He didn’t really want to kill them, but he knew that blood was the only answer to this. It was the only way that anyone would take notice of the participated-in tyranny that was Heartland, and more so the tyranny of Owen, wherever he might be, assuming he existed.
Lewis didn’t doubt Owen’s existence, though. He was sure, somewhere, Owen was watching over everything. He was probably even willing Lewis to rebel. But why? And how much power did Lewis have over his own actions? Was Owen guiding him toward an endgame?
Lewis looked around for a place to hide the bodies of the two priests. He spotted a small cave a few steps away and was about to drag them over when he heard a loud squawking sound. He looked up and saw a horde of vultures descending from wherever it was they lived. They immediately began pecking at the bodies. Lewis sighed and hopped onto his horse. He supposed the other two horses would wander off by themselves soon enough.
He knew the path to Heartland, but he wasn’t going that way. He began to follow the route up the mountain. The climb wasn’t too hard for the horse, as the inclines weren’t too steep.
The next part of his plans was to eliminate the symbols. First stop, Imelda. Local lore spoke of her as “The saddest bitch in all of Spectrum.” He didn’t know her story, but he supposed he might find it out when he faced off with her. Would there even be a fight? Who knows.
On his way up, he fished through his bags and retrieved the weapons still hidden. No need to conceal them now; he’d need to be ready for anything that came his way.
Soon he arrived at a large plateau. Contrary to everything on Alpentine he had seen so far, the plateau was lush with vegetation. There was a fountain in the middle and Lewis could even hear birds chirping. He didn’t even question the logic of it; this was only more proof that Owen was the divine creator of Spectrum.
Lewis looked around to try and spot Imelda. He didn’t even know what she looked like. His wondering didn’t last too long, though, as a woman stepped out from behind a tall bush. It wasn’t some kind of dramatic “This is me” gesture, but simply her being bored of standing where she was. She didn’t even notice Lewis and horse standing there. Lewis would have remained silent and tried a sneak attack on her, but then his horse neighed loudly, snapping her to attention.
“Oh,” she said. “A farmer.”
Lewis was confused. He was sure she would be trying to kill him, but instead she stared at him blankly.
“What was it you farmers were supposed to have? One hand on the plow, the other hand on the–”
Lewis cut her off. “I am not here for that,” he said quietly. “I am here to help create a liberated Spectrum.”
“By doing what, exactly?”
“That is my business,” Lewis said. “Now will you surrender quietly or shall I need draw my cutlass?”
Imelda laughed. “You’ll get no argument from me. Owen has been so painfully boring lately. Nothing has been happening for some time now. The ink has dried in the well. There’s no action.”
“This place is a narrative mess,” Lewis agreed.
“I’ll be on my way, then,” Imelda said. “You might have a little more trouble with No-Face, though. He talks a lot.” With that, Imelda swept up her skirts, walked to the cliffs and leaped. Lewis nearly gasped, but then noticed that she was sliding gracefully down the mountainside.
No-Face would be next. He had no hope in hell of reaching Cockatrice- it was near the top of the mountain where Owen lived, and he didn’t mean to go as high as the summit just yet. He needed to take action first.
A bit of a climb later, Lewis reached another plateau, this one much darker than Imelda’s lair. It was physically dark, rather; it was as though a storm cloud had chosen this particular spot to park itself. All the lay on the rocky plateau was a table. Near it stood a monstrous-looking bird. This was No-Face? Lewis figured Owen must have a thing for birds.
“Welcome, Lewis,” said No-Face. “You’ve gotten rid of Imelda, and without a fight. Well I’m sure you must feel proud of yourself. After all, what have you done with your life since being born? You’ve plowed the fields year after year. You’ve gotten strong, but your life has no purpose, just like all the rest of the inhabitants of Spectrum.” Lewis was trying to interrupt him, but he couldn’t form the words. He wasn’t nervous; he physically couldn’t speak. Whenever No-Face talked, he couldn’t.
“And now you want to try and take down Owen? Ha!” the laugh was more of a squawk. “You know as well as I do that you’re in love with him.” The statement felt like a knife to Lewis’ chest. “You won’t be able to kill him anyway, even if you felt differently.”
Lewis couldn’t take it anymore. Charging forward, he quickly found himself face-to-face with the bird. Before No-Face could even figure out what was happening, Lewis had grabbed him by his beak and thrust his right arm upward at a high speed, cracking the beast’s jaw with a sickening crunch. No-Face let out a cry of pain and fell over.
“You’ll never speak again,” Lewis said, glad to be able to talk again. His two targets had been hit, and he could now proceed with the next phase of his plan. He hopped back on his horse, and as he headed back the way he came, he was sure he could hear the tune of a violin. It was faint, but it was there.
He reached the base of the mountain, and then headed to the nearby port. He looked around for the best place to make his speech. He saw a pub just a few steps away. He walked over to it and looked in. Filling the pub were sailors and generally the type of men Lewis was looking for. He cleared his throat, expecting everyone to quiet. No one did. He decided he could only get their attention with noise. He walked up to the bar, ordered a stein of ale. When he received it, he immediately smashed it on the floor. Everyone looked up to see what was happening.
“I have just come from Mount Alpentine,” Lewis bellowed. This silenced all, though he could hear a few skeptics muttering “Loony” and other such things. “I have spurred Imelda down the mountainside. I took No-Face by his beak and broke his jaw; he’ll never speak again.”
“Prove it!” shouted a man near the back of the place. “We seen plenty o’ folk who come in braggin’, but got nothin’ t’back up their words.”
Lewis smiled. He pulled out the part of No-Face’s beak he had snapped off. It raised a gasp from the crowd. “I am seeking to change Spectrum for the better. I plan to sail to the nearby islands and deliver a simple message. However, I will need men who will accompany me. I need ships.”
“Well what’s yer message then?” the same man asked.
“Oh Heartland…” Lewis began, pausing for dramatic effect. “Up yours.” This raised a raucous cheer from the crowd. Many men came up to him, offering their services. Before long, the men had found Lewis some proper armour, and several ships had sailed off. The ship Lewis was traveling on was called the Victoria.
The inhabitants of the various islands at first did not take kindly to the intrusion, but soon they were caught up in the fervour of “Heartland, up yours” and pledged allegiance to Lewis and his cause.
Eventually, though, it led to a scenario that Lewis had been hoping to avoid. As he went from island to island, he gradually began picking up more and more people. When they stopped at a pier to restock on supplies, he saw a man speedily exit the boat and go near the water’s edge. Lewis knew something was wrong.
He quietly followed the man, who probably didn’t know he was being followed. Finally, though, the man turned around.
“Don’t come any closer!” he cried. “I am afraid of the man I’ll become if I lay my life down for a people who I don’t even care for.” Lewis knew what was at the heart of this. The man wasn’t convinced that Owen existed, and further, he doubted that, if he were to die in the struggle, that anyone would remember him.
Ignoring the man’s warnings, Lewis stepped closer, putting his face near the man’s. “No, I’ve seen his work upon the panes of cathedrals, in the sweat of the workers and the flight of seagulls.” Or at least, that’s what he tried to say. The soothing words were lost in the roar of battle horns. Ships had appeared as if from nowhere, and from nearby trees came hundreds, perhaps thousands of shoulders. Eyes wide, Lewis stood frozen. Suddenly he heard a thwmp sound, and before he knew what was happening, a spear had lodged itself in his shoulder.
Grunting with pain, Lewis dove into the water to avoid being hit by any more weaponry. His ships had had the good sense to set sail as soon as they saw the enemies, so Lewis’ agonizing journey back to the Victoria was more painful than it should have been. He finally reached the boat, and the captain pulled him aboard. A doctor immediately saw to his wound.
Up until that spear, Lewis had felt invincible. With that sense of security stripped away, Lewis felt more and more that he was indeed a puppet on a string. He knew it now. Owen existed without a doubt. But whose story it was was still up in the air.