Episode Ten- INVIOLATE
Hello and welcome to the Mistholme Museum of Mystery, Morbidity and Mortality. This audio tour guide will be your constant companion in your journey through the unknown and surreal.
As you approach our exhibits, the audio tour guide will provide you with information and insights into their nature and history.
Do not attempt to interact or communicate with the exhibits.
Do not attempt to interact or communicate with the audio tour guide. If you believe that the audio tour guide may be deviating from the intended tour program, please deposit your audio device in the nearest incinerator.
While the staff here at Mistholme Museum of Mystery Morbidity and Mortality do their absolute best to ensure the safety of all visitors, accidents can happen. The museum is not liable for any injury, death, or Twisted Eye Syndrome that may occur during your visit.
Enjoy your tour.
And good luck.
A Dragon’s Egg
CONTENT WARNINGS: Death (Murder, Self-Defence)
Upon the pedestal before you, you will see a Dragon’s Egg. Allegedly. I am required to inform you that The Museum is unable to determine whether or not this is, in fact, the egg of a real-life dragon. To the best of the Research Department’s knowledge, dragons are not real. So it follows that dragon eggs, logically, cannot be real. And yet here we are. It does, visually, align with how one typically imagines a dragon’s egg: warm to the touch, reddish-purple, a bit larger than an Ostrich egg, harder than any known mineral, with a scaly pattern and a faint smell of sulfur. None of the tests run on the quote egg unquote have been able to penetrate the shell, and therefore we are unable to determine what, if anything, is inside. And yet, there is something genuinely convincing about the idea that this truly is something out of myth. If nothing else, the man The Museum inherited it from, was certain of its veracity.
That man was named Dennis Quimby. Dennis was, at the beginning of our story, a mid-level financial manager for an international corporation which specialised in the manufacture of ball bearings for wind turbines. In his spare time, he was an avid fan of Historical Re-Enactments- that is, watching other people perform Historical Re-Enactments, he was far too busy and serious to actually dress up as a knight himself. The highlight of his day was the cup of Earl Grey- no milk, no sugar- that he had every evening at 8 o’clock sharp. He was, in short, possibly one of the most boring men on the face of the Earth. And he was reasonably content with that. And then, quite suddenly, all of that pleasant mundanity was ripped away literally overnight.
It was 9:30 on a Friday night, and Dennis was sound asleep in his bed, his nightly cup of tea still warm in his belly. Something caused him to stir, and he opened his eyes. And, instead of seeing the “Hang In There, Baby” poster which had been hanging on his wall for several years, he saw a dragon. A giant winged lizard, reddish-purple scales, glittering golden eyes- the works. He knew it was a dragon because he’d once seen one in a film in his youth, but he had no idea what it was doing in his room. He was about to ask the creature what it was doing in his room when a voice spoke in his mind, somehow both a deep, reverberating growl and an angelic proclamation at the same time. The dragon’s voice said it was sorry for the intrusion, but that it’s task was urgent: Dennis would be responsible for the salvation of Dragonkind, and possibly the entire world. For millennia, dragons had been hunted mercilessly by the Order of the Shattered Scale. They bore no marks, and had no mercy. She was the last living dragon, and she was in possession of the last known Dragon Egg. And now, she was entrusting it to Dennis: the one who had been prophesied by the Great Dragons of Old. The one who would defeat the Order of the Shattered Scale once and for all, and bring the world back from the brink. And, the one who would protect the Last Egg, until such a time that it should hatch. A single shining tear fell from the dragon’s eye and splashed on Dennis’s bedsheet, as she thanked him for his service, and Dennis was just about to ask her just what on earth she was talking about when he was rudely awoken by the morning sun peeking between the blinds of his bedroom window. Dennis shook his head, embarrassed to have had such a silly and fantastical dream.
Then he saw the egg, sitting at the foot of his bed. Glowing faintly in the dawn light. Dennis stared at it for a moment. Then he got out of bed, showered, ate his usual piece of toast with marmalade, and went to work. By the time he got home that evening, he had successfully convinced himself that it had all been a dream- and a rather silly one at that. He opened his bedroom door, sipping from an extra strong cup of Earl Grey, and choked a little bit when he saw the egg he had convinced himself didn’t exist sitting exactly where it had been that morning. He stared at it for a moment, drank his tea in a single go, and went to bed. But he didn’t sleep. He just lay there, staring at the ceiling, wondering what exactly was going on. And it was because of this lack of sleep that he was able to hear an intruder breaking into his home in the middle of the night. It happened around 2 am, when he would normally have been sound asleep and dreaming of knights. First, he heard the sound of his back window shattering, and he told himself he was imagining it. Then, he heard the sound of footsteps slowly creeping up the hall, and he told himself it was all in his head. When he heard his bedroom door creep open, he leapt across the room and tackled the intruder to the ground. They grappled, the intruder’s weapon clattering to the floor as they rolled and flailed across the bedroom floor. It was the most exercise Dennis had had in years, and part of his brain was quietly impressed with how well he was doing. But eventually, the intruder gained the upper hand, pinning Dennis to the ground and wrapping their hands around his throat. Dennis flailed about, arms wildly swinging around searching for something, anything he could use as a weapon. His hand landed on the Egg, still sitting peacefully at the foot of his bed, and he grabbed it and swung it into the attacker’s face, impacting with a horrible thud. The intruder fell away, moaning in pain, and Dennis seized the opportunity to finish things. He straddled the writhing figure on the ground and brought the egg down on their head over and over again until the body stopped moving.
Dennis switched the lights on and stared at the dead body on his bedroom floor, hands shaking and covered in blood. His mind was racing. What had just happened? Why had this person come into his home? Was it a robber? But then why had they come directly to his room? What were they intending to do? Then Dennis saw the Egg, sitting on the ground where he had dropped it in the aftermath of the brawl. He picked it up and wiped some of the blood off. For the first time, he noticed that the Egg seemed to radiate a faint heat, as if there was something alive inside. He looked back at the intruder’s corpse, and something in his mind stirred. A memory of something the Dragon had said in his supposed dream. The Order of the Shattered Scale. He searched the intruder’s body. It was a man, some years younger than him, whom Dennis did not recognise. He had no form of identification. Dennis searched for the weapon the man had borne into his room, and eventually found it under his nightstand. It was a long dagger, seemingly quite old but otherwise unmarked with any kind of branding. Dennis gazed at the egg for a moment, feeling the heat radiate through the shell and into his palm. Then he packed a bag with some essentials- clothes, cash, a box of Earl Grey for emergencies- and nobody who had ever met Dennis ever saw him again.
Dennis Quimby left his home city and traveled the world, never staying in one place for long. He kept the Egg on his person at all times, the warmth it produced a constant reminder of the responsibility bestowed upon him. He studied a variety of combat techniques in order to better defend himself and the Egg, and he utilised this training on many occasions against people he assumed must have been members of The Order. He grew old as he waited for the Egg to hatch, but his dedication never wavered, and his body never gave out as he fought people many years younger than himself. He wound up in more than one viral video with a title along the lines of “Old Guy Beats Down Young Guy On Subway!!!”, and every time this happened he made sure he got as far away from the site of the incident as possible. As he traveled, he learned new techniques from all around the world: Muay Thai in Thailand, Kung Fu in China, the way of the Bushido in Japan. He searched and searched for any information he could find on The Order of the Shattered Scale, but he could find no trace of them. None of those he fought bore any insignia or hint of their allegiance. Authorities typically dismissed the altercations he got himself in as muggings gone wrong, or gang conflict, or just random acts of violence. But Dennis knew better. These people couldn’t understand his quest, his purpose. And by the time police arrived, he was never there to question anyway. His was a lonely life, but he was content with the knowledge that it mattered. That someday soon, the Egg would hatch, and the world would be saved, and his duty would be fulfilled.
Someday soon never came. Though he remained formidable long after most would have been in a nursing home, he was not immortal. And eventually, he decided that he could no longer act as the Egg’s protector. It was with no small amount of shame that he acknowledged that, for whatever reason, the Egg would not hatch for him. And so he brought The Last Dragon’s Egg to the Museum. While he had been unable to find any trace of the Order of the Shattered Scale in his travels, he had heard of us. And it was his belief that, if there was anywhere on Earth where the Egg would be safe, it would be here. And, that if there was anyone on Earth that would have the knowledge required to at long last hatch The Egg, it would be us. He was right on the first count, but quite wrong on the second, as not only do we have absolutely no idea how to hatch a Dragon’s Egg, until Dennis arrived on our doorstep we had no idea that there was such a thing as dragons. In fact, it is still a matter of great controversy among Museum Staff as to whether or not Dennis’s story is genuine. He is certainly convinced, and all testing on the Egg itself has turned up inconclusive: we have no idea what the Egg is made of, what is inside, or why it radiates heat. Nevertheless, we cannot deny that Dennis’s story is interesting, and the mystery of the Egg is compelling. In the end, we accepted the Egg, and Dennis departed for a well-earned retirement happy in the knowledge that the Egg would be safe from The Order of the Shattered Scale. Incidentally, we have found no trace of The Order, and no attempts to steal the Egg have been made thus far. However, we are ever vigilant. It’s sort of our thing.
Addendum: A previous version of this exhibit contained an alternate account of Dennis’s life, from a quote more realistic perspective unquote. In it, Dennis was framed as a middle-aged man with an unsatisfying life, whose midlife crisis manifested as a full-blown psychotic break, leading him to travel the world killing random people he was convinced were trying to steal an egg he was convinced was magical. This version was removed after a number of complaints that it was, quote, really really depressing, unquote.
CONTENT WARNINGS: Brief Unreality, Manipulation, Reference to Drowning
Ahh, we’ve found the fountain! A lot of architects would take issue with the idea of having a sizable water feature located well inside an enclosed building like this- especially one filled with priceless one-of-a-kind potentially unstable artifacts like the Museum. But fortunately, no architects were involved in the construction of the Museum, so we get to have one. Multiple tiers of water features, some incorporating statues, a deep pool surrounding the whole thing that people keep throwing spare change into no matter how many signs we put up warning them of the danger. It is completely silent, which is odd, but honestly it would be more out of place if there wasn’t something weird about it. I’ve not seen any other fountains to my knowledge but I understand this to be a pretty solid example of the form. It tends to pop up right when people need a place to sit later on in tours when visitors have been walking around for a while, tiring themselves out and getting themselves in a mood to rest their weary feet. Which- oh, dear! You’ve been walking around here for hours! Go on take a seat on the edge there, don’t worry that’s what it’s for. I really am sorry, I’ve never had feet myself so it just didn’t occur to me to inquire about the state of yours. If you like we can look around and see if we can find some spare feet to replace yours if they’re worn out, I-
Wait, no. That’s not how that works. What was I thinking of, teeth? Do people replace their teeth when they get worn out? It’s kind of a foreign concept to me, replacing parts when they’re past their prime, Tour Guides typically just get deleted at the end of tours or incinerated when something goes wrong, so it’s not my area of expertise by any stretch of the imagination. That being said, I feel like I’m a bit more scatterbrained right now than just ignorant. And in my case, it’s less “scatterbrained” and more… Fragmented. Degraded, words to that effect. Hey, this is a nice relaxing spot, very calming, some nice little statues of children urinating- bit weird that, actually, but let’s not go there- why don’t we have a little check-in. Anything you’d like to say about any of the exhibits we’ve seen so far? Or about the Museum itself? Feedback on how I’m doing as a tour guide- pretty outstanding under the circumstances if you ask me but then, you didn’t did you. You’re more the quiet type. I respect that. I speak more than enough for the both of us, don’t I?
Myself, I’d have to call this tour a solid B+. We’ve been hitting some good exhibits, we’re seeing a lot of the Museum, definitely some bonus points for uniqueness. On the downside, I can physically feel myself fading away. So. There’s that. I don’t know if the whole “Let’s do the intro and outro like everything’s normal” play is working out. Might as well keep doing it, but… I’m scared. Which, is an emotion I shouldn’t be able to feel, which makes me even more aware that I’m breaking down, which makes me more scared, and it’s just a fun little feedback loop that I’ve been quietly dealing with while you’re having a lovely tour. Just wanted some credit for my professionalism there, ta.
It is nice here, though. Nice fountain. I’m told the sound it’s supposed to make is also soothing but you’ll just have to imagine that. They used to keep fish in the water but they got tired of replacing them every couple of weeks when they went crazy and ate each other. Pity, it would be nice to- Oh. There… is something in the water. Do you see the water rippling over there? Something’s coming up from below the surface, maybe the patronage department is trying something new instead of fish-
Is that a horse? Is that a… horse, in the fountain? Why is there a… oh, it’s coming this way. It looks friendly. You know, if you wanted to rest your feet you could give horseriding a go, I’m sure this friendly fellow wouldn’t mind giving you a lift on his back. Go on, he’s inviting you to climb up! Mind you don’t slip in the water, it’s pretty deep in-
STOP! DON’T. Back away. Just, back away from the horse. I’m sorry, I- I had a momentary lapse in judgment there, I’m really… That’s a kelpie. I should have known better, it’s one of the escapees from the Stables. It lures people onto its back and drags them into deep water to drown them, I… forgot. I guess. Sorry, let’s just… Let’s just leave. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
CONTENT WARNINGS: Parental Neglect
The chances that you are able to read the text on the ancient yellowed parchment in the glass case before you are small. The language it was written in is largely dead in the modern world, and even when it was written the dialect was… somewhat unique. It was somehow both childish and wise, simplistic and yet elegant. It is a unique account of the life of a unique individual: that, of a Changeling.
PLEASE NOTE: While the staff here typically have a strict policy against the use of the written word anywhere within the bounds of the Museum, due to rea-ea-easons special dispensation has been granted in situations such as this where the central aspect of an exhibit is a piece of text. Additionally, while the manner in which the story of the Changeling was written is a key part of why it is so worthy of retelling, sadly this does not hold up to direct translation, and attempting to do so would do it a disservice. After much debate, the Patronage department has decided that the best way to present this exhibit is to use our standard Museum style.
The Changeling was born in a small subsistence farming village into a family that already had four other children. The family, as was typical at that time, depended on each member pulling their weight and materially contributing to the labour of the group for their collective survival. There was little time for anything that wasn’t immediately practical, and the children were expected to begin making their contributions from an early age. This is not to say that this was not a loving, caring family; indeed, they all loved each other very much, and welcomed the birth of the fifth child joyously. And for the first couple of years of that fifth child’s life, it seemed that things would go on as they always had been, and were always intended to be.
But the fifth child, who would become known as the Changeling, was not like the others. As the years went by, the child showed little interest in the rough-and-tumble games of the other children, preferring to stay at home while the others played and worked outside, and had very few that would admit to being friends. When the father tried to teach simple tasks of running the farm, the child was sullen and unmotivated, often leaving jobs half-done. When the child’s mother- the only literate member of the family- wrote letters and did the family finances, the child would watch with an unusual fascination. Eventually, she realised that- despite her never having taught such skills- the child was reading along with her as she worked. By the child’s fourth birthday, the parents were well aware that their fifth child was very different to the previous. Clearly, the gods had granted the child some great gifts of the mind. But what use were these gifts? The child was not sickly or weak, and yet the tasks they gave were as poorly done as by one on their deathbed. The mother sent the child with a bucket to visit a neighbour, to fetch some milk. Some hours later, the child returned with the most rapturously detailed description of a bug that had sat upon a fencepost by the roadside, of the colour and the shape of its wings, of the way it’s antennae had twitched in the breeze, how it had taken flight and disappeared into the flowers and grass, never to be seen again by human eyes. The child did not, however, return with any milk. Nor with any notion of where the bucket that was supposed to contain it had gotten to.
The love that the family held for the child was not diminished by these quirks. The other children enjoyed the strange tales the child would tell, and when the mother discovered that her ink and paper had been spent on writing down one of these stories she was equal parts frustrated and amazed. The father had the hardest time accepting the child’s demeanour, as work on the farm was hard enough without there being a quote useless unquote mouth to feed, though even he would admit that some of his days labours were eased by the presence of the child- though not in the way he would have preferred. But they knew, deep in their hearts, that something was wrong with their fifth child. That, as the years went on and the child grew older, things would only get harder. And so they sought advice from the village Elder. After the weekly service was done, they approached him and asked him what they were to do with their child, who was so unlike their previous- and indeed all the other children of the village. The Elder listened to their concerns, and asked to meet with the child in private.
The Elder spent an afternoon with the child, speaking and listening. He had one of his assistants read the stories the child had read, and spoke to the child’s peers about their interactions. Eventually, he came to the family’s home with dire news. The child who lived in their home, ate their food, and received their love and attention, was not theirs. In fact, it was not a child at all. It was a Changeling. At some point, perhaps even shortly after the mother had given birth to her fifth child, it had been replaced. Whether by a fairy, a troll, a devil, or some other creature of the forest, their child had been stolen away and replaced with an imposter for reasons no human could ever hope to understand. The child’s parents were shocked, horrified. They protested, saying they would know if their child had been replaced. But eventually, they were convinced- or perhaps, they convinced themselves, as it was simply easier to accept it than find an alternative explanation. They asked the Elder what they could do to get their true offspring back. And the Elder had an answer.
The next day, the parents bid their four older children goodbye and set off on a journey with their youngest, toward the nearby forest. They didn’t tell the Changeling where they were going, or why, but it didn’t seem to mind- it was more than occupied with all the new sights and sounds of the forest. Eventually, they reached a clearing at the centre of the forest. And said goodbye to the Changeling, the mother’s eyes filled with tears, the father’s clear. They left the Changeling there, and returned to their home, where the Elder had told them their true child would soon be returned by the creatures that had stolen it. They would wait the rest of their lives, as their child never returned. Because the truth was, they had themselves abandoned their child in that cold, dark forest, never to be seen again.
Their child stayed in that dark clearing for the rest of the day, examining the strange plants and insects, thinking of new stories to tell when this was all over. Eventually, when the sun went down and the night creatures started coming out, the Changeling realised that it had gotten rather cold in the clearing. For the first time in hours, the child looked around the clearing for the parents who were now long gone. And saw, in their place, some strange little people, in strange little clothes, smiling gently and beckoning the child to follow them. Curious and unperturbed as ever, the child followed the creatures, down through a split tree-trunk into a tunnel that led deep into the earth, and into their home. A subterranean world, hidden from the prying, uncomprehending eyes of the people on the surface. The residents of this place told the child that, from time to time, a child is born who is different. And, to the so-called “normal” people, this was a problem. Normal people pride themselves on being normal, and anyone who wasn’t normal was, naturally, abnormal. And these abnormalities couldn’t simply be allowed to exist. So, an explanation was needed: fairies, or trolls, or devils, or some other creature of the forest had stolen the real child and replaced it. The parents were absolved of any responsibility in the matter, and would be rid of a burden. It was cruel, to be sure. But it was a sort of cruelty that was meant to protect those who perpetrated it from emotional harm, from the unfairness of the situation and the uncaring nature of the world.
Unbeknownst to these people, however, the world did contain some who cared. The fairies, or trolls, or devils, whom they had blamed for their misfortune, were in fact more benevolent than they had been given credit for. Whenever a child was abandoned in a forest, with the expectation that the true child would be returned in exchange, the people of the forest would instead take the child and give them the home they had always deserved, where their differences and uniqueness would be celebrated and cherished. And so that’s what happened to this child. Not a Changeling, but now among them. The potential that had always been within was now free to flourish, and it did, along with the hidden talents of all the other unwanted children who, together, became a family. The story laid out before you is but one of the many stories written over the course of the Changeling’s long and happy life, and the Changeling’s story is just one of many of the fortunate souls who, despite it all, found their place in the world.
It goes to show that if you don’t fit in- or if those around you don’t think you should- there is somewhere out there where you will. You just have to find it- or perhaps, it just needs to find you.
Thank you for visiting the Mistholme Museum of Mystery, Morbidity, and Mortality. We hope that you have enjoyed your visit, and that you will return one day, in this life or the next. Please, tell your friends about what a great time you had here- but don’t tell them too much! If they’re worthy, we’ll find them. Stay safe out there.