Raising Kane

The Queen has ruled with an iron grip for years. But even an iron grip isn't enough. She needs more power. And there is one person that can help her. An inventor by the name of Kane. She sends out her most powerful assassins- teenage girls called Devias- to find him. All have failed, and been killed. And now it's Natalia's turn.

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32. Chapter 31- A Different Kind of Magic

 

Kane’s POV

 

My hands and eyes are aching. I need a break, but I can’t stop. Each time I consider it, I think of Natalia. Even her friend- Tallima. I have to admit- she’s changed. She’s nothing like the monster I remember her as. How has she changed so much? Could everything she says really be true?

My workspace doubles as a cell. I’ve been given a furnace to work with, and as much metal as I need. Most of the tools, the queen managed to acquire. But there are some that I had back in my workshop that I need. I haven’t told the queen where my workshop is- if she found some of my larger projects, it would be a disaster.

To ensure I don’t escape, she’s assigned a Devia to assist and guard me at all times. I suppose I don’t mind her that much. Her name is Iya- the girl I saw Natalia defend in her series of visions. She tries to be friendly, but I rarely speak to her.

Currently, I’m working on a small device that sits on the table in front of me. It’s taken me three hours- I have no outlines or drawings to go off of, and this is one of my more complex pieces.

“Kane?”

I turn to see Iya approach me. She studies the small device in my hands, and she shakes her head, expression frustrated.

“Three hours. Three hours, Kane! And this little piece of metal is all you’ve managed to accomplish. The Queen wants machines, not little contraptions. I mean-” she plucks it from my hand, holding it up to eye level, “it’s very pretty and all that. But what does it do?”

I grab it back from her, checking it over to make sure she didn’t damage anything. Fortunately, it’s still all in one piece. My pieces would be ineffectual if they were incredibly delicate, after all.

This is what makes all of my contraptions work. Without this, none of them would run.”

“Then what is it?”

“What you would call a miracle,” I murmur, turning it over in my hands. “A lightning reactor.”

“A… what?”

“It holds and controls lightning,” I explain. “See this hole here? I put an iron rod there. During a storm, the lightning will be attracted to the iron- if I put it in the right place. The lightning will strike the iron, and flow down into this chamber,” I gesture to the center. Iya is listening with rapt attention, and for a moment I wonder if she was ordered to find out how these machines work. I dismiss that as ridiculous. She wouldn’t be able to understand if anyways- much less build it. “Then, the lightning is stored here. It remains in that chamber, until I release it with a button, in which case the energy will flow through the wires into the reactor chambers, where it will produce enough energy to power my biggest machines.”

She nods slowly. “Reactor chambers?”

“I have to make those. They require the metal to be forged to a particular point, and then quickly shaped into the chambers. It’s a difficult process, and having lesser tools doesn’t make it any easier.”

She sighs. “If you’d just tell us where your workshop is-”

“No,” I snap. “The queen will never see what I keep there. She has no right to see it.”
    Iya grits her teeth, and steps back. “Fine. Is there any way you can work faster? Aren’t you supposed to be a crafting genius?”

“I am a crafting genius. Speed and quality rarely go hand in hand. Unless your queen wishes for a disaster, she had best let me take my time. My greatest pieces of work always too many months, if not a full year.” I place the reactor on the table, and turn to look at her.

“What are they doing to Natalia.”

“She is being given the punishment she deserves.”

She can’t even meet my eyes as she speaks. Her gaze slides away, as if she is ashamed. A sudden fear grips me, and I step back, feeling the table behind me.

“What’s happening to her.”

“That’s none of your business.”

I grit my teeth, and hold the reactor up. “Take me to see her. Now.”

“Or?”

“I’ll break this reactor. It will take me countless hours to forge a new one. And I’ll leave you to explain the delay to the queen. Either you take me to see Natalia now, or you’ll suffer the punishment for the loss of this reactor.”

Her eyes narrow. “You’ve gotten bolder, inventor.”

“I know what my worth is. Take me to see Natalia.”

For a moment, I think she’s going to refuse. My grip tightens on the reactor, and I prepare to break it. I hate to ruin my machines, but if it sets the queen back, then I’ll do it. I know just the gears I need to twist, the wires I need to bend. I know how to break this easily. But… I don’t want to. It’s such a work of art. No other crafter could make something like this.

Finally, she sighs. “Put it down, and let’s go.”

I set down the reactor, and step impatiently towards the door. Iya takes a hard grip on my arm, and unlocks the cell. She guides me through the halls of the dungeon, until we came out to the courtyard.

Before I can walk into the light of the couryard, Iya freezes, yanking me to a stop. “No… oh no… Mila… why-”

“What happened?!” I demand.

“I-” she sounds numb. I lose my patience, and shove past her. What I see nearly makes me scream.

The first thing that registers is the blood. There’s so much of it, staining the stones of the courtyard. And then I see Natalia.

She’s slumped over, her hands still tied over her head. Her back is an awful bloody mess, covered in horrid whip marks. My eyes widen, and I bolt forwards. Before I can make it, someone trips me. I hit the ground, and faintly taste blood in my mouth. A hand grabs me by the back of my shirt and hauls me to my feet. I turn, to see Mila looking at me.

“Where do you think you’re going, inventor?” she smirks.

I’m livid. The rage covers up my fear, and for once, I feel stronger than I actually am.

What did you do to her?!

“I delivered the punishment she deserves. Now leave, inventor. There’s nothing else for you to see here.”

“Is she… is she still alive?” My voice is shaking- though from fear or anger, I can’t tell.

Mila shrugs. Her eyes are empty and uncaring. How could she be so… empty when Natalia was so full of life? I look back at her, crumpled, all the strength gone from her. She could be dead. And this snake is standing between me and her.

“I didn’t bother to check.”

I try to push past her, but she holds me back.

“Where are you going?”

Let me go!” I growl.

“She’s not your problem or concern anymore,” Mila replies. “Get back to your crafting, inventor. That’s all you’re here for. You think you can protect her? Please.”           

I want to fight her, but my logical side wins out. What can I do? I’ve never been in a fight once during my entire life. This girl has been trained to fight and kill her entire life. I wouldn’t last a second. But she hurt Natalia. She might have killed Natalia. I can’t stand back. I can’t let apathy control me.

But this girl would kill me.

Slowly, I grit my teeth. “Let. Me. Go.

“Oh, showing a little fight now, inventor? It’s too late. You’re not going to be able to help your little Natalia now.”

“I said LET ME GO!” For the first time, rage burns inside me, bright and hot. The ground shakes, and metal shards shoot out all around me, rocketing up into the air in long tendrils of steel.

Mila backs away, eyes wide. “What- how are you-” she turns to look at Iya. “We were told he only had crafting magic!!”

“Up until now, he did!”

Iya’s eyes are equally wide. She backs away as well, and I use that time to run to Natalia’s side. I kneel next to her, cupping my hands around her face, desperately searching for signs of life.

    I hear footsteps, and let out a soft growl. “No one touches her!” The metal shards instantly zip towards me, twisting and twining like ribbons until they’ve formed a dome over Natalia and I.

    “That idiot just trapped himself,” Mila says in disbelief.

    “No. We can’t get to him. He’s not trapped if he’s the one that holds the key.” Iya has a faint tone of awe in her voice- though I may just be imagining it. And at this moment, I don’t care.

    “Natalia,” I whisper. “Please. Please wake up. Please be alive. You can’t die. You can’t. I need you.” I don’t realize it- but these are close to the same words that Natalia spoke to me when I was in a coma. I place my hand at the base of her throat and feel for a pulse. There is nothing. I should feel a constant beat, like the ticking of a clock. A heart like Natalia’s would beat like a drum. But there is no beat. Just to be sure, I place my head against her chest, and listen. Still, nothing. A horrible, hollow emptiness greets my ears.

A single tear slips down my face. With it, comes more unfamiliar rage. I will kill them. I will kill them! With my magic- my strange power over metal- there is nothing I cannot do. I will destroy them. I will avenge Natalia.

    An old emptiness fills my heart- the emptiness caused by death. Looking at Natalia’s face, I feel it again. All the pain, all the loss, all the blood that had been shed just to keep me safe came back to me in a nearly overwhelming torrent of emotion. I choke hopelessly, before I begin to shake with soft sobs.

I drop my head into my hands as tears begin to stream down my face. How was this fair?! How was any of this fair?! Why did I always have to be the one that lived? The one that got to watch others die around me- people who were killed because they’d tried to defend me. But did any of it matter? In the end, my enemies would always catch up to me. That was just the life I had been born to. It hadn’t been my fault, or my choice. My mind was superior to others. That was just the way things were. So I was cursed. The target of every power-hungry noble in the country. Those who helped me had always done so for personal benefit. The villagers had helped me in exchange for help with repairs around the town, and occasional machines. My master, even, may have been seeking to learn my skill with machines, and discover the miracles I created for himself. Only three people had helped me out of their own kindness- my parents, and Natalia. My parents were dead now. And now Natalia may follow them. I will lose the only people in this world that ever cared about me. Why did this have to be my fate?! Why was this always my fate?!

Mila’s drawling voice cuts through my sobs. “She’s dead, inventor. Now drop the shield, and get back here. Get back to your machines. They’re what you’ve got left.”

What I have left. The machines are always what I’ve had. At least they don’t break when I need them. Machines can’t die. If they’re broken, they can be fixed. Rebuilt. You can’t rebuild a person. You can’t fix a person.

I grit my teeth, wishing there was something I could do. Why did people break so easily? It seemed so easy. We build ourselves up, we live, and we fight, just to fall to pieces.

“Inventor,” Mila says quietly. It may be just my imagination, but I think I detect a slight hint of sympathy in her voice. “Leave her. There’s nothing you can do now.”

    I try to get a hold on myself. i’ve seen death. I’ve survived all the deaths around me. I will survive this one. I will live. As I always have.

I reach up, cupping my hands around her face again. “I’m sorry, Natalia,” I whisper. “I’m so so sorry. I know sorry isn’t enough. But I don’t know what else to say. I never… I never thought they would… would want to kill you. I thought they respected you enough- cared about you enough. I thought they were less… cold blooded.” A surge of emotions flood through me, and all at once, I lean forwards and kiss her.

    Several things happen at once. First, a huge surge of strength flows through me.    I gasp, backing off, to see a gold glow surrounding Natalia. It grows brighter by the second, until it explodes in a wave of light. I fall back, and hit the metal structure I had somehow created. I blink spots from my eyes, gasping for breath. What had happened?

There is a loud thud, and I look up in time to see Natalia fall to the ground. The ropes tying her have been severed somehow- possibly by the blast. What had happened? All I’d done was kiss her!

Natalia’s eyes abruptly fly open. “Kane?!”

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