Trinkets and Murder
Episode One: The Clockmaker’s Curse
Part One: The Clockmaker
“You don’t look like a necromancer,” the clockmaker said.
“Speak softly; stone walls love to share secrets. Words such as yours can get a man burned alive. I am a man of the church, a poor man of the church. Did you get my payment?”
“I did,” the clockmaker said. “But I warn you; the gold came from graves. I couldn’t find it anywhere else. I will not hold ill will towards you if you wish to nullify our agreement.”
“You are a desperate man. I suppose we all are these days. God doesn’t care where you get the gold. Presuming you use it for his glory, of course. Now, give it here.”
A thin wool bag shook in the clockmaker’s hand. Gold coins, rings, earrings, and bracelets rattled like cymbals and horns in the grimy alley. “I will go to confession after this. I swear it.”
“If you whisper a word of this to the father, I will see to it that you burn. Without a proper burial, you will not spend eternity with your family.”
“I’ve sinned enough to know that I will not join my wife and daughter in heaven.”
“Then you don’t need to go to confession, do you? It would be a shame if a man with your talent drowned in a river. Keep your mouth shut, and one day you could make a clock for his holiness. If he likes the clock, he might forgive all your sins.”
“I’ve never been the kind of man to get that lucky,” the clockmaker said. “Show me the scroll before I give you the gold.”
The cleric opened his patched cloak and revealed a scroll wrapped in satin and leather. “I have it, as promised. It took dark deeds to get it. I read it myself. It doesn’t make sense. What makes you think you’re right about it?”
“I’m a clockmaker. I’m right twice a day, every day. Open the scroll.”
“Not a trusting man, I see, doesn’t even trust the word of a pious man. I don’t blame you. It makes me almost like you,” the cleric broke a fresh wax seal. His fingers stroked the satin and leather. He opened the scroll towards the moonlight, revealing all the clockmaker needed to know.
“God be with you,” the clockmaker said.
“And with you,” the cleric inspected his payment.
The clockmaker wasted no time. He ran through the mud and piss-soaked streets like a pickpocket on his way to buy bread. “I will be with them soon.”
Candles flickered. Wax dripped to the floor in the clockmaker’s dusty workshop. He unrolled the scroll and nailed it to the wall before examining every word. “Blood from twelve doves?” he muttered. “Pigeons would be easier. I will need more gold to get my hands on cedar and birch wood. Let’s see, how do I pronounce the angel’s name? I will have to practice his name while I gather my supplies. It will give me something to do while digging around in wealthy graves. Never found a common grave with a speck of gold in it. But God is good and made the blacksmith a dumb drunk who leaves his shed unlocked. I should have enough copper and tin for two clocks.”
Slowly but surely, the clockmaker gathered all he needed. He killed two guards patrolling the church’s cemetery on a misty evening. Their sacrifice was not in vain. The spell required a foot from a fresh corpse. The local surgeons wouldn’t pay the total price for an incomplete corpse, but the extra cost of two warm bodies made up for the loss.
As he suspected, the doves were the hardest to come by. He hired four thieves and a trapper to gather the stupid birds, payment on delivery, of course. The trapper returned with three doves. The thieves did not return. So, the clockmaker did what any rational man would do. He caught nine pigeons and mixed their blood with the doves. Surely an angel would understand the difficulties of acquiring a dozen doves. Only a king could obtain so many.
The clockmaker soaked the wood for twelve days in bird’s blood. He cast the bronze for pins, gears, sprockets, bells, and elegant decorations. His love, his pain, the culmination of all his talents, went into the clock’s design. The beauty and sophistication of the clock brought tears to his bloodshot eyes. He was a third-generation clockmaker. His ancestors would be proud. Although he dared not show it. A work of art like this would draw the attention of kings, nobles, and his holiness. No one could know the true purpose of such beauty. No one could know what the polished bronze symbols meant.
A bit of doubt crept into his mind. What if the corrupt cleric sold him a fake manuscript? He supposed if the clock wasn’t magical, he could sell it and gain honest gold. But a life with pockets full of gold wasn’t what he wanted. The clock had to work. If it didn’t, he would take his life and spend eternity paying for his sins.
He wound the clock to match the grains of falling sand in his hourglass. At the sixth hour, two bells rang. Everything was ready. “Celesta Laplace Atto,” the clockmaker whispered. “Celesta Laplace Atto, I hope I’m saying this right. Celesta Laplace Atto.” His voice trembled. A flash of light filled the workshop. Then he disappeared.