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.”
“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.”
“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.”