The Lore of The Steel - Prologue
“We are running late!”, cried out Roy from the rear of the huff-puff. “That's the fastest we can do! And shut your foul mouth for god's sake; these are dangerous lands!”, snapped back Bob. They were the messengers - like hundreds others, they formed the communication backbone of the entire continent. The messengers were fast travellers mounted on two-wheeled-steam-powered vehicles called huff-puffs; just large enough to seat two people at a time, these little vehicles were some of the fastest and lightest in the entire continent.
It is said that the huff-puffs were invented during the era of the great cyclones - a time when devastating cyclonic storms battered major parts of the continent for months together, a time when the land was more terrifying than the open seas, a time when crops and men died together.
The huff-puffs were invented for a very specific purpose - to evacuate as many people from the coasts as possible - all for a coin of gold - one man saved, one coin paid. These little beasts were fast, just fast enough to outrun an approaching storm. It is said that the inventor of the huff-puff made an enormous amount of gold in the process.
The huff-puff in itself was a marvel of engineering. It was simple, fast and agile; the exact kind of agility that was required to survive in the peace-less continent. The huff-puff had a long metal cylinder at the front which carried the main piston and all the allied mechanisms to make it run. The cylinder also had an attached softwood-rubber double-wheel in the front. Following the cylinder was the driver’s seat. The seat for the pillion rider faced backward, strategically placed to allow for an extra set of eyes to peer into whatever lay behind on the road.
“I hope we make it out of the area before sundown Roy!”
Roy was the fireman - wielding a double barrel gun from the rear of the huff-puff facing back and looking out for anyone or anything that might pose a threat to the two of them. A scrawny little man, Roy stood no more than five feet tall. Yet, he was as good with the gun as anyone could be. Bob, unlike Roy, was a stout man with a huge, intimidating moustache.
Like the other members of the brotherhood of messengers, their task was a simple, yet deceptively dangerous one - simple because they only had to deliver letters and dangerous because the lands they traveled were unquiet lands, perpetually in conflict between one another.
Today, they were traversing a dangerous patch of dirt road, just overlooking the forest of many secrets. The forest was dark, dangerous, dreaded and deceptive. Legends speak of many unfortunate souls having lost their way into the forest, never to return.
The winds howled and whirled through the thickets of the woods as they zoomed on. Abominable cries from the depths of the deep dark forest filled their ears. The dreaded forest, thought Bob.
It was this dread that sent shivers down the spine of even the likes of him. It was dusk as they brushed the edge of the forest. They had to cross the forest before nightfall, at any cost. As the dim red sun dived slowly down the far horizon, Bob felt a cold sweat run down his spine and gradually to places which rendered him a bit irritated as well.
“Hold the gun steady. We don't know what's in these godless woods!”, shouted Bob.
As the cold evening wind brushed the bristles of his large moustache, his eyeballs suddenly fixated on a faint green glow far ahead on their track.
“Now what in the seven hells is that?”, exclaimed Bob. “What?”. “Turn your fucking head and take a look!”. As the green glow grew stronger and closer, Roy took a look.
It was indeed nothing like anything Roy had ever seen in his short sad life. Bob swerved the vehicle violently to avoid the green substance and almost slipped in the process. The huff-puff somehow recovered and they continued. The fear had cut deeper into the both of them. They still pressed on, in a desperate attempt to cut through the woods in time, maybe just in time.
In less than a flash, a huge green blob hit them, sending both of them and their huff-puff sliding down the dirt road in a loud and ominous crash. The blob had covered them both.
As Bob and Roy watched each other, their faces and their skulls melted away under the influence of the green blob. The pain was nothing earthly; they wanted to cry out as loud as they could, but all they could manage was an unhumanly whistle.
As their unfortunate eyes slowly closed into the darkness of death, they could feel a green glow closing in on them from inside the depths of the dark woods. And then, there was total darkness, dark, blank, quiet and serene.