Skip navigation.
Write - Share - Read - Respond



For thirteen days, from dusk to dawn, one or other of them, or both, had been staring at that blob on the edge of the constellation of Vagos. At first, there had been the excitement of the quest to spur my friends on, but as their adrenalin pumps had begun to seize up, they had sunk ever more deeply into what the improbably named Ee-arth visionary Jon Verucca had called the 'slough of the pond'.

"It is just seems so pointless," said Drainin. "We could sit here until she closes us down and still not see anything, always asuming there's ever going to be anything to see in a month of light years."

Poloikova queezed her husband's hand. "Well, my love, we'll have tried. The readiness is all."

"Is that a quote?"

"I don't know. Should it be?"

"It just sounds like one, that's all. Any more of that herb cheese?"

"With a pot of tea?"

"With that wine Scaffold sent me home with!"

The vintage was fetched, opened, decanted, and poured. The scientists snuggled up to each other on the sofa. They ate the cheese, drank a glass of wine, and kept their eyes on that wretched sun! They drank a second glass. It was very good. They emptied the bottle.

Drainin's glass fell from his fingers and shattered on the tile floor.

"It's darker."


"It's darker!" Polikova repeated. "Look! The bottom right hand corner."

This was not an eclipse, nor would it become one: the object passing across the face of the star was far too small, or too far away from its presumed parent body, to do more than cause a tiny smudge of darkness as light refracted around it.

For nearly seven thrilling hours Polikova and Drainin watched as the phenomenom crept inexorably from the bottom right of that sun towards its top left. They did not see the end of this mysterious pilgrimage, because dawn intervened; but by then they had recorded sufficient data to make the precise postioning of Hamlet the First's 'mystery' planet simply a matter of mathematics.

And so the Empiricist and the Astronomer rushed straight off to tell the King? Well, that is how the myth makers would have it! But they were marked people. They had long since been removed from the Royal Tea list, and they had absolutely no access to His Majesty. Since the Prophecy they had not even been able to go to their provisioner's without a citizen spy or two shadowing them. Now, why should that be if the Prophecy had been nothing but the double 'mumbo jumbo' referred to in the Gazette? There had to be more to it than merely ordinary! Anyway, whatever it was the inhabitants of the Observatory would be the last people ever to find out.


It was the midnight hour. The maturing Moon dimmed as a cloud scudding in the stiffish breeze that had got up shortly after dusk began to pass over it. A black coated and hooded figure carrying a large black canvas bag emerged from the larch coppice some forty yards from the rear wall of the Observatory garden. He set off running as speedily as his great bulk would allow, and when he reached the wall he crumpled gratefully and breathlessly into its welcoming shadow.

The man opened the bag and took from it a rope ladder to which were attached the black painted hooks he had been making over the past couple of days. He waited until the Moon looked as murky as it was ever likely to be for a while before tossing up the business end of the ladder; the extensive practice beneath his own back garden wall paid good dividends, for with a perfect trajectory the grapplers sailed upwards, before clasping the top of the twenty feet high wall.

When our adventurer was astride the wall he pulled the ladder up after him. He unhooked then reversed the iron claws, let the ladder drop down into the garden, and contemplated the only truly terrifying thing life had so far offered him. After several deep breaths, and with his head swimming, he reached blindly down with one foot to locate a rung. That achieved, and with the ladder wobbling crazily beneath him, he held onto the wall's top while he swung over his other leg. It was quite a chilly night, but by the time each foot had found a fragile home the sweat was flowing freely from his chin all the way down to his boots. The intruder could not but remind himself that he would later have to go through the whole process again, in reverse.

The man had good cause to be grateful that the garden was overlooked by nothing but the Observatory, for within seconds of his huge feet sinking into soft loam, the Moon shone again in all its glory. He jumped at the grunt, before taking comfort from the whiff of pig.

He crept towards the building by way of lawns and edges of borders, for he did not wish to alarm the inhabitants by crunching along the gravel paths.

Eventually, a line of paving slabs led to a homely looking, green painted, door. He raised his hand to knock. The door opened, and Drainin said, "Scaffold, my dear fellow, how nice t see you."

"Expecting me. Were you?"

"No, but do come in."

I as just going out for a stroll under the Moon before turning in," Drainin said as he raised his lips to a second glass of a home vintage which Scaffold had judged to be drinking well. When the visitor had given a brief, hair-raisng account of his adventuring, Polikova went off to prepare a 'little supper', which turned out to an enormous tomato, mushroom, and red bean omelette, to which serious attention had to be given. A second bottle was opened.

Scaffold had yet to offer any explanation for his unorthodox visiting methods.

"But why?" Drainin asked. "Not why you came at night by the back door, but simply why? Apart, of course, from wanting your keys back."

This attempt at humour passed the Master of the Works by. He took a mouth filling and reflective swig of the wine, before saying, "Too many spies. In the day. Since the Prophecy."

"According to the paper there wasn't much of a Prophecy," Polikova said.

"Paper lied."

"We wondered if it might have done."

"Good friends. Medoc and Morag. Wrote it down. Gave it me."

Scaffold took a piece of paper from inside his tunic and handed it to Drainin.

The Empiricist read aloud:"'Thou. Hamlet, of that name the Last, art more blessed than all kings past. All will say of great Hamlet's reign, we shall not see its like again'"

"Wow!" Polikova exclaimed.

"in a word," said Drainin.

"Indeed," said Scaffold. "Her Grace left. In a huff. Not happy."

"How did the King react?"

"Anxious. Asked Sage. What to do."

"What did she say?"

"Would be a moment. When he would know. What to do."

"We've had a bit of a moment of our own," Polikova said.. "Those keys of yours - they helped solve a mystery."

"The mystery of the 'mystery' planet," Drainin said. "You know, the one the first Hamlet went looking for." He went to a drawer, took out the bunch of skeleton keys and handed them to Scaffold, whose roomy pocket swallowed them up.

"Planet important?"

"It could be."

"Tell the King."

"How?" Polikova asked.

"Take you. Now."

"To the Palace?"

"Made arrangemants. With sentries. Just in case. Pack tooth brushes."

About an hour later, the scientists, having endured with the Master the terrors of the garden wall, were flitting from shadow to shadow, and listening out for patrols, as they made their way towards the Palace and, they hoped, obliging sentries.

kelson.philo's picture

Most intriguing. Steefax

Most intriguing. Steefax must have some brilliant people in optical physics. Things are coming to a head...

But not that brilliant!

I am so grateful to you for nudging me in the direction of more believable 'science'. Please, if you would, see the fundamental changes to Chapter 14 - THE SCIENTISTS. Even Diken has now heard of the radio telescopes on the Moon, with their radio link with the Observatory! I hope this works - sort of.

kelson.philo's picture problem problem whatsoever. The link up with the 'scopes on the moon is a good idear, it works well and dispells a fantasy bit that might edge Steefax a bit too far o'er the line.

NOt that having the fantasitcal would be a bad thing by any means, but once you have a set of physical rules for a place, it's prolly best to keep with them as close as possible.

I've been experienceing similar conundrums with TW; deciding what exactly the trex can and cannot do! For example, it can make a sandwich out of a pay-per-amount feed stock, but does that mean it can transmute lead into gold as well? I don't think so, as that would involve manipulation at the atomic-nucleus level (femto technology) as opposed to merely moving atoms around into new configurations (nano-technology).

Double checking one's own world views can be just as exhausting as wrting the blammed thing in the first place!


You have eased one of my main worries regarding the 'suspension of disbelief'. And yes, exhausting can be the word. But it's worth it, isn't it!

kelson.philo's picture

Oh, completely. The more

Oh, completely. The more you dive into an art form, it seems, purely for the love of it, the more relationships you find between all the different artforms. For example, i'm now understanding a bit more of a woodcarver's sentiments that the figure they're carving is already in the block of wood, the tools are just releasing it from it's woody bonds.

Of course, that reveals some of the differences in the arts as well. If i were to fully 'release' TW from it's woody bonds, the details would be ginormous. Some of the details to be left to the reader ( not plot points, true, but things like wall color, how many pockets are in Paul's jumpsuit, that sort of thing ) resulting in each reader viewing the TW universe a little differently. It's not as concrete as a woodcarving in that way.

'course, maybe the concrete-ness of a woodcarving is an illusion anyway...

Carving away!

My 'Hamlet' tale began many years ago with a play I wrote for a local secondary school. The girl who played Nell 'carved' her character in ways I myself had never imagined. I owe this extraordinary actress much. Her name? - Finola!

kelson.philo's picture

Ha! Excellent.

Ha! Excellent.