by thefourpartland

The second installment in a new short story, one of three from the upcoming Splintered Lands: Volume One.

  Ellgis cursed long and loud as the bucket of stones was hoisted into the air, his back bent into a curve from the strain. Fryca watched anxiously, slowly paying out a guide rope that kept the counterweight hidden from the path.

The hourglass sitting on a rock nearby had almost run dry by the time they finally got the weight into position. Pinning it with a release catch, they fled. If the ropes broke or the traps didn’t catch the Knights of the Broken Wheel, so be it.

At their home outside the village, Ellgis stuffed books and scraps of paper into a bag. Experiments he could rebuild if he had his notes, but without the notes? All his work was lost. Fryca grabbed food and tools. As they exited their house, a massive thump echoed through the swamp, followed by shouts and curses.

Maybe the trap had caught the Knights, maybe not. The two experimenters ran anyway, rowing a small skiff deep into the bog, following a twisting path they had marked out when they first came to the village. It was different now, for the swamp changed like a living thing, but they had left signs amongst the old trees, and enough remained that they were able to find their way to a mound rising out of the murky water.

On top was a simple hut, one room, nothing more, but it had enough supplies within that they could stay for a time. The waters about the camp had fruitful fishing, proven during one of their past sojourns. This was not the first village they had been forced to flee from, nor would it be the last. The Knights of the Broken Wheel were persistent in hunting down those accused of heresy, accused of bringing back the old ways that had shattered the world and brought down a plague upon the living.

No matter that sorcery had been responsible, and not knowledge. The Knights discriminated not at all between magic and technology, and so Ellgis and Fryca moved from hamlet to hamlet, staying only long enough to be spotted by some Wheelie sympathizer and forced to flee.

That had happened once again, and if any of the Knights had survived, the village would be put to the torch. Or more likely hacked apart with axes, for nothing burned well in the swamp.

The two technologists waited a week in their refuge, and only after the glass had turned over for the eighth day did they venture back towards the village and their traps.


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