Hello everybody! My first Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica fic! (And there certainly aren't enough out there! I'll just have to fill up the archives! *smiles*). Story is based on the newest book: The Dragon's Apprentice. If you haven't finished it (completely finished it), then DON'T READ THIS YET! Big spoiler alerts!

Word-Count: 1,183 (not including A/N's)

Written for "shkinkmeme prompt": Hit shuffle on the nearest music playing device. The title of the first song is the prompt.

Crack out those iPods, dig your hand through a box of 8-tracks or records, grab the nearest member of a choir. Whatever it takes people!

The Tamerlane House, September of 1943

…"I can't promise," Charles called back over his shoulder as he waved goodbye. "After all, some of us have less time than others—and we need to be making hay while the sun shines."

"Where in heaven's name did you get that expression?" John said in mock disgust. "You've been fraternizing with the American scholars again, haven't you?"

The three companions laughed as they stepped onto the bridge—and disappeared…

…finding themselves once again, back in Oxford.

It was Autumn, just as it had been hours before: allowing the three Caretakers to breathe out a sigh of relief. They were home.

Oxford, March of 1944

John had begun thinking it was very unusual Bert and Jules had not contacted them since their return to the Summer Country about a week after their arrival. Then he grew continually uneasy when the weeks continued to pass. And now, the Caveo Principia's mind was frantic with worry for the Archipelago, and everyone in it.

All of the present Caretakers, now confined to the Summer Country, had contacted each other, of course—but who knew what could be happening back at the Tamerlane House when none of them had a way to get there? All the Dragonships were gone, along with Samaranth and the other dragons. There was no other way to cross the Frontier, except with the trumps and watches, which were currently out of commission.

John, Jack, and Charles were stuck here: and as the clock kept ticking…faster and faster like a bomb, the Caretaker Principia couldn't help but realize that 1945 was approaching far too quickly.

Cambridge, July of 1944

Jack supposed that the Bridge of Shakespeare had been a good idea at first: after all, it had bought them back to the Summer Country all those months ago. However, he was beginning to doubt that belief wholeheartedly when it had been nearly 10 months since their return, with not one word.

If something had not been wrong, one of the Messengers would have arrived through trump. Hank Morgan, or Alvin Ransom: maybe even Bert or Verne themselves. Or if there had been something wrong, the least the Emeritus could have done was follow them through the Bridge once again, just to reassure them that they were okay. But there had not been one word.

Of course, life goes on, even if you're constantly worrying about a secret you can tell virtually no one. Charles had been spending as much time with his family as he could: 1945 was arriving much too soon, and much too fast. John was continuing on his book, attempting to not appear frantic and desperate whenever they spoke or met with each other.

Hugo was mostly worried about Rose: as they all were. But it was Jack who concocted all the outrageous possibilities. What if their friends were in danger? What if because their return, something horrible had happened on the other end? What if the Archipelago had been destroyed?

John and Charles attempted to convince him that that was such a drastic prediction that couldn't possibly happen: the Caretaker Emeritus was simply busy, with fixing the trumps and all. And there was the message made by Mother Night to Rose, of course.

"And time moves faster here anyway, old chap," Charles had supplied. "You know how the Tamerlane House works! They've probably just lost track of time. The problem has probably already been fixed."

"But then why hasn't Burton returned to Cambridge? Or Doyle? Or Houdini?" Jack shot back. And that, none of them could answer.

And if something truly wasn't wrong, then why were they all so worried?

Oxford, May 14, 1945

Charles did not truly know when he would die: only that it was sometime in 1945. 9 years earlier, he had spoken to Bert and Verne about the possibility of becoming a tulpa, and after the success of Jack's sample, he was certain that he could do it.

But would he be able to do the final act alone? Without any of the Caretakers Emeritus? Without Verne or Kipling?

Would Charles Williams have to die alone?

No, the Caretaker thought before falling into a weary and surprisingly draining sleep. I won't be alone. I'll have my friends. And that's all a dying man can ask for.

Oxford, May 15th, 1945

I can't believe he's gone, John thought.

"There was no warning. Sometimes people just can't hold on any longer." Not that that would make it any easier to bear. We knew when he would die, and yet, here the two of us are, surprised that he's gone.

"I'm sorry for your loss, good sirs. The funeral will be held in 3 days. You are welcome to attend the wake on Wednesday as well."

"Thank you, doctor." Jack said numbly beside him.

The doctor, who had no idea the importance of the news he had brought to the two remaining Caretakers, walked away.

There was nothing. All was silent. Even the bustle of the hospital could not penetrate the silent and sorrowful bubble the two friends had been sucked into. Charles was gone. Dead. Deceased. And with no other Caretakers, with the Emeritus still missing in action…

…what would they do now?

The Kilns, May 17th, 1945

"He was a good man, John. Who lived a full life, regardless of knowing when he would die. I don't think Charles would have any regrets—"

Jack's speech to his depressed and silent friend was interrupted by a sharp and curt knocking at the door.

John raised his eyebrow in surprise. Who could be here, at this hour…?

He opened the door, and there stood the most welcome sight he had ever seen: Bert, Jules Verne, Alvin Ransom, and Hank Morgan, all standing with stunned and confused expressions on their faces.

The Caretakers had returned to the Summer Country.

But they were too late.

"…Knew you'd come," John said, his voice a mix of joy and barely-restrained sorrow. "I knew you'd find a way!"

Behind him they could see Jack, his brother Warnie, and Hugo Dyson. All were dressed very formally and were drinking strong liquor.

There was some confusion as the new arrivals entered and introductions were made. Warnie and Hugo had never met Verne or Bert, and Ransom and Morgan only briefly.

"We're so glad to see you're all right," said Bert. "When the earthquake happened, we worried something had gone terribly wrong."

"Earthquake?" Jack asked, looking at John, who shrugged. "Nothing like that happened. The bride worked like a charm, but then it vanished. We've been terribly worried all this time about you. And when we didn't hear from anyone—"

"All what time?" said Bert. "You just left, not five minutes ago!"

"Bert," Jack said slowly, his voice trembling, "we came home two years ago. We've been trying to reach you the entire time."
Verne closed his eyes as he suddenly realized: They were having a wake. "Then Charles…," he began.

"You've come too late," said Jack. "Charles is dead."

Thank you for reading this pretty short story! I know the song doesn't really reflect the idea of this story, but hey, if you look at the beginning lyrics, it does kinda reflect it…

Heart don't fail me now,

Courage don't desert me,

Don't turn back, now that we're here.

People always say,

Life is full of choices,

No one ever mentions fear.

Or how the world can seem so vast,

On a journey to the past.

Somewhere down this road,

I know someone's waiting

Years of dreams just can't be wrong.

Arms will open wide,

I'll be safe and wanted,

Finally home where I belong.

And starting now, I'm learning fast.

On a journey to the past.

Home, love, family,

There was once a time I must have had them too.

Home, love, family,

I will never be complete until I find you.

One step at a time,

One hope then another,

Who knows where this road may go?

Back to who I was,

On to find my future,

Things my heart still needs to know.

Yes, let this be the sign,

Let this road be mine,

Let it lead to my past.

And bring me home,

At last!

See, some lyrics work to my storyline! When I finished this book, I felt really horrible for John and Jack, who were obviously extremely distressed that their friend was dead (as they should have been!) And it must have been even worst, since they're other friends weren't there: they were basically all alone.

I didn't write much about Charles's wife, just because Owen didn't write anything for her. And since Charles became a tulpa, there's no real reason to write anything but about his new life as just a Caretaker (since he is technically dead in the Summer Country). And besides, he can't contact her as Houdini did his wife, because that would just really freak her out.

This isn't my best well written story: mostly because I can't really deal with short stories/chapters. But, considering I've only seen 2 fics about this story, I think it's pretty good. I'll probably be writing more of these small little oneshots: mostly gapfillers, because these novels are already too awesome to change. *grins* You know it's true!

Thank you again for reading!

~CC.