Once, there was a faraway land desolate and broken, its vast valleys and dry deserts echoing with the sounds of life that had once been there. Here, the dark-hearted queen known infamously as the Dom ruled with her dark soldiers at her side. She had been the one to destroy this beautiful place and reap the land of all life… except one.
In a world where machines lived alongside humans, one android had escaped the flames that burned his home. He was a handsome and well built machine. He had seen his creator and the rest of his people die to the wrath of the Dom, and from that day on, in which he escaped from her violent fury, he swore to one day end her and bring back the life of the land.
It was only by destroying the source of all destruction that the machine could ever hope to see his home to what it once was.
The Dom and this machine had many battles over many months. The dark sorceress had power and strong soldiers at her command, but the machine had a determination that kept him alive. He became a warrior, wielding a scythe in his robot arm and attacked the queen time after time, but failed in all attempts.
Then came the day where he finally lost his fight. When he had thought he was alone, the machine was attacked by a group of the queen’s soldiers. Beaten and broken, he was tossed carelessly into a river where the Dom thought he would rust away. But fate was kind and the river carried him elsewhere, to a place where machines lived happily alongside people and all was well.
A girl no older than seven with a thin figure and a mess of blonde hair found the machine where he had washed up on the edge of the city, almost unrecognizable with his parts and oil spoiling where he lied. This girl's name was Ara and she was the daughter of a skilled mechanic. Bringing all of the machine’s parts home, Ara and her kind father put the machine back together again, although it wasn't easy. When the machine booted back to life many days later, bright and new again, he gave Ara and her father one look, then ran out.
It was only after her father’s death almost a year later when these two saw each other again. Ara sold machine parts for money- anything she could find to keep her and her grandmother steady.
One day Ara was walking home with groceries when she saw a figure in the shadows. At first frightened, she was about to run when she realized the cloaked stranger was the machine she had once repaired. "Oh, it's you!" She laughed happily, putting her groceries down and holding her hand out welcomingly. "Come on, now. Don't be afraid."
The quiet machine began to walk towards her slowly. "That's it. Left, right. Left, right." Ara told him. "Left. O-Okay stop, stop please." The machine halted before the young girl. "Wow... you're so tall." She said in awe, the machine simply staring down at her. "You remember me, don't you? That must be it! You remember when I found you. You were hurt really bad... and you didn't move for days."
Ara stepped forward to the impassive machine. "Hey! Come down to me!" She smiled, raising her hands. The machine blinked but did as she asked and knelt to the child's level. Ara giggled and and pulled his hood back to reveal his messy black hair. "Hehe, your hair's all sticky-up, let me fix it for you." She patted his hair down for a few moments before she wrapped her arms around his neck. "I'm so glad you came back!"
The machine suddenly stood up, Ara's arms still around his neck. "Woah! W-We're so high up!" She looked down clinging to the machine.
"Hold on." The machine murmured.
"Oh! You can tal-? Ah!" She yelped as he bolted forward, running straight for a wall. "Look out!" With his robot arms, he began to scale the wall, climbing over quickly. The maze looking city gleamed around them as he raced forward to a destination unknown.
Ara clung to her machine. Alarmed and afraid, she held on tight to the android and buried her head in the crock of his neck. He ran across the city, over a river, through the woods and valleys and to a land Ara had never seen before. It was dry and dead things littered around, finally, he stopped at a little home that was mostly torn down and burned to the ground, soot lying across the floor as he stepped inside with Ara whispered.
"Where are we?" The child whispered, looking around curiously. "Is this your home?"
The machine nodded once and carefully put the girl down, staring down at her with a hint of pain in his expression.
"Why did you bring me here?"
Looking around briefly, the machine moved to what must have been a windowsill, taking a small pot that had fallen over and bringing it back to Ara.
The girl gently took the pot from the machine's grasp. The dirt inside was dry and covered with a layer of ash. She opened her mouth to speak when suddenly her palms began to glow, a little bud of green sprouting from the ashes and blooming into a tiny little flower. "Oh..." Ara gazed down in wonder at what she had done.
The machine looked on, a small smile along his lips. Ara noticed his gaze and smiled herself. "It's a plant!" Pulling her legs up, she began to realize something. "...why doesn't this land have plants and trees and people?" The machine answered by turning his gaze to the broken window, far beyond, the red castle of the Dom could be seen.
"Someone up there took away all the plants and people?"
The machine nodded. Ara looked on a bit sadly. "...do you have a name, Mr. Machine?"
He looked back, taking a moment before he spoke. "I can't remember."
"Then maybe some day I can name you...?"
The machine sat beside her and nodded, rubbing her hair with his robot hand.
It was the first of many days that Ara and her machine spent together. He would take her away to his home and bring her back safely before nightfall, a cycle that went on for a whole month, day after day. Ara would talk about the city and other nice machines and her school, and the machine would just nod. He spoke in short sentences, but he always interested her. The machine spoke about his once lively master and the lovely town and the forest and the trees and the wolves that would roam at night. And then the machine would make that sad expression and murmur how it was all gone now.
After all, only humans could create, machines could only destroy. This was why he never could win against the Dom, and even if he did, he never could save what had been lost to him.
Ara was young and still had a lot to understand about the world, so she could offer the machine no real help.
Then, one day soon, the machine took his girl down to the ruins as he did everyday, but found the Dom’s soldier’s waiting for them in an ambush. In a frenzy, Ara was snatched from the machine’s grasp and disappeared in a flash of light with them. Infuriated, the machine raced to the Dom’s broken castle, scythe in hand. He scaled the walls until he stood at the top of the fiery fortress where he faced the Dom for the first time since she had nearly destroyed him that day long ago.
“Machine,” she nodded, “It’s been a while.”
“Dom,” he snarled, holding his weapon firm and ready to strike.
“This is your lucky day, machine, I am willing to fight you fairly for this land.” She bowed, her golden hair falling. “If you win, you will become the king of this dead place, but if I win, you die, and I also keep the girl.” She motioned to Ara, who was hung up in a large bird cage dangling over the tower. “However, you winning might not spare this girl’s life.” The crane holding the cage up groaned and sank sharply. “Her cage will fall in one minute. Your time has begun, machine.”
And so it was that man clashed against machine, both equal in strength and speed. They swung and rushed at each other in a blur of motion. The crane groaned once more, the clock ticking away as the girl inside trembled in fear.
It seemed as though the machine was about to win, having the Dom just under his scythe, when the clock stuck its minute and the cage fell.
Ara cried out for the machine who was so close to victory.
It should be said that machine’s aren’t built with hearts like humans, no matter how much emotion they can show. They are all hardware and clockwork, as one might say, but on this particular day, in this particular dark ledge, the machine grew a heart, and it started beating.
The machine flew down and scooped Ara up into his arms and took the impact of the fall for the girl. Metal collided with the hard ground and in an instant, the machine simply died.
Ara stared up at the dark sky in absolute shock to what had just happened, still in the arms of what was her machine. A sad ending, indeed? I suppose not, for soft green crab grass began to sprout along the ground where the dead machine lied and around the castle, stems and bushes shot up from the ground, as if suddenly awakening from a long slumber. The forest was brought back to life, and the trees whispered in the wind with life once again.
The Dom was brought to her knees, a seed of hatred blooming and shattering her twisted heart. Darkness faded to light and the clouds cleared up.
Ara lied there her head resting under the machine’s chin and shed a tear, holding him around his cold, metal shoulders.
Many a day later, the machine blinked its eyes open, alive and beautiful once again and saw his precious girl standing before him, for machine’s with so much love are not so easily broken.
As promised, he became the ruler of this bright new land, and asked little Ara to be his princess. And the girl and her machine and those that moved into this province never shed another tear or feared another shadow.
They both lived happily until the end of their lives.