Devices of Desire (Serial Story) Chapter 3

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2


Chapter 3: Special Deliveries and Warnings

Leaning on the counter, Ezekiel let his legs dangle off the stool. The act made him feel like a child again. People often asked if he ever forgot about having an artificial leg and he’d often open his eyes wide and ask, “What artificial leg?” It was a mean joke, people were well-meaning, but they always acted like he was broken when he was just different. His artificial leg sometimes itched and it sometimes hurt, but so did his flesh one.

The changes that Didi had made to his leg let him tap rhythmically. It was going to make things really different tonight if she could get it working. The girl was an absolute genius but she always seemed preoccupied.

Not that he was all that much better. He worked for his father and mother at the Apollo shipping company because that’s what was expected. He was a decent bookkeeper, supervisor, and had a knack of motivating employees, but most of the time he sat at the counter waiting for someone to have a problem. It was boring, but it gave him time to think about his music.

That night he was going to be headlining at the Greasy Cog, the coolest music club in Cillian. His parents hated that he played music but tolerated it as long as he didn’t play in public. He, of course, disguised himself and went by Zed. He’d been playing on street corners and pubs for years until the owner of the Greasy Cog heard him.

If things went well tonight he could be playing for the Princess at her coronation.

“Hey Ezekiel. What’s new?”

As if on cue, she walked through the door to work on her infernal glider cycle. It was an idea that people had been trying to perfect for years. If she could actually make it work it would mean two airships could exchange goods in mid-air without docking or using a complicated anchoring procedure. She’d been working on it, as a side project, for the past two years.

He told her about the leg and she promised to look into it. She was always chipper with her catchphrase of, “Perfection through persistence.”

As she left towards her workshop, she said, “Arty here was looking for you. Take care of him, he’ll be a master soon.”

Turning towards the newcomer, he tried to ask how he could help but it just came out as a strange croak. The man in front of him was dressed as a fighting monk and was quite possibly the best looking man he’d ever seen. His strong cheekbones were made more prominent by the tight bun fashion that the monks put their hair in. The man was attractive beyond the face; his arms, legs, and chest were well muscled in a way that looked sculpted instead of bulky.

“Hi. How can I help you?” he finally managed.

“I was told I have a letter.” There was something in the way the man stood and talked that was familiar.

Ezekiel nodded and headed to the back. It took a little searching but he finally found the letter.

“I’m going to need proof of identity.”

The good looking man blushed and fished in his robes for something. Pulling up a crumpled paper, he smiled crookedly and said, “Sorry. It got wet.”

The paper had an official seal from the Hero Johann Haus but all he could read was an A and some blurry ink stains. Sighing, Ezekiel said, “I’m really sorry, but I can’t accept this.”

“The letter is a replacement for this paper…” the man paused and his brow furrowed. “Please!” It looked like it took a lot of effort to ask. As a fighting monk, Ezekiel assumed Arty didn’t need help very often.

“How about this. I’ll open it and if it’s identification papers I’ll give them to you. If they’re not I’ll call the guard?” It was an empty threat. The man hadn’t done anything illegal.

“Okay!” the man nodded enthusiastically and smiled. The smile and enthusiasm made Ezekiel’s heart flutter.

The envelope held a paper similar to the one Arty had given him and a letter. He checked the paper and it was genuine so he handed the whole thing to Arty.

Instead of leaving or putting the papers away, Arty started to read the letter. Not wanting to intrude or stare any more than he had already, Ezekiel busied himself with some random paperwork; mostly shipping invoices.

“Oh no!” Arty’s voice quavered and he looked like he was trying to decide between panic and joy.

“What’s wrong?”

“She’s coming here.”

“Who?”

“The Oracle of Espenson.”

Ezekiel groaned. The Oracle was nicknamed the Prophet of Doom. When she left her home she always had prophesies that meant terrible things for someone. Worse than the predictions was how accurate she was. It was said the more you fought her prophesies, the more you’d suffer.

“This might give me my Act,” Arty beamed.

“Act?” Ezekiel was wondering if he should maybe take a long vacation.

“In order to become a Master, I have to pass all the tests and perform an Act of Heroism. This could be it.”

The man’s passion was impressive. Between the passion and the panic, Ezekiel didn’t think before he spoke aloud, “You’re hot when you’re passionate.”

Read Next


If you’re enjoying this year’s serial story why not check out those from past years?

Devices of Desire (Serial Story) Chapter 2

Chapter 1


Chapter 2: A Princess and a Tinker

“That was a wonderful speech dear,” King Nathan said, his voice sounding thin and creaky. He sat in his wheelchair that looked like a throne and was covered in an afghan that Diana knew her mother had made.

“Thank you great-grandfather. You know I could make you an automated chair.” She put her hand on his arm as she bent down.

“Oh, no no. That would be a waste of your time and talents. Plus what would I do without Martin’s sparkling conversation.” The large man who acted as body guard, nurse, and confidant of the king smiled and grunted softly. “See dear, it’s nearly impossible to get him to shut up.” King Nathan gave a soft laugh and then started to cough.

The coughing fit lasted longer than Diana would have liked, but at least there was no blood this time. She’d spent a lot of time worrying about him and trying to find a cure for what ailed him, but in the end it was just old age. At a hundred and four years of age, he’d outlived three wives, all four of his children, and all three grandchildren. He had ten great-grandchildren all between the age of twenty-six and ten. Diana was the eldest and in all but name she ruled the island kingdom.

When the coughing ended, the old man took a deep breath and said, “You don’t have anything on your calendar for the rest of the day. Don’t waste your free time with this old man. Go have fun.” He winked at her. He was the only one who knew.

The castle was built with both servants corridors and secret passages. Diana had grown up in these halls with her cousins and her twin brother. He’d left when he was fifteen, angry that he’d never be king unless she died. Angry at being born a few minutes too late. And mostly just angry. She hadn’t seen or heard from him since he’d left. She hoped he was okay wherever he was.

Navigating the corridors and passages was easy and she quickly made it to her bedroom. Once there, she cleaned off all the makeup she wore to public events, changed into simple overalls, and tied her curly reddish brown hair into a tight bun. Finally she added a pair of dark rimmed glasses to hide her family’s distinctive green eyes. No good disguise is complete without glasses, she thought.

Once changed, she headed out of the castle through a series of complex tunnels. The servants she passed only smiled and bowed.

Once she’d used her rooms as a workshop, but it was hard to explain why the princesses rooms always smelled of grease and smoke. The seamstresses were particularly cross about the stains in her clothing. Her great-grandfather had given her money and told her to find a small space in town. Her parents were suspicious at the time, but her brother’s running away kept them busy until they died in an airship crash while searching for him.

Her head was in the clouds and she wasn’t paying attention to what was going on around her and she ran into a boy. He had the most beautiful golden skin and full lips. The boy glared at her and put his hand on his sword. He had on novice robes from the Fighting Monks.

“What the hell are you thinking?” he asked. His voice cracking part way.

“Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going. I really didn’t mean offence and if you challenge me to a duel you’ll be extremely bored and I’ll be extremely dead, so how about you don’t…”

“You’re a tinker aren’t you?”

“Yes I am. Master Tinker Dee. Pleasure to meet you…” she trailed and stuck out her hand to shake.

The man shook her hand and she couldn’t help but admire his strong lean muscled arms. It was definitely too bad that the Monks took vows of celibacy.

“I’m Novice Arty but that won’t last long. I’ll be a master by the end of the year.”

“That’s a lot of confidence there, Arty. Where are you going in such a hurry?” She smiled at him.

“I’m trying to find the Apollo Shipping Company, but this damned island is worse than a labyrinth.”

Giggling a little, she said, “It’s a little hard when you first start, but it becomes second nature eventually. I’m heading there now. I could walk you there if you like?”

The man blushed and it made Diana happy that she seemed to have the same effect on him that he did on her.

The Apollo Shipping Company owned the biggest, best, and more importantly, fastest airships in the world. They delivered packages and mail to everyone who could pay. They were headquartered in Cillian and she rented a workshop from them. The engineers and airship pilots came to her when they were having technical issues. She’d re-designed most of the technology to use solar powered boilers instead of the old coal engines and the patents would have made her rich is she hadn’t already been.

Sitting behind the desk was Ezekiel. He was her best friend and one of the prettiest men she’d ever met. He was the heir to the Apollo fortune but preferred working in the warehouse and dealing with people. He’d lost his left leg when he was young.

“Hey Ezekiel. What’s new?”

Seeing her he smiled widely and furrowed his brow. “I have a bone to pick with you. The new leg worked great until the pistons started going off and I was hoping around like a deranged toad.”

Diana couldn’t help laughing and it turned into a snort. “I have a look at it. You know what I say…” He joined her in repeating her favourite saying, “Perfection through persistence.”

“It’s in your workshop. Let me know if you need anything.”

“Thanks. I should be good. I want to work on that glider-cycle again. I think If I tweek the air-magic I can get more reliable balance.” Remembering Arty, she added, “Arty here was looking for you. Take care of him, he’ll be a master soon.” She winked at Arty and headed to her workshop.

Thinking about them both as she worked she sighed… so much pretty in the same room.

Read Next


If you’re enjoying this year’s serial story why not check out those from past years?

Devices of Desire (Serial Story) Chapter 1

Chapter 1: Staying Inconspicuous

“And whatever you do, don’t brawl everyone on your way to the Temple.” The last words that Hero Haus had told her echoed through her head as she walked of the ship onto the docks of Cillian.

The place was bustling with activity and Artemis tried her best not to be in the way. She’d been trained from birth to fight, dance, and be nimble on her feet; none of which had helped in the busy streets of Cillian.

“I have to make my way to the Temple and avoid fighting. How hard could that be?” she asked herself as she bumped into a large man who was drunk. He bumped back and she felt his hand on her butt. “Excuse me sir, but if you’re looking for my money pouch, you won’t find it back there.”

“Who said I wanted your money pouch?” The hand that had been on her butt was now holding a dagger at her side and the other hand was around her wrist over the only piece of jewelry she owned. The bracelet was a sturdy gold chain given to her by her father before his death.

Pushing the man’s dagger arm away while simultaneously kicking him in his private area was the easy part. Drawing her sword in a crowded street, now that was a challenge.

The man groaned and looked at her with an evil smile, lifting the bracelet and taunting her. He then turned and ran away. “Coward!” she yelled and started to chase him.

He was a thief accustomed to the city, she was a country child who was determined to follow him. The chase didn’t last long. The loss of the bracelet left her in a sour mood and the chase left her completely lost. This was the biggest city she’d ever seen and spanned nearly the entire Island it was on.

It was beautiful in its architecture, but the people were too close together and everything smelled of shit, mostly horse and cow.

“Excuse me,” she asked the closest person. They were too much in a hurry and ignored her.

A food cart passed by and it looked like the large man in the chef’s outfit was pushing it until she saw the cogs and steam engine attached to it, whatever was in that cart smelled heavenly. Some sort of cooked and spiced meat, thought Artemis.

With nothing better to do and no way of finding the Temple without help, she decided she might as well follow her stomach. The cart moved steadily on and people moved out of its way. Slowly the narrow streets gave way to wider roads with trees and benches.

As they turned a corner, Artemis was amazed to see the castle. It was bigger than anything she’d ever seen. It supposedly had its own hanger and landing strip for airships.

There was a crowd of people standing around a stage. The cart stopped and opened for business. She bought two meat pies and went to see what was going on at the stage.

It wasn’t long before a woman stepped onto the stage and started speaking. Artemis choked on a piece of her meat pie. The woman wore an elegant dress that wouldn’t be out of place in a fairy tale illustration. The dress was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen and the woman managed to be infinitely more beautiful. The dark blue dress contrasted perfectly with the woman’s dark brown skin.

“Wow,” Artemis said, not realizing she said it aloud.

“I know right? Princess Diana is amazing.” said a man next to her. She hadn’t noticed, but the crowd had formed around her. The man who spoke had a strong jawline and ice blue eyes that sparkled. His soft golden skin made her just want to touch it.

“Um… yes. She’s very pretty.” It sounded as awkward as possible and Artemis’s face felt warm. She was in love with both of them. Was that possible?

He hadn’t looked at her yet and when he did, he stammered, “You’re very pretty too. I didn’t me to imply…”

“So are you…” she replied and they both turned away from each other for a moment.

“I’m Ezekiel.” The sandy haired man said.

“I’m…” Artemis froze. “Going to the Temple of the Fighting Monk order of Dumas.”

“Okay. It’s just over there.” He pointed at a tall tower surrounded by small buildings. The entire thing looked ramshackle and not what she expected of a Temple.

“Thank you,” she said and ran away. She’d met attractive people before and even had some that were attracted to her. Not surprising; she was tall, muscled, and had what her father had described as, “a symmetrical elven sort of face.”

But there was something about this man that took her breath away faster than a punch to her stomach. She turned her head as she ran to get another glance at him and saw him limp away from the stage. The mechanism in his left leg, a prosthesis, seemed to have jammed.

Running in a busy city and not paying attention is a quick way to bump into someone and that’s exactly what she did. She collided with a man so hard that they both fell to the ground.

Getting up she held her hand out to the man and he scowled, “Stupid country bumpkin. I’ll teach you what happens when you collide with a Fighting Monk.” The man drew his sword, which crackled with electricity.

“I meant no offence sir, but if it’s a fight you want, I’ll abide.” Smiling Artemis pulled out her own sword.

“Why are you smiling? Are you so daft as think you can win this fight?” The man said as he beat at her sword, testing her defences.

“I’ve had a day where I’ve been off balance for everything. Fighting is something I understand.”

The man smiled in return and they fought. He was absolutely amazing. She hadn’t lost a fight in years, but she knew she was completely out-classed. After a hard couple of minutes, she fell to one knee and placed her sword on the ground, “I yield.”

To her surprise the man laughed and said, “You gave me the best workout I’ve had in months. Thank you and all offences are forgiven.”

She stood and shook his hand. “I was headed to the Temple to train with the monks.”

“You are the most promising fighter I’ve seen. It’s a pity we don’t accept women into the order.”

Read Next


If you’re enjoying this year’s serial story why not check out those from past years?