Episode Eleven- LOST
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 keelhauling that may occur during your visit.
Enjoy your tour.
And good luck.
A Clockwork Mother
In this exhibit you will see a girl made of brass, whose features were clearly crafted with love. If you examine the seams between the segments of her body, you will observe that her insides are filled with incredibly intricate clockwork mechanisms and workings- however, they are quite still. The girl has not moved, and her mechanisms have not ticked, in many years.
The Clockwork Girl was built as a replacement for- wait. Did you hear that? Footsteps. Close, heavy. We’d best find a place to hide. Keep going down that corridor, there’s usually an alcove around there. Whatever it is it’s getting closer so we’d best just take cover and hope it passes by. Ok, it’s getting close. If you have to breathe, try not to do it too loudly. It’s- Oh. It’s her.
You might already know this story if you’ve visited the Museum before, but the Clockwork woman at the end of the hall is known around here as The Clockwork Mother, or just Mother. She’s the mother, sort of, of the Clockwork Girl in the case that I was just about to tell you about. These days she works as a Security Officer for the Museum, tirelessly patrolling the halls of the Museum on the lookout for anyone or anything that might pose a threat to the Museum or its exhibits. One exhibit in particular. It makes sense that she’d still be out here. Many Alternatural Phenomena that could pose a threat to the staff here would pose far less danger for her, and even if she was in danger she’d likely stay outside anyway, to make sure nothing happened to her daughter. Judging by some of the damage we’ve been seeing in this area she’s likely had her work cut out for her.
It’s probably for the best if we don’t approach her. It’s very possible that she’d be able to strike you down before you had time to explain why and how you came to be wandering the halls of the Museum 3 months into a full lockdown- again, something I’d also like to know- and it would be difficult to blame her. She is terrifyingly effective when she needs to be, especially when her Daughter is involved. Despite everything that’s happening here, she still takes time to make her way back to her daughter’s case, put a hand to the glass, and reassure her still and silent form that her mother is still here. That she still loves her. That she’s not going anywhere. It wouldn’t be right to interrupt that.
For now, let’s just be thankful that Mother is still here, doing the best she can to keep the exhibits under control. Who knows how dangerous this tour would be if it weren’t for her. If you ever make your way back here after things get back to normal, I’m sure another Audio Tour Guide will be more than happy to tell you all about the Clockwork Girl’s story. I warn you, it’s not the most uplifting of stories.
But then again, in The Museum, stories rarely are.
A Wooden Crown
CONTENT WARNINGS: Endangerment of a Child, War,
Upon the cushion in this cabinet you will see a crown made of wood. It is somewhat crudely carved, and is cracked and weathered with age. It is easy to discern that it was whittled with a knife, and that it was made by a child likely comes as no surprise. What may be surprising, however, is the fact that it is not a toy, or a playtime costume. There was a time, long ago, where the boy who carved this crown wore it atop his head as part of his royal attire, as king of all he surveyed.
It is unclear how long ago the boy was born. Hundreds of years have passed, certainly, but beyond that we can only speculate. The tale of the Little King, as he came to be known, has passed down through the generations and as such been subject to a great deal of apocryphal retelling and mythologising; however, the basic facts have remained consistent, and there are some contemporary accounts that verify those details. The Little King was born into a small, unremarkable village, on a small island in an expansive archipelago which was home to many small, unremarkable villages. While trade between the many micronations of the region was frequent, relations were uneasy, with each group equally distrusting of the next. Every time peace was brokered between two tribes, it was short-lived, whether due to lingering distrust between their people, a conflict over resources or territory, or a premeditated betrayal. By the time of our story, the notion of peace was akin to a fairy-tale: something believed in only by children, that adults had long since dismissed as nothing more than a fantasy.
But one day, a member of one of these tribes decided that he had had enough of the conflict between the peoples of the islands that he called home, and declared that he would be the one to unite them under a banner of peace. And, fittingly, this childish dream was that of a child. A precocious and high-spirited boy whose name has been lost to time, he carved a crude crown from a piece of scrap wood and announced to his village that he was their king, and one day he would be king of all the islands in the ocean. His new subjects responded with laughter- not mocking, or even mean-spirited. It was simply the laughter that comes naturally when a child says something precocious and silly and childish. But the Little King was not joking. In all his young life, he had never been more serious about anything. Thus, he decided that regardless of whether or not his people believed in him and his royal credentials, he would bring about the peace that he dreamt of. And later that same night, while the rest of his village was sound asleep, he crept to the water’s edge where the canoes laid in the sand, took up an oar, and paddled out into the calm, quiet water, in the direction of the nearest inhabited island, to introduce himself to his next group of subjects.
While the Little King was more than familiar with the ocean he had never before attempted to row quite such a distance as he attempted that night alone. He was little more than halfway to his destination when a wave caught his little boat by surprise and he found himself in the sea. He struggled vainly to keep his head above water, his little legs kicking away beneath him, struggling to find purchase on a sea bed far too far below for him to reach. The Little King had thought himself a strong swimmer, but for the first time in his life he began to grasp the enormity and unknowable depths of the ocean.
The Little King would surely have drowned that night, had it not been for the lucky intervention of a night fisherman from a nearby island. The sailor pulled the child’s small, cold body into his canoe, baffled by the sight of a crude crown on his head, and asked what he was doing all the way out here. The boy explained that he was king of his island, and that he would soon be king of all the islands in the ocean, including the fisherman’s. Then he paused for a moment. And asked the fisherman which island he was from. The fisherman was still laughing when he pulled the boat ashore on his island, his mirth bringing people from their homes to see what the commotion was. The laughter proved infectious, but the Little King was unfazed. He knew that they would come to respect his rule, sooner or later. For now, they could laugh.
Having told the people of this island that he was to be their king, the boy requested use of a boat. The fisherman proudly told him that his fortune tonight was double: the island he now found himself on was home to the best boatwrights in all the known world, and they would be happy to lend him use of one of their fine canoes- on the unspoken expectation that the boy’s family would repay the debt many times over. The boy happily failed to grasp this implication, of course, and paddled back out into the ocean in his canoe: a gift from his first batch of new subjects. He set his sights on another island of future citizens of his great Kingdom, and paddled away into the night. Come morning, his arms were aching almost as much as his belly, and he realised that he probably should have brought some food with him. Then he chided himself: why should he bring his own food, when he had an entire kingdom of subjects who would surely be eager to open their kitchens to him? He got out of his fancy new boat, strode up the beach, and rapped sharply on the door of the nearest house. The woman who opened the door was somewhat surprised to find a strange, unfamiliar boy, wearing a crown and tattered clothes on her doorstep, claiming to be her new king and requesting refreshment for his journey. Soon, most of the town- including their chief- had gathered at the house to witness this curiosity. As he ate the food the woman offered him- which was absolutely delicious, by the way- he explained to the people of this island that he was their new king. And that he was building, island by island, a new world of everlasting peace. His story elicited good-natured laughter from the villagers, but he was not deterred; once he had said his piece, he took the bundle of food that his new subjects had prepared for him- the best food in the whole archipelago, they insisted proudly- and made his way back to his boat, bidding them a fond adieu as he set off for the next island in his kingdom.
By the time he reached the next island, the sun was high in the sky, and he had worked up quite a sweat from his rowing, soaking his clothes and mingling with the saltwater. As he pulled in at the docks, he saw the people who came to greet him wrinkling their noses at his smell, and glancing at his ragged clothes with a sceptical eye. Without missing a beat, the boy overcame his momentary embarrassment by leaning into his newfound sense of kingly entitlement: he locked eyes with a man he took to be the town’s leader and instructed him to bring some fresh clothes. The people around him froze, stunned at the insolence of the child. Then the chief laughed broadly, and waved to someone to do as the boy had instructed. As the Little King slipped into his new shirt and trousers, he commented with surprise at their quality. The town’s leader smiled proudly and responded that his people made the best clothing in all the known world. The boy smiled back, and responded that this island would make a fine addition to his kingdom. The island’s chief didn’t know quite how to respond to that.
The rest of the Little King’s island-hopping tour of his realm went along the same line, and went on for many more days. On each island, he would introduce himself to the locals as their new king, ignore their incredulity, and sample their unique wares and culture. He came to understand that, for all their similarities, each and every one of the islands had their own unique qualities, and that they were all equally proud of what they made. The people of one island made the best weaponry; another, tamed wild animals; another still made musical instruments, that produced sounds unlike any the Little King had ever heard. He came to understand that, as king, he would need to understand each and every one of these different people’s perspectives, their needs, and what made them who they were. And he knew that he would rise to that challenge. Because that was his duty, and his destiny.
As he was nearing the end of his tour, the Little King began to notice uneasiness in the eyes of the leaders he met. There was a greater sense of trepidation as he approached their docks in his boat, a sense that these people were less than excited to see an outsider approaching their lands. At first, he thought that perhaps word of his mission had gotten around, and that these people were less than thrilled at the prospect of coming under his rule. But that notion was dispelled by the relief he saw in their eyes when he told them of his true purpose, and eventually- while he sipped at a cup of cocoa, the pride of the island on which he now stood- he asked the mayor of the village what was wrong. She sighed, clearly hesitant to discuss such a matter with a child. Then, she told him of a great threat that loomed on the horizon- literally. Word had reached the archipelago that a ruler from the nearby mainland had set his sights on their islands, intent on invading and pillaging their wealth and enslaving their people. The people of the islands had little contact with the mainlanders, so word of this invasion had only just reached them- but it could be no more than days away. There was to be a meeting of all the leaders of the archipelago on neutral territory, to discuss what they were to do. The boy was somewhat indignant that, as king, he had not been informed of this meeting, nor the crisis itself, but swallowed his pride- and the last of his cocoa- and declared that he would see the mayor there.
He was late arriving at the meeting- while his boat was of the finest craftsmanship in all the isles, it was still being piloted by a small boy- and the debate was already well underway. Well, debate may be putting it delicately. As the Little King approached the centre of the sandbank where the meeting was being held, he saw at least half of the dozens of tribal leaders clearly on the edge of violence, as they shouted and screamed and berated one another for being so shortsighted or cowardly or bloodthirsty or weak or any other number of irredeemable flaws. But for all their bluster, the child could tell that the overriding emotion of the day was fear. The leaders knew in their hearts that there simply wasn’t a way for them to repel the imminent assault. They lashed out at one another, partly due to long-held prejudices, but moreso from despair. They didn’t notice that royalty was among them until their King stood atop a tree stump and called, in a voice that sounded as royal as anyone had ever been despite his age, for silence. Despite themselves, the proud leaders of the archipelago fell quiet and turned to look at the child glaring down at them, wooden crown atop his small head. With all the confidence and poise of a man five times his age, the Little King looked from man to woman to man, and began to speak. He spoke of what he had seen over the course of his journey, of the differences and similarities he had seen between the peoples of the islands. He showed them his sword, his clothes, his boat. He passed around some food he had kept from one island, and saw the eyes of people who had never tasted something so delicious lit up around him. By the end of his speech, the boy stood in the centre of the crowd, looking up at the faces of the adults but utterly commanding their attention. He was the archipelago, he said. More than anyone else alive, or perhaps had ever lived, he knew the people of these islands and their cultures, and they knew him. Nobody else could lay claim to the role of king.
One of the more warlike men began to scoff at the notion that they should take this child seriously just because he had declared himself their leader, but he was shushed by a dozen others. One by one, the leaders of the archipelago knelt, and bowed their heads, and swore allegiance to the boy, until even those who disagreed with the notion saw they were outnumbered and knelt too. Hail, they cried, to the king. The boy smiled broadly and, despite all of his royal speechifying from moments ago, was suddenly lost for words. Eventually, he settled on a simple “Thanks”. And then he told them to rise, and his subjects stood and awaited the instruction of their new king. How would they defeat their enemy and save their people?
The response the boy king gave was… unexpected. His tone didn’t change one bit from the happy-go-lucky childish excitement and innocence that came naturally to him. And yet… the plan he described for how the people of the archipelago would defeat the invading mainlanders was so shocking, so unbelievably, heartlessly cruel, that the island leaders were too shocked for words. We will not repeat any part of it here, as while some of our exhibits cross the line into less than appropriate for children, the plan laid out by the Little King was so cruel it could only have come from the mouth of a child. Because children don’t really understand what cruelty is. They don’t have the lived experiences necessary to understand the consequences- physical and emotional- that their actions have on the world. And so, the plan that the Little King had come up with was too repugnant and awful for anyone but him to have thought of. But it would work. As the men and women of the islands looked from one to another, they felt a sinking feeling in their hearts as they knew that this was what was necessary for their continued survival. There was no other way. And besides. Their king had spoken.
The plan did work. A great many mainlanders died, and the rest had their spirits utterly broken, as they were forced into a full-scale retreat to their homeland by the victorious islanders. But at the celebration at the centre of the archipelago which was held after victory was declared, the first of its kind that had ever seen all the peoples of the archipelago come together as one, the Little King could tell that the people- his people- were in no mood for celebrating. He didn’t understand; they had won. He had won! He had led his people to victory over the evil invaders, and done his duty as king. Why, then, was there something in the eyes of his subjects that he didn’t understand? Why did they look away when they caught him trying to catch their attention? The boy had accomplished his goals, and saved his people, and been crowned king as he had dreamed, and yet he was so desperately lonely. And he didn’t understand why.
He came to understand as the years went by and he matured. He learned of why his actions in repelling the great evil from the mainland were in themselves a greater evil than any that could have been wrought by his enemy. He came to realise that his people did not love him, as he had expected them to. They feared him. And in time he learned to hate them. Hate them for their ingratitude, for spitting in the face of the love he had borne them, and that they should have borne for him. He had sacrificed his youth and innocence for them. He had risked his life and weathered their scorn; they lived only because of his action. And now they feared him. So be it.
But he was still their king. He had earned that, at least. And so they followed him, years later, in his own invasion of the mainland, a great war that carried his armies across all the known world, preceded by stories of terror wrought by their leader, the dreaded king with the wooden crown. Because he was their king. And if his people would fear him, so be it. He would be the most fearsome of them all.
I think we’ve just about exhausted the exhibits on this floor, so let’s go ahead and take the elevator further down into the Museum. There are an indeterminate number of levels to the museum, so we’ve got plenty more to see! The elevator is just down the corridor here, and- oh! Would you look at this! I’d like to introduce you to one of our more lively exhibits- well, escaped exhibits- a Will-O-The-Wisp. Will-O-The-Wisps have appeared in folklore in countless cultures the world over, and they have reportedly taken a wide variety of forms in the stories told about them. This specific example, however, is relatively simple: a flickering orb of golden light, roughly the size of a tennis ball, soundlessly hovering in mid-air.
The stories about Will-O-The-Wisps typically involve travelers making their way by or through marshes, swamps, or bogs, and seeing in the distance a strange light, not entirely unlike a lantern or campfire. The traveler will make their way in its direction, thinking it to be a new friend, or someone in need of help, or someone to rob. And, in straying from the path, they usually wind up lost, or drowned, or eaten by crocodiles, or any of the many varied terrible things that often happen to people who stray from the path in a bog. You see, a Will-O-The-Wisp is a mischievous and somewhat mean-spirited being, whose sole purpose in “Life” is to bring misfortune upon the unsuspecting, by luring them to death or disaster in a mostly passive fashion.
There are a number of quote “Scientific” unquote explanations for the Will-O-The-Wisp phenomenon, such as swamp gas igniting and causing a flickering flame to spontaneously appear. Certainly, this is an entirely plausible event which likely has happened in real life. However, what you see before you amounts to proof that this is not always the case, and that sometimes misfortune is more than just misfortune.
This particular Will-O-The-Wisp was taken into Museum custody after its natural habitat- a bog in central Scotland- was drained in order to make way for a new housing development. It is usually contained in a small enclosure designed to look- and smell- almost exactly like it’s original habitat, and once a month we allow a Museum Patron to wander into the enclosure to keep it entertained.
Having somehow escaped from this enclosure, it is likely more than a little disappointed in the environment into which it has emerged, as to the best of my knowledge there are no other swamps, bogs, or marshes to speak of within the Museum. It will have to make do trying to lure anyone wandering the halls into slipping on wet floors, eating expired food from the vending machines, or falling down elevator… shafts…
Do you know what? Why don’t we take the stairs instead.
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.