CONTEXT/RATIONALE: A Tuesday session to resolve the dangling threads from Welcome To The Machine, albeit without Nick. So: much to explore, as in, Can the R-Thor battalions defeat the evil vampire cog-regiments? who is Malegea and where did Bors go with her? Read on…
Bors of Ganis and Malegea pass through the dimensions and find themselves in the upper chamber of a huge tower. The light of the setting sun illuminates the room through a set of high windows, but most of the chamber is in shadow. Workbenches are filled with archaic laboratory equipment, bookshelves are loaded with scrolls, blueprints and bell jars holding strange organs. Under a heavy sheet there is a mechanical man, apparently long dead, whose exploding wiring creates the impression of long unkempt hair and beard. Malegea unveils this figure and kneels beside it, calling it ‘merlin’. Bors looks out of the windows: eastwards he sees the ruins of Camelot under a cold moon, but westwards he is looking at the endless spires and rooftops of Dreaming Gorre; he is in a room between two worlds.
Bors knows that he knows this place, but cannot remember. At first he refuses Malegea’s offer to reimplant his clockwork memory chip, removed by the nurses of R-Odin. Malegea explains that the dead cog-person was Merlin Aurelianus, her mentor and Bors’ friend. She offers to show Bors their sons and activates one of the mysterious alcoves. A glass tube rises into it, inside which a pale troll-like figure is suspended, wrapped in a metallic umbilical cord. Malegea gazes at it in wonder: this is one of the White Elyan, offspring off her dream-science and Bors’ flesh.
Bors has to know more, so he agrees to the brain surgery. Malegea makes him sit in a chair and teasingly straddles him; horrifically, her hand falls away at the wrist and a buzzing circular saw extends out. She kisses Bors fiercely as she drills into his skull.
In the R-Mjollnir arsenal, Dodinel the Savage has new toys: the Sleipnir and Niddhog units are armoured robot lizards, with eight magnetised legs and flamethrowers mounted in their mouths, as well as a shielded cockpit for the pilot. Dodinal switches cheerfully to his Unseelie Legacy, commandeers one and leads a task force to take the fight to the enemy.
The first target is the R-Freya barracks, because Alexandyr has not yet corrupted the entire regiment. R-Loki insurgents are able to infiltrate the loyalist ranks, blowing up or subverting units and producing epic battles between giant robot lizards. Thora Drake is able to use her authority to expose the insurgents, no matter how well disguised they are. R-Freya is liberated after an intense skirmish and Thora awakes the rest of the R-Freya troops to serve the loyalist cause.
Bors recovers from his operation with greater Remembrance. He remembers Aurelianus the mechanical wizard and Brandegoris the Nocker King who created (so he boasted) Malegea. He remembers their doomed love and the project they embarked on to save Camelot. It had something to do with the Grail. Now awake, he looks round the room and is surprised to see the lifeless eyes of Aurelianus looking at him. Has the dead cog-wizard moved? He covers it with a sheet again and goes looking for Malegea.
He finds her in one of the chambers below, weeping. Only a half dozen of the Elyan remain in their tanks. The other tanks are smashed and empty. Did the Elyan escape or were they taken? Bors fears the latter, yet the tower is sealed and warded against intrusion from either Ruined Camelot or Dreaming Gorre. He comforts Malegea and they agree to return to Dreaming Surluse and undo the damage caused by Alexandyr. Using Corbin’s Claw again, Bors rends the wall between walls and hand in hand they step through.
Time has passed more quickly in Surluse, where the campaign against Alexandyr advances. R-Thor units batter the Enemy’s positions, but the R-Mjollnir robo-lizards prove decisive. One particular redoubt holds out heroically against Dodinel’s assaults, but Thora intervenes to suggest another way. Under a white flag of truce she approaches the R-Loki General Fang to plead for his units to surrender. The Blood Bound cog-soldier cannot. So Thora seizes his hand and channels her Fae Gift of Casgadh Fala into him. General Fang goes into convulsions as the vampire’s evil Vitae drains out of his pipes and gears and pools on the floor. Reclaimed to the loyalist cause, Fang orders his units to stand down and surrender the redoubt without further loss of life.
Bors and Malegea have returned, but to the very foundations of Dreaming Surluse, beneath the furnaces that power the Forgotten Factories. They can hear the battles raging above, shaking the foundations and dropping clouds of dust and ash as heavy explosions rock the factories above.
In the middle of the foundations is an ancient well dropping into Darkness. The Darkness is the primordial Darkness, the Darkness that existed before the first story. It was here, Malegea explains, that flint first struck flint and, in the light of the first fire, the first story was told and the Dream of Surluse began, but every realm has a similar story and a similar place. Every dream is built on Darkness.
A structure of girders and cables hangs above the well, holding a glass capsule above the Darkness. The capsule is now open. It was here, Malegea explains, that Alexandyr and his new disciple Lancelot found her. She had been a thousand years left to hang above the Darkness, slumbering without rest, her story a sacrifice to keep the Darkness at bay.
“The chroniclers even forgot my name,” she adds bitterly, “and said I’d gone into a nunnery.”
“Alexandyr came up from the Darkness itself. His power broke the wards. Maybe I’d lost hope and that’s why they broke. I knew only bitterness and swore to aid Alexandyr, to bring on Darkness’ war. But,” she adds, “that was before you returned to me.”
Alexandyr’s crypt is a huge cathedral-like space above the R-Loki arsenals. Specially adapted R-Loki heavy infantry hold off the robo-lizards until R-Mjollnir cannons move into place. Their onslaught melts the cog-people and the Sleipnir units to slag, but Dodinel ejects to safety.
Alexandyr stands before his coffin, his impressive physique augmented by cybernetic grafts, his armour powered by a combination of steam and blood. He rests on his two-handed sword, weary but unbowed. He seems to be waiting. Now Seelie again, Dodinel appeals to him. Dodinel reminds the dragon spirit inside Alexandyr of its crimes in the past. He argues passionately that its current symbiosis with an undead horror is an abomination. He calls on the dragon Temys to remember its sisters. He claims he is part of the Chain, charged by the Raven, the Fox and the Cat to bring the dragon home.
The dragon responds to this in the most unexpected way.
Shaken free of the Darkness’ grip on its soul, the dragon makes a prophecy and an action.
“Not yet but to come is the time when the chain shall be reforged. Dragonfire will illuminate the Darkness. Attend on me then, faithful one, and in token of such time I dub you Knight of the Dragon, in the name of the Dreaming, Camelot and Dragonkind”
The greatsword touches Dodinel’s shoulders and he rises a Knight.
Horns blare out from all around as a new force of gilded and sleek cog-marines march into the crypt, taking up positions around Alexandyr and Dodinel. Watching from a balcony overhead, Bors and Malegea see Prince Gallehault arriving in his impressive clockwork armour. The Prince dismisses Sir Gawaine with a curt word then advances to confront Alexandyr, who has gone back to resting on his sword. He nods towards Dodinel as if to say, ’I’ll take it from here.’ Dodinel steps back to find Bors has leapt down from the balcony to join him.
With a whoosh, the dark figure of Lancelot lands between Gallehault. His deadly spear is raised to defend his new lord. Gallehault raises his electrified sword in response.
Bors appeals to Lancelot: “Hold, cousin!”
Gallehault realises who Lancelot is.
Both men’s armour retracts, letting them view one another’s faces: Gallehault handsome and vain, Lancelot scarred and embittered, but both with eyes widened in joyous recognition. They call one another ‘Brother’ and embrace.
“He whom you call Lord, " Gallehault announces to his old friend, “will command my friendship, as it ever was.” And the Prince of Surluse bows to Alexandyr who nods in grim satisfaction. Then, as one, Gallehault and Lancelot turn their weapons on Bors and Dodinel. Realising their danger, Sir Dodinel is first to react. He grabs Bors and the two leap to the balcony overhead, dodging the spear and sword by a whisker as the deadly weapons split the stone floor where they stood. Bors grabs Malegea’s hand and Corbin’s Claw cuts through the realms and they escape into London.
In the Crypt, Prince Gallehault calls on the loyalist units to end their war of resistance, submit to Alexandyr and hand over the enemy agent Sir Gawaine.