The civilizations that lived on the edge of the Over-realm’s Eastern continent were rather flat when it came to the terrain. As such, there was extraordinarily little of Wysper City that was safe from the fog and snow. On top of its seaside location, the city was the second leading city in terms of rail traffic, with the Sacchrinda Kingdom being the foremost leader. As Arsha predicted, because of the weather, more than a few trains had to be cancelled and the businesses that depended on the railway rushed to get their last shipments out to the ports so they could be exported to the other continents or to the other Realms. Lardeth and his lovers were staying at the Felomphas’ castle and he was looking out the balcony of his room during the night. His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door. “Yes?” he asked.
“May we come in, my little princess?” called Roomef’s voice.
“Sure, Mama,” replied Lardeth. Roomef, Endram, Domamfem, Twayfar, and all of his lovers entered the room.
“We looked at the calendar,” explained Arsha. “Your mom explained what this week also meant to you.”
“Thinking about your dad?” asked Endram.
“Are you referring to yourself?” quizzed Lardeth.
“I’m talking about your actual father, the human that was King before me,” replied Endram.
“…Yeah, I was,” sighed Lardeth. “I thought I’d be over this by now, but I still miss him.”
“We all do,” assured Roomef. “When one loses a family member, you never really ‘get over it’.”
“I frankly wish I met him,” remarked Endram. “He sounded like a good man.”
“With a fault that led to his downfall,” muttered Twayfar.
“Twayfar!” hissed Roomef.
“Downfall?” asked Gorfanth. “What downfall?”
“The reason why he died,” replied Lardeth. “I told you guys about it, I’m sure.”
“I can’t say as I’ve heard the story,” countered Arsha.
“Not me,” supplied Malnar.
“I’m not familiar with the story,” rumbled Gorfanth.
“Me neither,” finished Foresna.
“I think I’m the only one who knows the story,” mumbled Falnii.
“Do you guys…want to hear it?” asked Domamfem.
“Domamfem, consider what you’re doing,” warned Roomef.
“She’s right, Mama,” declared Lardeth. “We’re not gonna change history by ignoring it.”
“Did your father…do something wrong?” asked Malnar.
“Oh yes, he did,” confirmed Lardeth. “My father, a human named Yentil, was once an engine driver for the Great Wysper Northern Railway. Even when he was King, the Railway still called on him to help out.”
“I love Yentil dearly and miss him so much,” continued Roomef, “but, without question, he was the most boastful man I had ever met!”
“He always went on and on about his ‘spotless record’,” explained Twayfar. “Always going on about how he had never once been late! More often than not, it put us all to sleep!”
“But the real kicker of it,” supplied Domamfem, “was that it was all true!”
“True?” asked Arsha. “I’ve been around a few railways before and I find it hard to believe that anyone could have a spotless record.”
“So did I,” remarked Roomef, “but the Railway’s manager gave me his official record and it was, indeed, spotless. Somehow, he had always delivered his trains on time and without fail.”
“He also wasn’t shy about calling out an engine’s crew if they were late,” continued Domamfem, “even if they were his co-workers.”
“And his fire-woman, a Frostik named Entam, was just as boastful,” supplied Lardeth. “I remember her prattle when she visited. I always believed that their arrogance led to their downfall.”
“Sounds like they suffered a fatal accident,” guessed Malnar.
“Accident, tragedy, take your pick,” answered Twayfar. “It was about 200 years ago when Dad and Entam had to take a late-night express passenger train. They suffered a delay and couldn’t get out of the station fast enough when they were finally allowed to leave.”
“Now, when the Great Wysper Northern Railway was in operation,” elaborated Domamfem, “their main line went around a mountain and it had a sharp two and a half por deep ravine. With so many twists and sharp turns, you HAD to take it slow or else fall. Sadly, that night had weather like tonight. With poor visibility, icy rails, and Dad and Entam’s desire to maintain their spotless record, thus causing them to go at a criminally reckless speed, it was small wonder what happened.”
“…They…they crashed?” gasped Foresna.
“The train jumped the track at the first sharp bend,” confirmed Lardeth. “The engine and coaches must have bounced at least a por forward once they hit the bottom of the ravine. My dad and Entam died in the impact, but that wasn’t the worst of it.”
“I’m probably tempting fate here,” gulped Malnar, “but what’s worse than that?!”
“Every man, woman, and child in those coaches died as well,” answered Roomef. “The tragedy ruined the railway’s image forever, thus leading it to close. Some of the engines and rolling stock were sold to Imperial Rails as well as some of the branch lines and main line, but the mountain path had its rails ripped up.”
“Dad’s engine and the coaches were scrapped after the bodies were recovered and interred at the cemetery,” continued Twayfar. “But that’s not the end of it.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Malnar.
“Come on, Twayfar!” snapped Lardeth. “Not that again! I thought you gave it up a hundred years ago!”
“How many mountaineers have seen it?!” argued Twayfar. “How many?! They can’t all be wrong!”
“They can’t all be right, either!” countered Domamfem.
“What are you guys talking about?” asked Arsha. Lardeth sighed before continuing.
“It’s believed that every year,” he explained, “around the time of the accident, the ghosts of Dad, Entam, and the passengers ride a spectral train, desperate to make it to the journey’s end so they can move on.”
“Ghosts? In the Over-realm?” asked Malnar incredulously.
“Take it from someone who survived a Wraith,” supplied Arsha. “The only time you’ll ever see a ghost occur outside of the Under-realm is if Oyed’s had a hand in it.”
“Even then,” continued Malnar, “ghosts in the Under-realm are pretty uncommon unless you’re in the Belsnath citadel.”
“Thank you, Malnar, Arsha,” bid Lardeth.
“Just out of curiosity,” interjected Falnii, “when…?”
“This week,” replied Twayfar. “So look out if you’re planning to visit the mountains.”
“Twayfar, stop that!” snapped Lardeth as he jabbed her arm with his elbow.
“Lardeth’s right,” supplied Endram. “You’re going on about nonsense.”
“So, you DON’T believe Yentil’s ghost can manifest here?” Gorfanth asked everyone.
“Somehow, this twit does!” remarked Lardeth as he pointed to Twayfar.
“Lardeth!” snapped Roomef.
“…Sorry,” he mumbled.
“In any event, Lardeth IS right,” assured Roomef. “Yentil’s ghost has NOT manifested here. Now, I don’t know about you lot, but I’m going to bed.”
“That sounds like a good idea,” yawned Endram. “Tomorrow’s Lardeth’s Tour’s End Ceremony and we need to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed! Good night, my dears!”
“Good night!” everyone bid as Roomef, Endram, Domamfem, and Twayfar left the room.
“I think we all better hit the hay,” declared Arsha.
“My bed’s always open for everyone,” offered Lardeth.
“That sounds excellent,” sighed Falnii happily. Everyone went into Lardeth’s bathroom and changed into their nightclothes. They then brushed their teeth and then they laid down on the mattress. Zephyrs never needed blankets as their clouds always kept them warm at nights. Falnii and Lardeth combined and expanded their clouds to wrap everyone into it. Soon, they all drifted off to sleep, at least, they all tried. Falnii couldn’t sleep, her mind still on the story of the death of Lardeth’s father. She tossed and turned between Gorfanth and Lardeth. Gorfanth felt her moving and so moved to face her.
“Something wrong, Fluffy?” he asked.
“I can’t sleep at all,” mumbled Falnii. “All those people gone, an entire railway closed, Lardeth having lost his father, it’s just too much!”
“It’s all right,” soothed Gorfanth as he pulled Falnii closer to him. “Lardeth would tell us if it affects him really bad. He’s open like that.”
“…Yeah, he is,” agreed Falnii. “It’s just that…no one should die like that.”
“No,” agreed Gorfanth.
“…You mind if I just rest my head on your chest a bit?” asked Falnii. “I need something to calm me and your breathing tends to do it.”
“That’s if you can hear my breathing over Arsha’s snoring!” grumbled Gorfanth. Falnii sat up and looked at Arsha. She was, indeed, snoring loudly and annoying Lardeth, Foresna, and Malnar.
“That’s Arsha?” quizzed Falnii. “I thought it was a large group of Dryads taking a late-night jog.” Malnar couldn’t take it anymore. She jabbed her elbow into Arsha’s side, waking her up.
“Whuzzu…?” yelped Arsha.
“Why don’t you take a decongestant?!” growled Malnar.
“What are you talking about, Bonfire?” asked Arsha sleepily. Foresna then sat up.
“You snore like a congested elephant!” he snapped.
“I do NOT snore,” protested Arsha, “and I do NOT believe that you recorded me when I took my nap after Sorsha got my hairpiece away from me! In fact, the video box was from one of Natural Realms’ series, Songs of the Whales!”
“So, you’re telling us that whale watchers can’t tell the difference,” snarked Lardeth, “between your snoring and the sounds of a 39 kantek, kelp-scarfing mammal?” He got hit in the face with the pillow for that.
“I don’t care what anyone says, I don’t snore!” hissed Arsha as she turned over.
“Denial, thy name is…” Malnar was interrupted by the door bursting open, revealing Feymay in a nightgown, a facial pack, and curlers in her cloudy hair.
“WILL YOU KIDS KEEP IT DOWN?!” she roared. “SOME OF US ARE TRYING TO SLEEP!”
“…Sorry, Mama!” squeaked Lardeth. Feymay left the room and slammed the door to emphasize her point. Everyone then laid back down and uneasily went to sleep.
The morning came and everyone was at an old railway station, long abandoned after it closed. Lardeth’s family stood on the platform as everyone sat in chairs going across the old track. There was an aisle in the center and it extended as the entire crew of the High Sky formed the rest of the aisle leading to the landing ramp of the ship. Lardeth then appeared, trailing his belongings behind him in a suitcase and a gym bag. He hesitated in leaving only to place his hand on the hull and wish the ship goodbye and good luck. He then looked down the aisle and saw the entire crew looking at him. After those few seconds, he then headed down the ramp and down the aisle, taking in all the faces of every ensign, lieutenant, commander, and officer under his command. He soon approached the station and set his stuff aside as he knelt in front of his parents. “Lardeth Felompha,” began Emfam, “you have been away from home for five years, serving Realmfleet and expanding your knowledge. What have you learned?”
“My decisions impacted the whole crew, no matter how small,” replied Lardeth. “If that is true for such a small scale, I can only imagine how true that is for the entire Over-realm. Still, I refuse to back away from the crown. The people still need someone to assist them in keeping the Realm running and that someone is me. I may be worried about the power I have now, but I won’t live in fear of it. Besides, I know I have people willing to give me a smack upside the head if I go too far. My ultimate lesson is that power is nothing if it isn’t shared.”
“Then your tour has been instrumental in your growth!” declared Emfam. “We have no doubts that you will lead us well when you ascend to the throne. Rise, Lardeth Felompha, Crown Prince of the entire Over-realm!” Lardeth rose and faced the audience as they applauded.
“Thank you, all of you,” he called. “I couldn’t have gone anywhere without your help.”
“Just doing what we can, Your Highness,” replied his First Officer, a Sea Dragon, Commander Standral. The instant he finished; a Merman came next to Lardeth in a water-chair.
“Ah, Captain Engrast!” greeted Lardeth. “Welcome! I take it, you’re taking command of the High Sky now?”
“Yes, Your Highness,” replied Engrast. His response was crisp and formal.
“At ease, Captain,” assured Lardeth. “Speak freely.” Engrast still considered his words before he spoke.
“You’ve left some pretty big shoes to fill,” he remarked.
“I know that the High Sky is in good hands with you in the Captain’s Chair,” replied Lardeth. They shook hands and Engrast glided down the aisle as his new crewmates followed him back into the ship. Once everyone had filed out, Lardeth, his lovers, and his family returned to the castle and had dinner.
“So, what else will we be doing?” asked Arsha.
“I was thinking of bringing you guys on a rail excursion to the Nimbus Theater,” replied Lardeth. “The Three Maidens are performing there and they’ve got Curlandii back.”
“A Three Maidens act with Curlandii?” chuckled Malnar. “I know we’re in for a good time!”
“Let’s just hope we can get there in time with all the fog,” muttered Gorfanth.
“Isn’t there a local mana crystal shortage?” asked Falnii.
“That’s only because the mine doesn’t have its own shunter,” replied Lardeth. “There’s plenty of mana crystals, but no efficient system to get it all out.”
“That’s changing tomorrow,” called Olmarfa. “Yaldem Jr. purchased an engine for the mines.”
“Did he now?” cheered Lardeth. “Well, sounds like the mines are about to be much more efficient!”