Volume 1, Chapter 1

By NFDoggo

The winds whipped around the gargantuan harvester, only a small amount of sunlight managing to find its way through the labyrinth of swirling dust. The eerie, constant thrumming of the magical construct barely audible over the howling gusts. Here, somewhere in the land known as Bridgeworld, the Legion responsible for transporting Harvester Reconstruction Experiment No. #003, affectionally referred to as the “Hellhound” was lost.

“Why did you stop?” The Lead Engineer hopped out of their chamber on the side of the Hellhound, their words devoured by the wind.

“What?” The Chief Surveyor shouted in silent response. From a respectful distance, the Legionnaires looked on as the officers argued through a series of exaggerated charades.

“Don’t they teach them hand signals?” Fighter signed to their Friend, shaking their head in disgust.

“They’re too busy filling their days with maps and ancient texts,” Friend answers, laughing behind their mask.

“Least they could’ve done is spent some of that time learning about the weather in this hell hole before sending us out on transport. Oh, bugger all,” Fighter signs, pointing at the officers. “It looks like they’re going to fire the engines back up.”

Turning back to the Legion, Fighter directs their squire to raise the signal – time to move out. “Breaks over, friend.” Fighter pats Friend on the shoulder and moves to join the line of Legionnaires rapidly forming their column beside the Hellhound.

The Hellhound’s heartbeat grows loud, rapid as the engines ignite. The officers retire to their chambers and the Legionnaires’ column is still, ready to proceed.

One figure, however, stands alone, out of place beside the column, dwarfed by the immensity of the construct. Barely visible, this shadow races toward the Lead Engineer’s chambers as Fighter shouts hopelessly after. Fighter watches as Friend rips the Lead Engineer’s chamber door open and disappears inside.

The Lead Scout is beginning to signal for pursuit when, after a panicked minute, Friend and all of the officers come screaming out of their chambers, tearing away from the Hellhound and toward the column. The Hellhound’s heartbeat growing louder still, erupting into a terrifying roar that drowns even the wind.

“What is going on?” Fighter signals to Friend who falls to the ground beside them, gasping for air.

“I saw it,” Friend signs as the Hellhound’s engine begins to overheat, going into meltdown. The whole of the world around them erupts in blinding light and, for a moment, is still, the dust blown back, clear sky overhead, and the only sound a piercing ringing in their ears. Then, like a tidal wave, nature reasserts itself and the column stands alone beside the smoldering wreck of the Hellhound, the wind stirring the dust to life.

“I saw it,” Friend repeats. “I saw the flames rip through metal and flesh, I heard them screaming, I could feel the heat on my skin. It was real, it felt so real. But then I was back, and….” Friend is silent for a moment before staring up at Fighter, conviction in their eyes. “I don’t know how, but I saw it, I was there.”

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