Legend of the Tiger Generals

18 - Uprooted, Part 2

An old rival shows his claws, and a chronomancer abandons his scheme.

The Tiger Generals take stock of the various prisoners. The workers tell them that some are in the gearworks machining parts, while others are in the clock tower working on specific repairs. The three agree that evacuating the hostages is the top priority. Under the direction of Doel’s mechanical expertise, they get to work building a makeshift lift to lower the captives to the ground. Valakar is sure to attach grounding cables to it to direct the lightning away and protect the occupants.

In all, the effort is going well when an unexpected face appears. Emerging from the clock tower comes, of all people, Dr. Archimedes Griffon. A burly ape in ancient armor hulks next to him, as well as a pair of clockwork automatons. The herbalist explains that he’s working with Methuselon Epoch for the moment, and that he really has to stop their interference.

Dr. Lupine demands to know what Griffon did with his blood. The knave responds that it was in the interest of duplicating Lupine’s own experiment — to draw out the primal power of a shifter, without even being Kin. Griffon removes his glasses. “But I’ve improved on your transformation. Two aspects to your one. The king of the land — and the lord of the skies!” He transforms into a bestial form — a hulking humanoid with an ursine body and an owlish head and wingfeathers.

The brawl begins immediately. Gemma occupies herself with the clockworks, Valakar takes on the time-displaced ape, and Dr. Lupine naturally engages his admirer-cum-rival. But Griffon is suprisingly quick for his newfound bulk. A powerful claw rake knocks the werewolf sprawling and winded.

Dr. Griffon decides to play the full knave by boasting of his power over the prone form of his rival. He is suddenly interrupted by Gemma Fleetwind, who throws a series of punches to the back of his skull. Griffon staggers, and Lupine takes the opportunity to throw an powerful beast stance attack. The bear-owl shifter goes down in a heap. Valakar knocks out the ape with a final thunderbolt, and it takes them little time to wrap up the clockworks.

With chains aplenty, they manage to secure Dr. Griffon before he stirs back to consciousness. He admits that he was the one to provide Methusalon Epoch with the tempest tree seed — he is, after all, in the top tier of herbalists. He explains that he procured the seed for favors. “Success isn’t about ability,” he says bitterly. “It’s always about who you know.”

The Tiger Generals evacuate the last of the gearworks employees, and lower Dr. Griffon and the ape down as well. They then return to the clock tower, and decide on a course of sabotage. Captain Doel throws a thunderbolt into the cogs, which seems like a promising start. The arcane field surrounding the tower lurches and shifts with every strike.

This, of course, draws the attention of Methuselon Epoch. The chronomancer descends the stairs, an hourglass staff in hand. He warns the Tiger Generals to stop at once — but they respond in a manner suited to the Tablets of Courage.

Gemma finds herself equally matched with Epoch’s speed; he seems to be using time magic to accelerate himself. She is unable to pull his staff from his hands before he targets Dr. Lupine with the demonstration of his signature chronomancy. The herbalist-turned-werewolf suddenly finds himself considerably smaller — and ten years old. The next pulse of chronomancy slows the group’s reaction times.

Tiger Generals are nothing if not persistent. Gemma finally manages to wrest his staff away, while the others hit him with blows. With his staff gone, Epoch scowls and seems to divert half his attention to concentration. The remainder of his attention goes toward completing the spell on Lupine — who suddenly finds himself a small cub, and teleports out of the tower in a panic — and freezing Gemma in a chronal lock.

Valakar decides to stall. He summons up his most commanding voice and asks Epoch to explain his actions, and consider the ramifications. As the chronomancer devotes some of his attention to stressing the necessity that his tower be repaired, and slides his staff free from the Kin’s grip, Gemma attempts to speed up her metabolism so that she’s no longer compatible with the time-lock. She finally snaps free, and joins Valakar on the attack again.

The chronal field around the tower shudders as Epoch reels from their blows. “How long?” he asks. “A day?” They continue to press the rogue chronomancer, and as his concentration wavers again, the tower also lurches in response.

“You idiots,” Epoch growls. “I’m the only thing keeping you here.” He buckles under their attacks, the tower shakes a third time, and then the chronomancer abandons his concentration. He gestures, an aura flares around him, and he is gone.

Without the chronomancer to control it, the clock tower spirals through time. Valakar quickly assesses the mechanisms, and has Gemma help him speedily find temporary fixes for the damage, including their own efforts. Finally, the mechanisms seem to stabilize. The tower falls into solidity, rooting itself in a stable time. The two Tiger Generals look out — onto a world much changed.

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