Pahl watched as two mules and a driver with a strange look on his face pulled the cart away from the shack where he and two Illuminators produced the Band's newest weapon. There were three casks of the black powder- he really needed to come up with a good name for the substance- in the back of the wagon, each about the same size as the casks of local apple brandy. It would all eventually end up at Pahl's own laboratory where he would perform a few tests on some new ideas. The horseless engine idea seemed particularly promising. “Thu-thank you,” he stammered at the two Illuminators as he left to make his way back to his own equipment.
It is generally helpful, when dealing with a new face, to let them know exactly what is expected of them. All that Rhobbet knew was that a strange little man with a leather cap and odd glasses had loaded three casks onto his cart and wandered off without leaving him any instructions. The two other people from the shed had disappeared back inside when the little man left, also leaving him without any instructions. Rhobbet knocked on the door of the shed, noting the strangely thick walls and the well-built but flimsy-looking roof. A muffled voice called out to leave, adding a few impressively strung-together profanities. Rhobbet found himself in the unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory of having to make a decision.
Rhobbet was new to the Citadel, a cart driver who wanted nothing more than an easy job where somebody would tell him what to do. He did not want to think, he was not paid enough to think, and thinking just caused him trouble. Yet here he was...
“All right, Bahb,” he muttered to himself, “we're here now, let's get this done.” A long look at the casks told him that they were, indeed, casks. He had seen casks like them come into the Citadel on his first day, which was barely a week gone. The man at the gate had sent all but one to the officers' mess up near the Red Keep. With a shrug, Rhobbet- Bahb to his friends- swung himself up onto the cart and nudged his mules in the direction of the Red Keep proper.
“Let's see: clockwork mechanism deposits small amounts of the black powder- still need a good name for it- into the cylinder. Cylinder compresses, opens door, furnace shakes, sparks ignite powder, cylinder opens, process repeats.”
Pahl was walking around his small prototype engine, checking valves, chains, gears. In the back of his mind, there was something bothering him, but it was merely a small hum beneath the roar of his normal thoughts. He pulled one of his thick leather gloves onto his hand, took it off and switched it to the correct hand, then reached into his small forge and pulled three smoldering coals out of the fire and pushed them into the furnace attachment on the engine. A few quick turns of the wheel attached to the bottom of the furnace to test the shaker, and he nodded in satisfaction. “Next, add powder, wind spring, and stand back.” Pulling his goggles down over his eyebrows- two of them, for once- Pahl turned towards the corner of his little shop to break open one of the casks.
Even with the noise of his ever-racing mind, it was impossible to not notice that there was an empty space on the ground where there should have been three casks of the black powder. Seemingly without any input from his mind whatsoever, Pahl pulled a thin piece of charcoal out of a pocket and made a note about naming the powder on his sleeve. For once, everything in his mind stopped. “They aren't here. Oh, Light, they aren't here.”
That was bad. That was very bad. Pacing back and forth in front of his workshop, Pahl closed his eyes, his hands clutching the side of his head. “Focus, focus!” he muttered. “The casks aren't here. That means that they never made it here. That means that they are on the cart.” A deep breath. “The cart!”
Pahl waited only long enough to make sure that his small furnace was closed- the people who made decisions in the Citadel were still angry about that last fire- before running straight back to the Illuminators' shack. Running through the Citadel was always tricky. Horses, foot traffic, and all of those people who also liked running through the streets. They were always going by in groups, and there was always one person at the front shouting things at the rest. The ones at the front also liked to look at Pahl with wide-open mouths whenever he sprinted past them. That never made sense to him. They had obviously seen people running before; all they had to do was look behind them.
The Illuminators' shack was not long in appearing. Frantically Pahl pounded on the door. “Open up! W-we have a p-p-problem!”
“What are you yelling about?” one of the Illuminators yelled from inside the shed.
“The c-c-casks! They're missing!”
There was a heavy silence from inside the shed, followed by a quiet, “Oh, Light...” The door flew open, and the Illuminator standing in the doorway was as white as Tar Valon. “What did you do, you little maniac?”
Pahl glared. “It w-w-wasn't me! Where d-did you s-s-s-send that c-cart?”
“We didn't send him anywhere! Where did you bloody well send him?”
Grabbing the sides of his cap, Pahl began pacing again. “They didn't send him. I didn't send him. He left on his own. Three casks. What did we tell him about them? Nothing. Three casks...” Stopping short as an idea crackled through his head like a lightning bolt, Pahl yelled, “You! G-g-go to the t-t-taverns! See if any n-n-new casks have c-c-c-come in!” Not waiting to see if the Illuminators had done as he asked, Pahl turned and sprinted towards the mess halls.
“Huh? I don't care. Put them by the ovens,” the head cook in the mess hall said, waving a ladle in the general direction of the rest of the kitchen. Nodding, Rhobbet returned to his cart and hoisted the first cask. The brandy inside shifted, but it did not feel like it was liquid. It rustled against the side of the wood next to his ear. Must be grain, then, Bahb thought as he hauled the cask into the kitchen and dropped it on the floor next to the nearest oven, radiating heat that he could easily feel. It was also radiating the smell of burnt bread, but nobody seemed to be paying attention to that.
The second cask followed, the thump of it hitting the stone floor accompanied by a small cracking sound. A quick glance showed Rhobbet that the cask had landed next to some black soot, but there was nothing spilling out of it. To be safe, though, he was careful about stacking the third cask on top of the other two.
Job completed, Rhobbet dodged his way out of the kitchens, snagging a roll from a tray on the counter as he went. A free lunch was never something to avoid. Bahb scrambled his way back up onto his cart and nudged the mules back towards the gates, taking a bite of the roll as he did so. The shipping clerk would probably have his next- oh.
Bouncing along, Rhobbet- Bahb to his friends- made his back down to the gates. The roll stayed behind on the ground.
Dodging his way through the back streets and alleys of the Citadel was much simpler than trying to run straight up the main road. There were fewer people and carts, and getting back to the main thoroughfare through the fortress would have taken more time.
Time that Pahl was no longer certain that he had.
After what felt like an eternity of panicked sprinting, Pahl finally broke out into the cleared area where the mess hall stood. Many of the cooks were standing outside the doors as a black smoke poured out. Skidding to a halt in front of the cooks, Pahl gasped, “Did anyb-b-b-body deliver anything tod-d-day? Any c-c-c-casks?”
One of the cooks pointed into the kitchen. “Over by the ovens. Be careful, one of the loaves of bread caught fire in there. The smoke is pretty bad.”
Next to the ovens? Fire?! Pahl tugged his goggles down over his eyes and pulled a strange mask over his nose and mouth. “G-g-get away from the b-b-building! Now!” The cooks made no move to leave. “Now!” he shouted. “Unless you want to die, GO NOW!”
That seemed to shift them. Pahl never understood why people sometimes reacted better to shouting. It's not like they could not hear somebody talking- Enough. Casks now, shouting later. Stepping into the kitchen, Pahl took a split-second to examine the scene. “No people left. Good. Smoke dissipating, coming from wash tub next to oven. Other ovens...” Pahl approached and checked each oven. “Other ovens empty. Lots of sparks flying, though. Not good.” Coming around the side of the ovens, Pahl took another split-second to examine what was there.
He immediately saw the casks.
He immediately saw that one of them had cracked, and the black powder contained within was slowly pouring out onto a pile next to the cask.
He saw sparks flying out of the oven and landing closer and closer to the casks.
Pahl was back outside before he realized that he had even started running, screaming at everybody to get away from the building. Judging that he was a safe distance from the mess hall, he stopped to look back. Maybe there was a chance to get buckets of water. It wouldn't take much, maybe two or three, to render everything safe. If he cornered somebody to help draw some water, he could go get that padded suit from the training yard a-
A hammer the size of a building struck Pahl's entire body, accompanied by a wave of heat that left his skin itching and burning. A wave of thunderous noise followed, though Pahl was not as concerned with that. The sound struck him at the same time that he struck a wall a fair distance from where he had been standing. His back struck first, then his head bounced off the wall. Pahl's vision went black for a moment as he bounced off the wall and landed on his face on the ground. His face burned in two circles around his eyes, and he could feel the warmth of blood trickling down around and under his goggles.
Rolling onto his back, Pahl stayed on the ground, looking skyward. His head was swimming, his vision wavy, his thoughts slowed to a crawl. The casks... the casks must have... Pahl shook his head, causing a wave of nausea and pain to roar through his body. The casks had exploded. What had...?
Slowly, Pahl turned his head towards the mess hall. Surprisingly, the building itself seemed to be intact, though there was no glass left in the windows. An agonizing glance down at his arms, reddened from flash burn and trickling blood from numerous small cuts, showed Pahl where some of that glass had gone. Pahl could not see anybody else on the ground near him, though he could not see very far from his position. One of the cooks from outside the kitchen was running towards him, his mouth opening and closing like he was saying something. He probably was, but the ringing in Pahl's ears, a familiar sound from his other experiments with the Illuminators' powder, was too loud for him to hear over. It would likely pass.
His eyelids felt heavy, and he felt tired, more tired than he should have felt. A thought crawled out of the heavy mud that was his mind, a whispered warning to stay awake. Pahl did his best to comply. In the meantime, the pain was beginning to set in. Pahl knew that there was nothing that he could do to stop it, no point to fighting it. Instead, he settled in and allowed it to consume him. There would be somebody along soon to see what all the noise was about, after all.
OOC: Hi! I'm back! I don't know what it's like on the other sides of the building, so feel free to fill in those details as you wish.