The Old Post Office
The mighty Firebird catches you in its iridescent talons, then drops you gently to the footpath outside the Old Post Office on Hubert Street
As soon as your feet touch the ground, sepia images from the past simmer among visions of a smog-filled future. Nearby, an ominous, rattling noise startles you back into the moment. “What’s that?”
The Firebird caws.
“Hurry! The Time Flux is growing stronger. We must follow the purple stream.” Alice dismounts gracefully. She gestures towards the street’s gutters, constructed of porphyry stone. “Mined from the great cliffs at Kangaroo Point, these crudely worked blocks hold ancient secrets. Come, we must hurry to save this land from the rapid pace of change, or the Flux will take permanent hold, trapping the spirit of Woolloongabba in a betwixt dimension.”
“Is that what happened to Street?”
“As Time Guardian of this land, I tried to save him.” Her youthful face grows sad, yet her eyes shine with the wisdom of the Ages. “But you, as an Innocent—bedded as you are in this pivot point of the Flux—you can help me rescue your friend, and save this land.”
“What will be my reward, if I agree?”
“Great rewards await those with swift courage.” Alice and her Firebird both look at you, eyes piercing bright. She leads you across the road to stand in front of an odd door. High-set and broad, it opens at waist height.
Doll Workshop, reads the sign above.
You follow Alice up a short iron ladder into the factory. The rattling sound is back, louder this time.
“What is that?”
A flicker of fury crosses her face, and disappears before you’re sure you saw it. “Ignore that. It is nothing.” Alice searches around supine porcelain bodies, then bends to retrieve a small object from one corner, passing it to you for safekeeping. The heavy, carved strip of metal is cold against your palm as she hustles you back outside.
Alice pushes you forward towards the Firebird, waiting outside the neighbouring building, an old Dispensary with an ancient wooden door and a heavy, ornate lock. “One final challenge.”
Noises thrash and crash within, but you focus on the thought of the priceless treasure within. The heavy key turns with a satisfying clunk, and the door slowly swings open.
Four sets of slathering jaws jut out, snapping at your hand. Each stems from a prehensile neck, bound by a leather halter laced with rusted iron chains to form a Hydra’s bridle.
“Oh, hush, Zhyntar.” A grim-faced maiden appears in the doorway. “It is only another Guardian, come begging at the Time Dispensary.”
“Anxelleta, I bring you an Offering—you must cease the Flux!” Alice places her hand in the small of your back and gives a firm push. You stumble into the foyer, and fall at Anxelleta’s feet.
“A fine specimen indeed.” Anxelleta grasps your hand, her silver robes shimmering as she pulls you towards the darkened chamber beyond. Zhyntar growls, ready to pounce.
“Alice!” You cry. “What are you doing?”
“Fear not, Innocent.” Alice’s eyes are bright and hard as polished opals. “Anxelleta will free you from your burden of earthly greed, and your great sacrifice will protect Woollongabba from the Flux for the next century!”
Speechless at this betrayal, you launch yourself towards freedom. The Firebird rushes to form a prismatic opal shield between you and the door. Zhyntar’s rough claws grasp your shoulders, pulling you inexorably into Anxelleta’s chamber.