An eventful carriage ride

An eventful carriage ride

The walking carriage made its way through the idyllic English countryside with an alarming clanking. It was an old, creaky thing with only seven working mechanical legs that Lord D’arville had acquired at a somewhat alarming expense. It was, as Lord D’arville’s accounts manager had assured us, too big to fail. It looked exactly the right size to fail, but the three of us had boarded it just the same.

I sat as still as I could while being thrown around by something ancient and probably steam-powered and looked dead ahead: into the well-wrapped bosom of my great-aunt-Estelle. Estelle had an enormous stomach, and a bust that would dwarf Sweden, and could only keep it contained within the most unusual of attire. The most expensive tailors in the land had wrapped my aunt in something that was both the cutting edge of couture and also, very definitely, a carpet.

“I do hope the ghastly peasantry aren’t too visible today. One seldom likes to be forced to interact with hoi polloi!” Estelle opined. She laughed uproariously, her squat buttery hands waving up and down with amusement.

It. Was. Captivating. I couldn’t look away. In the way that you just couldn’t look away from a whale-carcass dropped from a great height onto unsuspecting citizenry. Her grotesque waggling arms sent little ripples of fringing in waves across the Persian-decorated ocean of her body. If you listened closely, over the rumbling of the carriage-wheels and occasional *sproing* of the fashionably uncomfortable seats, you could hear the whalebone ghosts of Aunt Estelle’s corsetry screaming.

And then suddenly, the carriage came to a screeching halt and everyone rocked sideways. I was thrown unceremoniously into the pile of cigar butts and betting slips that was Osric, Estelle’s husband and my Uncle in Law.

“What’s the matter? Are we there? Who’s dead? What’s the matter?” Osric demanded, waking with a wheezing cough. Before I could answer him, however, we were both squashed against the door by the slow-rolling, ponderous mass of Estelle, whose bulk was finally feeling the effects of the sudden stop.

I could taste Osric’s cigar-smoke on my lips. It burst from him, stirring up like a sudden colony of undiscovered-moths as he assumed gaseous form. I was grateful for the sudden space and breathing room that it afforded me as it meant I was crushed slightly less against Estelle’s expensive expanse. Still, I’m sure I breathed a bit of him in and that can’t be good for a growing boy.

Osric reformed outside the carriage, opting to clad himself in a plum coloured dressing gown, replete with pipe. He walked round to the driver’s seat, atop and afront the carriage. “Now what on Earth is the holdup this time?” He demanded.

I couldn’t see much, pressed against the window as I was, but I heard the driver’s five-word reply with the exact perfect mix of fear and excitement to stir thoughts of adventure in a fourteen year old boy.

“It’s the Clockwork Highwayman, sir.”


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It had taken a ton of negotiations with the other pantheons, but we finally had an Accord. There weren’t many of those made these days. They governed how we were allowed to interact with the mortal realms. The gifts we could bestow, the miracles we could perform, that sort of thing. It had been Krishna’s idea, and that helped. People liked her. A while back, Loki had tried to get us on board for a secret cabal of lizard-people who ruled the world. No-one had gone for that. He did it anyway, of course, because Loki was a prick. Nobody liked him. If he’d suggested a universal chronometry, someone would have punched him. But it was Krishna. And the idea made sense. Why not have everyone in the world – all the mortal folk on the same page with something. Some of us wanted peace on earth, and you had to start somewhere. We started with time.

Some of the Asian pantheon got hissy as only animal-gods can do, but concessions were made and deals were struck. Back-room kinda stuff. Maybe Apollo doesn’t pull the sun a few days a year, maybe we can find a few Ice Giants, or Trolls to quietly slip into a few pockets. Diplomacy is the same on any plane of existence. It’s messy, and crude, and it works. So they agreed. And we agreed. And everything was signed and settled and done. All we needed now was a mortal. That was hard, too, because of the previous Accords. There were reams of treaties that laid out a non-interventionist policy frame. This wasn’t ancient Greece, for our sake! We couldn’t just slap a hero together with magic and send them out to fight the world. There were rules now.

So we ceded it gently. A little disruption of train services and telegraphs here and there, a few mislaid shipments and trading routes there, and soon the money-grubbing mortals were falling over themselves to implement a universal standard of timekeeping. Twenty four ‘hours’ in a ‘day’. Three hundred and sixty-five ‘days’ in a ‘year’. Bish, bash, bosh. And suddenly it was harder not to join the rest of the world. Not to be on a twenty-four hour clock. It just made sense to people. Idiots. I still think we should have just made it work in base 10. Athena told me it had something to do with degrees and the orbit of the sun, but that’s horseshit because the sun’s orbit is erratic as fuck after Apollo’s had a few. Whatever. If all of humanity can actually have a shared cultural concept, maybe there’s hope for peace on earth after all. Happy New Year.


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