On our world of Orr, in our country of Antiford, are many stories. We love to tell stories. We tell them at night, we tell them during lunch. We even tell them when no one is listening. However: Gornuary is the most precious time of year, and it deserves the most amazing of stories. Why? It’s because this time of year is a magical time. An amazing time. A… fantastical time.
Why? Well, this kind of magical time deserves one of the best stories, some not known to the average citizen of Antiford. Well, why don’t I tell you about what sets Orr apart: there is a small amount of a force called magic in our world. However, this wasn’t always the case. In fact, we came very close to the ending of our entire world one time because of it.
One Christmas night was all it took…
Lucas Meriwether Buford was ratcheting the last bolt into place of his new automaton. He had spent nine long months building this amazing new learning automaton. He wanted to name him Thomas-Isaiah-Matthew to go with his mechanical name, The Intelligent Marionette. However, his long-winded name didn’t stick. Instead, Lucas began adopting the name his associates had begun to use. T.I.M.
It was late in Dodar and he was eager to finish his new project. Bolting the final piece into place he stepped away, looking at his new creation. The metal man was limply sitting on the work table. Taking a match, Lucas turned on the gas and lit the pilot light behind the automaton. The gas lit and burst, lighting the boiler. The steam began to turn the gears, powering the machine. Slowly, the automaton began to shake and come to life as the turning cogs began running the scripts inside his body.
“Wake up, my child,” said Lucas, smiling, “come now, rise.”
The machine whirred, and sat up straight. Its eyes opened and behind its lids you could see the tiny wheels spinning. The automaton began to look around, its face turning to different things in the room.
“Hello,” said Lucas, waving, getting the automaton’s attention. “Hi there, my name is Lucas. You are Thomas-Isaiah- Matthew.”
The automaton tilted its head, and his mouth opened ever so much and its air pipes filled with air and it wheezed out some noise. Lucas gasped, repeating the automaton’s name.
“T-Thomas… Isaaaaaiiiiiaaaaaaiiiiiiah… Nat… Nathew…,” said the Automaton.
Lucas sighed. “Fine, how about ‘T.I.M.’? Can you say Tim?”
The automaton filled its air bags again. “T-t-t… Tim… I…am… Tim!”
“Success!” yelled Lucas. “You are alive! You are Tim! You are my Tim!”
“I am Tim,” said the automaton. “Tim. That is a better name.”
“Woah,” said Lucas, “That new engine, the M.U.L.T.I.P.L.Y. Engine, must be more amazing then I imagined. This is so fantastic!”
The automaton lifted its arms, testing out its functions. Slipping off the work shelf, Tim stood and began to walk around the room. One of his legs was not working correctly, and it limped awkwardly.
“Oh no… looks like I messed up with one of your legs,” said Lucas.
“It is alright, father,” said Tim, “I can use a crutch. I can just be handicapped. This is how you made me, and I shall not be ashamed about it!”
“No, seriously, Tim,” said Lucas, bending over and tightening a few bolts, “I just need to fix up these few pieces and… there we go!”
The connections in his legs began to work, and Tim moved his leg, testing it and walking normally. Lucas nodded. Perfect.
“Why am I looking like you, father, but I am small?”
Lucas smiled. “Because, my child, you are only just born. You have yet to grow with time!”
“Hmm… so I start tiny?”
“Come on, you are not that small,” said Lucas, “You don’t need to say ‘tiny’.”
“It is alright, father,” repeated the automaton. “This is how I was made. I… like it.”
“I like this too, Tim,” said Lucas. “You are learning so quickly and having complex thoughts and feelings. I feel so thrilled! I am truly the greatest automaton master of them all!”
“Yay,” mimicked Tim.
“You, Tim, will change the world. You can become anything you want to. You can revolutionize the medical industry… you could become the world’s greatest tea artisan. You could do anything! Whatever you do, Tim, you chose to do it the best you can! Your programming and script will allow you to change the world forever!”
“Mr. Bufooooord!” shouted the horrible secretary from the lobby.
“Not NOW, Lenora!” said Lucas, “I am with my children! No visitors. No one! Not… not this year… that’s why I got a secretary!”
Suddenly there was a creaking. Before Lucas could react, his large office oak door cracked and heaved. It flew right off its hinges and careened across the room. Lucas had barely enough time to grab Tim and move him aside as the door flew past them and into his work desk. Through the splinters, a man walked into the office, an angry look on his face.
“Oh no!” said Lucas.
“My father’s door!” cried the automaton.
“That’s… my line, but cute,” said Lucas, “You are just so adorable... But YOU! Why, Phin, WHY?”
“I am not ‘Phin’ to you today, Buford,” yelled Phin, stomping into the office and pointing at Lucas, “I want to see it. I want to assess your new toy!”
Phinneus Cromwell was a tall man in full regalia. He had a large bicorn atop his head and a variety of gizmos and gadgets on his arms and on his belt. His coat billowed in the cross breeze from both doors. A large, bushy beard hid the frown he was throwing at Lucas, but his angry eyebrows could not hide the fire in his eyes.
“No, Commodore,” said Lucas, “I do not want you to see him. Please… he is my child!”
“He is another one of your blasted dreams!” said Cromwell as he marched across the office, “Step aside and show him to me!”
Tim peered out from behind Lucas and gave a small wave, “Hello visitor! Father, who is our guest? I heard you call him Phin? Is he a friend?”
Phinneus’ eyes widened and he looked towards Lucas, “What is it? What did you do NOW?”
“Please, Phin, he’s my child,” said Lucas, “His name is Tim. He hasn’t hurt anybody… I promise.”
“It is sentient, isn’t it?” said Cromwell, “I told you… we go through this every time!”
“He… uhh… is not,” said Lucas, “He just mimics sentience. Ya, honest! I truly did it this time. Please, Cromwell, leave him alone!”
“No,” said Phinneus, “We must have ORDER here. We can not allow such things to exist. How was he made? Tell me, how did you do it?”
“A few springs, a few tubes…” said Lucas nervously, “Love?”
“Buford! We can not use magic to advance our world,” said Cromwell. “It’s too dangerous. It isn’t believable… it’s not factual. Nobody wants to read that… drivel… he must be based in SCIENCE! I must be able to build one of my own!”
“Stop that… it’s Phinneus Cromwell to you!”
“But PHIN!” said Lucas, “He’s mine. My Tiny Tim. Surely the Order can allow it, he could do so much!”
“He will do so much… that is why I cannot allow this!”
“But… PHIN! I can explain it. He is scientific! I can!”
Phin sighed, and put his head in the palm of his hand, “Look, Lucas, We cannot have this… you know that!”
“Please, Phin, I can… I can convince people. He will not break our world!”
“Fine!” said Phinneus, raising his voice. “Then this is what I decree, Lucas Marigold Buford!”
“Meriwether,” corrected Lucas.
“I, Commodore Phinneus Cromwell of the Order of the Badger, give you twenty-four hours!” bellowed Cromwell, his voice filling the room, “you must convince me — convince me — that your monstrosity deserves to live in this world of ours!”
“He has a name!”
“But if you cannot convince me, Burford,” said Phinneus, reaching into his pocket, “I will lay judgment upon you… I will deem him…”
With great fan fair, Cromwell pulled from his pocket a mighty sword. Instantly the smell of fresh bacon filled the room. It did the shing thing from cartoons, I don’t know how else to describe it: Shhhhiiiinggggg……aling…..
“…Too fantastical!” shouted Cromwell, finishing his early statement. “Twenty-Four hours… until death!”
Shoving the Bacon Sword back into his pocket, Cromwell turned around and stomped out of the office. Buford crumbled into a heap and cried, Tim patting his back.
And this is how it begins.
Leaving the HQ of Buford Automatons Phinneus walked briskly down the roads of Astam Junction. Phinneus walked with authority and other pedestrians would move out of his way as he marched down the street.
In the Order of the Badger, Phinneus dedicated himself to the hunting down and disposing of magical artifacts, creatures, or beliefs that threatened the overall balance of the world of Orr. Commodore Phinneus Cromwell was a hardened man and a fearless commander of a ship known only as the North Star. Under the guise of a water merchant, he patrolled the world doing his secretive duty.
Even now he looked like a man of authority as he marched through the streets making his way to the small airship docks in Astam junction.
On his way, a couple stepped out in front of him, raising their hands to stop him in his tracks. One was a larger man with a grand mustache wearing some sort of foreign military uniform. The other was a young girl with a stern look and a wrench.
“Excuse me, Sir,” said the girl, “just a moment of your time. Are you sick of the Technocrats?”
“Yes,” said Phinneus, “But I don’t have time…”
“Do you love PRUSH as much as me?” said the man, “Have you ever been cast-out by your own people?”
“No, I don’t. Now if you excuse-”
“Listen, Sir, we represent foreign ambassadors trying to gain funds to start a world war,” said the woman. “Our world needs to change! The Technocrats must be stopped; the world order must be broken! These two things can only change with a world war!”
“What?” said Phinneus.
“And I am the Prushian Emperor,” said the larger man, “I need funds so I may pay the parking tickets on my land ship and return home to unite my homeland! Then I will take over the world!”
“What? Prush doesn’t exist and doesn’t have an emperor!” said Phinneus.
“Prush Confederacy, whatever!” said the man. “The point is, I will unite the world under the glorious flag of the Prush Confederate Empire!”
“I don’t know about that,” said the girl. “You fool! We discussed a world war trade partnership. With Kuu and Mont-Diamont out of the way, the Golan Empire may rise and take over the world with SQUID LAUNCHERS!”
“No,” laughed the large man, “Golah will be the last stop on the POOP-TRAIN EXPRESS!!!”
“SILENCE!” yelled Phinneus, stomping his foot on the ground and shutting the two up, “I would NEVER support such an outrageous cause! The Golan Empire? Not plausible. A world war? There’s no tension great enough or empires expanded enough for such a feat! And a Prushian Empire? Down right insane! You cannot even control your patch of land called the Confederacy! How do you expect to control two better-off other nations and then attack the world? Ludicrous!”
“So does that mean you won’t help us?” said the larger man in a tiny voice.
“Not even a simo?” said the girl.
“HA!” yelled Phinneus, “I am busy; I do not have anything to give you! I wouldn’t give you the time of DAY if I thought it would aid in your ridiculous query! Good DAY TO YOU!”
With that, Cromwell pushed the two aside and stomped through them, onward towards the docks. It was getting late and he wanted to be cozy on his ship before nightfall. The other two watched him walk away with awed expressions.
The girl looked towards the larger man, squinting with anger. “Poop train?”
The man glared down at her, his mustache twitching. “A Simo?”
They immediately broke out in a slap fight. However, they are no longer important to the story. In fact, we should probably shoot forward to Phinneus reaching the North Star.
It was late, and the sun had already begun to set. Stepping onboard, Cromwell was surprised to see that it was deserted. Looking around, he had deduced his crew must have gone to the bars and the inns looking for companionship. He decided to allow this, and he headed to his quarters. Along the way, he cried out for his first officer, but was saddened to see he was also not on board. Shrugging, he continued to his quarters.
Once inside the ship, Phinneus took out a large flashlight, and switched it on. It shined a blue hue as he navigated into his ship. Once at his quarters, he shut the door behind his, and turned on the other light bulbs. Walking over to a music box, he turned on a holo tube and the blue electric tube began to spark, playing music and heating the room at the same time.
Taking a seat, Phinneus decided to turn off the flashlight and prop up his feet. Looking around his room, however, he furrowed his brow and scowled.
“Wait a minute,” he said, “All this stuff is waaaaay too fantastical. How did I even get it?”
Well, even though that was not in the script, Phinneus remembered that-
“Hey, you, shut up!” said Phinneus. “No, seriously. NO FLASHLIGHTS in Antiford… they are… not probable.”
But Phinneus had forgot we said they were new and rare large proto lights which would not be so hard to remember-
“Yeah, but this one is small. And why is it blue? …And what about this thing? My room lined with light bulbs? Come on! And this device? What is it? A radiator or a music box? Pick one!”
you want me to tell the story or not?
“Tell it right, you blasted narrator!” shouted the crazy blunder head to the nothingness around him, “I’m a big dummy dum!”
With that out of the way, Cromwell and I decided to stop bickering with a compromise of a neo-fantastical matter. Since I am still upset, I shall skip ahead a bit.
He ate some dinner which was questionable, he read over some documents, probably encyclopedia entry requests, and got upset. Then he went to the bathroom. After that… he decided it was time to have a rest and get some much-needed sleep. He had given up on Boric’s return and decided he had a great deal of work to do in the morning.
While preparing for bed, however, Phinneus thought he heard some chains rattling. He could hear it as if it was in the room.
“Boric,” said Phinneus, “Is that you?”
Seeing no one, Phinneus grabbed his lightning shocker gun thing and headed to his door. The lights began to flicker, and the sounds of chains rattling got louder and louder. He flew open the door and stepped out. All sounds of chains stopped abruptly and Phinneus found himself looking into the darkness. He scowled.
“Who is there? Show yourself!”
There was no reply. Phinneus gave out a sigh and walked backwards into his room, shutting the door behind him. He paused at the door a moment, and then decided to lock the door.
Turning around, Phinneus let out a cry of surprise as he saw the light bulbs flash again. Then the light bulbs blew. Standing in his quarters was an eerily blue man with an eyepatch. He was covered in chains and rigging and he glared at Phinneus.
“Who are you?” shouted Phinneus, even as he pulled the trigger on his gun, sending a lightning shock out towards the man.
The shot flew right through him and sparked off the wall behind the man. The man raised his arms, the sounds of chains rattling filling the room once more. He let out a large moan and screamed.
“What are you?” asked Phinneus.
“Ask me who I was… or am… again,” said the man.
Phinneus looked up, squinting, “Wait, you’re Nolan, aren’t you? Alexander Nolan, from Conwell!”
“That is who I was!” said Nolan, raising his hands, “Or… am… I guess… I don't know. I am Alexander Nolan, you’re friend and ally… I come from-”
“Wait, friend? I wouldn’t go that far,” said Phinneus.
“Well I am from the future, idiot, we get a great deal closer,” said Nolan. “You see, I have-”
“The future? That can’t be possible,” said Phinneus, “How did you get here?”
“Gods damnit, Cromwell!” said Nolan, “Look, could you just… let me talk? Maybe finish one second? God, why didn’t I bring my gun?”
“Sorry, it’s just… what’s with the get-up?”
“It’s to wake you up and jar you!” said Nolan, “It’s… theatrical, but it – look, just let me talk, okay?”
“Squeak, squeak squeeeeak!”
“No, I’m not saying it,” said Nolan, “I don’t even know what it means.”
fine,” said Nolan, “
“This all sounds like bullshit,” said Phinneus.
“Look,” said Nolan, the chains rattling more and he stood a little taller, “Commodore Phinneus Cromwell, in the year 1914 you begin the final stages of a massive anti-magic holocaust! You are heading to doom, Cromwell. DOOM!”
The chain rattling increased in volume, and Nolan stepped forward, causing Cromwell to flinch backwards with the movement.
“You must change, Commodore, or you will be doomed in… hey…. Hey…. HEY! What the hell, with the chains?”
Nolan turned around, his hands crossing. Behind him a light blue Vibranni kneeled, chains in her hands as she rattled them furiously.
“What?” she said.
“What on Orr are you doing, Rilain?” said Nolan, “I’m trying to do the thing! We don’t have much time.”
“Then just TELL him already,” said Rilain, “You were the one who wanted all this extra stuff.”
“Look! Just let me do the thing, ok?” said Nolan, “I can do it.”
Rilain sighed and stood up, pushing past Nolan and glaring at Phinneus.
“Look, Cromwell,” she stated, “We need to change your mind. Tonight you will be visited by three spirits. These spirits will each approach you in order to help change your heart and change the path in which you head!”
“I don’t have time for such things,” said Cromwell, “What path am I on? I have no need of spirits, I don’t even like them. They are not allowed on this ship!”
“HA!” said Nolan and Rilain together.
“You will do this, you,” said Rilain.
of time!” said Nolan, gesturing to
“Wait, Nolan!” shouted Phinneus, “Why can’t they just all come at once, give their written arguments, and let us be done with it! Why can’t you tell me what my path is?”
“Because, “said Nolan, who was watching as Rilain turned white and faded into nothing, “You must see… on your own, with your own eyes.”
“But so much can be skipped if we just do it all now!” said Phinneus, “Nobody has time to READ this!”
“It must,” said Nolan, as he began to turn white. “My words have sunken into you, and I am glad I got through. But it is up to you, now. I can stay no longer…”
Just like that, he faded into space, leaving Phinneus alone in the darkness of his room. He looked around, his eyes adjusting to the darkness and he was looking for any signs of this being a hoax or some sort of trick.
He made his way to his arm chair, sat down, and gave a huge sigh.
“Damn you, Nathan!” he said, “It’s the Christmas Carol? Bah-Humbug. No, wait: Bullshit!”
There he sat, in his armchair in his quarters. The window shutters were shut and locked tightly and the door was barricaded. He sat with his lightning pistol and his revolver ready at his side. An old sword had also been retrieved just in case.
Phinneus had battened down and prepared for his long night. Sending out a wire, he attempted to recall his crew and Boric for their immediate return to the ship. He then prepared to meet these spirits with all the peaceful intentions he had shown spirits in the past. He had often been called on to end a ghost's haunt. He destroyed several other-worldly gods from Kuu mythology to keep it a crazy cult belief. He had also once slayed three Cthulhu at once to keep the world of Orr at peace.
The thought that three spirits had it out for him, and were brave enough to attempt to board the North Star, stirred him inside. No, he was not scared. Don’t think that… just unsettled. Maybe a little cautious. They are fantastical spirits after all.
He set up in his armchair and waited, his eye firmly glued to one of his many clocks. He decided he would stay up all night. Minutes turned into a half hour…
However, he fell asleep before his goal.
There he lay, sleeping in his armchair. It didn’t help it WAS passed his bed time. Also, that stupid Nolan had blown EVERY light bulb in the place.
Well, sort of. That is, he had blown every one. However, exactly one hour after Nolan had dissipated a single light bulb in the center of the room crackled on and shone bright in the room. This caused Phinneus to stir, but not immediately rise from his sleep. Slowly, a fog like smoke began creeping into the room. It poured in from the windows and began to creep in from the door. The smoke rose, crawling up the walls and swirling around the ceiling and the light bulbs.
Phinneus Cromwell opened a single eye, squinting at the light. He sighed, annoyed by the sudden light. Suddenly, the memory flooding back into his conscious, Phinneus jolted up, standing quickly from his chair. He gawked as the smoke swirled around the ceiling.
Reaching for his guns, he found that they were missing from his lap. He figured he must have dropped them. However, looking around the floor seemed unhelpful due to the small amount of smoke which had already filled the floor, swirling around his feet.
The smoke had reached the one working light bulb, and it began to gather and swarm around it like a tornado. Quickly gathering mass, the swirling stalagmite of smoke began to lower itself from the ceiling. It began to pick up speed to the point that all that could be seen of the bulb was a slight glow through the smog.
Phinneus turned around and fumbled around his chair. The sword had just barely been covered by the smog. Snatching it up he yanked it from the sheath and turned back to the smog funnel.
The mass had already grown in size, the smoke swirling and beginning to reach towards the smog on the floor. The ceiling smoke had dissipated. The glow of the light bulb lowered down, leaving the socket empty. The form became a funnel on the ground, swirling and thickening as it gather the ground smog. The glow from what was once the light bulb still showed, but it spread throughout the mass, giving it a light glow.
Phinneus found himself stepping back from the cloudy mass as it formed into a figure. He also could hear his heartbeat fill his ears as he held his breath.
Suddenly the smoke broke, and a figure emerged. It looked as if a woman was swirling around making her dress billow. The smoke faded away and she stood before him, a small smile forming on her face. She held a solid shape, but she still seemed to wift about as if like a smoke cloud. She also seemed to glow slightly from her interior. Phinneus took in a deep breath and held his chest.
“Oh, wow,” said Phinneus, “I am so glad it’s you, Miss Cormac. Or… is it?”
“I am not Abigail Beatrix Cormac,” said the entity, “I have simply chosen a form with which you will be more familiar; a form which you will trust above all else with your secrets.”
“My secrets?” said Phinneus, “Miss Cormac? You don’t have your facts straight!”
“Maybe it is you who doesn’t have their facts straight,” said the entity, “I am the ghost of the past. I have spent my existence cataloging history and remembering the forgotten. I have seen everything, but can do nothing about it. I am what was, and know what we have come from.”
“Ooh…. Kay,” said Phinneus, “So what do I call you? Ghost? Past? That… whole title? How about Abigail?”
“If it is better for you, Phinneus Cromwell,” said the ghost, “Then you may call me whatever you wish. Abigail is a suitable title.”
“Fine,” said Phinneus, “Then… where are the others?”
“In time,” said the ghost, “You must first experience what I have to offer. Trust me: what I’m offering is more then you can handle.”
Phinneus shifted uneasily where he stood, “And what would that be?”
“You will come with me as we dive into the past,” said the ghost, reaching into a handbag she had at her side, “And we’ll see what has been experienced.”
With that she pulled out a small globe. It was made of brass and did not spin; it was also incomplete and only showed the known sides of Orr. Phinneus starred at in awkwardly, before realization dawned on his face.
“What is that?” he questioned, “It looks like something I had seen… I remember…”
“Many objects find themselves into old junk shops,” said the ghost, “This is an object from your past. Do you recognize it?”
“My… school teacher had something like it?” asked Phinneus.
Almost immediately the object began to melt, turning into a silvery puddle. It pooled off of her hand and fell onto the floor. Phinneus let out a gasp, starring at the silvery pool on the floor.
“What is that?” said Phinneus.
“A Well,” said the ghost, “Into the past. Come, take my hand and let’s go.”
“Wait just a minute,” stuttered Phinneus.
The ghost didn’t wait. Reaching out and snapping Phinneus’ hand with an iron grip, she took a step and dived into the well.
Cromwell tried to resist, but he found himself being dragged towards the silvery puddle as if being dragged into the ocean by an anchor. His hand disappeared into the goop, and soon his shoulder and face were following. Phinneus let out a scream as he was pulled into the mess.
SLAM! Phinneus was tossed into a pile of sand. Pushing himself up, he spit sand from his mouth and moved his beard. It was really cold, and he could see his breath. He was glad he had kept his coat on while awaiting the spirits. Standing up, he saw the ghost not too far away. He stood to his feet.
“I could catch a damn cold out here!” he yelled, “Now what was the meaning of that! I did not want to go with you, bring me back at once!”
“Do you know where we are?” asked the ghost.
“How on Orr am I supposed to know that?” said Phinneus looking around and gesturing, “We could be… at… Gearford? We’re on… hey, I used to live around here… I do know this place.”
“I should hope so,” said the ghost, pointing down the road, “I am willing to wager you might have even gone to that little school right over there?”
“Good lord,” said Phinneus, “It’s my old school house! I went there before the academy!”
“You mentioned being cold?” said the ghost, “I think we should probably head inside and see what we find.”
Walking down the street, the ghost and Phinneus strolled until they reached the door. Heading inside, Phinneus looking around the one door school house. Nobody was inside except for the school master and a young boy sitting down by the front.
“Look, Abigail,” said Phinneus, smiling and pointing, “That’s my old headmaster! Master Teabow! He was always a delight. Oh, boy do I remember my days with him. He was very supportive of me, almost like a second father!”
“Was he, now?” Abagail asked, holding back a smile, “Look at his beard!”
“Yeah, you should have seen it when it was full. All the children loved him so!”
“And that child?” asked the Ghost.
Phinneus’ eyes grew and he ducked down slightly, “My lords! Look, if it isn’t myself as a boy! Oh dear, I can’t see older me! Won’t that mess up the timeline?”
The ghost chuckled to herself, “I wouldn’t worry about that.”
“We’ll have to be in disguise,” he said, clearing his throat, “Master Teabow! Brilliant to see you! My name is Commodore… guhhh….. uhmm….. phhh….. Grump! Commodore Grump!”
“Cromwell,” said the Ghost, “He cannot hear you… or see you.”
“What do you mean?” asked Phinneus, waving his hands as he realized they were both unnoticed in the room.
“This is the past, a mere memory,” said the ghost, “Think of them as shadows, Just a representation of what was and not a physical thing that can be altered. Just… watch. Look. Listen.”
The headmaster made his way over to the boy, who looked up and smiled with glee.
“Look, headmaster,” said the boy, “it’s almost as if from the book itself!”
“I am so very proud,” said the headmaster, “You are my brightest student, Phin. You draw those sky whales with such skill.”
“I am oh-so interested in these myths and legends,” said Phin, “I want to see them myself!”
“Look!” giggled the ghost, grabbing Cromwell’s shoulder, “Look at the little crayons! Oh it is adorable.”
“Now, Phin,” said the headmaster, “Only the truly adventurous and lucky will ever see some of these creatures. They are legend… and are rarely seen. However, if you are adamant on it, maybe you can spend your life looking for them.”
“You think so,” smiled the boy, who got more excited at the headmaster’s nod in agreement, “I’m going to! I’m going to spend my life traveling the world! I’m going to see them all! Unicorns! Sky Whales! Fairies! Goblins! I’ll fight monsters and protect lovely princesses! I’ll be a noble warrior and skilled adventurer!”
“If it is what you wish, Phin, than it is what will come true!” said the headmaster.
A sudden slam of the door caused all heads to turn, and Cromwell and the ghost looked too. A man wearing a large tricorn and cloak was standing by the door. He marched down the isle of desks towards the headmaster, looking angry. The headmaster sighed and rolled his eyes, and the boy stiffed.
“Oh, who’s that,” said the ghost.
“That, Miss Cormac,” said Phinneus, “Is my father…”
The man walked passed Cromwell and the ghost and right up to the headmaster.
“It is good to see you, father,” said the boy, not looking at his father’s face.
“Master Cromwell,” said the headmaster, “To what do I owe the visit?”
“Enrollment papers,” said the man, his voice filling up the school house’s room, “I need Phinneus’ transcripts sent to the Academy at once.”
“Academy?” asked the headmaster, “But he is only a boy.”
“He is a genius,” said the man, “And I have pulled many favors to ensure his enrollment. He is to start as soon as he is accepted.”
“But father,” said Phin, “The academy is for soldiers. I want to be an adventurer!”
“A what?” said the man, who rolled his eyes and glared at the headmaster, “Do you see what you have done? My boy is a genius. He will put the name of Cromwell into history books. His education is the most important thing to him now, not his fantasies! I can’t have you filling his head with nonsense!”
“It is not nonsense,” said the headmaster, “I inspire their souls. They are young. They are our future. If we want the world to change for the better we need to be building them up and letting them grow! Not pruning them and structuring them!”
“You wouldn’t know of changing the world.” said the man. “Phinneus, grab your things. We are leaving.”
“But, father,” said the boy, “I cannot take the book out of the school house. Can’t I just-”
“That’s an order, Phinneus,” said the man, his voice raising and vibrating the room, “It’s time to go, NOW!”
“Yes, sir,” said the boy and Phinneus together.
Phinneus immediately shuddered, looking towards the ghost embarrassed to see if she noticed. The boy put his head down and rose from the desk. He said goodbye to his head master and made to follow his father.
“Master Phinneus,” said the headmaster, who picked up the book on legendary creatures and passed it to the boy, “I think it would not hurt for this book to follow you to the academy. You can always return it when you are older.”
The boy looked overjoyed, grasping the book with love. However, the man snapped it away forcefully and glared at the cover. He glared back at the headmaster.
“This will not leave the school house,” he bellowed, “There is no place in his life for something so… fantastical. Only science!”
The man chucked the book. It flew towards Cromwell, which caused him to shout and step back. The book passed through him as if it was a mirage, and clattered somewhere on the floor.
The boy lowered his head once more, and this time followed his father out of the school house. The door slammed behind them. Phinneus frowned, watching the door with an intent stare.
“Your father, hmm?” said the ghost.
“I hated that man with every fiber of my being,” said Phinneus, clenching his fist, “I only went to his funeral to ensure he was truly dead.”
“He got you into the academy, however,” said the ghost, “Made you who you are.”
“I am grateful,” said Phinneus, “but I hate him!”
“And how about those sights?” said the ghost, “Did you ever get to travel the world? Did you ever see what you hoped to see? Sky Whales? Fairies? Goblins?”
“Oh, I got to travel and see them, alright,” said Phinneus, his hand caressing the drawing of the whale the boy had left, “It just wasn’t how I had dreamed it. I was working.”
“Work hard, play harder?” smiled the ghost.
“No, just work hard,” said Phinneus.
“And what was that work, hmm?”
Phinneus clenched his fists harder, closing his eyes and looking away from the drawing.
“How about we move on,” said the ghost, pulling a piece of paper from her bag.
“An invitation?” said Phinneus, “Where to?”
“You’ll remember,” said the ghost, as the invite glooped to the ground as the globe had, this time swallowing up Phinneus’ legs and dropping him through it.
Phinneus didn’t even have time to yelp before he was thrust into a crowded room and booming music filled his ears. It took him a second to get over the shock and look around. He was in an enormous ballroom, and people mingled and talked and laughed together. A large chandelier filled the room with light. A vibrant orchestra played up beat music for dancers at the ball.
Phinneus looked around, almost confused. Many of the men were in uniform and he even recognized a few officers from his Royal Navy days. He smiled, realizing he remembered this scene.
Turning, he saw the ghost next to him, she smiled.
“I know this!” said Phinneus, “I
was here. This was my graduation from the
“A happy memory?” said the ghost.
“Look,” said Phinneus, “It’s
Captain Monroe! He was a war hero! Oh, and Admiral Thompson! Oh what I wouldn’t
give to shake his hand! My god, is that
A vibrant young man was standing by
the orchestra, a large smile on his face. He laughed and shook hands with
people. The Baron Nester Delgado was a much loved host of such parties. He
loved celebrations, especially for graduates of the
“And where are you?” said the ghost.
“Away from the crowd I do so wish,” said Phinneus, beginning to scan the crowd.
A few dancing couples moved out of his line of sight and Phinneus got a blast from the past. A young him stood and laughed with his colleagues, their graduation sashes still on and cocktails already downed. Phinneus smiled and shook his head, making his way over.
“I’m going to miss you guys,” said the young Phin, “Honestly, it has been a crazy bunch of years!”
“Honestly, Phin, your work would be much better suited here, mate,” cackled one of his colleagues, “Did you hear, Paddy? He’s going off to join the bloody air corps! He’s going to be on an airship and everything. Active duty while working on his stuff. Unbelievable!”
“You don’t say,” said Paddock, “Come now, Phinneus, why the risk? You’ll have much more favorable conditions here in Gearford!”
“Come now, mates,” said young Phin, “I just can’t bring myself to. I want to explore! I want to see the world! I think that could be the best use of my knowledge. I look at it as my education isn’t over until I’ve been around all of Orr!”
“Oh, Bullshit,” said Phinneus, shaking his head, “I cannot believe I was so naïve. Look at that? A soul-patch and sideburns? What was I thinking? So glad I went with the beard.”
“And that hair,” giggled the ghost, “Were you growing a pony tail? Haven’t exactly committed to it?”
“Shut it,” said Phinneus.
“Oh, hush,” said the ghost, “You look adorable. Like a little puppy that’s been shaved!”
“Ah, gentlemen!” came a booming voice in the crowd.
A great big man with a bushy beard made his way through the crowd. He had a young lady on his arm. Phinneus’ heart stopped, immediately.
“Oh, I am an old fool,” said Phinneus, shaking his head, “This is it… this is the night!”
“What night?” asked the ghost.
“The night I met her… the night I met my beautiful wife.”
“If it isn’t Master Paddock himself,” said the burly man.
“Wow, Mr. Lawrence Nightingale himself!” cried Paddock, “Your work on Airships have been truly inspirational!”
“Aw, come now,” said Nightingale, “It is you who interests me. I hear you have an interesting carriage design I must see. I wish to discuss it… in private. The rest of you, please look after my niece. Her name is Ms Elizabeth Weller.”
As the two businessmen walked away, the group disbanded. Phinneus shrugged and stepped forward, sharing a concerned look with Ms Weller. Commodore Cromwell skewed his face.
“Wait… Paddock? I’m not that old.”
“Shhh, Grampa,” said the Ghost, “I like this part!”
“So glad to see I killed the mood,” said Ms Weller, almost laughing.
“Nonsense,” said young Phin, “I think it was right boring anyway. My name is Phinneus Cromwell, Madame. At your service.”
“Do you dance, Mister Cromwell?” asked the girl, “Oh how I love to dance!”
“Ha… well… I don’t,” said Phin, “I can’t. And… I don’t know.”
“Oh, come now, Mr. Cromwell,” said
“Oh, no!” said Phin, “Not in front of people, no!”
Taking his hand and leading him, she ran to the back door next to the orchestra and ran outside. It was cold and dark outside. Phinneus and the ghost made their way outside to watch.
“Excuse me, I’m a wealthy Prushian Emperor… but I was kinda thrown out of my home,” said the hobo, “If you would kindly lend me some money, I can reclaim my rightful place as heir and pay you back ten-fold!”
“Get lost, smelly,” said
Phinneus couldn’t help but smile, “She had such a way with words.”
“Look, nobody here but you and me,” she said, smiling, “So, now may I have my dance?”
“Well, the music is a little fast,” said young Phin, and then the music came to a close and applause rang out, “And now it is over.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for enjoying this wonderful party in honor of the academy graduates,” came the booming voice of the Baron Delgado, “This next song is for all those foxy couples out there. I will be doing a traditional opera… of love.”
The music began, and the Baron broke into a slow baritone opera. Young Phin shrugged and then held out his hand.
“I suppose the stars are aligned,” said Phin.
“They better be!” said
She took his hand, and they squared up to dance. It was awkward and slow at first, but they soon began to sway back and forth with time and the music, the Baron serenading them sweetly as they became lost in each other’s eyes.
“I do love this night,” said Phin, “I enjoy the stars. They give me a comfort I only feel at night.”
“They remind me of diamonds,” said
“Do you have a favorite star?” said Phin.
“The North Star,” smiled
Phin frowned, “I’m sorry, your astronomy is a little… skewed. Orr only has two great stars. The South Star and the East star are the brightest in our sky. There is no North Star.”
“Well, why not?” said
“Maybe it hasn’t been made yet,” said Phin, looking up to the night sky, “Maybe it is waiting for a beautiful sun to ascend the heavens and blaze into the sky.”
“I’m unsure I’m capable of making a star,” said Phin, “But for you… I would make an entire galaxy of stars!”
Young Phin smiled, his eyes looking deeply into her own.
“Tell me you aren’t leaving,” she said, suddenly, “Will you be stationed here? In the labs?”
Young Phin stuttered, before answering, “Yes, of course. I shall be staying here. I mean… better conditions then on some… boat. Right?”
“Liar,” said the ghost.
“She was the most beautiful thing I had ever encountered,” said Phinneus. “Yes, I lied my ass off. It took a great deal of strings but I pulled my way off the Duchess that night. She changed the entire course of my life… for the better.”
“You were so happy,” said the ghost, “I do not think I have memory of you smiling so wide.”
“This was the second most loved memory I have,” said Phinneus, “I mean the moonlight was perfect, she and I were dressed amazingly, the Baron’s song was perfect. He had such a great singing voice. Such a shame, now.”
“What was the first,” asked the ghost.
“Our wedding,” said Phinneus, whose eyes widened, “Oh my, let me show you! Please! It was so lovely. You’ve never seen two people more in love! The ceremony was just so fantastic!”
“Let me see,” said the ghost, reaching into her bag, “I am afraid all I have is this.”
She pulled out of her bag a frying pan of a large size, and she frowned in confusion. Phinneus shook his head.
“What does it mean?” asked Phinneus.
“It means it is time to move on,” said the ghost.
She lifted the pan over her head and chucked it towards the ground at Phinneus’ feet. It splattered into the silvery pool of a well before Phinneus could say anything, and he was falling through its surface before he could react. His eyes bulged as the lovely dancing scene he remembered so vividly fell away, and he found himself inside of the well.
He was cast into darkness before
the doors of the cupboard burst open and he fell onto the hardwood floor. He
looked around in time to see
Looking around, Phinneus recognized
his old house. Standing up, he looked around at the small kitchen/ dining room/
“Our house,” said Phinneus, looking around frantically, “I cannot forget this place. Abigail, please tell me what this memory is.”
“You should recall it,” answered the Ghost.
“Liz!” came a cry down in the cellar, “Where is the thermometer?”
“It’s up here, Phin,” cried
“What, why!?” came the angry voice of Phinneus, causing Cromwell to wince, “I need it! I’m at the final stage of delicate work!”
“I’m at the final stage of our
breakfast!” yelled back
“I told you; I’m on the brink of a break through!”
“I do not wish to see this, Abigail,” he demanded, “Take me away from this! I wish to go home!”
“Open your eyes, Cromwell,” demanded the ghost.
When he did, he found himself in
“You’ll break it,” he said, sternly.
“Oh, I won’t break a damn thing,”
“I cannot stop working,” said Phin, “You said so yourself, I need to start making some serious cash. What I am making will change our lives forever, Liz!”
“Our lives have been changed forever,” said
“They are thin silk gloves, Liz, not proper safety equipment!” said Phin through his teeth, “How are they able to stop heat? They are SILK!”
“And my charmed pendant?” said
“What do you have against a little
magic, anyway, Phin?” said
“Abigail,” said Cromwell once more, sternly.
The Ghost was tapping some of the glace beakers, smiling as bubbles ran up the tubes with every flick.
“I do NOT wish to witness this,” he said again threw his teeth.
“Fine, I guess I’ll just look through here,” said the Ghost, “Oh, so many things… hmm…. this could take a while.”
“Impossible. They are flora. soulless
“Or the mer-people of Rusticanotae?”
“Mer-people? They were mentally ill people in costume swimming about,” laughed Phin, “Mer people? Living in the ocean? Are we twelve?”
“The talking parrot!” yelled
“Faked!” said Phin, “Absolute bullshit. Humbug! Crap!”
“Maybe I want to believe, Phin, you
ever think of that?” said
“This is NOT a work of fiction,
Slamming his fist down, there was suddenly a clatter as some glasses and orbs were knocked over. Cursing, young Phin scrambled to sweep up the powder from his hand. However, the damage was done as the powdered dust hit the open flame.
A large blast erupted, and Phinneus and the ghost were thrown into chaos and smoke as their ears were assaulted with noise. Phinneus found himself screaming. All around him burning wood and ash fell from the sky. He was standing in a crater, his house gone.
The past Phinneus stood, dazed, looking around the wreckage. His eyes were wide and his hair singed, but he was otherwise alright. Looking around, he began to stumble.
Stumbling over to where she was, he saw her singed clothes and the frying pan lying on the ground. Rummaging through the debris, young Phin picked up a large object. Almost glowing from the wreckage was a large sword-like object. Instantly the smell of bacon filled the air. Phinneus looked on as young Phin picked up the sword and examined it.
It looked like it was made of Bacon. Carved into its side were the words “To protect you from anything life throws at you. My love— Phinneus.” Young Phin began to sob, crying out to the heavens. Phinneus found he was already sobbing as well. He reached into his pocket, feeling the hilt of the sword he carried there.
“What does it read?” asked the ghost.
“It is just an inscription,” said Phinneus, “It was in her ring I gave her. It was a gesture.”
Turning away, Phinneus stormed off and kicked some debris.
“Why was this important?” he said, “Why must I relive this moment? I wish to go home. I want to be AWAY!”
Reaching inside her bag once more, the ghost pulled out some chains and shackles. Without waiting, she tossed them at Phinneus. Phinneus didn’t even attempt to catch them as they turned into a silvery well and dragged him down.
Pulling himself out of the well, Phinneus looked around. He was somewhere in the desert and all around him small shanty shacks burned and bodies lay strewn about. He shook his head as he stumbled through the little town.
“Where are we?” cried Phinneus, “What am I supposed to see here?”
Phinneus looked around him, however he could not see the ghost. His brow furrowed and he decided to look around the little burning town.
“Abigail!” he cried, “Miss Cormac! Where are we? Where are YOU!”
Suddenly he heard a scream not too far away. Phinneus turned and headed down a road and his heart leapt. A man dressed in rags was swinging a large pipe like a club, clubbing a few Goblins as they circled around him.
“Oh, shit,” said Phinneus, “Not this nightmare!”
Suddenly one of the Goblins jumped at the man, slashing his back with his claws. All of them took the chance, leaping onto the man and slashing him up. Suddenly the sand began to shake, and the man was dragged, screaming, under the sand by the goblins, and he disappeared.
Phinneus shook his head and scowled. He turned and tried to walk away from it. In the distance, he caught the tail end of a large ogre, who disappeared behind a building. Phinneus gulped. He was in the penal colony again. He remembered this night in a haze.
Sure enough, looking around he spotted a small well in the center of what once might have been a town square. Waiting a moment, Phinneus could see a pair of hands reach up and pull out a body. A young yeti climbed out of the well, looking around frantically. He turned around and pulled up another figure, both of them standing around.
Phinneus almost didn’t recognize himself. The man standing next to the Yeti male was haggard, with long unkempt hair and the craziest beard he had seen in a while. His clothes were ripped and bloodied and he stared wide-eyed at the world around him.
“We need to go,” said the Yeti, “We can escape into the desert.”
“We won’t make it a day, sir,” said the new Phinneus, “We need supplies! Supplies we don’t have.”
“We can’t stay here, Captain Cromwell,” said the Yeti, “These Goblins will tear us to shreds! And that Ogre!”
“Shh!” spat the younger Cromwell.
It, however, was too late. One of the burning buildings was smashed, and flame and debris were thrown into the air. In its wake burst out one of the monstrous ogres. It was around two stories tall, with massive bulging muscles and tough, grey skin. It had massive tusks which jutted out of its jaws. Its head was sunken down so that a carriage seat could sit upon its shoulders. In that seat was a Goblin shaman.
The ogre bellowed out, glaring down on the two figures standing in the road. The Goblin shaman took out a scream as well. Raising his staff, he chanted some clicks and snarks and cast a spell. Out of the sand in front of them rose the corpses of deceased goblins. Their skeletal fingers clawed their way out of the sand.
“Run, man,” yelled the Yeti, “We have to run!”
The other Phinneus didn’t move. Instead, he reached into his pocket and stared at the scene in front of him.
“No,” he whispered, “This isn’t fair…”
“Do it,” whispered Cromwell, watching the younger version of himself stair down the threat, “You know what must be done…”
“I… can not… allow this,” said the younger Cromwell, pulling a tiny hilt out of his pocket, “Giant Ogres. Shamen Goblins. Zombies. They are… too magical. They are not scientific! They make… no…. sense! I cannot allow this!”
Slashing the hilt backwards, the magical bacon-blade appeared. The air filled with the scent of bacon, and a red aura lightly grew around the young Cromwell.
“I will not allow this!” he yelled, his voice seemed to be amplified, “You are… too… fantastical!”
With one mighty swipe, the younger Cromwell sent out a shockwave which slashed through the Zombies. They squealed out as their bottoms were separated from their tops. The bacon sword began to sizzle with energy, and an aura of rainbows began to surround it. The younger Cromwell looked upward at the Ogre with fire in his eyes.
Running forward at the Ogre, the younger Cromwell jabbed his sword, firing an almighty powerful beam at the Ogre. The Ogre and its rider screeched with anger, stampeding into the beam as if in attack. The resulting explosion left Ogre and Goblin chunks smoldering through the air in every direction.
The yeti stumbled back to the wreckage, surveying the burned corpses.
“Who… who are you?” said the man, “And how did you do that?”
The younger Cromwell pushed his hair back, surveying the sword in his hand.
“Your life changed that day,” said the ghost, her figure forming out of the smoke surrounding them.
“Show me no more, Miss Cormac,” said Cromwell, “Why would you torture me with these visions!”
“It is not in my power,” said the ghost, “I am simply showing you what has happened.”
“I’m not sure these were what actually happened,” said Phinneus, “But they have depressed me so. I wish to return home.”
“You must see these,” said the ghost, “Magic has influenced your life more then most. To continue, you must understand yourself.”
“No, I want no more,” said Cromwell, “I wish to see nothing else! Haunt me no longer!”
Reaching into his own pocket, Cromwell grasped the hilt of his own sword menacingly. The ghost raised her hands in defense, before shoving Phinneus backward suddenly. Phinneus took a few steps back before his foot sank. Falling backwards, Phinneus disappeared into another well.
He thumped onto the ground, hard. Standing, he looked around. He was back onboard the North Star. His sword and pistols lay on the floor not far away. He checked his wall clock. It had been almost an hour. He shook his head, suddenly feeling tired and fatigued.
“It was a dream,” smiled Phinneus, “There’s no such thing as ‘ghosts’. I should have known.”
Phinneus waited a few minutes before picking up his weapons from the floor and went about putting them away. He decided that he wouldn’t get anywhere waiting up for nothing throughout the night.
However, before he could start to undress…
The room erupted. Phinneus was thrown to the ground once more. Wood and metal debris were thrown throughout the room. An ear-splitting noise filled Phinneus’ ears.
Cromwell rose from the floor. Looking around, he saw that his quarters had been destroyed. On his back wall a larger ship’s bow was protruding into the room.
“Whah?” exclaimed Cromwell, “Who? Why? Whah?”
Suddenly, the bow of the ship slammed down, opening up to reveal a figure standing in the ship. The figure was chuckling to himself, snickering and holding back laughter.
“HEY!” yelled Cromwell, “What the hell, man! You hit my ship!”
“Phinneus Caractacus Cromwell,” said the figure, his voice loud and amplified, “I have come for you this night!”
“Good,” said Cromwell, “Because you destroyed my ship. I’m going to kick your ass!”
“Come in,” said the figure, “And know me better, dude!”
“Oh, no,” said Cromwell, “You get down here, and it is YOU who will know ME better!”
Phinneus pulled back his sleeves as the figure stepped forward into the light. His face changed. The figure was a younger man. He wore black pants and a green dress shirt with decorated shoulder pads. He wore a sly smile on his face, and he ran his fingers through his golden hair.
“My gods,” said Phinneus, then his face turned from surprised to enraged, “Captain Leo Swift! Oh, I’ll kill you!”
“What’s up, my Vibronni!” said the figure, a large smile on his face and his arms spreading out, “How about a hug!”
Swooping down with a speed that Cromwell hadn’t seen in some time, the figure quickly embraced him, picking him up and swirling him around with amazing strength. After being put down, Cromwell took a few steps back.
“What is the meaning of this, Swift?” said Cromwell.
“Oh, come now. I am not the good Captain,” said the figure, “I, Phinneus Cromwell, am the Spirit of the PRESENT!”
Cromwell’s eyes rolled, “Good lords, of the Present? You are the second? It wasn’t a dream?”
“A dream come true!” smiled the Spirit, “I am embodying the image of this illustrious and sexy man because according to you he embodies all the values I cherish! The present is exciting. The present is the now! Adventure! Unknowing! Exciting! Fun.”
“Annoying,” helped Phinneus, “Reckless…”
“The present cannot change the past,” said the spirit, “So why bother? And the future is tomorrow’s problem! We just need to go with the flow, my Vibronni.”
“Can you just… not?” said Phinneus.
“Would you prefer ‘my daemon’?” asked the spirit.
“That’s just… offensive,” said Cromwell, “I preferred the Vibronni thing.”
“Well, all-right!” laughed the spirit, “Are you ready?”
“So, what is this?” said Phinneus, “We’re going to travel around and see what I am doing… now? Isn’t that talking to you?”
“Ha, no!” said the spirit, “You see, Commodore Grumpy Pants, that’s your problem! Everything is about you. ‘Me, me, me’!”
“No, I’m going to give you a little perspective!” said the Spirit, “I’m going to show you the NOW! I’m going to allow you to know me better!”
“Oh,” said Cromwell, a scowl appearing on his face, “I… can I just pass? I don’t really want to.”
“Oh, silence, you old coot,” said the Spirit, back-flipping back onto the makeshift gangplank of his ship, “So, how about it? Come in, and know me better, dude!”
Cromwell closed his eyes and gave a massive sigh. With a fix of his waistcoat, Phinneus took a few steps forward and stepped up onto the ship.
“That’s more like it, man,” laughed the spirit, “There’s that sense of adventure! Let’s batten down the hatches!”
With a pull of a lever, the bow of the ship snapped back into place. Nimbly and expertly, the spirit jumped and tumbled through the hull of his ship and popped out by the helm. Phinneus reluctantly followed him. On the helm he could see that the airship, designated the Caelum NOWvis, was firmly stuck into the side of the North Star. With a crank of a drive shaft, however, the spirit launched the airship into reverse, and another crank they turned away from the North Star and flew off into the night. Phinneus frowned at the gaping hole in the side of his ship.
They were launched into the horizon, where the sun quickly rose into the sky. Below them Phinneus realized they were not moving very fast through space, however the world below them looked as if it was moving in fast-motion.
Astam Junction began to come alive. People awoke from their small homes and trains roared to life and began to move out. Passengers and travelers began to leave stations, and as the morning went on many more trains began to enter the stations.
Throwing the drive shaft once more, the spirit twirled the wheel recklessly, and the Airship banked and swooped downward, nose-diving down towards the street. Cromwell found himself letting out a shriek as right before they slammed into the dirt, the spirit pulled up and ended up only scraping the bottom of the airship. The Airship dug into the street, and it scrapped and dug itself into the street as it scraped to a stop.
Pulling up an emergency break, the spirit turned to Phinneus and smiled.
“Are you ready?”
“I hope so,” said Cromwell, fixing his hair and composing himself.
Cromwell frowned as he looked around, assessing buildings and people. No one seemed to have noticed the large airship crashing out of the sky and many seemed to walk about their day.
“Where are we?” asked Cromwell.
“Well, we haven’t gone far!” laughed the spirit, “Look around you! It’s the morning in one lovely Ast-am Junct-tian! Woo-HOO! Let’s go!”
Grabbing a sword and rifle, the spirit vaulted over the side of the airship and disappeared down the street. Phinneus shook his head and dismounted the airship.
“Swift,” said Phinneus, walking down the street, “Morning? As in tomorrow morning?”
“No, as in the morning in a few hours!” said the Spirit, who then burst out laughing.
“Well… isn’t that in the future?” said Cromwell, “Aren’t you the spirit of the present?”
The spirit’s smile disappeared, and he laid a hand on Cromwell’s shoulder, “Don’t over-think it, dude. Just enjoy it, ok?”
“Well,” said Phinneus.
“Nate wrote this, what do you expect?” said the spirit.
“Yeah, I hear that a lot this time of year,” said Phinneus, “We should really stop letting him do these…”
They walked down the street, observing as people began to leave their houses and greet one another. They began to smile and wave, uncharacteristic for the town.
“And to you, Madame!”
“Good- Solstice to you, sir!”
“It’s pronounced Chanukah, you ignorant, cultural appropriating ass-hole!”
“What’s all this Christmas bull-shit, Swift?”
“It’s a holiday, I believe,” said Leo, “Look at how happy it makes people. It does seem to bring out the best in most people.”
“It’s fantastical,” frowned Cromwell, “Seeing as we don’t have a Christ… or a holiday…. I’m sure yetis have something of the sort, though.”
“Why don’t we forget the yetis for now,” said the spirit, “They aren’t the only race on Orr.”
“Why did you take a sword and rifle?” said Cromwell, “Are we going to be in danger?”
“Hmm? Oh!” the Spirit looked at the rifle he carried, “I don’t know. It just looks cool to have. And a good rifle drives the ladies crazy!”
“Uh-huh,” said Phinneus, “So where are we going, exactly?”
“Exactly?” said the spirit, taking a moment to think, “to Perspective. I think right about… here should be good enough!”
The spirit gave a dramatic ‘ta-da’ stance to indicate the building they had stopped in front of. Phinneus crossed his arms and arched his eyebrow when he saw the sign for “Buford Automatons” on the building of the Buford Automatons HQ.
“I was just here,” said Phinneus.
“And you left quite an impression, if I remember correctly,” said the spirit, “That’s why I think it’ll be a GREAT idea for you to see what happens when you are not around. Let’s go look at the impact you had here the other day.”
Walking into the lobby, they saw a series of automatons raising and setting a large oak door into place. Another series of automatons were dragging away a dented and splintered door.
“Your entrance?” said the spirit.
A smile spread on Phinneus’ face, “Ya.”
“I approve,” said the spirit, raising his hand in a high-five.
“I am so… mad!” yelled a voice from inside the office.
Cromwell and the spirit walked into the office. An aid paced back and forth, looking over the mess of the office. He was obviously upset.
“Every time, EVERY TIME!” said the aid, “His notes are all screwed up, I don’t even understand the language it’s written in. Why does he write blue prints like this? That… MAN!”
“What is he doing riffling through Buford’s stuff like that,” said Cromwell.
“I don’t know much,” said the spirit, “But it looks as if he’s looking through blueprints for an automaton? Why would someone be doing that?”
Suddenly a couple of singing voices could be heard throughout the halls. Through one of the doors, Buford came in singing a carol, and his automaton, Tim, was on his shoulder, singing in a robotic falsetto.
“And a partridge in a pair…. Treeeeeee!” sang Buford and Tim.
“Oh, wow father!” said Tim, “I am enjoying this ‘music’ you have taught me of. What a lovely walk and sing along! I love this Christmas!”
“Hey! How goes the research?” said Lucas to the aid.
“Mister Buford,” started the aid, “I just can’t do it. This automaton is just too complex. We can not understand the black box that makes him work. As far as the blueprints are considered: T.I.M. is operating better then hoped on magic! There is no way we can explain its working in the time provided.”
“Well, shoot,” said Sam, “We have to get this done! I won’t let that brute of a man come in here and take my Tiny Tim away!”
“Sir, we might be able to explain this in a week,” said the aid, “However: we, your development staff, MUST have the box to experiment on. We need to take T.I.M. apart and study its workings.”
“OUT of the QUESTION,” yelled Buford, raising his voice awkwardly in anger, “This is my child, you! I will not kill him just to satisfy a tyrant! I shall not allow Cromwell to come in here and kill him, so I shall not allow my own staff to do the work for him!”
“He’s an automaton,” said the aid, “He won’t even know or feel. If we understand the box, we can put him back together. In fact, we could build an entire family of him.”
Lucas looked at the aid as if he had just slapped him. Lucas scowled and pointed to the door.
“Out, you,” said Lucas, “You, sir, are FIRED!”
“What?” said the aid, “I’m your top researcher! You can’t fire me. Who else will help you?”
“FIRED!” yelled Lucas, “Out, out, out!”
The aid turned and stomped from the room, knocking over some paperwork as he left. Lucas looked flustered, but he didn’t say another word until the aid had left.
“Father, what ever shall we do about the Commodore?” asked Tim.
“I don’t know, son,” said Lucas, sighing, “I will not let that man hurt you.”
“Why is he mad at me?” said Tim, “Am I a… monster? Am I just an automaton?”
“You aren’t just anything,” said Lucas, “Life isn’t just one thing. It’s complicated. I am not just an inventor. I’m a businessman. I’m a tea enthusiast. I’m a… well… an adventurer. I’m a member of a secret organization. I’m a poet. I’m a playwright. There’s so much more to being alive then just… being one thing.”
“Then what am I, father?”
“Well, you are whatever you want to be,” said Lucas, “You are my son. You are a miracle. The rest is up to you. You can be whatever you like! You are already an amateur caroler.”
“Father, I am also a burden,” said Tim, his head slouching, “You should deconstruct me. The Commodore will be here sooner then we want, and he will be angry. What will you do?”
“Well, Tim… I’m not going to let him take you,” said Lucas, standing tall, “I think I’ll… I’ll fight him. I will stand between you and him, and I will fight him!”
“But father, you could get hurt!”
“I could die, Tim,” said Lucas, “Let’s not cheapen the sacrifice I might make. But… yes. It is dangerous.”
“But you could just rebuild me.”
“Maybe, well, yes I could. I’m great like that,” smiled Lucas, “But it doesn’t matter. You are my Tim. I can not allow this man come in here every time I make a new automaton and blast them with his ruddy sword!”
“Heh,” chuckled Cromwell, “That little stick of a man. He’s always puffing out his chest when people aren’t looking. Those metal tinker-toys are the only people he can talk like that to!”
“So, what are you feeling?” asked the spirit.
“What?” said Cromwell, “Am I supposed to change my mind watching him talk tough?”
“The automaton!” said the spirit, “He isn’t a threat.”
“What?” said Cromwell, chuckling, “An immortal, metal, super smart, sentient being? How isn’t that? He could be as strong as three men! He could outthink any scientist. He’d outlive everyone! That could ruin lives. He could overthrow governments or out think laws and become a criminal mastermind! It’s unfair and world-breaking!”
“He could become a great surgeon,” said the spirit, “With his years of experience, and his long lifespan, he could save countless lives.”
“Militaries will turn him into a weapon,” said Phinneus, “He’d kill MILLIONS of people!”
“Commodore,” said the spirit, a smile forming on his face, “Your faith in the negative about this ‘Tim’ is fantastical in and of itself. Look at him. His father is so full of love and life. He’s teaching him songs and about morality. Is that a future dictator?”
“His father is an imbecile,” said Cromwell, “He built an idiot automaton! However, he built one. Tomorrow it’s someone else wanting to build one. Next thing you know we have warriors and mill workers and assassins and policing automatons. The world as we know it crumbles!”
“You don’t know that,” said the spirit, “There could be countless people in Antiford unaffected by this one ‘Tim’. He doesn’t have to change the world. He doesn’t even have to touch the lives of thousands of people. You just assume the negative in people.”
“Order, must be upheld,” said Cromwell.
“I see,” said the Spirit, “Then shall we move on? I think we’ve seen all we can from mister Buford.”
Confidently marching out of the office, the spirit lead the way back out onto the street. Phinneus gave a long look back, glaring at the automaton and Buford as they continued to talk and play.
“Where now, Swift?” asked Phinneus.
“Well, I think we should probably go to a party,” smiled the Spirit, “We need something to raise moral. What do you think?”
“You are wasting my time.”
“Come now,” said the spirit, “To the SHIP!”
Letting out a large whistle, Captain Swift made his way across the street. Waiting there, He beckoned Phinneus over. Cromwell had just started to cross when he heard the rumble and screeching of rubble and metal coming up the street. The airship of the spirit’s was scraping the dirt making its way towards them.
Phinneus leapt the final distance to the spirit as the ship barely careened past. The spirit, grabbing hold of Phinneus’ shirt, latched on to a dangling mooring line and allowed himself to be hoisted aloft with the airship’s momentum. Lifting his legs and swinging, He carried the screaming Commodore Cromwell up and over the deck of his ship, slamming down hard near the helm.
”Woo-hoo,” said the Spirit, “Mind that first step, dude!”
Yanking backwards on the large wheel, the airship raised its nose and soared back up into the air, sprinkling down chunks of road and dirt behind it. Cromwell stood up, grumbling.
He had just
enough time to watch Astam Junction shrink into the horizon as the ship speeded
off into the desert. However, as if by magic, it was only a few seconds until
the large, bounding city of
“It’s Gearford,” said Cromwell, “I know it well.”
“Yeah, we are needed right… there!” the Spirit pointed.
“I don’t see it,” said Cromwell, “Look, we can dock over there and take the tramway up-”
“No time!” said the Spirit, “I’ll take us in closer!”
wheel to the right hard, the wheel began to spin uncontrollably. The ship
tossed itself sideways and took a dive. Cromwell watched as the city of
A town house quickly came into view. Before anything could be done, the nose of the airship slammed violently into the side of the building. Their momentum carried Cromwell and the spirit pass the helm and rushing above the entire deck of the ship. Phinneus couldn’t help but let out a scream as he plummeted toward the building. Phinneus had barely enough time to raise his arms as he smashed through a window and he tucked and rolled in the room.
Cromwell stood, shacking off debris and glass from him. Looking around the room, the Caelum Nowvis had embedded its bow into the building, and the wall and window had been knocked out. The room they were in was some sort of small bedroom. The spirit was laid out on the bed like a model. He was smiling at his ship, and looked over to Cromwell.
“Nailed it, eh? My Daemon?” said the Spirit.
“Stop that,” said Cromwell, “And what the hell?”
“Come now,” said the spirit, rolling his eyes and rising from the bed, “We’re needed downstairs. Powder your nose and let’s go!”
Before Cromwell could recover he was being dragged out of the room. The spirit brought him into the hallway and dragged him down it very quickly. Down the stairs they ended up at a closed door. The spirit smiled as laughter erupted from the room. Turning to Cromwell, he winked and thumbed towards the door. Then he lifted a hand to his lips and gestured that they should be quiet.
The spirit opened the door and slipped in. Rolling his eyes, Phinneus followed into the room. Inside there was a drawing room with sitting chairs and a roaring fireplace. An array of people stood around the room, laughing and drinking. Phinneus was aware they had basically gone unnoticed by the guests, so he siddled along the wall next to the spirit, who was eagerly looking about the room.
“This is a treat, good sir,” said the spirit, “Let me tell you, I haven’t seen the likes of these in one place. Look over there, that’s Doctor William White. He’s a pretty doctor.”
“Pretty good doctor?” corrected Cromwell.
“Oh, yeah. That too,” said the spirit, “I thought that was assumed. Oh! And that’s Annabelle Bardeneen.”
“Am I supposed to know her?”
“If you pay attention you will,” said the Spirit, “The one in the fancy evening dress? Her name’s Cecelia Turner. She’s a countess or something like that. Oh! And Emmelina Gyles! This will be good!”
Suddenly the Doctor cleared his throat, some of the talking stopped. He smiled and looked around.
“Good day, everyone. I am glad you could all make it out to my father’s Gearford residence. Now I have met many people here. So I just want to make it easier for all of us to interact. Perhaps I should start. I’m William. I’m a… well… uhmm… heh… I’m a traveling Doctor.”
“Oh! Oh! Me next,” smiled a young girl in a brilliant dress, “I’m Lady Lynette Crenchaw.”
“The Lady Crenchaw?” smiled Cecelia Turner, “Oh, I am a fan of your teas, darling!”
“Pleasure to meet you!” smiled Lady Crenchaw.
“Oh? Your teas?” smiled Miss Bardeneen, “I’m afraid I haven’t had the pleasure.”
“Oh, well allow me,” smiled Lady Crenchaw.
“It’s not your fault, Miss Crenchaw” smiled Lady Turner, “The very elegant teas Lady Crenchaw is known for only circulate the more… upper class circles.”
“Now, now,” said Crenchaw, “I got some samples right with me. I’d love to gift it to her. In the spirit of the season.”
Pulling some items out of her bag, Lady Crenchaw became focused on rummaging through her bag.
“Alright, then,” smiled the Doctor, “Who is next, huh?”
“How about my companion and I,” said Miss Bardeneen, “I’m Annabelle.”
“Emmelina Gyles,” smiled the woman next to her, “I’m not too fancy. However I have never seen such a beautiful crowd. Your auras are delightful.”
“Shh, Miss Gyles,” snapped Ms Bardeneen, “We are in public!”
“Oh,” said Doctor White, “In hiding, huh? Do not worry, you are in a safe place here. So you read auras?”
“I do,” said Ms Gyles, “Or I did. I don’t do public readings anymore.”
“Oh, what a drastic shame,” frowned Lady Turner, “I do wish I could’ve gotten one. There are no such things in Nyxiana.”
“Reading auras? I’m afraid I haven’t heard such a thing,” said Lady Crenchaw, before she pulled out a small potted plant and put it on the table.
She continued to rummage through her bag as the plant untwisted, revealing a face and two branches for arms. The face yawned and the branches stretched. The room gasped at the sight.
“What is that, Lady Crenchaw?” asked Ms Bardeneen.
“This little guy? Isn’t he cute! I found him dancing all by his lonesome in a jungle,” Lady Crenchaw petted it, and it smiled and wiggled with delight, “Every so often it… uhmm… molts its bark and sheds some of its mossy hair. These are some of the newest ingredients in some of my teas and they are just amazing!”
“You haven’t, you know, shown this to anyone else yet, have you?” asked Doctor White.
“Not just yet, I will be announcing it at an event later on this month,” smiled Lady Crenchaw, “I figured I’d keep it away from that tea filth, Von Wal. Ugh… Let me tell you, if I had a simo-”
“You cannot announce this to the world,” said Bardeneen.
“No, not if Commodore Cromwell picks this up,” said Ms Gyles, “You must keep this secret!”
“Wait, how come?” said Lady Crenchaw, “Does he not enjoy plants? Or teas?”
The room went quiet. Each guest looked to each other.
“You, you seriously do not know?” asked a man on the other side of the room.
“You don’t know about the scourge?” said Doctor White.
“Darling, he murdered the Mermaids,” Lady Turner said, “And the Singing Lemurs.”
“They say he flies in the night on a Storm cloud,” said Bardeneen, “Firing down Lightning on the magical or the unexplainable.”
“He’s destroyed entire families to ensure destruction of an artifact,” said Lady Turner, nodding.
“Now, cut that out,” smiled Lady Crenchaw, “You are not serious, I know. This is Christmas. No time for ghost stories.”
Cromwell shook his head, turning to the spirit, “I can take this no longer. You will take me home.”
“What’s the matter? Conversation a little too real?” smiled the spirit, “Now, shush. The sexy Doctor is going to speak.”
“It is no ghost story, M’Lady,” started Doctor White, “He is the reason those with exceptional abilities must hide from the world. Many even believe he’s at fault for the recent decline. Sure, he might not ride a cloud or kill families. However, if you announce to the world about your dancing, shedding tree, he will show up and rid you of it. He is a menace to all who love the world of ‘Magic’. They say it is dying in our world but I believe it is just disappearing.”
“This is hogwash and wives’ tales,” said Cromwell, “We don’t have to sit through these peasants and their stories.”
“Is it fantastical that a family of animals would take on an orphan of another species?” asked the spirit.
“No, that happens in nature all the time,” stated Cromwell.
“Then why did Duck-Man have to die?” asked the spirit.
“Oh, come on!” rolled Cromwell’s eyes, “Raised by ducks and then learns to swim and speak fowl and grows up to be an ace airship pilot? No, that was fantastical. How can he even speak duck? No, Donald was a special case of THAT.”
“You see why, then, such stories are circulated,” said the Spirit, “Billiam was right. If it is unexplainable or fantastical you do not give it a chance. What about the fate of the dancing twig, there?”
“That plant is just an anomaly,” smiled Cromwell, “You see? It’s not dancing. It sways to simulate a breeze. And that is not a face.”
“No,” continued the conversation by Lady Turner, “You simply must never speak of this again to anyone. Down from the sky he shall come to smite your little dancing friend!”
The plant gasped, cowering in its pot. Lady Crenchaw picked up the pot once more and cuddled it, looking at the group with an intense stare. The spirit raised its eyebrows at Cromwell, who rolled his eyes away.
“I heard he kills orphans to conserve the population,” said Bardeneen, the group now turning to look at her.
“No, that’s silly,” smiled Ms Gyles, “Besides, that’s Mr. Buford!”
“What? Really?” gasped Doctor White.
“Why else would his metal men have auras?” smiled Ms Gyles, “And he does call them his ‘children’ and brings them on fieldtrips about town.”
The room’s jaws dropped simultaneously. Ms Gyles waited a second before a huge smile spread across her face.
“Gotcha” she said, letting out a held in laugh.
The group finally joined her, laughing amongst themselves.
Cromwell was getting furious. Looking red faced and clenching his fists.
“That is IT, Captain Swift,” said Cromwell, “You are going to take me home or I will kick your ass up and down this party, do you hear me?”
“Oh, Commodore Cromwell, are you not having a good time? I am quite enjoying myself,” smiled the spirit, “I must ask, how do you intend on forcing me out? You think that worked last time? With the past? Sure, you can try to forget the past, force it out of your mind even. That little demand may have worked then. However, when you do so, you must return to me, the present. You can’t tell the present what to do. There’s no ‘go away, I don’t wanna’ you crybaby! It’s in your FACE! It’s the real shit, my Daemon!”
“Stop that. Honestly, that’s not your word!”
“You got so used to controlling the world around you that you don’t see the bigger picture, bro!”
The spirit grabbed Phinneus and dragged him towards the door. Pushing him through the door, the spirit turned around for one last look at the group. Smiling and waving, the spirit disappeared behind the door.
Walking out the front door, Cromwell and the spirit were obviously upset.
“What is the point of showing this to me?” said Cromwell, “In the past you bring up bad memories. Here you mock me. I do not understand!”
“We are here to better you, Cromwell,” said the Spirit, grabbing ahold of a dangling line and tugging. He reached out and grabbed Cromwell’s collar in time for the line to hoist them up into the sky. Upon hitting the deck of the Caelum Nowvis, the Spirit tosses Phinneus aside, walking towards the helm, “You see, magic is an unexplainable thing. Although you have some how harnessed it to destroy all the beauty around you, it chooses to spare your life. We have been charged to seek you out and show you the error of your ways.”
“Because of the future?” asked Cromwell, “Look, I promise to not smite the dancing twig if that’s what you want.”
“You are doomed, sir,” yelled the spirit, grasping the helm and pulling back, pulling the airship from the side of the building and lurching into the night sky.
“I am not,” frowned Cromwell.
you are on a path of fear and destruction,” said the Spirit, “You have taken
what you loved most in the world and you have made it your charge in life. The
world you live in fears you and hides from you. No longer do Oliphants roam
“Oh, come on,” said Cromwell, “Those things are bad examples. They shouldn’t exist. It’s not logical!”
“Such is the magic of this place, of Orr,” argued the spirit.
“You don’t understand, Swift,” said Cromwell, “Magic is the problem! It’s unpredictable, it puts us all at risk! Those Lizard men were a war race dead-set on killing Vibranni. What if they crossed the sand sea? What if they were stronger then us?”
“You scorched half the planet to keep a single race from seeing the light of cannon!” yelled the spirit, “There isn’t anything beyond the sand sea…. There isn’t anything right of the map, is there? NO! Because you razzed it! It burns to this DAY!”
“And nobody will ever know!” yelled Cromwell, “I don’t have to justify myself to an arrogant little Bounty Hunter like you!”
Cromwell was sent hurling across the deck. Slamming into the rail, he groaned with pain. The Spirit fought to control the wheel, but the airship had caught fire. Looking over the side, Cromwell watched as another airship spiraled out of control and hurtled towards the desert below. On the back it was titled ‘The New Dawn’.
Bells began to ring and Cromwell looked around the ship. All around the Airship fire had sprung up, and the spirit looked like he was having one hell of a time keeping it under control.
“Swift, what did you do?”
“We seemed to have collided with that other airship,” replied the Spirit as he desperately tried to keep the airship under control, “However, I am afraid that too much damage has been taken!”
“What is happening?”
“Well, my engines are damaged,” said the spirit, “And my hamsters can’t run fast enough! Without a bit of magic, we’re going to crash and die!”
“Then use it!” yelled Cromwell, “Quickly!”
“What do you mean? Use magic?” asked the Spirit, “But that would be fantastical, my Vibronni! This ol’ bird runs on good old science! 100%”
“Yeah. And Science is keeping me from just… fixing the problem,” shrugged the Spirit, “I wouldn’t want to upset the laws of nature, good sir.”
Just then the Spirit yanked the wheel in a different direction. Throwing Cromwell once more across the deck. He found himself caught, and when he looked who it was, it was the spirit once more, smiling like a maniac.
“It looks like it is time for you to get off” said the spirit.
Without a word, Phinneus felt himself being swung aside and right off his feet. Before he could scream he found himself starring into the eyes of Captain Leo Swift as he quickly was tossed overboard. He let out an angered scream as the airship rapidly seemed to ascend above him. He heard the spirit’s laughter as he wooshed downward.
The wind was knocked out of him as he landed in the sand. Rolling down the dune, Phinneus caught sight of the airship spiraling out of control. When Phinneus came to a stop, he wearily rose, and kept his eyes towards the redding sky. The airship was smoking, and then a few explosions sprayed debris across the desert.
Leaving a trail of smoke, the airship plummeted from the sky, disappearing behind a dune and crashing.
was left, alone, kneeling in the desert. He felt a bit loopy, but he stood and
looked around him. Breathing heavily, he realized he had not been injured. He
also realized that somehow the city of
Frowning, he looked around. There were no buildings, no animals, no airships, and no stars. His eyes narrowed as he grumpily crossed his arms.
“Great,” he said, “Now what?”
Looking into the distance, he spotted the faint trail of smoke from the airship, leading down to a larger column of smoke which was probably rising from the crash. With a sigh, he set his sights on the column of smog and decided that was his only hope.
Phinneus had been walking for what felt like an hour. He had barely crossed the last sand dune when he saw the source of the smoke. The bow of the airship had sunk deeply into the sand, leaving only the stern and the burning balloon visible. In the back of the airship a door with a large glass windowed door was perfectly ground level.
Phinneus rested, surveying the wreckage. He couldn’t find any sign of a survivor, or the spirit. He shook his head.
“Swift!” called out Phinneus., “Hey, Captain Swift! Are you there? Have you killed yourself?”
No response came from the wreckage. Cromwell sighed, looking around for any sign that the Spirit had left the wreckage. After a few seconds, he made his way down the slope towards the wreckage.
Stepping towards the Airship, Cromwell decided he needed to try and figure out how to get home.
Looking around the wreckage, Phinneus noticed that there were weird shadows moving under the debris. Shaking his head, he thought he heard whispering coming from them. Shivering, Phinneus stepped back from them.
A gasp escaped Phinneus’ mouth as he realized his shadow did not join him. Looking down at it with wide eyes, the shadow waved, before stretching out and crawling around the ground. The shadow slinked and stretched, grasping onto the shadows of the debris and the ship. Slinking its way across the sand, the shadow moved closer to the wreckage before sliding underneath the door.
Cromwell watched as the shadow disappeared under the door like a rug being pulled along. Behind the window a black figure rose up and could be seen behind the glass. The shadows had all gone and the figure stood there, before it turned and the shadow faded away as footsteps were heard walking away.
“Hello?” called out Phinneus, “Who is there? Who are you?”
Nothing was heard. Cromwell decided that this was one hell of a night anyway, and he needed to take a chance. Walking through the strangely shadow less desert, Phinneus approached the door at the stern of the ship. Looking at the glass, he saw that there was some sort of writing on the window, but written backwards. He couldn’t make it out at first, but he worked out that it said “No Gods or Myths, only Facts”.
With a shaky hand, Cromwell reached out and grasped the knob on the door. Taking a breath, he twisted the knob and stepped inside.
Phinneus was left breathless. Instead of walking into the wreckage, he walked into a new desert. It was flat and barren as far as the eye could see. Upon stepping through, the door shut behind him, rather forcefully.
Phinneus looked at the desert. A large, black robed figure stood with its back to Phinneus. Cromwell said nothing, just looking upon him with wide eyes. The figure just stood there, saying nothing. Phinneus swallowed nervously.
“H-hello?” Cromwell broke the silence.
The hood seemed to twitch, before it slowly began to turn around. The edges of the robe acted like tentacles or dark fire as it swirled around. Phinneus watched as inside the hood he could see nothing but blackness. Suddenly the whispers began to rise once more.
“He watches me from a distance. I size up his character.”
Cromwell said nothing. He stared down the figure with intensity. The figure seemed to stair back. Suddenly its hand outstretched, and he pointed it accusingly at Cromwell. Cromwell just swallowed once more.
“I know,” the whispers said once more, “I know it is he…”
The robed figure raised its hands into the sky. Then, with a single motion, it yanked back the hood and allowed the black robes to crumple to the sand. Standing in its place was a man wearing an elegant black suit and a bowler hat. He smiled, and bowed slightly.
“Good day, sir,” said the shadowy figure, his smile seeming to unnerve Cromwell more, “You must be Crommadore Conwell or something like that.”
“Phinneus Cromwell,” replied Phinneus.
“Splendid,” smiled the figure, waving his hand beside him.
The motion of his hand caused the sands to swirl and move as if by a breeze. The sudden gust built up a small sand pillar which fell suddenly, showing an elegant wooden bar with two glasses and some liquor.
“May I offer you a drink?” said the figure, “It has been quite the night for you.”
Walking over to the bar, the figure grabbed the alcohol and poured a few fingers into the glasses. Phinneus very carefully walked over, accepting one of the glasses and leaning on the bar.
“So who are you, then?” asked Cromwell.
“Oh, yes, who am I?” asked the figure, “Isn’t that a puzzle. You know what? I think you can work it out.”
“Well, I’ve already dealt with the past,” said Cromwell, “And resisted the urge to strangle the present.”
“So that makes you,” paused Cromwell, pointing at the figure, “The future? Or something?”
“Close enough for a hand grenade,” smiled the figure, “The future, or something. You, sir, have dealt with the Ghost of the past. You have adventured with the Spirit of the Present. I am a very different story.”
“So what now?” asked Cromwell, “Spoilers?”
“Ha, yes, indeed,” smiled the figure, looking into his glass, “For all he is to become, I find the man slightly idiotic.”
“Excuse me?” questions Cromwell.
“Hmm?” said the figure, “What did you say?”
“What did YOU say?” asked Cromwell.
“I agreed with you,” said the figure, sipping his drink, “Or, something.”
Cromwell and the figure shared a stare. Cromwell swirled his glass around, looking wearily from the glass to the figure. The figure just waited.
“I don’t get it,” scowled Cromwell, “Abigail I knew. Captain Swift I recognized. They are people I know. I… I don’t know you.”
“Very interesting, what could that mean?”
“Anything, really,” said Cromwell, “Maybe you’ve slipped up?”
“Banking on the future to be an idiot,” the figure shook his head, “Not off to a good start. How about this, Commodore: What if I chose the form of someone from your future? Maybe this is the form of someone you have yet to cross paths with?”
“So who is it?”
“Figure it out, Sherlock,” rolled the figure’s eyes, “I can feel my strength being strengthened with each sip, however not as fast as it is getting drained by this man.”
Cromwell looked around, before noticing another mysterious door with a glass window. The words “Kent Nicholas, Private Detective” could be read backwards in the glass.
“Kent Nicholas,” said Phinneus, “Will have to remember that. So, what are we to do? You going to show me my future?”
“It’s not that easy,” started the shadow, “It’s not as simple as flipping ahead in the story, reading how it ends, and deciding whether or not we want to read it. Also, life isn’t a simple cause and effect. Just because you know a decision is awful and caused a bad event doesn’t mean that not doing it will… uhm…”
Cromwell raised his eyebrows and shrugged, “What? Where was that going?”
“I don’t know,” sipped the shadow, shaking his head, “Lost my train of thought, there. Look, the future is… ominous. It’s like a shadow, ok? It casts on the present like a warning, Phinneus. You can never truly tell what it’s like. It can be… deformed from obstacles and events and time and it can look pretty different then the reality we will experience. However, if we allow our imaginations to run wild we can see the future quite differently. Quite monstrously.”
“Ok,” said Cromwell, “Then what will we see?”
The shadow smiled, “Well, now, why don’t we just go see?”
Swigging back the last of the drink, the shadows put down his glass and stepped away from the bar. Looking at the glass door, the shadow gestured towards it and arranged his bowler hat on his head.
“Come now, Commodore,” he said, “Let us go out into the world! Let us see what has been done.”
Phinneus stood and followed the shadow toward the door. He smiled and opened the door for Phinneus. Phinneus sighed and stepped through the door.
Stepping over the threshold, Phinneus found himself still in the desert, but the sky looking red and stormy with big black clouds. He was surrounded by sandstorms and sand twisters. Sand was being thrown around and Phinneus had to squint his eyes. The shadow closed the door behind them and raised his arm to deflect the sand.
Suddenly the sand and the storms began to form. The sand shot up and began to form buildings and flames and objects. Even people were formed from the sand and began to walk and run about their business. In a matter of a few minutes, Phinneus found himself standing in the Saks district of Gearford. Around him, however, were damaged buildings and trash. In the distance, the Horne district could be seen burning and smoke trails rose to the sky. The sand storm was still going, but it wasn’t as harsh as before.
“Where are we?” asked Phinneus.
“Unsure,” said the Shadow, “However, I bet if we have a look around we can deduce it.”
“How?” said Phinneus, “It looks like… like hell. Are we in the revolution?”
“Yeah, chap,” the shadow said drily, with a smile. “I brought you to the future, which is somehow in the past... Why don’t we look there?”
Pointing, the shadow showed Phinneus a newsstand. Phinneus rolled his eyes and walked over to the stand. Picking up a paper, he frowned at the headline. “Due to Recent Unrest: Emperor Declares War!”. The date was 1919.
“Woah,” frowned Phinneus. “This is 1919? There’s another war?”
“Well, judging by the amount of trash and damage taken by the city,” said the shadow, “Yeah. Looks like many of these people are trying to escape. A few even look like looters.”
“Where are the soldiers?” asked Phinneus, “Or the Bobbies at most. This is the Saks district.”
“All gone, I suppose,” said the Shadow, “No sign of intelligent life around me.”
A gunshot rang out. Looking towards the Horne district Phinneus could see an airship quickly approaching another hovering over the district. One airship was firing down into the district.
Suddenly, the approaching airship fired its cannons at the hovering one, and a short air battle ensued. The two airships slammed into each other and were boarded.
“Pirates,” sneered Phinneus. “Mr. Nicholas, why are they openly fighting that military airship? Over the capital?”
“It looks like civil unrest at its finest,” said the shadow. “It looks as if some fighting is going on in that direction. Perhaps a riot?”
“An uprising,” smiled Phinneus, “We did it! The Order has done it.”
“You look mighty pleased,” said the shadow, “Unrest and open warfare in the streets are the Order’s mission statement?”
“No, but if the technocrats are being overthrown then we may assume we helped.”
Suddenly another gunshot rang out, this one much closer. It made Phinneus and the shadow jump.
“Maybe we should get off the streets,” suggested the shadow.
“Wait, I thought these visions couldn’t hurt us…” asked Phinneus.
“I never said that.”
“The other two said it!”
“I’m not the other two,” glared the shadow. “Now, hurry, get off the street!”
They both dashed across the street, ducking into one of the shops. They waited there as a band of street thugs marched down the road. They were holding torches and lanterns, and they wielded swords, guns, and pipes. Behind them, a man in a sled which was pulling itself forward with clockwork arms was shouting at everyone. He wore a sign that said ‘The End is Near!’. He also had a campaign sticker on the back of his sled saying ‘Vote Earl Ronalds’. The group passed by, not noticing the two hiding in the old shop.
“Barely missing danger, we sit in an old butcher’s shop. Or bakery. Or… where are we?” mumbled the shadow.
“Ah, I see we are all here,” came a voice from behind them, “Let us now begin!”
Turning around, Phinneus and the shadow inched their way further inside the shop. It was an old shop, however the food and bread sold here had long since gone bad. The back room had a light on, and Phinneus and the shadow snuck up towards the door to listen.
Peering in, Phinneus could see that there was a small room filled with about three or four people. One of which was Baron Nester Delgado, lying in a gurney and with a series of machines and bags around it. It also had four clockwork spider legs protruding from underneath it. It looked as though he was controlling the chair with a pair of joysticks on either side of him. The chair seemed to pace back and forth, it’s spider legs clanking as it did.
“So, I didn’t come all the way down here for nothing…” suggested the Baron, whose voice was coming from a pair of speakers below the gurney as he was typing the words on a keyboard, “I am interested in your findings.”
A young lady came forward, a smile on her face.
“Here, I took these from the Lord’s forces during the Golah campaign,” said the young lady, “My forces were unsuccessful, but we raided much technology from the Lord’s forces!”
“Ah, Commander Feoil,” typed the Baron, “I heard about your mighty Squid Warriors and Crab Soldiers. They turned the tide of the war in the early stages.”
“They were Golah’s,” said Feoil, “And… yes… they fought valiantly. Many men and women and crustacean died.”
“Their work on bio-engineering and hexes were most helpful,” typed the Baron, “But it is these I am interested in: the alluring ‘Walkie-Talkies’. We have spent countless hours attempting to recreate this.”
The baron’s graying hair on his fox ears swayed as his ears moved in excitement. They began looking over the devices in his hand.
“Ha, things of the past,” smiled Feoil, “These are the new ‘Multi-Talkies’. They allow your voice and image across space. Not only can you speak to another, but you can view them on this screen.”
“Absolutely amazing,” said the Baron, “These will aid us greatly. I am offering three hundred and fifty Ciams.”
“No, these are big,” said Feoil. “I want two tickets.”
“Out of the question,” typed the Baron.
“No, listen, we want off this dying rock, and I know they hired you to help,” said Feoil, “And that’s the price.”
“You heard wrong,” typed the Baron, “Leaving the planet is not a possibility. I am going to lead a team into the heart of the storm, and we are going to fix this. Now, you accept the offer of Ciams or not?”
“Ciams are useless,” said another, one who was wearing a mask. “We need goods we can use or trade.”
“Fine, the Ciams and a week’s worth of supplies,” said the Baron.
“Deal,” smiled Feoil.
“Next,” said the Baron.
The masked man stepped forward, placing a weapon-looking thing on the table.
“A weather rod,” said the figure behind the mask. “It attached to an area or person and calls down extreme weather on them. Snow, hail, rain, lightning, and extreme sunlight, all dependent on the weather, of course.”
“Another of the Lord’s inventions,” typed the Baron, “And where on Orr did you get that?”
“Faces has his ways,” smiled Feoil.
“This weapon is used by the Lord himself,” typed the Baron.
“And his Lieutenants, now,” said the masked man, “Some of which have died.”
“Now this is worthy of two tickets,” smiled the Baron, “We will need this for the fighter pilots when we launch.”
“What? The planet idea wasn’t happening. You said so.” said Feoil.
“I lied,” said the Baron, “If you want out, done. These two things together will aid our main mission. The backup is still a rocket off the planet.”
“Then we want out,” said Feoil.
“Fine, Multi Talkies and the Gun, two tickets,” turning to the last visitor, the Baron gestured with his hand.
“I have this,” smiled the third stranger, presenting a large pouch from her pack.
“I do not understand,” said the Baron.
“These seeds have been collected by the Von Wal family for generations,” said the stranger, “They consist of many plants. The whine cactus. The singing flowers. The Vibranni’s feasting plants. The invisible weed. And… even the dancing tree.”
“How on Orr did you get that?”
“You’re looking at Bird Von Wal,” said the stranger, “And I am the last surviving member of my family. I have killed many, many people to keep these out of the Lord’s Hands.”
“What use do we have?” asked the Baron, “These are just seeds.”
“No matter how this ends,” said Von Wal, “When this is all over, these will be pivotal in rebuilding our world. The Lord would do anything for these.”
“And you want a ticket off as well,” the Baron’s eyes narrowed.
“We just want to survive,” said Von Wal.
The baron sighed, before typing, “Fine. All three of you have earned the right of passage. We will put these to good use. Be in White Haven Memorial in a week’s time. There you will announce you are a part of the Pilgrims with the password: ‘White Washed’.”
“White washed?” asked Feoil.
“Don’t ask,” rolled the Baron’s eyes. “Now we are done here. Remember, one week!”
Yanking on the joysticks, the Baron spun around and the chair walked out of the room. The other three were left to whisper and converse amongst themselves.
Phinneus turned to the shadow, who was unnervingly close to him.
“What has happened in the future?” he asked, “Those… things. They are so fantastical. I would never have allowed this.”
“Wouldn’t you?” asked the shadow.
“Someone stole my idea, this ‘Lord’,” said Phinneus, “Where are we? Where is the Order. Where am I? I must know.”
“Because we wouldn’t sit back and allow Antiford to fall into such chaos,” said Cromwell, “We would be in the middle of it. We would be a large part in this.”
“This is true,” said the shadow, walking towards the other side of the room where a stained-glass door awaited them. The lettering on the door read ‘Buford Automatons’.
“Let’s go,” said Cromwell, not waiting for the shadow as he walked up and pushed through the door.
Phinneus walked out of an outhouse, and stammered as he realized he was facing the Buford Automatons HQ in Astam Junction once more. Beside the building, the Shadow emerged from the shadow of the building and took a few steps closer.
Phinneus noticed that the front door was left askew, and police tape filled around the doorframe.
“Well, this looks ominous,” said the shadow. “Should we have a look inside?”
Swallowing, Phinneus clenched his fists and began to walk into the building. Pushing pass the police tape, he surveyed the lobby. The receptionist’s desk was charred and chunks were torn off. Pieces of robots were strewn around the lobby. Phinneus frowned as he eyed the bullets holes and char marks in the ceilings and walls. The office doors were also bashed down, riddled with holes and still smoldering slightly.
“He stood, gasping at the scene before him,” said the shadow, “And yet he said nothing. I think I have lost him.”
“There was a battle,” said Cromwell, “Someone attacked Lucas.”
“Lucas fought back,” said the shadow, “Look, battle automatons. In pieces, yes, but they fought back.”
“Lucas doesn’t do battle automatons,” said Phinneus, frowning.
“Didn’t,” said the shadow, “Looks like he will. Oh! Maybe someone lent them to him and they just SAY ‘Buford Automatons’ on the side. I’m sure I’m mistaken.”
Stepping into the office, Phinneus jumped as one of the automatons roared to life, clicking into place and a single red eye starring down Cromwell. Lifting its single Gatling gun, it began to spin.
“Nicholas,” said Phinneus, lifting his arms, “HELP!”
A series of clicks were heard from the gun. The battle automaton kept clicking, starring down Cromwell. The shadow stepped into the office.
“Out of bullets,” smiled the shadow. “I think I could help out.”
“Good,” sighed Cromwell, “I figured that out. What’s with the attitude?”
“What attitude?” shrugged the shadow, “Perhaps I’m just so worried about Lucas.”
Looking around the office, Cromwell could see that the office had been trashed. A pile of ashes showed they had once been blueprints and drawings. All of Buford’s awards had been thrown from the wall. Even his desk lay in pieces.
“Poor Lucas,” said Cromwell, “It’s been ransacked.”
Walking behind the desk, Phinneus spotted a pile of automaton parts. They looked familiar, and he frowned as above them, on the wall, were scrawled the words “Rest In Pieces!”
“Looks like someone mangled up Tim,” said the shadow.
“I recognized his head,” said Cromwell pointing to the pile. “I told Lucas to get rid of him..
“…or you would,” said the shadow, “Looks like you did.”
“I was going to tomorrow,” said Phinneus, “This is years later. And I wouldn’t do… this.”
“Why not? It sends a message and ensures no further abuse,” said the shadow, “Isn’t that what you wanted?”
“No, never,” frowned Cromwell, “Buford is a pain, but he is my ally, and-”
“He’s your friend,” laughed the shadow, “He’s your friend and you can’t even admit it.”
“Where… where is Buford?” asked Cromwell.
“Nice,” rolled the shadows eyes, “Another dodged question.”
“Shut up,” mumbled Cromwell.
Looking around, there was no sign of any bodies. Automaton parts lay strewn about the room, but otherwise there were no human bodies. Phinneus stepped passed the automaton parts and walked up to Buford’s Office.
“Buford,” said Cromwell, knocking on the door, “BUFORD!”
Opening the door, Phinneus peered inside. Inside there were many wind-up toys and kids’ dolls. The room was dark. It looked like a storage room more than an office. His desk was dusty and had boxes stacked really high on it with different parts labeled on the boxes.
Phinneus frowned, and shook his head. Going to turn away, Phinneus stopped at the sound of crying. Somewhere in the room, someone was silently sobbing to themselves. Phinneus took another step inside, frowning.
Then he noticed it.
On the floor, melted and mangled, lay the famous clockwork hand of Lucas Buford. Some of the pieces lay on the floor, but the majority of it was a mangled heap.
Phinneus gasped, but he could hear the silent sobs louder inside the room. He thought he saw a figure underneath the desk, but it was so dark he could not see.
“Lucas?” questioned Cromwell, stepping farther into the room, “Buford, is that you?”
No reply came from under the desk, but the sobs were sniffed away and silence endured. Phinneus took a few steps forward, leaning over to get a better view under the desk.
“Lucas,” whispered Phinneus, “What happened here? Who did this to you?”
Still no reply came, so Phinneus inched closer.
Suddenly the figure shot out from under the desk, causing Phinneus to jump back and cry out in shock. Standing up and adjusting his tie, the shadow attempted not to smirk as he walked about the room.
“Who did this to Lucas Buford?” asked the shadow, “A very interesting question, Phin. Let’s have a look around: trashed headquarters, destroyed automatons. Let’s take a look at this arm. Melted… lots of heat. Wow, cut clean off! Maybe it was sliced off with an energy sword?”
“Who would do this?” said Cromwell, looking back under the desk and frowning before turning back to the hand.
“Repeating the question is not how detective work works,” said the shadow, shaking his head, “God, you sure you weren’t a bobby in your last life?”
“It doesn’t smell charred,” said Phinneus, sniffing, “It smells like… cooked something. Wait… Bacon?”
“Oh, now that is what I call a clue,” smiled the shadow.
“Wait… heat? Sliced? Bacon?” stuttered Phinneus.
“Sounds like we’re looking for a flaming demon pig,” said the shadow.
“No! Not like that… more like a…” Phinneus sighed, starring up at the shadow intently.
“Like a what?” frowned the shadow, “You need to say it.”
“No,” said Phinneus, “I… I don’t know.”
The shadow sighed, shaking his head in despair, “You just can’t see the writing on the wall, can you?”
“The ‘Rest in Pieces’ Pun?”
“I am so… embarrassed for you,” said the shadow, standing up and walking away, “I do my best to resist punching him in the face, over and over again.”
“Ok, honestly,” frowned Cromwell, “What are you doing? Narrating? Mumbling? Stop that!”
“Look, you asked,” said the shadow, his face twisting into a scowl, “You know the answer. You know who did this!”
“Silence, you!” demanded Cromwell, “I shall not take this from you! Not from you!”
Running out of the office, Cromwell ran from the shadow, and ran out the door to Buford Automatons. Looking around, he decided to run towards the train station. Running down the street, he ignored the cries from the newspaper boys.
“Extra, extra! Hear it here first!” cried one, “Claurusia falls! Library of Dimitrious burns!”
“Hear here,” cried another, shoving the headline at Cromwell, “Dragon Squadron cooked! Titania’s efforts have failed!”
“Landships sink into sand,” cried another, “death toll rises!”
“Silence,” cried Cromwell, “I want to see this no more. No more!”
Suddenly a racket could be heard. A Massive train with large, mechanical arms dragged itself quickly into Astam, clawing its way into the main station. A bunch of questionable looking carts were being dragged behind it. Suddenly gunfire and smoke could be seen and heard from the station. A few refugees raced away from the station as the front doors burst opened.
An army of pirates and trolls burst from the doorways. They fired off rifles and swung swords of flame. Phinneus skidded to a halt, his eyes widening. The army of pirates and trolls ravaged the city, throwing Molotov cocktails and shooting flame throwers towards the screaming crowd.
Walking out of the train station was obviously their leader. An ornately dressed man wore golden battle armor with a large golden eagle with rare ingots in its eyes. He waved a jeweled scepter and laughed.
“Get their riches! Get their weapons! Get their weapons!” smiled the man, “However, my Landship belongs to me! Bring to me unharmed! Then… On to Prush!”
Cromwell looked around, before ducking into an alleyway. Rushing down the alley, he could hear a laugh that sounded like it was coming from the shadow. Sure enough, turning a corner, he saw the shadow looking over a dead body. The body was of a young girl, and he frowned looking her over.
“Died of a broken heart,” said the shadow, “Looks like some life-saving medical help could’ve saved her.”
Cromwell cursed, before turning around and attempting another exit. There the shadow was examining another body. He was shaking his head examining the body of a male staked to the alley wall.
“Robbed of his dignity,” said the shadow, “Not because of magic, however. Trolls tend to just do whatever. Doesn’t it look FUN, Cromwell?”
“Leave me alone! Haunt me no more!”
“It doesn’t WORK like that for me,” glared the shadow, “You don’t get to turn your back on the future. You have NO-”
Phinneus turned and retraced his steps, attempting to head back the way he had come. Unfortunately, he was stopped by a blinding blue light. Suddenly a machine in the alleyway opened up, and spat out two figures and a bunch of chains and trash.
“Do you think it worked?” asked Rilain, standing up from the wreckage and wiping off the dirt from her stuff.
“Who knows, he’s so stubborn!” said Nolan, finding himself hopelessly tangled in junk and chains.
He huffed a bit when he was stuck, and turned to Rilain, puffing out his bearded lip and his one eye enlarging in a sad kitten look. Rilain sighed and rolled her eyes, stooping over to help him get untangled.
Phinneus turned around once more, but the shadow was walking down the alleyway, a smile on his face.
“What’s the matter, Phin?” asked the shadow, “Is the future scary? Is the truth scary?”
“I’m not scared,” said Cromwell, “I’m escaping!”
Looking to his side, He saw a door on the side of the building. Taking a step back, he slammed his boot into it. A few more kicks and he could feel the door beginning to give way. The hinges groaned and the knob was beginning to shatter.
Suddenly Phinneus stopped to take a breath. Reaching out, he twisted the knob, and the door opened up. Ducking inside, he slammed the door behind him and he pressed all his weight against it.
Phinneus waited for some time. He could hear nothing, nothing around him or on the other side of the door. Wind blew through his hair, so he turned and faced the room.
Once again he was outside, only this time he could himself in some sort of creepy forest, with tall trees stretching into the sky. All around him gravestones were buried into the dirt and barbed wire and metal fences lay strewn around.
The sky was relatively clear directly above them, but in the distance it looked as if a hurricane was booming, and lightning could be seen inside the dark rainclouds. Taking a step away from the door, Phinneus examined one of the Gravestones.
It read: “Here lies T.I.M., he had a robotic personality.” On the tombstone. Cromwell shook his head, looking to the next tombstone.
A pair of legs were in his path. When he looked up, the shadow stood over him.
“Where am I?” asked Cromwell.
“A rock garden, I should think,” sneered the shadow, crossing his arms.
“It’s a graveyard, isn’t it?”
“Well, what do you know! He can read the writing!” smiled the Shadow, “I was worried.”
“Why is Tim buried here?” asked Cromwell.
“This is where all things are buried,” said the Shadow, “Get up, you!”
Yanking Cromwell by the collar, the shadow lifted him up. Throwing him forward, Cromwell looked up at the next gravestone. “Sky Whales” were written in big letting. Cromwell stood up, stepping back from the head stone, almost tripping over another that read “Nanobots”.
“What is this place?” said Cromwell.
“The eye of the storm,” replied the shadow, “The end of the line. You might even call it your trophy room!”
“Who would burry these fantastical things,” frowned Cromwell, looking at the headstone to “Swift’s Paorian Dictionary”.
“This is yours, every inch of grave!” said the shadow, pointing to the headstones strewn about, “Every one of these was an adversary YOU took down.”
“The Tardis?” frowned Cromwell, turning to look at another stone, “The Glass Octopus? I killed a comic book?”
“A person,” said the Shadow, “They actually assembled a real Glass Octopus to do battle against you. He was actually really good, but even the best fall to you.”
Cromwell turned to the shadow, “I do not remember this. I didn’t kill any Glass Octopus.”
“Ah, but you did,” said the shadow, “Or, for you, you will!”
“Why, shadow,” said Cromwell, “Why are you being so mean? Why show me these things? The others were not so harsh.”
“The others? The others?” yelled the shadow, anger flashing across his face, “Cromwell decided to tempt the spirit, his puny mind unable to comprehend. I glared at him ferociously and continued my rant. Don’t you get it?”
The shadow hopped atop a grave titled ‘Reptilian People’ and pointed down at Cromwell, “The Past doesn’t care. She grows day in and day out. Collecting, experiencing, and she will always have the past. Always! The Present is an imbecile! He never looks ahead. He just does. If he ceased to be it wouldn’t matter anymore then if he continued on for eternity. I, however, am dying, Cromwell. Dying. Dying dying dying. Every day we tick closer to the end. Every day I watch as more and more things are taken away from me.”
He pointed to a tombstone, “An entired race of people, destroyed! Half the planet of Orr burns because of you!”
“Stop that,” said Cromwell, “I did what I had to do!”
“You did what you wanted to do!” yelled the Shadow, “Controlling and building and destroying.”
“Look, don’t blame me for the world going to shit,” said Phin “How was I supposed to know? The world would’ve torn itself apart. People’s hard work would’ve been trampled!”
“Life,” shouted the shadow, “All life! Things change. People get left behind. Unexpected things happened. So why do this? Why go on a crusade? Lobster men. Rainbow Vibranni. Iron Man and Brass Boy. Aura Readers. Ghosts. Megalodon. Laser Weapons. Radios!”
“Stop,” shouted Cromwell, turning and running through the grave forest, “Haunt me no more! I don’t want to hear this, I want to go back, I want to go back!”
Running through the forest, dodging trees and gravestones, Phinneus kept hearing the angry laughs and taunts of the Shadow of the Future. He passed graves for immortals and vampires before he reached a tiny clearing. Up ahead he saw a light and what looked like a house. Running for it, he peered behind him.
The shadow was strolling through the forest after him, he began to laugh. His face seemed shadowed and his eyes began to show a deep red. Behind him it looked as if men in suits were hiding behind trees. Phin let out a terrified yell. He was severely uneased by the whole experience.
Leaping over a head stone with the words “Agreeing Gun” on it he finally made it to the house, which he could see was run down. Shoving his full weight, he burst through the door, knocking it right off its hinges.
He found himself still outside. Looking up, he could see the house was just a wall and darkened windows. However, the forest stopped and he now found himself at the end of a cliff. The only object around was a large tomb stone overgrown by foliage and vines. Leaning against the wall was the Shadow, who seemed to be playing with a dark pocket watch.
“And he finally arrives,” said the Shadow.
“Please,” said Cromwell, “Please, Shadow. Are these images that are or are these images that shall be?”
“He began to plead. With nowhere left to run, Cromwell stared helplessly at the Shadow.”
“Stop it! Stop it right now!” shouted Phin, “Are these images that can be? I know about them, right? Just by knowing I can keep them from happening! I can change, can’t I?”
“Phinneus stopped blathering long enough to notice the large grave nearby. Building up his meek little courage, he decided to read it.”
“Stop narrating!” shouted Cromwell, “Please, answer me. Answer me, spirit! It doesn’t have to be this way! I can fix it. I can change it.”
“Cromwell noticed the grave stone,” The Shadow pointed to the grave stone. His eyes starting to darken and what little light there was seeming to cloud over, as he spoke it began to sound like many voices leaking out of the forest surrounding them, “The one right over there. He decided to take a look!”
Cromwell eyed the large grave. He began to go closer. Shaking as he did so. It was as if the warmth of the world was being sucked dry. A glance back at the shadow showed the color start to disappear from him and he seemed to become more and more shadowlike. His eyes began to lose all color accept red. He became more and more menacing.
Cromwell turned away and eyed the Gravestone. Stepping closer, he could see he could probably use some help cutting through the undergrowth. Reaching into his pocket, he found that the hilt of the Bacon Sword was not there. His heart turning to ice within his chest, Cromwell tried to conceal his horror. Instead, focusing on trying to brush aside the gravestone overgrowth.
It was easier then he thought. With one move of his hand, he had removed most of it. With another, he grabbed the largest of the vines and they pulled right off. He uncovered the large, looming words “Here Lies” and he closed his eyes. He knew he had to continue.
Removing the last bit of brush, Cromwell read the grave.
Here Lies Lord Phinneus Cromwell
Defender of Orr
“Defender of Orr” had been barely legible. Someone had attempted to scrape or sand it out and ended with painting over it and writing “Destroyer of Magical Beasts” in clear letters. Underneath Cromwell noticed that it was not much of a gravestone at all. The stone only boarded a large window, which Phin could see through. On the other side, he could see what the Cliff overlooked.
Sitting in the middle of a clearing was the Wreckage of the North Star. Its sails were tattered or burning. Its hull cracked and pieces strewn about. From a very damaged deck a beam of light shot out into the air. This light would be joined by streaks of lightning that went not down to the wreckage but up into the swirling clouds above. Although a small amount of clouds gathered above the wreckage, Cromwell could see a large hurricane esque storm surrounded them wherever they were, but they were standing in the eye of the storm.
All around the Wreckage men and women warred. Bodies of animal and sentient life could be seen from all over the world. Large craters began to form. Stumps from hundreds of trees filled the area that had once been forest. Scorch marks and burns could be seen in between areas where the dirt had been turned to glass and the trees stood petrified and black.
“My ship” said Cromwell, choking back a scream, but he could hold it in no longer after only a few seconds of trying.
“This can not be! I won’t allow this,” said Cromwell, “I would’ve never allowed such a thing! This is fantasy. It’s fiction!”
“Denial is the first step in grief. However, I was awaiting bargaining. It’s the most fun.”
The rumble of engines could be heard in the distance. Looking up, Phinneus saw a large, fixed wing aircraft blotting out the sky.
"What is that?"
"The Wrathchild Armada," said the Shadow, "They are going to bomb the hell out of the last of the North Star, setting off your bomb."
"Bomb, what bomb?" asked Cromwell.
"The bomb to destroy Well Island, the last fantastical thing on Orr!" said the Shadow, "With one foul swoop you'll tear Well Island apart, and by doing so ripping the fabric of our reality apart. Hell, you'll rip apart all realities. The end of the multiverse as we know it!"
“Tell me, Future, what can I do to change this? How can this be? Where are we?”
“In this last moment, he didn’t even fully understand where he was,” Cromwell turned around to confront the Shadow but then he realized that he was no longer standing behind him. The darkness had crept up, and now in the eerie forest he could hundreds of pairs of red eyes that seemed to glare at him, “Cromwell realized that he was in the wreckage of what was once Well Island. The last place in all of Orr deemed Too Fantastical. It was how he would go down. Sacrificing his North Star, he would bring down Well Island once and for all. But it would take time.”
“Are you narrating or are you answering my question?” asked Cromwell, “Please! Please, I’ll do anything. I’ll let the dragons play! I’ll consider more magical things. Just please, PLEASE!”
All at once the eyes leapt out at Cromwell and He recoiled in defense. However, he found himself in a world of red. Almost a red room. Slowly, a small white dot seemed to grow. Cromwell stayed still as the white dot turned into a tunnel of sorts, and suddenly he was thrust into an all-White room.
Cromwell stood, by his lonesome, until he turned to look at the other red room. Instead, he found a figure, standing with her arms crossed. Her bright red hair looked like a fire itself.
“H-hello?” said Cromwell, “Look, I already told the Shadow. I can change. I don’t want to destroy the world. I don’t want so many people to die. Can’t I change this? Don’t I already change it just by knowing of it?”
From behind the woman stood The Ghost of the past. Still looking like Abigail Beatrix, she smiled and waved. The Spirit of the Future also stood behind her. The figure of Leo Swift twirling a pistol around in his hand. The shadow of the Future rose up out of the Present’s shadow and knocked the revolver out of his hand, the two began arguing to themselves soundlessly.
“Commodore Cromwell,” started the fiery haired figure, standing straighter and glaring at him, “Do you see the error of your ways?”
“Yes, yes I do!” said Cromwell, “Please, I never meant it to get this bad. I never wanted this!”
“Do you swear to open your heart and let the spirit of christmas magic into it?”
“Wait, does it have to be ‘Christmas’ Mag-“
“DO YOU SWEAR!”
It was as if only her large, glaring, judgmental eyes filled Cromwell’s vision. They stared into his very soul, chilling his body temperature and snuffing out all the anger and fight in his body. All he found himself doing was nodding to her.
The woman’s eyes narrowed and she thrust a piece of paper and a quill at him.
Cromwell looked down at it and read. It was a contract that he would not attempt to stop or destroy an entity by the name of “Teddy Rosenpelt, the bear who only loves.” He frowned. The contract stated he would allow a friendly woodland bear to bring herbal medicines to a town in Titania weekly for the children.
He looked up and looked at the lady.
“What is this?”
“A contract to show you have changed,” said the entity, “A promise you will change your ways! Sign it!”
Cromwell again was chilled as her angry, judgmental eyes were turned on him. He quickly scratched his name into the contract. He held it out and the figure snatched it from his hands. Looking it over, she turned her back to him.
“And… we’re done,” said the Entity, a large smile forming on her face. The three ghosts sighed and high fived. Abigail rushing forward to see the signature.
“Awww, he’s gonna be so cute!”
“I know, I cannot wait,” said the woman, “And, you! You owe me fifty Ciam.”
“Bullshit, this should’ve never worked!” said the Shadow as he fished some money out of his pocket, “Ghosts of time. How stupid!”
“I was obviously the best part of this whole plan,” said Leo Swift, “I mean, God, Kent, you weren’t even scary. I basically felt like your part took forever. What? Two years? GOD the actual future came and went during that time!”
“What, what is this?” said Cromwell, standing up and walking towards the group, “What…. What does it mean? Was this… was this all for some… some bear?”
“What? Nooo…… nooooo….” Said Abigail, “You need to be nicer and stuff. You learned a lesson from all this, right?”
“Wait a minute,” said Cromwell, starting to get angry, “I don’t understand!”
The fiery haired woman rolled her eyes, “Can someone deal with this? This part has taken too long and it’s time to go.”
“Got it,” said Swift, picking up his revolver and aiming it at Cromwell.
“Wait, woah,” Cromwell raised his hands.
“Rise and shine, cupcake,” said Swift, “A new day begins! Remember, cherish the present best!”
Without another word, a loud shot rang out and Cromwell was dosed in blackness again.
screamed and found himself unable to see or move. His eyes darted around in the
darkness and his arms were pinned against him tightly. Squirming around, he
found a lump in his pocket. Reaching in, he discovered the hilt of the bacon sword
once more. Pulling it free, he turned it on and slashed at his bonds.
The blanket fell away and he found himself back aboard the North Star. He panted heavily as he looked around. Light was seeping in from the windows and taters from his blanket filled the air. Cromwell frowned. He had fallen over in his armchair and it looked like an old blanket he was given years ago had been draped over him. Now the Armchair was in two pieces and the blanket in several.
“Aw, my old man blanket,” said Cromwell, looking at the tatters in the air before frowning at the broken armchair, “Aw, my chair.”
Looking around the room, Cromwell realized his eyes were still tired and crusty with sleep. Putting away the bacon sword and rubbing his eyes, Cromwell’s heart jumped.
“My gods!” said Cromwell, “I’m alive! I’m awake! Was it all a dream? How long was I out?”
Rushing to the window, he threw open the windows. The sun poured in and filled the room. Looking out, he saw Astam Junction Airship docks. He smiled.
“I did it, I survived all three… or four… I did it!”
His eyes spotted a young woman sitting by the docks nearby. She had red hair and a bow. He almost recoiled from her until he realized she was not the fiery haired woman. Cromwell laughed to himself.
“Excuse me, you there!” said Cromwell, catching the womans attention, “You there! You!”
The woman rolled her eyes and looked up at Cromwell, “Can you keep it down? Kinda dealing with a small hangover. And my name’s not ‘yu’. I’m Kuuvian! It’s Bishop!”
“Bishop, wonderful!” said Cromwell, “Tell me, what day is it?”
Bishop looked from left to right and shrugged, “It’s tomorrow, I suppose… you old coot.”
“Tomorrow? Ha ha! I did it! I survived the past, present, and future! I did it!”
Bishop stared up at Cromwell and shook her head, “Hey Mister, I think you haven’t come down from your trip. Now I think you should go lie down but before you do, can you tell me where you bought you-“
“Not enough time!” Said Cromwell, fishing inside his coat and pulling out a roll of Ciam, “Look here, Bishop, I need you to do something! Here’s some Ciam. I want you to take thirty for yourself, and go and get me the biggest Turkey you can find! The biggest!”
Tossing it down, it hit Bishop square in the head and she swore. Bending down and picking it up, her eyes widened as she looked over the bundle.
“A Turkey?” she said.
“Yes, bring it to Buford Automatons as quickly as you can! Remember, only thirty for you! I want change!”
“Yeah, yeah,” said Bishop, “Sucker…”
“If you can’t find a Turkey big enough, that’s fine. Get something else,” said Cromwell, “Finding one this quickly will be tough.”
Bishop shook her head, “Wait, you don’t think I can do it? I’m the best? Hey, hey mister! Hey, you ass hole, I’m the best. I can get you a big turkey!”
However, Cromwell could no longer hear her as he now rushed about his cabin. He sang and danced and greeted everything he could.
“I made it, I made it!” he sang.
He rushed down from his cabin and danced about the deck of his ship. He still couldn’t find any of his crew, but he assumed he would find them after this story was finished.
He rushed back into town. This time he had changed into a proper suit with a nice new Top hat perched on his head. He greeted everyone as he danced down the street. Close to Buford Automatons he stumbled across the two he had met from the night before, which felt like years ago at this point. The Golan girl sat arguing with the large man in military garb. Upon seeing him, both of them averted their eyes and stopped their bickering.
“Good morning, you two, and what a wonderful morning it is!” said Cromwell, “What are you two doing this fine day?”
“Drop dead you big-“ started the girl but she was hushed by the other gentleman.
“What? I supposed nothing,” said the gentleman, “You see very different today.”
“Oh, I am. I feel different, very different!” said Cromwell, “You two should join me for lunch! Over at Buford Automatons. Now. What say you?”
The woman and the man looked at each other uneasily and looked back at Phin.
“Are you going to murder us?” asked the girl.
Cromwell just leaned back and let out a hearty laugh that filled the street. Other passer byes turned and looked.
“Nonsense” laughed Cromwell when he had finished, “Come, you’ll want to hear what I have to say!”
With that, Phin continued down the street. The two others turned to each other once more. The female shrugged and started to follow. The military man frowned and protested.
“He isn’t well. Come on, we need to keep collecting for the war effort.”
“Yeah, but I kinda want to keep being relevant to the story,” said the female, “If we stay, this is the last line I’ll have!”
The man shrugged and decided to follow along too.
Phinneus continued along the street, humming a tune to himself as he did so. As he approached Buford Automatons, he began to chuckle to himself. He cleared his throat and composed himself as he approached the door. He turned and gave a wink to his two followers, before he lifted on boot and put it through the front door.
Storming past his secretary who was cleaning out her desk and gathering her things, quite possibly fired, he went up the stairs to Buford’s workshop. At reaching the top step, he saw an Automaton attempting to put the door back on Buford’s hinges, but he knocked the robot aside and pushed the door down effortlessly as he barged into the office.
Buford sat at his chair, cradling T.I.M. in his arms. He wore large, bulbous glasses to make his eyes look huge and watery as he stared into Phinneus’ eyes. Phin made sure to put on his biggest scowl and march across the office, the two weirdos in tow.
“Buford,” growled Cromwell.
“I’ve sent a letter to Cormac. She’s on her way to help me!” said Lucas, “I have decided this is my one! You can have my hand. You can have my business. But this is my one!”
“Out of the question, Lucas,” said Cromwell, “It’s been twenty four hours!”
“Actually,” chimed T.I.M, “My internal clock suggests it has not.”
“Internal clock?” said Phinneus, “Luc……CAS…..!”
“Phin, please!” said Lucas, tossing aside the spectacles and putting on his normal pair, “PLEASE! It’s a very advanced 3D script, like Chinese, that is used. He has millions of scrolls! I’ll explain away anything to keep him!”
“Rise, Buford,” said Phinneus, “I have spent all night on this. I have thought long and hard. And in the end, I do not care what you think. I don’t care how you plead. I don’t even care what research you’ve done to explain him away. There is one thing I need to tell you.”
“Phinneus, please!” shouted Buford, pulling out a revolver, “He’s my child! I’ll shoot you!”
“You own a gun?” said Phinneus.
“I bought it on T-Bay,” said Buford.
“Telegram Bay. It’s cheaper then the store but it takes time to get to you.”
“Please, don’t make me shoot you.”
“Is that thing even loaded?” asked Phin.
“Loaded?” said Buford, “With what?”
“Damn,” said Burford, looking at the revolver, “I didn’t read the description too closely. He was the only one who shipped overnight. I didn’t even look.”
“Do you even know how guns work?”
“YES!” said Lucas, “I just… I just… didn’t think this through. It’s my first time!”
“ENOUGH” shouted Phin, rising to his full power, “Lucas Mayberry Buford, you leave me no choice!”
“I have no choice but to pronounce your T.I.M.” said Phinneus, stepping closer to T.I.M. “Too…… CUTE!”
“NO! Stop! I won’t let you,” cried Buford, sinking to his knees, “You monster! You heartless fiend! I hate you! I hate you! How could you…. What? Too… cute?”
Opening his eyes, Buford saw Phinneus picking T.I.M. up and tossing him into the sky like a child. He was smiling and examining the robot. T.I.M. began to laugh.
“Oh, father! This is wonderful! What a twist!” said T.I.M.
Buford blinked away his tears, “What? I don’t understand…”
“Well, I was thinking,” said Phinneus, putting T.I.M. back down, “Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if T.I.M. gave Antiford a try. What’s the worst that can happen?”
Buford looked on in surprise. T.I.M. cheered and ran and gave Lucas a hug.
“I don’t understand,” said Lucas, “You’re…. not killing him?”
“Not today,” smiled Phinneus.
A knock in the doorframe gathered everyone’s attention towards the doorway. Bishop stood there with a wild look in her eye and she pointed at Cromwell.
“I told you I was the best. I told you,” she reached behind her and dragged in a guy with a fedora and a confused look, “I found the biggest turkey in all the world! I’m the best, bitch. Ha ha!”
“Ah, Hi all. Look, Bish, when you said you hunted for me and was taking me somewhere,” said the guy, “I wasn’t picturing so many…. Males…. Or people… involved. I am sorely disappointed with the advertising here.”
“Shut up, you!” shouted Bishop.
“Ah, good, I think,” said Phinneus.
“This is the most wonderous day!” said T.I.M., “I shall sing of this day from the mountains! I shall christen this memory with all the happiness it deserves! I shall call it, Christmas! I shall sing of it from the mountains! I shall make every day greater then the last. You won’t regret this. I will study, and become the greatest doctor in all the world. I’ll save countless lives. I’ll eradicate diseases! I’ll conquer death! I’ll usher in a new era of peace and activity in Antiford. Our numbers will florish, and we can bring happiness to the world! No, the MULTIVERSE! We’ll become a staple for all time. Oh, bless us. Bless us. God Bless us, ev-“
In a flash of light, T.I.M. was hit with an immensely powerful beam of energy. It tore through his body in bits and shattered it into dust. His mechanical eyes melted and his limbs were bent and torn from his body.
When it was all done, only blacked, melted robot boots were left, and a blackened stain on the far wall where blueprints and books were scorched from the blast.
Buford’s tears of joy stopped dead on his face and his jaw hung open. He gaped at the spot where T.I.M. had stood but a moment later. Everyone else in the room gawked at the scene.
Phinneus sighed, clenching his eyes closed. His Bacon Sword sizzled in his hand. When his eyes opened, they were red and tired and angry. He walk over to Buford, pointing the sword at him.
“Too Fantastical,” he almost whispered, “I told you. I told you!”
His angry glare turned on the two war mongers, “You two, imbeciles! Our world needs some time to be brought together. Not torn apart! Why don’t you work on developing the countries you have and their relationship with others rather then tearing them apart. YOU!”
Phin pointed at the girl, “Write some stories! Don’t ever leave us!”
Phin turned to the man in military garb, “YOU! Get a job. Stop begging for hand outs. Or, better yet, liberate your Landship from the lot! If you can’t do that, don’t liberate people or lands!”
“Awwwwww,” said the man, a large frown appearing on his face.
“And don’t ever shave that beard. NEVER EVER!”
Phin’s gaze turned on the two in the doorway, and he stomped closer to them.
“You, my change!”
“He was expensive,” Bishop said.
“You make me sad. Go home before I turn you into bacon dust!”
He turned to the man with the hat.
“You, stop writing these damn things or I swear to GOD I will Phin-Ex-Machina your story and lock you the hell up!”
Phin pushed them aside and stepped through the door, before turning around.
“Merry Christmas to all.”
Stepping out of Buford Automatons and into the sun, Phinneus smiled again. He looked at his majestic bacon sword and smiled, “I ain’t afraid of no Ghosts!”
However, he spotted something. A young girl running away from her parents. She had the most fiery red hair. Reaching into a barrel, she pulled out a small bear cub and patted him.
“Come on, Teddy,” she said, “I have to teach you about all the medicines. Doctor Teddy needs to know them all!”
With that, she slung the adorable bear cub over her shoulder and walked back in the direction of her parents.
Phin looked at his sword, and then the fiery red hair. He thought a moment before putting the sword back into his pocket and turning and walking in the opposite direction.
“Then again,” said Phin, “It’s not like one bear is going to break the world. Nobody has to know…”
Phinneus Cromwell walked into the new day. Humming a Christmas song to himself.