The street, dark and muddy in the driving rain, was empty as he quickly strode along the edge, long coat pulled close to his lean body. Already the drenching downpour had plastered his heavy black hair close to his head, the mud underfoot liberally covering his boots. If he had his druthers, he wouldn’t be out in such forsaken weather. Yet his lordship had demanded it, and so he went out into the cold and wet. ‘I can only hope I don’t catch the consumption from this misery.’ He darkly mused.
The quiet creak of something swinging in the storm’s breath caught his attention and his eyes lifted. And the expression on his chiseled, sun-darkened face grew even more grim, if that were possible.
It was a tin man, strung up a month ago on the raven post at the crossroads. Just seeing it there was enough to make him reach for the heavy Peacemaker he had slung under one arm. And for good reason; even as his eyes fell on the figure, hung by heavy cords with arms stretched out and legs bound together, it moved. And not just with the wind, which now whistled down the street, making the tattered buildings on either side creak and shift with its force.
“Die already, tin man.” He growled as it lifted a weathered head to gaze at him with glowing red eyes.
“So I can cut you down and throw your carcass into the sea with the others!”
“Mercy.” The voice, metallic and artificial, was barely louder than the wind’s keening as the glowing eyes balefully regarded him through the driving rain.
“Please, grant me mercy, lord sheriff.”
A muscle danced in his jaw and for the second time in less than ten minutes, he considered pulling out his weapon. Then he was putting his head down and striding past the strung up creature.
“Abominations like you don’t deserve mercy.” He hissed as the creature fell behind him.
“Not after what you did to us!”
It was old. Older than the cathedral catacombs to which it had been exiled, older than the town that cathedral had been built in. Older even than human arrival to this place. Yet it moved with agility and speed through the stacks of books, scrolls and racks that were stuffed into the catacomb’s narrow spaces as if a much younger thing.
Only the sound of booted feet on the stone staircase leading down into the catacombs gave it pause. It slowly turned to the figure in black that appeared beneath the entrance’s stone archway and bowed.
“My lord sheriff.” It intoned as it straightened, its artificial voice rough.
“What brings you out on such a stormy night?”
“A task for Lord Brennan.” The sheriff quickly rasped. “He begs a progress report on your efforts to translate the Falling Skies Grimoire.” The lean man came to a halt a couple paces away, between two tottering stacks of dust-covered books. He folded arms over chest.
“You assured him it’d be done within a fortnight of discovery. Yet here we are, nearly a month later and it’s still not done.”
He leaned forward, his hard face suddenly dangerous.
“He left you alive for a reason, archivist.” He tautly hissed. “You said we’d find the secrets in the Grimoire returning us to our former glory. He expects delivery on that statement.”
For a brief moment the archivist returned the sheriff’s hard look, the large oculus covering its left socket glowing with a dim light. Then its thin body, barely covered by the worn robe it wore, was bending in a bow.
“I will redouble my efforts, lord sheriff.” It said, once again straightening. “I am close to cracking the lingual code. Once that is done, the Grimoire’s secrets will belong to Lord Brennan.”
YOU ARE READING
Tin ManScience Fiction
In his lust for power, Lord Brennan of Coventry Port has his agents scouring the realm for pre-Burning relics. And in the catacombs beneath Coventry's cathedral, his archivist works frantically to find the key to unlocking their secrets. Will thos...