Clockwork, the master of time, glanced at the clock hanging in their lair. Currently it showed young Daniel fighting against Vortex who had escaped from the observants. Vlad Masters had released him in the hopes of winning the praise of the citizens of Daniel’s haunt, Amity Park.
They shifted their attention to the moment Vortex had first overloaded Daniel with electricity. They could see his core shift as it quickly gathered the energy. A ghost with more than one core was not unheard of, nor was Daniel the first one.
“Stop.” The video paused on the split second he saw two cores form in his chest: Ice on the left and electric on the right. “Rewind.” The video rewound until they once again ordered it to stop, then play the scene again.
They remembered the first ghost with more than one core. Most assume it was only the ancients that could have one. But that wasn’t true. The first normal ghost with more than one core was Pariah’s wife. She had an electric core originally, but the power from wielding the Ring of Rage for the first time overloaded her with power and as a defense mechanism, gave her a fire core as well. Clockwork was around for that, as well as the next ghost, and then next, and the next. No, Daniel wouldn’t be the first. And he was far from the last.
Clockwork was special like Daniel. Little people knew this, not even most of the ancients, but Clockwork had no core.
The scene played again. They frowned and unconsciously clutched their staff tighter whenever they heard their ward in pain, but they couldn’t bring themselves to shut off the sound. Desensitizing themselves to the sound was the first step they needed to take in order to be a responsible guardian.
The thought of the young ghost in pain made the timepiece lodged in their chest where their core should be tick faster, along with time moving slightly faster as well. The fluctuations were causing time to move slightly faster in the human world, but most people would think it was them being “so busy that time moved faster”, so it wasn’t much of a problem.
Still, they forced themselves to calm down, lest the observants come in and threaten them once again. They couldn’t breathe, like all ghosts, but thinking about happier times helped. The first time they met Daniel. The first time Daniel came to them for help. And the times when Clockwork and their ward spent time outside of peril. Good memories that they had made sure to remember in their long lifetime as an Ancient.
“Stop.” They said once again, pausing at the point when the clouds parted and Daniel was victoriously hugging his friends and family, unaware of his newly found core. He would discover it once he got home, but in that moment he was filled with the pure surge of joy that came with the strong feeling of protection that came with his new powers manifesting.
They let the scene continue to sit still for a minute, before waving their hand and dismissing the image as it faded into static.
They let their thoughts drift to the future that could be as they floated silently in place. Daniel had many paths he could follow. Most were good. Some were bad. One was horrible. Nevertheless it was his choice as to how his life played out. Clockwork could only interfere so much.
But the one future he had to be sure never happened, the one that should never happen, was the one where he found out about Clockwork’s past.
Clockwork had no core. That in itself was an impossibility for a ghost. But Clockwork was not a ghost. No, Clockwork had never even lived like most ghosts had. They were once hailed as a diety on Earth; the God of Time they were called.
Those days had long since passed. They had forcefully turned themselves into a ghost when they realized they had grown distant from humanity. They had grown unkind to humanity and hardly cared about the spirits manifesting chaotically in the ghostly world that was under the newly founded reign of Pariah Dark.
They had once gazed into a possible future where Daniel had seen the cruel treatment of people that they had once felt was normal. Being obsessive with protecting humanity, Daniel would have conflicted feelings about Clockwork. They couldn’t bring themselves to gaze farther, lest they see a future where Daniel was forced to choose between his obsession and his guardian.
They floated over to the entrance of their lair, letting the silent ticking of their timepiece wind down into a slow and gentle sound. In exactly forty-eight seconds Daniel would come to them for their usual visit of tea and freshly baked treats that they took turns making. It was Daniel’s turn. He always burned them, but Clockwork found it charming that he agreed to their request of weekly visits, along with suggesting that they would have food to eat and tea to drink.
They grasped the timepiece that served as a handle on the entrance and pulled the large door open just as Daniel floated up to their lair. They smiled at him, a tray of freshly made (and only slightly burnt) cookies in hand.