The Castle of Gears: Chapter 004

And we’re back to our Castle of Gears.


The clock tower had two entrances: one from inside the Castle on the third floor, which is a shortcut, and the second being the front door of the tower on the ground outside. Not far from where Emily died, that is.

Wilden, Isaiah, and I entered through the front door, wielding umbrellas to hide from the rain. I walked behind the other two as they talked about whatever it was – something about roses and stakes – but their knowledge of such things sound alien to me. Apparently, anything besides machines and mysteries is alien to me; I can never follow such things. Sometimes I wonder if I give Isaiah trouble with it since I hired him.

I glanced at the Castle. And there is the matter of the murder. Visiting the Castle to clean the tower clock was only just an excuse to check on Marcel and to tease Lindon and Emily, who, in their own way, raised me despite the latter not being that fond of it.

“I haven’t got the fire on so it may be a bit cold,” Wilden mused, walking over to his fireplace. Isaiah, having folded his umbrella, offered to do it. I looked over the room; it appeared the same as it always did since Wilden received his job as the gardener and keeper of the clock: a coffee table surrounded by a sofa and an armchair, a kitchenette in one corner of the room, a chest of drawers that no doubt contained clothes, and then boxes of books. Photographs lined the mantelpiece of the fireplace, pictures of a group that included both Uncle Marcel and Wilden himself, as well as Grandfather von Hald. In a corner opposite the kitchenette, there was a wooden cubicle with a simple yet neat network of ropes and pulleys. The walls were decorated with brass pipes whose beginnings came out of the floor, then ended up into the ceiling.

I figure we won’t be cleaning the tower at this time, not when someone’s died. I have the habit of screeching opera hymns while cleaning, out of the tediousness of the chore, but humor would not be accepted by anyone in the presence of death, would it?

“The storm’s gotten strong, didn’ it?” Wilden said thoughtfully as the fire sprung up and I hung the umbrellas on the coat stand.

“It seems like it will only be for today,” I said, listening to the loud rain outside.

“What’s that sound?” Isaiah had been twisting his head wildly, looking around. “Don’t you feel the tower – uh – breathing? I feel like it’s shaking.”

The brass pipes hissed and shook, with the sound of faint chugging.

“You remember that steam engine I told you about?” I reminded him. When he nodded, I pointed to the wooden cubicle in the corner. “There is a basement here that you can enter, and there is the steam machine. There used to be a staircase where the elevator is now, all the way up to the top floor, but Wilden rarely goes up there these days.”

“Bad knees, it hurts to climb,” huffed Wilden. “I can walk, but not climb. I had my fair share already in my youth.”

“The elevator…it looks relatively new,” muttered Isaiah thoughtfully.

“Last year, when I took  Sinclair here,” I laughed. Isaiah looked pale for a brief moment; he’s had scrapes with Sinclair Wright, a friend of mine whose calculus and algebra abilities are beyond a normal person’s comprehension, and they weren’t his favorite times. “Sinclair built that, several nights working out a plan so Wilden doesn’t need to climb stairs anymore. It’s only up to the next floor above, or down into the basement; there are still the stairs from two floors and up to the clock room.”

“And that’s where I’d like you fellows to go to with me,” said Wilden with a laugh. “The elevator makes it so easy these days. I had expected it to fail shortly after you and Mr. Wright left, but it never broke down.”

“You shouldn’t expect less of Sinclair, though,” I chuckled. “What is it that you want us to come here to see?”

“I recently received a pocketwatch,” said Wilden as he trudged towards it. “I say, it feels as though they are cursing me! Come, let us go!” He laughed again.

“I’ll just wait down here,” Isaiah muttered.

“It’s only one floor,” I said. “Also, you don’t get airsick up there.”

“The floor may give way beneath me,” said Isaiah. “So, no.”

“Well, you’ve never seen how much there is up there,” chuckled Wilden. “And look at me! I think I’m heavier than you are! Come along, Isaiah. I’d like you to see it, too.”

Isaiah groaned, but in the end, he joined us on the elevator, clutching onto the railing. As it began to move upwards, it seemed as though all the blood left his face and what stood beside me was a corpse. Once the elevator stopped, Isaiah sprang off and into the room before giving a cry of surprise at the sight here.

An overwhelming number of clocks furnished this room, which was as large as the living quarters below. They ranged from rusting alarm clocks lining the shelves to cuckoo clocks crowding another wall, to two or three elegantly carved grandfather clocks. Not all were working, but those that did tick-tocked in a quiet symphony. There was only a single desk and chair, and Wilden began to light the gas lights, brightening the room. A large window looked over the rose garden, but it was blurred by fog and raindrops from the storm outside, making it hard to see anything there.

“W-what is this?” gasped Isaiah, staggering into the chair beside the desk, which, further, was littered with tiny gears and springs. “Clocks! Everywhere! It’s just like Master’s house!”

“I recall I told you not to call me ‘Master’,” I grumbled in offense. “And my house is a machine on its own, not a clock collection.”

“I used to be Dr. von Hald, Mr. Ethaon’s grandfather’s, assistant in my youth,” Wilden was approaching a shelf. “Aside from my reckless habit of climbing walls, I tinkered with clocks a lot. Mr. Ethaon, come here for a moment.” He reached over and picked up a tiny pocket watch.

I obliged and took the watch from him, startled. Scratches were evident on it, but it showed signs of having the bronze lid and bottom being polished frequently, but not recently. Wilden’s restoration of the collected clocks was only up to fixing them so they worked like brand new, not by looks. Had one been able to take a closer look, all these clocks are old, with signs of being dropped, broken apart, or grazed.

“The story behind that isn’t that bad like some of these here,” chuckled Wilden as he pulled a bottle of whiskey from a box underneath the desk and popped the cork. “The owner, Mr. Flemming, is a friend of mine at the bar in the city; he died three months ago, though. I bought the watch in memory of him.”

“I see,” I replied, squinting at the Roman numerals on the watch face. “Don’t drink too much tonight. It’s not a celebratory event.”

“I need this! A death on one of the days you pay a visit! It is distressing indeed!” Throwing his head back, Wilder downed a whole half of the bottle before bringing it to the table with a bang. “Care to have some, younguns?”

“No,” I replied.

“No, thank you,” said Isaiah. “I don’t like the taste. It burns my throat.”

“Why, but that’s exactly what I enjoy! I’ve never felt more alive than when I drink!” Wilden laughed whole-heartedly. He tipped back his head and drank another gulp. I was returning to observing the pocketwatch when he said, “Ethaon, I’m old right now, aren’t I?”

I raised an eyebrow, bemused. He was staring out the blurred window, but looking closely, one of his eyes was becoming clouded. “What do you mean?” I set down the watch.

“Well, look at me and the master of the House. We’ve lived beyond the age that your grandfather died at. We are living past the average age a man. I feel as though I might soon follow him.” He turned to me, and the supposed clouded eye became clear so he now looked earnest. “Listen here, if something happens to me, I’d like you to keep my collection.”

I returned the stare before sputtering, “T-the clocks? Is something wrong?”

“I don’t know, but I am quite aware that I do not have much time left.” Wilden heaved a sigh and carefully sat himself in his chair. “I’ve spent years tinkering with clocks that I can no longer part with them easily unless I die.”

“The one who will have to clean them will be Isaiah, since he does my housework,” I replied pointedly, and Isaiah pulled a face.

“Do you not suspect me of killing Lady Emily?” Wilden asked suddenly.

Isaiah snorted out a laugh. “But aren’t both you and Mr. Lorren not even counted as suspects? You both are old, like you say. I wouldn’t think you two can do anything.”

“When it comes to a planned murder, they’re both capable, even if their bodies aren’t.” I raised my voice a little as a warning, and Isaiah stopped.

“R-really?”

“Grandfather aren’t friends with many normal people, otherwise he wouldn’t be called eccentric.” I shrugged. “If only I could turn it down.”

“You still could, since Mr. Lorren doesn’t want to know anything,” Wilden suggested.

“Lindon won’t let me go.” I chuckled wryly. “Uncle doesn’t care to know, but Lindon definitely will not let it go because of Amanda’s presence here. I don’t doubt that he hopes to clear her name because she seems to have the most motive to kill Emily. If returning home means he won’t mind going all the way into the city to pester me to solve this case, then it can’t be helped. I’ll solve it.”

“But you have not answered my question,” said Wilden pointedly.

“You’ve been hard of hearing recently, so I thought you might have thought that the sound of Emily falling to her death was your imagination,” I said. “But I do find it hard to believe that you’re her killer. I can’t imagine you being that type of person. And the fact that you would kill her in front of the place you live in is more a ploy to misdirect if the killer is smart.”

“If I were the killer, I would lie to you.” Wilden’s voice became soft, thoughtful.

The Wraith of Despair

 

Two young children sat on a log in the middle of the forest, weaving thin reeds through and over each other, their fingers moving as delicately as they possibly could. At length, the boy, the elder one, threw an alarmed glance at the sky to see that it had already picked up an orange color.

“Alice, we must go home now!” he gasped, jumping to her feet.

“But I haven’t finished my basket!” Alice complained in exasperation; she had been fighting a frustrating task against a knot that appeared on one of the reeds.

“Nevermind that! It’s almost soon!”

“Soon for what?”

“There’s a wraith that apparently lives in this forest. The adults were talking about it, thinking about driving it out, but no one’s dared to disturb her yet. We’re not supposed to stay out too long either. Let’s go! We can return tomorrow!”

“Unfair, Zeke! You’ve finished your basket, and tomorrow, I would not have time to make it!” Alice scowled. “We need them for our gifts to Father! Mother would not be happy. Even if you tell me that she might excuse me because we were cutting close to the time this ‘wraith’ appears, I would still be put into my room with no dessert because I was too slow.” She gathered her reeds and what was of her basket. “I shall take them home, then.”

Zeke sighed, but he could at least do that much for his precocious younger sister. Still, dessert! Of all things, she worried the most about dessert! Though he supposed that their mother’s baked pears and cream were still the most delicious of all foods. “Alright. Let’s go.”

As they half-ran, half-walked through the thick bushes of the forest, Alice asked after a moment, “What do you know of this wraith, anyway? The adults sometimes make up scary stories to keep us from doing anything. Just like they did with Old Louie’s well. They told us that a devil lives in the well beside his house and that it eats naughty kids that go near it. But those naughty kids who got eaten were just idiots who fell down it and it was an hour before Old Louie found out what happened and called for help-”

“Alice, you think too much,” Zeke sighed. “But I think that this wraith is real. They weren’t telling any child a story, after all. The adults were whispering among themselves, and Mother told us to come home before sunset…did you actually listen to her? You were there, after all.”

Alice pulled a face. “No.”

“…but the wraith seemed to be real,” Zeke continued with another sigh. “I even asked, so this is what I know: this ghost wanders at a certain hour at sunset, as if it is looking for something. It takes the form of a young woman with long hair that looks like a gold river. Her eyes are empty and gray, and they seem to suck you in. She attacks anything and anyone without seemingly thinking, or perhaps for no reason. Just last week, Mr. and Mrs. Belmont were attacked when they came here for a picnic. Two days before that, Henry and Margaret two houses away from us hurried back after a night walk from the forest.”

“Is it not that the ghost only attacks a man and woman together?” Alice prodded her brother cheekily. “You listen to too much gossip as well, don’t you?”

“At least gossip is fun to collect!”

“For us ladies, Zeke.” Alice giggled at the rising shade of red on Zeke’s face.

A light cloud billowed their way, and Zeke stopped in surprise before he could retort back to his sister. It was then that he realized that a fog was beginning to thicken around them.

“Oh, no, we have to hurry!” he groaned. “We were too slow.”

“We can still tell the direction of the road back home, thanks to this path,” Alice frowned, but Zeke noted that her hands were beginning to tremble as she clutched her reeds. He extended his hand, which his sister immediately took and held tightly.

“Listen,” Zeke muttered, “I will lead the way, you look out for the Wraith. If you see one that looks like that, run. Pull me along, because I’m only going to have my eyes on the ground so we can get home.”

Alice nodded.

As they started back on their quick pace, Zeke constantly looked behind him to make sure that it was his sister that he held onto. Wraiths and ghosts are tricky and dishonest creatures. They love to mess around with humans, despite having once been human before. Must be because they were built only on petty thoughts. Maybe that’s why the Wraith attacked a “pair of lovers”, as it seemed to be with the stories of Mr. and Mrs. Belmont and Henry and Margaret. Now that he remembered, the gossip referring to this Wraith of Despair certainly had victims who were lovebirds.

His thoughts on the Wraith did not help his own anxiety, and it was worsened when he finally stopped in the middle of the path. Though he could see a shadow of his own shoes, the path in front of him had blurred out of sight. Even Alice seemed to be fading into the fog despite being close.

“Zeke?” Alice whispered, sounding young. She was already crushing her half-finished basket and reeds without noticing. “Why did you stop?”

“Sorry, I can’t see far ahead of me. We have to slow down for a bit.”

“But what about going home?”

“Calm down, we’ll get there.” Zeke tightened his hold on his sister’s hand. He started a half-hearted step forward when the fog suddenly shifted and split apart in front of him, clearing a space that indicated that he and Alice were in a glade, halfway through the forest back to the road they were trying to reach, as if someone brushed the fog aside.

“My, my, children? I did not expect there to be such young adventurers here,” laughed a tinkling voice, and the two whirled about to it, their hearts nearly jumping out their throats.

The person they saw instead was a young woman with a bonnet and a white dress made of heavy lace. She carried a brightly burning lantern and a handful of candles. She smiled. “Good evening. Gathered reeds to make baskets, I see?”

“You better not be staying here too long, or else the Wraith will chase you!” Zeke gasped.

“You are talking about that ghost that wanders around attacking lovers? Oh, I am alone, the Wraith will not disturb me in that case. The same shall go with you children. You need no longer fear it.”

“Why are you in this forest?” asked Alice in a small voice. “It will be night soon…”

“My house is in this direction. I’ve passed through here at night at night before and I have yet to be attacked.” The woman laughed. “Oh, but this fog is surprisingly thick. Although I prepared for it, I wasn’t expecting this.” She handed Zeke her lantern. “Young man, take this lantern and bring yourselves back home.”

“R-really? But what about you?” Zeke gawked at the woman.

“I have candles. Just allow me to light one, then I shall be on my way. Winning a fight against a fog is nice, but it is cold, and I must continue now.”

She touched one of her candles to the lantern, then turned and started off through the forest. “Goodbye! It is just a short way to the town road, so just walk on!”

With that, she disappeared into the fog, save for the light of her candle that shone even in the cloud. All in a moment that startled Zeke before he could ask if that candle would be able to stay lit in air filled with water droplets.

Finally, giving in to the favor, he turned and held up the lantern. “Alright, Alice, let’s try that again!”

They hurried through the forest again. To their surprise, the time they walked quickly passed as they soon arrived onto the town road. The sky had turned a pretty pinkish-purple color by now, and Zeke sighed before checking on his sister.

Alice was even more out of breath than he was.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

She shook her head wildly, and now that he looked at her properly, she looked more frightened than she did when they realized that a fog had begun. “Z-Zeke, what – what did you think of that woman we passed in the forest?”

“A help? Our savior!”

“Her hair was gold and long, it looked like a river. I would not say it, but they might have exaggerated that her eyes looked dead, but though they seem like she’s in a good mood, the eyes definitely give me the feeling of them being empty.” Alice scowled. “Zeke, that must have been the Wraith herself! Why did you accept her lantern? No, why would you talk to a stranger who walks through the fog without worrying that she might get lost?”

For a moment, Zeke paused in surprise, then the lantern slipped from his fingers and fell towards the ground. It didn’t land and shatter like a normal lantern would have if it dropped; instead, it vanished in a tiny cloud, as if it was also made of fog.

“It’s gone!” Alice shrieked. “D-does it mean that…w-we’re cursed?”

Zeke looked back at the forest, then turned away from it. “W-well, we got our baskets, and I suppose that we do owe the Wraith, then…alright, let’s go home! Let’s tell every married man and woman to keep away from the forest for a while and pretend that we saw no one. The adults won’t believe us if we tell them what happened, anyway. Then again, maybe this might be the last time we see her, too, because she walked into a fog with an unprotected candle! Maybe the candle died because there’s a lot of water in the air!” He spoke quickly in one breath and now, he inhaled a deep gulp of air. “Now, we go home. Quickly.”

Clutching onto their salvaged reeds and baskets, the two children fell into another sprint on the road, half-gasping for air as they hurried back home.

 

Wind & Passing: A Short Story

Eh, I wrote a short story that I thought of after recently heading to the beach on New Years. It’ll delay The Castle of Gears chapter posting, but I’ll eventually get that done in a while. So here’s a little distraction.


The sound of the sea was surprisingly loud as it rolled over the sand, the silence, except for the hot wind, putting Akira’s blackened heart in tranquil.

She walked quickly, almost jogging, but still at a pace considered walking. A light trail of footprints followed her from the crowded area of the resort’s beach to a desolate part of the shore. It had been a long time since she had time alone for herself. Having held back enough anger before it exploded at her unreasonable father and pathetic brother, she’d taken control of her body language and left their hotel room until she was only a tiny dot in the eyes of the holiday goers.

But she couldn’t deny that she almost snapped that time. She could have probably tried to attack her father. In return, he might counter-attack, and the next moment, she would end up with the bruises she would have to hide again. Her father wasn’t the nicest guy; the only reason she accompanied him was as luggage, to blend in with his fellow colleagues who were also on the vacation with their own families. To show that their father was also a caring type, not a family tyrant.

There was a reason Hayato, her brother, recently had a mental breakdown after the police suspected that he might have purposely – in their own words – given their grandfather a heart attack that killed him. Hayato wasn’t right in his head anymore these days; he had been the topic of her disagreement with her father earlier before she left.

She didn’t notice that the anger had blinded her sight except for her intention to appear like a dot from the holiday goers that when she slowed herself to a stop, she stumbled over an unnoticed half-buried rock, sending her plummeting to the ground. Instinctively, she lunged out her other foot and stopped herself from planting her face into the sand.

She gasped; she’d been carrying an ancient Polaroid camera, a gift from her grandmother before her death. Like a charm, she feverishly cared for it and took it wherever she went. Had she hit the sand, she could have damaged it.

The Polaroid. Grandma it to her after retiring from her photographer job, the last of all the cameras she used to own. Neither her father nor brother knew it because it was her and Grandma’s secret, carried everywhere in a lunch bag that also carried muffins to cover it because she claimed her appetite was large.

Presently, she noticed her distance from the resort and sat down on the rock. Angling the camera, she aimed it for the horizon of the sea, which connected to the sky. She contemplated taking a photograph but changed her mind; the film she had was a precious amount; she should just continue searching for the things she really wanted photographs of.

Not that it would be easy to find that “something”. People were out of the question.

A figure had begun to follow the shoreline towards where Akira sat, and she eyed it warily, thinking it was either her father or one of his acquaintances. She was wrong; a youth in shorts and a plain black t-shirt, and what looked like a book in one hand, walking at a relaxed pace. A stranger, ignorant of the world – and her troubles.

Relieved, Akira turned away and plopped herself down onto the rock, stretching her legs and kicking off her sandals. She hadn’t put on any sunscreen so her skin was beginning to turn red. She’d rather keep her skin fair, but at the moment, could not get in the mood to get back to her feet to find a shade or go back to fetch the darned sunscreen.

Her brother. If he didn’t back down from their father just now about staying hidden and pretending the weather got to him just so none of the accompanying colleagues learned of his face and name, if he was still the strong-headed, admirable brother she always saw him as, her mood won’t have been this way. Sure, their father had some good sides, she supposed, but most of the time, he was cold to them, and her brother always kowtowed to him. Akira could consider herself less pathetic than Hayato was at this point. That anger in her, seething beyond her teeth, clawing at her chest, up her throat, had no doubt meant she could no longer trust Hayato to be the same strong person she saw him as.

Maybe the incident in which he’d been falsely accused of their grandfather, Grandma’s husband’s death had been the reason Hayato cracked.

“Say, take a portrait picture of me,” said a voice, and Akira looked up to see the youth who had been walking along the shoreline standing in front of her.

Alarmed, she sat up, stunned to realize she didn’t notice him when she’d been high on alert for anyone she knew who might find her. “What?”

“Take a photograph with that camera. You wanted to use it, didn’t you?”

Akira blinked, looked at the Polaroid, then back at him, turning wary. Men were dangerous, and especially to girls like her who are alone.

“You don’t need to give me a scary face,” the stranger chuckled, and he sat down on the sand at an acceptable distance from her. “I’ll give you my name, too: Rin.”

“What do you want the photograph for?”

“It’s just a request. Like I said, you looked like you wanted to use it. Why don’t you, with me as a model. Only, I’d like to request that I have the picture, too. And – a Polaroid, the black and white type of camera? Isn’t that rare these days? We use digital ones these days, don’t we? It’s interesting.”

Akira frowned at him.

“It’ll just be for one piece of film, right?” Rin, the stranger, chuckled.

She noticed that it really was a book that he carried, a book in a foreign language that she couldn’t discern. The sight of the book made her remember how much her brother, too, loved books. He might know the title of the book, maybe even the plot. Rin, as if waiting, flipped open the novel and began to read.

With a sigh, she said, “Fine, I’ll take the photograph. Let me tell you, though, the pictures in the film come out in sepia, not black and white.”

“Oh? I didn’t know that. I assumed that all old pictures would be black and white.”

“No, not all.” Akira got up with the Polaroid, then knelt on the sand in at an angle in front of Rin, who watched her with interest. “Okay, a portrait photograph, right?”

“Yep.”

She held the camera up and peered through the lens, shifted the angle of the camera with a frown. In the lens, Rin was still watching her, wearing a faint smile; it felt like their eyes met through the camera, the intensity in their look despite his statue-like stillness. Fingers trembling with excitement, she pushed the shutter. And a second time, this one by accident. Rin didn’t miss it, and his smile widened.

When she finished, she waited impatiently for the photograph and the second one to come out. She hastily handed them to Rin when it was done.

His scrutinizing eyes studying the photograph briefly then he cracked a smile of amusement. “Hey, not bad! We could imagine that I came from the past. Although…why did you take two?”

“An accident?” Akira retorted with a chuckle. “Also, you would look like you came from the past if it wasn’t for your clothing style.”

Rin laughed. “That’s right.” He returned one to her. “Keep that. So we could remember the day that you took the photo of a stranger on a beach.”

“Okay,” Akira looked at the photograph again, then watched as Rin continued on his way, returning to the shoreline and going on after the point she stopped at.

When she studied the photograph, she noted the grayish-brown colors and lines that traced out Rin, whose glance and knowing smile seemed to be looking beyond the rectangle of the photograph. If anyone could look so alive on a sheet of film, it was that guy, she supposed.

She glanced at the holiday goers and noticed a familiar figure among them starting this way. Hayato, her brother. Her anger at him and their father, his weakness and her father’s coldness dissipated. She looked in the direction Rin had gone; he was already really far, a dot himself among flat sand and rocks, book and photograph in either hand, his pace as lax as the wind blew around her.

She’d thought he was at unawares of her thoughts; she must have been wrong. He’d clearly approached her as if he knew she was in a bad mood.

Akira stuffed the Polaroid and Rin’s photograph into her lunch bag, slung it over her shoulder, then walked with a brisk pace back towards those holiday goers where Hayato waited patiently for her.

The Castle of Gears: Chapter 003

“Amelia is not the killer,” growled Lindon.

“I have a little interest in the science of photography, but I’m not being suspicious yet,” I retorted in sarcasm. “I’ll find out the murderer and what not, but I should tell you, I’m on the side of suicide as well.”

Lindon’s eyes widened, and for a moment, there was silence, until he sputtered with, “I thought you said earlier that it may be a murder?”

“I would prefer if it was suicide,” I said, then turned to Wilden. “You, by the way, live in the clock tower, since you aren’t just the gardener, but also it’s caretaker. Could you not have noticed anything during the night?”

“In my defense, if she was murdered, it was not I!” Wilden gasped in alarm. “Also, I could not have noticed anything! My eyes have lost some vision, and my hearing is not that good either, sir!” His voice became a tinge frantic when he noted Lindon frowning at him.

I laughed. “Then again, you’re too nice to think about killing another person. Would you three like to see Emily?”

“No, I don’t need to,” said Lindon abruptly.

“Um – likewise.” Amelia sounded hesitant.

“I will go and check on the master of the house and see if he is fine,” said Wilden thoughtfully, “so I will be passing by the foyer. In which case, I have no doubt that I will see her.”

With that, I left towards the foyer with Wilden, leaving Amelia and Lindon in the parlor.

Jennings was bent over the body of Emily when we came out, his eyes focussed while Isaiah leaned over the doctor with equally attentive eyes. The sight of Isaiah reminds me of the times when he shows a rogue side when he would sharpen his glance and study a subject as if he was in a trace. That rogue side, built from a rough childhood of thievery, at least gave him a quick mind.

“My word, although I’ve known you to have dealt with mysterious circumstances of deaths, it is very disturbing that there would be such a thing in this household,” Wilden muttered. “And not far from the clock tower as well.”

“I have a question, Dr. Jennings,” said Isaiah suddenly, startling me and Wilden; he did not seem to have noticed us both yet, still with his eyes over the dead. “I saw you in the middle of the night, in the mansion’s courtyard, where my room faces. Doesn’t the household lock the doors before midnight?”

Dr. Jennings’ hands froze, his fingertips brushing Emily’s neck. Slowly, he managed to reply: “I occasionally sneak out of the house at night to take a walk. How did you know? If I recall rightly, you retired early last night.”

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Isaiah: “I see a walking lamp. Oh, wait, it’s a man with a bag.”

“It happens at the most ungodly hours, but I wake up in the middle of the night every day at least once,” said Isaiah. “I stay up for a bit before going back to sleep.”

The doctor laughed in relief. “I have always been under the assumption that Gremlins are I have met a few who speak what later turn out to be nonsense.” He pulled a blanket over Emily. “But my job in this castle is only as Sir Lorren’s personal physician, so I am a guest in this house until he gets better. I must admit, though, this household is filled with stubborn ones.”

“I think the same oftentimes,” laughed Wilden. “Why, I’ve told Mr. Lorren that he must take Dr. Jennings’ advice and leave the castle to the country to recover, but he refused. And then the recent conflict of the wedding ring had Mr. Lindon in foul moods in his determination to not lose it. Their actions always make people think that the stories the city people in the metropolis tell about Kamillia Castle are true.”

“Like the rumors that the castle’s clock tower is alive?” Isaiah asked.

“Why, Isaiah, my boy, you believe in that?” Wilden burst out laughing as I cracked a smile; such rumors used to make the both of us, who knew the Lorren family well, laugh so hard.

“Forgive me, but I actually find that quite believable, if I must say so,” said Dr. Jennings suddenly, sheepishly. “I…have seen the rumored orbs of fire dancing through the top floors of the house, not from far away in the metropolis of Moorwalk, but even in the courtyard. I – never had the courage to ask, but – I have no been seeing things, have I, Mr. Wilden?”

“Huh? So it is true?” Isaiah gasped.

“No,” Wilden and I replied at the same time.

“You’re not half wrong about it being alive, though,” Wilden said. “The clock. Do you know why Ethaon comes here every year to check on the clock, Isaiah? This is a question for you as well, Dr. Jennings, since you’ve been among us for a while.”

“I…have been told by the master of the house that it is because of the maintanence of the clock, to clean dust away as well as to check on the gears,” Dr. Jennings muttered. “I must say, however that it was a vague answer.”

“The clock runs on steam power, not like the turret clocks we have in the city,” I replied. “What I’m supposed to do was make sure the engine runs well, and that the fires of the house haven’t clogged any pipes with soot, among other things. If you walked into the clock tower, you would notice a quiet hum. The orbs of fire you see have something to do with his function, as gaslights.”

“It is?” Isaiah’s eyes were wide with surprise.

“Grandfather loved steam engines.” I glanced at Emily’s body. “That aside, Dr. Jennings? Have you an idea how long the Lady  has been dead?”

The doctor’s eyes narrowed, but he also looked down at the Lady for a moment, contemplating. Finally, he said, “Possibly two hours, roughly estimating it. It must have been after I went indoors from my walk.”

I nodded. “I see. Thank you.”

“I will go and check on the Sir right now,” said Wilden. “Dr. Jennings, please accompany me. He may need your assistance.”

“Ah, yes.” With that, the two went up the stairs, pardoning themselves from me and Isaiah.

When they had gone and were out of earshot, Isaiah suddenly spoke, “Master, you do not think that it is a suicide, do you?”

“I would wish it was a suicide, as much as I feel bad, for this concerns someone who is like family,” I replied with a scowl. “Lindon, however, guessed correctly: it is a murder, Isaiah.”

“Then-!”

“But I am reluctant to find out who it is,” I sighed.

“Why?” Isaiah frowned, puzzled. “Lady Emily does seem distraught over herself and she said nothing at dinner as well.”

“You’d be wrong if you thought Lady Emily was the simple wife of Lindon Lorren,” I shrugged. “She has powerful friends, a rich family, and lives in extravagance. She had enough to spend for her lifetime. She’s a socialite with a lot of influential friends. Even a divorce won’t break her, though I don’t doubt she is petty enough to hold a grudge through it. Suicide won’t be in her head, but murder – for her – is possible.”

“That’s scary!” Isaiah gawked. Then he chewed his lip nervously. “For the record, I think Dr. Jennings is lying about going for a walk.”

“Why so?”

“The time I saw him on his ‘walk’ was three hours before dawn, when you wake up. Having gone for a walk around the castle yesterday, I found that it takes about thirty minutes to circle it, yet the doctor returned in another half-hour longer than that. If that’s so, he should have seen the Lady die. he would be the one to raise the alarm, not the Master.”

When he finished, the overhead thunder rolled as we fell silent.

“I need not tell you to stop calling me ‘Master’, do I?” I groaned. “I know he lied. Most likely, it was less than two hours since Emily died.”

“So you already know? Then what was the point of asking the doctor to give his guess?”

“To see if he, too, is a liar.” I ran a hand through my hair. “Heavens, in the year since I last visited, this Castle has picked up more secrets than it just being alive. At this rate, I may become as bald as our dear friendly investigator, Rathbone.”


It’s a little longer than a couple of weeks late, but I only reached halfway through my NaNoWriMo word count.  Ahh – well, there’s always…next year? T_T. Yep, I’m definitely going to try redeeming it in the next Camp NaNo.

And, lookie! I tried my hand drawing an illustration because I thought a picture would liven it up a bit. I’m heavily influenced by manga, though, so it’s not that realistic. I had a lot of trouble inking it, but a drawing made in an hour and a half is not even my toughest job.

The Castle of Gears: Chapter 002

Solving crimes are like drugs to me, fun, enjoyable. The thrill of chasing someone, to run into questions and find the answers to them.

Although I do agree, like those with common sense, that it’s probably better off seen as unpleasant.

But because of that, I couldn’t have imagined it would hit close to home. Certainly not in front of Grandpa von Hald’s prized creation, the clock tower of Kamillia Castle; had he still been alive, Grandpa would come flying this way on a hurricane.

The clock tower of Kamillia Castle is famous all over Moorwalk, but not with the nicest reasons. At times, there were sightings of orbs of light dancing around it. Rumors were that the Lorrens were wizards, or that the Castle and clock tower itself were alive. A person dying on its grounds would catch sooner be gossip in the city.

Out of Emily’s hand, I found a piece of paper with these words written out,

To the household of the Lorrens,

I am disgusted by the way you must want me off the house so badly! In return, I have hidden the ring and you will never find it, not even the one they call the Horologii Gremlin. I hope misfortune shall fall on you accursed people!

Emily

At first glance, it looks like a suicide. But could she really have chosen this? Maybe, since her marriage to Lindon wasn’t out of love. Uncle Marcel was only polite to her. From an outsider’s point of view, they weren’t like family.

“Master, I’ve brought the things you asked for!” Isaiah called, and I turned to see that he certainly brought a blanket and two brooms. “What will we do with these?”

“It’s about to rain,” I replied. “I wanted to create a stretcher to carry her to shelter. We will bring Lady Emily into the Helios and leave her there until the police arrives.”

“The airship? Why? Shouldn’t we call the police first?”

“The rain looks as though it will be a storm, so they will no doubt delay it in the end. As for why the airship, I get the feeling that no one may want her body in the house.”

When we had done exactly that, the sky had begun to pour into a thin drizzle. Isaiah and I crossed the courtyard and reached the door into the Castle before barring the doors. Just in time to hear Lindon’s voice snap, “It’s going to take a long time to hail the police up here and wait until they reach us! Just what happened to that woman?”

“Lindon, sit and calm down!” Uncle Marcel ordered,  but his ragged voice didn’t let him speak clearly. “Ethaon, my boy! What shall we do?” His wrinkles seemed to sag in despair.

A meeting seemed to have commenced in the parlor while I had been gone. Lindon had seated himself in his favorite red chair, with Amelia standing beside him with a pale face. Uncle Marcel was in the sofa with his cane in hand, the doctor in another chair. On the coffee table in the middle of the room, there was a steaming pot of tea and teacups. I glanced at the mantelpiece above the hearth where a fire blazed; there were a few photographs here as well, of a group that Uncle Marcel and Grandpa von Hald used be part of in their prime.

“Well?” Lindon asked curtly, bringing my attention back to this room.

“A lot of things will move and be revealed,” I said. “On the poor Lady, I found that her neck broke. She may have fallen from the clock tower. It’s possible to be a suicide, too. Here is a letter that she wrote.” I handed her handwritten letter to him.

When he had read it, he slammed it onto the coffee table. “And she hid the damned ring? Not just suicide, but also the ring is gone?”

“Could it be a killer?” asked Amelia suddenly, and turned all eyes onto her in surprise. “I – just thought that it may be that because of Lady Emily’s position.”

“That may be true,” said Lindon, sitting up. “She’s popular in the city and attends a lot of parties and also invites a lot of friends over to this place from time to time-“

“No, Lindon! I wish not to know!” Uncle Marcel suddenly snapped, and even I winced at his voice.

“Father, what are you-” gasped Lindon, but he was cut off again.

“I say no! If the killer is one of the people in this room, I wish not to know. If it was an outside person, that would be better. But I do not want to know who it was. Your mother died by murder as well, and by the most unlikely person I ever imagined to be the killer. This is my answer. I will return to my room now, and I would like to be alone, Dr. Jennings.” Uncle Marcel began to wheeze as he hobbled to his feet and he seemed smaller than he did earlier. Dr. Jennings seemed reluctant to let him go, but remained in his seat.

“Even so, I’m not on that side,” Lindon grunted. “Nevertheless, find out how she died, whether it’s suicide or murder, Ethaon.”

“Does that mean you’ll tell me now who Miss Amelia is?” I asked, and smiled. “You will, won’t you? I’ll need it if I am to find out the answer to Lady Emily’s death.”

“Master, your smile is evil,” Isaiah remarked quietly as Lindon’s eyes flared.

“Amelia has nothing to do with this,” he said curtly.

“I thought you would say that,” I chuckled. “So it will be fine if I ask the servants since when you brought her here, and whatever gossip they might have spread amongst themselves, won’t it? Dr. Jennings, do you have experience with examining dead bodies?”

“O-only a little,” Dr. Jennings stuttered.

“If possible, please do so. Isaiah, accompany him, will you?”

When Dr. Jennings and Isaiah had gone, Amelia suddenly spoke: “I beg your pardon, but…what is this they call the Horologii Gremlin?” She frowned at me. “I heard rumors of this name and the importance of the titles of the Gremlins and their fame, but – what exactly is it?”

I looked at her blankly. “You never asked Lindon?”

Amelia turned red as Lindon immediately countered me with, “The upper-ranked Gremlins are not supposed to have their true names revealed, and I was about to ask you about it. So it’s not like I ever told her that you are the Horologii Gremlin.”

“What?” Amelia gasped. “Mr. Haldeir is Moorwalk’s Horologii Gremlin?”

“Allow me to explain, miss,” offered Wilder, and we all jolted when we realized that he was still in this room. Though the fact that he had been standing beside an indoor orange tree until his presence was erased didn’t reassure us, I chuckled. He dismissed that with ease as he continued on, “Since you are aware of the title of Gremlins, tell me what you know.”

“Um – in Pallin, those titles are given to people who are gifted in a specific area of study,” Amelia said slowly. “The title is at the same rank as a Knight or a Dame.”

“That’s partly true, though their official name is Clauditis Gremlin, and of all those with this title, there are five in particular who stand out.  Our Ethaon here contributes to helping the Democracy capture dangerous villains and takes part in espionage missions. In return, those five receive unlimited assistance from the Democracy.”

“Is that even contributing?” Amelia muttered.

“Let’s just say, I earned my Gremlin title by being something similar to a mind reader,” I said with a smile. “For the record, may I have your statements for what you were doing after dinner yesterday?”

“Why?” asked Lindon.

“Natural procedures if you want me to see if she died because of someone. That includes you, so just do me that as a favor.”

Lindon glared at me, but I didn’t budge. He relented in the end, “I was in my room the whole time, doing some cleaning. I had a lot of things I didn’t think I collected over the last few years, so when I found some things, I thought I’d throw them out.”He glanced at Amelia, and she seemed to seem something before she spoke.

He glanced at Amelia, and she seemed to seem something before she spoke. “Um…I was in my room the whole night as well. I took some pictures of the garden and darkened the room to form the images. I have the photographs, if you would like to see.”

“I guess that’s fine,” I said.

The Castle of Gears: Chapter 001

 

And thus begins the story! I will later update the chapter to link it to the second chapter when I’ve finished it. 🙂


The Lady lay on the ground in a mess, her hair and limbs splayed out, broken and dirty.

“I should have more observant yesterday so as to not miss this,” I sighed as I knelt at the body.

“It’s not your fault, Master,” Isaiah insisted. “We were enjoying ourselves yesterday in a way that we couldn’t have noticed.”

“Isaiah. I run a detective agency and am an inventor. If I cannot understand a human, both occupations could cease being my pride.”

The dead Lady had been discovered not longer than fifteen minutes ago by me myself, but by now, all who live in Kamillia Castle should know already.

I wonder if I should have kept it quiet, though; the servants of this household are not going to keep quiet, are they? Women gossip, as my mentor always complained.

But I admit that we have jumped too far ahead in this story. Let us go back to yesterday to begin the story. That way, it would be easier to understand, won’t it?

***

Kamillia Castle sat among rocky hills, a grand and majestic residence that looked down at the city of Moorwalk in the distance, as a bird from its nest. Although anyone could visit it from the metropolitan of Moorwalk on foot, it would take an hour just to leave it, and a further two hours to hike and navigate the forest and hills that surround the Castle. A car or horseback would work better.

Me, being who I am, I decided the best way to reach it: my newest project: Helios the airship.

“I apologize, Master! I feel sick!” Isaiah groaned, lying flat on the ground of the cockpit.

“Hopeless!” I laughed as I manned the controls.

“There’s a reason I’m afraid of heights, sir!”

“Don’t worry, we’re nearly there now! Hold on a little longer.”

Isaiah groaned again and flattened himself to the floor as I turned the airship into the Castle’s courtyard. It landed with a light thud, and I turned to the boiler and tossed water to kill the fire.

“We landed safely!” I went to the door and threw it open.

“T-thank goodness!” Isaiah gasped, staggering up with much difficulty. “I thought I might die!” When he looked through the door, though, his eyes widened. “This castle is huge!”

Though we call it Kamillia Castle, in truth, it was more a chateau than a fort. Back ten years ago, I remembered there being a fountain in the middle of the courtyard, but what replaced where it had been was now a neatly clipped croquet lawn. Croquet was the Lady of the house’s hobby, so that was the reason.

Maybe I should have been more considerate and landed Helios on one of the nearby hills. The Lady will be angry.

While Isaiah gawped at the castle, I pulled out my pocket watch to check the time. Rather – I call it a pocket watch, but it’s too big to even be called one that I prefer to wear it around my neck like a stone medallion. Made of bronze and walnut, a present from my senile grandfather, I called it the Spider Clock. That’s because of the spider motif on the lid.

Ten o’clock, thirty minutes since Isaiah and I left the city of Moorwalk. The ride in an airship may have been pleasant, but I may need to up the speed a bit.

“Mr. Ethaon! Is that you? Welcome back!” a voice called, and I looked out the airship to see a man in overalls approaching cautiously. He had on a straw hat over his head and gardening gloves over his hands. This man’s face brightened when he saw me as I jumped out of the airship.

“Hello, Wilden,” I said, pushing the Spider Clock back under my vest. “You look fine today, though dare I say, your hair has gotten whiter.”

“Oh, I am quite fine. Ah – let me help with the luggage, son. Are you alright?” He peered into the ship, and I noted that Isaiah was still struggling to walk, despite still looking green.

They nearly jumped when a loud voice said, “Ethaon! This belongs to you? What are you doing?”

“Ah, Lindon! This is my latest project!” I turned towards the voice. I didn’t miss how Isaiah winced, but anyone would be scared of Lindon Lorren’s loud voice. “Your bellows haven’t changed since last year!”

“Last time it was a mechanical horse, and now this?” Lindon Lorren frowned as he walked over to us. “And you’re going to destroy the courtyard.”

Though Lindon looks to be a cold-looking man who seemed to be born out of fire, with deep brown hair brushed back from his forehead and fierce blue eyes.

“I hope that Lady Emily isn’t going to be angry about it,” I sighed.

“What is this mess? Hey, get that thing off my yard! How will I play my games if you leave it here?” a third voice shouted, this one a woman with a sharp tongue.

“Ah, the Lady herself,” I groaned as a woman in a bright red dress stormed out the Castle. “I beg your pardon, Lady Emily, but there’s at least still some space left. I made sure it fit only half the courtyard, so it’ll be fine.”

Emily Lorren, her eyes flashing with rage, started to storm towards me. “I would appreciate it if you -” She stopped abruptly, then, with a scowl, turned away again and stormed back to the house.

“Is she fine?” I asked Lindon, and now noted that he had dark shadows under his eyes. “What’s wrong? Missed a night of sleep?”

Lindon clicked his tongue. “You are not a doctor, yet your guess is correct. Last night was tiring.”

“Work?”

“No. Not – exactly,” muttered Lindon. “May we change the subject?”

I smiled. “Alright, then.”

“M-Master!” groaned Isaiah as he dragged out a suitcase.

“Don’t call me ‘Master.'” I pulled out a bottle of tiny orange baubles and tossed it to his hand. “That may ease you a bit. You should have told me about your airsickness when I worked on the airship.”

“I apologize, but I didn’t think you would force me on board just to meet the people here.” Isaiah  straightened himself. “But I have told you I dislike heights before.”

“Ah, I should have picked up the hint back then,” I chuckled. Isaiah threw a few pills into his mouth and the color of his face began to return to normal.

“What is that?” Lindon asked in a low voice.

“Homemade candy I made myself,” I replied, also quietly so Isaiah doesn’t hear. “He won’t know, but he doesn’t notice that he recovers faster if I trick him with something he thinks is medicine.”

“That’s deception!”

“But it eases his mind. If it works, it works.”

Lindon sighed. “I shall never understand that mind of yours.”

“So you are Isaiah, then?” Wilden dragged out a second suitcase with more ease compared to Isaiah. “Welcome to Kamillia Castle and thank you for taking care of Mr. Ethaon here.”

“Is he a bit of a prick to you?” asked Lindon.

“If I must be honest, yes, he is!” said Isaiah abruptly. “But my position is only as a less-than-noble character. Please take no notice of me and treat me as if I don’t exist.”

Lindon turned back to me. “Another weird person?”

“Compared to me, he’s normal,” I said.

“Come, come, now, Mr. Lindon! You’re forgetting your manners!” Wilden chided as he started to carry the suitcase towards the Castle. “Why don’t you go inside to have a talk?”

“Please let me take the suitcase,” Isaiah insisted.

“No, no, in this estate, this is my job. Let me help.”

Upon our entry to the Castle in the grand foyer where a large staircase led up to the second floor, a woman hurried to greet us. Clearly not a housekeeper or cook, for she was dressed in a pale brown dress, her long dark hair streaming down her shoulders in a smooth sweep. Her features made her beautiful and bright. She smiled at our entrance.

“Hello,” she said, squeezing her arms against herself. Her accent was clearly British.

“Pleased to meet you,” I replied politely, taken aback by this guest. “You are?”

“This is Amelia Bailey, a photographer visiting from an abroad country,” said Lindon abruptly. “Amelia, this is the grandson of my father’s friend, who is here yearly to wind the clock tower, Ethaon Haldeir.”

“Lindon has told me a lot about you,” the woman spoke politely.

“Pity I heard nothing about such a lady,” I chuckled. “Where is Uncle Marcel?”

“My apologies on not telling you about here,” said Lindon with a small smile. “Father is in his quarters as usual.”

“You must see him, Mr. Ethaon,” said Wilden urgently. “Sir Marcel is ill at the moment and there is a doctor present as another guest. Young man, if you’re feeling better, I shall lead you to your master’s usual rooms.” He turned to Isaiah.

“I feel better already, sir!” Isaiah said with relief. “Master, are you going to be alright?”

“Are you questioning me about my navigation through a place I’ve been through several times before?” I demanded. “Also, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, do not call me ‘master.'”

Isaiah smiled. Now that he looked better, the brat had the guts to smirk. “Yes, Master.” Wilden laughed as they went up the grand stairway, and I went through the second doorway from the foyer, leaving the lady Amelia and Lindon alone.

I have already begun picking up unusual signs in this house. Lady Emily, who is Lindon’s wife by arranged marriage, and her strange behavior; she is easily hostile. Lindon, a straightforward, honest man, with no reason to fear truths, wishes to hide a secret. And then Amelia’s presence; no doubting she is the cause of whatever is happening now.

Perhaps it would be better to be involved with whatever their problem is because I am a detective, yet I feel as though I will only worsen the subject if I were to interfere.

The doorway led to a large corridor that opened was also in a way an art gallery, exhibiting several paintings by many different hands. Most were landscapes and art of the Castle itself, but there were a few portraits of Lindon and Sir Marcel Lorren, the landowner. A few were photographs, all of them groups of people.

After the gallery came a smaller corridor with floor-to-ceiling windows that let in plenty of light. They showed an expansive view of the forest outside. Here, there was another door that was the bedroom quarters of the landowner.

I approached and knocked on the door.

“Come in,” an unfamiliar voice called out, and I pushed the door open to see two men sitting at a table, one in a divan, the other in a chair. The bed was not neatly arranged as if its owner had kicked off the covers and no one bothered to clean it. Natural light streamed into the room through the windows.

“Ethaon, my boy! Welcome! Don’t just stand there, enter!” A ragged voice came from the wizened man who sat in the divan, weak one second ago, but now energetic. He leaned on a walking cane, and the man in the chair, who was younger with graying hair, hurried to help him up. “How have you been? Ah – I must introduce you! This is Dr. Jennings, my current doctor who is staying here to watch over my condition. Doctor, this is-“

“Yes, your friend’s grandson, but also a son to you,” the doctor chuckled. “You have told me several times.”

“Doctor, do you mind if I talk to Ethaon privately? A favor, may I ask?”

“As you wish,” said Dr. Jennings, and he helped the old man sit back down in the divan.

When we were alone, I looked at Uncle Marcel up and down. Despite being Lindon’s father, the old man is water to Lindon’s hot-headedness; pale hair, cool green eyes, calmer features. He did seem to have changed somewhat – by height, I suppose? But it is strange that Uncle Marcel would have fathered a son at the age of sixty. Grandfather, whose name was Rudolf von Hald, received me as a grandson at that same age.

The relationship between Grandfather and Mr. Marcel was well-known in the city of Moorwalk and their hometown of New Tompa to the north of the Democracy of Pallin. Whereas Grandpa von Hald gained renown as a scientist, eccentric clock making hobbyist, and a bunch of other things, Uncle was a General, gaining his knighthood a decade after his retirement. The clock tower of Kamillia Castle was one of the few landmarks that indicated that friendship.

“So that airship was yours, I assume?” said Marcel. “You’re just like your grandfather! Tell what have you been up to recently!”

“Nothing much! I just spent a lot of time on a new project – ah, an airship, that is.” I glanced at the door, then turned back to the old man. “By the way, what’s happening in this house?”

Uncle frowned. “So you noticed in the end. As expected of the one we call the Horologii Gremlin, no?”

“Lindon being nice to anyone other than family is weird as him smiling twenty-four hours non-stop. Strangers are not allowed in the castle as guests unless they are approved by Lindon himself. And Emily is apparently angered? I thought I’d get an earful for taking up half the space of her courtyard.”

“Lindon and Emily are in the process of a divorce. Amelia is currently the woman Lindon is courting. I told him that it’s unwise to bring the woman he’s not married to yet into the castle, but he did in the end. That boy is stubborn. I wish he would be more considerate of his mother’s holy grounds.”

Marcel, you’re the only one who considers this castle your wife’s holy grounds, but that’s still romantic.

“The problem is that Emily refuses to hand over her wedding ring.”

That is a problem.

“And doesn’t Miss Amelia seem a mild person? I advise you to prepare to face a strict young lady, Ethaon. I lost count of times she chided me on taking a walk.”

“Those are very serious problems,” I blurted.

“Also, please don’t get involved. You will make it worse, so please just stay and only handle the clock tower. Do not think about this.”

I laughed. “Forgetting about it is the easiest, so don’t worry.”

“Oh, yes, my boy! I know your short-term memory problems, but yes, let us avoid it!” The old man burst out laughing too. “Heavens, I would like to see that airship of yours as soon as that doctor and Miss Amelia let me take a walk outdoors.”

“You should! This worked better than the clockwork horse I rode up here last year!”

Uncle Marcel started to cough, and I patiently waited, holding his hand until he stopped.

“What kind of illness is it?” I asked.

“Dr. Jennings told me that it is the early stages of a flu, and for an old man like me, it may get serious. Tell me a story of your last adventure. If I don’t hear a story of the outside, I will want to go out again.”

I spend the next hour telling the old man of the last adventure I had, in Narr, an old, now long abandoned city that supposedly had strange happenings. I had just finished telling the story when in walked Dr. Jennings again, announcing to perform another checkup on Uncle Marcel’s health, which also requires me to let them sit alone again.

After saying goodbye to Uncle and the Doctor, I left and returned to the grand foyer where I found Emily Lorren rushing out the door. She wore an expensive gown, which was just her usual style, and a bonnet loaded with flowers.

“Lady Emily? Are you going out?” I called after her, but either she didn’t hear me, or just outright ignored me. She was gone out, and I pushed the door open a little to peer out. I could see Isaiah and Wilden in the distant rose garden, a treasure of Kamillia Castle, both armed with a pair of sheaves, singing something as they trimmed the bushes. It’s not surprising, since Isaiah knows plenty of songs that come from the old peoples’ childhood.

On the other hand, Emily turned around the Castle on the other side. There were three places she could have gone to in that direction: the Lorren House’s graveyard, where she couldn’t have had any sentimental feeling towards anyone there; the second fountain with a statue depicting Niobe that she couldn’t have any interest in; and then a rough slope down the hill that may end up crumpling her body if she was careless.

With a shrug, I closed the door and passed myself into the family living room of the house where I sat down into a chair, avioding the larger, more comfortable red armchair that was Lindon’s.

***

If I could bet that this short vacation and visit to Grandpa von Hald’s best friend’s house was going to be fun, I would only be half wrong, in that the kind of fun I expected was going to be different.

For example, the next morning – that is, today – I thought that the dawn sky looked awfully heavy as I stepped out of the house and started my way towards the Castle’s clock tower. Perhaps it will rain today. No, no doubt it will rain.

As I passed through the rose bushes, I caught a faint hint of a smell. No, my nose is perfectly normal, but the amount of perfume that Lady Emily wears is enough to make my eyes water at times, and my nose sting.

But why would her perfume be here? Is she here?

Lying at the end of the rose garden and in front of the clock tower, I saw her. Face down, splayed against the ground on the path between both. Her head bled profusely.

Emily Lorren is the sad victim of this tragedy.

And I could only mutter, “Well.”

 

The Castle of Gears

Hey! Guess it’s been a bit of a long time since I last posted. Then again, the real life always has the habit of getting in your way when you want to get something done.

So to get myself back into blogging, I’ll be writing a short serial of chapters to a story with the above title. Rough drafts have been finished, all that’s left is to edit it, and it’s set in the same background as the earlier two short stories on this blog: the world of the Gremlins, steampunk and mystery.

Unlike those short stories, though, they’re written in the point of view of the one they call the Horologii Gremlin, Ethaon Haldier. Yes, he will be the protagonist…not to mention, I just remembered that there are other short stories in the same setting that will require my attention sooner or later.

Oh, well! Guess I’ll finish them soon.

Truth be told, this was to clear my head and make way for a new project for NaNoWriMo. Last year, I don’t think I managed to reach my goal in time, so this year, I’m going to have to put in more effort.

Expect the first chapter of the Castle of Gears to come up in the next post, which will come – actually, I have no idea when. But it’ll come when it’s done!