Foreword: this story is a one-off spin-off to the Event Horizon: Storm Of Magic series, a reading of which is recommended in order to understand the world in which this story is set. But in brief: in the future, humans from Earth have found a way to travel to Westeros and several other fantasy worlds. Book 1 "Autumn's Frontier" covers specifically the events on Westeros, while Book 2 and 3 cover events on other worlds. This story is a "Christmas Special" (which doesn't actually have anything to do with Christmas except for snow and someone getting a toy train as a present, you'll see) set in Westeros after the events of Book 1. Read on, enjoy, and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!
Disclaimer: the Event Horizon series is a non-commercial series based on parody and satire, and so qualifies as "Fair Use".
The Flying Northman: An Event Horizon Christmas Special
Summer was now long past, and although it would probably be at least a year or so before winter proper had arrived, the North was already beginning to feel the pinch. Another light snow had covered the landscape last night, and the day had been brisk and overcast as The Young Wolf had made his way to the colony that morning. Like his brothers and sisters of the pack, he was very much a child of summer; he could barely remember the last winter.
At that moment, however, his attention was focused not on the climate, but on the enormous monster that stood in front of him, a behemoth of steel, hissing and belching black smoke and white steam everywhere. Its body was largely cylindrical in shape, resting upon three pairs of enormous wheels, each even taller than Robb himself, with two pairs of smaller wheels in front, and a third pair of smaller wheels behind. There was a box-shaped cabin at the rear, where this beast's handlers would sit, and behind them, a smaller steel box sat upon a further four pairs of wheels. The beast's metallic body was painted in a rich livery of polished black, but with vibrant red-painted wheels and lining. Several appendages, including a bell, protruded from the top of the contraption's cylindrical body, like scales running down a dragon's back, and had been cast in shining brass. Painted upon the flank of this living, breathing beast, in tall golden lettering, was the name:
No. 1 THE FLYING NORTHMAN
"Impressive, isn't it, Lord Stark?" beamed Lord Daniel Zimmerman, a hint of pride in his voice.
Robb said nothing as he stood there on the new platform of the new 'Autumn's Frontier Station', but nodded in agreement. He knew as much as Lord Daniel did that this machine was far from the most intricate and powerful that the Sky-People were capable of constructing, but all the same, the impact it left upon seeing it up close for the first time was not to be discounted.
"This, Lord Stark," began one of the Sky-People accompanying him, one by the name of Nigel Pegler, "is one of the latest babies to come out of our new 'Imperial Locomotive Works' over in The Empire. The design is an original one created by us, but based heavily on some imaginary lovechild of the legendary London & North Eastern Railway LNER Gresley Class-A3 locomotive Flying Scotsman, and the newer LNER Peppercorn Class-A1 Tornado, along with a lot of improvements we made in design, materials, efficiency, and electronics too. This, Lord Stark, is the centerpiece of the new 'Autumn-Winter Railway'."
Robb had read and heard much about these fabled 'railways' of the Sky-People, but to have actually seen one come to the North was another thing entirely. Over the last week, there had been a great commotion as a new machine (one the Sky-People had named "Isambard", after a famous railway builder of theirs) had carefully lain two thin strips of steel across the entire distance from Autumn's Frontier, right up to Winter Town. Meanwhile, further works had transpired within Winter Town, where Mayor Mollen had organized the laborers to help build a new platform and station. Only Robb and a few others understood just what the railway meant, but the work nonetheless had drawn large crowds of curious onlookers, and it was not long before the word had spread out across the North like wildfire. Indeed, the crowd now gathered here at Autumn's Frontier was an eclectic mix of the Sky-People and their colonists, as well as the colony's workers, and Robb's own family and other guests and dignitaries from Winterfell.
Of course, the coming of the railway to the North had not pleased everyone.
His own Lord Father had been hostile to the idea of bringing yet another of those Sky-People's "black-smoke breathing machines" to Winterfell. But at this moment, his Lord Father was down south in the capital, reluctantly summoned there at King Stannis Baratheon's personal request, and when he was not here, Robb was the rightful Lord Of Winterfell, Lord Paramount and Warden Of The North ... and First Lord Director of Industry too (a title, he confessed, he had made up for himself). And it was thus in this capacity that he had authorized and commissioned the construction of what would be a first not only for the North, but for the Realm as a whole.
Behind it, "The Flying Northman" was attached to eight large wagons, each about sixty or seventy foot in length. The first three were the so-called 'passenger coaches', and they most certainly looked like enormous versions of horse-drawn carriages that would have put even the luxurious wheelhouse of the disgraced and exiled former Queen Cersei to shame. The next four wagons were all 'flatbed cars', that were all loaded up with various goods and wares produced here at the Sky-People's colony that were to be taken over to Winter Town, and fastened down with lengths of chain. The final wagon was a 'caboose', which looked like a smaller version of the passenger coaches, and would house a small crew of workmen and guards. And like the locomotive, the coaches and freight cars were all painted in the same black-and-red livery...
"Lord Zimmerman, Lord Pegler," began Robb, "it is incredible, but I was also curious about the choice of color..."
"Certainly, Lord Stark," replied Daniel, "the black and red paint is the standard livery that all of our rolling stock is using at the moment. It's the cheapest and most abundant chemical paint we can spare in sufficient quantities at the moment. In any case, our entire product line was optimized with Emperor Karl Franz in mind as our primary customer, and they agreed that the black-and-red paint job suited The Empire Of Man more than any other color scheme we could produce for the same price. It definitely suits them far more than pink, that's for sure."
"I see. No, I was just curious, that is all," mumbled Robb.
"Mr. Stark, I'll put it this way," pressed Nigel Pegler, "one of Earth's greatest and most legendary heroes of all time was the great industrialist Henry Ford, who invented the idea of the assembly line, and once said: 'you can have any color you want, as long as its black'. Welcome to the industrial era, Mr. Stark." Nigel winked, and then glanced at his watch. "Hmmm, gentlemen, if you could please take your seats. Quickly now, we're running on a schedule."
Nigel then pulled a silver whistle from his pocket, and blew it. TWEEEEEEEEET. That certainly caught the attention of everyone gathered there. "THE TRAIN WILL BE DEPARTING IN TWO MINUTES!" he shouted, "ALL PASSENGERS AND CREW TO YOUR ASSIGNED SEATING! QUICKLY PLEASE! THANK YOU."
At Lord Pegler's behest, Robb followed Daniel through the doors and into the first carriage. All the while, Daniel continued to explain: "the two Second-class coaches can seat up to 60 passengers each, with two bathrooms too. Their interiors are a little flat and bland; second-class emphasizes practicality and efficiency over style. But this is the First-class coach, with seven compartments each, each with six seats. In theory, that should mean a total of 42 passengers, but in practice, we end up using one of the cabins for housing support staff, like a second crew for changing shifts, or else armed guards."
"Armed guards?" inquired Robb.
"Our railways are an investment, Mr. Stark," answered Nigel, following close behind them, "and The Company™ always protects its investments. Especially over in The Empire, each of our trains always carries two platoons of guards, including at least two machine gun teams, as well as a team of workmen and laborers to repair any track damaged by marauding Beastmen, Orcs, Skaven, et cetera. Here, I believe this is your cabin."
Before Robb could inquire any further into these so-called "Beastmen, Orcs, Skaven, et cetera", he was briskly shown into one of the first class compartments. Within, he found the rest of his family all sitting and waiting for him. Lady Catelyn and little Rickon sat on one side, Sansa and Arya on the other. On the floor sat Lady and Shaggydog; both of them sat up and barked excitedly when Robb entered with Grey Wind following close behind him. It was a tough time for the House of Stark, with Lord Eddard still down south on special business with the King, and Brandon still away on a distant world, slowly healing and regaining his ability to walk. But the Starks of Winterfell had endured over the ages, and Robb secretly hoped that this journey would be a sign of greater things to come. He smiled and took his seat.
"ALL ABOARD!" boomed the voice of Nigel Pegler from outside the compartment.
Out on the platform, workmen hustled and shouted. The last door banged. The guard shone his green light. The Flying Northman was ready to go.
CHOOOOOOOOOOOO-CHOOOOOOOOOOO! blasted the whistle. DING-DING! DING-DING! rang the bell. The engine's enormous wheels and the steel rods connecting them screeched and screamed; the wagons shuddered and groaned. And then, the entire train began to move – slowly at first, but noticeably faster with each passing second.
At once, there was a great cheer that broke out from amongst all the people gathered on the platform, and from those inside the carriages. The Flying Northman was off on its first adventure.
"HURRAH!" cried Arya as she too joined in them, standing on her seat to peer out of the open window (much to the disapproval and concern of her mother and sister too, though Robb had to admire his plucky little sister's spirit and support for the Sky-People). The direwolves too lent their voices too to the clamor, with Shaggydog getting up to stick his great head out of the open window to howl whilst his master jumped up and down on his seat in excitement and open defiance of his mother's attempts to calm him down. Lady and Grey Wind were considerably better behaved.
CHUFF ... CHUFF ... CHUFF ... CHUFF ... heaved the engine, breathing heavily and quickening its pace with each passing second. TROK-TRIK TROK-TRIK sang the wagons as they clattered along the rails right behind it.
The train glided down the track, and passed right through the new gatehouse that demarcated the entrance to the colony of Autumn's Frontier. The White Wolf guards manning the outpost there were smiling and waving to the passengers as the train stormed through the open gates. Robb couldn't help but be reminded of his brother Jon (well, actually his cousin, but that made little difference – to him, Jon would always be his brother). Unfortunately, Jon could not be here today; he was out somewhere Beyond The Wall at that moment, on an important mission for The Company™...
The whistle blasted again, and the wintry landscape outside began to blur as the train gathered speed. And yet, the ride was remarkably smooth and completely unlike riding a horse, or even on one of those "Wild Cat" vehicles of the Sky-People. Even his mother Lady Catelyn seemed to finally calm down and actually be enjoying herself (although that was probably just as much due to Rickon having finally tired himself out). The train steamed onwards.
Within a few minutes, the door slid open, and into the compartment entered two people: the first was Lord Daniel himself, and the second was one of the kitchen girls, carrying a silver tray laden with several piping hot porcelain cups, and a plate of freshly baked chocolate pastries, still warm from the ovens of the kitchens of Autumn's Frontier. Daniel smiled. "We'll be serving tea and coffee and snacks on the regular service too, but nothing quite as fancy as today's inaugural journey. Enjoy!"
"Thank you, Lord Zimmerman," spoke Lady Catelyn, respectfully, as the beverages and refreshments were passed around, with Rickon immediately snatching a not-insignificant portion of all the chocolate cookies for himself. Catelyn shot a look of disapproval at the boy, but quickly turned back to address their host.
"The pleasure is ours," replied Daniel.
"By the way, how is Lord Kovacs and Lady Vaenya?" asked Arya.
"They're well, thanks for asking," answered Daniel, "suffice to say, L-Three is a pretty different world than this one. But I think you would definitely enjoy visiting there one day. I'll let Fred know you asked about them. Hmmm ... ah, before I forget, Lord Robb, your presence is requested up front."
Robb knew that for all of the wonder and excitement gracing this auspicious day, there was still important business to be conducted, so he excused himself and got up and followed Daniel. Grey Wind too got up and followed close behind his master, wondering just who was it that Daniel wanted them to meet...
To be continued in part II...