Chapter 1: The Master Mechanism

A new Timekeeper steps forth.

Wearing a familiar face, an aspirant Timekeeper seeks to destroy all who stand in his path, including Torrullin Valla and Elianas Danae. With the master clock under his aegis, he will control Time and all who move within its confines.

The scramble commences to find the Master Mechanism first. From planets abandoned to worlds renewed, from ancient spaces to sterile realms, the chase is on.

What does the device look like? Who created it? Where is it hiding?

Weaving through all the chaos is the mighty Valla family, fractured and almost beyond repair. It is time to find unity once more. It is time to stand together or fall forever. It is time to be noble, even when such nobility requires sacrifice.

Time itself demands redress.

Join Torrullin and Elianas, support Tianoman and Tristan, and sympathise with Teroux, on this, the conclusion to the epic LORE series!

Chapter 1

Listen with ears and heart and then take the time to dissect the new information. Do this whether confronted by a family secret, a friend’s confidence, a stranger’s unwitting slip. Do this especially thoroughly when you are surrounded by your enemies. All has meaning; your task is to find the straight in the twist. Only then might you act in a manner to solve an issue.

~ Book of Sages ~

Somewhere

SEVEN CHILDREN PERCHED ON a mottled granite slab, cross-legged, hands relaxed on knees, entirely unmoving and expressionless. As if formed from waxen rock. All wore scarlet, silken tunics that shivered, folded and snapped in the breeze, the only movement. Also the only sound.

Unnerving indeed. Torrullin crouched before them, scrutinising each in turn. All were blonde and blue-eyed, all boys. Flawless skin. Angelic perfection. Uncanny.

Where was this? Moments ago he sat on a log under a canopy of trees with Elianas and Teighlar, about to have a picnic lunch, and now he was here. How? Why was he alone? Where was Elianas?

“You must activate them.”

Torrullin glanced up as the birdman stepped in beside him seemingly from the ether, and he frowned. How had Quilla suddenly appeared?

“Activate? I do not understand,” Torrullin murmured. “Where is this and why are you here?”

He noted how he and Quilla, like to the living statues, threw no shadows. A sun glared from on high, and thus there should be definitive marks on the ground, but he could not now deal with that strangeness as well. He faced the children again.

“Deal with the matter at hand, Torrullin. Activate them.”

His heart thudded once. Fine. The matter at hand. This matter then. Elianas and Teighlar, perforce, needed to wait. “Activate them, you say. Are you suggesting they are manufactured?”

“Manifestations.”

Torrullin rose and stretched. “I hesitate to ask, birdman.”

Quilla smiled. “And yet we shall not leave without solving this mystery.”

“Leave from where, Quilla?”

The birdman lifted his chin. “Here.”

“Fine, my feathered friend, keep your secrets, but tell me this. Manifestations of what or who, and how is this perfection even possible?” Torrullin waved in the general direction of the statues. “I have never seen a real child this unflawed.”

“It is unnatural, isn’t it?”

“Quilla.”

A shrug shook the birdman’s tiny form. “I do not quite grasp the how, but as to what? For it is what.” Quilla looked up at him, squinting in the bright light. “These are voices trapped in form, unheard voices – more correctly, unheard messages.”

“Which implies thought, people …”

“People long passed on, having left behind messages so important they have manifested in the guise of youthful angels. Before you ask why the angelic state, because even a man dead to every feeling will pause before this perfection, and thus there is a chance he will stay long enough for these voices to be heard.”

Torrullin stepped closer to the children. Reaching out tentatively, he touched the hand of the central boy and, when nothing happened, rested his fingers there, closing his eyes. “Faint resonance,” he murmured moments later, and removed his hand and opened his eyes. “Not alive, but not dead either. How do I activate them?”

“I assume Elixir needs to listen.”

A baleful stare speared the feathered being. “I hate it when you do that.”

“I know,” Quilla laughed.

“Listen,” Torrullin muttered, “and hear. Important messages? Damn it, you know how paths alter when something untold is made tangible.”

“Yes. And yet here we are.”

“And we shall not leave without solving the mystery, as you say. Curiosity gets us into trouble every time, and still we grab the cathron by that tail.”

Quilla quirked an eyebrow.

Swearing under his breath, Torrullin folded down to sit in a cross-legged manner to mirror the boys’. He did not say more and Quilla did not interrupt the process either. Absolute silence descended, broken only by faint breath, and the only movement was sweat tracking lazily over cheeks.

Both were spooked when the seven angelic manifestations abruptly slapped palms against chests. Their hands froze in that lifted position.

“Oh, my,” Quilla breathed out. He cleared his throat. “They are activated.”

Torrullin stared at the central figure. “I have not done anything yet.”

The feathered being closed in. “Perhaps it is proximity.”

“And perhaps it is dumb luck,” Torrullin countered. “Whatever it is …” He paused and the skin of his face pulled tight. “I hear something.” He stopped again, before glancing up at the birdman. “You are right. They whisper of words needing sharing, a set from each.” He laughed under his breath, a forced sound. “In order, left to right.”

“Then you need listen; I shall wait without interruption.”

Torrullin sent him a glare and faced forward.

MY NAME IS UNIMPORTANT, listener; I am a vessel placed and no more. Please do not speak; your task is to listen. We begin.

Before Time was measured there was chaos. All was random and nothing was known. Naught was fixed and the laws of science possessed no bearing. Or thus you of the present believe. Understand this; there is still chaos, and all remains random, for such is the way of immensity. Science, in your age, proves the need for unpredictability. If all was measured and fixed and explainable, this realm and others would not long survive. This immensity of time, energy, matter and vacuum requires chaos to survive. Do you understand? Chaos is the spark of life.

You seek a way to live with it and thus you measure and investigate and record and hope for solutions in unpredictability. It is not wrong. Your questions engender chaos and thus life is sparked. Challenge is a spark. Answers lead to more questions.

Always question, listener, but listen also to the silence. Many answers lie in silence. Silence, in all time and realms, is the one true beat of perfection. Tick, tick, time moves to the beat. To end Time, scream into silence.

I am done.

WHAT IN THE NETHERWORLD does that mean? Torrullin thought as the boy on the far left abruptly slumped forward. Stone slumping? Nothing in this scenario followed the laws of science.

He understood about all existence needing chaos, but sensed also there was a larger message on offer.

MY NAME IS UNIMPORTANT, listener; I am a vessel placed and no more. Please do not speak; your task is to listen. We begin.

I am here to remind you of the singing stones. Because you hear me, you have heard also the tales stones are able to tell, their secrets and their prophecies. Have you listened well, man of time? The true measure of sentience lies in the building blocks of mountains, in the smooth orbs in ancient watercourses, within the mighty boulders that defy all wind and water to remain ever steadfast upon the plains of worlds. Yet, in all that randomness, there is one stone that was, is and will be. It came first and it will be last. Find it if you seek peace.

I am done.

GODSThe second boy folded and Torrullin was unmoving. This was a morass of information – where were they leading him? Was it for him or would any listener have sufficed?

MY NAME IS UNIMPORTANT, listener; I am a vessel placed and no more. Please do not speak; your task is to listen. We begin.

Long ages have we waited here in this space residing only in the sorcery of the true undead. You must be the product of a life undimmed eternally by death, or you would not hear us. There will be few of your kind and always you will be drawn together. Like to like, for immortality requires witnesses and only others of your kind have the ability to be there.

Long ages ago another undead understood the need for a witness. You have now become the witness for it that placed us as vessels in this space. There was nothing and no one in the time of the Original and now the words and ideas of that time are no longer lost.

The Original fashioned the first stone, became the beginning and therefore also the end. Do not mistake it for godhood. The Original was not God in any form of the faiths of past and present and can never claim to be Mother Universe. The Mother is omnipresent, was then and will be after breath has fled in all spaces. Yet, by virtue of measurement, the Original stands in Time akin to a god. To know it, to undo its presence, hark to the words of the companions here. Be wary, however, of your point of origin; be certain of your expectations.

I am done.

IT IS MINE TO DO, then. A life undimmed eternally by death.

Torrullin did not blink as the third boy fell face first into the dust. He shifted his gaze to the central figure of perfection. Inside, resonance shuddered his every atom.

MY NAME IS UNIMPORTANT, listener; I am a vessel placed and no more. Please do not speak; your task is to listen. We begin.

A timedancer is one able to bridge the flows. A timedancer cannot die; he, she or it simply becomes something hard to hold and view … and hear. They will name our kind as Timekeepers in the fullness of the ages and perhaps the term describes us to a greater extent than dancer is able to.

Yet dancer is what we are. We shuffle on the boards, and we pirouette on the points. We leap into space and return with a flourish to sweep into grace or stillness. We do this upon the beats of silence, and we do so upon the thumps of cacophony, the music of realms. The first beat was silent; the second so thunderous worlds shuddered into being.

How, you ask, and I, Original, employing this mouthpiece of silent words, shall answer. I created the means to dance; I fashioned a clock. I commenced the measuring of chaos and thus forged the path for those who would come after. For you, listener. Do you understand? At this point in your long ages others whisper you are akin to a timekeeper and you shake your head in denial. You are such. The choice lies before you whether to take up the mantle. It is a lonely road, know that.

I am done.

TORRULLIN PINCHED THE BRIDGE of his nose. Every word, he now understood, was relevant. Had not a man claiming to be the new Timekeeper stepped from a crucible only days ago? A man claiming also to be his grandson, Tannil Valla?

The central boy flipped backwards, and his heart thundered as he shifted his attention to the next form of angelic perfection.

MY NAME IS UNIMPORTANT, listener; I am a vessel placed and no more. Please do not speak; your task is to listen. We begin.

Blood flows sluggish when metabolism is curtailed, and stones possess no metabolism. Place your ear against a rock, however, and if you know how to listen well, you hear blood race within the confines of particles so dense it requires extremity to break it apart. Have you seen a stone shatter, listener? It would be a remarkable lack on your part if your answer is negative. Assumption, therefore, informs you have viewed the phenomenon.

Have you, however, seen the stone’s life force bleed away swiftly? A river of death. Have you heard it scream as its blood vanishes into the dust of destruction? Assumption informs in this you may still be lacking. Return to the stones of your birth, aspirant keeper of time, and shatter the rock. Watch. Listen. And discover the miracle. Discover also the horror of nightmare.

I am done.

TORRULLIN FROWNED. STONES OF his birth? Valaris? Or Akhavar? Why? What was the grand ideal these messages attempted to impart?

The fifth boy stiffened into rigidity, hands clenched into fists.

MY NAME IS UNIMPORTANT, listener; I am a vessel placed and no more. Please do not speak; your task is to listen. We begin.

When realms harked to the advantages in measurement, a means to instil order from chaos, others followed the Original and became known as Timekeepers. Always there is a Timekeeper. Every Timekeeper possesses a name unique to set the ages of that name’s mastery apart from others. It is rule, listener, true royalty. Perceived as both royal and godliness by those far lesser.

Some rulers are benign and gift peace and prosperity, and others are cruel and bring forth war and suffering. A Timekeeper is no different. Some are benign, others not. Understand this – chaos requires both. Chaos permits all. Yet order is there also, hand in hand with a good man and a bad one, a great ruler and a tyrant. Order resides in a name. Control resides in a name. When a Timekeeper freely divulges a name, control passes to the one it is gifted to, but when a Timekeeper forces his true name from another, control remains his. Here is the codicil; control may remain with the Timekeeper, but freedom is yours.

I am done.

THIS BOY, SECOND FROM last, slumped forward as well. These were the insights to aid in foiling a monster, he realised, and no doubt it would become clearer with due thought. Ha, he hoped so. He hoped as well that Tannil was not a monster because … no, now was not the time to delve there.

One message left. Torrullin moved his head to view Quilla to see the birdman studying the boys with a thoughtful expression. Inhaling, he faced the final child.

MY NAME IS UNIMPORTANT, listener; I am a vessel placed and no more. Please do not speak; your task is to listen. We begin.

Mine is a message of hope. Mine is a message of despair. In hope there is despair, and in despair hope. A witness is imperative for the telling of events into future time and yet a witness can remove the ability to act freely. Your witness is your equal, is he not? Your witness curtails you, does he not?

True destiny lies only in separation, listener. True destiny is personal, without witnesses. The Original knows this. Can you state his destiny was the creation of a clock? That is not a secret, after all, for here you are, the witness. What, therefore, was his true destiny, the event no one anywhere across all time is aware of?

Friend, is it not perhaps your fate to find that same anonymity? Hope is attaining it; despair is leaving your witness behind. Hope is striding through time with your companion; despair is your failure to attain destiny. Choose well. I am … no, I am not done. A final prompt; hark to sacred space. It is denser than the strongest stone, it bleeds profusely. It reveals only truth.

And now I am done.

TORRULLIN’S HAND LIFTED TO his chest. Sacred space. The heart. Seat of all emotion. As the final boy crumpled, he bent his head to stare at the bright earth. Elianas. Sacred space. Witness. Hope or despair?

He looked up when Quilla cleared his throat.

“Can you tell me, Enchanter?”

A shake of his head ensued. Not yet. Maybe never.

An explosive breath erupted from the birdman, and then an arresting arm wave followed. “Look, Torrullin, at how they lie. They collapsed in such a way as to form a word. Do you see it?”

He could not care, for too much roiled in his mind, but he rose to stand beside the birdman and studied the forms. Yes, he supposed one could read their twists as glyphs, but why be bothered? Only an anal mind would seek such depth of nuance … and one could not call Quilla anal. The birdman noticed portents because it was his speciality; because he could see, he thus did.

“What word do you perceive?”

Quilla frowned up at him. “You do not see it?”

“I have not the energy for unravelling, Quilla. Just tell me.”

“It says Rivalen.”

Torrullin stared at the forms anew. Yes, that was what their twists suggested. “What does it mean?”

“The Square of Round.”

A laugh erupted from his dry throat. “Nonsensical.”

“Unless a Timekeeper seeks a name.”

Torrullin’s head jerked downward.

The birdman smiled up. “Sounds a bit like the mathematics of an ancient clock, does it not? Rivalen, the round square.”

Torrullin’s attention snapped back to the row of inanimate boys. Gods, there was the true message. Was that it? If he named the one calling himself Timekeeper, freedom would be his. Did that mean freedom from Elianas also?

He stared down at Quilla again. “You should not have told me. I do not want this information.”

A frown flitted across those innocent features. “I do not understand.”

“Never mind.”

“Torrullin, do you not see? This is why I was summoned here. To read the name.”

“If name it is,” Torrullin muttered. “Where are we exactly?”

“Here,” and Quilla waved and vanished.

THE MASTER MECHANISM

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Author: theloreseries

Reader and writer of the extraordinary.

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