Today we have a sample from early in the story of Beauty & the Blade. The campaign is holding at 62% with just 7 days left
Athena took a deep breath, then bent from her knees, curled her arms around the anvil, and heaved. It was heavy, but with the leverage she was able to hoist it off the wheelbarrow and drop it on the table. For a moment she was afraid the old wood might crack, but it held despite some threatening creaks. She smiled, flexing her arms, and then she gave the anvil one good shove to turn it a little. There, that would do.
She went back to her mechanism and began making adjustments, humming to herself. Sunlight slanted in through the basement windows, and she snorted at all the dust floating in the light beams. This was what came from working in an underground laboratory. She flicked switches, and the machine spread out on the table hummed and began to emit little curls of smoke. She thought she had it tuned properly this time. She avoided looking at the black scar burned across the far wall. Science always entailed setbacks.
She read the gauges, flicking the one that stuck, and she made a few small adjustments to the alignment. The machine was really putting out heat now, and she had to fire or shut it down. Holding her breath, she pulled down her goggles and closed the switch. There was a moment of high-pitched whining, and then the muzzle glowed and a beam of scarlet light shot from the barrel of the device, sliced through the still air, and punched a sizzling hole through the center of the anvil.
Athena whooped and jumped up, almost hitting her head on the lamp dangling overhead. She was a tall girl, and in here the ceilings were not as high as she’d like. Molten steel poured out of the hole in the anvil and dripped onto the table, sending up smoke and a lick of flame, and the red beam began to vibrate.
“Oh no, no no no!” Athena grabbed a wrench and clamped it on the housing, tried to hold it as the beam cycled through. The oscillations scarred the anvil with glowing lines, and then scored black sear into the stone basement walls. There was a last keening sound and then the beam died as the lights flicked off, then came back up.
Athena gave the mechanism another twist, tightening it down against the housing, making sure the contacts were solidly connected. The lights flickered, and she growled in annoyance – this had been happening all day.
She heard her father’s footsteps on the basement stair, one foot always heavier than the other. “Why are the lights out in the library?” he said, his voice coming down the steps ahead of him.
“Probably blew a fuse,’ she said, not looking up from her work.
“And why would that happen?” he said, coming down a few more steps.
“Because the house generator is completely inadequate for my power needs,” she said. “I told you that last month.”
“And I told you to put it in writing,” he said, coming down the rest of the way, leaning on the rail. He was a heavy man with hair going gray and a scar on his chin from a long-ago war.
“I did, you ignored it.” She smiled and blew a stray lock of hair out of her face, went around to the other side to check the gauges. “I gave you plenty of time.”
“This wouldn’t happen if we lived in the city,” he grumbled.
“Yes, why don’t we move?” she said, smiling as she checked the wires. “I can be packed in three days.”
“No,” he said.
“You could have been a member of the Assembly, a man of importance,” she said.
“I was not going to raise a daughter in that cesspit of self-interest and criminality,” he said.
“Do you mean the city, or the Assembly?”
“Both,” he said. He sniffed, looked at the smoking table. “Is that Clent’s anvil?”
“His old one,” she said, waving her hands to disperse the smoke faster. “He got a new one, so he said I could have this one.”
“I would wager he expected you to use it, not burn. . . did you burn a hole
in it?” He bent down to peer at the melted steel, cooling to hard red in the air.
“I am using it,” she said. She smiled without wanting to, unable to contain her pride. “I increased the energy output over three hundred percent with the airless condensation chamber.”
“And almost set the house on fire,” he said, examining the walls. He tilted his head back to peer through his glasses. “Again.”
“The oscillation was much less this time,” she said. “I just need to -” She stopped. “Do you hear that?”
He frowned and looked up at the ceiling. “Sounds like an engine. Something big.”
Athena ran to the window and peered out, squinted through the dirty, rippled old glass. The sky was darkening, but it didn’t look like a cloud. “What is that?” she said under her breath, and then she ran for the stairs.
“What is what?” her father yelled after her. Then she heard him curse as he climbed back up the stairs. She ran through the kitchen and then burst through the door into the late summer afternoon, looking up. Above her, the sky was turning black, and it was not a storm.
She saw a heavy cloud, like a thunderhead, but it was alone in the sky, dark and roiling, and then something huge erupted from it and surged forward across the sky. It was a ship, immense and black and trailing dark smoke like a flying factory. She saw other ships around it, like small attendants, and behind them a dark front closed over the sky, blotting out the sun.
Her father burst through the back door and staggered into the yard, staring upward. “Oh no, no, it can’t be.”
Athena saw the banners hanging from the ship, red with the insignia on them like a black nail, and she felt fear coil and strike in her heart. “It’s him,” she said. “The Tyrant.”