Trench Wars by WantedHero | World Anvil Manuscripts | World Anvil

CHAPTER 9 - In The Beginning

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It’s difficult, if not impossible, to properly appreciate and navigate the present, unless we come to grips with and truly understand our past.

 

 

Deloris had Morty pinned in a corner, trying to calm him down. The gnome was so irate, he’d taken a swing at the wizard. She kept a firm hand on his chest, speaking soothing words of encouragement. Nat towed a small cart into the room with a monitor on top, for Motherboard to join in the meeting. Lili was tidying up the dishes and straightening the chairs, dark rings under her eyes, her movements slow and sluggish.

Dax leaned near as he passed, “You sure you want ta let the cat outta the bag?”

Chuck slumped in his chair, “I don’t think we have much of a choice, my boy. He caught an angry glance from Morty, before Deloris yanked the tinkerers chin around to face her. The wizard sighed, “Not if we’re going to get their help.” He reached out and squeezed Dax’s shoulder, “And we are going to need their help. So just…go with me on this one, will you? No matter what, keep the peace and follow my lead.”

Dax nodded silently and took his seat next to Alhannah. The gnome sat silently, fixated on a small stain in the surface of the table. She slowly scraped at it incessantly with a fingernail, oblivious to the others in the room.

Lili slowly sat down in the chair next to Chuck. One hand rested on the table, dainty fingers strumming a beat on the surface. Her hairline looked frazzled and wild. When the strumming stopped, her fingers quivered, like a muscle spasm.

“I didn’t know,” she said in a tense gasp. When she turned towards the wizard, her eyes were swollen, red and wet. Her lips also quivered—the anguish of regret. She choked through the tears. “I didn’t know it was a seal.”

Chuck turned his attention towards her, ignoring the grunts and blips and other unnatural sounds in the room. He didn’t look unkind or angry, but his face was solemn, uninvolved. “You didn’t ask either,” he said cooly, “You simply sought to take what did not belong to you.”

“But,” she started, considering her words, “I didn’t really know who it belonged to anyway.” She clenched her eyes tight, realizing her mistake, “Not that that made what I did any better.”

“No, it didn’t Liliolevanumua,” he said roughly, “It didn’t matter who it belonged to. All you needed to understand was that it didn’t belong to you. That should have been enough.”

Dax coughed, frowning at the wizard. They exchanged a few odd glances as Lili choked back her tears and rubbed her eyes with her palms.

When she looked up, her face was flushed. “So this is all my fault.”

Chuck opened his mouth to reply, but Dax growled from his chest. The wizard exhaled silently. “No,” he said softly. Reaching over, he gripped the young girls wrist and held it firm until she looked him in the eye. “No, it’s not all your fault. Though you do have to take some responsibility for where we are and what now has to be done.” Her brows arched upward in disbelief, and a sob escaped her lips. The corners of Chucks mustache curled upward, “And we’re going to make it better, you and I. You have a powerful future Liliolevanumua. That’s precisely why I brought you along.” He patted the back of her hand and winked, “You watch, we’ll make this work.”

He looked over at Dax, who grinned and nodded.

“I think we’re ready, Morphiophelius,” said Nat. Motherboards face came into focus on the monitor, which Nat then placed at the opposite end of the table. “The time is now yours.”

They all positioned themselves around the table.

Chuck cleared his throat, the sudden attention a bit unnerving. “I know some of you are upset,” he looked pleadingly at Morty, “maybe even mad, but I don’t have all the answers, mind you. I do have information…and I have a plan, which I’d like to share with you now. Hopefully, with your help and counsel, we can find all the answers.” He motioned toward Motherboard, “The G.R.R. and your Cry-thingy-majigger-blue-face have access to the records of your people. The FAF also does a wonderful job, but what I offer now isn’t in any of your files. I was part of…” he cleared his throat again, “secret conversations and decisions that the general populace and guilds were excluded from.”

“That’s absurd,” Morty argued, folding his arms. “Gnomes record everything.”

“Shhh,” warned Deloris, “Let him speak.”

Chuck looked over at Alhannah, who seemed to be struggling with paying attention. He wondered how badly he’d let her down or disappointed her. “I gave my word,” he said firmly, “for those who may feel I betrayed you. I couldn’t tell you. Not anyone,” he pointed, “not even Dax. If anyone knew what was being planned, your entire people would have been in jeopardy. So I’m sorry, not for keeping these secrets,” Alhannah looked up, “but for damaging any trust or expectations you had in me.”

Pulling a scroll from his sleeve, Chuck unrolled it across the table, so all could see. It was a world map, each of the continents drawn clearly in proportion. He tapped a gnarled finger in the center of Humär. “It was 6502 sundering,” he looked up, “or 499CT when I was approached.”

“CT?”

“It stands for Chime Time, Ms. Lili,” Motherboard explained, “We keep our own records from the year we left the continent of Humär, which was 6003 sundering.”

“Oh.”

Chuck drew an invisible line with his finger across the western part of the continent. “It had been nearly 430 years since Mahan had been exiled to Unrest,” his finger circled a long set of unlabeled mountains just off the western coastline and then down across the valley of Andilain. “King Robert the II had ruled for more than sixty years and though he was a good man, evil was creeping back into the land. I was called to make an address to the royal family at Til-Thorin, hopefully to avoid what history now calls the Kinslayer Wars.” He looked to Dax, who bowed his head in silence, “I was riding south with an armed guard when he appeared in the road.”

Deloris looked up from the map, “Who appeared?”

“The Hero. The guards tried to charge him, thinking him to be another brigand, but their horses refused—pulling away or rearing up to dislodge their riders.” The wizard laughed softly, “Animals always loved that man.” Shaking his head, “We walked in the woods for a while and he shared his plight. It was only a matter of time before those who served darkness would succeed in discovering the whereabouts of their masters chains.” Chuck pulled the hat from his head and dropped it on the table. “He then asked for my counsel.”

Leaning once more over the map, “The first two seals had already been hidden. The third had to be tucked away somewhere special. Somewhere nearly impossible to find.” He tapped the continent of Pävärios, “This island was ideal. You’d lived most of your existence here without fear, without being discovered…and you were already well on your way to building this great city.”

“So you laid the burden on us,” grumbled Morty. Deloris quickly hit him in the shoulder. “What? He needs to hide his crap, so he picks on the little people!”

“Really?” Dax snorted, “You think you’re being used as a scape goat for someone else’s problems, do ya? Well why isn’t this just as much your problem and concern as it is ours?” He pointed over at Lili, “As it is the human’s burden?” He pounded his own chest, “Or my own people? We might not have been hunted in the way your people were, but we were hunted nonetheless!”

Chuck sighed, “Dax…”

“No Chuck, the gnomes didn’t fight in the wars. They lost thousands in their plight. Oh, yeah, I’ve read your histories, seen the numbers.” He snarled, “But we lost millions, Morty. While you left to go build your sanctuary, my people were burned out of their homes and huddled at the feet of the humans! We bled and died side by side with Kutollum and Iskari and Nocturi and Humans to make the world safe for all!” He slammed his fist down, rattling the table so hard, Nat had to catch Motherboard from falling off the edge, “So forgive me if I don’t see you havin’ much ta complain about!” He snarled at the gnome and whispered, “Velpä.”

Chuck gasped, “Now that wasn’t nice.”

Morty shook his fist, “Did he just insult me?” Looking wildly at Deloris, “We’re into name calling now, is that it?”

Dax remained still and smiled across the table.

“Morphiophelius is correct,” interrupted Motherboard, “and I agree with Dax as well.”

The elf frowned, “You do?”

Motherboard nodded, “Most certainly. I have read much of world history, not just the past of my own people—and though we certainly have our own plights, we have not suffered as desperately as others.”

“Now wait just a tickin’…” objected Morty.

“We have protected ourselves behind a fortress of steel and stone which has never been challenged.” He smiled from behind his mirrored glasses, “And for one, I am curious as to why we have been chosen over all others as the last defense for this world.”

Morty clamped his mouth shut.

“In fact,” Motherboard added, “I feel quite honored.” He nodded at the wizard, “Please continue.”

Chuck pulled a handkerchief from his sleeve and dabbed his forehead. “Oh, uh, right…well, I,” he frowned, “where was I?”

“Gnomes,” Alhannah said with a smirk.

“Ah yes, gnomes. Lovely people, you lot. More brilliant than even you realize I think and I told the Hero so. Said you would most likely be the key to tipping the scales against the Dark Lord…so long as you were left alone long enough to develop your potential.” He stood upright, throwing his arms wide, “And look at you! Amazing! Outstanding! Inspiring!” he looked at Alhannah and winked, “…and I daresay a tad clever to boot.”

She laughed out loud.

“The Hero stood there silent, looking over my shoulder, a vacant look in his eyes, like he was looking at something that wasn’t quite there, if you know what I mean?” Alhannah, Dax and Morty all snickered. “And when he noticed me again, he handed me,” he made hand motions, as if holding a parcel, “a bag.”

Deloris raised an eyebrow, “A bag.”

Chuck nodded, “Yup. About this small, made of pretty blue fabric and long draw string. Said to take it to the gnomes and find the greatest of all tinkerers and give it to him.” He smiled at everyone, standing there, hands on hips.

Nat squinted, mouth open, “Annnnnd?”

“And what?”

“What did you do with the bag?”

Alhannah raised her hand, “What was in the bag?”

“I want to know who the tinkerer was,” added Deloris.

“What did you tell the tinker, when you gave it to him?” asked Lili.

“That’s tinker-er, dear,” Morty corrected her.

“My apologizes.”

“Goodness!” snapped the wizard, “So many questions!” he fell back into his chair, “Well long story short I came to Clockworks, talked with the mayor, he sent me to the top tinkerer and I dropped off the bag. Told him it was important, don’t lose it…and left.”

Dax choked on his spit and started coughing.

Alhannah gulped, “You, just dropped it off?”

Chuck scratched his head, pondering, “Well, yeah. The Hero specifically said to do it and do it quick—that I shouldn’t know the details. That when it was time, it would be found.”

“What is THAT supposed to mean?” Dax gasped.

“I think it means that when it’s time,” the wizard cocked his head to the side, giving the elf a patronizing look, “it will be found.”

“ARRRRGH!”

“You know,” Chuck said defensively, “this IS why I’m asking for help. Have you all forgotten my preface? I did in fact say that I did not have all the answers…”

Deloris scoffed, “That also implies that you have some.”

“Hmmm. Sorry about that.”

“I don’t think this will be a problem,” Motherboard said aloud. “This should be a matter of navigating history and gaining access to private gnome records. Shouldn’t be a problem, so long as we can come to an agreement.”

The room fell silent. The picture of Motherboard used a finger to push the mirrored sunglasses up onto his face. “As the leader of the Gnome Resistance Revolutionaries, I can pledge our support to you, Morphiophelius—for something in return.”

The wizard looked between Dax and Alhannah, then over at Lili. “What could we possibly have or do that would be of any value to you?”

The grin was one of a cunning fox, who had just found the hen house full…and no sign of the rooster. “You have the Gnolaum.”

Dax jumped up from his chair, “Now you wait just a…”

“Please,” Motherboard interrupted, holding his hands up in view, “hear me out. That’s all I ask.”

It was a few moments before Chuck responded. Everyone in the room seemed suddenly tense. Morty looked confused and both Deloris and Nat exchanged glances of bewilderment. The wizard knew this was something new. Something unplanned. “I’m listening.”

“There are things going on within the walls of this city that should be exposed. Corruption, lust for power and malcontent are rampant through both the government and religious factions. Though we have a growing base of support, the G.R.R. cannot make a significant difference for the people without the right support. Wendell…the Gnolaum, is one of the foundational beliefs of our people. It’s not a matter of religion or going to church—but believing in a future where we can step into the light and rejoin a world that has all but forgotten that we exist!”

Motherboards face pulled back, revealing more of his body. “I propose an alliance between us. That the Gnolaum become the spokesperson for the G.R.R..”

“What!?” stammered Dax, “I don’t want to be stuck here forever—and I ain’t leavin’ the kid!”

But the gnomes were already chatting away, openly excited about the idea. Even Alhannah grinned from ear to ear.

“I like the idea,” she said to Chuck, “because it takes the focus off of the faulty media and lies of the two main seats of power and puts it on something real. Someone real.”

Stroking his beard, the wizard considered, “What would this entail? Wendell has a whole world to look after, not just Clockworks.”

“Agreed,” said Motherboard, “but while you’re here and when you visit, he could have a powerful influence on the populace. Get us focused on what’s important and guide us back into the society of men.”

“I don’t like it,” complained Dax. “Wendell ain’t a bargaining chip to be tossed around.”

“I do like it,” countered Lili. She sat upright and smiled back at the gnomes, “I would love to introduce my own people the kindness and wonders you have shown me. If Wendell can be a bridge to make that happen…”

Chuck stared at Motherboard, “And if we agreed?”

“Then you have the full and unconditional power, support and protection of this organization.”

“I agree with Dax in that Wendell must speak for himself.” Tossing his beard over his leg, “He’s not a slave.”

Motherboard nodded, “I would never want him or ask him to be one.”

“And with so much at stake, you would have to understand that he cannot be prevented from doing what he’s guided to do through the Ithari.”

“Also agreed.”

Chuck stared firmly at the screen, “Under any and all circumstances.”

A momentary paused, and then, “I understand.”

Chuck smiled, “Then this could work out to both our advantage.”

Mother smiled in return, “That’s the plan.”

“I think you’re both missing something critical,” chimed in Deloris. “Though the church faction holds great power over the people, it no longer has much, if anything to do with religion.”

“What do you mean, dear?” asked Morty, who now seemed overly pleased at the turn the conversation had taken.

“I’m saying that just because Wendell shows up, even if he is the Gnolaum, the normals aren’t likely to care. We have lost our sense of history, our purpose and our potential. I have serious doubts that we’ll be able to get anyone’s attention if we start shouting religion from the rooftops. In fact, it just might have the opposite effect.”

“I hate to admit it,” added Nat, “but I think Deloris is right. Besides, we’re not promoting religion, we’re promoting truth and freedom. If done wrong, it could seriously backfire.”

“What do you propose, Nat?” asked Motherboard.

“We need a way to get the normal’s attention in a way they’re accustomed to. A campaign that will grab their attention and keep it. Something…that they already participate in, so they don’t have to change their views—just shift them.”

Nat flinched as Alhannah burst into laughter.

She rocked back and forth in her chair, grinning from ear to ear and shaking her head.

“Something ya wanna share with the rest o’the class, ‘Hannah?” smirked Dax.

She leaned forward and planted a kiss in the middle of his forehead. “I know exactly how the Gnolaum can get the attention of the populace.”

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