[This was my story written for Ley Lines Contest by Kobold Press. I like the opening but am unsatisfied with the rest. Maybe it can inspire someone. If you have suggestions to improve the story feel free to comment.]
Ausaheir played the memory back in mind, savoring her final act. She watched as Orvan slid across the ice. His hoofed feet slipped under him causing him to tumbled to the ground. The speed of the event prevented even a curse from the minotaur before she dropped into the freezing water.
The cold wasn't a big concern for her metallic body. Her mind told her body to hold it's breath but there was no need. Only three problems assailed her, the water, the ice and her weight. Her heavy form made it unlikely that she could swim to the surface. She could simply walk along the lake bottom but the thick ice toward the shore would be hard to penetrate. Meanwhile the water was slowly doing it's work. The follower of the gear goddess wondered how long until the corrosion would overcome her and she would have the answers to her questions.
A splash above her brought Ausaheir out of her reverie. Anger filled her thoughts as she saw the bull charging down to her. Reluctantly her legs pushed off the muddy bottom. Swimming up felt like someone had tied an anchor to her. Orvan met her with a rope in hand. They quickly pulled it taught. He clung onto her as she climb out of the freezing depths.
Orvan had dropped his gear and shucked much of his clothes before diving in to help Ausaheir. The cold bit deeply into the minotaur. He stumbled over to his clothes but needed his gearforged friend to get his clothes on.
While Orvan shivered, Ausaheir held the gear medallion tied to her arm. She spoke softly and touched her friend. When nothing happened, she slammed her fist into the hard ground. Had she been able, tears would have fallen for her failure. Instead she pulled some of the dry firewood from Orvan's pack. Within a few minutes she had a fire capable of sustaining her friend. They had hoped to save time by crossing the frozen lake rather than circling around but now much of that was lost. The sun dipped low in the sky.
After spreading out her equipment to dry, she spoke, "I'll see about collecting some more firewood. You should eat." Despite trying to sound calm, the words came out sharp, like commands.
The minotaur looked weak bundled up before the fire. While strong in the eyes of many, he couldn't match the strength of his peers. The broken horn showed the price he paid for trying. He looked like he was about to speak but then stopped.
Ausaheir turned her head as if hit by a blow. When she had first awakened in her new body, Orvan would quote things she had said about patience hoping to calm her and perhaps spark a memory in her. In frustration at her broken memory, she demanded he never instruct her with words of her lost thoughts. Her gears creaked as she walked away in search of firewood.
When the clockwork woman returned, Orvan chewed on some dried meat while watching the stars and consulting a book. Ausaheir threw another log on the fire while the others were placed nearby to dry out. She waited until the scholar seemed to have finished his work.
"Will we still reach the fallen star tomorrow?"
The bull head nodded. "We will certainly reach the area it fell. Finding the exact crash site may take more time."
The gearforged removed her tools from her pack and began cleaning and oiling her parts. "Don't risk your life for me again."
Orvan frowned. "I had hoped having some purpose would break your despair but perhaps I shouldn't have pushed you to help me."
"Purpose?" yelled Ausaheir as she rose to her feet. "What purpose? To be a simple guard? Selling my sword?" She looks around at the wilderness. Her head drooped and she spoke in a whisper. "I want more than that."
"Will you accomplish nothing while you wait for your goddess to answer? You didn't have a purpose due to Rava. You had a purpose due to your conviction. You can still serve that purpose but you have to want it."
Discovering the crash site proved far easier than expected. A swath of broken trees led to a ten foot wide crater. However they didn't find anything within the crater. Large footprints, bigger than a man, could be scene descending into the crater and leading back out.
"Looks like you were right more people were interested in the falling star than just you." Ausaheir crouched down to investigate the footprints outside the crater. "The giant wasn't interested in covering his tracks. We could probably follow him."
Orvan had descended down into the crater. It seemed a pointless endeavor to the warrior until she noticed what wasn't at the bottom. Instead of a mostly round bottom there was a deeper hole.
"What is that?" she asked.
Orvan put his hand into the whole and pulled out a rusted piece of metal. "I don't know," acknowledged her companion. "The impact seems to have uncovered something buried here long ago. Whoever took the star seems to have pulled that out of the ground too."
He climbed back up and showed the metal piece to Ausaheir. The piece was a semicircle with a tab on the flat side presumably to insert into another piece. It was very corroded and didn't have any other distinguishing characteristics. She offered it back but Orvan had no interest so she discarded it on the ground.
Looking in the direction of the track, the minotaur suggested, "We might be able to barter with the giant."
Ausaheir scoffed at the idea. It wasn't that the idea was without merit. It had more to do with their lack of items to trade.
It took another day to follow the hulking humanoid. The tracks led to a cave. While they discussed whether to enter the lair, the monster lumbered out. The bald blue-skinned giant stood at least twelve feet tall. Simple fur skins covered it's body. The most unusual feature was the third eye on the creature forehead. The two companions quickly took cover to avoid detection.
"What is that?" whispered Ausaheir.
Orvan shrugged. "A... triclops?"
She responded with a disapproving look before turning back to the giant. It seemed to be leaving. Once it seemed far enough away the companion snuck down to the cave.
The cave was rather shallow but housed a large collection of random objects. A pile of books rested on half a cart propped against a wall. A collection of weapons lay on part of floor next to a treasure chest. A pair of shackles were mounted to a wall. A large table stained red held a larger manual and various vials. The remains of a clockwork creation lay next to the table. A pile of cloth scraps seemed to function as the creature's bed.
Ausaheir stood unable to discern where to start. "How are we supposed to find two objects that we don't know what they look like in this mess?"
Orvan approached the chest while pointing towards the clockwork creation. "That clockwork device was the one pulled from the ground."
Giving it a closer look, the gearforged noticed the missing semicircle metal piece on the rusty machine. It appeared there were more pieces connected to the machine but were ripped off. Ausaheir guessed it must have happened before being buried as no other parts could be seen here. Removing the central plate to see inside proved difficult due to the rust. She nearly fell when pulling it open.
A ghostly hand flowed out of Orvan. As he mimicked opening a chest, the magical hand opened the real thing. Inside were various coins, gems and jewelry. Despite the wealth, the minotaur scowled at the find.
Both adventurers were surprised by a sound from the cavern's opening. The triclops stood with his arms crossed looking at the two trespassers. The third eye on the forehead seemed to glow with a faint white light. Neither companion could understand the creature's speech. After a moment the monster spoke again in a more melodious sound. Orvan recognized it as the elven tongue.
"Do you speak elven?" asked the giant.
"I do," responded the minotaur.
"What are you doing here?"
Ausaheir hated being left out. Her hand rested on the hilt of her sword just in case the situation turned violent. "What is it saying?" she asked.
Orvan held out his hand to silence the warrior. "We are looking for the star that fell from the sky?"
The eyes of the triclops constantly alternated between the two intruders. "What do you have to offer?"
"We don't have much in way of gold," admitted the minotaur. "Perhaps..."
The giant interrupted, "How about the toy man?"
Orvan looked over at Ausaheir who anxiously awaited some call to action. "She has been less than pleasant on this trip. Before agreeing, I would need to see the object. Of course, I couldn't be involved in overt action against her in case you failed to subdue her."
A vicious smile spread across the three eyed face. "The star is the melted rock and metal under the table."
"What's going on Orvan?" asked Ausaheir.
"He says the rock under the table is what we are looking for but that we won't make it out of here alive," answered the minotaur.
The gearforged pulled out her sword only to have her mind sear in pain. Before she knew it her sword was gone. The triclops laughed. Her sword looked small in the hands of the giant. Wasting no time, Ausaheir ran toward the pile of weapons.
Just a suddenly as the weapon left her hand it launched back at her without the giant lifting a finger. The sword clattered to the ground just ahead of her as she stopped short. Ausaheir scooped up the sword and charged the opponent. The blade sliced into the thick furs worn by the creature.
Her shield blocked the monster's swing but the force of the blow still pushed her back. The triclops ignored the chanting of Orvan. As the wizard finished bolts of light streamed into the room slamming into the giant.
"We had a deal," demanded the foe as he stumbled to the ground.
"No. After seeing the rock I decided I'd rather keep my friend."
Once again the creature tried to take Ausaheir's sword. Her focused mind pushed out the alien interference. Instead of flying into his hand, Ausaheir stabbed the sword into the third eye. The monster convulsed and finally stopped moving.
As Ausaheir wiped the blade on the furs, Orvan focused on retrieving the rock. It wasn't as large as he had hoped.
"How long would you say that metal object was sitting in the ground?" asked the warrior.
The minotaur focused on the examining the rock. "Well the dirt didn't appear to have been disturbed until it was pulled out. I imagine it must have been there at least one hundred years."
"Then you need to see this." She walked over to the device.
Orvan noticed that the machine was incredibly complex, something more akin to modern clockwork creations than something so old. Then he realized Ausaheir's reason for inviting him over. While the gem was fractured, it was unmistakably once a soul gem. These were the remains of a gearforged from a time when they shouldn't exist.