Journey Through Wonder story

Chapter 40: Ridge

The next morning, Patrick and his crew, Glanthel and Endram, were taking a passenger run to the Summit. The train went without incident, but that didn’t stop Patrick from grumbling about what was said last night. “Ghosts on Sodor,” he scoffed as he climbed Devil’s Back. “The only ‘ghost’ here was Percy tricking Thomas on the NWR! He got his comeuppance later on! There’s no such thing as ghosts here!”

“There is some truth to ghost stories,” remarked Endram as he checked Patrick’s fire, “even if the ghosts themselves are fake.”

“Oh, really? And did you happen to see any ghosts?”

“As a matter of fact, the Under-realm, the home of my son’s beloved Malnar and Gorfanth, is the ghost capital of the Realms.”

“Back before the Realms fully united,” explained Glanthel, “the Under-realm was very liberal with necromancy.”

“Death-related magic, yes?” asked Patrick.

“That’s right. Because of their frequent use of it, the veil between the living and the dead was permanently weakened and so ghosts are a common sight there. It’s usually unheard of when a ghost pops up in any other Realm.”

“I do recall one incident,” said Endram. “It happened during-”

“THERE’S AN ENGINE ROLLING DOWN THE LINE!” called the coach. Patrick braked to a halt and his crew and passengers saw a single engine going backwards down Devil’s Back. It then rolled off the tracks and down the mountain. Patrick could see that it almost looked like Culdee!

“Quick! Get Control on the line! Culdee’s had an accident!” urged Patrick. Glanthel quickly took the radio and call Control.

“Emergency!” he said. “Culdee’s derailed off Devil’s Back! Repeat, Culdee has rolled off of Devil’s Back!”

“…Are you being funny?” asked Control.

“We’re not! Culdee’s had an accident!”

“That’s impossible. Summit’s reported that he delivered his passengers to the Summit Hotel safely. He’s still waiting for you to come up so he can come down.”

“Then it was probably Shane Dooiney! Or Wilfred! Or Ernest!”

“Shane Dooiney is currently arranging the Truck and Wilfred and Ernest are coming back from their maintenance.”

“Well, whatever engine that fell down the mountain wasn’t to Superheat Design, I can tell you that!” snapped Patrick. “I know Alaric and Eric are doing track maintenance around Skarloey Road! And I’m still on the rails!”

“Then you were mistaken and there WAS no engine derailment! Quit wasting our time!” Control then ended the call.

“Bu-but-!” stammered Patrick.

“We saw it too,” assured Glanthel. “And so did the passengers, from the sound of things.” While the passengers talked about what happened, Patrick resumed his journey up the mountain. His smokebox was all a blur with his thoughts.

Later in the evening, Patrick told everyone what happened on Devil’s Back. “I’m telling you; I saw that engine as he tumbled down the mountainside! It looked almost like Culdee!”

“I’m surprised Control didn’t send someone over to the crash site,” muttered Shane Dooiney, the number five engine.

“They did,” replied Glanthel, “but there was nothing there.”

“What is going on around here?” muttered Yufantel. “If it IS Godred’s ghost, why hasn’t he appeared before now?”

“Someone may have artificially weakened the veil between the living and the dead,” guessed Irina.

“There’s merit in that theory,” said Endram. “I was about to tell Patrick about it before we saw the crash.”

“About when you saw the ghost of Daddy Lardeth’s father?” asked Yufantel.

“That’s the one. I take it someone told you about it?”

“It was Grandma Olmarfa who told me.”

“Do you want to tell the story or should I?”

“You tell the story.”

“Very well.” Endram then took in a breath and began. “First off, we all must get clear that I am NOT Lardeth’s father. Oh, yes, I married his moms, but that was after their previous husband, the father of their children died. His father, the previous Over-King before me, a human called Yentil, was once an engine driver for the Great Wysper Northern Railway. Even when he was King, he would always find time to work there with his firewoman. From my wives and children’s description, he was also very boastful and so was the firewoman. They always talked about their spotless record, how they had never once been late or had an accident. The real kicker of it was that it was all true.”

“True?” asked Sira incredulously.

“I didn’t believe it myself until I saw the documentation to prove it. They were quick to criticize anyone, even their own crew, if they were late in any capacity. Their Controller always praised them whenever they delivered their trains on time. That’s ultimately what caused the accident.”

“What happened?” asked Culdee. He had a guess but wanted confirmation.

“Yentil and his firewoman had to take a late-night express passenger train. They suffered a delay and couldn’t get out of the station fast enough when the Conductor finally blew his whistle. Back when the Great Wysper Norther Railway was in operation, their main line went around a mountain and there was a deep ravine. The night they took that train was foggy and there was snow on the ground. With the poor visibility, icy rails, and Yentil and his firewoman’s desire to maintain their spotless record, thus causing them to go at a criminally reckless speed, the outcome was inevitable.”

“They crashed,” summed up Irina.

“Came right off the rails at the first sharp bend. Yentil, his firewoman, all the passengers, and the Conductor lost their lives that night and the accident ruined the railway’s reputation forever. It closed and the mountain line was ripped up and the engines and rolling stock were sold to other railways so they could regain some of their financial loss.”

“What does that have to do with ghosts?” asked Patrick.

“For a while, there was a story that, on the anniversary of the accident, a ghost train would go along the old mountain road to try and finally complete its journey. Lardeth didn’t believe it until his Tour of Duty came to an end. A week before, our Destroyer brought a Wraith to the Over-realm and it’s believed that his actions weakened the veil between the living and the dead for that moment in the Over-realm, thus allowing everyone, even Lardeth, to see the ghost train. We managed to intercept it and the old Railway Controller asked forgiveness for cultivating their ego to the point it led to a fatal accident. Yentil and his firewoman forgave him and one of our former Gods gave the ghost train a new path to the eternal rest they craved while also restoring the barrier between living and dead to its former state.”

“And if that mystery engine IS Godred’s ghost,” remarked Culdee, “we need to help him achieve his rest.”

“And how, pray tell,” grunted Patrick, “do we do that?”

“…I don’t know.”

“We can’t exactly plan with no sleep,” said Irina. “We need to discuss this in the morning.”

“Irina’s right,” agreed Alaric, the number seven engine. “We need some shut eye. Good night.”

“Good night,” replied everyone else. The engines went to sleep as their crews went home.

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