about two turns of the hourglass though. And I don't think they returned later on."

"Knowing Curly, he got them both in worse trouble," Mustapha grunted and set his flagon down.

"Just great," Doubar said sarcastically, "That means we have to go searching."

Sinbad shot his older brother a reproving look before turning to the informant. "Is there anyplace you think they could go—"

"Arlin," the man finished for him.

"Arlin. Or do you think anyone looked like they might do our friends harm?"

"I don't know them that well to notice if anyone around here has a vendetta against those two. But many of the scientists are from far off, and some quite eccentric. Anyone could have taken a grudge against them for almost any reason."

"So we got another score of mad scientists to deal with saving our own," Mustapha sighed. "Not to mention a hotheaded sorceress."

"There's that insane metal recluse that lives on the mountain," the barkeep grunted before returning to polish the glasses. "That armored freak moves in and suddenly there's a decrease in my magical customers, or customers in general. He might have taken an interest in your friends."

"Who-?" Sinbad started to ask, but Arlin interrupted him.

"You mean Lord Cognito?" Arlin asked the barkeeper, "But no one has ever seen him in person." Arlin turned to the crew with an apologetic smile. "Forgive me for neglecting this man. He is rumored to wear a mask of metal to hide some disfigured scars from an accident of years before. But I'm sure he would look a little conspicuous if he just started strolling on the street."

"You don't always need to do the work yourself," Mustapha added with dubiousness at the easy wave off this Arlin seemed to use when it came to his questions.

"Especially when you can have others to do your dirty work for you," Sinbad finished with a nod. "Tell me Arlin, where do we go if we wanted to come calling upon this Cognito person?"
"The main road that leads out of the village leads to a fork in the trail. Take the left path that leads into the forest, later you'll come upon the base of the mountain. But that's where every other adventurer goes home packing, because the cliffs cannot possibly be scaled. No one could manage it."

"Then we'll be the first," Sinbad responded resolutely and Rongar rolled his eyes in exasperation.

"You could try the doorway," Arlin responded with a helpful grin. "It's located right underneath the castle and marked by a steel door with inscriptions that said if you solve it you will be granted access to a passageway that leads to the castle. But it holds a riddle that none of our wise men could decipher. All numbers and gibberish that make no sense."

Sinbad didn't seem to listen as he beckoned the rest of his men to follow, satisfied with the information he had. Mustapha sighed in resentment and stretched before standing up to join him. Muttering something along the lines of, "Him and that lousy overprotective fixation with that woman."

Doubar chuckled and clapped Arlin on the back, making the smaller man stumble forward. "Thanks much for the added information. Now if you'll excuse us—" Doubar planted a few loose coins on the table for the drinks and picked up another satchel, "—we have to go keep Sinbad from charging off without us."

Rongar nodded and joined Doubar as they left the tavern to catch up with their headstrong leader. Arlin watched them leave, a puzzled expression on his face. It lasted as long as it took for them to leave his sight, where he waited a moment longer before slipping out to the side. There, he turned to a darkened alleyway and glanced around.

One of the mechanical soldiers appeared out of the darkness, so suddenly that Arlin nearly ran into its golden chest. He gulped and looked up at the machine's cold and impassive eyes.

"What news?" the robot seemed to ask with the more human, if just barely, voice of its leader.

"I sent them to the passageway entrance. You can let your mercenaries pick them off there."

The automaton's head lowered, showing its empty face as it looked down on Arlin. "Did any of the others have raw magic with them? Besides the apprentice female?"

Arlin licked his lips, a nervous habit he developed from dealing with the master of this killing machine. His throat seemed to dry up, along with all of his charm, when working with someone for whom it had no affect. "She seems to be the only magic user, no master with them. But the young man, their captain, I think he had something."

"A lover's protection trinket from our captive sorceress?"

"I'm not sure," Arlin said with growing unease. "All I know is that the bracelet he had was something... different."

"I will look into it, but for now they all will be disposed of without question. You did well to identify the female during my ruse of a convention. The companion may prove to be just the man I was looking for. But these 'friends' of theirs must not interfere. We cannot have any unknown variables contaminating my experiment."

"Understood, Milord," Arlin swallowed and tried hard not to faint from terror. "I will make sure of your wishes without fail."

"Remember my courier," the voice resounded in a tone completely devoid of emotion. "Fail me and you shall join those who are rushing to their fate as we speak. Fail me by making me waste precious time to rectify your errors, and you will suffer as my specimens do. Then you shall wish you were dead."

Arlin nodded dumbly and stumbled out of the alleyway to go find Lord Cognito's mercenaries. The young man did not dawdle getting as far away as possible from the view of his master. The single mechanical soldier looked on dispassionately; its blank face hiding behind it the eyes of the insane puppeteer who resolved to make sure his experiment succeeded. Even at the expense of the entire crew.

Maeve groaned as she felt consciousness return to her in a painful rush. The sorceress rubbed the base of her neck where the final blow struck her, having her lose consciousness just as the fight seemed to be going their way. She opened her eyes to find herself lying in the middle of a plain cell. It was a faint light and Maeve blinked, thinking her sight had not returned to her properly. But it wasn't her eyes, for the room glowed a dim yellow from glowing chunks of crystal that adorned the rafters.

Suppressing a groan of discomfort, the sorceress stood up and immediately began inspecting her cell for any means of escape. She ran her fingers along the smooth white walls for any crack or evidence of a door that she had come through. After a thorough search, including the corners where the walls met, she backed up to the center of the room in complete bafflement that there was no entrance to be found at all.

"What did they do?" Maeve grumbled with her hands on her hips in the usual pose of annoyance, "Drop me from the ceiling?"

"Actually, it was from the mechanisms in the floor that ascended to this containment unit for my specimens." A dissonant and downright inhuman voice filtered throughout the room. "But you wouldn't possibly comprehend the scientific principles behind my ingenuity with your...intellectual hindrances."

Maeve paced the room like a caged tiger, searching for the origin of her captor’s voice. She could properly show the thing behind that calculating tone just what a hindrance she could be if he showed himself. "Why don't you comprehend this? Let me out of her right now and I don't burn your cell right to the ground."

Even though she could not see her captor, Maeve was pretty sure the pause was more for dramatic effect than real terror. And the voice confirmed by its reply, "As I suspected, your abilities are merely of brute physicality and a paltry dabbling in mysticism; no real formidable traits besides that. At least your raw talents could be harnessed to assist a truly worthy cause, whereas by your own direction it would just serve to lengthen your pointless existence."

"My mother said I had a temper if that helps," Maeve quipped and let a fireball grow in her hands. She let the thing loose against the area where the glowing rock was keeping the dim light in her cell. But to the sorceress's disappointment, instead of blowing the rock up and the wall behind it, the flame was absorbed to the light source, causing the room to glow in a lurid brightness for a moment and leaving the target of her attack completely unaffected.

"If you must continue to make your boorish attempts at escape, I should inform you that these walls are especially designed for subjects with your craft. They have the capabilities of absorbing anything you decide to pitch at them or use of sorcery within your containment at all. It is a form of light refraction and absorption, which I will not further explaining for the obvious reason that you will not understand. Just know that some of the strongest sorcerers and sorceress in the area have been drained without escaping, and you are nowhere near their level of skill from my calculations. So restrain yourself like the simple fodder for my designs that you are." The captor's voice paused as if contemplating something. "A pity you are not as inclined to syllogism as your companion is rumored to be."

"Firouz?" Maeve breathed in fear, suddenly remembering that he had been taken as well. Without thinking, Maeve drew her still intact sword in preparation to fight her unseen captor. "What have you done with him? Answer me you villain!"

"Nay, not villain. Scientist," the voice replied without pause. "Your companion is faring better than you are at the moment. Do not worry for him. I intend to use his intellect in synchronism with mine to better execute my plans. While you, my spitfire subject, shall only remain until this chamber has siphoned all of your magic for my design and then thrown out like so much dross after your purpose is served."

"Where is he?" Maeve shouted but stayed in a tensed battle-stance, not willing to demonstrate she was helpless in the cell. She didn't want to think about what the voice meant when it said "siphoned all of your magic" and disposing of her like she was not even a living thing to take into consideration. "I'll hunt you down and kill you if he's been harmed..."

"What a barbaric and contumacious specimen you are," the voice spoke as if in reflection in his notes, and not to her. "But if you must, he is currently recovering from your abduction in my guest chambers and as I stated before, faring better than you. Now, I must leave you to attend to my new assistant so just allow the room's desired effects to deplete your magical reserves. Use any spells you want or just sit there and meditate to prolong your agony, it will not change the end result."

"What kind of monster are you?" Maeve whispered in revulsion at this man's utter indifference to her life, considering little more than a specimen. Not even her archenemy Rumina was this callous to her adversaries.

"I have taken the name Cognito to be known by those who I wish it," the voice replied with an air of dignity. And before fading to leave her, stated; "But you may call me Lord."

Firouz waited impatiently for something to happen. His sword still hung neatly in its sheath, but the leather satchel of his inventions had disappeared when he regained consciousness. The inventor sat hunched over with his hand clasped in the way he always would do when mulling over some problem. And he could not think of an instance where this could not be counted as a considerable problem.

Despite his fervent wish to be able to break out and rescue his companion, defeating their unknown captor in the process, Firouz knew it would do him no good to start any commotion, especially when he had another hostage to weigh in the equation. So, like any good scientist, he decided to wait and let the process unfold itself to him in due time.

The inventor thought back on what had happened, hoping to find something to use to his advantage. When Firouz awoke he found himself in a small room, somewhere in the area of being comfortable at least when compared to other dungeons he had visited unwillingly. The chairs and tables that were in the chamber were littered with scrolls that Firouz could not keep out of the corner of his eyes, despite his predicament. The old adage must have held some truth to it: "Once a scientist..." and so on. No decorations or ornaments whatsoever to clutter up the room filled with gadgets that reminded him of the home he left in Basra. It was almost cozy if not for the fact that it was the safe haven of the thing that kidnapped him.

The other major fault from making the room look cozy was the mechanical soldier standing guard by the door with its blank stare watching him from wherever he moved in the room.

"I truly wish you were capable of conversation," Firouz said to the unflappable machine as he paced across the length of the room. He stopped and glanced at the guard with a scrutinizing eye, analyzing it. "If not to answer why I am incarcerated here, then to explain the mechanisms that make you work..."

Firouz sighed as he stared at the hollow inside of the helm. It was a horrible stasis for him, to be so close to something like this and yet too fearful to examine it properly. Scrolls containing knowledge in his reach and so many ideas, yet he might be killed if he merely breathed on the parchment. His sword was useless, while his scientific mind was sufficiently chained by brute force.

"Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron soldiers a cage," Firouz rambled off to keep his confidence. He edged his way closer to a nearby opened scroll, its printing tantalizing his curiosity. Out of the corner of his eyes he saw the machine's eyes glow with that threatening light and he shied away, frowning. "I have to voice my discomfort for someone who had me forcibly taken here. He shows little hospitality for his guests."

"Forgive the guards, but they were designed for protection rather than entertainment," a cultured voice echoed. Firouz turned, and in a place where there was a solid stone wall, now stood a figure encased in golden metal. "It was I who sent for you."

The man who spoke tilted his head and spread his arms in greeting, causing the royal purple cloak to swirl behind him where it clasped onto his shoulders. It exposed the golden armor fitted over his body. But it was more than just a garment, for the links in the plates seemed to meld where flesh should be, and hinges replacing the joints of elbows and knees. The metallic covering moved flawlessly, however. Not a rusty squeal or clanking noise of any kind as he moved.

Firouz could not keep his curiosity from making him stare agape at the spectacle. The man's face--if you could call it a face—was a smooth mask of bronze, with cables running where the plated jaw met the cheekbones. His mouth was carved into a pursed grin, and one might think it a touch sadistic. The nose was in a Roman fashion, with a narrow bridge that set between two pitch black eyes that stared out from behind the armor. But if Firouz thought he could find humanity there where the smallest glimpse of human skin was exposed, he was wrong. The eyes were empty voids, and nothing but schemes seemed to reside in his sight. He appeared no more compassionate than the machines who served him.

The armored man straightened up from his bow and moved with fluid grace towards the awe-struck Firouz. "I am called Lord Cognito, a master scientist in any field you should choose to name. And you, my dear tinkerer, are my honored guest."

Firouz, pulling his gaze away from the man's suit that normally would have had him poking to see its workings, instead he stood defiantly in front of the towering monstrosity. "What have you done with Maeve?" the inventor demanded, his concern for his friend overriding interest. "Tell me where she is!" Firouz demanded in his most threatening tone, and was overjoyed to find his voice didn't crack.

"Do not worry, she is safe for the time-being." Cognito waved him off in that dark voice oiled with unconcern. "I will take good care of her, tinkerer. She's to be part of my grand scheme, a great honor I assure you."

"Scheme? What scheme?! If you've hurt her I swear…"

"You are in no position to swear anything except unwavering allegiance to me," Cognito sneered from beneath the impassive mask. The man paused and straightened himself from the verbal outburst. "Is it some undiagnosed phenomenon for people in your position to ask of the well-being of others? Something against instinct I might look into later. Ah, anyway. I come offering you the greatest honor a man of science such as yourself could want."

"I want my friend back!" Firouz retorted.

Lord Cognito opened his arms to span the room filled with books and scrolls. "And yet I observed your fidgeting desire to read these works even though you were unaware if your friend was dying in the next room." Firouz sat up in shock and looked to the wall as if it might possibly be true. But his captor revealed nothing to disclaim or confirm his suggestion. Instead Lord Cognito pointed at him with something resembling pride. "That shows true potential to become my assistant! The unwavering desire to understand what mysteries the universe presents us."

"Point of fact: I would rather admit there's no such thing as natural law than help you with any sort of plot that involves the life of my friend and any other innocents. I was led astray once by the deceit of someone planning conquest, but I won't make the same mistake twice."

Lord Cognito snorted. "Why would I debase myself with the petty concerns of domination over the simpleminded? You insult me, tinkerer. My purpose is to push the limits of scientific knowledge to the brink, solve every answer ever purported to be challenging. Anything besides that are mere formalities."

"Then why have you taken Maeve?"

"Sadly, our technology has yet to advance to a position where it can truly compliment my genius. Fuel sources are scant and inefficient for my mechanized soldiers, and we have yet to develop anything in the way of harnessing the natural world. So, like any other scientist, I expanded my area of inquiry. Magic, while a thoroughly barbaric practice, hoards vast amounts of raw energy that I could wield to my own ends. But to do that, I would need to extract that energy from the practitioner."

"You would kill a magic user just to get at their powers?" Firouz echoed in disgust. "That's why your machines display magical talents...why I can't find out how they were created. Y-y-you have created t-these monsters, these soul less bastards of magic and science! If you think I'll help you, then you're more insane than I initially thought!"

"You have a true calling to help the world." Cognito paused and something resembling a grin must have crossed his lips underneath the mask. He leaned down to stare Firouz in the eyes. "If you truly think I am unjust then take the opportunity to help me as an assistant. You can find out how to make the magic work to its utmost limits and the casualties will decrease. We have an opportunity here—"

"I will never help you!" Firouz shouted.

Suddenly, a gauntlet caught the inventor by his collar and raised him off the ground. Firouz gasped as he found himself hanging off the ground which made it difficult to breathe. "Do not let your passion override your sense of logic. You find a way to help me in my goals in time, and your friend may not be sucked dry of her magic."

Firouz wheezed and tried to get a sufficient amount of air out of his suspension. "N-n-never for evil ends like yours..."

Lord Cognito sighed and relinquished his hold on the inventor's throat. "As all scientists know, it's best not to be hasty in your conclusions. I will leave you to mull it over while you acquaint yourself with my documented works. I suggest you limit your endeavors to the manuscripts on the desk since they pertain to your field of logic. The others are so engrossed in the arcane spells you would find little for your mind to work with. After all, you know that magic has no use except to pave the way for the working of science." He turned and passed the automaton that silently moved out of the villain's way. "Remember, this is the future of events! And you shall be part of it all..."

Firouz restrained another acrid remark. Loosing his temper wouldn't solve anything, so he kept silent and let the armored maniac think he had abandoned the idea of resistance. With a sigh of determination as well as desperation, the inventor turned and began to search the scrolls for something that would help him. After all, knowledge was power in a battle like this. And it seemed that Cognito had an abundance of both...

Dermott was circling overhead, scanning below as the four men wandered through the forest. Each step they made closer to the shadow of the mountain made the anxiety increase. And Sinbad's determination in finding his two lost crewmembers wasn't helping them. Right now even Rongar was wishing for idle chitchat just so they would not listen to nothingness.

"So what do we do once we get to the base?" Mustapha asked, breaking the quiet, as an answer to his friend’s silent request. He chased up to Sinbad, hacking against branches to clear the way.

"We get in through either the passageway or up the cliff. Once inside, we find a lone guard, take him, and force him to tell us where they're holding Maeve and Firouz. Then we get them out and make a run for it." Sinbad said.

"Ah, a foolproof plan, my captain. I wonder how long it took you to figure it all out," Mustapha said sarcastically. "And if we can't get in or climb the hulking rock? What then?"

"I have Firouz's exploding sticks with me," Doubar stated and patted the leather bag he slung over his shoulder. "That should be of some help to break down the door."

"Nice to know how much time we spent on this rescue's planning instead of going off on the spur of the moment and—"

"Mustapha," Sinbad growled in warning, getting irritated with the crewman's sardonic humor.
Rongar placed a hand on Mustapha's shoulder and shook his head solemnly. The warning was clear in the Moor's brown eyes that it wouldn't be wise to provoke the captain in his mood.

"All right, all right," Mustapha replied in an attempted rapprochement. "But I can't help it. I'm thinking about the hellion and the scatterbrain too." Despite the gruffness in his voice, Mustapha's concern filtered through.

Doubar chuckled. "Be more worried for the villain who had to tangle with those two."

With the last joke the crew let the unease of their captured friends dissolve into laughter. Dermott's screech alerted them all to look ahead and they quieted again. Sinbad swallowed a lump in his throat and turned his attention back to the front of the road. His eyes went wide and he craned his neck up against the skyline to where the feathered scout landed.

"Crew," he asked with trepidation, "What do you make of this...?"

The huge crags positioning at the base were like miniature mountains in and of themselves. The sheer surface made any scaling a hopeless task without any crevices for a foothold to climb. But the formidable sight of the mountain wasn't what caught the attention of the four men and hawk, it was the large boulder in front of them that marked the entryway.

It was a colossal rock, measuring at least twenty cubits to match height with the forest treetops. The surface of the stone had been sanded down to perfect smoothness however, leaving it a perfect mural for an engraved message scrawled above a giant triangle. The geometric shape covered the bottom half of the boulder, composed of circles linked together. A small scratching reed lay beneath the blank space of the boulder, held in place by two small outcroppings of stone.

Sinbad approached the barrier and traced his fingers across the imprinted rings as he craned his neck upwards, reading the riddle aloud to his crew:

"Pythagoras' theorem is void whence my size doubles each line shown
And the numbers of my predecessors increase by combinations known
Save first is the starting point, not prime, but only one still divides
Combining the second is the original count, the penultimate of both sides
And two can descend to add the layer beneath my build
Leave no space of me blank and my riddle is filled…"

Sinbad finished reading the inscription and looked at the worried faces of his crew. He tried to smile faintly and keep their spirits up. "Well, have any ideas crew?"

"I can't believe it, but I really wish Firouz was here right now," Mustapha said. "He would probably ramble off the answer in a heartbeat."

"Or the lass could break the rock down with one of her spell," Doubar reflected mournfully.

"That is why we're here," Sinbad argued, "to make sure they will be around next time when something like this happens. Now does anyone think they have a guess about this because I want to get into that castle by sundown either by this passageway," --the captain turned and looked up at the straight vertical side of the mountain-- "or climbing if we have to."

Doubar began to groan at the thought but was interrupted. "The only place you'll be at sundown is decaying on the forest floor," a voice challenged from behind Sinbad.

Sinbad placed his hand on the hilt of his sword and turned around. Doubar didn't take the time to turn before he drew out his saber to flank his brother. Rongar following suit by slipping out a dirk from his bandoleer while Mustapha tensed beside his friend to see who was bothering them.

Dark figures slunk from behind the trees to collect behind one man who was brazenly standing in the middle of the road behind them. The scars alongside the leader's left side showed he had fought quite often, and the smirk showed he probably enjoyed it. Surrounding the smirking fellow, the pack of assassins all drew out their swords and lay waiting for the signal to attack.

"Sahid," Sinbad spat out the lead mercenary's name and pulled out his sword, letting it glint in the rays of sunlight. "I thought you died at Azabajar."

"Could have hoped at least," Doubar muttered under his breath.

"As you can see I'm very much alive, no thanks to you or your brother." Sahid grinned, showing a row of yellowed teeth. "But I'm here to return the favor anyway."

"No thanks," Doubar replied in disdain, "We know what happens to people you do favors for. They always seem to end up dead."

"What can I say? It's a tricky business being a mercenary. But even though I was getting sick of being metal face's lackey, I can honestly say I'm going to enjoy this one job."

The two groups stood silently at the impasse. All men preparing themselves for the possibility of dying, knowing it was the moment before they would charge and risk their lives once again. Sinbad and Sahid locked eyes in heated glares.

"Shut yer trap and get to fighting, why don't you?" Mustapha growled to Sahid and pulled out his saber, "I want to get some exercise in before I break your boss's face."

Sahid grinned that crooked smile again before signaling his men with a wave. The shadows erupted with the cries of assassins meeting Doubar's own bellows. Up above in the treetops, birds flew from their perches as blades clashed.

Maeve sat calmly in the middle of her cell with her eyes closed. Her breathing had slowed to half its normal rate and she seemed unaware to the continued glow of the lanterns around her. It was a difficult thing to mediate like this when you're in danger. Even worse with Maeve's impetuousness and penchant for striking out against things she didn't like, particularly megalomaniacs who wanted her dead.

So far, she had been doing well. Maeve had taken great care to emulate Firouz's "scientific method" when it came to being in situations like this. First, she stopped and took a look of her surroundings. When she thoroughly frustrated herself with that since she couldn't find anything worth looking, for she returned back to the center of the room to calm down.

Next, was remembering what you had that could be useful to you. Maeve had placed everything she had in front of her. It was really a pathetic lot once you looked at it. A broadsword without an enemy to swing it at, parchment for spells that won't work in a siphon chamber for magic, some ragweed she had picked up, and that useless little black triangle container...what did Firouz call it? A spectrum scope.

'Great,' Maeve sarcastically thought to herself, 'I can entertain myself with pretty colors while my life is being sucked out of me.'

So after that Maeve thought. She thought long and hard about how she could get out or warn her friends about it. Trying to contact Dermott was useless since their natural rapport was somehow magical and magic didn't work in the confines of her cell. That left matters to be resolved by her own hands.

Needless to say, every time she thought of something it wound up to another dead end. Really, not even a dead start since she couldn't figure how to do anything to get out of this stupid magic trap. It was more of a rock and a hard place. You think and get frustrated, causing your magic to be drained quickly. Or you try not to think about it, which gives you plenty of time to mull over what's going to happen to you. And your magic is still drained, just at a slower rate.

Maeve really was beginning to hate logical thinking.

"Concentrate," Maeve murmured to herself and let any outside worries leave her consciousness. It was time to try again with a slightly cooled head. "Think of a way out."

She let the anger flow out of her so she could think objectively in this matter. Anger was good in a fight but not when levelheaded planning was concerned. So she waited, and she waited...and waited. In alternative to waiting she wished that Firouz were here so he could deal with these stupid matters of science. He'd probably be so excited at the problem he'd forget he was entrapped and in danger. The sorceress sighed, letting the moments continue to pass and hoping for an epiphany that would let her escape. She kept waiting.

'This is hopeless!' she shouted inwardly in frustration and felt her magic spark in defense to her emotions, causing an aura to glow around her. Maeve opened her eyes just in time to see the lighted rocks continuing at their usual annoying brightness, but she felt something waver in the air. Like the unnatural chill you get before something happens. The lights didn't stop their glow but something happened to them a few seconds ago, something magical.

Before she was able to mutter something rather vulgar an idea struck. It was almost like Firouz tapping her on the shoulder and beginning to explain things, but she could understand it! Maeve snatched up the small triangle box. 'Spectrum scope,' Maeve's mind supplied instantly. If she were not so intent on figuring out the plan in her mind, she would have been a little surprised at how easily it was coming to her.

The words rambled off like her friend would say with a new invention. 'A spectrum scope can't show regular light, right? All it does is show the full spectrum since there isn't a specific frequency for it to hold. But light created from magic isn't like normal light, it responds to the intensity of the user.'

Maeve cradled the invention in her hands and wondered, 'So if this thing can pretty much show you magic. The main riddle is: how does it help you?'

Maeve put the spectrum scope to her eye and tried to form a fireball. It would drain her more quickly, but if there was a chance she could learn from this... "It's for the greater good of science," Maeve spoke, sounding disturbingly like Firouz as she conjured up the spark.

The scope reacted to the magic. Beams of yellow and orange filled the left side of her vision. Maeve continued to try and maintain the fireball, but she felt the drain as the chamber sucked the open magic away from her. The scope proved it as the yellow and orange faded to red and then out of view.

Maeve sucked in a breath and tried to steady herself. She turned to one of the chamber's torches, which she had come to assume was the main problem. She didn't need magic senses to tell her that, just common sense. The scope showed colors in bands of violet, blue, and green. The higher frequencies had those colors on the right side, she remembered, and that meant powerful magic.

The sorceress began to feel a tint of frustration hit her. This chamber had more power protecting it than she did in her whole body. Frustration made Maeve angry, and when Maeve was angry, things tended to blow up. Maeve muttered a curse under her breath and threw a magical beam against the wall. Obviously, the siphoning chamber absorbed the attack, but when Maeve was about the chuck the spectrum scope at her same target, she noticed something.

The pattern of green, blue, and violet fluctuated. It became deep purple and then retreated to orange. After three seconds the entire spectrum lit up in the light. At first, made Maeve just more furious that she couldn't even weaken it, but Firouz's voice from this morning, when they were arguing, interrupted her. "But it can't work with sources like sunlight, Maeve. There are too many factors to make an accurate hypothesis for such a primitive design."

This meant one of two things. One, she had done something very wrong and broke the scope. Or, two, she had just found her way out.

Maeve repeated her actions and found that the strange torches reacted the same way after five seconds. That meant that every five seconds after Maeve used a large portion of her magic the room siphoning her powers would shut down for a split second to repair the fluctuation, leaving her barricades defenseless to magic and Maeve free to attack.

The sorceress picked up her sword from the ground as well as retrieving anything else she laid on the floor. Figuring out a problem was all well and good but she wouldn't know if she was right until she tried it out, now would she?

A small glow came across Maeve's eyes as she gathered her power. The breath seemed to leave her lungs as it was forcibly taken from her body and Maeve had to keep from screaming. Her knees began to buckle and Maeve used her sword to keep her steady. When she let the chamber take enough of her power to make it shut down Maeve closed her eyes and began to count.


Her sword lifted up off the ground.


Maeve thought over her plan for the final time and prayed it would work.


She set up her stance in front of the wall, still glowing with its defense barrier.


The sword trembled and pulled back in preparation to strike.

"Five! Na Nozh!" Maeve shouted out a spell that would increase her blade's strength before she clashed against the wall. The blue aura around her sword crashed and exploded against the stone. It was like an explosion where whole chamber lit up to a blinding whiteness before dying down again.

Maeve knelt beside the wall, her body exhausted from the effort of it all. She looked up and saw her cage's wall still standing. All that work...for nothing. But Maeve picked herself up from wallowing in self-pity looked up to see if she had made a mark at all. A long gash about five meters long and a meter wide was carved into the wall, leaving a niche a few inches deep gouged in the wall.

Maeve smiled faintly at her success and began to call up her magic again. "One..."

Part two here (dear lord, it's too big for livejournal)