The Clock Statue

The clock itself, Edmund had to admit, was rather striking. The sculptor had gone out of his way to carve minute whorls and spirals in the clock to give the white stone the appearance of ashen wood. The pendulum hung crosswise, frozen in mid swing, while the numbers were carved in a beautiful script. The hands themselves were covered by a glass window, attached with a realistic looking hinge.

As soon as Edmund looked closer, he saw what he had expected–the hinge was real, painted to look like stone, and a tiny keyhole sat on the edge of the frame. Edmund reached as high as he could to slip the tiny key from the gargoyle’s mouth into the hole, just managing it.

He twisted the key gently, and the glass window opened with a click. Edmund smiled as he saw that the hands, which had been so exquisitely carved to look like part of the stone face, were in fact painted iron and could rotate about the face.

The rain and thunder crashed down on top of Edmund as he stood, staring at the large granite statue. The cold wind pushed at him, twisting and winding through the holes in the hedges, but he would not move no more than would the clock statue.

‘The time my child first cried,’ went the poem, Edmund recalled. Lucky that he had spent so much time pouring over the journal for clues about the Mechanus Vitae.

Reaching up to the face of the clock, he cast his mind back to Plinkerton’s journal, and the entry about his son: Rotchild had been born at seven twenty-three. Carefully, he moved the hinged hands on the clock to seven twenty-three. Stepping back, Edmund waited in the pouring rain.

Nothing happened.

Was there something he had forgotten? ‘When lightning fills the sky,’ was the next part, but that was obviously about when Rotchild was born.

Was it?

A hunch building in his mind, Edmund’s eyes locked onto the very top of Moulde Hall, barely visible over the tops of the hedges.

After only a few seconds, with a crack that almost split his ears, a bolt of lightning struck the western pole on the roof of Moulde Hall. Deep in the building, thought Edmund, the large copper wire traveled down the chimney to the furnace in the cellar, and then into the ground. It had been there for years to protect the building from lightning strikes. Perhaps Plinkerton had put it there himself. Edmund had assumed the cable ended there.

Now, Edmund could imagine the lightning traveling through the building, and then just after the wire sank the ground, it turned to the side, and traveled down the hill, heading straight for where he was standing.

For a moment, nothing happened, and then a tinny gong echoed from the statue, and the sound of a crying bird drifted through the air. There was a loud grinding, and Edmund watched as the grandfather clock slowly moved aside on small brass wheels, revealing a long dark stairway heading into the depths of Haggard Hill.

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Braving The Maze Once More

He ran outside towards the maze, a small black umbrella open over his head to protect him a little from the rain, and a small crank-operated lantern in his hand. It was hard going–the wind was strong and it tried to either blow the umbrella out of his hands or to throw soot filled rain in his face.

It was almost too easy. ‘Beneath an unkindly hour,’ Edmund reflected as he ran outside towards the decrepit maze. Ordinarily, he wouldn’t have given the line a second thought, except for the mention of the Cavalcadium hidden ‘under the foundation.’ If Plinkerton had hidden the Cavalcadium under a clock, he would have had to us a clock he knew would stick around.

Edmund came up short as he reached the entrance of the large dilapidated hedge maze. He wished he had paid more attention the first time he had stepped into the hedge. Now, with lightning streaking across the sky, he wasn’t sure he could find the statues that lined one of the many twisting paths.

Nevertheless, he had to try. Squaring his shoulders, he stepped past the stone skeletal sentries and pushed into the dark maze.

At first he walked randomly, jumping through holes and taking turns without forethought or concern. The moon gave little light, and what perception was gained by the lack of mist was lost again in the darkness. Edmund had a lantern, and would have used it, but he didn’t want anyone to glance out a window in the Hall, see his light, and then perhaps decide to investigate. Luckily, the lightning provided brief glimpses of the path ahead, and helped Edmund recognize paths he had taken before.

Finally, a bright flash of lightning illuminated the rows of statues on a path on the other side of a small hole in the hedge. Edmund squeezed through, and began looking for Plinkerton’s statue.

He hadn’t looked carefully the first time he saw the statues, being far more interested in the maze itself. Now he saw each one with astonishing clarity, and a new understanding. These weren’t a part of the landscape like trees or flowers. Each one had been put here by someone, for some reason. A sundial held by bones, a skeleton in white-tie holding a cane, they all had been created and placed like furniture. And some…

Edmund stood in front of the large statue of the grandfather clock surrounded by ravens. At first he had thought the dark ravens were merely huddling around the tall clock, but as he looked closer he could see the looks in their eyes. Each one was staring intently at the clock, mouths open in aggressive spite. These were not birds that had lit on a flat surface to rest, but furious ones, that had been caught up in the violent passage of time. Edmund sighed to himself. It was a bit of a stretch, the sort of thing only a poet would recognize.

He wondered briefly what a group of ravens was called.

The Key From Kahmlichimus

When Edmund stepped off the elevator, he had already begun to hear another storm brewing. Distant thunder and the faint tentative taps of a slight rain echoed through the roof into the fifth floor. Edmund took a deep breath as he knocked gently on the tower door.

The door swung open. Edmund paused, staring into the dark stairwell. The door had never been left unlatched before. He wondered if the Thing was out wandering between the walls of Moulde Hall.

He stepped into the middle of the round room, listening to the strengthening rain and deepening thunder. A flash of lightning lit the room as Edmund turned to look at the large gargoyle statue. It didn’t look as frightening as it had before, Edmund thought. Even in the darkness with the mouth hanging wide, it seemed somehow smaller to Edmund now. He remembered how large it had seemed when he first saw it–how strong and angry. He remembered the mouth had…

Memento Mori…the mouth of memory…

Edmund stepped closer to the stone statue. He remembered he had seen a gleam in the teeth. Looking at the statue now, he could see it was a rough granite–not shiny at all. But the gleam had to have come from somewhere…

Leaning closer and twisting his head, Edmund could just make out something metallic in the beast’s mouth. Carefully, he slipped his hand between the large stone teeth, and felt about until a small piece of metal had slipped off a delicate stone hook, and was now in his hand. It was a tiny key.

Another key? What did this one unlock?

Edmund stared at the steady gaze of the Gran Gargoyle. He had the key — the key that would lead him to the Cavalcadium of Fortune. He was one step closer to his goal, and if there was anything he was certain of, it was where he needed to go next.

‘Walk the winding path,’ Tayatra had said. Edmund almost felt insulted.

 

The Mansion struck ten in the evening.

Edmund gripped the tiny key in his hand as the rolling storm clouds crept over the city, blanketing the smog and making everything darker still. The black rain fell fast and hard, splattering against the hundreds of windows in the walls of Moulde Hall, with a sound like irregular clockwork.

It had only taken Edmund a few moments to make his way down to the basement, and the side door that led out into the gardens. And now, he stood in the open doorway, staring out into the shadowy mists. It was time, and Edmund was ready.

He wasn’t positive he was correct, but he couldn’t help but feel confident. He had to be right–it was exactly what he would have done. A flash of lightning lit the world a brilliant blue as Edmund’s heart began to beat faster and faster. The air was electric, sending tingling energy though his body. He felt like he had just before he had given Matron his poem to read at the orphanage, or fit the Mechanus Vitae into Tayatra. He was about to experience something important.

Mrs. Kippling Trusts

“Do you understand how hard that is for me to trust someone? In this house?”
“I think so,” Edmund admitted.

“Well you don’t,” she shook her head. “You haven’t seen half the things I have, nor dealt with people half as viscous. You think the family is bloodthirsty now… well… It was worse eighty years ago!”

“I’m sure it was.”

“Begging-your-pardon,” Mrs. Kippling looked at Edmund with red-rimmed eyes, “but no…you aren’t! You never had to deal with the madness of Matron Victrola, or… or Grunder…”

Mrs. Kippling paused, and took a deep breath. Shaking her head slowly, she reached into her bosom, almost to the elbow. After two quick tugs, she pulled a thick yellowed letter out of her blouse, and held it out to Edmund.

“Patron Plinkerton gave me this letter before he died. He said it were a prophesy, and I was to give it to whoever were going to save the family.”

“Are there instructions on how to find the Cavalcadium?” Edmund asked, reaching for the thick yellowed letter.

“Well…sort of,” Mrs. Kippling said, uncomfortably. “In that it probably doesn’t. No, I’m sure it doesn’t. It’s… he made it sound a little personal, maybe? I’m sure I haven’t read it, it’s-not-my-place–You can see the seal is still there.”

Mrs. Kippling pointed a finger at the letter. Edmund turned it over to see the red wax seal; an ornate ‘P’ that obviously marked the correspondence as from Plinkerton’s own hand. It was heavy–heavier than he thought it should be, considering how long ago it had been written.

His finger traced the misshapen blob of wax. Just pop the seal, and he would learn what Plinkerton had wanted him to do.

He looked up at Mrs. Kippling. “No thanks,” he said.

“What?” Mrs. Kippling said, after a momentary pause. “But… but it’s the prophesy!”

“I don’t care,” Edmund shrugged, setting the letter down on the table. He thought a moment, and then nodded. “I think I’m done with adults giving me the answers. If it’s prophesy, than it will happen whether I read it or not. If it isn’t, than it’s not important. Either way, I’d just as soon not read it.”

“But it’s about you!” Mrs. Kippling protested. “At least it could be, and it could tell you what you’re going to do next!”

“Then you read it,” Edmund said, walking to the door. “Then I won’t have to come back and tell you what I’ve done. Besides, I think I already know what I’m going to do next. Thank you for your help, I think you informed me of something very important.”

“I did?” Mrs. Kippling stood dumbly in the dark kitchen as Edmund pushed open the door and headed for the elevator.

A Secret Reveled

“Oh, well, I must have misspoke,” Mrs. Kippling stammered, keeping her back to Edmund as she selected an onion and began to slice it slowly. “Begging-your-pardon, I meant Matron’s daughter. Her name was Victrola too, named after her great-great-”

“Her name was Riiana–I found it in the Moulde Family records,” Edmund pressed on, his eyes beginning to sting from the onion. “I don’t think you’re telling me the truth. I think you’ve been House-Keeper at least since Plinkerton. I think you made him soup–the same soup you make for me. He spilled some, you see, on a book he was writing in, and it’s the same shade of color, even after so many years, as the spill I made in my book.”

“It’s an old recipe, passed down from house-keeper to house-keeper.”

“Which one?” Edmund said. “I didn’t say which soup it was.”

Mrs. Kippling sighed, her shoulders sagging. Edmund’s eyes were watering from the onion so badly he had to wipe his face, and when he opened his eyes again, Mrs. Kippling was directly in front of him her sharp knife glittering in the stove light.

“You are clever,” she said, sadly. “Almost as clever as Patron Plinkerton. He was a great man, he was. He never did anything mean or crazy–he was as kind as could be. I hear all his descendants call him the first of the worst, and it breaks my heart, it does. He cared for his children, and his wife, and… and his servants.” She lifted her left hand to the stove light and looked at it as if she could peer through it and study its bones. “He fixed my hand when the accident burned it almost completely away. He gave Master Rotchild his sight back when he poured liniment in his own eye… and when my heart gave out…”

Mrs. Kippling sighed again, and a dreamy look spread across her face like an advancing cloud front. “He was clever, but not always right, you see. He started my heart up again–gave me some jolt or elixir or some such–and it hasn’t stopped yet. He always did say he wasn’t sure he followed his notes just right… So I’ve been serving the family ever since.” The dim light flickered in the knife, catching Edmund’s eye. “And now you’ve found me out, what are you going to do about it?”

“Nothing,” Edmund said, his voice steady.

The knife dipped in surprise as Mrs. Kippling’s mouth fell open. “Nothing?” she asked. “Begging-your-pardon, But… you aren’t going to bleed me? Matron Isaybel kept threatening to sell my blood at fifty a bottle.”

“Why would I do that?”

“You are a Moulde,” Mrs. Kippling let a smile flicker across her face.

“Now that doesn’t mean anything,” said Edmund, crossing his arms. “Does Matron know?”

“No,” Mrs. Kippling said, after a moment of thought. “I don’t think so. She tries to ignore the staff. She’s a proper lady, she is.”

Edmund nodded. Now he needed to ask the real questions.

The Mysterious Mrs. Kippling

Edmund sat in the kitchen, waiting on the edge of the counter with his legs crossed beneath him. He knew he wouldn’t have to wait long; he had paid very close attention to Mrs. Kippling’s daily schedule.

Sure enough, he had only been waiting a few minutes before he heard a rattling at the door. Mrs. Kippling was trying to unlock the already unlocked door to begin the day’s breakfast. It had been an easy lock to open, Edmund reflected. He almost wondered why she bothered locking it at all. Perhaps this door was older than all the other ones he had practiced on, or perhaps the humours flowing through his body were guiding his hands, his nerves focusing his thoughts.

After a few moments of confused fumbling, the door opened tentatively, revealing Mrs. Kippling standing at the ready, her fingers balled into tight fists, ready to strike should it prove necessary. She may have only been a house-keeper, Edmund mused, but she kept a house filled with Mouldes, and to keep that job she must have known how to be careful.

When she saw Edmund, sitting on the counter, she almost laughed in surprise.

“Master Edmund,” she gasped, her fingers relaxing. “Begging-your-pardon. You scared me half to death!”

“I’m sorry,” he said, keeping his eyes on hers. She brushed her hands on her apron and walked into the room, heading for the large soup pot that sat prepared to cook on the stove.

“I must have forgotten to lock the door,” she said, half to herself. “I’m getting old, I suppose.”

“I think you’re old already,” Edmund said. Mrs. Kippling gasped, turning to face him with a wounded look on her face.

“Now, Master Edmund, It’s-not-my-place, but that was a cruel, spiteful thing to say.”

“I am a Moulde,” he shrugged.

“Now that doesn’t mean anything,” Mrs. Kippling sniffed, turning away from his gaze to grab at her utensils. “It’s-not-my-place, but I’ve known quite a few Mouldes that weren’t plain rude like that. Kolb isn’t vile at all, and Matron was quite nice when she was younger.”

“And you knew Plinkerton, didn’t you?” Edmund asked.

Mrs. Kippling stopped, her hands poised over the handles of the knife chandelier. Slowly, her hand began to move again, selecting a long thin blade and drawing it carefully from the wheel.

“Now what makes you think a silly thing like that?” She said, too casually. Edmund smiled.

“I missed it at first, but a long time ago, when we were talking about Kahmlichimus, the Gran Gargoyle, you said you spoke to Matron Victrola about it–but she was Matron’s Grandmother. You’d have to be at least a hundred years old to have spoken to her at all, much less given her advice.”

The Golden Leaf

His first instinct was to return to the library and look for a book trimmed, or perhaps even written, in gold leaf. He had seen at least one book in the library that had been cut out, and an empty pewter flask hidden away inside. It was not much of a stretch to imagine a book holding a key of some kind.

It would be an impossible task to search through all the books though, but again, what other gold leaf could something be written in except —

With the sudden relief that could only come from a resolved puzzle, Edmund reached into his pocket and pulled out the small gold leaf he had found on the brass tree.

‘Memento Mori,’ the leaf said. This was the key.

What did it mean?

Edmund kicked at his desk in frustration. He was getting somewhere, he knew, but so slowly! He was working through a puzzle step by step, like a cautious puppy exploring a mire. Plinkerton must have been adamant that only someone worthy would reach his Cavalcadium of Fortune. Taking a deep breath, Edmund calmed his humours down. He aimed to be worthy, no matter how long it took.

He turned the leaf over and over again, thinking as hard as he could. This wasn’t just a signature, it was a clue. Remembering he would die was somehow a key to finding the Cavalcadium. A hint.

After a few minutes of considering his own demise, Edmund reconsidered. Maybe it wasn’t remembering he would die, but the words themselves. Where had he seen the phrase before?

A shiver ran down Edmund’s spine as he remembered the massive stone gargoyle that lurked in the east tower. Was there some connection between the Gran Gargoyle and Plinkerton’s puzzle? He wished there was someone around he could ask about the large statue, but it had been so long ago since it had sat above the entry to Moulde Hall…

Edmund stopped as the small voice in his head finally succeeded in grabbing his attention. Kahmlichimus. Slowly, pieces of thought began to connect in his mind.

Had he really known for so long, and just not pieced it together? It had been almost a month!

Pulling Plinkerton’s journal from his pocket, Edmund flipped through the pages once more, ignoring the words, this time, and looking instead at the stains. Finally he found what he was looking for; a large stain that covered almost a fourth of a page.

A flicker of memory sparked through his brain. At first he hadn’t recognized the stain, but now that he did he couldn’t believe what he was seeing–it was impossible. Dropping Plinkerton’s journal, he picked up his own notebook, and furiously flipped through the pages, desperately trying to remember what days he had written in his notebook during his meals.

There it was. He slammed the notebook down next to the journal and looked back and forth, comparing the two pages until he was certain. There was no mistake.

He did have someone he could ask after all.

An Empty Stomach

Edmund waited for several minutes, but the tension on the string did not lessen. His heart began to beat faster as his hopes became clearly unfounded. Tayatra had said her piece, and would say no more.

Slowly, tears stinging his eyes, Edmund lowered Tayatra’s head back down to the desk, a small clunk echoing through the library.

His friend was gone.

Edmund’s heartbeat thudding in his chest. He wanted to hug the still statue, though he wasn’t entirely sure why.

As the sobering drought of failure settled over Edmund, he realized he would have to leave to dress for dinner soon. He didn’t feel like eating ever again. His stomach was empty and hollow, but it felt right somehow, and Edmund wanted to protect that emptiness.

The rest of his mind in turmoil, he begrudgingly shoved Plinkerton’s journal into his pocket, and began to climb the stairs to head for his room.

Perhaps he was simply distracted, he rationalized to himself as his heavy feet pushed themselves upwards. Once he had eaten he would be more focused and alert. He would be able to do something then, he promised to himself.

He wouldn’t just leave his friend like that, would he? Of course not. No knight would ever do such a thing.

By the time the door to the elevator clanged shut, and the cylindrical room shuddered into motion, Edmund’s melancholy had turned to resolve. He wasn’t going to give up; 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.

When Edmund’s hand reached his door’s handle, a flash of inspiration finally burst through his cloud of despair.

The poem.

Edmund ran into his room and grabbed at the pen and paper on his desk. The Cavalcadium of Fortune was Plinkerton’s treasure trove, wasn’t it? It had to be. And if there was anything that would hold some key or clue to fixing Tayatra, it would be hidden there.

He wrote down the poem as quickly as he could before it vanished from his memory. Every once in a while he had to pause and think about the words he had heard, but he eventually managed to write down the poem to his satisfaction. He read and re-read the poem several times, but it didn’t make much sense to him at first. It was obviously allegorical, but beyond that…

At least he had it, Edmund thought, and if there was any clue to repairing his friend, it had to lie in these strange words, and he was no newcomer to translating poetry.

He thought hard, ruminating over the poem, tossing the words about in his mind, turning them over and over, looking at them in different lights and searching for words unsaid.

The Hidden Poem of Patron Plinkerton

Fighting through his ennui, Edmund stared at Plinkerton’s journal where it lay, half open, on the floor. What did Plinkerton say he had done to her? He had put his words in her? Edmund flipped to the entry and read it for a fourth time. Yes, that’s what he had said; he had stolen into the library and put words in her. And somehow these words would save the Family?

When Edmund had first read those words, he had simply assumed that he had spoken to Tayatra and given her wisdom that would help future Heirs become good Patrons and Matrons. He had thought that fixing Tayatra had been enough.

Now, he wasn’t so sure. She had looked like a statue possessed, speaking words that didn’t sound like her own. Perhaps those words were the key to saving the Family.

Well, Edmund thought, then he needed to get those words out.

How?

Logically, Plinkerton had no idea who would find his words, so it probably didn’t involve dismantling Tayatra, or anything complex that might require education. At the same time, it also wouldn’t be something common that could be done or said in her presence by anyone and reveal the secret to the wrong person.

Edmund flipped to the last page of his notebook, gripping a pen in his fingers. Tayatra was designed to read, so the key must be something written. She had started to speak when she thought she read the word Cavalcadium, and then stopped part way though. If it was reading one word with sloppy handwriting that broke her, perhaps the complete phrase written cleanly would start her again.

As carefully and slowly as he could with his heart racing, he wrote out the words ‘Cavalcadium’ in big block letters–easy to read. He looked at it, and after a moment he added ‘of Fortune’ right after it. When he was finished, he placed the book on the desk next to Tayatra’s head. Tracing the net of string with his eyes to the back wall, he grabbed a single string and pulled down as hard as he could.

It was easier than he had feared, after trying to move Tayatra on his own and finding her so heavy. The pulleys squeaked gently as he pulled, and Tayatra’s torso lifted slowly until she was sitting straight up, her arms and head dangling heavily in the web of string. Reaching with his free hand, he nudged the book in front of Tayatra, and slowly lowered her torso again, bringing her head over the words he had written.

For a moment, nothing happened. Then, Tayatra’s voice, low and steady, echoed around the alcove like an angel’s message.

“Brought forth from the glory,
Hidden under the foundation,
Your Cavalcadium of Fortune lies.
The Key is writ in golden leaf,
From the mouth of memory,
Walk the winding path.
Beneath an unkindly hour,
The time my child first cried,
When lightning fills the sky,
Reveals the back way to history.
The wise shall see their reward,
The Cavalcadium of Fortune is thine.
Reap thy just reward.”

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.