The untold story of the super heroes that lived in the revolution of steam.
|The nights were dark and damp within the labyrinth of streets that twisted and turned in all directions. To the known world these were simply the back streets of society where the unwanted and undesirable peoples of questionable lineage and learning were left to linger in the shadows from whence they supposedly once came. But, in truth, they were so much more than that. Within these dank dark streets lay more than the filth of society... Whispers of figures shrouded in mystery, of phantoms and ghosts who came and vanished in an instant, circulated among those who lived there. No one was ever known to have truly laid eyes on these enigmatic individuals, yet their presence was felt through and through. If one knew just where to look one could be lucky enough to find evidence of their presence by the marks they would leave behind. A shadow would pass through the mist and instinctively it was known that they were indeed within the streets that night. The cries of a victim who fell prey to their sorcery would be heard throughout the streets, but not a trace of the predator could ever be found. Who were they? Why were they here? What was their purpose down in the darkness of the Depths?
* * * * *
Beyond the Depths there resided a beautifully ornate home fit for royalty, which was to be expected as the family that lived in this grand castle was none other than the King family; one of the distant relatives to the throne given a highly ironically fitting name. The family itself was accustomed to luxury and grandeur as could be determined by their home alone. Lord King was something of an enigmatic individual who sought after enclosed peace above all else. Once upon a time his "majesty" was the absolute epitome of socialisation, yet his mind took something of a sudden turn for the worst when an explosion at one of his family's factories for steam powered technological advancement killed many people and virtually ruined his reputation. After that fateful day he became something of a recluse and remained hidden in his home for none to see.
Although Lord King was no longer able to make public appearances his family maintained a dignified presence within the community of Cornucopaea. His dear wife, Lady Celestine King, was beyond compare for such was her beauty and her kindness of heart. Her emerald eyes shone like green jewels in the sun and her chestnut hair that blew gracefully in the wind reflected her nurturing personality towards any and all she encountered in her days. Her smile was a genuine sign of joy; a pure smile of pearls that simply radiated warmth. Undoubtedly her children took after her in both beauty and compassion; her darling children, twins of complete opposition, bore great resemblance to her in their own unique ways. Her daughter, Rosario, most certainly inherited her mother's smile to complement her pristine and poised face of utter sincerity and gentility (also undoubtedly inherited from her mother). Her eyes were a darker, more regal green than those of her mother's (to complement her long, luscious auburn hair), yet they were undoubtedly of her making. Her son, however, was a handsome young man with a strong yet kind face, not unlike his mother's (yet distinctly different from his sister whose face was the very image of her mother). It was her son, Thorne, whose eyes were of the same uncanny shade of forest green that dazzled in the sunlight when his beloved mother would bathe in it. Their lives were indeed of privilege and prosperity, but nothing lasts for an eternity in this world.
"Mother, your son is being a nuisance to society again!" called Rosario in a playful sing-song voice as she often would speak in.
"My my, society is indeed being rather childish in this day and age, is it not?" replied Celestine in a charming yet witty caress. Her gentle nature did nothing to deny her of a whimsical disposition.
"Mother! Make her stop this at once!" came Thorne's voice followed by the loud stomps of racing footsteps. Undoubtedly Rosario was up to her old tricks of teasing Thorne in some fashion and causing quite a ruckus to ensue.
"Alright, children," said Celestine calmly as she rose to her feet, "Rosario, are you entirely certain you have not intruded in your brother's affairs in some fashion... as per usual?" the amused yet motherly tone was well balanced as she spoke. Her authority was both powerful and gentle at the same time.
"Perhaps." Rosario chuckled.
"Is this really any way for two people such as yourselves to behave? After all, dearest Thorne and Rosa, you are both 18 years old and the time for childish games will be over before you realise it." her tone maintained the kind manner of her motherly nature, yet her seriousness was increasingly more opaque with each passing word.
"We understand, mother."
"I know, we need to behave more like adults."
"That's not to say that we can't still have fun when we surpass childhood and childish ways." and as she spoke the tantalising tone of utter cheekiness returned with full force to her voice and she stole from Rosario's hands exactly what she had stolen from Thorne in the very first place. As they each raced around their home, up and down the corridors, sliding down the banisters, diving through the halls they caused nothing short of a minuscule earthquake; an immense ruckus that surpassed Rosario's and Thorne's ruckus only minutes before. As they raced around the halls the thunderous thumping of their stomping feet came to a sudden halt as Rosario took a flying leap at her mother and managed to bowl her down in a glorious tumble. Rosario and Thorne wrestled their mother for the precious item that had passed from one to another to the next until finally... success! Thorne wrestled and wrenched the small scarlet box from the clutching hands of both Celestine and Rosario.
"So what's so special about the scarlet box, Thorny?" asked Rosario in her patented curiosity laced with suspicion of the answer tone of voice.
"What does it matter to you? You have your own secrets and I have mine. This is my business so just leave it be."
"Alright, very well, Thorne. We won't press you any further for answers. You can go and put that box away before Rosa changes her mind." she said as she winked cheerfully at Thorne. The rest of the morning continued as per its customary routine; Rosario and Thorne attended classes at the Noblesse Oblige Academy and Celestine made preparations for the annual Ball of Honour - a ball to commemorate and celebrate the lives of those awarded the Medal of Honour at which the newest winner of said honour would be announced and presented with their own medal. The hours of the day vanished as Celestine personally assisted Rosario in dressing for the special occasion. Although the King home epitomised opulence and decadence they took pleasure in doing their own work around their glorious manor. Now that isn't to say that they employed no servants for they most certainly did, however, unlike so many others of the aristocratic genus the Kings did not think it absolutely necessary that they never take charge of work in their own lives.
"Wow, Rosa! Even after your tomfoolery this afternoon you still managed to make yourself up like royalty." said Thorne in a tone of mixed childishness and genuine joy at the sight of his sister's ravishing gown of emerald green covered in dainty jewels that sparkled and shimmered as they caught glimpses of the dazzling lights all around.
"Why thank you, Thorne! You don't look too bad yourself." she replied in her casual joking manner.
"I mean it. You look stunning. My little baby sister all dolled up like a princess."
"Hey! I'm older than you, remember!"
"No, I don't think that's accurate."
"And you would know all about accuracy, mister amazing at precision archery. Top of his class at marksmanship!"
"Exactly! So I know what I'm talking about." and with that last remark Rosario struck him with a hard blow to the shin which he could never have seen coming due to the great volume and length of her impressive ball gown.
"Hey! Watch it you little demon!"
"Bet you didn't see that coming!"
"Well it's not exactly like you were playing a fair game and giving me a chance to defend myself now, were you?"
"Well, what can I say? I am a King, after all," she half spoke and half chuckled.
"And what is that supposed to mean?"
"You know as well as I do. You essentially said it yourself earlier today." a moment of silence fell over them as Thorne pondered at her meaning, wondering as to what comment she could possibly have been referring to. A puzzled look fell upon his face as his brow furrowed in deep concentration desperately attempting to decipher her hidden meaning. Alas, his thought was interrupted by the appearance of their mother at the foot of the stairs behind them.
"My beautiful jewels. We must make haste or else we will never arrive in time."
"Mother you look divine." said Rosario in utter awe of her mother's radiating gown of pearls and diamonds upon a cream silk gown that would be nothing short of perfect at a royal wedding.
"Why, thank you, Rosa, but let us continue admiring each others' gowns and jewels in the coach." she said as she turned her son and daughter in the direction of their personal coach. If it weren't for Celestine the twins would undoubtedly have remained bickering at the foot of the stairs all night long. Racing through the forest that surrounded the path upon which all distinguished members of society resided they ventured forth towards the ball with great glee. Suffice it to say there had been many a rumour surrounding the King family as to whether or not Lord King himself might venture out of his home to grace the ball with his presence. The discussion had indeed traveled in that particular direction for many days that Rosario and Thorne had hoped that perhaps this would be the time for his reemergence into the limelight. However, it appeared that such was not the case. Celestine had informed of as much and yet a faint glimmer in her eye revealed her harboured hope of such a return; a deep longing; a passionate yearning for her husband to return as though he were lost to her. Truth be told Rosario and Thorne had seen nothing of their father in many a month, yet they believed that their mother maintained contact with him on a regular basis, however, if they knew anything of their mother's fortress of solitude - her strength to maintain herself and bear the darkness of all which the family dared not speak - then they knew that her eyes betrayed something they did not quite know for such was her strength and varied were her secrets.
The trees began to thin as the lights began to emerge from the darkness. At last they had arrived at the Great Hall of Legacies; a monument to the greatness of those who dwell in Cornucopaea. The lights glittered and glowed in the night sky alongside the great stone walls that rose higher and higher toward the heavens. The magnificence of the building was just what one would expect of the Great Hall of Legacies; the walls and archways, the stained glass windows and cathedral-like doors, the immense towers and vast ceilings simply exuded grandeur and grace - an elegance that has been passed down from generation to generation. Although the sites could be considered nothing less than breathtaking Rosario and Thorne could not help but sense the increasingly troubling sadness that weighed on their mother's heart. Her poise and her grace seemed to illuminate the room as she entered and all around her could not help but smile at her mere presence. Celestine was always considered Cornucopaea's brightest star; no matter what trouble or tragedy befell their city, Celestine would never falter to serve as a shining beacon for those around her. It could be said that there were those who envied her purity and grace, thinking her to be a pretender whose true nature was not as pristine as she would have all believe. Although these were feelings shared by those who would wish to see Celestine as something other than "Cornucopaea's star," perhaps removed from her socially appointed pedestal, all did well to mask these darker opinions when in the company of those who thought well of the star.
The night continued in the fashion of conversations concerning the weather and the increasing concern of an impending storm, the scandalous affairs of those present at the ball, and the degradation of society within the broader city beyond the grandeur of the aristocracy. Suffice it to say Rosario and Thorne were more concerned about the rumours of their father. As they circulated the ball speaking with all who would flock to them for conversation and glasses of wine over which to gossip intently about those whom they deemed foolish enough to not be present at the ball, the topic of their father continued to creep into conversational focus.
"Is it true that your father is missing?"
"I heard that your father has been taken severely ill and could die at any day now."
"I was informed that your poor father passed away suddenly under suspicious circumstances. I do hope your dear mother is coping with the loss as well as you and your sister have been."
"He ran away with a brothel girl, didn't he?"
"I overheard the servants talking and they said your father was in the Depths speaking with some of the locals and passing around suspicious looking vials and boxes in exchange for money like some common criminal!"
The colourful and increasingly curious theories and rumours surrounding the absence of Lord King continued to flood their ears for the better portion of the night. Would these incessant questions and queries never cease? A bell rang suddenly and all at once the attention of the guests was focused all together at the main hall where a loud voice called for attention.
"Ladies and gentleman. Welcome to the 100th annual Medal of Honour award ceremony. My name is Quillian Eridan, Lord of the League of Legacies and it is my honour and great privilege to announce this year's prestigious winner of the Medal of Honour-" the speech was never to be concluded for a fire swiftly and suddenly engulfed the speaker and many guests in flames. As the fire spread from all directions the guests were trapped in the main hall. A handful had managed to escape the clutches of fiery death, yet Rosario and Thorne had not been so fortunate. As they clung to each other unsure of what to do and fearfully certain of their inevitable fate they heard the screams and cries of the surrounding victims; the guests that were as equally unfortunate as Rosario and Thorne. Yet, as they embraced each other awaiting their fiery demise, a familiar voice called to them through the flames.
"Mother!" it was Celestine's voice just beyond the flames, reaching out to them.
"I'm coming for you!"
"No! Mother, it's too dangerous!" called Thorne desperately.
"Save yourself!" cried Rosario in desperation. As the flames grew ever closer and the smoke threatened to envelop them a figure brandishing a shield and adorning a helmet and breastplate came racing through the flames. Though no-one would have known from the state of her gown, it was Celestine herself. Her skirt had been burned and torn, allowing her a greater ability to run through the smoke and rubble of the once great Hall of Legacies.
"Take these!" she said as she handed Thorne the shield, thrusting the helmet and breastplate on her children with great precision and frightening force.
"Make sure everyone else is safe!"
"What about you?!"
"We can't just leave you!"
"You two have a much better chance at helping people than I do on my own. No go!"
"Go! I'll be right behind you!"
* * * * *
The Great Hall of Legacies was no more. Thorne and Rosario remained standing alone in the darkness for what seemed an eternity. The stone archways and stained glass windows lay in ruins. Nothing remained but the dust and rubble of the once great building where the memory of the greatest members of Cornucopaean society had been immortalised for generations... a tomb for Cornucopaea's brightest star was all that remained. Time seemed to have broken when the fact dawned on both Rosario and Thorne that their mother would never be seen again. In a blink of an eye they returned home; their minds adrift in a sea of emotions. What was to become of them? What could they possibly do? Their father had vanished and now their mother had departed from the world. They were alone.
The following morning Rosario sat in her mother's bedchamber poring through the many books that lined the walls. Her mother loved a good story of love and loss, of fear and hope, of tragedy and victory. Alas, Rosario's heart was filled with nothing more than an immense emptiness that threatened to devour her soul. Her yearning for answers, for understanding of what events coincided to cause the tragedy that was their mother's demise only to discover that their father was not where they believed him to be - that he had vanished into the night, yet no one knew when or how or why such mysteries had arisen all within a single evening - her desire for answers had driven her to isolation within their manor. As she pored through the books of their parents she sought wisdom that could never be received for those who could impart such answers were nowhere to be found.
"Rosa, you can't keep doing this to yourself." Thorne's voice was quiet and calm as he once again attempted to reach out to his sister in a time of distress.
"None of it makes any sense." she said as her eyes remained transfixed on the piles of books she had removed from the shelves scattered throughout the room.
"What happened that night... There was nothing we could have done."
"No. I could've done so much more."
"I could've stopped this all from happening. I could've prevented this situation. I could've-"
"There was another way, I know it!"
"Rosa, there wasn't anything-"
"I could've saved our mother's life!"
"And how would you have done that?"
"It should've been me who died in that fire!" her words were a dagger in Thorne's heart, but he knew that he had to remain strong if he was to prevent another tragedy for the King family.
"Do you really think that's what our mother would have wanted...? That she would live while her beloved children perished in a fire even though, had she tried, she could have saved them? Even if it meant risking her own life? Do you really think that if things had happened differently then mother would have seen the situation and thought that our lives were not worth the risk? Tell me honestly that, had it been the other way around, that you wouldn't have tried to save mother from that fire. Look me in the eye and say it." a moment of silence passed as Rosario gazed into her brother's eyes for what seemed like the first time in years. Her cold stony glare slowly melted as her eyes glazed over and the tears of desperation that she had been harbouring for the past weeks since her mother's death and the discovery of her father's disappearance overflowed like a ceaseless waterfall. Thorne lovingly wrapped his arms around his much shorter sister despite being her younger twin brother.
"I just want them back." she wept into his chest.
"I know, sis. So do I." their reconciliation hug endured for a lengthy period of time before the pair agreed that it was time to pack away the many assorted books Rosario had taken to study. The many books of both fictional and non-fictitious subjects ranging from mythology to history, from adventure to engineering, from romance to biology, and tragedy to psychology were gathered laboriously until not one was left to litter the tables and floors. It was as they commenced replacing them onto their shelves in their proper places that Thorne discovered a draft emanating from behind one of the bookcases. As he felt around for the source of this influx of cool air he nudged the books from their shelves, much to Rosario's frustration and chagrin (considering the disagreement that had broken out between them not minutes earlier). In doing so he revealed traces of a hidden door which, with a moment of investigation, fell open carefully and quietly. As they entered the secret room, which neither of them had known anything of its existence until this very moment, they discovered something that could never quite be explained or described in a manner that would do justice. The room was unlike anything they had ever seen; an armoury combined with a laboratory was the most basic way of explaining the nature of the room, however, the contents and overall arrangement of the room were something else entirely beyond the capacity for either verbal or written explanation. A pair of hooded cloaks were discovered in a chest alongside many unknown garments of which neither Rosario nor Thorne had ever seen the likes of. As the twins gazed upon the various elements of the room - the inventive equipment, the dangerous weapons, the repository of information concerning the citizens of Cornucopaea - it had become apparent to both of them that the string of mysteries regarding their parents had only begun with their father's disappearance and their mother's death.
"I told you."
"On the night of the fire... I told you. I just didn't think it would be like this."
"What do you mean? What are you talking about?"
"You essentially said it yourself." and with this final reminder the realisation of what she had been referring to all along came racing into his mind.
"All kings bear secrets," he said, "the family motto."
"Only, in this case, it would appear that the kings buried their secrets... And I want to know what they were."