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Episode Forty-One: TROUBLING

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 high-stakes fiddle contests that may occur during your visit.

Enjoy your tour.

And good luck.

 

Concerns

Restoration:

What do you mean “captured”?!

 

Retrieval:

Prep a team for immediate Glassway traversal, rendezvous at the entrance to Shelter 601.

Restoration:

Is the Clockwork Mother intact?

Retrieval:

Guide can you give me any intel on what the beings you encountered look like? Their weapons, estimation of their combat capabilities-

Guide:

Please! Please, just… let me speak. Sir, they had bows, but they are clearly also capable of other… Alternatural abilities. If I were unscientific, I would call it magic, but… yes. I don’t think it would be a good idea to send Retrieval Agents through until I’m able to get a better grasp on the situation- if we send them at all.

Restoration:

What? Why wouldn’t we send reinforcements, you’ve been captured-

Retrieval:

No, no. It’s right. Can’t go treating everything like a nail, that’s how we wind up at war with the bloody… fairy kingdom or something.

Restoration:

But… we can’t just leave them both…

Guide:

It’s okay, ma’am. The Mother and I can take care of ourselves… probably. And besides, I feel like if the problem is that we keep losing people when we send them through the Glassway, sending more in after might not be the smartest option.

Restoration:

Ugh. You’re right of course. I just… it feels like I was only just talking about how we’ve been too passive, and now we’re just waiting and seeing what happens again.

Guide:

It’s only until the Mother and I can have our audience with this Queen, then we can reassess.

Restoration:

Yes. Good plan.

Retrieval:

We’ll make extra sure that the entrance to 601 is secure, just in case your captors have any funny business in mind.

Restoration:

And if you need any help with your interactions with them, don’t be afraid to ask. We have people here who’ve made First Contact on more than one occasion.

Guide:

Thank you. Both of you, your… professionalism is reassuring.

Retrieval:

Ha. You’re welcome.

Restoration:

You know, I do wonder if maybe this has something to do with The Man with the Voice.

Retrieval:

How do you mean?

Restoration:

Well, it seems like just as this Beast was about to lead Raptor Team to the Curator’s location, suddenly they’re all killed, and now as soon as we send through another team they’re intercepted straight away. It feels… planned out, doesn’t it?

Retrieval:

I guess, whoever he is he seems to have a thing for big plans and stuff like that. Guide, have you-

Guide:

I think that’s probably not worth looking into.

Restoration:

Oh. I see, any particular reason why?

Guide:

I just think we’ve got enough going on, with the Mother and I being captured and whatever’s going on with Security. Going on what could turn out to be a dead end isn’t worth the risk. As you said ma’am, we’re trying to be more decisive. Getting distracted on a bunch of different angles seems like a good way to get nothing done.

Restoration:

…yes. I agree, well said. Let’s see what you and the Mother can find out and go from there.

Retrieval:

…Okay. I’ll get to work.

Restoration:

Yes. Meeting adjourned.

Guide:

Damn it…

 

Captured

Guide:

The Clockwork Mother, and by extension the Audio Tour Guide, floated through the air in a deep and endless forest, in a world that was not their own, helpless and alone. Not literally alone, that is: they were surrounded by strange folk with strange accents and strange abilities. They were alone in that they were beyond help, in a world that would have been an incomprehensible distance from home if that distance could even be measured. They had come here under false pretences, for a brief visit so the Guide could tell the Mother the truth of the Beast’s betrayal. They had intended to travel back through the Glassway to the Museum, to warn their colleagues that they had underestimated the enigmatic Man With A Voice Like Honey and Chocolate and Coffee All At Once. But instead they had been captured, and were now being led further and further away from the Glassway, and into lands unknown-

Stranger:

Do you always talk so much, and so needlessly?

Guide:

When I’m stressed, yes.

Stranger:

Why are you stressed? Your fate is out of your hands, all that is left is the waiting.

Guide:

I think the lack of control is precisely what’s causing the stress.

Stranger:

There is nothing to worry about. The decision of what will become of you now falls to one far more capable than you or I.

Guide:

Yes, very reassuring. Who are you, anyway?

Stranger:

Just call me… Stranger.

Guide:

Right. Of course. What did I expect.

Stranger:

And what should I call you?

Guide:

Just… Guide. That’ll do.

Stranger:

I see. And the other being that shares your body?

Guide:

What?

Stranger:

You talk to yourself. In fact, on your previous intrusion to our lands we heard your voice, despite this metal woman not being present. So naturally, I assume you and she are different beings.

Guide:

Yes. Very astute.

Stranger:

So, what is her name? I take it she does not speak for herself?

Guide:

She does, actually. You see her hands moving? She just called you an ignorant little ponce.

Stranger:

Ah. I see. So, what is the silent metal woman’s name, then?

Guide:

Look, unless you learn Auslan I don’t imagine you’ll be having any conversations with her, so I don’t know why you’d need to have a name for her at all.

Stranger:

Ha. Are you always so flippant and rude with your captors?

Guide:

You already told me that my fate is in the hands of someone much more capable than you or I, so honestly I don’t really give a damn what you think.

Stranger:

…I like you, invisible Guide.

Guide:

Good for you. Beat. I’m sorry I spoke for you there, Mo- yeah. I just… I’m pretty wary of giving away any more information than we need to at this point. Yes, I know I already called you the Clockwork Mother in my narration, but… I dunno, cards close to the chest. I know that isn’t your True Name, anyway. You’re more than just a Clockwork Mother. We just need to keep our eyes open and see if we can find a way out of this. Although… Do you think there’s a chance these people will know something about The Man? Oh well, that’s probably not worth looking into anyway, forget I said it. I- wait, no, I didn’t mean to… Oh for… The Beast’s compelled me to steer conversations away from… that person. I won’t be able to discuss him directly. That’s going to-

Stranger:

You’ve gone all quiet now, was it something I said?

Guide:

Ugh. Why do you want to talk so much? Is this some kind of really slow, drawn out interrogation?

 

Stranger:

Interrogation? By the Majesty, no! I’m simply making conversation while we walk! Walking is the best time for talking, and the best time to talk is while you walk, as I always say!

Guide:

Oh god…

Stranger:

Of course, I and my comrades are the only ones walking- you and your metal host are having a much more relaxed time of it up there I dare say!

Guide:

Ah, yes, I was wondering about that- how exactly is it that we’re floating? Have you cast some kind of spell on us?

Stranger:

Oh, nothing so complicated as that. This is a place of nature, and as a being of machine and metal you are out of place. So, the normal rules don’t apply.

Guide:

I’m sorry, do you mean to say that the Laws of Physics don’t apply to the… my host, just because she’s quote out of place unquote?

 

Stranger:

Well, I don’t know who “Phys Icks” is, but whoever he or she or they or it are their laws certainly don’t apply in the Majesty’s woods.

Guide:

I- forget it. You can make us float. I’ll pass that along to the Head of Research and let her bang her head against the implications. Is it much farther to your Queen?

Stranger:

Yes and no, all depends on the mood of the Wood, of course.

 

Guide:

Yeah this is going to get old quick. I, uhh, a previous acquaintance of mine said that this area is impossible to navigate unless you know the right way, is that correct?

 

Stranger:

Yes, we observed several of your interactions with that… thing. I warn you, a friendship with that creature will do you no favours in-

Guide:

It’s not a friend.

Stranger:

Ah. The inevitable happened then?

 

Guide:

Sure.

Stranger:

I see. Well, that awful creature isn’t wrong about the Wood, at least. Unless you know the Woody Way, the Wood is where you shall remain!

 

Guide:

Is everything here going to be like this?

 

Stranger:

Like what?

 

Guide:

Never mind. Just keep walking.

 

Stranger:

One of my favourite things to do! It’s why I’m so effective as a Ranger, patrolling the Majesty’s lands. Stranger the Ranger! I didn’t even think of that. Of course I’ve plenty of other interests- [I’ve been trying to spend a little more time at court lately, it can’t hurt to have more of an understanding of the wider world I live in. I tend to be an outdoorsy type, the whole world could change while I’m out and I wouldn’t notice- in fact, that more or less happened once! I’d rather upset some lesser member or the Court, and they decided to play a little trick on me. One night while I was out in the Wood, they removed my sight! I barely noticed at first you see, as it was already dark and I know these woods so well I could find my way around with my eyes closed. So anyway, I opened my eyes and found I couldn’t see a thing! Most confusing of course, but I quickly realised there could be only one explanation. So I felt my way back to court, making sure to pluck some lilies along the way- as a gift, you see!] (slowly fades out as the Guide speaks.

Guide:

Hey Mother, how long’s it been since you turned off your external audio arrays? Ha. Yeah, good call. Wish I could do the same, I’m probably just going to have to distract myself with other business. I’m just going to put as much of my focus on tours as I can, there’s one about to start.

…Wow he can talk can’t he?

 

A Pair Of Antlers from an Irish Elk

CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, Extinction, Disease

 

Hanging from this wall you will see a pair of antlers. In other contexts this would likely be some sort of grisly hunting trophy- we here at the Museum don’t truck with that sort of thing, however, and I hope you’ll give us the benefit of the doubt on this being an exhibit, rather than a trophy. It would be quite a trophy if it was one, though, as these antlers are certainly larger than any other that you’ve seen- and that’s a safe assumption, as these antlers are well over three metres from tip to tip! Such a pair of antlers could never be seen on any deer today, as their sheer size could never be supported by the poor creature’s body. It makes sense, then, that these antlers come from a deer that cannot be seen today. The Irish Elk- also known just as unimaginatively but slightly more accurately as the Giant Deer- went extinct many millennia ago, around the end of the Pleistocene epoch. Once among the largest deer ever to live, spread out all across Europe, it is now something that exists only in textbooks and Museums- and bogs, where there may yet be preserved skeletons waiting to be found. There are theories as to why they went extinct- a popular one is that their prodigious antlers which are now their trademark were partly to blame, as they prevented the creatures from effectively fleeing predators through wooded areas. In addition to this, the shifting climate led to reduced forestation, which meant that it was harder and harder for creatures of such size to feed themselves- let alone thrive. Whatever the cause, it is simply the truth of the world that no species can last forever- nothing can. The world changed, and the Irish Elk were left behind, and nature simply moved on without them.

Almost.

There is an ancient legend, perhaps better described as a vein that runs through a number of other legends, which tells of a wicked and spiteful elk- misidentified in some instances, where the creature had shed its antlers, as a horse- that roams the land spreading disease and misery wherever it goes. As is usually the case with legends this old, the specifics grow murkier the deeper the Research Department looks, which is quite understandable when one considers that the story begins thousands of years before the written word was first developed. According to the stories, long before the world looked as it does now, the Irish Elk began to die away. Their time on Earth had ended, and so the ground from which they had been born once again accepted their remains, continuing the endless cycle of birth and decay that began long before you were here and will continue after you are gone. A tragedy in hindsight, but not even the humans who were alive at the time could have known that the Irish Elk would soon be gone forever. It was simply the way of things, of uncaring unending nature. So it goes.

But there was one who noticed. Who saw fewer and fewer Irish Elk roaming the land, eating and frolicking and living, who saw the end of their time on Earth drawing close. Not a human. An Elk. The last Irish Elk to ever live, somehow, knew that it was alone. And I assure you, while you may have felt heartbreak and loneliness in your life, none of it compares to that of an Endling: the last extant member of a species. The Endling of the Irish Elk walked from ocean to ocean, down valleys and to mountain peaks, searching for any of its friends, aware that they were gone but oblivious to why or how. It was only when it reached the summit of the highest mountain and gazed down at a world that was full of life but absent of any like itself, that it accepted that it was the last of its kind. It reared its mighty head back and roared to the heavens, a cry of utmost misery.

Then it lowered its head, and looked again at the earth below. But now it looked not with sadness, but with rage. A bitterness overtook the heart of the last Irish Elk as it watched other creatures continuing as if nothing had happened. Nothing had changed. Because, to them, nothing had. If they had ever even noticed the existence of the Irish Elk, they didn’t notice its absence. And the Endling hated them for this. The world had just changed, become a place where its kin were no longer needed or welcome, and then it had just moved on without even acknowledging it. How could this have happened. How dare it. The Endling gazed down at this world that had betrayed it and its kind, and let out another howl. Not one of misery. But of rage. And from its mouth came not just the cry of one abandoned by the entire world, but that rage made manifest. It exhaled not air, but pestilence and death, a roiling miasma that flowed down the side of the mountain and poisoned the valley below. The Endling climbed back down the mountain and with every step it took the plant life around it withered and died, and when it reached the base of the mountain it kept walking. Everywhere it went disease and drought followed, scouring the earth that had abandoned the Irish Elk and dooming many other species in the process. The end of the Pleistocene epoch began with the end of the Irish Elk, not merely from the shifting climate and other natural factors, but due to malice and embitterment, and the pettiest of revenges.

So the legends go. Of course, it is quite impossible to confirm many parts of this story, and indeed it seems so poetic that it is unlikely to be a wholly literal accounting of events. Interestingly, there seems to be some overlap with the Orcadian tale of the Nuckelavee, a demonic horse-human hybrid that spread pestilence wherever it went, despite the fact that there are otherwise no indications that the Irish Elk ever made it so far north as the Orkney Isles from which the Nuckelavee is alleged to have emerged. This and other details indicate that there are aspects of the story that we will likely never be able to piece together- another, is what became of the Endling after the story’s end. Some versions of the story claim that the last Irish Elk simply died as its kin did, unable to withstand the end of its species despite its rage. Another is that it faded away, too bitter and malicious to be allowed into whatever afterlife Elk allegedly go to. Yet another claims that the last Irish Elk somehow became disease, that this is the incident from which germs and pestilence were first born. This is unlikely to be the case, of course, and goes to show the sort of difficulties that can be encountered when one tries to find the truth in myths.

There is another ending, however. Or rather, a lack of one. A version of the story where, in stark contrast to its fellows and to its eternal misery, the last Irish Elk simply never died. It continued its embittered march across the world, spreading disease and drought wherever it went, existing only to spread its own misery around the world. That this is the only way it can feel any kinship now: by destroying lives with pestilence and decay, and making the survivors as lonely and embittered as itself. That it continues doing so to this very day. In fact, it hasn’t escaped Researchers’ notice that in many cases the fossil remains of Irish Elk found across Europe were limited to discarded antlers, with nothing else to be found. And carbon dating has often found… irregularities in the age and location of these remains, with some being found in continents the Irish Elk was unlikely to have reached. One pair, found some time ago in Europe, was later discovered to have been shed no later than the mid 1300s. Another, found only a few years ago in North America, was dated to the late 1910s.

And now that I’ve said that… the antlers on the wall here do look very fresh, don’t they?

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