The events at the station would make the papers, the story made all the more tragic that the woman who looked into the ghost train’s coaches was reduced to a gibbering wreck. She spent the rest of her days being looked after by orderlies and her family; her mind forever trapped in a state of horror. The mood of the festival dropped dramatically, with most people not daring to go outside for fear of encountering the ghost. The railways suffered the brunt of it as the passengers and goods clients of both companies avoided them like they were devil-spawn from the Depths. Those that were still determined to try and enjoy the festival also saw Yentil’s ghost train, causing a wide-spread dip in morale. The situation became so unbearable, Jenmar, Golu, Henthal, and the royal families came together to deal with the problem. “All right,” began Roomef, “so we all know why we’re here?”
“No,” snarked King Lektem, “why don’t you remind us?”
“Put a sock in it, Lektem!” hissed his husband, Tegnar.
“Thank you, Tegnar,” bid Roomef. “Now this…ghost…has been terrorizing everyone for the better half of the festival and we need to find a way to get rid of it. Now, Princess Malnar studies ghosts as a hobby, even going so far as to publish her findings in various academic journals, so I’ll give her the floor.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty,” replied Malnar. “Now, I’m gonna open with this: it defies all expectations in spectral science. The only reason ghosts have an opportunity to manifest back home is because of our slightly liberal use of dark magic. The magic weakened the veil between the living and the dead. As far as I’m aware, the Over-realm never even touched dark magic, so it should be impossible for a ghost to manifest. This is a rather unique situation, so, as far as I’m concerned, there aren’t any dumb ideas. If you have one, put it forward.”
“How about getting your mother to perform an exorcism?” asked Queen Yumbii.
“I love my mother dearly,” answered Malnar, “but she’s terrible at exorcisms.”
“Maybe we should get one of her colleagues,” suggested Jeltam.
“It would take too long for them to get here,” replied Malnar. “We can’t afford to wait.”
“Maybe we should talk to him,” mused Jenmar. “Ask him to leave and he may do so.”
“About that, Jenmar,” interjected Lardeth, “did you or your passengers and crew get a good view of the ghost train?”
“I was too far away to get any details,” replied Jenmar.
“I got a good look at it,” called Rellmeer.
“Thank goodness for the Fae’s telescopic vision,” sighed Felfar.
“What did the engine look like?” asked Lardeth.
“A teal tender engine with red stripes and a zero on its tender,” answered Rellmeer.
“The same train we saw,” mused Arsha.
“That’s not what Dad and Entam drove, though,” remarked Lardeth. “They had a small tank engine in GNWR green with the initials of the railway on its side tanks.”
“Does that mean we have TWO ghosts here?!” yelped Vumfaf.
“No, just one of unknown origin,” replied Lardeth.
“Can we really be so sure it ISN’T Yentil?” asked Endram.
“The night I saw it, the train jumped the path and plunged into the ravine,” recalled Jenmar.
“It was definitely pulling GNWR coaches,” called Rellmeer.
“And when we had our encounter,” recalled Falnii softly, “there was a male human and a female Frostik.”
“And the human WAS at the driver’s place in the cab,” continued Arsha.
“Then, no, Dad,” sighed Lardeth as he rubbed his temples to try and massage away a headache, “we can’t be sure it isn’t my father.”
“But, if it is,” quizzed Golu, “why would the engine look different? That doesn’t make any sense!”
“That’s actually a field of study in researching ghosts,” replied Malnar. “There are those that forgot what they once looked like and have a hard time reconnecting with their loved ones, thus keeping them on the mortal plane.”
“I hate to be the naysayer of this meeting,” called Felfar, “but we still haven’t figured out how we’re gonna get rid of the thing.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” countered Malnar. “You all saw the engine fall, right?”
“We did,” confirmed Felfar.
“Henthal, how much do you remember of your old days as a station pilot for the GNWR before you became a Mechanica?” Malnar continued.
“Everything,” replied Henthal. “I still remember the station you were at as being part of the old main line before Northern Regional bought it.”
“Then we have an opportunity to do something,” declared Malnar. “It sounds like that ghost train’s a Repeater, doomed to repeat the circumstances of their end. The best way to get that kind of ghost to move on is to interrupt that process. We need to find someone Yentil and Entam would listen to and that person needs to tell them they don’t need to take the train on.”
“But…back in the day, outside of his royal duties,” interjected Lardeth, “that was only one man.” The entire Felompha family then got the same idea.
“…There is NO way he’s gonna go for that!” declared Twayfar.
“What are you talking about?” asked Arsha.
“The only one they would listen to on the railway,” explained Roomef, “was the manager of the GNWR, Lord Anfelaf Tomfulmaph, my great-grandfather.”
“Then he’s our best shot,” resolved Malnar. “We need to talk to him and explain the situation.”
“Twayfar’s right,” remarked Lardeth. “Great-great-grandfather Anfelaf’s quite a stubborn man. He’s most likely not going to like the idea.”
“ARE YOU KIDS OUT OF YOUR MINDS?!” snapped an elderly Zephyr man, Anfelaf Tomfulmaph, as he pointed his cane at Lardeth and his fiancés.
“I warned you,” muttered Lardeth to his lovers before returning his attention to his great-great-grandfather. “Pappy, please, if you’ll let me explain…”
“What’s there to explain, Lardeth?!” demanded Anfelaf. “You want me to tell the ghosts of your father and his co-worker, who’ve been dead for the better part of 200 years, to leave on the vague assumption that they’ll do so?!”
“Dad and Entam always wanted to make you happy,” reminded Lardeth.
“That’s probably one of the reasons they suffered their accident!” countered Anfelaf.
“What do you mean, Sir?” asked Arsha. Anfelaf drew in a breath, then exhaled before speaking.
“I cultivated their egos,” he explained, his voice heavy with regret. “I praised them whenever they delivered their trains on time. They were probably trying to please me when they died, which is why I’m so unwilling to speak to them!”
“You think they’re holding a grudge against you?” asked Falnii.
“Exactly!” confirmed Anfelaf. “They probably hold me responsible for their death! What if they try to take me or something?!”
“Come on, Pappy!” argued Lardeth. “Dad may have been many things, boastful being chief among them, but he was never vindictive! Neither was Entam!”
“Besides, don’t you think you should try?” asked Foresna. “If you don’t, and things keep going the way they are, Wysper City may encounter another economic depression as bad or worse than the Second Age’s Money Crisis.” Anfelaf peered at Foresna closely.
“What’s your name, boy?” he asked.
“Foresna Falshenda, Sir,” replied Foresna.
“…There’s something about you,” muttered Anfelaf.
“Sir?” asked Foresna.
“Do you study history?” quizzed Anfelaf.
“Frequently,” answered Foresna.
“…Lardeth’s picked a spouse with a head on his shoulders,” mused Anfelaf. “…All right!” He then thumped his cane. “I’ll do it!”
“Really, Pappy?!” yelped Lardeth.
“Mr. Falshenda’s right,” continued Anfelaf. “You’ve just had your Tour’s End Ceremony, meaning you’re going to be King when your parents step down. I can’t let your first duties be centered around economic recovery. Let’s enact whatever plan you kids have and see what happens!”
“Oh, thank you, Pappy!” sighed Lardeth. “And thank YOU, Farm Boy!”
“Don’t thank me, Princess,” remarked Foresna. “I was taking a shot in the dark!”
It was night as Arsha, her lovers, Henthal, and Anfelaf waited at the same station the ghost train stopped at. Black mist then rolled in and formed into an Elf in black, Aldrama, the Fifth Divine One of Ending. “Lord Anfelaf, are you okay?” she asked the elderly Zephyr.
“I’m not shaking just because it’s cold, Lady Aldrama,” replied Anfelaf.
“We really appreciate your help, Pappy,” thanked Lardeth.
“Yes, yes, just don’t go blabbing about it to the other railways,” muttered Anfelaf. “I don’t want them to lose their opinion of me being a cold person.”
“Perish the thought, Pappy,” joked Lardeth. He then turned to Henthal. “Is everything set?”
“The station’s been cleared and Lady Aldrama and I will be on standby,” replied Henthal. “Though, I will admit, I fail to see how much help I can be.”
“You never know,” assured Lardeth.
“This station!” grunted Anfelaf. “I wonder if any railway facility in all the Realms has ever been evacuated because of ghosts!”
“I can’t recall any stories like that in the Under-realm,” answered Malnar. “This is certainly a way to leave your mark in history!”
“Yeah, triumphs and blunders,” muttered Gorfanth, “the two biggest things people remember.”
“Gorfanth!” admonished Falnii.
“All right, I’ll keep my cud to myself!” grumbled Gorfanth. “But, before I do, can I just ask something?”
“What?” asked Arsha.
“What if the ghost doesn’t show up?” asked Gorfanth. A whistle then dispelled that notion.
“That was definitely the whistle of the engine Yentil and Entam drove,” gulped Anfelaf. The train then materialized just past the signal box and glided into the station, stopping as the engine was just beyond the platform.
“It’s up to you now, Pappy,” urged Lardeth. “Good luck!” Anfelaf shuddered as he approached the engine’s cab. He could definitely make out a female Frostik and a male Human.
“Er, Your Majesty? Ms. Onfur?” he gulped. The two figures then twitched their heads as if they heard him. “Yentil, Entam, is that you?” This time, the two figures turned their heads to give him their full attention. Anfelaf gulped again. “Erm, you two are probably wondering why I’m here tonight,” he began. The two figures stared at him. “Er, well, I er…I can’t stay on script. …I’m sorry.”
“That’s not what you’re supposed to…!” yelped Lardeth before Malnar stopped him.
“That may be better for both of them,” she advised.
“I made your egos so large that you were determined to keep your spotless record,” confessed Anfelaf. “I failed in my duty as your old manager. If you insist on taking me, then do so. I won’t stop you.” The station remained silent. Just then, the Frostik firewoman stepped down from the cab, her features becoming more clearer as she stopped in front of Anfelaf. The human male also left the engine’s cab and became more clear in his features. It was a man in regal clothing and a beard. The Frostik was a plump woman with painted claws on her fingers.
“Dad,” whispered Lardeth as his eyes became misty. The ghosts then raised their arms…and knelt down to give Anfelaf a reassuring hug.
“The accident was on our head,” whispered the man, the late King Yentil Felompha, Lardeth’s father.
“We were the one who ignored the conditions and rules concerning the mountain path,” continued the Frostik woman, Entam Glansar. “We’ve never held a grudge against you.”
“Frankly, we were too busy trying to reach our destination to even think about holding a grudge,” Yentil went on. He then turned to Lardeth. “My boy, my precious boy, I’ve missed you. You, your mothers, and your sisters.”
“We’ve missed you too, Dad,” sniffed Lardeth as he embraced his father. They stayed that way for a few seconds before Yentil broke it off.
“I’m sorry I can’t stay,” he sighed. “We still have a train to bring to the Heights. The passengers want another route, but we can’t find one. Every path we take always leads us to the old mountain path.”
“What if I gave you a short-cut?” called Aldrama. The two ghosts then looked hopefully at her. “Now, granted,” continued Aldrama, “it’s going to be an uphill journey, literally, but I can double-head the train with you.”
“…My lady, we would be honored,” answered Entam.
“Before we go,” declared Yentil, “the passengers need to stretch their legs.” The living people braced for the worst as the coaches’ doors opened, still remembering what happened to the woman who looked inside one of the coaches. To their surprise, there was nothing grotesque about the passengers. If anything, they looked as they used to in life. “Ladies and gentlemen,” called Yentil to the passengers, “we’ve just been offered a new path and Lady Aldrama has graciously offered to double-head with us. We will all take five minutes to stretch our legs and draw ourselves to our full height before we continue onwards to our destination. Please be back here as quick as possible so we may continue on our journey.” The passengers were really happy not to be cramped in a box for just a while and took full advantage of the opportunity to walk about. They spoke with the living people and were amazed at Henthal, calling her a credit to all of her places of work. Now, Henthal was a stern engine, but she couldn’t help but feel a small amount of pride at such a compliment. Aldrama then changed forms into a rail-type Mechanica, a tender-engine just like Yentil’s ghost engine, and coupled herself to the front. Once five minutes were up, the passengers boarded the train, asking the living to pass on a message that they loved and missed their loved ones dearly. The living promised to pass the message on from the bottom of their hearts as the conductor, a male Zephyr, counted the passengers. He checked his list over, then poked his head out of his coach’s window.
“ALL ABOARD!” he called. He also blew his whistle and waved a green flag.
“Right away!” called Yentil as he blew his engine’s whistle. Aldrama blew hers as well and both the Divine One and the ghost engine put their pistons to work. A golden track then appeared, leading directly to a light in the sky. The train then switched tracks from the mortal rails to the spectral ones and went straight up to the sky. The passengers waved as the train left the station and the living waved back, still doing so until the train disappeared into the light. It soon faded once the last coach entered it. All that was left was Lardeth and his group. Lardeth wiped a tear from his eye and Arsha placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Dad’s definitely in a better place now,” mumbled Lardeth as he wiped his eyes. He turned to Anfelaf. “I told you he wasn’t vindictive.”
“And you were right, kiddo,” sighed Anfelaf. Everyone noticed that he was standing up straighter than usual. Malnar guessed why.
“Guilt was weighing you down since the accident, wasn’t it?” she asked.
“Exactly,” confirmed Anfelaf. “You know, I’m feeling that much lighter in my heart.”
“Well, I don’t know about you all,” remarked Gorfanth, “but I need some sleep.”
“We all do,” agreed Arsha. “We’ll need to address the city tomorrow morning.”
“Yep,” confirmed Lardeth. “The people who lost their loved ones to that tragedy must know what the passengers said.”