I've been gone for a while. School has kept me busy. I still wanted to share a story with you folks for Halloween. It's a new character I've been working on and I hope you like him.
Timothy Lorde and Hell's Foundry
The roar of machinery filled the air. Susan could barely hear the rest of her coworkers over the smelters as they went about their vile deed. Each smelter was melting down the raw steel that was forming the vicious creatures that now rampaged through the mill. The first monster had walked out of the molten sludge nearly two hours ago. Several more had appeared and now they hunted the last of the workers still trapped in the plant. She was huddled with four other people hoping they wouldn’t be found; certain any second they would be discovered. Then it would be nothing but slashing blades and crushing fists.
She looked back at the others, two men from the floor, a woman from management, and Henry the janitor. Susan worked in the mailroom; a summer job while she was on vacation from school. She had been down here for the opening of the plant. When everything went wrong she panicked and ran. If the group hadn’t found her and pulled her behind these shelves; she wasn’t sure what would have happen. She wondered who the people she was with were. She thought she’d heard the men call each other Larry and Joe; they were dressed like line workers. The woman she thought might be Miss Baker from accounting, but she wasn’t sure.
She looked out from behind the meshwork of shelving they used for cover and wondered if there was a way out of the building, if she’d see her parents again, and how could this have happened. It had been such good news six months ago when the steel mill had reopened and the dying town had seemed saved. After rehiring the staff and spending six months retooling and updating the plant they prepared to start the line. When the first switch had been pulled everyone cheered; to watch the line moving and the men working was such an amazing experience. Then the first batch of formed steel came out of the caster and there was another cry of triumph.
The cry broke off when the thing emerged; the size of a large man made of white hot steel. It slid through the opening that was supposed to produce a long sheet of 9 inch thick steel. Whatever it was it let out a scream of rage that sounded like a blast furnace. It turned on the crowd and opened its mouth spewing molten steel on the people assembled. Dozens of people died almost instantly a few lived long enough to scream in pain and terror. More of the creatures climbed out of the smelter and moved into the crowd bladed hands slicing through the people too slow or too shocked to escape.
That was an hour ago. Now they manned the line pushing more steel through and making more of themselves. Most of the workers had been killed and Susan worried what would happen next. Her small group had managed to avoid detection but getting to the exits had been difficult. Everywhere they went the creatures walked the aisles searching for anyone they might have missed.
Larry, or maybe Joe, tapped her on the shoulder and pointed down the aisle at a young man in his early twenties. He was walking down the aisle looking around as if there was nothing at all wrong; occasionally checking an oversized sheet of paper he was holding. She prepared to rush out and grab him, drag him to the safety of their hiding spot, and maybe save one more person. Just as he got near enough that she felt safe jumping out one of the creatures rounded the corner. The air shimmered around its molten frame and she watched in horror as it turned to face the young man she could no longer save.
The creature’s mouth opened and its scream nearly drowned out everything else around them. Molten steel spewed from its mouth and streamed down the aisle towards the unknown man. She tried to look away not wanting to see another killed in such a grisly fashion but her eyes were transfixed. At the last second, as the steel hurtled towards his head, a gust of air from an exhaust fan pushed the sheet of paper from the young man’s hands. In a swift movement he knelt down to pick up the paper. The stream flew over his head nearly missing him and slammed into a mass of pipes coming out of the far wall.
The young man moved to one side as the stream of molten steel died down and the creature raised its bladed hands and began to move forward towards the young man. A loud crash echoed out as the far wall burst open and a fountain of liquid rocketed from the hole the creature had made. Susan heard Larry cry out, “the coolant tank must be on the other side of the wall.” The coolant slammed into the creature knocking it back a few feet. Steam hissed off its molten skin and the scream of hardening steel filled the air.
The creature’s movements became jerky and uncertain as it began to cool and in what must have been a moment of panic molten steel fountained from its mouth in a wide arc. Susan and the others jumped back as the stream cut through the shelving in front of them destroying the corner they were hiding behind and melting a portion of the wall behind it.
The power behind the coolant gradually fell and the stream trickled down to nothing. Susan looked on as the young man knelt and checked his sheet of paper; now ruined on the floor. He then stood and walked to the creature, pulling a hammer out of an inside pocket on his leather jacket. He circled the now immoveable form as if inspecting a statue at an art gallery. He stopped, as if he’d found a place that satisfied him. With a swift hand he took the hammer to its neck knocking the head off. He then stepped over the creatures head to the shelves in front of Susan, ripped open a box, and removed a handful of shop rags. Using the rags he picked up the displaced head and walked over to the hole in the wall the molten steel had made during the creature’s death throes.
Very careful to avoid the still hot and slightly molten edges of the hole burned in the wall the young man stepped through the hole. After a few seconds he leaned out the hole and looked at Susan and her group. He shouted to be heard over the din of machinery, “well, are you coming or are you going to stand there all day and wait for them to find you?” Shook out of her stunned calm Susan started walking towards the hole looking back to make sure everyone was following her.
They stepped through the hole into the plants machine shop, used to make repairs and manufacture parts for the line. She turned to help everyone through the hole. When the last person was through she turned to look for the young man. He was in the process of dismantling the head with a pair of hand tools. As she crossed the room to get near him she saw that he was pulling the jaw of the creature off and muttering to himself. With the jaw removed something small fell onto the work table. Susan looked at it, a small stone with some sort of odd blue design carved into one side.
The young man picked up the stone and smiled. “That’s how they’re doing it; very impressive. What do you think Susan?”
How did he know her; Susan looked at the young man and wondered who he was. She was sure she’d never seen him before and he certainly didn’t dress like he belonged at the plant. He was in his mid-twenties, wore comfortable street clothes, jeans and a lose button shirt. He had a nice yet worn leather jacket.
So many questions dashed through her head that it surprised her that the one she asked was, “who are you?”
“Timothy Lorde, and it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
A loud crash signaled the shelves they had been hiding behind crashing down as the melted corner gave way. Boxes and debris piled in front of the hole blocking the way. Timothy straightened, grabbing the stone from the table and stuffing into his pocket, and then he turned to the two floor workers. “Joe, Larry, gentlemen, you saw how long it took to produce one of the golems, how many could they have made in the thirty minuets since they started?”
Larry rubbed his chin. “That’s not how the line works; it runs constant so when the first one comes out the next one is right behind it. We don’t finish one job and start the next.”
“What you should be worried about is how quickly the plant works,” said Joe. “Them golem things look to be about six foot tall. If you figure the plant can roll one of them out with the same speed it can do sheet metal, it’ll take forty-five seconds to do one. That means in half an hour there would be…”
Miss Baker’s voice was barely audible. “Forty, there are forty of those things.”
Timothy knocked on the head on the table. “Thirty-nine, but thank you Julie.”
Susan moved forward. “How do you know who we are?”
Timothy smiled. “A mix of cunning, deduction, genius, and skill. That and you’re all wearing lanyards.” Timothy slapped his hands together and turned around looking at the confines of the machine shop. There were two doors leaving the room one large, airtight one and a second door, made of wood. Timothy pointed at the airtight door. “That one leads back to the shop floor and certain death, so we clearly can’t choose that way.” He pointed at the wood door. “That one leads deeper into the offices where the evil organization bent on world domination await us, so we clearly can’t choose that door.”
Henry coughed. “How do you know they’re an evil organization?”
“An excellent point Henry. Let’s go ask.” Timothy strode to the door and threw it open, walked outside turned left and disappeared. Everyone stared at the empty space and after a second Timothy appeared again, walking in the other direction. Susan and the others began looking at one another not sure what to make of what just happened. Timothy reappeared at the door. “It occurs to me that without my map I don’t know where the boardroom is. Would you folks mind showing me the way?”
Susan stared at the stranger who wanted to go and face what he thought was an evil organization and wondered how he could be so flippant. “What is wrong with you? There are people dying in horrible ways out there and you’re telling jokes. Do you understand how serious this is?” She grabbed the golems jaw off the desk and hurled it at Timothy; it missed him, bouncing off the wall on his left.
Henry put his hand on Susan’s shoulder. “There, there Susan, it’ll be okay. I’ll show you the way out, mister.”
“Good man, Henry. I knew I could count on you.”
Susan reached up and put her hand over Henry’s and for a moment thought about what would happen after he left. What would become of him when he was alone with this stranger in the halls and offices of the building? “We’ll all go. We stay together from this point on.”
Timothy smiled at Susan and nodded his head. “Sounds like a solid plan.” He stepped away from the door to give the others enough room to walk through. You were going to show me to the boardroom.”
Henry walked out first and then turned left down the hall, leading the group deeper into the building. Susan was the first to follow, checking to make sure everyone else was behind her. As she walked, she noticed that Timothy had fallen into step next to her. They walked along following Henry as he rounded corners, walked hallways, and stepped past offices. Everywhere they went Timothy opened doors and peered down corridors.
They’d been walking for ten minutes when Timothy opened the door to someone’s office and Susan slapped him on the arm and whispered harshly. “What are you doing?”
Timothy smiled at her as he closed the door. “I’m looking in offices.”
“Two possible reasons. First, I’m impossibly nosey and love looking places I shouldn’t. Second, I’m looking for other survivors, people like us who escaped and are hiding in the offices.”
Susan looked back down the hall they’d just come from, at all the doors they’d passed, and wondered if anyone was behind a door they didn’t open. Was someone hiding behind the ones they didn’t look through? “Do you think there are people hiding here?”
“No, these doors are all unlocked. If they were hiding they’d have locked the doors.” He opened another office door and looked inside.
“Then why do you keep looking?”
“I could be wrong.”
They approached a corner and Henry began to walk around it when Larry whispered from the back. “Wait a minute. Should we be walking around like this? Shouldn’t we be sneaking in case those things are around or someone’s watching?”
Timothy opened another door. “Not a problem. There aren’t any cameras, I’ve looked and we haven’t passed a single one. There’re no golems around here because the white hot steel would damage the carpets, at the very least we would have smelled burnt carpet. No. Henry is right to lead us along as if there was nothing to be afraid of.” He smiled at Henry. “Keep going, everything is fine.”
Henry nodded and rounded the corner. Susan looked and Timothy again. “You keep calling those things golems, what is that?”
Timothy smiled at her. “You ask interesting questions.” He pulled the stone from earlier out of his pocket and reached inside his coat and pulled out a small metal file and began working on the stone with it. “A golem is a magical creature, typically made of stone but metal works as well. It’s formed in the shape of a man and can frequently be mistaken for a statue. If you know the right incantations and rituals you can bring one to life by putting a piece of paper in its mouth with instructions written on it. The creature comes to life, follows the instructions written on the paper, then returns to its home, and becomes dormant waiting for another paper with instructions.”
He held up the stone and showed it to her before working on it again. “These creatures are impressive because the person who made this one set it up so these stones function as the piece of paper. This stone is connected to something else, I’m guessing a larger tablet or monolith. If they can change that thing and it will change the instructions on this rune stone. That way the golems never have to return home or go back to a dormant state.” He looked at the stone he was carrying and moved the file over it once more before putting it back in his pocket.
“What were you doing to that one?”
“Fiddling. I like to keep my hands busy.”
They rounded a corner into a long hallway. The hall was lined with red carpet, fancy vases with bright flowers rested on tables every several feet. At the end of the hall was a set of thick oak doors.
Timothy walked up and patted Henry on the back. “Thank you Henry. It would have taken me ages to find this room on my own.”
Henry smiled. “You want us to go in there?”
Timothy reached into his jacket and pulled a set of long heavy plastic zip ties out of his jacket. “Honestly, I’d love to have you help me Henry, but it’s going to be real hard for you to do that after I bind your hands and lock you in that last office we passed.”
Susan stepped between Henry and Timothy. “What are you doing?”
“I’m sorry Susan, but he’s one of them. I wasn’t sure at first but the closer we got the more clear it became. There’re no cameras. Every evil organization uses something to monitor their people and if it’s not cameras then it’s got to be something, someone else. A janitor is perfect for it, they can go anywhere, everyone knows them, everyone ignores them, and people will talk to them about anything. He knew exactly where this place was, he didn’t slow down, didn’t pause, didn’t think about which direction he was going; he just walked right here.”
Susan began to object but Henry put his hand on her shoulder. “I’m not sure why you think me capable of these things friend but I promise you, you’re wrong about me. None of what you said means anything; I knew where this is because I do the cleaning around here. That’s why I know where everything is, not because I’m part of some organization.”
Timothy sighed. “The reason I know you’re lying, Henry. First, there are no windows or exterior doors in anything we’ve passed in the last ten minutes. Second, this place is a maze and we’ve made nothing but right turns for the last ten minutes. Finally, fifteen minutes ago, when I called the board an evil organization, you said no we’re not. Not they, them, the board, but we’re not. That’s why I know you’re one of them, because for a minute you forgot, for one second you forgot, that you were dealing with Timothy Lorde Servant of Chance and stood up NS nnounced who you really are.”
Henry looked at Timothy for a second and then without a word turned and ran for the double door at the end of the hall. Timothy stepped forward, grabbed a vase off a table, and hurled it at Henry striking him in the head.
Timothy walked down the hall pulled Henry to his feet and bound his hands behind him. Afterwards he walked him to the office with Henry cursing and threatening him the entire way. Henry swore that the organization, something called the Brotherhood of the Black Goat, would hunt him down and destroy him. He called out to odd names that Susan thought reminded her of things from old H.P. Lovecraft novels. Timothy walked Henry through an office door and sat him behind the desk. Everyone watched in silence as he closed the office door and pulled a ring of keys out of the pocket in his jacket and locked the door. The knob briefly glowed blue and then Timothy returned the ring to his pocket.
“For the next twenty-four hours, the door will only open from this side.” Timothy smiled at everyone in the hall. He pointed at a door on the opposite side from Henry’s door and said, “I won’t force you and I won’t lock you in but I think you should all go in there and hide. What I’m about to do is very dangerous and I can’t ask you to come with me. Honestly, you shouldn’t go where I’m about to. I wish I could get you all out now, but as I said, there haven’t been any windows for ten minutes.”
Susan stood in the hallway with the others and looked back and forth at the others waiting for someone to make the decision. She wanted so very much to go into the office and be safe but felt it would be failing in some way to be the first. When Jennifer stepped to the door and opened it then turned around and whispered, “thank you,” before going inside Susan allowed herself to breathe again. Larry and Joe both shook Timothy’s hand before walking into the office. Susan looked at Timothy and walked to the door, reached out and grasped the handle, and closed the door from the outside.
She turned and faced Timothy. “I’m going with you.”
“You don’t have to; no one will think any less of you.”
“Very well then.” Timothy took her hand and walked down the long hall towards the thick double doors at the end.
Susan walked quickly behind Timothy her nerves crawling up her spine. “I can’t believe I missed when he said we’re.”
Timothy looked back long enough to smile at her. “You didn’t miss it. He never said it. I lied to get him to reveal himself.”
“If he didn’t make a mistake how did you know it was him?”
“In the entire history of the world, no janitor has ever actually worn a lanyard.”
Susan’s breath caught in her throat. “How did you know your trick would work?”
They reached the door and Timothy tried the knob, finding it locked he reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out his ring of keys. He started flipping through the ornate keys, each made from exotic metals, containing precious stones, or carved in intricate patterns. “People like Henry all have the same weakness, and I know a trick to beat them. They all assume they’re the smarter than I am.” Timothy stopped moving keys and held up a long ivory key with an inset onyx. “Skeleton key.” He turned and unlocked the door.
“What’s the trick?”
Timothy opened the door a crack and turned to smile at Susan as he returned the keys to his pocket. “I always assume they’re smarter than I am. It makes me work harder to win.” Timothy opened the door enough to slip inside and motioned for Susan to follow.
Susan had never been inside an actual board room before; she’d seen them on television and in the movies. Like most people she had an idea of what the average board room looked like. The massive circular chamber with stone walls and a domed ceiling held up by eight carved stone pillars was the farthest thing from her expectations as one could get. The room was filled with people, thirty or so, all in black robes standing around a pedestal holding a velvet cushion bathed in an otherworldly white light.
Timothy pulled her to one side of the door to a small alcove with a curtain over the entryway. He gave her a reassuring smile. “There’s a rune stone on that cushion; I’m betting that’s the master stone I’m looking for. I’m going to replace it with the one in my pocket which, if I’m as good as I think, will have a very interesting consequence.” He took his jacket off and began pulling the sleeves inside out as he did. “I’ll need you to stay here. I need to get inside the circle and there’s no way I can take you with me.” With his jacket turned inside out he pulled it back on and it was now an exact copy of the black hooded robes the people in the room were wearing.
“How did you do that with you coat?”
As Timothy fastened his jacket/robe he smiled at her. “My jacket is infinitely reversible.” He pulled the stone out of his pocket and walked out of the alcove.
Susan watched from the alcove as he merged with the group, no one noticing they had added an extra person. She tried to follow him as long as she could, but there were so many people moving in small groups; it was quickly impossible to tell which robed figure was Timothy. The seconds ticked on and she held her breath, wondering when he would try and make the exchange. Then she wondered had he made the exchange and she missed it. Maybe he couldn’t make the exchange, maybe he’d been spotted and they hauled him away before he could do anything or make a sound, or maybe he was one of…
“You, over there; what are you doing?” One of the men in robes yelled out at another who was a little way off from the rest of the group and headed towards the pedestal. The group as a whole turned to look at he lone figure who was looking around and then pointed at himself as if to ask, “who me?”
The man that had yelled stepped toward the outlier, “yeah, you. Why are you approaching the pedestal?”
Susan stepped out of the alcove and screamed at the top of her lungs. “There’re monsters in the plant. Run for your lives.”
She wasn’t sure what she had hoped to accomplish, but having everyone in the room turn to look directly at her was probably the best she could have hoped for. Even the person in the center that she was certain was Timothy had turned to look. It was a second of shock and Timothy recovered first. He turned and jumped towards the pedestal grabbing the stone off the cushion and replacing it with the one in his hand. The white light turned red and a loud thrumming sound echoed through the room. As the assembled cultists turned Timothy pulled a handheld nutcracker from his inside pocket, shoved the old rune into, and with both hand crushed down on the nutcracker snapping the rune in half.
The talkative one pulled his hood back revealing a bald head with a massive tattoo of a spider down one side. “What have you done?”
Timothy pulled back his hood. “I imagine I’ve ended your spell, destroyed your army of golems, and released the souls you’ve collected. This most likely broke your contract with what ever dark god you’re dealing with this week, and voided your contract putting all of your souls in jeopardy.”
As if on some cosmic cue, the domed roof wrenched backward as if being peeled like a giant stone banana. A dark, star filled sky swirled above them and Susan found she couldn’t look away. The cultists began to scream, some falling to their knees, as tendrils of night oozed over the edges of the dome and slithered into the room, like a pack of serpents moving towards their prey. Susan barely felt timothy’s hand on her arm as he pulled her away and ran her through the door. As the left the board room, Timothy turned and slammed the doors closed then pulled out his odd ring of keys from earlier and locked the door behind them. The knob glowed blue.
Susan dropped to her knees, covering her ears, trying to keep out the sounds of people pounding on the other side of the door, and their screams for help.
When the screaming was over and quiet had fallen over the hallway she looked up at Timothy. “I’m sorry you had to hear that Susan. If I’d let them out that thing that was after them would have followed and destroyed anything and anyone that got in its way.” He patted her on the shoulder. “When you feel all right, go get your friends, go home, and sleep as best you can.”
With that Timothy walked away pulling the sleeves through his robes and revealing a black hoodie, that he put on and quickly used to cover his head. She wasn’t sure how long she’d been there, sitting on the floor, but when she finally was able to she walked back to the room with everyone else and let them out. She told them it was over. She took a moment to look across the hall at Henry’s office, the door was open and he was gone, she was never certain where he’d gone or what had happened to him. She looked for Timothy, and though she never saw him again, she was never quite certain how she felt about that.
Well, I hope you enjoyed the story. Please feel free to leave a comment below and tell me what you thought. Have a happy and safe Halloween. Beware the Order of the Black Goat.