A Shattered Heart

At first, Edmund thought something had simply fallen out of place, and he just needed to replace a cog or spring to have Tayatra return to her former animate self.

He felt around in the hollow depths of Tayatra’s machinery, gently poking and prodding to see if anything had fallen loose or out of place. As best as he could tell, everything was seated properly in their holdings, and gripped snugly in their fittings. Tayatra had simply stopped working, for no reason he could devise.

He considered taking the vial out and putting it in again, but the vial was still glowing, and some of the gears were still turning glacially slowly. He didn’t know what pulling the vial out would do to Tayatra if she was still running, so he decided not to.

Plinkerton’s Journal! If he really had invented Tayatra, he had to have left something in his journal somewhere; perhaps even a clue to fix her. Where had he last left it? Edmund leapt to his feet and slipped his way out of the alcove, and to the now large pile of books that had nearly taken over his desk.

The corner of the room was covered with books he had finished, books he was in the middle of, and books he hadn’t even opened yet. The piles were huge, and in his panic, Edmund could only shove books aside or throw them over his shoulder.
Finally, he found the large leather-bound book lying on its side under the desk. Grabbing it, he tore open the book without even bothering to take it off the floor. This time, instead of flipping through it like before, he began at the beginning, desperate to read all of the secret thoughts of Patron Plinkerton.

He read from beginning to end, and then again. Every once in a while, he would jump up and run to one of the hundreds of books he had pulled off of the shelf and flipped through it, wondering if he had just found a clue. Inevitably, his shoulders would sag and he would return to the journal, having failed to find a solution yet again.

When the mansion struck six in the afternoon, Edmund was no closer to a solution. Each and every disappointment had brought him closer and closer to the unavoidable truth–Tayatra was gone for good.

He wasn’t going to give up, he tried to tell himself. He was going to succeed, somehow. But try as he might, he couldn’t think of how. Whenever he tried to think of a solution, the image of Tayatra lying with her head on the desk invaded his mind and set his humours churning.

Focus, his mind yelled at himself. I fixed her once, I can do it again.

A Broken Friend

“I sit and watch it pass, Clasping time to my heart and breast A cavalcadium…”
“Cavalcade,” Edmund said, sighing. “Cavalcade of time.” He knew his penmanship wasn’t the cleanest, but he had tried to pay very close attention to the legibility of his words when he wrote. Tayatra, as brilliant a creation as she was, must not have been perfect with calligraphy. He settled back in the chair, waiting for Tayatra to continue.

At first, she didn’t. She was thinking, loudly. Her arms and torso were frozen, held in the shape of intense study, while her head slowly rolled about, looking around as though she was confused.

“Tayatra?” Edmund asked, leaving his seat to approach her. She acknowledged neither his movement nor presence, instead continuing to roll her head like she had never seen the study before. Suddenly, her head stopped, and stared straight ahead of her. A sound like a branded cow rippled from her vocal chords, and a loud clanging echoed from her alcove. She spoke again, her voice flat and monotone.

“Brought forth from the glory, Hidden under the foundation, The Cavalcadium of Fortune liiiiieeeesss”

With a sound like a spring wound too tight finally giving under the weight, Tayatra’s strings suddenly became loose, sending her torso slumping forward, her head plummeting to the marble desk with a loud crash.

Edmund leapt from his chair like it was on fire. He ran to Tayatra’s side, complete diagrams from ‘The Symphonic Physicium’ flipping through his head, urging him to check for a pulse, examine the iris of the eye, and hold a mirror up to the mouth to test for breath. He stopped when he reached her side, his confusion pulling his muscles in a indecipherable back-and-forth, preventing him from doing anything at all.

“Tayatra?” he asked, finally finding his voice. The statue didn’t move. “Tayatra, what happened? Can you hear me?” His voice became more and more uncertain, more frightened, as his questions went unanswered. He reached out and tugged gently on the string connected to her upper arm. When there was no response, he gripped the arm itself, pulling and tugging in vain desperation, hoping and praying the machine would reactivate on its own.

Nothing. Tayatra was as still and silent as when he had first found her. Fighting the rising panic, he rushed around behind the statue, dodging the strings that entwined her, and pulled the thin stone panel away.

The vial of Mechanus Vitae was still almost half full, glowing gently in the darkness. Edmund reached into the depths of machinery and flicked it gently with his fingernail on the off chance Tayatra was simply confused, and simply needed a gentle reminder that it had everything it needed to function.

Still nothing.

Tayatra was dead.

Tayatra Reads a Poem

“Tayatra has seen you write, Master Edmund,” Tayatra said one evening, her thin fingers gently closing The Gentleman’s Chemestrie, by Loden Heimsbill, “And you have said you are a poet, but Tayatra has never seen what you write. Perhaps you would like Tayatra to read your poems to you?”

Edmund cringed, reflexively. He still hated the idea of anyone reading his poems–it was a private thing. Tayatra had read On the Male Mysterique, by Floyd Zemant, to Edmund, and the idea that he was hiding deep and frightening things from himself was worrisome. Doubly so, if there was any truth to the theory that these secrets could be revealed through his dreams or poems by a clever and mentally flexible reader.

On the other hand, Tayatra was just a statue–hardly capable of interpreting his poems. And, if he was being honest to himself, he had to admit that the stories and tales he didn’t like were somehow much more interesting when Tayatra read them to him in her soft wispy voice…

And so he stood up from his thick chair and picked up his notebook from the desk where he left it. He flipped through the pages, trying to decide which poem he wanted her to read first. He settled on page ten, his first Clock poem, which he wrote to describe the small iron black hands, and their circumvention of its porcelain-white face.

Stepping into the alcove, he lay the book in front of her like an offering on an altar. The marble statue watched him as he stepped back, the small green disk glinting in the flickering light. Tayatra’s strings tightened and loosened, carefully placing her fingers in the best position to turn the pages of his notebook. He returned to his seat, sitting upright and watching as her head dipped towards the desk, pointing her forehead squarely at the pages.

For a moment, a delicate silence filled the library, like the tension that hangs in the air seconds before a master violinist touches his bow to his instrument. Edmund realized he was holding his breath as he waited for Tayatra’s voice to pluck out the words he had written and turn them into music.

“Sitting bashfully, hiding its shame,” she began, sculpting each word like a perfectly polished stone, “Tempting lime with undue–”

“Time,” Edmund interrupted. “Tempting time.” There was a pause as Tayatra thought.

“Apologies, Master Edmund,” she said, her face turning to him. “I am unfamiliar with your handwriting.” With that, her face dipped again.

“Sitting bashfully, hiding its shame,
Tempting time with undue familiarity,
The face of the moon circled with tender hands,
I hear a metal heart beat.
Full of hope and future dreams,
Ready to cry out when the time arrives,
Passing through the sky like a cloud, I hear a metal heart beat.”

Edmund was stunned. He had never thought his poems were particularly well written, but hearing them spoken by another gave him a remarkable thrill. Tayatra was giving voice to his thoughts, as odd as they may have been.

Edmund leaned forward, knowing that the best was yet to come.

Edmund’s Notebook 15: Happy

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Image: A Young Scholar, Tyne & Wear Archives; Museums

Excerpt from “Wroght Iron Words: the Poetry and Prose of Patron Lord Edmund Moulde” by Sir Wather Krink, PhD, DFA:

In his Manic period, the words of Lord Edmund Moulde, at the time Master Moulde, became effusively saccharine, suggesting a mind unmoored from the torments and ennui that had been the foundation of his life for so long. This disjointed nature is perhaps best exemplified in the seminal piece from the period, reprinted below with permission from the Moulde Estate:

Light.
Clean,
A bubble in the chest,
Covered in soft,
Clear and bright,
Colors everywhere,
Flying,
But not leaving,
Home.

This untitled poem has been used by several researchers, including the awkwardly respected Sir Loomus Kohlm, to suggest that the Manic period of Lord Edmund Moulde coincided with an experimentation with powerful narcotics, but this absurd and obviously unsubstantiated opinion will not be dignified with discussion here.

Autumn Approches

Summer was drawing to a close.

The wind began to batter at the windows of Moulde Hall even stronger than before, and the drooping withered leaves of the treas outside began to turn from gray green to sickly yellow and brackish red. A bitter chill began to seep through the cold stone into Moulde Hall, a harbinger of the coming Autumn.

As the winds became more frequent, Edmund was delighted to see that the brass tree in the library was not just a statue. When he entered the library one day, he saw the massive statue had lost its leaves. The branches were smooth and bare, while the shimmering foliage had piled around its base, filling the small recess that the tree stood in.

Edmund picked up one of the leaves and turned it around in his fingers. It was almost as big as his whole hand, and fairly light. The leaf had been carved most delicately, enough so that Edmund could feel the veins that webbed through it like a real leaf. It felt fragile.

He played about in the leaves, careful not to harm them as he picked them up and tossed them between his hands. He stepped carefully, shuffling about in the cold metallic leaves and listening to them clink and clatter.

As he played, he saw one leaf that was a slightly different color than the rest. It was a bright golden color, and when Edmund picked it up from the massive pile of leaves, he saw it’s stem was thicker and longer than the others. At the end of the stem, the metal dripped down into three small ridges, like a key. On both sides of the leaf, a thick calligraphy proclaimed Memento Mori, in clear and easy hand.

Wasn’t that the same phrase carved into the Gargoyle’s sign in the tower? Edmund wondered again what the phrase meant, and slipped the leaf into his pocket. He decided he would keep it with him for a while, to see if he ever found a use for it.

As the cold weather began to press closer, Edmund took to reading to Tayatra from the History of Moulde Hall. It was informative to her, hearing of the other Patrons and Matrons that followed after Rotchild, and how they steadily drove the finances, goodwill, and social standing of the Moulde Family into the ground until it became the rundown mansion with two servants and no real family members that it was today.

“Why do you not give me something to read to you,” Tayatra offered one day, after Edmund finally finished the book. “It is what I was created for.”

She turned out to be a beautiful reader; her diction was perfect and intonation pleasant to Edmund’s ears. She read as fast or slow as he asked, and would define some words he didn’t understand. Several times, she even explained whole passages that he didn’t quite comprehend. She made the histories and scientific texts come alive

As time passed, he gave Tayatra more and more books read. He would sit quietly in the large chair facing Tayatra’s alcove, his eyes shut as her voice flowed around him. He began to have his lunch there, taking a small tray with him so he could read, write, and talk with Tayatra in peace.

For the first time in a very long time, Edmund felt happy.

It didn’t last.

Plinkerton’s Last Entry

It wasn’t until much later in the journal that Edmund noticed Tayatra’s name written in an older and shaking hand:

3/9/1713
Dearest Journal, Alas, my beloved son Rotchild has fallen to a curse-ed state of mind. I have long tried to reason with him, explain the state of affairs, but I fear my tongue has tasted from china plates for too long to have much silver on it. He is convince-ed that his siblings are rising against him, attempting to push his favor from my heart. I have even heard him say that only Tayatra truly cares for him –a mad boast, considering no humours abide in her stone frame. I fear my foresight in creating a Cavalcadium of my fortune was not ill-planned. The estate will still fall to him when I am gone, and I hope only my children will not bring more suffering to this family, after my mistakes.

And again:

5/5/1716
I am afear-ed that my planning was all for naught. My failure is complete. Master Rotchild is insane, ranting and raving in his room for hours about the plots of his siblings to kill him, or me. He spends more time with Tayatra now than anyone else, and he has forbidden anyone to speak with her. I snuck into her study late last night, skulking about like a common street urchin to place my words within her. The future of our family is within her, now. When the madness has passed, The Moulde Family will once again be respected, and ready to take its place among the great families of the city.

And then the last entry:

8/12/1718
It is with a heavy heart I pen these, my final words. Master Rotchild has born a daughter, Isaybel, and has demanded I step down as Patron of Moulde Hall. I spoke with all of my trusted allies, and they all tell of a great conflict within the family if I do not. I am an old man, I know, and if my shaking hand is not enough to prove to you I am past my prime, let the spilled soup on my words provide certainty. I hold no hope that my family will survive, as their madness seems complete. No longer shall the Moulde Family hold respect in the world. Perhaps I am lucky to be so old, and die now before my withered eyes can witness the decline. I only hope that some day, some poor soul that bears the name Moulde can find it in their head to understand, though I hold no prayers that they will have the heart to forgive.

Most of it Edmund couldn’t understand, while what he could understand was banal and full of adult drama that didn’t interest Edmund in the slightest. He was only slightly interested to read that Plinkerton apparently thought Tayatra was the key to the Moulde Family’s resurgence–it felt much more important as a personal success.

It was disappointing, frankly, to have access into the minds of one of the old Patrons of the Moulde family, and not be able to comprehend it.
Eventually, Edmund set it aside and returned to his books on history, physics, and chemistry.

Edmund Reads the Journal

The first one he found was almost a fifth of the way through the journal.

4/3/1673
Dearest Journal, I have just return-ed from my first year at Grimms, and my mind is full of a great number of fantastic and wonderful things! The teachers are strict, and seem to do their best to keep us from learning anything interesting, but I’ve already learn-ed much, mostly from my new friends. They seem to know much more than I, and, though I am learning quickly, I cannot help but feel they were better prepare-ed for this place than I. I have resolve-ed to do as much studying as possible while I am home. I only hope the Library is as well stock-ed with books on chemestrie as it is with other tomes.

Edmund flipped further into the book, until he found another entry that looked interesting.

3/12/1688
Dearest Journal, Is it hubris to not be aware of an honor bestow-ed? I honestly cannot remember when it was that I was first call-ed Patron by my hand-servant. For some reason, now that my dearest is with child, I cannot help but hear the word each time it is spoken, by my servants, my siblings, or my relatives. In some ways it sounds hollow and false to my ears. In others, it becomes more and more fitting. I suppose I must become used to two paternal titles in rapid succession: that of Patron, and that of father. We have decide-ed that if our child is a boy, we shall name him Rotchild, after my great-uncle. Though I am full of hope for a good and wonderful future, I cannot help but fear for my unborn child; there is great pain and suffering in the world, and dark times lie ahead of us all at some point. Though I will feel foolish, and I doubt not but I will attract some stares from my servants, I plan to go and help our gardener pull some of the weeds that have sprung up on the grounds.

And another:

8/19/1688
Dearest Journal, I am vex-ed most peculiarly, and overwrought with perturbations. My son is born, this day at seven twenty-three in the morn, healthy and bright pink. Thunder split the sky at the moment of his first breath–fitting, I thought at the time, for a Moulde of great destiny as he no doubt is going to be. His hair is brown, his eyes are bright, and I thought him worthy of thanks to the heavens for his health and happiness. Oh, but then for Doctor Salin! I am not one to shy away from new and unwash-ed practices–as a scientist I am mindful of the ever-marching advance of progress–but this new and amazing science of Phrenology fills me with uncertainty. Doctor Salin has informed me that the skull borne by my son Rotchild has the forehead of a chimney-sweep, and the side-pan of a dentist. He is doom-ed, so says the good doctor, to grow into adulthood forever paranoid, fearing and searching for unseen plots, secret deposits of grime, and hidden cavities. This science is new, and I am loathe to condemn my son for an untest-ed art, but my heart is wary…

The Routine

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Image: Edmund and Tayatra
by Megan Suttner

The week that followed was spent in a whirlwind of repetitive activity.

Edmund woke up every day, washed and dressed for breakfast, and hurriedly ate his leftover soup as quickly as he could before Mr. Shobbinton’s lessons. After an hour of maths and law, he would run back to the library, and his new friend.

There he would spend hours speaking with Tayatra, and learning everything he could about her and the Master then Patron Rotchild Moulde. A few days after he re-activated her, he tore out more of the nails from the wall and fixed a small clasp to the corner. When Junapa wasn’t around, he pulled the entire tapestry back, letting the gaslight kiss Tayatra’s pale form again.

The rat began to appear more and more frequently, until Edmund began to see it almost as a pet. He fed it bread, sometimes soaked in soup, and before long it was crawling into his hands and squeaking as politely as a tame mouse.

Once a week he would meet with each of his cousins. Junapa continued to play more and more complicated games with Edmund while he desperately tried to learn from her. Chess was his favorite, though there was an organic appeal to Go that he found fascinating.

Pinsnip kept drilling him on stealth and silence, on stillness and shadows. He would talk for hours about skulking in dark corners only to suddenly stop, his eyes losing focus as he vanished into his thoughts. For some reason, he rarely stuttered during these lessons…

Kolb was impressed with Edmund’s progress, and Edmund could tell that he was sounding less and less sick whenever he tried to be stern or adamant.

Wislydale’s lessons on manners were boring, but Edmund still learned, and he could usually reward himself with stopping by Tunansia’s room just afterwards to see what she was doing, and if he could help. He usually could, but never by doing any more than holding some test tube, or stirring some oddly colored liquid. Tunansia rarely even looked at him.

And once a week, Edmund made his way to the east tower door where he gently knocked on the wood, and then talked about the things he was doing. Sometimes he heard breathing. Other times he didn’t.

Any time that wasn’t spent with Tayatra, his rat, or being tutored, was spent reading, sometimes in his room, other times in the library.

The first thing he read was Plinkerton’s journal. It was written in tight handwriting, covering his entire life, and Edmund spent a few hours flipping through it, reading random pages and entries looking for anything interesting.

At first the journal was dry and boring, full of the minor interests of a young child, dramas of pulled hair and scuffed knees, which gradually moved on to mentions of interesting dinners or intriguing correspondence with someone-or-other. He flipped through as quickly as he dared, looking for anything interesting or useful, while being mindful that any small detail might be the secret to understanding the author. When he did find a word or phrase that interested him, he would quickly go back to the beginning of the entry and read the whole thing.

Tayatra is Fixed

Finally, the last tine was tied, and Edmund re-affixed the stone plate to the back of Tayatra, the threads slipping through the several small holes at the bottom of the statue. Edmund stepped back to look at his handiwork.

It was a mess. String hung everywhere like a sad pot of noodles that someone had thrown over the whole alcove. It was messy, confusing, and somewhere in Edmund’s heart, he knew it was… inelegant. He considered re-cutting some of the strings, but decided against it –Tayatra had been very specific about the lengths and placements of all the thread he had hung.

“Okay,” he said, licking his lips nervously. “I think you’re fixed.”

“Please stand back,” she said. “I am going to wind the string taught.”
There was a whirring noise deep in the desk, and slowly… ever so slowly… Edmund saw the strings begin to tighten.

It was like curtains raising on a beautiful stage. White strands of string rose into the air like angel wings. String after string became taught, as one after another they pulled gently on the statue. The mess of thread behind Tayatra became a beautiful spiderweb that surrounded her like a halo; a mosaic of lines that made Edmund think of a stained glass window in a church.

He stood, amazed, as the strings became straight, like harp strings. There was a pause, and then the strings tugged together, lifting the statue’s body like the gentle hands of a master puppeteer. Tayatra was lifted like a limp rag doll, carefully straightened, and posed like a mannequin.

Then more strings tightened.

In the blink of an eye the clumsy statue seemed uncannily human. Her fingers bent and joints twisted as her hands spread wide in a smooth and elegant embrace that looked like it could encompass the world. Her torso leaned as if she was stretching. Her arms flexed and rested lightly on her desk with a poise that made Edmund’s chest hurt, until her head finally rose, and Edmund got his first look at Tayatra’s face.

It was not a thin face, nor wide. It was not rough, nor kind. It looked to Edmund like the heads he had seen in the hallways on Greek statues, with the eyes open and pupil-less, and the mouth an inexpressive line. Her nose was small and straight, her lips plain and smooth. And on her forehead, a single green glass circle, no bigger than Edmund’s thumbnail, sat embedded in the stone.

She was the most beautiful thing Edmund had ever seen.

Her head moved around, at once graceful and clumsy, tugged by the net of strings until the glass circle pointed at Edmund. Tayatra froze, and slowly leaned closer to him, her hands resting on the desk.

“Master Edmund,” she said, her voice drifting mistily through the air. “You look so much like Master Rotchild.”

Finding Plinkerton’s Journal

Edmund considered this as he finished threading the pulley. It made sense. If Plinkerton had foolishly squandered the estate without telling his son, the suddenly vanishing money would be a cause of grave concern to the seemingly paranoid Rotchild. Plinkerton had probably been ashamed of his foolish investments, and made sure no one knew what caused the sudden lost of money.

“Did you enjoy it?” Edmund asked, climbing down again. “Working for Patron Rotchild, I mean?” Tayatra thought long and loudly.

“I did what my Patron asked.” she said, finally. “It is what must be done.”

Edmund decided not to press the point as he tied the string to the loop on the statue’s left wrist.

“Did anyone else ever ask you to do anything? Or was it just Rotchild?”

“Others used to speak to me quite often,” she said. “Patron Plinkerton gave me math problems to solve in front of his guests, while others gave me books and letters to read aloud. When Patron Rotchild became Patron, the others began to disappear, until it was only Patron Rotchild that spoke with me.”

“And you never asked him why?” Edmund stood with two pieces of thread in his hands. The idea that she had never thought to try and find out what was happening was confusing to him.

“I do not ask questions of my Patron,” she intoned. It sounded almost like a prayer. “It is what must never be done.”

“Well, he’s not my Patron,” Edmund said as he started to braid another thread, “and I’d like to know more about him. Did he have a journal or diary? Anything I could read?”

“Patron Rotchild would not appreciate his privacy being violated,” Tayatra said, her voice sounding almost reproachful.

“Patron Rotchild isn’t Patron any more,” Edmund countered, “and he’s dead. He doesn’t have privacy anymore.”

Tayatra thought again, very loudly, and then fell silent. For several minutes, Edmund continued to braid thread in silence, until he sighed and gave up.

“Oh alright then, what about Patron Plinkerton? Do you know anything about him?” There was a brief whine, and Tayatra spoke again.

“Patron Plinkerton kept a journal that he sometimes asked me to read, or write his words in. If it is no longer on Tayatra’s desk, than he has moved it somewhere else. I do not know where.”

Edmund looked at her desk. There was a small stack of books next to her outstretched hands that looked promising. Leaving the thread, he poked about through the books until he found what looked to be an ancient journal. This was confirmed when Edmund opened to the first page where it said, in brilliant calligraphy, ‘Plinkerton’s journal.’ He probably mentioned his son somewhere in his writings, so Edmund would just have to find it. The book was fairly large–too big for Edmund’s pockets–so he shoved it through the tapestry to read later.

Satisfied, he let that subject drop too, and continued to wind the threads back and forth around the alcove while talking with Tayatra about everything he could think of.