Popular fan-suggested names have been chosen as substitutes for the following countries since they do not have offical human names:
Norway - Lukas Bondevik
Iceland - Emil (Bondevik)
Denmark - Mathias Kohler
Clogs in the Cogs
A young boy with silver hair leaned over the edge of the boat. He reached down his short arm and tried to dip his fingers into the murky water. The curious child creased his brow with concentration and tried to extend his limbs further. It was just an inch away. He was almost there!
Suddenly the boat screeched and shuddered, while thick trails of steam blasted out of various pipes as the vessel halted with anger. The infant was thrown off balance and nearly tumbled into the grime below. Out of pure luck, the boy’s leather belt was caught on the end of a helpful rail which held him in place.
There was a distant cry from one of the sailors to another ferry. “Learn how to sail!” Then a grumbled insult was thrown back.
“Emil, get away from there!” Lukas grabbed the back of his little brother’s faded coat and sat the youngster down on the copper bench. “How many times do I have to warn you? Don’t play near the edge.” Lukas spoke in a calm manner, but his words intimidated the child.
“I wasn’t playing!” Emil lied and widened his bright lilac eyes. All his elder brother had to do was glare at him, and Emil quietened down and kicked his legs as they dangled off of the seat. “Sorry.” He whispered.
Lukas turned back to the weasel-like man that sat beside him. The weasel had a long, pale face and ginger tufts of curly hair. He let out a small chuckle as he observed Emil. “Boys will be boys, aye?” He continued to laugh as Lukas just watched.
“Where were we?” The Norwegian man attempted to steer his conversation back on track with his red-headed acquaintance.
“Oh, yes.” The thin man nodded his head and rubbed the bristles on his chin. “Got it, you were just about to tell me where the best spots to find fairies were.”
While Lukas became engrossed with the details of his fairy friends, Emil once again stood up and skipped to the side of the boat. He watched pieces of care-free plastic and splodges of oil drift along the dark harbour, but soon there was a dense air of smog all around the 6-years-old. With a great big sniff, Emil caught the scent of petrol and smoke. A broad smile spread across his lips as he leaned over the side to look at Copenhagen.
Emil jumped back and rushed over to Lukas. Like an excited puppy, Emil bounced up and down and clawed at his brother’s leg. “We’re here! We’re here!” He sang before he got distracted by the bronze buttons on the seams of Lukas’ trouser legs. “We’re here!” He repeated as he began to tug on one of them.
“I know.” Lukas reassured as he pushed the kid away.
The weasel grinned. “He’s so sweet. Are you on vacation?”
Lukas shook his head. “No. We just had one. Emil’s excited because I promised him we could visit a friend.” As the conversation continued, the small steam-boat began to turn and the peak of a large clock tower came into view. Although Lukas’ dull expression did not alter, a warmth washed over him.
The clock tower was the pride of the town. Due to its size, the tower required a constant maintenance. It was poor pay and the unfortunate sod that had to work on the clock day in and day out was also forced to live in the place. The furniture was shoddy, the kitchen fell apart and the bathroom stank like curdled milk that had already passed through the body. It was a tiny space that Mathias proudly called ‘home’.
Mathias fumbled in his large brown gloves as he tried to read the telegram once more. With his eyes fixed on the words, he blindly slid down a rope into the large, shiny cogs of the clock. The blonde dodged a pendulum and twirled out of the way of a squirt of oil. He tapped his fingers against his thigh in time with the clicks and bangs that the tower sung, while he strode along the metal mesh. Once the man was done with the telegram, he folded it up and placed it in the pocket of his overalls.
“I can’t wait to see them again!” He cheered as he pounced off of the mesh and into the machine. The heavy iron goggles were pulled in front of his eyes as he whistled while he worked. The clock hummed back and tried to fling grease at him. Mathias continued his tune and skilfully ducked underneath it. It was just an average day for the Dane.
After a while, Mathias swung himself out of the mish-mash of metal and into a sturdy cubicle. He glanced at the chucky watch connected to his leather bracer and his toothy grin grew. “Half past five! They should be here soon.”
In the corner of the iron box was a worn lever. Mathias felt his muscles burn as he pulled and push the lever to make the lift go up. The horologist was proud of his invention; even if it did get a little stiff on cold days. Once he was at the top, Mathias leapt out of the lift and flicked a switch on the side of the booth. The contraption began to crawl to the bottom of the tower on its own.
The worker grabbed his beaten copper kettle and turned the tap of the kitchen sink. The faucet rumbled and squeaked until it coughed out water. Mathias placed the filled kettle on top of his stove’s hob and turned off the wheezing tap. The three best brass tankards were plucked from their hiding spot in the cupboard and placed on the side. Two received a spoonful of instant coffee each, while the last got a spoonful of powdered coco.
The drone of the doorbell echoed throughout the tower and Mathias leaned over the shaft of his elevator. “Come on in! The Climber is already at the bottom! You know how it works!” With his eyes closed and a grin still on his face, Mathias spun around just in time for the kettle to scream at him. “Alright, alright, I’m coming, dear.” He took the kettle off the heat and continued to make the drinks.
With a loud CLUNK, the Climber hit as far as it would go up the tower. Behind the half-gate stood two males. With enthusiasm, Mathias span around. “Lukas! Emil! It’s great to see you!”
Lukas was an average height male with platinum blonde hair, deep and dark navy eyes and a constant bored expression sat on his porcelain face. He wore mainly black or navy clothes, usually with a cravat around his neck and plenty of shiny buttons along the seams of his trousers, or on the front of his jacket. His outfit was topped off with the top hat Mathias had always admired. It was black, like the rest of the outfit, but it had a pair of goggles seated on the brim. The goggles had one lens painted silver and the other had been replaced with a golden pocket watch, which still had the chain attached to it.
By Lukas’ side was a small child whose tiny fingers curled around the top of the iron box’s gate. Emil pushed himself onto his tip-toes so he could peep over the rusty metal. He was dressed in a dark brown jacket and trousers that matched. There was a cream shirt underneath it with two lines of ruffles sewn onto the front, just under the collar. The outfit was clearly too big for him.
“Lukas! Luuuuukaaaasssssss…” Emil whined as he tried to push the gate open. “Open it! Open it!”
Lukas stared down at his little brother. “What do you say?”
Emil nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard Lukas’ strict tone. He slowly looked up at his brother and poked the gate with his index finger. “Um, big brother dearest, can you open the gate, please?”
The gate was opened. Emil bolted out of the Climber and ran over to Mathias who had already dropped to one knee with wide opened arms. Emil barrelled into Mathias’ chest, but the Dane did not mind the tackle. He pulled the energetic boy into a warm hug and hauled him into the air. “Wow Emil, you’ve gotten pretty big, haven’t you?!”
Emil giggled and nodded his head as he gripped onto Mathias’ arms tightly. “Mmhm! That’s because I’m a big number now! I just turned six and I grew bigger!”
“Wow, really?!” Mathias humoured the little boy as Lukas took one of the brass mugs and settled down on the wobbly sofa; which he sank into. He sipped the hot drink as he watched Mathias and Emil play together. Eventually, the host carried Emil over to the sofa and sat him down on the edge of his knee. “I see you helped yourself.” Mathias smirked as he gestured down to the cup of coffee.
Lukas turned his head away and sipped his drink. “I was just surprised I didn’t have to make it myself this time.”
“Hey! I’m getting better at having guests! I even made a cup of coco for little, Emil!”
Emil swivelled around on Mathias’ knee and began to hike up onto his lap. “Really?!” His eyes sparkled. “Can I have it now, Uncle Mathias?!”
A horrid glare cut through the atmosphere and shot through the back of the child’s head. “Manners, Emil.”
Emil trembled slightly and he gulped. “U-um, can I have it now, Uncle Mathias, please?”
Mathias chuckled and picked up Emil and placed him on the floor. “Not yet. It needs another minute before its cool enough for you to drink, okay? Why don’t you play on the slide I made for you? It’s a quick way down to the bottom of the tower!”
“But I won’t be able to make the Climber go up! I’m big, but I’m not THAT big.” Emil folded his small arms across his chest and pouted.
Mathias pointed out a set of stairs to Emil. “Remember the stairs? They have been here longer than the Climber has, Emil. You can use them to get back up. You’ve used them before.”
“Oh yeah…” Emil blinked and untangled his arms. With boundless energy, Emil went off to explore the tower and to find the new bronze slide Mathias had installed.
With the youngster out of the picture, Mathias grabbed his own coffee and settled his attention onto his friend. “Man, I have to hand it to you, you make an excellent parent. Emil is growing up so fast and so well.”
Lukas shrugged his shoulders and stared down at the black water in the cup. No sugar, nor milk; they were luxuries to Mathias. “I’m not his parent, though.” He reminded rather sternly.
“Yeah, I know, but you’re all he’s got. I couldn’t do what you’ve done. Especially when I saw what Emil was like after your mother died. He stopped speaking and eating. I thought he was going to starve or get locked up in the loony bin for being dumb. That little boy was depressed without a mommy and daddy, but he had big brother Lukas to look out for him, and always will.” Mathias patted Lukas’ leg as he gave his friend a gentle smile.
“Mm.” There was a cold silence that followed the conversation as Lukas continued to stare into the dreary liquid. He felt as though he stood on the edge of a great abyss. He felt like shadows tried to push and pull him into the hole where he’d fall for eternity, helplessly. He never mentioned it out loud to Mathias, but there was a thought prominent in his mind. ’What if I’m not always there for Emil? What if something happens to me, too?’ With his true emotions locked away behind his blank expressions, he moved the subject on to matters of work, the economy and a recap of his holiday.
By the time nine o’clock had come, the infant had exhausted himself and was curled up across his big brother and self-proclaimed uncle. Emil’s feet kicked Mathias in the stomach as he dreamed of the park, with its nuts-and-bolts fake ornamental flowers and its tall, leafless, patchwork trees. As Emil drooled over Lukas’ thigh, Lukas ran his fingers through the child’s thin, silver hair. “He should have been in bed an hour ago.”
“You know, even though you’re strict on him, the boy loves you to bits.” Mathias commented as he observed Emil pull himself closer to his older brother. Lukas nodded as the men began to move the boy so Lukas could pick him up and carry him with ease. Mathias scratched the back of his head and flicked some old flakes of paint out of his hair. “Aren’t you going to wake him up?”
Lukas shook his head. “If I wake him up now, he won’t want to leave.”
“Alright then, but I kind of feel bad if I don’t say goodbye.” Mathias brushed some of Emil’s hair out of his face and kissed his forehead. “Night, night little fella’. Sleep well and stay strong.” His vision then trailed up to look Lukas in the eyes. “The same goes for you, okay?”
“Goodnight, Mathias.” Lukas murmured bluntly as he ignored the Dane’s last comment.
Mathias just smiled at the Norwegian and waved goodbye as the elevator descended. Slightly drained by the lively visit, Mathias headed to his mattress on the floor. He avoided the usual suspects of dangerous springs, but as he laid his back against his hard bed, a new one erupted out of the fabric. “YOUCH!” The horologist’s earlier happiness began to diminish and Mathias prepared himself for a long night.
The morning which followed began in a very unusual manner. Mathias was not woken up by the bells of the clock: it had stopped. He spent the early hours fixing the clog in the cogs, then he tied himself up with rope as he scaled the four faces and put the hands back where they should have been. Before he could put his feet up and enjoy a tankard of coffee, the doorbell startled him.
‘Man, this is a really odd day.’ He grumbled to his thoughts as he hung over the empty shaft. “Just come on up! The Climber’s already at the bottom! Use the lever!” Mathias instructed as he straightened himself up and clicked his stiff back. “Frist of all the clock stops for the first time since forever, now unexpected guests? E-eh! Maybe it’s the council! They’re going to fire me for the clock breaking!”
As the group got closer to the top of the tower, Mathias inched backwards. There was a man and a woman, both dressed in official-looking attire. He was so scared that he completely overlooked the tight, brown corset the woman wore, when usually he would have ogled her immediately. The black-haired man pushed open the gate, and by his legs stood a very distressed Emil.
When they stepped into Mathias’ home, the Dane’s face twisted into a serious glower. “What’s happened to, Lukas?”
The woman stepped forward and her wide heels made the metal chime beneath her. She took hold of Emil’s hand but he protested and stole his arm back. She sighed and brushed some of her long, brown hair behind her ear. “Mr Kohler? My name is Elizabeta Héderváry and this is Roderich Edelstein. We’re from Peter Berge’s Psychiatric Hospital. May we have a word with you about Mr Lukas Bondevik?”
Mathias kept his eyes glued to Elizabeta’s as he shrunk himself to Emil’s height. “Emil, I think you should go and play on the slide for a little while.”
“I don’t want to! They took Lukas!” Emil’s voice was as broken as his tiny heart.
The blonde felt a lump in his throat. Mathias displayed a synthetic grin as he attempted to calm Emil down. “It’s okay. I’m going to talk to these people and get them to bring Lukas back. You need to stay out of the way while the grown-ups do the talking though. So please, Emil, go and play on the slide.” When Emil shook his head, Mathias resorted to the same tone Lukas often used to make the child obey. “Emil. Please. Leave us alone.”
Defeated and scared, Emil stomped his feet and sat at the top of the slide to sulk. The adults assembled in the living-room with pads of paper and spread strange documents across the table. The sound around the youngster dissolved into muffled, incoherent hums as he zoned out. Emil concentrated hard on that morning’s events; worried that he was the cause for his brother’s abduction.
People had come to Emil’s house. He had never seen them before and they used big, long words when they talked to his brother. A tall, blonde man, with a monocle and thick Swedish accent, took Lukas to another room and a younger man, with bright brown eyes, began to chat with Emil. He tried to be funny, but Emil didn’t laugh. The young man changed the subject to Lukas and the fairies. At first, Emil was reluctant to speak to the stranger, but once the young man assured Emil that it was okay to talk to him, Emil opened up. The confused boy told the brown-eyed man everything; even about the trolls that Lukas saw. The young man was shocked and asked Emil if Lukas ever frightened him. The boy’s innocent response was ‘Only when he tells me off.’
It was the scene after the interview which horrified Emil. He looked down the hallway, even though the adults had told him not to. That’s when Emil last saw his brother. Bound up in a leather straightjacket, fastened by bronze buckles, was a calm and collected Lukas. Lukas did not struggle, scream or resist. However, when he caught a glimpse of the sneaky Emil, his face changed into one of concern and disappointment. There was no opportunity for the brothers to say anything to each other. Lukas closed his eyes and was pushed out of the door. That was when Emil met Elizabeta and Roderich.
Still sat at the start of the slide at Uncle Mathias’ house, Emil hugged his legs and hid his face.
“Emil?” Roderich crouched by the young boy. “We’re leaving now. Mathias is going to look after you for a while, okay? We’ll see you in a couple of weeks.” Roderich was given the cold shoulder, but he had become rather accustomed to it from children. He silently straightened himself up and corrected his monocle.
The two officials left without Mathias as an escort. The stressed bloke had his head in his hands as he gritted his teeth. He had always agreed that Lukas’ obsession with the supernatural was a little unhealthy, but he never expected that the caring man would be chucked into a barren metal room, with a holey piss-bucket for a toilet. How could Lukas be labelled as ‘clinically insane’? More importantly; ’How do I tell Emil that his big brother isn’t coming home?’
That night was very quiet and very difficult. Emil and Mathias were sat at the table with trays of food in front of them. Emil glared at the untouched steamed carrots and roasted potatoes. His chubby cheeks felt grubby because of all the tears he had shed during the day. No words escaped the moody lad and he showed no interest in eating his food.
Mathias shovelled another load of grub into his mouth. He licked the watery gravy off of his lips and checked Emil’s plate. “You should eat.” Emil did nothing. “Lukas will tell you off if you don’t eat your dinner.” The child turned his head away. “Well if you don’t eat it, I will.” Mathias pierced a small potato with his fork and threw it into his mouth like a fierce predator. “Yum!” He patted his belly. “You better eat it before I do! ‘Cause I want more!” Mathias smiled and poked Emil’s food around the plate.
The sulking infant still did not react.
A groan left the babysitter. He threw his cutlery onto the table and stood up. Clearly frustrated, he marched into his sleeping quarters and received a device from his bedside cabinet. Intrigued by what Mathias was doing, Emil secretly watched.
Mathias’ goggles were pulled over his blue eyes when he re-entered the living room. He threw a spherical object at the child and held up a black and tan coloured pistol. Draped over his arm were belts of ammunition and slung onto his back was a rifle. Hidden in his steel-toe-capped boots was a knife strapped to his leg. A sprightly grin drew itself across the Dane’s face as he clasped the belts around his waist and torso.
“Come on kid. We’re bustin’ out your bro.”
Emil blinked his lilac eyes before they began to glisten with admiration. His jaw dropped open as he took in the sight of his uncle. He scrambled to his feet with the thing Mathias had thrown at him, only to discover that it was a small, tin helmet. “You’re going to get Lukas back?” Emil asked as his attention switched from one thing to another on Mathias’ body.
“Ja.” The child’s hero confirmed.
“Am I coming with you?” Emil crookedly equipped the headpiece.
“Of course you are. I wouldn’t leave you here on your own! God, what kind of babysitter do you take me for?!” He herded Emil into the Climber. “Oh! Before I forget.” He dipped his hand into his pocket and produced a small, silver gun. “This only has one bullet. Never point it at me or your brother, and only use it if your life is in absolute danger, okay?”
Emil took the metal weapon and looked it over. It was heavy. “Okay.”
“That thing there,” Mathias pointed to a small button. “That’s the safety. It’s on at the moment so you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else. Just press it when you need to use it or else it won’t work.” Emil went to press it but Mathias quickly prevented him. “No! Not yet! Only press it when you’re in danger!”
“Okay.” Emil agreed and hid the handgun in his back pocket.
When the Climber reached the end of its journey, the two males exited the cubicle. Emil approached the main entrance, but Mathias placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder and changed his direction. They walked to the back of the tower where there was a sooty room. Emil coughed as dust particles tickled his nose and whizzed into his throat. Mathias gave him a tough pat on the back and led the child to the centre of the grungy room.
Emil cautiously stepped around the stray wrenches and broken bits of failed automatons. There were scrap piles of mechanical equipment lined against the walls and left on the floor. He had never been to the garage before; probably because it was the type of place Emil would love to play in but it was filled with the things Lukas deemed ‘dangerous’. It was a mechanic’s playground, but never suitable for children.
They stopped in front of a large lump covered with a mouldy sheet. Mathias double-checked that the tin helmet was probably fitted on Emil’s head. Although it was small, it was still too large for the boy, but Mathias shrugged it off. His ‘nephew’ would be safe in it. Before Emil could question what was beneath the blanket, Mathias heaved the cover off.
He glanced at Emil with a smug smirk. “This, was my dad’s. This, is going to help save your brother.”
Lukas surveyed the scene around him. He had been placed in a circular interrogation room. A metal grid served as the floor, except for an iron path with a rusty rail that led to the centre. Lukas was sat at the end of the path with his back to the door. The large chair was bolted to the iron and there were plenty of leather straps that held Lukas in place. Beneath the metal mesh was what seemed to be an endless drop into darkness. It was the abyss he had feared.
On one of the tall walls was a wooden box with a speaker fitted inside of it. Every time a voice gurgled out of it, the whole frame would shake and an obnoxious buzz would drown out most of the words. Lukas waited patiently for another sound to stutter out of the speaker.
“Lukas?” There it was. “Are you still with us?”
“Yes.” ’Where else would I be?’ He mentally added.
“I want to talk about the fairies and trolls.” The distorted voice began. Lukas said nothing. “What are their names?” The room was filled with the single sound of the hum from the amp. “Okay, you don’t want to tell me. That’s fine. Lukas, please answer this, though; why can’t I see them? Am I not worthy?”
Lukas did not want to answer. He understood that if he answered the questions truthfully, it would only make him seem more senile. He could not pretend not to believe in fairies either, for everyone knows that if you denounce a fairy’s existence, a fairy turns to dust. On the other hand, there was an impulse inside of him that made him speak. He wished to talk and explain about the existence of his supernatural friends. He could not hold back. “You don’t believe in them. That’s why you can’t see them.”
“But I do believe in them. I think trolls and fairies and other things are real.” A blatant lie. “So, why can’t I see them like you do?”
“Because you’re lying.” Lukas had a sharp tone. He furrowed his brow but tried to remain tranquil.
The speaker sighed. “Lukas, we are going to have another five minute break.” The whirr stopped once the call was dropped. Lukas was left with the company of his own thoughts.
Suddenly the sound of a siren resonated throughout the entire building. Metal ricocheted off of metal as the purr of a powerful engine reverberated all around Lukas. He heard the sound of the walls collapse as the malleable pewter and copper folded in on itself. There was a high-pitch shriek as rubbed skidded across the floor. Gunshots were fired.
The door to Lukas’ room burst open. He sat comfortably in his chair and waited patiently, since he could not turn to look behind him. As a blonde man with a black bandana over his mouth and nose, and thick goggles over his eyes, began to saw off the bonds, Lukas scoffed.
“Are you a mad man?” Lukas hid his smile.
“No, but apparently you are.” The Danish accent replied. “Anyone following us, kid?!” Mathias shouted behind him.
“Nope! I can hear people though.”
Lukas’ eyes fixed on his rescuer and a dark aura made the atmosphere heavy. “You brought Emil here?!”
“Course I did. I wasn’t going to leave him at my place all alone.” Mathias explained as he released Lukas from his last shackle.
Lukas shot up from the chair and gripped hold of Mathias’ collar. He dragged the tall male down to his height and pressed his forehead against Mathias’. “I’m going to kill you for putting him in danger like this.”
“Great. Let’s get out of here first, then you can kill me all you want!” Mathias laughed as he guided Lukas to the motorbike that Emil bravely guarded.
Mathias mounted the front of the vehicle. Lukas straddled behind and pulled Emil onto his lap. Emil threw his arms around his big brother and gave him the tightest hug his young muscles could muster. Mathias revved up the engine as he twisted the handles and the golden chains along the outside of the bike began to race around in circles. A cloud of steam hid them from sight momentarily, but it was not difficult to distinguish the black and gold motorcycle that drove around the wards of the psychiatric hospital.
As Mathias focused on his reckless driving, Emil continued to hug his big brother who clutched onto the back of Mathias. “Lukas! Lukaaaaaaaaaas! Look what uncle Mathias gave me!”
Lukas punched the back of the Dane’s head and snatched the silver gun off of Emil as the child waved it about. “You gave a six-years-old a gun?” Lukas shouted over the chaos.
Mathias rubbed the back of his head as he steered with one hand. “Ouch. Geeze, Luke! Can’t you wait until we’re out of here to lecture me on my parenting skills?”
“Where are we even escaping to?” Lukas queried as he watched behind him.
The motorbike jumped out of the hospital and zoomed along the main road. It weaved its way through the cluster of large Steam-Carts and disappeared into the maze of dilapidated alleyways. Mathias pulled the bandana down to his neck and returned both hands to the handlebar.
“How about Norway?”
“Norway?” Lukas’ hair swirled and flicked around him as the wind ran through it, but his face still had not changed from its usual expression. “You want to leave Denmark?”
“We sort of have to!” Mathias laughed as he swerved out of the main city. “The police will have their eyes open for two mad-men and a child.”
Emil tugged on Mathias’ back. “I want to live in Iceland!”
“Wherever!” Mathias chimed. “We can make anywhere home as long as we’re together.”
Lukas frowned slightly. “What about the clock tower?”
Mathias groaned. “What did I just say? We’ll make anywhere home as long as we’re together. Besides, I’ve always wanted to try my hand at automatons. We’ll change our names, set up a new life for ourselves and go wherever we want. Heck, we could make fairy automatons and sell them as toys! Emil can be our tester!”
“Uncle Mathias! I can do that! I’ll be good at it!” Emil cheered.
As the blonde male and the silver haired boy laughed and delved into the detail of the business, Lukas grasped his brother and his best friend. He closed his eyes and his lips turned into a very small smile. The abyss he stood at the edge of, dissolved as the motorbike carried the trio off into the night. Everything was about to change.