Ellis was amazed that his legs still worked. He and Broken-Hope had been walking through the catacombs of the Fallen for what he thought must be miles and, to make matters worse, he had been steadily loaded with containers holding small parts and other items which the Former Baron had requested for the Accelerator. He was starting to feel rather overloaded and wasn’t exactly pleased that Broken-Hope did not feel the need to carry anything himself. The mysterious Fallen simply swept ahead of him, navigating the confusing passageways with ease, whilst Ellis did his best to keep up, without a clue as to where they were anymore.
Mostly they had travelled in silence, although occasionally Ellis would ask a question or Broken-Hope would make some commentary on the chamber they had just entered. It was just enough to break the monotony, no more.
At one point Ellis asked a question that had been bothering him for some time.
"This lab we're working out of - it used to belong to one of you called Reason-Unbound, right?"
"That is correct."
"And now it's just left empty. Did no one want to take up his work when he died?"
"He didn't die. The Fallen do not die."
"We prefer the word Eternal, although, I suppose, that is not strictly true, since we did have a beginning."
"So if Reason-Unbound didn't die, what happened to him? Why is he not still using his lab?"
"Reason-Unbound's course was an unusual one. He took to the spirit of our rebellion against our Father more than most, becoming obsessed to the point of even trying to disprove our Father even existed."
"How does that work? Surely you can't be in any doubt about your own father, or how else would you have come to be? None of that makes any sense."
"Many of us would agree with that, but Reason-Unbound believed that if there was any way to logically disprove the existence of our Father in this universe then he would have achieved some kind of final victory over Him."
"He sounds crazy."
"So, what happened?"
"At first Reason-Unbound met with some success. He was able to demonstrate the consistent laws of the universe in such a way that suggested no need of our Father whatsoever. He was very proud of his findings and he announced them daily in the city square in Enoch, even as the rest of us were more concerned with dominating the world he had been exiled to, but as our conquests began to fail and our empire began to crumble, so too did Reason-Unbound's discoveries seem to diminish."
"He stopped discovering things?" Ellis asked, shifting the load he was carrying into a more comfortable position as they paused, briefly, at a crossroads.
"That is what we thought at first. He was spending even more time in his lab than he had been before and whenever he was seen outside all we could read in him was confusion and dejection, but then, one day, he reappeared in the city square, filled with joy. He said he was Reason-Unbound no more, but Reason-Directed, that he had been wrong all these millennia. He said many other things besides, but we did not listen. He had become a pariah amongst us and his words counted for nothing. A few weeks later he simply vanished."
"Do you think, perhaps, that rather than finding nothing he found something very important that he was trying to tell you."
"Yes. That is exactly what I think... now. I didn't then and thus, I didn't listen and now I shall never know."
"Maybe it will be rediscovered?"
"Maybe," Broken-Hope replied doubtfully.
They continued on in silence after that until, much to Ellis' surprise, they arrived back at the carved door to Reason-Unbound's laboratory. Voices drifted out from within. He could hear Siren admonishing the Former Baron for something he had just said and then a sullen young voice added an inaudible comment which was echoed by an older, female voice.
"Greta! Luke!" Ellis called out as he realised what he was hearing and then he hurried through the door into the lab, nearly spilling his pile of parts and supplies as he went. "You're okay!"
The glare he got from Luke as the disaffected youth turned towards him nearly froze him in his tracks, however, and Greta's usually warm expression was not much cheerier.
"You forgot about us, didn't you?" Greta said arms crossed, suddenly sounding like a number of school teachers Ellis could remember.
"Not cool," Luke added, before turning back to look at Siren.
Carefully Ellis laid down his load and then walked over to where Greta was standing, scowling at him.
“Look,” he said, “I’m really sorry. It was just so crazy down here and… there’s no excuse, but I am sorry.”
“Well,” Greta replied, lowering her arms, “that’s a start, but I can’t say I like being forgotten about whilst I’m being interrogated by who-knows-what kind of beings It’s not at all pleasant and you would do well to remember that, at least.”
“Yes. Of course. I am really sorry.”
“This is all very touching and moving and embarrassing,” the Former Baron said, taking a step towards them, “but we have a limited amount of time to get a lot of work done so I would greatly appreciate it if you would stop nattering and come over here and help me!” He turned his back on them and advanced on the main body of the Accelerator once more. Siren shrugged and hurried over to join him, followed closely by a still-sulking Luke. “Oh, and Ellis?” Von Spektr asked, looking over his shoulder.
“Bring over that pile of parts, will you? I didn’t ask you to fetch them for me just so that they could add to the ambience.”
They worked hard into the night, realigning pipework, tightening valves, removing some old parts and plumbing in new ones. The Former Baron directed everything according to some plan tangled up somewhere inside his thinly-haired, top-hatted skull, whilst Siren, Ellis, Greta, Luke and even to some extent Broken-Hope all did as they were told. They took short breaks to nap or to eat a strange, glowing, bread-like substance Broken-Hope offered them for sustenance, always making sure there was someone continuing to work as they did so. Only Von Spektr failed to stop at all and even he had some of the glowing bread whilst he abused some pipes with a heavy spanner.
Slowly but surely a change took over the old machine. Ellis didn't understand what it was, exactly, just that the arrangement of all its parts and accessories seemed to shift during the night as they moved from one to the other, but by the early hours of the morning it was clear that it was a very different piece of machinery than it had been the night before. Occasionally the Former Baron would step back and admire it, before spotting something he wasn't happy with and leaping back into the fray to fix it.
Sometime during the middle of the night the old Philosopher had taken Broken-Hope aside and whispered something into his ethereal ear, after which the Fallen had vanished, not to be seen again until the job was almost finished. Then, as the group examined the workings of the accelerator for any tiny tweaks which still needed seeing to (according to the Former Baron's meticulous eye), he reappeared and prepared to make his report.
"Ah, Broken-Hope," the Former Baron said warmly as the Fallen approached, "I trust the adjustments have been made?"
"The network of pipes is now in the exact configuration you specified."
"And there was no trouble getting some of your brethren to help?"
"Some of them were very concerned with the pattern you requested and even I have to admit that I am highly doubtful as to its efficacy. It was a struggle to maintain the necessary cooperation."
"Well, it will all be worth it, my Fallen friend. It will, of that I can assure you with absolute certainty, with a truthfulness ratio of about 1:100."
"What does that mean?" Ellis whispered to Siren standing beside him.
"I think it means he's lying through his teeth and if I think that then you can be sure that Broken-Hope does too."
"Then why isn't he reacting?"
"I think he's genuinely curious to see what's going to happen. I don't think the Fallen have met someone like Franck in a very long time indeed."
"Is there anyone else like him?"
Siren shrugged and Ellis found himself suppressing a giggle, pleased to forget, for just a moment, the situation they were in.
"Well then", the Former Baron continued, shooting a look at Ellis and Siren before returning his gaze to the whole assembled party, "I have a few tiny little tweaks to attend to and then we can begin. Feel free to talk amongst yourselves." And then he turned around and started dashing from one valve to another, checking readings and making adjustments. Despite the old man's assurances, Ellis thought he might be a while, but he was pleased to find a spot on the floor, to sit down and, as the rhythmic sounds of the Former Baron's activities continued, to drift off to sleep.
The ancient ship truly was very impressive. Gulliver had thought so the very first time he saw it, standing near the bow with Toby and the rest of the crew as Siren and Franck had ascended the deck to scout out the region. It stood taller than most in the area and he wondered if it had been a flagship of some sort. The stone was intricately carved near the bowsprit, merging to form a figurehead of some fantastical creature either imagined or long-since extinct, elements of which resurfaced along its length to fan up at the stern like a tail or the crest of a wave. It would have been very beautiful once, but Gulliver no longer thought so.
As he advanced towards it, taking each heavy step with mute reluctance and vain resistance, it seemed to stand for him as a symbol of all that had gone wrong that day. With the pale violet moon hanging in the mists above the ship and the shadows of its lesser peers seemingly etched across its surface it now appeared cruel and foreboding and yet he made his way towards it, step by inevitable step.
A little bit behind him, keeping their distance, were the Lich and his enthralled henchmen. They walked in eerie silence, although every now and then the Lich would say something in its hoarse, sickly sweet voice to keep everyone’s compulsion levels nice and high. With each word Gulliver could sense his feelings towards the monster change. He loved the Lich and for that he hated it all the more.
When he reached the ship the Lich uttered a few terse words that sent him climbing the hull, just as Siren and Franck had done that afternoon. It was hard work, made all the harder by his efforts at resisting, but despite all that he had reached the deck within a few minutes.
And then he did as he was told. He stood there, right in the centre of the main deck and he waited.
"They won't take long," the Lich had told him, "and when they come, you'll know exactly what to do."