An Arcanum fanfiction by Mikhail

Disclaimer: Arcanum is a product of Troika Games and Sierra; the characters featured in this story belong to them.

"All aboard!"

The line before him started to move. One by one, passengers filed through the darkened maw of the train's entrance; some carried suitcases, some carried children. He watched, mildly amused, as a young halfling pointed excitedly to the train, eyes gleaming with anticipation.

"Father look! They're letting people on now! Let's go, let's go!" cried the child, half dragging his father as the line moved forward.

He watched, smiling, as the father chuckled and followed his son. "All right, all right... come on, your mother's waiting for us back home."

The two were stopped momentarily at the door as the conductor looked them over. "Ah, here you are, Mr. Brightstart. Right this way, if you would."

"Thank you," replied the elder halfling as he was dragged into the massive steel carraige by his son. The line moved forward to fill in the gap he left, and the conductor turned to face the next in line.

"Wish they'd go a little faster... we don't have a lot of time to waste," came the mutter from behind him.

A second voice, coming from behind the first, deep and gruff. "Can say that again, that's for sure. If they'd have a dwarf handling this, you can bet we'd be halfway to Ashbury by now, that's for damn sure!"

'Oh no... here we go,' he thought as the first voice came back, slightly higher in pitch, obviously irritated. "Magnus, would it pain you too much for you to be quiet about the dwarves for just five blasted minutes?!"

'God, not this again.'

"Bah... like you're in a position to argue! Bloody ignorant..."

"Please, be quiet, both of you!" commanded a soft, yet severe voice from behind the two of them. "We are supposed to be working together on this, and it's not going to help if you keep bickering all along the way."

'Thank you, princess,' he thought, with a chuckle, as he took a step forward, following the line. His thoughts wandered as, slowly, passengers were filed onto the train.

'The Vendigroth Device...' The ancient elf's words echoed, one by one, through the recesses of his mind. 'We don't even know where Vendigroth is, much less what this... thing... looks like. What are we to do, scour the whole of the wastes to find it?'

"Mr. Saldano!"

The sharp, piercing call of the conductor brought him back to reality almost instantly. "Yes?" he said, with a hint of uncertainty.

"You and your party are cleared for the first class cabin. Right this way, sir."

Offering a slight, sheepish smile, a simple "Thank you" escaped his lips as he stepped through the darkened doorway of the train.


'Built and rebuilt many times over in recent years, the train nonetheless stands as one of the most prominent symbols of the virtues of technology; fast, convenient, and affordable, no expense has been spared in its construction. Six cars long, all sections of the train, from first class to the mage's caboose, are fitted with state-of-the-art plumbing and electricity, providing adequate facilities and lighting to those who require them. The first class section, consisting of the first three cars, has separate, private compartments for each party. The fourth car serves as a commons area, complete with a small bar and an assortment of newspapers. The rear two cars serves as the mage's caboose, and, while lacking the privacy of the first class compartments, are nonetheles well furnished, providing sufficient comfort for the longest of journeys.

Note from the editor: Since the disaster at Vermillion Station, crew members on every trip are expected to be armed, from the engineers and conductors to the maids and bartenders. Readers are advised to be on their best behavior when travelling. - Chadwick Moore'

Virgil sighed and unceremoniously dropped the newspaper down on the table before him, rattling the ice in his otherwise empty glass. "I swear, this has to be at least a year old..."


Glancing across the table, the human opposite him met his gaze. His short, brown hair hung down over his forehead in short, straight bangs, as if pointing towards his intense hazel eyes. The makings of a smile tugged at the corners of his narrow lips, highlighting his slightly hawkish appearance. A pair of reading glasses perched precariously on the bridge of his nose, framing his eyes. The man reached out with one hand and picked up his glass, taking a small sip of the light red liquid within before setting it down, stopping only to pick a piece of lint off his worn, gray suit jacket.

"Sorry, I'm just a little anxious to get this over with... I..." Virgil trailed off, carefully choosing his words. "You just hear things about the Wastes, you know... ghost stories that friends tell each other to scare themselves silly..."

His eyes narrowed. "You sure it has nothing to do with... him?"

"Him who?" The Panarii monk blinked twice, before the answer crept into his mind. "Oh... Nasrudin, yes, uh..." He swallowed, audibly. "I... to be honest, I really don't know how I feel."

An eyebrow raised, curious. "What do you mean?"

"Well... on one hand, I suppose it is true what he said... about it not mattering with... you being who you are and all... but..." His face fell, and his eyes wandered over to his glass, staring through the melting ice.

"What's the matter, Virge?"

Virgil shook his head, looking back up at his friend. "You'd laugh."

He grinned. "Try me."

Unable to do anything but smile back, Virgil chuckled and nodded, slowly. "All right... it's really quite stupid... my father used to tell me and Lawrence stories, when we were children. He actually told me of the Living One, and..."


"...oh, we'd play a game sometimes... Lawrence would play the Living One, and I would play as Arronax, and we'd pretend to cast spells at eachother and sword fight... he was always the Living One, and, of course, he always won." He stopped, breaking into a grin. "Suppose it didn't help that he had a few extra stone on me. Always was a bit of a hefty bastard, but he had a good heart..."

He said nothing, pulling his chair in slightly as an elven couple squeezed past him and the table next to him.

Virgil continued. "I suppose, just once, I wanted to play the Living One. I know it was just a childish game back then, but... to us it was... well, it was about the closest we believed we'd come to living out the legend. And... when I ran into you, I believed you were the one, and..."

"I think I understand," replied the man with a smile. "Never stopped dreaming, even after everything that happened."

"Exactly," said Virgil with a nod. "I guess part of me hoped the legend would be real."

"Who's to say it isn't? Nasrudin is still alive, but nothing else has changed. It still all began in Shrouded Hills with the Zephyr, and we're still to fight Arronax. It's like Alexander said; whether we believe in the legend or not, by doing so we are enacting the prophecy in spirit, if not in writing."

"I know, I know... like I said, purely childish fantasy. Living One or not, you're still Renfro Saldano, and I Virgil Brummond, and we are going to stop Arronax." He paused, a slight silliness creeping into his grin. "Oh, right, and with the others too," he said, nonchalantly.

Renfro laughed heartily, one hand lightly slapping down to the table, causing his drink to quiver. "Hah... yes, what an interesting collection of characters we've assembled. To save the world, no less."

Virgil maintained his grin. "An elven princess, a dwarven dignitary to a forgotten clan, a mechanical spider, a monk of the Panarii and the son of a shopkeeper, who just happens to the be the sole survivor of the worst travel disaster in history."

"I heard that!" came the shout from the bar. A glance across the car revealed an angry-looking Magnus, glaring hard in the direction of the two.

Renfro's grin fell a little, but his voice kept in high spirits. "It just doesn't seem fair, does it?"

Deliberate overconfidence snuck into the monk's voice. "No, it doesn't, but then again, who says life is fair?"

With one fluid motion, Renfro finished his drink and stood up. He covered his mouth as he let out a wide yawn, stretching his other arm out. "Mm... I need to lie down for a minute. You two be good, all right?"

Virgil merely chuckled, and nodded to Renfro as he retreated from the commons.


"Such an odd little thing..."

She couldn't help but smile at the device's comical appearance; though built exactly like a common spider, the machine, being much larger and lower to the ground than its organic counterparts, looked far less menacing. Small, hardened leather caps covered the arachnid's 'feet', preventing it from damaging the surfaces it moved on. A pair of bright, circular lenses on the front seemed to serve as its eyes, while the mandibles beneath the eyes served both as weapons and as surgical tools. A grey metal tank beneath the creature's body served as a reservoir for some sort of medicinal fluid, and the words "Maxim Machinery" were imprinted along one of the forelegs.

Overall, in her limited experience with machines, it was clearly the oddest she had ever seen; yet, the machine had proven its usefulness to their already motley entourage. She smiled again, and gave the creature an affectionate pat on its 'head'.

Pushing a hand back through her long, dark hair, the elven princess sat quietly in her chair, with only the gentle whirring of the arachnid's engine and the rumbling of the train's wheels against the tracks to serve as a distraction.

Tilting her head to one side, glanced back down at the shield-sized machine. "What do you think, hmm? Do we really stand a chance against him?" A light, almost musical sigh escaped her lips. "Are we even going to make it that far?"

The spider merely chirped in response, the noise coming from a forward gear as it stretched one of its legs out. Suddenly, it lifted itself up and started crawling in small circles on its chair. Shifting to one side, then the other, it appeared to be scanning the room carefully.

"Hmm?" She leaned forward, peering quizzically at the odd machine. "What's the matter?"

The arachnid responded by crawling to the edge of its chair, appearing to peer down over the edge and at the carpeted floor; unable to keep a solid grip on the chair, it hurriedly scrambled back from the ledge as it started to slip.

Understanding came to the elf's eyes, and she chuckled, softly. Placing her hands along the body between its legs, she gingerly lifted the medical machine off its chair and lowered it to the floor of the compartment. She covered her mouth and laughed, slightly louder than before, as the machine skittered towards the door; despite appearances, the arachnid was neither quick nor agile, and it lacked the ability to climb.

The mechanical beast crawled up to the door and waited; to the elf's surprise, the door slid open, revealing a very surprised gentleman through the doorway.

"Whoa!" shouted Renfro as the arachnid tried to crawl past him. "Hey, where are you off to?"

Before it could scramble away, Renfro had his foot on the machine, preventing it from moving. He quickly bent down and slid his hands beneath the machine's body; his fingers quickly came upon a large button, concealed just to the left of the tank. A quick press, and the spider went completely slack, its legs curling upward to compact into a smaller, more portable form.

He chuckled as he grabbed the creature by two of its joined legs, and hefted it off the ground, pulling it back into the room. "This little guy's more anxious than the rest of us," he joked, nodding to the elven woman as he sat down in the chair across from her.

A smile and a nod were her response as she turned to glance out the window.

"How are you holding up?"

"I'll be all right, thank you." She glanced back at him. "My first train ride," she added.

"Are you sure? We can head back to the caboose if you like..."

She smiled at him, touched at his concern. "No, really, I... I'm fine, thank you. It's not the machinery, it's..."


She nodded. "I... I'm just a little worried... well, a lot, actually. I don't know what to expect out there."

"Me neither," said Renfro with a weighty sigh. "A whole city was destroyed in one fell swoop by Arronax. The gods know what's still out there... for all we know, there's a whole legion of undead down there, just waiting... and even aside from that, who's to say that this Device..."

"...still works," she finished for him.

He nodded in unspoken assent.

"Well, I guess we won't know until..."


"What the..." began Renfro, as several more gunshots followed the first. A heavy *thud* echoed through the door, and hurried footsteps added to the growing shouts and cries of panic and confusion.

She shifted her gaze from the door to Renfro as he drew a pair of silver revolvers and leapt to his feet. The soft, amiable look in his eyes vanished, replaced by that of a man steeled for battle.

"Raven," he said, less a command than a request.

The elven princess nodded; reaching up to the overhead cabinet, she pulled loose her bow and quiver, which she quickly strapped on. She drew a single arrow and nocked it within the bow. Drawing the string back, she trained the weapon on the door and gave a second nod to Renfro, who was slowly creeping up to the door.

"Get ready."

With a hard tug, Renfro pulled the door open...

...and leapt back in horror as the body of a train guard, previously slumped up against the doorway, fell to the floor, a fresh bullet hole in his head. His hands were still desperately clutching a shotgun, broken open and unloaded. A pair of spent shells lay by his feet.

"Ah!" cried Renfro, surprised.

"Hey, who's in there?!" came the shout from the corridor outside. The light from the hall cast a shadow as a large half-orc in a robe stormed the compartment, leading the way with his hand cannon.

Renfro's nerve failed him, but Raven's held; her arrow loosed, piercing effortlessly through the bandit's skin and muscle, lodging deep into his neck.

The half-orc didn't even get a shot off; he slumped to the floor, choking and gasping on his own blood momentarily before finally laying still.

"Renfro," called Raven as she nocked another arrow. "Renfro!"

"Aah.." Slowly, he turned to face Raven, a slightly sheepish look on his face. "Sorry."

"Come on," she said, a hint of a smile despite the gravity of the matter.

Together, the two stepped out into the hall, weapons at the ready. Before either could move more than a few steps, another voice came from down the hall.

"Soto, what's going on? Who was it?" A slender figure, clad in leather armor, appeared from three compartments down, turning towards Renfro and Raven. His eyes widened in surprise, and he went for his holstered revolver.

A pair of bullets spat forth from Renfro's pistols; both found their mark and drilled into the man's chest, throwing him off his feet and to the floor.

Renfro threw a look to Raven, both pistols still smoking. "Get to the commons; see if you can find Virgil or Magnus. I'll check this way."

A restrained nod, and Raven began silently moving further down the car, towards the rear. Renfro watched as she pulled the door open and slipped through, disappearing onto the connecting bridge between the cars.

Suddenly, the car shuddered violently; a high-pitched mechanical squeal filled the air as brakes were clamped against wheels, causing the train to decelerate. Regaining his balance, Renfro doubled his step as he approached the front of the car.


"Stay down!"

Virgil didn't need the stray bullet sailing within inches of his head for incentive to obey, as he flattened himself against the carpeted floor of the lounge. A quick, furtive glance to his right indicated the presence of three attackers - two sporting revolvers, one with a hand cannon. A fourth man lay on the floor, cut down by a guard before he, too, was slain. On his left, the bartender, armed with a pistol of his own, and a rifle-wielding guard exchanged gunfire with the bandits.

The Panarii monk grit his teeth and dug his fingers into the floor, as if he'd crawl into it if he could. The sounds of modern warfare echoed from all around him: gunshots, followed by the resonant *ping* of metal against metal, or the dull *thock* of a shell exploding through the wood of a table or chair; shouted orders and scattered taunts perforated the air, accented with the smoky aroma of spent gunpowder.

Through the floor, he could feel the train as it slowed down, its synthetic heartbeat of iron wheels against the tracks decreasing in frequency and power.

Virgil wasn't the only one to notice. "Boss!" shouted one of the bandits. "We're slowing down; they didn't get to the engine in time! We gotta move!"

A new cry suddenly rang through the cabin - a cry of pain - followed by the inimitable sound of a body hitting the floor. Virgil glanced up to see Raven standing in the doorway of the connecting bridge, her bow empty; the recipient of her arrow lay against the table where he feel, the arrow having struck him square in the back of the head.

Sensing an opportunity, the monk pushed off with his hands, forcing himself to his feet; the bandits had turned to fire on Raven, who went into a rolling dive behind a table and a cluster of chairs, one step ahead of the steady stream of bullets.

A gutteral cry wrenched itself from his lungs as Virgil charged the nearest bandit, one hand balling into a fist. Quickly reaching his target, he brought his arm up, and back down on the bandit's neck, hard; the hammer blow knocked him forward, stunning him momentarily. Virgil followed up with a sharp kick to the upper back, forcing the man forward several paces - and into the remaining bandit's line of fire.

Before the shooter could even think to cease fire, his partner had taken a hand cannon slug to the upper back; a large hole was blown completely through him as he was thrown forward, off his feet and onto his face.

Virgil managed to release an abbreviated sigh as he turned to face the remaining gunman; his breath was caught in his throat as he found the cannon trained on him, the man's eyes wild and accusing.

"Die!" screamed the gunman as he let loose another round from his cannon, recovering from the recoil of the weapon with surprising quickness.

Virgil had a split-second to dodge, but his body refused to move, frozen by fear. A glance down at his left shoulder revealed the source of the sudden, searing pain and hard shove; the large metal slug had bored deep into his shoulder, exiting out the back, taking with it a long trail of blood as it clanked against the wall.

Tears obscured Virgil's eyes as he watched the man suddenly tense up and stagger; gunfire from the back of the car struck him over and over, before he dropped to the ground, twitching once, then laying still.



"...can't get the door open. The engineer's locked it from the inside."

Crossing around the last compartment, Renfro cautiously peered into the open recess before the door to the connecting bridge, this one leading to the engine car. Two robe-clad bandits stood before it, both armed with rifles.

"He's hit the emergency brakes, let's get out of here! We don't have enough men to fight off the whole train."

"Shut up and stick with the plan; get the explosives, we'll blow off the lock."

"We don't have enough time! Soto and Perce should have been back here by now; something's wrong!"

"Well, aren't you the perceptive one? I told you, get the damn explosives."

"All right, I've heard enough!" shouted Renfro as he stepped out from hiding, a pistol trained on each bandit. "Put 'em down, now!"

The left-hand gunman spun around, and immediately raised his weapon to fire; Renfro was quicker, and sent a single round his way. The bullet struck him through the chest, blowing him back a few steps. The right-hand gunman immediately went into a dive; Renfro fired with his other revolver, but missed his target by several feet.

Lurching forward, Renfro squeezed both triggers simultaneously, sending out another pair of bullets at the assailants; a second bullet punched through the wounded gunman, and he crumbled to the ground, too hurt to continue. The other bandit was luckier, and again narrowly evaded. Renfro turned both his pistols towards the remaining gunman, who was now down on one knee, rifle carefully clutched in his hands.

Renfro fired first, letting loose his remaining ammunition; three of the six rounds hit their mark, knocking him to the floor, but not before he could get a shot off. The rifle, knocked slightly off target from the impact of the revolver bullets against its owner, still managed to send a bullet at Renfro.

The metal shell punched effortlessly through his leg, drilling through the muscle and exiting out the back; a strangled cry of pain accented Renfro's collapse to the floor, followed shortly after by the bandit's body as he did likewise, lifelessly.


"Is everyone okay?"

Cautiously clenching his wound, Virgil nodded slowly. He murmured to himself, his grip adjusting around the whole as a heat began to grow in his body, his flesh mending itself back together as his healing magic went to work. The blood flow ceased, and the wound closed. Slowly raising his head, he saw several of the train's staff milling about the room, questioning some of the survivors, including Magnus.

"Looks like it; we lost some of the other guards, and three of the passengers, but the rest of us are all right. Was about eight of them... we've found six."

His vision was blocked as Raven stepped before him, concern written clearly on her face.

"Are you all right?" she asked, gingerly laying a hand on his good shoulder, ready to summon her own healing magic if needed.

Virgil nodded and let out a long sigh. "Yes, I... I'll be all right. Stings like hell, though," he said with a soft chuckle. He paused, returning the elf's questioning look. "Where's Renfro?"

As if on cue, the door slid open, and all eyes watched as two men shuffled in; leaning heavily against the guard that supported him, Renfro nearly toppled over several times as the two approached. The guard carefully deposited him into a chair; the guards were quick to respond, but Raven worked through the crowd, again preparing her magic.

A single bead of sweat trickled down off Renfro's forehead as he looked up at Raven; he flinched only momentarily as the elven princess set her hands on his shoulders. "Thanks," he said, softly, as his body temperature began to rise, its natural regeneration enhanced by the nature of her magic. Within seconds, the bleeding from the wound stopped, and the hole had closed.

Renfro experimentally swung his leg back and forth, testing the muscle. "Feels good as new." He glanced back up at her, a smile coming onto his face. "First train ride, huh?"

She smiled and simply shook her head, taking a seat nearby.

"Interesting," she said, more to herself than to anyone else.

- End -