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Iron Quill (The Hunt) - Do not ask, Lest ye be answered.

The Grue

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They sat and waited; all eyes affixed on the small brass rectangle on the table before them, every breath held and released quietly in anticipation. It was not an overly ornate device, primarily a brass contraption, with tarnished edges that revealed the apparent age of the device. Every ear craning in the huddled mass waiting, listening, trying to make out any sound through the stream of the crackling static wheezing out of the small slits that served as the amplifier for the small blue crystal that lay beneath. The sound was soft and trickled as much as it oozed out across the table to slowly billow up and sweep through the crowded huddle of women encircled therein. They had all come from different walks of life, their meager dress attested to; tattered, torn, unkempt clothing sidling by fanciful gowns and decadent and exotic materials. Away from all of this they may not have even known one another, even less inclined to gather as one. For them it did not matter, not anymore, for they had been called, and each had answered in turn.


The small worn Aethervox that sat on the table before them had brought them together. It had called out through the night, over the weathered cobblestone, through the brick and mortar, behind the fading daylight, and ahead of the enveloping darkness. They did not know, at first, why they had been called, the alluring invitation, the siren’s call, had beckoned them. For those that did not know the way, it had made clear the path, for those that could not see the way, it had washed their eyes and revealed the truth. They knew that now, were guided to their destiny and shown the road to their salvation.


The quiet static broke and it would seem as if statues had taken their place, as still as they remained, waiting, listening. The silence edged on seeming to grow to a cacophonous roar of emptiness in the hollow of the night.


Waiting. Listening.


So soft was the noise, small at first, it sounded as if it would be drowned out by the swallowing silence of the emptiness of oblivion, but each could hear, could understand, and would obey.


“Erom on si dnuos litnu ecnelis. Uoy ediug lliw regnessem eht. Wonk ot meht sehsiw eh hcihw taht tuo dnif ton tsum yeht. Meht nraw ton tsum eh. Ydob sih morf sterces eht pir. Laicifitra eht nwod reat. Ecneics fo nam eht dnif. Htrof og.”


The sound ended softer than it began. They turned as one and looked to the doorway of the small room that was previously empty to the woman standing where emptiness had once resided. She was as plain as most in attendance but different. She nodded once, then turned and walked out of the room. They all filed out slowly but with purpose until the room was empty and the vacuum of silence rushed back in to take their place. The box sat on the table, still and cold, static wheezing out of it, no louder than a whisper.


The carriage rambled over the stones at a brisk pace, the rattling of its many wheels echoing off into the night. The carriage swayed and rocked over the broken roadway jostling the passengers as it passed through the narrow streets. Up to this point the motions and jostling had not bothered the passengers within, their stoic demeanor was proof of the burden of their mission. The old professor sat quietly, small clouds billowing from the end of his pipe as he stared out into the night. The young woman across from him began to fidget, the uncomfortable silence slowly eating away at her resolve. Her eyes darted back and forth between the Professor, the floor, and the two young Guildsman sitting beside them. They too sat in silence, exchanging worried glances, not even trying to hide them anymore, their leather gloves wringing shallow furrows in the stocks of their rifles.


The mood hung over them all, in the lack of words between them. They had come from the observatory on the hill, out on the edge of Malifaux where it overlooked the city. They had been tasked with studying Malifaux and all its mysteries and providing explanations and exploitations so that they may one day better understand what this place truly was. One area they had dabbled in was the Aethervoxes. Through their studies they had been able to repair many to their current functioning levels but with the constant failures and breaks in communication they had been tasked with delving further into that ancient and mystical technology. Things had begun to happen to those working in the observatory, strange things, awful things. Slowly at first then more and more frequently as their work progressed. A collective sense of dread began to overtake those on the project, an unease began to bite at them, like the realization that they were about to uncover something they were not yet ready to understand, much less control.


The abrupt stop of the carriage jolted the occupants from their thoughts as they lurched forward then sprang back. The professor regained his bearings and put his hand to the case at his feet between his legs. He inspected it for damage and breathed a sigh of relief when he found none.


“What could he be stopping for, in this part of the city, during this hour? Does he not know the vital importance of the findings we have with us? They must be delivered, everyone must be warned.” The professor’s could not pull the fear from his voice, and began to wipe at his brow with a handkerchief from his pocket.


The guard nearest the front banged on the wall of the carriage, shouting to the driver. “Get a move on, we must not stop.” He waited for a response from the driver and when he got none he exchanged a worried look to his partner. He looked to the Professor and the girl then spoke, “You two, stay inside, Bertrum and I will find out why we have stopped and get us going again.”


The two guardsmen exited the carriage and shut the door behind them, leaving the two to sit by themselves. They sat in silence for a moment or two waiting. Another moment passed and the professor began to fidget, pulling the case to his chest and wrapping his arms around it. “I am a man of science. Do they not understand the nature of what is in this case? What it has shown us? This is not a child’s game we play here, this is a matter of life and death, or worse if my calculations are right.” He glanced out into the night, then at the door the guardsmen left from, a worried expression creeping onto his face. “Where in the hells are those two?


The girl finally looked up, listening to the professor, before glancing out the window. “There is a light, there.” She pointed out the window at a solitary street lamp that shown in the darkness. “there is someone standing there.”


The professor looked out to where she was pointing. A lone woman stood underneath the street lamp, leaning on the pole.

The young girl across from him spoke up, leaning slightly out of the window to call at the stranger. “What are you doing out at this time of night, are you lost?”


The professor lashed out at the girl. “Are you daft girl? What have I told you about calling out to those that you do not know? Have you not heeded my warnings of this place, do you not understand what could be out there, lurking in the dark? If not before, do you not now, knowing what we know? Hearing what we heard this night?” his glance shifted down uncomfortably to the case pressed against his chest. “I never should have brought such a naïve girl to this place, I never should’ve listened to your mother, she was a fool to insist you come with me here to help with my research.”


His daughter was not paying attention to him, her gaze affixed solely on the woman under the street lamp. Her head was tilted as if she was trying to hear something soft. She spoke then, her voice rising to call out, “Yes. I’ll come right away.” With that she opened the door to the carriage and ran out into the night towards the woman standing under the lamp.


The professor lunged after her, but failed to grab onto her in time. He held the case close to him and leaned out of the door to the carriage to yell after her. The words formed in his throat then it hit him; the awful silence of the night around him. Where were the two guardsmen, they would not have had to go far to question the driver, and in that matter where was the driver? He turned and looked up to the driver’s seat. Absolute horror splashed across his face, for there, crouched atop the still form of the driver was a woman, not unlike the one standing out under the lamp. Her fingers tightly woven around the driver’s neck, a wide toothy smile across her face. He looked down and saw the two guardsmen laying on the street, women on top of them as well. The same smile, and more silence. He barely felt the carriage lurch as he heard the door behind him open and close. He looked out to his daughter, standing before the woman under the street lamp, a wide toothy smile splayed across her face. A single tear slid down his cheek as he felt steely fingers close about his neck.


The group of women were all huddled around the table where the Aethervox sat. The woman stepped forward. She opened the case she held and grabbed something from inside. She let the case drop to the floor, spilling the files, paperwork, and research notes to the floor. Hastily drawn words were scribbled frantically over all of them, warning of a horror that had not yet been truly seen, a horror that had been glimpsed during the investigations concerning the other object in the case, the one the woman now placed on the table.


The women all stood huddled around the table, staring now at the two Aethervox sitting on the table.


Waiting. Listening.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Wow, that was creepy. Really creepy, but in the best possible sense! You have a wonderful knack for building a sense of dread and atmosphere that perfectly suits what we expect from Malifaux; your source of the evil - the woman - really stole the show. Harrowing!


My only criticism is sentence length (and I know this is ironic because I've been told (often!) in quill feedback that I write inappropriately long sentences :) ) and structure. I felt as though some descriptions could be a bit more brisk. Also, the dialogue between the professor and his daughter (I know I should have listened to your mother, etc.) seemed a little bit forced, but these two criticisms are minor in comparison to the awesomeness of this story. I think you really nailed it here! I have shivers.

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Thanks for the comment! I know that my sentences some times do run on a bit and I have worked to correct that. The dialogue between the professor and his daughter was sort of forced but also was my thoughts for why anyone would bring children into Malifaux, or have them there lol.


Also, sense it was not mentioned yet and the voting is happening I will decode the Aethervox message for everyone. It was the bit in the blue color in my story.


“Erom on si dnuos litnu ecnelis. Uoy ediug lliw regnessem eht. Wonk ot meht sehsiw eh hcihw taht tuo dnif ton tsum yeht. Meht nraw ton tsum eh. Ydob sih morf sterces eht pir. Laicifitra eht nwod reat. Ecneics fo nam eht dnif. Htrof og.”



(Written in reverse spelling and starting at the end and going to the front)


"Go forth. Find the man of Science. Tear down the artificial. Rip the secrets from his body. He must not warn them. They must not find out that which he wishes them to know. The messenger will guide you. Silence until sound is no more."


That you again for all of the comments so far, I do appreciate them. And when I have more time I will work on the Case Files of Captain Griswalde once more. I hope I am able to evoke the same feelings in that story as I have here.


As Always,

The Grue

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