Demi-God 001.003

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For as much as she enjoyed coming to the city, Victoria couldn’t say that she wanted to live in it.

The tall buildings were impressive and the paved roads had her cart moving nice and smooth. The markets were both amazing and convenient with their fresh goods available every morning. A shoe shop on one corner hustled customers in and out while advertising the finest leather.

More to her interests, a watchmaker’s workshop sat along the street. All sorts of mechanical wonders hung in its windows. Most, obviously, were watches. Some of those watches were advanced enough to tell the passing of the days and months. That alarms could be set on such tiny devices had Victoria in awe.

People bustled about; some sat in carts like hers, some walked, some rode larger carriages. She even passed a few more of the steam engines. All of them had their own business to attend to. The man with the bushy mustache who carried a folder might be off to an important business meeting. The woman wearing overalls with goggles hanging around her neck might be on lunch break from whatever factory she worked at.

A mere century ago, none of this would have been possible.

A century ago, people lived from day to day. Their lives revolved around food. Small communities had to hunt, gather, and farm. Perhaps one person in a village might be a blacksmith while another took up the position of a carpenter. Villages had to be entirely self-sufficient.

Trade between villages was slow and cumbersome. They didn’t have trains to carry fresh food from far away—most food would spoil and rot if they tried to cart it around for any real distance. Neither did they have steam engines to work on the farms, easily increasing the amount of food gathered by a factor of ten.

More people than Victoria could imagine now lived in such a huge place. All thanks to the genuine geniuses that had thrown humanity so far forward.

And yet, she still wouldn’t want to live in the city.

Because the filth was almost overwhelming.

Prior to the last few years when archonaft gas started to gain widespread use, coal had been the primary fuel source for just about everything. Coal was cheap and wildly abundant. Unfortunately, it burned dirty.

Just riding through town, Victoria could feel herself getting covered in tar and grime. It was probably just her imagination.

She still didn’t like the feeling. Even the air felt sticky compared to the air around the inn.

Since archonaft had been discovered, many large businesses and factories had adopted it. The gas systems were pricey and the gas itself wasn’t the cheapest. That combined with the plummeting prices of coal led to many smaller businesses and homeowners not moving away from their coal boilers and stoves.

Unfortunately, there were a great deal more who still used coal in the city.

Mama had paid a pretty penny to become an early adopter. She hated coal for precisely the same reason that Victoria would hate living in the city.

Visiting was fine. It just meant that she would need to bathe when she got home.

Taking a brief sniff at her shoulder, Victoria decided that it was probably about time regardless.

But, among the people in the city, it was doubtful that anyone would notice. If they did notice, she doubted that anyone would find a slight smell all that strange.

It wasn’t like she was going to meet any royalty while she was out.

Her destinations were far more humble. For example, the open-air stall just ahead.

A number of people meandered about in front of the place. Coins exchanged hands as people purchased what would later become their meals. Mr. Dolby had a smile on his face as he handed off a small sack of potatoes to an elderly woman.

Living in an inn and being expected to feed potentially several families, a single sack wouldn’t work for Victoria. She steered Gorey around the side and pulled back on the reins.

“Mr. Dolby!” Victoria cried as she jumped off the side of the cart.

The creased lines on the old man’s face deepened as his smile widened. “Victoria,” he said. “So good to see you again. I thought you might be by soon. Here for the usual?” He started walking over towards one of the larger sacks that was resting behind his stall. “I just got a fresh shipment in from down south.”

“That sounds great,” Victoria said as she hopped up to him, reaching down to help him lift up the heavy bag. Mr. Dolby wasn’t old-old, but he wasn’t the young man he might have been back in the day.

“So,” Victoria said. She paused for just a moment as they set the sack into the back of the cart. “Have you had any… strange customers recently?”

“Strange? How so?”

Mr. Dolby reached down and hefted up a second sack, the second making up half of what Victoria normally picked up while in town.

“It might have been a dream,” she started slowly. There was no need to make him think that she was crazy by insisting on what she saw. “I could have sworn that I saw a person with scales on their face. Like a snake.”

“Snake people, eh?” He gave a light chuckle as they set down another sack. “Can’t say I’ve seen anyone like that.”

“Maybe glowing eyes?”

Mr. Dolby took off his cap, wiping the sweat from his brow onto his sleeve before getting back to work.

“Can’t say I’ve seen anything like that. What is it, some skin disease we should be telling the surgeons about?”

Victoria shook her head after they had loaded up the last sack of potatoes. “No. It was probably just a dream.” She climbed back onto the cart, dug out the bag of coins, and counted out a handful for Mr. Dolby. “I’d love to stay and chat some more, but still have a whole list to go through,” she said, waving the sheet of paper.

“That’s quite alright. You take care now, you hear?”

She smiled and waved with one hand while giving the reins a flick with the other. It took Gorey a second to get the wheels moving. When they finally did, there was a loud creak.

Nothing to worry about right away, but it might be getting around time to replace part of the axle or the bearings.

Victoria pulled back onto the main street and got on with the rest of her shopping.

Not a single person had seen anybody with scales or glowing eyes. Victoria had asked just about everyone that she had come across.

Most everyone had dismissed her claims with skeptical laughter. The clerk at the boiler store had been a little eager to call her crazy, at least until he saw what she was buying. After that, it hadn’t mattered so much what she had said so long as her coins were gold.

And she had spent a pretty penny. More than Mama had wanted, that was almost certain. Not only had she underestimated the price of a pressure gauge, but she had spotted a high pressure valve on sale that she just couldn’t pass up.

Money and potential lectures from Mama aside, she felt like she had failed somehow. Her main goal had been to find someone that would back up her testimony. Someone she could take to the peelers to get them to take her just a little more seriously.

But she had found nobody.

It was somewhat depressing. All the more depressing because not only had she found precisely nobody that might prove she wasn’t a liar, but the road leading out of town was going at the speed of an old man hobbling along.

A line of carts, carriages, and steam engines lay behind her. A line that she had just waited in for at least an hour. There were still a few carts ahead of her, but she could finally see out of the city.

Really, Victoria didn’t think that quite so many people left the city in a day. Especially not out towards the border. Though there were branching roads that led out to smaller townships, so it wasn’t inconceivable.

But an hour long line? And there were more behind her? They must have been backed up all day long, though she hadn’t noticed anything on her way in.

Initially, she had figured that some cart had broken down. Perhaps the front fell off a steam engine’s smoke box and it had to be towed out of the environment. But that should have been done ages ago.

Maybe part of the road had been closed down for some reason.

A few peelers had been up and down the line, apologizing occasionally for the wait. They never actually explained what was causing the delay. Even after Victoria had asked, they just said that this matter was above them.

Which had Victoria somewhat fidgety and nervous.

But more bored than anything. Bored and anxious to get home. It was going to be dark soon. Getting caught out after the temperature dropped without a heavier coat would not be good.

As the overlarge carriage ahead of her moved ahead and out of the way, Victoria finally caught sight of what was causing the delay.

A steam engine sat to one side of the road. Much smoother and sleeker than most others around town, including the peelers’ vehicle that had been heading out towards the inn. The boiler was much smaller and sat vertical at the front. There was no firebox or gas tanks that Victoria could see, but a glass view port—an actual view port—on the boiler showed flames. Giant orange flames.

Victoria couldn’t even begin to imagine how it operated.

The entire chassis was much smaller as well. Whereas most steam engines would tower over Victoria’s cart, the top of this one would barely have scraped the bottom of the cart bed. Yet it still had seating for six, two in the front, two in the middle, and two in the back.

Standing beside it were two men, both wearing identical long black coats with double buttons done all the way up. Poking out the bottom of the coats were a shiny pair of boots.

And both had peaked hats with a simple symbol in the center.

A c-shaped moon with an eye dead in the middle.

Victoria felt a shiver go up her spine. One entirely unrelated to the cold.

Seeing that logo twice in the same day could not be a coincidence.

Another four men stood around the road, blocking it off to keep the line of people from heading out of the city without being spotted. Their uniforms were more utilitarian, lacking the long coats, having suit jackets and ties on instead.

The first two she spotted casually approached her cart.

The way they looked at her, glanced down at a notebook in their hands, at each other, then back to Victoria only filled her with more dread.

For a bare moment, she considered hopping off her cart, leaving it behind, and just fleeing back into the city. Just because she didn’t know how their vehicle operated did not mean that it couldn’t outrun Gorey pulling a fully loaded cart.

They could probably walk faster than the cart.

“Can I help you, officers?”

Are they officers? I don’t know.

Her internal panic went unnoticed by the approaching Sentinels. Or perhaps they did notice and simply chose not to comment.

“Victoria Watt?”

Neither one of them wore nameplates. The Sentinel uniform didn’t even have rank identifiers. They even looked similar to one another. With short and dark hair, narrow faces, and beady eyes, Victoria doubted that she would be able to tell them apart if she looked away and they switched places.

The only real identifier was that the one who had spoken had a slightly crooked mustache while the other was clean-shaven.

Coughing because of a suddenly dry throat, Victoria realized that the Sentinel was still waiting for her response.

“That’s me?”

The mustached man nodded. After a brief glance down at the notebook in his hand, he looked back up and put on a smile. “I’m afraid that I’m going to have to ask you to come with us. We have a few questions that you might be able to answer.”

“But I– There needs– I mean, Mama will be expecting me home. I need to get back before dark and–”

“I’m afraid that we really must insist,” he said without a hint of insincerity.

Victoria’s shoulders slumped. “There is perishable food here,” she said as a last-ditch effort to avoid whatever they had planned for her.

The man without a mustache waved a gloved hand in the air, beckoning one of the rank and file over. “Never fear,” he said as he waved. “Maurice will see to the delivery of your horse and goods.”

Maurice clicked his heels together in front of the two and gave an open-palmed salute, touching the tip of his fingers to the brim of his cap.

“Come on now,” the mustached Sentinel said. “Let’s get moving and allow the good people to get on with their day.”

Victoria closed her eyes for just a moment before grabbing her sack. It held her configurable key as well as the remains of her money. She didn’t know whether or not she would need either, but better to keep them with her than to leave them.

With a hop, her leather boots hit the slowly freezing ground. Maurice climbed up and took hold of the reins.

“Careful with him,” Victoria said. “Gorey is getting old.”

After giving a slight nod, Maurice snapped the reins. A few clicking noises of his tongue had him well on his way.

Victoria watched as her horse and her cart went off down the road leading towards the border.

“Come this way please.”

Turning, Victoria found the mustached man holding open a door on the steam engine. She trudged on over and took a seat next to one of the Sentinels, just behind the seat of the driver. Huddling down and grasping her bag in a hug, she waited for the rest of the Sentinels to file into the surrounding seats.

None of them seemed too tense or overly concerned. The one at her side was leaning back in his seat with one arm dangling over the edge. They weren’t talking, but they weren’t glaring at her with any sort of hostility either.

With barely a lurch, the engine started moving.

Victoria jumped despite herself. She had seen the flames in the boiler, but she hadn’t actually expected it to be ready to move. If she listened close, she thought she could hear a set of pistons turning. It might have just been the sound of the wheels on the road.

She almost opened her mouth to ask how the machine worked.

“Where are we going?” she asked instead.

“A secure location. As we said, we have questions and reason to believe that you can answer them. Given the circumstances around Mr. Mallory’s death, we would prefer if no one came to silence you.”

Victoria couldn’t help her hiccup. “Silence me! That’s–”

Mustache held up a hand. “With all the terror attacks recently, we can’t be too safe.”

“Terror attacks?” Victoria said, blinking in confusion.

“Ah, you live out on your own, don’t you? Perhaps you heard of them as ‘accidents’ usually involving fires burning down buildings. Especially government buildings.”

Victoria shook her head. She hadn’t heard a thing about accidents or attacks. Usually patrons of The Emerald Inn shared a few stories and kept her and Mama up to date with the goings on in the city, but she was drawing a blank now. There might have been something, but she had been spending more time than usual inside her workshop. It was entirely possible that she had missed something.

The Sentinel just shrugged. “Like I said, this is for your protection. If this murder has something to do with the attacks, you can’t be too safe.” He waved a hand before Victoria could ask anything else. “We’ll be free to discuss it all once we’re secure.”

Wrapping her arms around her chest, Victoria huddled down. She suddenly wished that this vehicle was higher and had a canopy. Proper windows as well. As it was, she was far too low to the ground. It would be a simple task for someone to lash out at her as they rode along.

On a slightly brighter note, the Sentinels were looking after her. At least until they had their answers, they probably wouldn’t disappear her. They’d be trying to keep her alive.


As she had noticed earlier, none of them were alert. Just five minutes ago, she had thought that was because of how much they outnumbered her. She was now wondering if they shouldn’t be just a bit more alert. Someone could jump out at her at any time and they were all relaxed in the car.

Sure, they might be moving at a respectable speed. If that was all the protection that they were counting on, Victoria doubted that she would be so calm.

Or rather, she wasn’t calm at all.

Ducking down and trying to keep her head below the level of the door, Victoria was trying to keep from trembling.

“Are you quite alright?”

Victoria jumped in her seat with a short eep.

The Sentinel at her wide was looking down at her with a vague sense of concern on his face.

“Yeah. I just– It’s a bit scary.”

“Not so much,” he shrugged. “Its doubtful that anyone will be after you once you’ve talked to us. We’ll already have the information, therefore, there is not a reason to silence you.”

“And you’re just going to go tell them after we’re done?” And what about Mama? There was the one Sentinel heading out to the inn, but who knew if he was going to stick around for Mama’s safety. Although, he really didn’t have a ride unless he walked back. Perhaps he would stay overnight until someone could send for him.

The Sentinel just shrugged. “We’re almost there,” he said as he glanced back out of the side of the vehicle.

Blinking, Victoria looked up.

They had progressed deep into the city in such a short amount of time. The architecture of buildings back towards the city limits was far more modern. Lots of red brick, wood, and glass made up shorter buildings with shallow roofs. In the city center, buildings were entirely different.

Made almost entirely of stone and vast glass windows, the buildings were tall. They swept upwards with a grandeur not seen in most modern constructions. They were covered in pointed arches and spires, buttresses and ornate carvings. And gargoyles.

Lots of gargoyles.

In the rainy season, the city center became less enticing. Gargoyles would spew water from the rooftops, raining large waterfalls down upon passersby.

As the vehicle turned down another road, Victoria’s head turned along with it.

A massive crescent moon with an eye in the center was the first thing that Victoria saw. It was hard not to look at it given its shine. Pure gold didn’t tarnish, but it could collect dirt and grime. In the city, polluted by the smog from coal, that it wasn’t pitch black was something of a miracle.

Or a testament to the skills of whoever had to clean it. Given that it was suspended a good few floors up on wires over the front entryway, that was quite the praise.

The building that stood behind the golden emblem was much like the surrounding buildings. High, peaked architecture. The main difference was the wall obscuring most of the lower half of the structure. Flying buttresses attached to high guard towers. They stretched far higher than the main building. Even after their highest window, they had caps of spires almost as tall as the wall.

Looking up at them gave Victoria a turning sensation in her stomach.

Tearing her eyes away, Victoria found their vehicle had come to a stop. So silent was its steam engine that she hadn’t noticed. The machine didn’t even produce much steam or plumes of fuel smoke. A small amount of steam came from the bottom of the back, but not nearly so much as the larger steam engines that were relatively common around the city.

All around her, the Sentinels were exiting the vehicle. The man sharing a seat with her offered his hand. Victoria took it, letting him help her down like a gentleman.

“Walk this way please.”

Turning, Victoria found the mustached Sentinel holding open a cast iron gate in the wall. He gave a little wave of his gloved hand when she didn’t immediately run on over.

Rather than run, Victoria walked. She tried to keep her head down—whoever the Sentinels thought might be after her might be around—but she just couldn’t keep her eyes off the building. The gate wasn’t anything special. It was simple iron with only a slight flourish of brass plates tastefully placed around for decoration.

Walking through the gate was something special. It was such a high class place that Victoria suddenly felt as if she were on par with royalty. Or at least a higher class than a mere innkeeper’s daughter. She had walked around the inner city before, but never actually gone inside a building.

And the inside of the building was just as grandiose as the exterior. At least the parts that Victoria was being led through. The front office and main hallway had vaulted ceilings high above with the large windows letting in plenty of light.

As such, it was something of a shock when she found her destination to be a smaller room without even a single window. Two oil lamps hung from the ceiling, already lit and waiting. Beneath them was a moderate table. Lavish, but lost out on how impressive it could be without the proper lighting.

A man sat at one end of the table, wearing an outfit identical to the mustached man save for the fact that this man had his outer coat unbuttoned. He had a flat face and wide lips with eyes that were squinted so tight that Victoria couldn’t see anything and doubted that he could see anything either. It was as if he were staring into the sun on a bright day.

“Have a seat please,” he said, waving a gloved hand across the table.

A single chair sat opposite from him.

Victoria moved inside the room with only a slight hesitance. The door shut behind her as soon as she was out of the way. None of the other Sentinels followed her in.

Taking a deep breath, she complied with his order.

“I am Head Inspector Acton of the Watchful Eyes of the Crown’s Sentinels,” he said, leaning forward without opening his eyes. “But that’s quite the mouthful. You may call me Rupert. Or Mr. Acton, if you’re feeling formal.”

“Mr. Acton, I don’t really know what I’m–”

“An esteemed colleague of mine was found dead this morning, as I’m sure you’re well aware. The report I received from the peelers mentioned that one Victoria Watt claimed that it was murder.” He lifted a few pieces of paper off the table, holding them in front of his face. “You claimed to see a third party fleeing the scene, one with distinguishing facial characteristics.”

“Yes. That’s true,” Victoria said with a careful nod of her head.

“Excellent,” Acton said as he set the paper down. “Then lets get to business. Tell me exactly what you saw. Every detail, no matter how insignificant or outlandish. Once I am satisfied, you’ll be free to leave. Though, perhaps you might accept some hospitality for the night. The dark will chill you to the bone these days.”

“That’s… very kind of you, Mr. Acton.”

As nice as this place was, Victoria really just wanted to get home. The less time she spent in the presence of the Sentinels, the less likely she would find herself disappearing.

But he was right. And with Gorey already on his way back, she would have to walk. Not really an option at nights.

Closing her eyes for just a moment, Victoria snapped them open, looking at Acton. This might be her chance to be taken seriously, so she might as well cooperate. It was what she had been looking for all day, after all.

“I was sleeping in the workshop,” Victoria said, idly scratching at an itch on the back of her neck as she told them everything that had happened.

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13 replies on “Demi-God 001.003

  1. I dont know if the itch is important. I might be over analyzing things. Also, your italics weren’t formatted.

  2. Typos:
    I thought you might be by soon.”
    In case this follows the convention of omitting the closing quote when the same person continues speaking, it should be omitted here (there don’t seem to be any other cases to compare for consistency)

    Really, Victoria didn’t think that quite so many people left the city in a day. Especially not out towards the border. There were branching roads that led out to smaller townships, so it wasn’t inconceivable.
    The last sentence seems to partially contradict the others, so I’d expect “Though” or similar

    including the peeler’s vehicle
    “peelers’ vehicle” or “peeler vehicle”?

    hopping off of her cart

    The one at her side was leaned back in his seat

    fires buring down buildings

    spending more time than usual inside of her workshop.

    Ducked down and trying to keep her head below the level of the door,

    The architecture of buildings back towards the city limits were

    couldn’t keep her eyes off of the building

    1. Glad you’ve enjoyed it. There is one more chapter coming along Soon (trademark Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.). A second might follow it. Beyond that, I think it would wait for the end of Void Domain and its own site.

      I do have a chapter of another story that I might post as well. That one isn’t as far as this one. Might wait until I have a second chapter at least half done. Which could be a while; this is quite a busy time of year for me outside of my writings.

      1. Are you thinking of maybe publishing Void Domain in some sort or fashion? Having VD in hardcover format would be especially cool:)

        1. I don’t know that it is really publishable material. Too many questionable scenes with Eva wandering about in various states of undress. Beyond that, I don’t know that its quality is high enough to be worth publishing. Might throw it up on something like Amazon for a few dollars per book, but those would be e-books.

          Also no idea how to do any of that, really have only vaguely considered the possibility.

      2. Honestly i never paid much mind to such detail as whether the main character was clothed or not, but o can certainly see your point. Many a publisher might prolly get scared of such a thing. But hey, Song of Ice and Fire got published, and it got much worse things in it.

        And i may not be the best judge of quality, but VD is pretty well written and interesting to read, so id say the quality is pretty good!

        Its up to you in the end. Would be nice to see your work published even if its only in ebook format:)

  3. Void Domain is very, very mild compared to a lot of paper published stuff out there. I really do not think that would pose an issue. Quality wise it’s very solid any and all minor issues would be easily resolved by an editor. You should really look into it.

  4. > Markets were both amazing and convenient
    This reads as a claim about markets in general, including that they are daily. If you wrote ‘the markets’, then I would read ‘the markets in this city’.
    > it was suspended a good few floors on wires
    I think that you need ‘up’ after ‘floors’. I haven’t decided about whether to ask for more punctuation.
    I would be interested to read more of this story.

  5. If you continue this, I would love to read it. Finished both Void Domain and Vacant Throne on a binge reading spree.

    1. No plans at the moment. The current focus is Collective Thinking. Many elements I thought about for Demi-God actually got put into Vacant Throne, though perhaps not in the exact same way I originally imagined them.

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