Uncomfortably Safe

“Tell us what you know,” asked the Marshal of the Coterie du Honor.

Monsieur L’Horloge, dressed in his finest suit but with his hair still mussed, tapped his fingers on the enameled table. Each segment bore the sigil of a Chevalier, the one he sat at was gold violin bow over a vert saltire with a sable field. He knew that because he was told that when he first sat. It was the sigil of the Jeté Chevalier.

Iron lamps lit the weapons hung on the meeting room’s walls. Each was unique, some forged from metal, others carved from a variety of materials ranging from bright orange glass to what looked like jagged mahogany. There was even one that appeared to be nothing but a brass hilt but when the room fell silent the distant sound of wind was heard.

Sitting across from Monsieur L’Horloge was the Marshal. She was easily two meters tall with a bronze complexion and a shock of silver hair. Her armor was a scale mail comprised of tiny cresting waves, constantly crashing against an unseen coast. She was known, before assuming the leadership of the Coterie du Honor, as the Deathly Chevalier. It was possible they were not deliberately attempting to intimidate him but still…

“You need not fret,” said the Precise Chevalier who stood just to his left, “The Tower Cerulean is the safest place in all the Arrondissement.”

“And we have a common foe,” added the Marshal.

“Yes, of course,” he said.

“Would you like some water?” asked the Marshal.

“I’d prefer some wine,” he said with immediate regret.

“Afterward, I think. Let us think clearly in the present.”

“Yes, of course.”

A Page placed a crystal decanter of water and poured a goblet for Monsieur L’Horloge who gulped it down.

“Better?” asked the Marshal?

“Much better,” he lied.

“You told us how Mademoiselle Maxilline Couture brought you an item, an item you knew to be dangerous-“

“No, not exactly!” he blurted out.

The social temperature of the room dropped sharply.

“Pardon,” Monsieur L’Horloge added as quickly as he could, “But we don’t know if the item is dangerous.”

“Is it harmless?”

“That is also… Unclear.”

The Marshal regarded Monsieur L’Horloge with a look that was crafted to brook no-nonsense.

“Then what exactly is it and what does it do? Do not say that it is unclear.”

“It is unknown,” he said with an awkward smile.

“Do not try to be clever with me.”

Monsieur L’Horloge took another drink of water that he fervently wished it was wine or better still brandy and spoke.

“Unfortunately, very little is known about this item. It was thought to be, a myth.”

“But you have seen it?”

“Yes, I have.”

“But you know almost nothing about it.”

This was not a question.

“If you’ll allow me, I can give you a brief history of this machine.”

“Very well.”

“The father of my art form was The Huygens, he invented the first chronoton centuries ago. All the techniques of my guild were created by him, they may have been refined as time passed but, the basics have remained the same. In fact, the Grand Clock at the Imaginary Academy was built by him.”

The Marshal cleared her throat.

“Yes, well clocks were not all he made. He created some of the first automata and many other wonders. It would take hours to tell you all of his contributions, which you clearly don’t have, so I will just tell you about the item in question.

“It has become a legend, something he wrote about and even made rough diagrams of but until recently, I had thought it did not exist. No one knows what it does or how it works, other than it is related to time.”

“Is it an elaborate chronoton?”

“No, but it is intricate beyond measure, and a thing of beauty.”

“A well-crafted sword may be a work of art, but in skilled hands, it will spill blood.”

“I do not think it is a weapon, but it is dangerous because we do not know what it does.”

“What is it called?”

“The Penultimate Machine.”

“Do you know anything about it at all?”

“Only that it requires a key, that is what Frau Schlüsselherrin and I were working on.”

“You were unable to duplicate the key?”

“No, she could tell you more about the details-“

“I’m sure those can be discussed later. Do you have the Penultimate Machine in a safe location?”

“Very safe.”

“Tell me where and I will dispatch a Banner of Chevaliers to accompany you and you can bring it back to the Tower Cerulean.”

“If only it were that simple.”

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