I struggle to focus my eyes in Malta’s dank underbelly. Scotch’s effects blur both sight and mind, and my own doubts, not silent since the day I discovered the Ritter family’s betrayal, prevent me from fully absorbing the majesty laid out in these depths. In 1943, fleeing from Chelmno, the Ways had spat me out above here, on the Crusader’s Rock.
The humid Mediterranean air choked me then as it does now. I stumble now, as I did then, in a heartsick blur, Lanzettenblatt gripped in my fist. To my mind, the only difference was that in ’43, my only company were wraiths.
Sergeant Ethan Blackstone is the only wraith today. Besides Hans, I suppose, but I meant the term figuratively. A simile, I think the English phrase for it? A pity there’s no wi-fi down here. Seems like a good time to look up English terms for Poetic Devices.
I take a deep breath and cough wetly. The air down here is just as damp as above. I hear myself talking, trying to talk, with a person whose language is some dead form of Greek. Would that I had a gift for languages. Riley knew easily twenty. I’m annoyed that he died. It seems like an affront to his legend. It’s more annoying that I’d not mastered my craft thoroughly enough to mend him. I built ALAREC for you, Tinsmith. Return and appreciate your pupil’s magnum opus!
A thunder-crack pierces my ears, leaves residual whine. Did Lanzettenblatt misfire? Did someone shell us? Too early to relive my tenure with Rommel! North Africa, a Drecksloch even before war!
What’s happening? I jump through a door because I see my companions do it. I cough as rock dust mixes with the damp air and coats my lungs with a layer of cement. A crude howitzer fills the hall before us. Black powder death. I fumble for the mental steel and speed I knew in youth, the days when Skyfire solved everything. I cough, wetly. This damn air. If the air were only dry, I could breathe. I could think.
I scrawl a sigil of separation on the floor, funneling my essence to it. I feel the water in the air. I want it gone. I want to breathe. But where to send it? And do I have the power? The sigil thrums beneath my hand as black powder death approaches.
My father never adopted cordite firearms, dubious of its precursor, guncotton, after an Austrian factory explosion in 1862. Poudre Blanche and all its children burned even when wet. Poudre Blanche was invented in 1884. I was five. If they used smokeless, I could hex their gear to dust.
Odds that an ancient civilization of wizards and alchemists were using Poudre B or more modern in their ammo. Slim to none.
The previous Reichsgraf von Eisenberg took great pains to keep his powder dry.
And this water’s gotta go somewhere…