Machine Dreams

These are all the dreams that Tibles of the Blue Leaf Clan dreamt as he was being pursued by Alexis Machine.

First Dream

Machine padded casually across the floor towards the cowering figure of the Duke. Soft whimpers filled the room, but they fell upon deaf, dead ears. His wife was laying in pieces on the floor, as was their maid.
"Y-you monster! Why have you done this?" The duke asked, with fear more than notable in his voice. Machine's lips curled into a tight smile that was not without self-assured satisfaction. From clenched teeth he hissed:
"My victims are rich or poor, young or old, strong or weak." His footsteps slowed, he seemed to be reveling in the sound of his own voice. Shadows fell upon his face, yet the whites of his eyes still seemed to glow.
"I cause millions of accidents, I am the cancer in your bones, the lump in your scrotum." he continued. By this point his voice had taken an almost manic undertone.
"I fathered the lie, I twist what you say, speak not the truth" His grin widened, and his pace quickened. Fearful for his life, the Duke feebly attempted to deter the ruthless killer.
"Look, I know you don't want this. You're not doing this for the satisfaction, you're doing this for the money. I could double your payment!"
Machine half-moaned, half-laughed at this, his mouth gaping.
"But I am insidious, I am impartial, deep within you. I will take what you love, and leave you in tears." Alexis' voice rose to a manic high-pitched overtone. "I imprison your soul; your hopes are my games!" He knelt down to the Duke, and whispered in his ear, "I will strip you of pride; my promise is always in vain."
To the Duke's horror, Machine rose once again, and almost bellowed "While you burn at the stake I dance with the flames!" and let out a mad cackle. He was toying with his words, distracting and entertaining himself before taking the life of another man. The Duke suddenly felt very sick.
All at once, Machine drew a sharp knife, and with a fluid and predicted motion, wedged it deep into the thigh of the shivering man. The duke let forth a horrible scream, causing several crows to take wing from the rooftops outside.
"I bring poverty, sickness and death! I answer your prayers for greed and lust! I am more than evil, I laugh at your trust!" Machine shrieked, drew the dagger once more, and plunged it through the center of the Duke's left hand with a spastic and full-bodied motion.
Machine bellowed so loud it felt as though the very earth was shaking. "I am more powerful than all the armies of the world! I am more violent than violence! More deadly than death! I have destroyed more men than all the nation's wars! I am relentless, unpredictable, waiting impatiently for your last breath!" As the figure lifted itself in another spastic motion, The Duke saw his face for a moment and was shocked to see the bright blue eyes of a young boy, perhaps no older than twenty. He had a distant look in his eye, and his mouth was gasping for air like a land-bound fish.
Another sudden jerk of the arm, and the dagger had been drawn from flesh once again. Machine could be seen hesitating in the moonlight, deciding where to plunge it next. He stomped forward in a spastic and unbalanced motion, and plunged the dagger straight into the Duke's chest. Blood spurted onto his cloak, and Machine found himself thirsting for more. He couldn't help himself. In, out, in, out, the dagger's blade found a limitless bounty of sheaths in the Duke's convulsing body.
Finally, Machine's childish energy burst subsided, and he stood calmly and coolly, bloodied dagger in hand, and sighed his final words before departing across the rooftops.

"I am more deadly than man."

Second Dream

It was high-noon on the sand-swept deserts of the southwest, and Alexis was returning from his occupation a few clicks to the east. His tattered brown cloak danced in the hazy, warm winds around him, and the sun beat itself upon the earth in the way a prison guard would beat a slave. He padded along the sand in his thin shoes, apparently unaware of the cloud of heat encompassing him. In the distance he could spy the outline of a desert town, nestled within a small oasis in the depressingly tanned wasteland. He quickened his pace.
As he entered the village, Machine made a sharp left, and stepped up to a sandstone building with a pub sign on the outside. With a soft rustle, he drew a gloved hand from his cloak, and knocked firmly on the door. It opened almost instantly, enough for Machine to wedge his foot inside. (Which was almost a reflex for him.) A nervous-looking bald man opened the door, and flinched when he saw Machine towering over him. Hesitantly, he was let into the cool gloomy air of the bar. All the curtains were shut, and chairs up on the tables. The place was dark and the air was damp. It was obviously closed, and had been all day, even though it was a Wednesday and all other respectable establishments were open.
Trembling, the bald man paced over to a table, and took two chairs down. He offered one to Alexis, and sat in the other. Machine shifted his weight into the chair, his eyes, from under his dark hood, locked with those of the bald man.
"S-so…" The bald man began groggily. He cleared his throat, but Machine interrupted him before he could begin again.
"Well Mr. Alan, I have completed that which you have asked, and now I suppose you know what I've come for." The bald man looked more sheepish than before, and despite the fact that the air in the bar was cool, he began to sweat. Machine's lips curved into a self-satisfied smile.
"Is there… something you would like to tell me, Alan?" He cooed, voice heavy with arrogance. His face was hidden behind a long black hood. Only his mouth was visible, with a horribly self-contented smile playing across it.
"Well, Mr. Machine, sir, we uhh… how much did we agree on again?"
"Oh… I don't know… a mere ten thousand gold pieces for my services?" Alan cast his view downwards, and shifted his weight from side to side. Alexis stiffened; his smile uncurled and became a frown. Carefully and slowly, making sure that Alan could appreciate the gesture, Machine rose both his hands, and pulled the dark hood off his head. The bald man glanced up for a brief second, and saw the displeased face of Machine, perfectly young and spry, save for one vertical scar across his left eye socket, which extended down just past his cheekbone. His bright blue eyes shone like those of a crouching cougar, ready to pounce on him and rip him to shreds. Alan couldn't bear to look him in the face, let alone meet his gaze.
"Mr. Alan, I'm not a psychic. If there's a problem, tell me about it."
"Well… Mr. Machine, you need to believe -" Alexis raised his eyebrows.
"Now, now, Alan, we're not just business partners anymore, you can call me Alexis. And I never did catch your first name."
"Thannis, sir."
"That's better, Thannis. Now, what were you saying?" Alexis put on casual smile, and leaned back in his chair.
"You need to believe me Alexis," Thannis gushed. "I don't know what went wrong. We had the money, me and Moira, and then one thing after another just kept coming up. It's hard running a pub, you know, with just the two of us. One day someone breaks a wine bottle, another day they break a section of the bar. We just had some bad luck this week, but we covered most of the cost. You're a man of understanding, right Mr. Machine?" The bald man looked up at him pleadingly for a moment, and then seemed to remember that he didn't have the courage to look the man in the eyes, and cast his view downwards.
"First of all, call me Alexis, and second of all," he took a deep breath, leaning forward in his seat again, balancing his chin on his fist. "The mom-and-pop businesses of people like you are run by men of understanding. That's fine, there are men of understanding in this world, don't you see?" Thannis nodded.
"And the bards of the world, they're people of song and dance, correct?" Again, Thannis bobbed his head dumbly. "The wizards, they're the people of knowledge, as are the alchemists. The brothel owners are the people of self-indulgence, the lords and ladies the people of initiative and planning, the military men; men of action, the pub owners, men of honesty. All of these exist, and there's nothing wrong with that."
"Yes, Mr. Machine."
"Alexis." He said patiently, and noticed Thannis flinch. "Yes, but I, Thannis, am a man of none of these things. I don't talk about good or law, evil or chaos, knowledge or sex or even of society, I talk about one thing only, Thannis. Would you like to know what it is?" As he said this last sentence, he leaned over the table towards the terror-stricken face of Thannis Alan. He screwed his eyes shut, and bobbed his head up and down with surprising speed.
"The thing that I talk about, Thannis, is the same thing I sell: Unhappy endings. Is that not what you paid me to bring to the Duke?" Machine's lips curved into a tight smile as he saw Thannis' eyes well up with tears. He chuckled softly.
"For those who can't pay, there is only one option, and that one option is full to the brim with delicious irony." Thannis exploded with a wailing cry of helplessness.
"Please Alexis, I'm begging you! I can have the money by next week! I almost have it now! You can't just kill me like this!"
"Why Thannis, surely you understand, you're a cold-blooded killer as well. You were the one who murdered the Duke."
"How can you say something like that? It was you who killed the Duke, not I!" he sobbed. Machine let out another chain of hearty chuckles.
"Me? I'm only the tool, my dear Thannis. The murder weapon. It was you who knocked the arrow and snapped forth the sinew."
"Please Mr. Machine, I'll do anything you want just don't kill me, I have a wife and a job, I can't die, what would that do to the town? Please, just see reason!" Machine sat silent for a moment, staring at the table, his arms folded. After a few seconds, he said in a soft voice:
"The duke had a wife as well. The duke had a town. A town that is probably in pandemonium now, its residents living in fear. The duke had a job, which must now be re-assigned. The duke had a lot more riding on his shoulders than you do, Mr. Alan." The room was all but silent, the only sounds audible were the sobs of Thannis Alan.
"And now justice will be served by the same hand that dealt injustice. This is not a happy ending, Mr. Alan." Thannis' tear-stained face rose from the table, broke free of a sob, and began to utter another cry of protest, but was instead struck squarely with a knife -the same knife that had dealt a certain leader a great deal of agony—directly between the eyes. Machine had struck square and true, and had pierced a thin layer of bone to scrape into the warped little brain of this stocky bald man. He left the knife there, and left the man laying on his bar table.
Alexis stood up, and spied a baggy satchel the man was carrying. Clients always made the mistake of bringing their money upfront, but it made it quicker and easier for him to leave. Tenderly, he pulled the satchel off the corpse, and deposited it into one of the pockets of his cloak. He would have been paid more than the job was worth anyways.
As he was about to leave, he remembered something the middle-aged man had said; "We had the money, me and Moira, and then one thing after another just kept coming up." With a sigh, he withdrew a writing quill from one of the many pockets of his cloak, and wrote on one of the bar's handkerchiefs; "Justice hath been dealt." He left it on the table in front of Moira's dead husband, and quickly departed out the back door.
"Yet another unhappy ending." Machine sighed as he strolled out of the Pub.

Third Dream

Machine loved the rain. He preferred it for his line of work, as it cleared the streets faster than any diversion he could hope to make, and masked sight sound and scent more than any disguise he could conjure up. He was doubly thankful for rain because of its tendency to come precisely when he needed it. At the moment, he was hiding as best he could in a small shrub within a castle wall.
Yet another job offering had been waved in his face, and being the keen thrill-seeker he was, he had accepted, boldly overestimating his stealth abilities. It was broad daylight out, and Machine had taken up hiding in a shrubbery in a small courtyard. Unknown to him was the fact that the king's royal guards had a daily training session out here, and poor little Alexis was now stuck in the middle of bodyguard boy scout practice. At least until the rain came.
It started as a clouding of the sky, and a splash of wetness on Machine's cheek. He breathed a sigh of relief and glanced over towards the group of armored men, who were beginning to scowl.
"Well that's it, gents, looks like a Thunderstorm's brewing. We'll resume our training tomorrow, methinks. Back to your posts, everyone." a bearded man with a slight British accent piped up. Machine couldn't help but grin as he saw the large group disband, and the drizzle of rain shift into a downpour. He rolled out from the bush, making scarce a sound or a rustle audible above the pouring rain. He was dressed in a classy red and purple tunic (and dark green tights) in order to blend in with the squires in the castle. He even boasted a fancy tri-corn hat with a feather in it. As stylish as this was, Machine would be glad to get back into his regular garb, which he had stashed in a sack under a tree just outside the town.
For now, however, it was time to take care of business, and leave behind yet another unhappy ending. His target was, of course, not the king but one of his advisors. King assassinations didn't come cheap, especially from a morally conscious murderer like Machine. The rest of his task would be child's play.
Machine strolled casually out of the courtyard and into a dimly lit hallway. The guard posted inside the entrance waved to him wearily.
"Shit weather we're having, eh squire?" Machine nodded sheepishly, averting eye contact. The guard paused, furrowing his brow. "You s’posed to be here, boy?" he asked. Machine looked up at him apologetically.
"Sorry sir, I was going to cut across the courtyard to bring Sir Gladstone his month’s pay." He held up a small sack of gold coins for the guard’s inspection.
"Gladstone? Our finance advisor? You're at the wrong end of the castle, son. Gladstone is up to the North. And the Courtyard isn't a shortcut to anything, especially with this weather."
"I'm sorry, sir. I think I can find my way there. If I don't, tell him to look for Percy in the mess hall at dinner."
"Will do, squire." And with that Machine wandered off through the castle, nodding at any guards that passed him by. It was amazing how much one could blend in if they simple pretended to belong there. When he reached the northern quarters, he spotted a hallway leading up to a spiral staircase. Machine wasn't a fool; he had entered the castle with knowledge of the advisor's whereabouts, but the conversation with the guard had given him some extra credibility.
As Machine strolled up the spiral stairs, he casually folded a section of his tunic aside, and drew forth a bronze-bladed dagger with a hilt wrapped in green ribbon. He hid this up the sleeve of his tunic for easy access just as he approached a sturdy looking wooden door.
Machine removed his facial expression, cleared his throat, and knocked a solid three times on the door. He smiled serenely as an old man with a narrow face and snow white hair opened the door.
"So you're the squire that was sent with my bonus? Well about damn time." Gladstone glared at Machine. "Well? What are you waiting for, a tip? Hand it over, peasant. Unlike you, my time is of some value." Machine's smile turned to an amused grin.
"Ah, I can see you haven't changed a bit, Gladstone. Is this the way you greet your old friend?" The old man looked confused, and Machine seized the opportunity to push his way into the advisor's study. "Don't tell me you don't remember me, Gladstone. I didn't take you for one that would forget his roots once he found himself a place of nobility." Machine said as he strolled into the center of the room, taking his hat off as he did so. He turned to a now even more confused Gladstone, and frowned. "You have forgotten, haven't you?" Machine said with a voice full of hurt. "Don't you remember the festivals we attended? Flying kites on the hills of Okolona? Anything?" Gladstone's brow was now furrowed to a point where Machine was sure his eyes might sink into the depths of his skull.
"Now wait just a minute, who are you? How can I be expected to remember without a name given to me?" Gladstone demanded. A cool smile spread across Machine's face.
"Never you mind that, Tom. You wish to have your bonus? Here it is." Machine tossed his small sack of coins to Gladstone, and he caught it with both hands, then held it up and examined it. Before opening it, he turned once more to Machine, and asked:
"Now really, I wish to know your name. If you're not willing to give it to me, I command it from you as your employer."
"Now now, Gladstone. We can't have you speaking like that. A gentleman must mind his manners. Especially when in the presence of someone that could have a very big impact on his life." Alexis winked to him.
"I'm afraid I don't understand, squire. Explain yourself."
"I think you'll find enough explanation in that bag in your hands. Go ahead, take a look." Gladstone scowled at him, but pulled on the strings knotting the bag, and spreading the contents on a nearby desk. His eyes narrowed, searching for something, and when they found it, they grew to the size of sling stones.
"Th-this can't be… where did these come from? How did his majesty know?" he stammered, drawing back from the desk. Each gold coin in the sack had been engraved not with the face of the king, but with a long slender symbol made up of three triangles. It was, of course, the symbol of Asmodeous, the ruler of all nine hells. Machine's dry laughter filled the room, and Gladstone spun around to see the black haired assassin chuckling to himself, the ceremonial dagger in his hand. Machine eyed him lazily, a suave smile across his face.
"Yes, Tom. We have known for some time. And nobody likes a malign, greed-driven servant filling the ears of their king with talk of the unholy ones. Justice will be served again." Gladstone attempted escape, darting at the large wooden door, only to find that Machine was one step ahead of him. The dagger found soft flesh between his ribs, and dug itself in his lung. Machine covered his mouth as he shrieked in pain, and pushed him down to the floor with a soft thud. Thomas Gladstone laid curled in a ball on the floor of his study gasping for breath, his abdomen was bleeding profoundly. Machine drew the dagger forth again, and with some strain, managed to sink it slowly into his victim's neck. Gladstone's attempts to scream turned into a distorted struggle to breathe, and Machine smiled to him.
"If you're still wondering who I am, I'm Alexis Machine. You don’t know me, and you undoubtedly never will. It’s nice to meet you."
Thunder boomed outside, and Machine knew it was his time to leave. He put his tri-corn hat back on, and strolled casually out of the room, making sure to close the door behind him.
As he exited the castle, he met a guard, who nodded to him. Machine padded towards him and said in a cheerful tone:
“Weather never seems to cooperate, eh? Not even for an unhappy ending like this one.” And with that, Machine strode into the storm, retrieved his gear, and began the trek back to his employer.

Forth Dream

Machine hummed to himself as he entered the great chamber of the Almanac chapel of Pelor. The air was cool and moist, such was the tendency of limestone, and the only source of light in the room was that of a candelabrum seated atop a table in the center of the chamber. There was a bald man in a priest’s habit sitting and writing. The scratching of his quill was the only audible sound. Machine whistled, in hopes of breaking the man’s concentration.
“I’ve returned, Obadiah, the deed has been done. Your Asmodeous-worshipping enemy is now no more. I’ve come for my gold.” The bald man looked up, eyed Machine coolly. The room was pitch-black save for the man’s meager light source.
“Machine, is it? Yes, I wondered if you’d show up.”
“The money, Obadiah. As you can imagine, I’m a very busy man.”
“Now Mr. Machine,” Obadiah began in a soft, respectful tone.
“Don’t ‘Mr. Machine’ me, old man.” His voice could have cut through steel. “One thing I’ve learned from clients is that if they start pandering to you like that, there has been a complication with the payment, and there’s only one course of action for that. I know you’re a smart man, Obadiah. Tell me whether or not you have the money and then at least one of us may get on with this life.”
Obadiah let out a long sigh that seemed to echo all around the great hall, and smiled suavely.
“I can see you’re a man who knows what he’s doing, Alexis. Unfortunately the contract you signed stated clearly that your payment was the sack of gold coins you were issued.”
Machine’s face turned from an expression of wariness to one of bitter hostility.
“If you’ll recall, I never signed that contract. Do you think me a fool? This is illegal activity, so your legal documents are worth nothing! Obadiah, you had better pay me for this, or you’ll be joining the finance minister down in endsville.” To Machine’s annoyance, the man kept his composure, acknowledging Machine’s threat with a slow nod of the head.
“I understand. Like I said before, you know what you’re doing, Machine. What say you and I work out a deal?”
“Does it involve me getting my money?”
“Yes, indeed it does. It involves you getting double your money. Interested?”
“I’m listening.”
“If you can assassinate one other target for me, I will give you exactly double what the last was worth.”
“What kind of assassination are we talking about here, Obadiah?” The man smiled, and pulled forth a folder, with the text “Tibles of the blue leaf clan.” printed in bold on the front. He handed it to Machine. After a few seconds of reading, Machine lowered the folder and narrowed his eyes. “He’s a commoner, Obadiah. What could anyone possibly want this man dead for?”
“That’s for the Church to know. As you may read in his file, he is not too terribly powerful, which is why we must strike him in his infancy. The Church has confidence that he has the potential to become a great threat.”
“Seems… easy. Sixty thousand for the death of a commoner is nothing to scoff at.”
“We believe you to be the right man for the job, Mr. Machine.” Obadiah stuck his hand over the table and smiled serenely at Alexis. “We’ll give the legal documents a skip this time. Will a simple handshake suffice for you?” Machine eyed the hand silently, and then grinned ear to ear, gripping the priest’s hand and shaking it.
“You’ve got yourself a deal, old man.”

Final Dream

Machine stands in an ornately decorated, but poorly lit study. All the windows have been curtained or boarded shut. Across from him sits the room's only other occupant; a haggared, middle-aged man in a suit of heavy armor. You recognize this man as Belarin Urthador, former member of The Tiki Company. He is hunched over a desk, and looks as though he hasn't been outside in days.
"The Allbright Family is holding a ball, one week from now. Big event. Alethia will be there." Belarin mutters. "That's when you should strike."
The assassin stares, sizing up the man in front of him. Belarin won't meet his eyes. With a voice that's all too familiar to you, Machine speaks.
"Don't tell me how to do my job, Mr. Vladislaus. I'm perfectly capable of killing an innocent little girl, provided the price is right."
"Pah! Innocent? Do you think me a fool? Alethia is no mere girl; do not let your guard down. Evil and wicked, the whole family!" Machine shrugs.
"Very well. I am perfectly capable of killing an extraordinary little girl. A week from now, you said?"
"Yes. At the Allbright Manor, in Golden Valley."
"Then this is all I need to know. Unless you want a corpse? A head perhaps?" Belarin grimaces.
"Just this." He pulls out a white feather, and hands it to the assassin, who turns it over and eyes it with interest.
"Soaked in her blood, and brought back to you?" Belarin nods. "Very well then."
As Machine turns to leave, Belarin seems to contemplate something. Slowly and deliberately, Machine walks towards the door, and you watch as Belarin hesitantly looks up to speak.
"Wait." He begins. Machine pauses, but does not turn around. "You're still searching for Tibles, are you not?" Machine's eyes turn cold, and you see a pang of pent up anger and frustration play across his face.
"Aye." He says coldly.
"And you're not going to try to exact information about him from me?" Without missing a beat, Machine responds.
"If I thought you knew anything of value about the wizard, you would be kneeling at my feet, begging for your life." Characteristically, Belarin jumps to his feet; his hands reach for the two swords at his belt.
"I will not be spoken to in this way! I am a King! An emporer! Guards, rally to me!" Silence follows, and Machine turns slowly around.
"Your kingdom is nothing to me, and I suggest you watch your tongue." Belarin is left agape as the assassin unlatches and opens the study door, stepping casually over the unconscious bodies of his imperial guardsmen. When he is out of sight, he calls back.
"I only hope the rest of the company hasn't fallen as far as you have, Belarin."
The former Paladin sheathes his swords, and falls back into his chair, wiping the sweat off his brow.

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