Chapter 3 - Cog in the Machine

141 4 0

It was a pleasure to burn, to sear, to melt. As the scarlet heat saturated the steel beneath his palms like blood seeping from an open wound, Raven Gaunt felt a strange satisfaction: a delight in tainting, mauling, staining red as his own wretched skin. He jerked a black lever and a hammerhead plummeted onto the hot steel, spitting an angry squall of sparks and crooking the metal to a precision angle. Rearranging the steel bar in his gauntlets inlaid with still-smoldering rubies, he feverishly carried out the rest of his assignment.

Raven, the demon pyromancer, was a steelsmith. Shuffling in the eternal fug of dirty steam, he smelted, heated, and twisted metal for much of his day in the chambers of Farrox Steelworks, where grotesque machinery hulked over him as his only company. His gigantic size and strength gifted him with an obvious advantage in physical labor—so much so that he easily did the work of two persons—and his employer paid generously for his talents. Yet even in a place where his monstrosity was a blessing, to Raven, it remained a curse.

Raven's two years of freedom since Daimos' death had not changed him for the better. While his hated master was no more, his demonic form remained like a stigma branded onto the wrist of a criminal. He had long grown weary of the horrified, cockeyed stares of the public during his commute to and from his apartment; Raven embraced isolation, immersing himself in the sickness of his aimless anger. Even the smithery was no source of comfort to him, but a pit for his sickness to fester and to glut him with drunken gratification. Raven despised his new life as he despised his old life as he despised himself, and he was happy that he did.

When Raven had finished shaping the steel to a well-proportioned bracket, he kicked an underfoot switch that startled the conveyor belt alive and carried off the finished product. From the pocket of his sooty apron, he plucked out a pen to scribble a footnote on the blueprints pinned to his desk behind him. This order for tempered steel bracings came from a builder in MorningStar, whose citywide renovations daily solicited hordes of construction materials from Farrox. Where factories could handle the bulk of the demand, requests for unique machine parts and items of custom specifications had to be processed by human hands—or, in this case, a demon's.

Having little else to do, Raven had no qualms about his workload. The only other activity that occupied his time was his fruitless pursuit of a cure for his demonic affliction. But beyond Sennair Drakathel's long-ignored promises to restore his humanity, he found no hope. The herbalists bloated him with ineffective tinctures and sickening potions; the alchemists pored over him, only to dismiss him with a dumbfounded shrug and an exorbitant bill; even necromancers laughed him off, incredulous that any such deformation could be the work of a spirit. It was only the wisest necromancers who gave a sober nod to the demon's claims, and their answers were all alike: a forceful exorcism that would more likely leave Raven dead or painfully crippled.

All in all, Raven simply found no sane solution. He often wondered why he even continued his search; a cynical voice in his head scoffed that it was because he had no better hobby. It had not been long, he convinced himself, and he had hardly consulted every expert on Arkane. But with every charlatan who swindled him or professor who seemed most comfortable dismissing him as a mad mutant, the thought of death by exorcism seemed increasingly favorable.

At the end of the day, Raven retired his uniform and rubied gauntlets to a warped locker and retrieved his outerwear. Decking himself in a somber peacoat and tricorn hat, he locked up his workshop and bustled down a grungy corridor toward the exit. Beyond a door with three peeling coats of paint was a midway chamber that served as the office of the security guard. The black-clad fellow, Max, was seated at a grated window that overlooked the foyer.
He was slouched over his desk cluttered with keys and paper, scratching the black stripe of his beard in contemplation of a few open stacks of playing cards. Raven crossed the room with no break in his pace.

Wingheart: Spirit's GateRead this story for FREE!