It was that time when children went around collecting treats, and he’d been told also the night for spirits to haunt the world at large. He was still working at Emerson’s when a large group arrived outside and he could hear Metier chuckling back in the graveyard from the open window. He sighed and put down the quill and went outside.
There was a large group of people there, Dr. Sonnerstein, Professor Lionheart, Gadget, Stormy, and some lady he’d never met, he approached them while Stormy was taking out some chalk of some kind from his pocket, “I imagine this will have to do.”
Professor Lionheart nodded to Arnold, who asked them, “What’s all this?”
Gadget yelled and pointed, “Bugger look! there ‘e is!”
Dr. Sonnerstein motions to Metier, and gave a quick answer, “He wished to see us.”
Arnold frowned…he wanted to see them? This was reminding him too much of the last time he wanted to see them all, at the Bucket of Blood to discuss his terms. That night had not gone very well in Arnold’s opinion now that he had time to look back on it.
Professor Lionheart turned towards the urchin, “Gadget, have you any chalk?”
Dr. Sonnerstein came up behind the professor and added, “Keep a distance from the graveyard, I don’t know his reason for wanting urchins nearby.”
“Make sure we get that hat!” Gadget insisted, and then turned to the professor. “…no sir, I do not…sorry.”
“Hello again!” Metier called from the entrance of the graveyard, taking their attention and turning it to the apparition.
Arnold began to growl softly and Dr. Sonnerstein fished a can of salt from out of his robes, offering it to Helio quickly while he said, “Hello, Metier.”
“Give the salt to someone else, I shall be aflame.” The professor commanded and Dr. Sonnerstein held onto it for a moment and then gave it to Gadget and whispered into the boys ear. Stormy was now clenching the chalk in his hand and was eyeing the ghost, while the woman just watched on silently.
“We simply must stop meeting like this!” Metier chuckled and the doctor gave the ghost a light smirk.
“You’re the one who called us here.” Dr. Sonnerstein replied.
Professor Lionheart moved to the front of the group, and confronted the phantasm, “Metier, I believe you promised to leave town should the last Sinclaire be removed.”
“Oh, I was going to, but that can’t happen now.” Henri explained. “You see, I died and was supposed to go to some form of Hell, I hear.”
“Oh, you can be sure you will go to some form of it.” Lionheart stated matter of factly.
Kristos turned his head to Helio. “There’s too many fighting over his soul…”
“Then let’s draw and quarter him.” Helio retorted loudly, apparently ready to start cutting the man’s soul to pieces at this very moment.
“Oh that’s not going to happen now.” Metier responded with unhidden glee. “I already told Bookworm this earlier, but when I prayed to all gods and spirits, at seven different alters, using seven different relics, and saying the prayer in seven different languages, and cutting seven different parts of my body-“
Stormy narrowed his eyes, “So it was your blood on the altar at Dagon hall?”
Kristos Sonnerstein nodded to Stormy, “Likely…”
“Yes, but there was one thing I failed to do. I failed to say it in seven different cities! Babbage has the greatest claim to my soul, and it is winning!” Henri Metier laughed, his mania still present beyond the grave…
Stormy quickly crouched and scribbled the protective symbols in his native language using the chalk, but Heliotrope chuckled, “On the contrary, you mortgaged yourself sevenfold.”
Henri Metier shook his head, “This is quite useless, simply follow me and I will show you why you are impotent.” Metier walked off with another chuckle to himself while heading straight for the back of Bookworms home. They followed him slowly, but kept a great distance from the shack.
“I can’t go near there… one of those canisters is back there.” Dr. Sonnerstein said as he hid behind the graves walls.
Heliotrope turned to the rest of them and said, “Stay back.” He went open the door and then Lionheart tosses his mane and it ignites with faerie fire, spreading down his form allowing light to see inside and Gadget gasped.
“Bugger ‘es got one of them cannisters!”
“Oh no, come along everyone. Go ahead, come closer.” Henri said in a very amused voice.
Stormy drew yet another circle of protection around himself and Kristos, in the graveyard, though the grass did get in the way a little. The doctor smiled to show he appreciated the effort, but turned back to Metier soon enough.
“You see, or perhaps you don’t see?” Metier asked them from within and he giggled.
Heliotrope stepped forward, in a way in between worlds while Kristos called for him to be careful and Gadget to grab his hat. Kristos shook his head to the boy, “The physical hat isn’t here, Gadget.”
Henri chuckled under his breath yet again, and then continued, “Babbage needs me right now, the reason is because I am performing a function that it needs and strongly desires.”
“What function?” Heliotrope inquired, but made it sound a demand as he took another step forward.
“I am absorbing dark aether,” Henri explained, “And disposing of some of it elsewhere.”
Dr. Sonnerstein frowned, and Arnold blinked, he was doing what? How? His mind raced with questions, but Professor Lionheart asked first, apparently having recovered from Henri’s claim faster than the rest of them. “Where?” The horse took yet another step forward.
“I could dispose some of it in you right now, if you really want to test me.” Metier said with obvious amusement at Lionhearts approach.
“Thank you, no.” Heliotrope said, sounding only slightly less intimidating than he had moments ago, and Henri laughed at them once again. Heliotrope continued, “You can’t absorb it from every one of these, though.”
Dr. Sonnerstein looked over the wall and raised his voice, “Metier… If you’re depositing it in the spirit world, you’re only leading to the endangerment of both layers of reality…”
Henri dismissed that with a wave of his non-corporeal hand and a giggle, “I usually attach it to a train heading towards some place called ‘Bump’, in a crate of apples or something, the city doesn’t care where it goes so long as I get rid of some of it.”
“To Bump?!” Dr. Sonnerstein cried. “Good lord..”
Arnold had heard stories about Bump long before he’d heard Emerson’s tales…he had a feeling he didn’t want to know what that city would be like with Dark aether added to the mix…Stormy narrowed his eyes, unable to really see what was going on now.
“And that’s all I’m doing, but I’m only one little apparition.” Henri claimed with a chuckle and then burst out laughing. “It will still consume this city eventually!”
“Then why do this much?” Heliotrope asked.
“Because he belongs to the city…and so it calls him to defend it…”
Lionheart turned his head a little to see the doctor out of the corner of his eye, “Metier, with his ego? I don’t think so.”
After Metier finally stopped laughing, he responded, “Hardly Dr. It called, but I could have ignored that call. I choose to do this, as I choose to give you my hat.”
The group looked as confused as Arnold himself felt. He was going to give them the means to send his soul on? Why?
Sonnerstein was the one to ask, “Why do you choose to do so?”
“That’s for me to know then, isn’t it?” Henri chuckled.
“Because he’s wicked, Kristos.” Stormy whispered to the Doctor, loud enough for most of them to hear.
The woman Arnold had never met before nodded, “I said you could only be given the hat, not take it.”
Heliotrope snorted, “I’m wicked. He’s merely demented.”
“Hmm, Good point, so off to the after life with you!” Stormy cried.
Henri chuckled once again, “If you want to send me away, knowing the function I perform, you now have it in your power.” As soon as he said that the hat appeared to have materialized from the ground a short distance away from them on the cobbles.
“What are you gaining out of this?” Dr. Sonnerstein frowned and might as well have been talking to himself. Henri had walked off leaving them to their own devices, though Heliotrope and the rest of them all chased him after a few moments…unfortunately the apparition seemed to vanish into mist.
After he was gone Stormy shook his head, “Well, at least we know one thing.. the sending him off was a lie..”
“I don’t think we could do it just yet anyway…not until after the second…or by the evening of the second..this is the time when they are able to walk freely. It is the second they are honored and ensured rest.”
Professor Lionheart shook his fiery mane and let it dissipate, “I think in order to truly be rid of him, we would have to desecrate each spot of his sacrifice, then reconsecrate them. He wasn’t lying, he was full of the darkness.”
Kristos Sonnerstein nods up to Helio. “Perhaps…”
“That includes, Dagon Hall…” Stormy said after a few moments.
“Yes it does. At least the altar would have to be destroyed, Stormy.” Heliotrope answered, and Stormy closed his eyes and sighed. Arnold wondered vaguely how Underby would respond to his bar being destroyed…but he didn’t spare it much thought. Arnold had been growling beneath his breath for some time, because another thought had occurred to him about Metier, now that the ghost had shown he was interested in the canisters…and especially now that he was claiming he was helping. “Everyone…I’m…very concerned…about what he said…”
Sonnerstein looks to Arnold. “So am I…”
Arnold continued, “Because all I can think now is…they said don’t believe him….and future Jimmy never said who him was.”
Sonnerstein responded quickly, “Because of that we can’t be sure who, so it does us no good to jump to conclusions…” To Arnold it felt that he was responding too quickly. The same thought must have occurred to him…
The professor turned to the woman Arnold had never met, “Seer, did you see anything around him? In life he was being… influenced.”
“He is, I fear, quite mad.” She stated, but that wasn’t exactly news to any of them even if it was still troubling.
Heliotrope mused for a moment, “His madness goes deep, if it remains after death.”
Arnold looked at Sonnerstein, not letting the train of thought go just yet. Why had he given them the hat so easily, why had he told them any of that if it was true and then given them the means to send him away? “What if the hat he’s been showing us is some sort of a lie?”
Stormy anwered, “I don’t think everything he said was untrue..” Kristos nodded in agreement.
Heliotrope added, “It’s difficult to tell if he is lying about anything, or everything, or even if he believes he is lying.”
“He is jumbled. .that’s for sure..” Stormy muttered and Sonnerstein nibbled his lower lip.
“I believe he gave the hat, but gained something in exchange, and I fear his gain was taken from one here.” The woman said. “This much I feel most strongly of but no more, I am sorry.”
Heliotrope hrms, “Despite my bluster, there’s little I can do about haunts and apparitions. We don’t… occupy the same worlds.”
“If his gain was making us worry and fret about it, then it worked!” Arnold yelled finally, his patience completely gone and he hissed. Stormy and a few of the others looked at him, apparently most of them had never seen this much emotion from him before.
Gadget spoke up for the first time in awhile himself, “Tepic said the hat needs to be buried with an Urchin, could this be the answer?”
“To be buried in any place he pledged to would give that particular being more claim to him and a better chance for them to take his soul,” Kristos began. “But to bury it with the urchin he killed…that could give the urchin’s spirit power over him…” Dr. Sonnerstein smiled. “Tepic’s a clever and aware little fox…”
Arnold turned around to collect the piece of clothing, and he stopped dead in his stance. He then turned back to everyone else, “Uhhh…who has the hat?” At the look of their blank faces he had a feeling he knew what had happened. “…we didn’t pick it up again…did we? And it’s gone again.”
There were several mutters and curses at this turn of events, and Arnold tried for a few moments to regain control over his anger, but in the end he let out a roar of frustration, once again sounding like a panther. He then turned to all of them, “I’m going to bed now, and I’m going pretend tonight didn’t happen!”
“Rest well, Arnold…” Sonnerstein said quietly while Heliotrope peered at the cat for a few moments as he left to enter Emerson’s home and gather his wits and his things. He could still hear them outside because he’d never closed the window, though they were close enough he would have probably heard them anyways with his ears from even farther.
“He seems troubled…” Stormy said.
“Wouldn’t you be? Metier’s been after him frequently.” Sonnerstein replied.
“If I didn’t know better,” The professor said musingly, “I would say ‘possessed’.”
“No, but I would be wary of it happening,” the doctor agreed.
“Haunted cat.. what a concept.” Stormy mused.
“So wot happened to the Hat?” Gadget said, getting back on track to what Tepic had said needed finding most of all.
At that moment Arnold felt something in his head, a moment of clarity like when he had been dealing with Erehwon. The only difference was he hated knowing more than anything and he screamed, “I! HATE! THIS! CITY!“
They had heard him outside, and he heard a few shuffling of feet before Heliotrope said, “Let me talk to him. You lot find that hat.”
Dr. Sonnerstein and the others went off, and they were musing aloud as the professors hooves could be heard making the round of the building, “I think Metier may be too proud to admit the city holds him here…compelling him to act on it’s behalf…” Dr. Sonnerstain said, which stopped the hoof steps for a moment.
“Mr.Metier must have been requesting the urchins presence for a reason I am thinking..” The woman added.
“Metier is used to being compelled into action, perhaps he doesn’t notice now.” Heliotrope said, his hooves going back to the conversation further back.
The conversation continued for some time, as did the search…but the search at least was in vain.