* * STEAMPUNK DAY: 2017 * *
The Wound That Bleeds the Most
Part 1: May 1927 * * * * * * * * * * * *
Saturday the 7th
As I was rifling through this journal I came across an envelope which I carelessly let scatter to the floor. I leaned down to examine it. Upon it was a wax-seal with the letters B.M. ornately encrusted, and it was addressed to both Elizabeth and I.
Retrieving my letter opener I let the small blade cut through the lip of the delicate packaging and removed its contents.
Despite my attempts to understand, I could not. I recognized the lettering as Italian, but without a sufficient education in the language I could not translate it. My young wife however was very skilled in the language and so I approached her with a knowing grin that brought on her curiosity.
As she examined the contents I watched her expressions change from confusion to deep interest. She seemed a little dumb-founded at the inscription though and I feared that she hadn't been able to translate it. She however cleared her throat and told me;
"Listen to this;
My noble Lord and Lady,
Though you may not know me yet, I have known you both for some time. It is critical that your presence be at my Carnevale. It is to be held at a secret location that you will find not so far away from you.
The trouble with your attendance is not the where however, but the when. You see, the time of your involvement in this plot begins in 1877, though I predict that it will not be until 1927 that you have read this.
I do not have the knowledge of how you were able to traverse the channels of time but as you were there I can only believe that you will be able to find your way.
If you do not attend, many lives may perish. It was not without your help, and the help of others in your company, that we were able to stop the heinous acts of one with a murderous and greedy heart. I cannot divulge more at this moment, time cannot be altered. Remember this though we cannot alter the past no matter how hard we try, we can certainly decide our future, and I do hope that your near future will indeed be in the past with me.
I do suggest that your comrades travel with you at a date nearer to the Carnevale, but you and your wife were among a few who came at an earlier time. I cannot stress enough how crucial it is for you to be here in order to find the evidence that will put this future case to rest.
You will find an invitation delivered to you by mail with the necessary dates. You may decide what is the best course of action from there.
Your's truly, and with great affection to your family,
Elizabeth and I then discussed the intent of the message and what we should do about it. It was at that moment that our precious child, Ezekiel, who was going on his second year of age, toddled into the room and pointed to me. In a loud and assured voice the child proclaimed only one word, "Boot!" which spurred his mother and I into action. I must break a moment to simply say what an excellent child he is. Though he may not know exactly what it is he does, he has served as the inspiration to many discoveries and adventures for not only me, but my comrades as well. I digress.
Spurred into action, Elizabeth and I began to consider our options. Time travel was a far fetched idea, but we knew that it was possible, due to some of our previous encounters with a man named Lorenzi who seemed responsible, at best, for the invention of at least one time travel device. We have never been able to get his device working, so that was certainly out of the option. It could be assumed that Lorenzi had other means of travel, as we had never met him again outside of our one happenstance.
Liz had apparently triggered a memory however as she shook me from my concentration.
"Richard!" she proclaimed.
"What about him?" I responded. She could only be talking about one young man named Richard Davison. Otherwise known as as his self-proclaimed alias, "Dick", for many reasons. He was the only one we were very familiar towards with that name.
"After my father retired and passed the business onto me, we had cutbacks in several areas. Remember that he left and went on to work at a nearby entertainment park?"
"Yes, what about it?" I questioned. I couldn't see at the time where she was going with this, but her next answer gave us both some hope to solving this entire issue.
"The last time that we were out together he mentioned some of the incredible shows and performers that were held there. Among those was a magician who could appear in two places at once, or else outright dissapear and return from elsewhere."
"Eureka Elizabeth! You're right!" I exclaimed. For a moment we discussed the possibility that this particular stage magician had acquired a time traveling device. After all, at the heart of all great stage magic was innovation, and it would certainly explain everything.
I dearly hoped that she was right, and that we had at last found our ticket to the time-ways.
Packing our equipment we set off with Ezekiel posthast
By the time we arrived it was already into the afternoon and the sun was beginning to set. The small bulbs that dotted the intriguing rides, tents, games and signs were slowly coming to life in preparation of the night ahead. This created a beautiful dreamlike moment where night and day met on the grounds of the festival.
We saw a familiar face waiting near the gates to greet us. Richard it would seem had been working a job as a ticket salesman. I felt a little sorry for him but he assured us that it wasn't his only duty.
"Here we often have to pull work that we aren't qualified for, just because there's no one else to do it." He paused for a minute to look at us. "Interested in new and exciting work?" He teased, half of his tone filled with a serious question.
We explained to him our reason for coming and he exclaimed,
"Ah, the illusionist! He's incredible. No one can figure out how he does it. Goes in one box and comes out the other box less than a second later in an entirely different outfit. Some say it's twins, I'm beginning to agree."
"It can't be!" I responded. I was a bit dejected by the statement. I was very hopeful that this would turn out like we had hoped.
"Is there any way that we can get close enough for Wesley to examine the magician's boxes?" Elizabeth said, jabbing her thumb towards me.
"The boss has been asking for extra stagehands. It's possible that you could get a role close enough to get a peek. That would cost me my job though, so if you want the gig I can get you in, but you have to behave. None of that crap you gave me when Abernathy was around."
We accepted and made plans to get temporary jobs at the carnival.
Sunday the 8th
Not much to report today. Elizabeth and I had returned home yesterday early so that we could get rest for Sunday morning services and then went about our day normally, enjoying time as a family.
Monday the 9th
The owner of the carnival, a man named Laemmle, was desperate for hired hands and I was hired on as a repairman, while Elizabeth was hired as a fire-performer.
We had left Ezekiel in the hands of my mother so that we could focus on finding our answers. Work often kept us busy but the brief moments that we passed each other Richard or Liz would slip me a little more info or see if I had found out anything. We had tried a direct approach at the tent, but Laemmle kept his star performer's tent under watch at all times.
Our only agreed upon option was to cause intentional damage to something inside and hope that I would be sent there to fix the problem. We were unable to do anything for today, so we agreed to call it of for the night. The security had already become tighter as the crowds increased and it grew further into the night.
Thursday the 12th
There was nothing of interest until today. More plotting and scheming but no ability to perform an actual attempt. Today was different however. Liz informed me that she had at least been able to meet the magician face to face during one of her fire performances. As she described it, he had stood about and watched as a guest, seeming to be very intrigued by her talents. I couldn't help but be a little protective as I listened, thinking that he might have been contemplating her other assets. Never mind that.
Liz was able to schedule a meeting between us and him for tomorrow. We would meet after watching one of his performances. He apparently has a strong desire to bring children joy so Elizabeth had used our son as leverage, promising that he would get to see little Ezekiel at the show.
Nothing else to report.
Friday the 13th
The day leading up to the performance was business as usual. We had managed to secure the time off and brought Ezekiel with us to take him around and play games until it was time for the show. I may have been guilty of knowing the rigging of the games and was able to take advantage of those weaknesses for easy victories and loads of prizes. After a man from Laemmle's security had begun to follow us, I played dumb and lost quite a number of games intentionally until he lost interest.
At last it was time for the show. We went in and witnessed the magician named Atrocious perform incredible tricks. Liz would ask if I knew how the tricks were done after each one, and though a number of them I could name, others were simply too far beyond my capabilities of observation. It was clear that though his name was poorly spelled, his magical capabilities were not in any way reflective of that. When it came time for the box trick, I was extremely focused on finding something to show me the truth. Besides a gentle hum that vibrated through the air and a loud clap from something that could have easily been from the small smoke ball that was used in the act, there wasn't much else.
We later found out that his name was pronounced differently from how it was spelled as an announcer came on stage to help close out the show and mention the magician by name. (It's "a" as in apple, a-tro-see-us, being the rough translation of his name's pronunciation.)
Richard joined us to watch the latter half of Atrocious' show and now the four of us were going back to see the mage, and hopefully what I hoped would be his time machine.
A squeal of joy left his mouth as he saw Ezekiel enter the room. "You little chubby monkey!" He cried out. Did you like the show?" He asked, squeezing our little boy's cheeks. Ezekiel's response was to point at Atrocious' head and yell "Hat!" which elicited more noises of joy from the magician. "He is so cute! With his little chubby legs, and his wittle chubby arms!"
We laughed. The man was certainly a character and despite his rough outward appearance, it was easy to see that he had a heart of gold.
We began to talk with him about all manner of things and a bond of friendship began to clearly grow. I even asked to see his magical boxes, to which he said a magician would never reveal his secrets. I nodded in understanding, but was utterly disappointed.
Liz was clever again and suggested that he show off the trick for Ezekiel. "He did so love it." She expressed. This perked the young magician up and he quickly agreed.
Within moments we were standing once more in the auditorium and Richard, Elizabeth and I took in everything as carefully as we could.
Ezekiel was indeed pleased by anything that his new friend Atrocious did, already clapping his little hands together and laughing as the magician stumbled up onto the stage.
"Watch! Be amazed!" He cried out before leaping into one of his boxes, only to leap out from the other less than a second later with a new change of clothes. Everything was as usual except that this time around he did not have any stage hands for smoke tricks, there was no audience to cover the sounds, and there was a moment as I took in my next breath that both the past and present Atrocious stood before us before the former vanished. "Tad-ah!" He cried out to us. Ezekiel clapped his hands furiously. I grinned knowingly as the magician looked slightly uncomfortable at me in response. I stood up boldly and proclaimed, "Time travel!".
Atrocious turned around to run back into the box he had just stepped out of but Liz and Richard had already leaped up to the stage and dragged him down into a seat.
"Alright!" He exclaimed, giving up the fight. He then went on to explain to us how it all worked, how his life as a magician was a sham, that he didn't even build the boxes. I thought perhaps I knew who had built them but the point was moot. What mattered was that had eat least found a working machine, and not just one, but two of them.
We apologized to Atrocious for our rude behavior after that and attempted to mend the relationship with him by revealing the letter from the mysterious B.M.
"Nero?" He mumbled.
"What?" I asked.
"Nero?" Richard repeated for him but in question.
"Yeah, this guy I know from some time ago. We met when I went back in time. He hosts a lot of parties, even has me perform at them. He has a lady friend who pays me in sweet rolls, which is okay by me."
"That can't be healthy." I expressed.
"But it does sound delicious!" Liz exclaimed.
"If Nero is the one who sent this, I expect that you'll be expecting another letter in the mail soon. If you come back to me with that letter, I'll take you wherever you want to go. Just one thing, don't tell anyone about this."
We all agreed to his condition and after spending a little time trying to help mend the new friendship, we went our separate ways and agreed to wait on the letter.
Monday the 16th
The letter arrived. Liz translated the details.
"Meet me under the Ponte Vecchio. May 1st, 1877. Just before the sun goes down."
With haste we contacted Richard and had him meet us at the festival grounds. Together we watched Atrocious in another performance, Ezekiel just as happy as ever, and waited for him to be finished. He noticed us as the crowds left and waved us back to see him. When the whole crowd had disappeared from the tent we went back out and explained to him the newest instructions. He nodded and had Richard go into the box with him first, transporting him and then returning for Elizabeth and I.
I held on to our son as he took her to the next destination, and the two of us were last.
Stepping into the small cramped box I could easily see that it was not designed for two. It seemed very rudimentary in many areas but in others the engineering was far beyond what I could comprehend. Whoever had designed it certainly intended to be the only one using it.
As I write this Atrocious has pressed a button and slowly pulled the available lever. I have begun to feel a strange sensation as the box in which we stand starts to feel as if it were levitating high off of the ground which is a likely result of the backwards motion through time that we are experiencing. The motion has stopped now. Ezekiel is holding onto my hand and we are ready to view the past which we have traveled to. I am very excited.
* * * * * * Part 2: May 1877
What day is it? What year? I hardly know anymore. The moment that we stepped outside of the box I was smashed over the head with a heavy object and had blacked out. When I awoke I was in the care of the one man that we were scheduled to meet. Baron Nero Meinster was his name, as I would come to learn. He is married to the Baroness Camilla Meinster and their villa is located near to the estate of the esteemed author Dante Alighieri. While the situation has settled and I have now recovered my journal, it was not immediately so.
It all began with my waking up in a dark location, filled with the echoing sounds of water droplets hitting a hard stone surface, and the rattling of the chains that held me in place. I remember those sounds well because it felt like an eternity chained inside that musty room. My first thoughts were not for my own safety however, but of my son Ezekiel whose hand I had been holding as I exited the time-travel box.
A deep anxiety about his safety filled me to the brim and as it grew, so too did my drive to do something. I wrestled my hand free from one of the cuffs that bound me, disjointing my thumb out of place to do so. The cuff had cut my skin in doing so, and left me in an excruciating amount of pain, even after popping my thumb back into place. A small amount of blood leaked from the top of my hand but it was enough that I used it to lubricate my other hand, making the escape much easier.
Despite all of this pain, the thought of my son's well-being pushed me to the edges of near insanity and I would let nothing bar me from him. With both hands free I felt above the darkness, searching desperately for anything to help free me. All I could feel was the slimy architecture of the room. I turned my attention to the mount in the wall, and even tried to pry myself free, to no avail. I was simply not strong enough for a task of that sort without my gauntlets.
After what seemed like it must have been many hours had passed, I gave up trying to find something and wept.
I couldn't be certain how much time had passed. I couldn't know whether it was night, day, or somewhere in between. I wasn't even certain at this point whether we had made it to the correct time. I began to question if Atrocious' boxes had even worked at all. What if it was just an illusion? What if he had a twin or accomplice who was responsible for the trick? I knew however that it had worked. I recalled that in that brief moment before blacking out, there was the city that had stretched before us.
The silence suddenly ended, my thoughts were washed away by the sound of someone approaching my prison. It echoed loudly about me, it even echoed inside of me, or so I believed. The sheer wall of silence that I had faced before was now shattered by noises which hurt me, when they normally should not. Next was light, blinding and cruel. It ended the darkness and pierced me to my core. Gone too was the cold.
Before long I could remember my drive to find my son and pretending to still be shackled I waited for the carrier of the light to come directly to my cell that I might overtake them and set myself free.
I stopped however as Elizabeth was the one to round the corner and my heart leaped for joy at the sight of Ezekiel with her. By their side was the one carrying the torch, the Baron, though I did not know it at that time.
I sang praises at seeing my loved ones and threw curses at the man I took to be my captor. Elizabeth was the one to calm me and restrained me as the Baron unshackled my feet. She explained what had happened to me in detail, explaining that it was a misunderstanding. Though I agreed to be patient and listen, the pain that pulsed in my head from the blow argued otherwise.
"The Baron Meinster apologizes deeply for the misunderstanding." She translated, as the man spoke in Italian.
"I will explain more to you in private, later. In the meantime we have been invited to be his guests. I suggest we head to where we will be staying and have you cleaned up." Elizabeth said. Then speaking something to the Baron which I couldn't understand, he began to usher us out of the room and up a flight of stairs. We passed quickly through a dimly illuminated room but remained there long enough that I could gather it to be a secret study and a location where he could practice something which looked close to alchemy. Alchemy was something I had dabbled in myself when crafting Richard Davison's electric gauntlets. It was a beautiful mixture of engineering and science.
Returning my focus to the path ahead, my suspicions were confirmed as the Baron forced us through a doorway, locking it and moving a bookshelf to block it from discovery. Whatever his research consisted of he did not wish for anyone to meddle with it. I could certainly respect that.
When we had been delivered to our sleeping quarters I alone was taken to a room with a bathtub, certainly considered in poor quality by my modern standards but likely moderately appropriate by 19th century standards.
The bath water was piped in and allowed to cool while the Baron himself tended my wounds by dampening the rags and bandaging it. I was given a cloth for drying and a new set of freshly folded clothes. He motioned for me to bathe as he left the room and closed a door behind him.
I undressed and when I had finished cleaning myself in the hot bath, dressed and returned to see my wife, looking as lovely as ever she had. She gazed out of the window towards the city beneath, a beautiful view. It could be seen that we were on the second floor of the Baron's home. Elizabeth motioned towards the bed where our son was out for a nap. I chuckled and heard her giggle, this made me smile. We walked over and sat on the edge of the bed.
"The Baron has no clue why we are here or who we are. If he was the one who wrote us the letter at all, then it was from some time other than this one." She said to me. This made a lot of things clearer and I realized that we would have to plan to find out what was happening. There would be people in the Baron's life that would likely be involved and if he needed our help, we would have to get close to them.
"When we arrived from the box we had interrupted his meeting with a lady beneath the Ponte Vecchio. She left in a hurry and the Baron was highly displeased. Apparently the lady had some personal guards with her that she sent to dispose of us but Atrocious, Richard and I took care of them after they had knocked you out and we made peace with the Baron Meinster.
He made certain that you would be okay but decided to lock you in his personal dungeon until he could be certain that we were not there to harm him." Elizabeth finished explaining, looking at me and then back towards the window.
"Florence, Italy." She muttered with a sigh of contentment that meant she was happy to have traveled here.
The rest of that day was fairly normal. I met the Baroness Meinster, though it seemed that Elizabeth was already familiar with her. She seemed pleasant at face-value but as she spoke you could see a certain side of pompousness that accompanied her. This trait stood apart from the Baron's own sort of humility. We also rejoined Atrocious and Richard, who were put to work doing menial tasks for the Baron and Baroness.
It wasn't until the next evening, once the Baron had felt he had paid back his debt for injuring me, that we were questioned deeply on why we were there.
We had anticipated this however and had discussed our story the night before. I kept notes on a small piece of parchment that I had garnered from a book in the house. I hated treating novels in such a callous manner but I felt the moment justified its wanton destruction. The quill and ink which I wrote with was found later on a more public desk. After we had decided what we were going to say and were now asked the question, I began to feel a little nervous so it was good that Elizabeth was the only one who could answer for us.
She explained to him that a guest of his carnevale had invited us to come to the event this year. We traveled to Florence to speak with the Baron directly and hoped that we could make the carnevale proceed smoother as the said guest, who wished to remain private, had some reservations about last year's events.
At this the Baron seemed to utter a name and some profanity. I could only assume that he assumed the identity of the guest and was very displeased by this.
He seemed to acknowledge the poor quality of the event however and admitted to needing more hands for the carnevale this year.
Something seemed strange about his acceptance of us but I believed that he may have been just as curious about us as we were him. It was likely that he had seen us exit the box and wanted to find out more. I was a bit worried that he might have sent someone to investigate it already but knew there was nothing I could do about it.
We were allowed to remain as the Baron's guests until the carnevale but were required to work for our stay like Atrocious and Richard. Elizabeth worked as a housemaid, cleaning and cooking. I tended the gardens until Nero Meinster approached me with my possessions two days later. This book included.
Of particular interest to him were my gauntlets. He had apparently already tried them on and discovered their destructive capabilities. He brought Elizabeth over and worked a deal with me, revealing to me again his secret lab and study. I examined it as he spoke to Elizabeth for translation. "He says that he too is an engineer but more so a pioneer of science and medicine. He tells me that he has discovered a way in which guests of his carnevale might speak to each other without needing a human translator on hand but his design is only in theory. He needs an extra hand to build it and check his work."
I grew excited by this and accepted. There was little to report in the few days in-between but the two of us were able to complete the machine and worked with my wife to create a translation between English and Italian. By the time night had come on that day we had successfully crafted a proper translating device.
It was clunky and took up a good portion of the room but the next day we spent reducing its size and adding mobility. The small terminal could be used by guests wishing to communicate with each other even if they spoke two very different languages.
It was during this that a strange man wandered into the baron's lab. He seemed to be of either German or Austrian decent and behaved as though he was a man who did not belong to this time, much like myself. While I tried to figure out how he had found his way inside, the Baron was irate and threw curses at the man. Forcing him off his property and threatening his life. He was very unnerved by the event and as soon as we had finished our project he bade me to leave immediately and not return to his secret room unless asked.
I accepted, not wishing to cause any issues.
That night from the bedroom window I witnessed a man speaking to the Baron outside his home. The man looked to be military of some sort, with a strong stance and frame but had the look of retirement as well. I knew this look from the men who had served in the Great War and retired. The sedentary comfort of their retirement had gone to them, and here it appeared the same.
He had a strange accent, not like those from here in Florence. Though I couldn't peg it exactly I almost would have said that it was an American accent. I went to bed, laying down beside my wife and child who shared it with me, hoping that the answers might begin to turn up.
May 11th 1877
I have now caught up into the journal and found the date for this time. It gives me some reference to how long we have been here since we first arrived on the 1st.
My hopes from the night before were quickly fulfilled. The man from last night came by again early in the morning and we were introduced to retired Commander Drakenwulf. He apparently was a hero during the wars for independence. His odd nature and possible American accent were even more evident as we discussed many nature of things, all the while showing off the new translator device by putting it to the test.
It would only become evident to me later that the Commander was speaking of things and in terms which were beyond this time. It really began to put into clarity how convoluted things had become because of the invention of these devices, even causing me to question who might NOT be from the future.
The Baron Meinster has invited us out to the market this evening. I will record more later.
It is night now but this evening at the market really was enjoyable. We met up with the lady who we had frightened under the Ponte Vecchio, though she would not reveal her name to us. Elizabeth told me that she suspected the Baron was having an affair with the lady and that was the reason she concealed herself. It didn't take much to see that was true however as the two shared several romantic moments, obviously forgetting their company.
Atrocious and Richard told us that Nero had some jobs for them to do and we bid them farewell for the time. It was soon just five of us, that is to say Elizabeth, little Ezekiel, Nero, myself and the mystery lady who we had discovered was a countess. We walked and talked all around the market, though I only understood the little that Liz would translate for me.
By the end of our tour I was told that the Baron had suggest that Elizabeth be been invited to be the contessa's companion until the time of the carnevale. This was due mostly to the hired guard that was previously in her company resigning his services after his beating at the canal. Now the contessa would be alone on her trip back to her homeland of Venice. I was a little lost at how the countess would manage to attend the carnevale if she returned to her home so far away but Liz informed me that the carnevale was set to be held in Venice.
I nodded in understanding and we discussed the plans for the moment. Elizabeth wanted to go with the countess, though I was admittedly hesitant, I couldn't deny her.
Making our plans it was decided that I would head back to the past with Ezekiel and give him to my mother's care for a short time, then return to the carnevale in the past alone. Elizabeth would travel as the lady's companion and ensure that she would arrive safely to the event.
I'm leaving this journal in her care so that she may record her adventures. I may include an addendum of my own escapades, should there be anything to record, on a small piece of parchment to be kept in these pages.