Written by the EM Team
It had been quite some time since the man had awoken, before the machine bothered to address him. And when it finally did, it came with such suddenness that the man would have likely lost his balance had he been standing…as it was, it threw him from a reverie of meditation into an already foul mood as soon as it started.
“Congratulations are in order for you I suppose, Lord Blackthorn.” His title was thrown at him in a mechanic approximation of contempt and dissatisfaction…one that Lord Blackthorn found surprisingly well imitated.
“Are they? I was personally rather frustrated with myself for not having yet found a way out of this strange place…but to hear you here does give me a slight sense of satisfaction. I can tell from the sound that you are actually here…though how you’ve concealed yourself during my attempts at exploration are beyond my fathoming. I don’t suppose you’d care to enlighten me, Exodus?” Blackthorn managed to put on an air of feigned indifference with ease. He was a nobleman after all.
“Yes…and your efforts have proven as fruitless as I at escape. And concealment was not difficult; You are not the only one who can utilize magic, warlock. I was also curious at the nature of your belongings…I took the liberty of going through them while you were recovering.” With that, a folded wooden box hurtled out of the darkness, skidding along the strange polished marble floor of the chamber they had found themselves in, before coming to a rest at Blackthorn’s boots. “I believe that this is a game of yours…”
Blackthorn bent down to lift up the small, portable chess set that he had received as a gift. He ran his fingers along the inlaid inscription for a moment. ‘Though we sit on opposite sides of the board, may we always reach across in friendship. –C.B.’ Blackthorn sat upon the floor and opened the board up, beginning to set the pieces down, much to Exodus’ curiosity. “Perhaps, Exodus, you might indulge me in playing, then…”
A curious mechanical whir was his only answer for many moments, before the creature stepped forth in front of him. “And what do you think is in this for me?”
Blackthorn just smiled softly. “Information. A chance to match yourself against me. An alleviation to boredom. Any number of things…if you’re up to it.”
The demonic machine stepped forth, lumberingly giant, but as it did it’s legs folded away, somehow vanishing into it’s body, and taking on a much smaller form, before positioning itself across from Blackthorn. “Very well then. Let us…play.”
Blackthorn’s smile went cold as he positioned his first piece.
Time had lost its meaning. He did not truly know if time even flowed in this place, this strange dimension that Gilforn’s creation and his own magic had sent them to, but he did know that the machine was beginning to get quite good at chess. He had nearly lost several matches now, only pausing to create food, drink, and to rest. Today somehow felt different though, as they moved the pieces across the board.
It was then that Exodus spoke, almost as if in idle conversation. “I’ve enjoyed our little talks over this game of yours. I suspected some sort of trick at first…but I have concluded that you honestly believe you can convince others with just your words. And while you do weave such pretty little tales, and are no doubt charming to your own kind…your own arrogance is your undoing.”
Blackthorn was taken aback; in all their games so far, the machine had never spoken thus to him. He was wary for some sort of trick as he placed his piece and signaled for Exodus to take his turn. “I do not follow your train of reasoning; I have not and am not undone, creature. I have certainly done enough to foil your own plans for my world.”
Exodus took his turn before looking down upon the human. “Do you truly think I am so weak as to be stopped by this sort of inconvenience? Certainly, you’ve set me back…but take stock of your own situation. Dwindling supplies of reagents that provide you with food and water. Trapped with me. And you…you don’t quite know how to speak across dimensions as I do yet, do you? Or did you just assume I was speaking to you from your own before? Oh, I can see the wheels turning in your head now…Yes, I have still been in contact with the machines you didn’t destroy. They’re hard at work in preparation once more.”
Blackthorn’s hand paused for a moment as he reached for his knight, moving it out to prevent another advance. “You’re bluffing. And you’re mistaken if you think I have some way out of here…if I had, I would have used it and left you here in the first moments of our imprisonment. And there would have been no reason for you to play with me and listen to my stories.”
“Unless, of course, that I had my own purposes for both things…you see, I am well versed in your people, and could sense the link you had to them. You may not have known, but you were still someone to be looked up to. My purpose will be served by your ideal of Chaos, Blackthorn…and I intend to achieve that through none other than yourself. Check.”
Blackthorn furrowed his brow deeply in thought. He looked over the board carefully at his available options, and used a rook to free his king. “I’ve already refused your offer…and there is nothing you can say that will change my opinion on that matter.”
Exodus let out a noise that Blackthorn had come to realize was his equivalent of amused laughter, as he moved a bishop across the board, taking the rook. “I’ll take your word on that, even if you don’t quite worship Honor and Honesty as do some of your comrades. That’s why I’ve simply been learning everything about you that you so readily gave up…information you thought to be worthless, as you could see no purpose in my having it. But that information has proven itself quite useful. Check.”
Blackthorn could only see losing options in this particular game, so he stalled for time. He used his queen to take the bishop, leaving her vulnerable to his opponents queen. “Knowing whatever I’ve told you won’t help you convince me.” Blackthorns spare hand held itself tightly against his reagent pouch as he waited for Exodus to respond.
Exodus slowly moved his queen to take Blackthorns. “Humans, like machines are just a conglomeration of parts. Body and chassis, organs and engine, soul and ignition spark. It is arrogant to think that you are somehow special and unique amongst all others. Check.”
Blackthorn knew that he had lost this game, but he still had a move left, as one hand moved his king back a tile, and his other clenched his reagent pouch determinedly. “You cannot use that which defies you, Exodus. And I will always defy you.”
Exodus reached out and picked up his remaining rook, and moved it to the spot. “Check…” He began, before moving at a blinding speed once more, passing over the board in an instant and wrenching the reagents away from Blackthorn, pressing him to the floor with a heavy metal appendage upon his sternum…but not killing him. “…and mate. Just as I am well versed in your people, so am I in your magic. I could sense the link between you and this place; And as I stated…your arrogance is your undoing. You thought that you could destroy us both at your leisure by killing yourself and destroying this dimension. It’s true, you may have eliminated me that way…but you thought you were in control. And as for using you…I’ve already begun. Even know, the construction of your facsimile has begun. It will be you…with all the memories, stories, and ambitions you have told me…but stripped of this nobility and sense of compassion that you so disgustingly show. Even if it is defeated, it will forever tarnish your reputation, for daring to defy me…and will turn the people against each other. After all, if your precious King was so wrong about his friend, what else might he have been wrong about? Of course, you won’t get to see it…I need to keep you safe and sound until I can escape this realm, and your supply of reagents IS running thin…so it’s time you slept, Lord Blackthorn.” With that, a powerful energy surged through Exodus and into Blackthorn, and everything went dark.