The Day of the Dragon
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Grand Karcist Bumaro felt a great relief. For ages he had felt nothing but anger, hatred, desperation and a deep embedded shame. But as he placed his claw-like hands upon the small piece of clockwork, as the turning gears burned against his skin, he felt almost hopeful.

He would have laughed and even wept, but his mouths with sharp teeth would only produce unholy sounds, and his eyes were those of a beast. So he walked, down the path of brass that he had never fathomed that he would walk again. Every cell of his body screamed rejection as the clockwork clicked rhythmically in his hands, but he held it as if it were something holy and divine.

It was indeed divine, for it was the last piece of the Mekhane lost on this mortal coil - The Heart of God, ripped from the very chest of Ion, the treacherous leader of the Church of the Broken God. His body lay scattered, no longer able to sustain itself with the power of Mekhane taken away from him. Bumaro had resented him for the longest time, but this time, he didn’t bother to look back. He merely gazed forward.

Before him, a tremendous machine twisted and turned, emitting a voiceless tune; behind him, the Archons had silently gathered, their eyes fixed on the smaller piece of machine in Bumaro’s claws. The horrifying angels merely watched Yaldabaoth's appointed servant approaching the god to be remade.

As Bumaro walked closer, the burning sensation reached through his skin and into his bones, but he paid it no attention. The piece of clockwork began to vibrate, and its sound started to fall in tune with the one made by the greater machine. Bumaro had been in complete control of his body for centuries, but by this time his heart pounded uncontrollably. It was the same sound he heard thousands of years ago, the calling of God that made his breath heavy and his blood boil. Even though this time, the calling was not meant for him.

It didn’t start like this, of course. As he looked upon the godly machine, its ever-moving gears and its smooth reflective surface, Bumaro would recall a different time, when he was a different man. He had a different face back then, one not of twisted flesh, not of hollow eyes, not of gaping mouths full of fangs, but one augmented with brass and iron, with eyes that spoke his faith to god and mouth that muttered holy prayers of clockwork.

It was some thousand years ago, back when he was a simple, devout Mekhanite, who knew nothing but to devote his life to bring the Broken God back to his throne. He would get rid of his limbs and organs, replacing them with the simple mechanical structures they could make back then, and thought of it as rebuilding oneself in god’s image. Looking back it was a mere crude imitation of Mekhane’s manifestations, but to the Mekhanites, it was holy and honorable.

He never expected any great task to fall on his shoulders, and did not think about even witnessing a holy relic. As much as he made it his lifetime goal, the reconstruction of god seemed so far away from him. There were many great masters, all experienced Mekhanites with minds of clockwork and hearts for god. And his life consisted only of studying, praying and peaceful meditation, which he thought would last forever.

But then there was Ion. A slave of the Daevites who stumbled upon a piece of god and saw it as a great opportunity. It was not long before he gathered followers among the oppressed, and started his own version of the Mekhane religion, not to be god’s loyal servant, but to take advantage of its pieces. Nobody knew how he wielded that power, but Ion successfully fused himself with the relic, and became the God’s master. Mekhane was then tainted.

The Daevites soon fell, and a clockwork empire grew. But the machines they built were not beautiful and harmonious, but instead, destructive and monstrous. Sharp grindings had filled the ears and black steams had covered the sky. Entire mountains would be consumed by giant structures, only for them to grow like cancer. The Mekhanites did not agree with them, so they fell as well.

It all went down fast. The Church of the Broken God harnessed the very same power the Mekhanites used, and knew no boundaries. Mekhanites, who were few in numbers, were hunted down like animals as Ion’s four saints sent out iron beasts after them. Their sharp claws would twist brass and their pale fangs would chew down any remaining flesh.

For Bumaro, it was horror and desperation. He watched his temple burned, saw his mentors and fellow believers ripped to pieces, and witnessed machines that he could only imagine in his wildest nightmares. By then, the only monstrous thing he could think of would be the Flesh, and he only perceived machines as elegant and delicate. But he was proven wrong as huge grinding gears crushed his legs, as sharp metallic screams pierced through his ears. He realized then that the Broken God was being corrupted, and this was its unholy form.

He was dying, and had no hope. His remaining flesh parts were twisted and his blood streamed away, his metal parts were being consumed by Ion's ungodly beasts. In desperation, and maybe deep hidden anger and resentment, Bumaro prayed. For once in his life, he prayed for power to change all things. But it was another god who answered him.

It was almost surreal, as the whispers came not from monstrous angels descended from the skies, but from within him. They were promises of power, promises of vengeance, and promises of the God to be remade. At first Bumaro was confused, and thought that he was merely hallucinating. But as the whispers turned into images, scenes not of this world and should never be of this world, Bumaro realized where the call came from.

It was the call of the Flesh, coming from the remaining mortal parts of his body, as the heritage of Yaldabaoth was buried in each and every person. In his dying dream, Bumaro saw a world of flesh, with large chucks of meat spreading in unnatural forms; he saw the six horrid beasts, of great power and ever-watching eyes; and he saw the most monstrous and most beautiful thing of them all, the Dragon in the Great Brass Cage, calling for her sons and daughters to set her free. And he understood what they wanted from him.

It was hard to tell which was better and which was worse: The monstrous machines or the monstrous flesh? But Bumaro made his decision. Perhaps it was because he was dying and desperate, perhaps it was because he considered Ion a bigger threat, or perhaps he simply could not stand to see Mekhane being corrupted and used as lifeless tools. Nevertheless, he let the whispers in and accepted their terms.

New life sprouted from his torn body, as the beasts in his dream laughed and the Dragon chuckled at his obedience in her prison. The mechanical monsters were startled as they watched the man become a beast. The mechanical parts he was once so proud of fell from his body as his trimmed flesh grew like cancer. Clockwork nailed into his bones was expelled, cogs and gears that were once part of him were abandoned, and limbs he no longer possessed grew back with more appendages.

It was painful, and it was brief. By the time his newly revived flesh stopped twisting and Bumaro was able to think properly again, the battle was already over. The iron beasts that slaughtered his teachers and friends were torn to shreds, their sharp grinding sounds ceased. Their remains were mixed with the shining brass pieces shed from Bumaro's body. The fire at the temple burned brighter and Bumaro stood to realize that it was his claws that ripped down the machine monsters’ heads, his bone spears that pushed through their iron skins, and his mouths that emitted beastly howls.

To battle the unholy, he had become the unclean.

On that day, he was no longer a Mekhanite, but Grand Karcist Bumaro, the Holy Priest of Yaldabaoth. As he offered the Dragon his servitude, the very thing he should have fought against according to the holy books of the Mekhanites, his life became another cycle. He would gather followers, preaching to them words he himself didn’t believe in, and offer them the power to become beasts. Leading the things he was disgusted of, he would set out to battle another monstrosity, in the slim hope that he could save his god from a horrible fate.

But it was not his god anymore, not really, as he was no longer able to hear its call like he used to and no longer able to see the beauty in machines. Life had become a torment and he had become numb. He would watch his plans fail and watch his followers perish and did not care. He would just start over, adhering to every word the Archons had whispered to him.

He had been defeated, torn, banished to the cage of the Dragon, but he would rise and fight again, as if none of the setback ever happened. Only seeing Ion again with the relic on his chest would stir the slight emotions he had, and would remind him what he was fighting for. He had become an abomination with power he could not fathom.

But it mattered little. He might have failed time and again, but he now stood triumphantly over the ruins of the Church, his slim hope becoming reality. The Archons had descended to this realm to witness the final moment. Bumaro looked once again down at his claws, as the clockwork was burning off his flesh, revealing bones underneath.

Click.

The Heart of the God fit perfectly into the grander machine. It was beautiful, as the gears all turned at an incredible rate and they emitted the loudest and most amazing sound. The next moment, they were no longer gears, no longer clockwork machines. A being of order looked down at him, one of glory long hidden and of power long lost. It was the God, his God.

Bumaro could no longer perceive what was happening. Maybe he could have, as that young Mekhanite thousands or years ago. But now, the only thing he could sense is the laughter of the Archons and the roar of the Dragon far away. The light of the Mekhane was almost blinding, but Bumaro knew that something was happening.

The cage broke. The cage, crafted from Mekhane himself to imprison Yaldabaoth, was now broken. There was a moment of silence, as the Dragon was now free and the God finally returned to its full form. The Archons cheered as the two reunited, as the great beast and the great machine announced their presence. Their powers and might clashed together, and their minds and forms mingled as one.

The Grand Karcist Bumaro watched this silently as he felt something different, something he had not felt for a long time. He could feel Yaldabaoth take his power away from him and the glory from Mekhane burned down his rotten flesh. But what he really felt was a small bit of joy, that his sins were now placed in front of the great God no longer broken, that his debts were paid and his duties fulfilled and that he could finally let go.

The Dragon and the God roared and their fight started once more.

Bumaro got down on the ground and prayed softly: "My Lord." His voice soon died down and his body returned to ashes.

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