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  1. Closing Time A Short Story by Lord Byron Word Count: 1750 Elements used: The Pen is mightier than the sword, A broken Clock, the Guild Quarter Jacob looked into the windows of his shop and smiled. Looking back at him was a man who had been through a lot, black hair starting to grey above a set of wire rimmed spectacles in front of bright blue eyes. A cane in one hand held up a body that had slowly begun to feel the pains of being hunched over a work bench for hours every day, repairing the baubles and toys of the people of Malifaux. The gold lettering of the sign hanging above the store front proudly proclaimed to the denizens of the Guild Quarter that here was Master Jacob’s Fine Jewelry and Clock Repair. That sign had cost him almost a month’s worth of work, but it was worth it in Jacob’s opinion. It granted the store a certain prestige, and he had certainly been seeing a few more high class customers since he had put it up. Jacob turned away and to walk down the street to his home, just outside the gates into the prestigious center of Malifaux, but someone had appeared next to him and he knew he’d be staying a few extra hours tonight. The man spoke, “Master Jacob.” Looking at him from underneath the brim of a wide hat were a pair of green eyes, and little else. He wore a trenchcoat made from a dark leather, and across his back was a large pine box, he was a Death Marshall, one that Jacob had worked with before. Jacob sighed, “Hello Mr. Smith, how can I help you tonight?” “I have something I need you to fix, and it would be greatly appreciated if you could finish it tonight.” With that said the man held out a pocket watch. Jacob took the watch, “Very well Mr. Smith, you know my fee, and I assume the Guild will be paying in the usual manner?” Mr. Smith nodded, “There’s more to it, this one has….. abilities, that we would like restored as well.” Jacob’s curiosity was piqued, to have an enchantment in such a small piece would require a true master of the art. “You know the fee for that as well, and I assume your supervisors have agreed to that?” Another nod from Mr. Smith, and Jacob was satisfied, he turned and unlocked the door into his shop, stepping in he began to lock it behind him, but Mr. Smith had walked in behind. “Is there anything else?” This was highly unusual, most of the time Jacob was left to his work. “I have been ordered to watch over you while you repair this, certain parties have expressed an interest in this device and it’s protection has been deemed a priority.” “Very well…” with that Jacob locked the door behind Mr. Smith and walked to his workbench. Placing the watch in front of him he reached under his bench and pressed a button he had hidden when he first set up the shop. From the ceiling above his windows and door a fine wire mesh descended, and a slight hum filled the air. “Be careful Mr. Smith, don’t touch the wires or you’ll disrupt my protections, and yourself.” Mr. Smith nodded and turned to face out of the window, apparently satisfied to keep to himself. Placing the watch in front of him he began to assess the problem, the hands obviously weren’t moving, and apparently something was not working in a mystical sense. The back had a deep dent in it, and upon inspection Jacob believed it had been caused by a bullet. Opening it was easy enough, and the damage had severely bent all the gears and springs, they would all need to be replaced or repaired, an exceedingly tedious but simple task. However, within the frames of many of the gears, and at the center of the springs rested a tiny crystal. Reaching into his toolbox and pulling out his magnification glasses he carefully inspected each crystal. As he looked he realized that these were not quartz or a similar metal, but each and everyone was a soulstone, crystal clear, cut with a precision to rival the masters of the trade and set inside the watch with infinite care. This severely complicated manners, Jacob would have to remove and inspect each stone, make sure they were charged, replace any damaged ones, and even after he put it back together he had no idea what the device was supposed to do. With a great sigh he took out a piece of paper and carefully began uninstalling all the pieces, gridding out the paper and writing the dimensions and location of every piece and stone next to it as he set it down. After completing this he began the process of repair. Many of the items would not be salvageable, and he had to reach into his drawers of parts to replace and modify all the inner workings. Time seemed to stand still as he crafted each piece, and inspected each stone. Luckily the stones were all intact, and he was able to put each one back in place without having to go through the trouble of trying to find a similar stone for the device. Finally Jacob hammered out the back piece, and inspected the work for completeness, satisfied, he snapped it shut, and gave a yelp of surprise as it set itself to the proper time. Before he could do anything more he felt the cold metal of a blade pressed against his neck. Shortly thereafter he felt the blade removed, and let out a sigh of relief “My apologies Master Jacob, I wasn’t sure what you had done, I had to take precautions.” The apology from the Death Marshall hardly seemed adequate for the fear that coursed through Jacob’s veins. “Of course, of course, I was simply startled, the watch has set itself you see.” With that Jacob held the watch out for inspection. “I’m unsure what else it does though, I can’t vouch for the abilities you wished to have restored to it, but I’m positive that I have reassembled it exactly as it was.” “That’s all we ever ask for Master Jacob, your aid, and discretion, is appreciated as always.” With that the Marshall reached to take the watch. Mid-reach he stopped and spun around, and grabbed his pine box with one hand, whipping out his Peacebringer with the other. Before Jacob could say anything his windows exploded inwards, covering the store with shards of glass. A loud electric buzz filled the air, and sparks flew from the mesh that he had lowered into place. Jacob dived for the ground behind his counter, grunting in pain as his knee bounced off the hard wood, clutching the pocket watch close to his chest. He heard the report of the Marshall’s peacebringer and felt a sudden heat from the watch. Looking at the watch it had lit up with a bright green light, and he saw the hands come to a stop, at the same moment all the noise stopped. Thinking the battle must be over Jacob peered over the edge of his counter, and couldn’t believe what he saw. Everything was frozen in place, he saw the Marshall, stuck in place as he leaped over the counter, his box improbably in front of his outstretched arm, stuck mid-air with the door half open, sickly green flame oozing out. In front of the shop’s window was a small group of figures, half hidden in the light of the streets with long hooded robes draped across their frames, frozen in place as they attempted to duck out of sight. Jacob stood up, unsure of what he should do next, with time apparently frozen, he had no idea how to start it again, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to with what was unfolding in front of him. It seemed that he would have no choice though, the watch’s glow had start to fade, and almost imperceptibly he noticed things beginning to move again. In a panic he grabbed the nearest thing he could find, his pen, and lowered himself back behind his counter. Suddenly time was flowing normally again, and Jacob heard his mesh scream in protest, and saw the bright flash of light as he assumed the pine box had flown through it. And he jumped as the Marshall’s form dropped in front of him, changed completely as a ghostly fire had enveloped his frame and revealed the bare features of a human skull. The skull stared directly at Jacob, and he jumped as the jaw moved up and down, “Did it work?” Jacob couldn’t move, the terror of a talking skeleton in front of him was simply too much. “Damn it, I’ll have to do this the old fashioned way then.” With that said the Marshall stood back up and fired off another shot, instantly the watch glowed, and Jacob found himself in a frozen time once again. It dawned on Jacob then, the soulstone of the watch was feeding off the death of the marhsall’s foes! Jacob steeled himself, if he could move and they couldn’t, he could do something about this, he counted the people in front of his store and realized that there was no way he would survive if he didn’t do something. He gripped his pen and painfully walked forward, time slowly began moving, and just as it started to pick back up he slammed it into the eye of the man trying to come through his front door. The man’s remaining eye went wide with confusion and pain, and just as Jacob pulled the pen out a piece of pinkish grey meat stuck on the end, his remaining eye rolled back as he fell, and time froze again. Around him the others in the group had shifted their gaze at Jacob, shock in their eyes. Jacob tried not to look into those eyes, as he jabbed his pen into the throats of the others while time stood still. As time came back to speed, Jacob walked back into his store, the men in front collapsing as they grabbed at their throats to stop the blood. “It would appear your watch is operating again Mr. Smith.” Jacob said as he approached the shocked Marshall. “Thanks…. I’ll have to ask you to hand it over, and please don’t leave. I expect the guard shall be arriving shortly after that altercation.” The Marshall reached out, and Jacob gently placed it back in his hand……
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