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“You knew my son, Alexi.” Eli Carton said, motioning for Amos to have a seat in a large leather chair facing the aging mobster’s elaborate wooden desk. A cigar sat unlit on the desk and a woody scent filled the room.

Amos felt an ache in the pit of his stomach as he thought about Nym. She must be worried sick waiting for him, but he was in the custody of the Carton family now and there was nothing to do but try to make smart decisions and hope that they lead to his release.

“Yessir,” Amos said, “I knew him, though not well.” Amos sat in the chair as directed, pain shooting through his leg with every movement.  The chair was oversized and comfortable and it made Amos feel childlike in the presence of the notorious and powerful Eli Carton.

“Well enough to get into some trouble, if I am not mistaken.” Eli Carton stood, adjusting the cuffs of his white linen shirt as he walked to the bookcase along the wall of his office. Amos watched with curiosity as the robust older man reached for a leather-bound book which he placed in front of Amos.

Amos knew the book immediately, it’s binding haunted him.

Years before Amos had worked after school for Marcel at Ghostraven’s Steam Punk and Pirates. It had been a good way to earn money and also to stay away from several bullies that had singled him out. Alexi Carton was the head of the offending group of boys and one who took great relish in harassing Amos. One fated afternoon, on his was to work Amos was accosted by the group of boys. However, unlike prior events, Alexi only wanted to speak with him.

Alexi had heard a rumor that Marcel Ghostraven was in possession of a strange book called the Starfell Grimoire. The book was written by hand in a mostly unintelligible language and was filled with strange illustrations of mythical beasts. Alexi had used threats and coercions to convince Amos to steal the book, an act that would change his relationship with Marcel forever and ultimately lead to his leaving Meiville.

“Yessir,” Amos said surprised, “I know this book.”

“My Alexi wanted it for some reason, and you gave it to him. But I wonder, do you know why he wanted it?” Eli Carton asked.

“No sir,” Amos said truthfully. “It is something I have wondered about though.” Within his pocket Nym’s cog sprang to life. Amos felt a deep remorse realizing that he had forgotten about the automaton and had neglected to send it back to Nym.

Eli Carton sat back down in his oversized leather chair and lit his cigar, great white puffs of smoke filling the office room and burning Amos’ nose.

“The book that you stole,” Eli gestured to unusual tome, “Ghostraven came to me afterwards and asked me had I seen the thing. ‘Course I didn’t know anything about you boys thieving, so I sent him away. Later, after we found Alexi’s body, the book surfaced in his belonging.”

The sense of grief and confusion were palatable as Eli spoke of his son. Amos searched his memory for anything that he might remember about Alexi but their exchange had been fairly basic. Alexi wanted the book, Amos had access to it. If Amos was willing to help Alexi things would be easier for him and that had been incentive enough. Amos didn’t ask questions.

“I scheduled a meeting with Marcel, after I buried my only son,” Alexi continued, “but the man disappeared before I could learning anything about the connection between them. Now, these long years I have an unreadable book, no answers and no son.” Alexi took a long draw on his cigar.

Amos was about to speak when the cog, in the shape of a fiddler crab, scuttled onto the book. It buzzed and whirred as it moved and Eli jumped backward in surprise.

“What is this?” Eli exclaimed, watching the cog with fascination in his eyes.

“It’s an automaton. It belongs to Nym. It was built by Marcel. Amazing little thing.” Amos and Eli watched as the machination began to turn pages to the book with it’s tiny claw. It made a soft humming noise as it worked. After a time the cog was still, the book resting on the desk of Eli Carton, the book open to a page bearing a crude drawing of the Apport Sextant.

Amos looked at the photo and then at Eli.

“Do you know this? Does it mean something?” Eli asked Amos, thunderstruck.

“It’s a device. The thing Magruder is after. We found it in Marcel’s store. It’s supposed to allow a person to travel through time and dimension. Mad, really. But Magruder thinks it real enough, and it was dangerous enough to be locked away.” Amos replied.

The cog scuttled over to Eli Carton and morphed into a small, raven like bird which lowered it’s head respectfully.

“This is something,” Eli said. “Can we go there? To the room and… see this device? If it is what my Alexi was looking for …but why? Why would he want such a thing?”

“Why does Magruder want it so badly? I mean, if it worked, you could pretty much write your own ticket. All of history, the whole of the Universe would be yours to manipulate. That’s a lot of power.” Amos scratched his chin, thinking about the strange things he had heard over the last several days and thoughtfully conceded that the object might not be a hoax. The idea terrified him.

“Emily wanted something in that room. Something else. They called it a Kronos, I think. . Whatever it was it was dangerous enough for Marcel to abandon everything and go after her. Nym had the Apport Sextant. We took it from the room. But I think maybe the person we all need to talk to is Magruder. He’s the only one, besides Marcel, who seems to know anything about the cursed thing.”

 

“Magruder.” Eli said flatly, looking at his cigar and contemplating the situation for a moment, “You need rest. I need time. We leave in the morning.”

Eli stood and strode from the room, leaving Amos alone to contemplate what it all meant.

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