Friday, December 16, 2011

Dark Aether Falls, Part 8

As I sat nursing my absinthe, it started to snow. Soon the ground was covered in a thin layer of sooty powder that stuck to work boots and ladies' shoes alike. The temperature was not cold enough for a deep freeze, so the motion created puddles of dirty slush along side the newly-fallen snow. Winter had come to New Babbage, and still we were no closer to a solution.

I must have nodded off - odd, as I generally have quite a strong constitution for absinthe, a skill acquired through years of practice - and my sleep was troubled by strange dreams. Surely the Dark Aether was seeping through the ground and pervading the air, not just near the devices but everywhere in New Babbage. I resolved to stay awake as long as possible, if only to keep the dreams at bay.

Several people had come in and sat at a nearby table. I overheard them discussing a run-in with mad Margo December, who, in her unique way, said the town needed to unite to defeat the Dark Aether. They also whispered that it was the Clockwinder who destroyed the robotic Writer, and that the Melniks were planning to attempt to destroy the eyes of the crab-like creatures with magnesium flares. And Dr. Sonnerstein had a conversation with Jason Moriarty himself…or what passed as Moriarty these days. Young Gadget was kidnapped by the Van Creed… but a daring rescue freed him.

Dark Aether  Writer 001

Then word came of a body found hanging in the opium den behind the old Imperial Theatre. The game was once again afoot! I hastened to the scene.

Dark Aether  Hanged Man 001

His name was Darren Mawatt. Two pages from what appeared to be his journal were on the floor near the body. His words suggested that he hanged himself…but could it have been murder? I examined the rest of the opium den. The squalid mattresses and debris from the opium users that littered the floor made it clear that this building was in active use. I could find no other clues, however, nor sign of the remainder of the missing journal. I decided to widen my search to the nearby buildings. Still I found nothing.

The journal pages discussed a meeting with Jason Moriarty… and a tale about the Woe Tree. I traveled north in search of it. The snowy terrain played havoc with my sense of direction, so I followed the train tracks, my boots crunching against the crusty snow with each step.

From one location in Babbage to another, I followed the trail and pieced together the history of the young Moriarty. Despite the evil he has perpetrated on the people of New Babbage, his story is ultimately a tragic one, and I could not help feel a pang of sympathy for the orphan who thought he had finally found acceptance with Professor Eliot. These records made clear that Moriarty is guided by, or at least acting under the influence of, the Aether.

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