His Majesty’s Service, Altair Awakes, Chapter 1.3

It would have appeared, if anyone else had been present, that a large figure wearing full armor stood in the middle of the dilapidated shack. There was a small screeching  sound made from an instrument held by a crookedly formed man in magician robes, hunched in front of the figure. The little man would have appeared as though he was scratching something into the figure’s  chest, or rather his breast plate. 

If anyone else had been there. 

But no one else was. 

The crooked little man was crooked because he was old, quite old, and his spectacles dangled from a pointy nose, while a tongue stuck out to the right of his puckered mouth. He reached back several times to a tray, which contained other small instruments, swapping out one tool for another. Sometimes he seemed satisfied. Other times far from it.  He was in the middle of a work shop of some kind, a workshop of very modest means.

The little man made a little sigh. He then looked back from the chest where he was doing the scratching work. He now held a small knife in a dirty hand and with one last motion, poked it at the chest where it made a small scraping noise of metal on metal. 

“There now. Your name, my armored friend,” said the man’s soft yet intelligent voice,“is Altair. We shall call you,” he paused and rechecked his work as if forgetting it already, “Altair Wynter.”

There was no answer from the mage’s so called armored friend. He, the figure with a now inscribed breast plate, the figure who was just named by an old man,  stood silently, being by far the largest thing in the little work shop, which for all appearances was more of a shack.  

It was made of rough pieces of wood, many of which were of strange sizes and clearly used to patch exposed areas. Thin streams of dim golden light shone through several cracks along one side of the wall. The sun was setting, or rising. One couldn’t tell in such conditions. If another had been there.

Along the makeshift walls of the shack were makeshift shelves, and on these were all manner of things in bottles, tubes and buckets. They themselves looked makeshift.  Many slender things that looked like they had once been edible, but now were not, hung from hooks above, from a wall that looked as though it were nearly caving in. The only other object of note in the place, besides a small bed made of a mixture of straw, down and a single small filthy blanket, was a stool on four legs. Resting on the stool, upside down, was a blue hat.

It, like everything here, everything except the figure standing, had seen better days.

A noise came from the hat, but it was faint. Perhaps a mouse had found something inside. 

The figure before the mage was indeed armored, and for any eyes that would look upon it was nothing more than a suit of armor.  It stood upon a small wooden platform, without any kind of rack to hold it up, itself a magic trick. It’s metal was well oiled, and although it was of fine craftsmanship and obviously quite a relic, it was in excellent shape–with little rust in any of it’s hinges or joints.  The armor was complete, with gauntlets, chain mail betwixt them and shoulder plates, breast and back plates and smaller ones along the kidneys and the center of the belly–none left space for exposed flesh. The legs too were completely covered in magnificently hammered sheets that expertly if not elegantly suited whoever might wear it. The feet covered in metal scales, perhaps hundreds of them, that lay against one another as though fitted by a master craftsman who wanted boots of steel, not leather.

Atop the shoulders, sat a helm. The helm was rather simple. It too had no gaps,  except for two small slits which would reveal the eyes of the wearer.

And as the silent suit of armor stood, it’s helm staring down upon the mage, and the mage looked up into those slits, the old man’s face spread into a wide and fanatical grin. It was a grin of happiness. No not happiness, it was jubilation. Triumph. 

“You’re awake! Welcome Altair! Welcome to the world!”

The mage clapped his hands together, and danced around on the dirty floor–he shrieked with delight, pulling up his robes as though he were a young girl at a festival. “He’s awake! He’s awake!”

There was a creak, and a great groaning noise of metal on metal.  And the armored friend as the mage had called him moved  a metallic hand upwards as if it wanted to see what it’s guantleted hand looked like, and then there was another creaking, and the other hand moved as well.

A creak came then from inside the helm, and a voice croaked out, “Who. Are. You?” A silence settled on the little shack. The rustling in the blue hat stopped. 

The little magician’s body froze, save for his mouth. “I am  Salaman,” said the old man quickly. He clapped his hands together and spun around like a child.

“Who am I?” asked the gruff voice.

The little old man stopped and his long white beard settled under his chin. He turned towards the figure–his joy melted into something more serious. “You are Altair Wynter.”

“Am I alive?”

“Oh yes! Yes! You are alive Altair. You’re as alive as me!” His joyful demeaner returned then, and he laughed hysterically as if this was a monumental joke to him. The little old man walked over to the figure  with a skip and then another. Gingerly, slowly, he reached out his hand, fingers trembling, and placed them on the cold metal of the breast plate, over the name he had etched. 

Metal ground on metal, and the helm angled downward towards the little man whose hand was pressed against his chest plate before him. The gruff voice asked, “Where have I come from, Salaman?” 

The mage stared at the name he had carved on the breast plate. “I don’t know Altair.” The little mage pushed the spectacles higher on his nose, and the figure saw his little grey eyes twinkling,  “But would you like to find out with me?”

“Yes,” replied the voice in the helm. It rang out inside the metal, and then it rang out inside the little shack. It echoed there, among the other curiosities on the shelves, exposing the hollow space it stood in.

Again and again, the voice echoed inside the little shack, as if it wasn’t meant to be there, as if, like the form it belonged to, it was too big for the space.

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