The Keys to the Kingdom: Mister Monday SNEAK PEEK


They had tried to destroy the Will, but that proved to be beyond their power. So they broke it, in two ways. It was broken physically, torn apart, with the fragments of heavy parchment scattered across both space and time. It was broken in spirit because not one clause of it had been fulfilled.

If the treacherous Trustees had their way, no clause of the Will would ever be executed. To make sure of this, all seven fragments of the Will had been hidden with great care.

The first and least of the fragments was fused inside a single clear crystal, harder than diamond. Then the crystal was encased in a box of unbreakable glass. The box was locked inside a cage of silver and malachite, and the cage was fixed in place on the surface of a dead sun at the very end of Time.

Around the cage, twelve metal Sentinels stood guard, each taking post upon one of the numbers of a clock face that had been carved with permanent light in the dark matter of the defunct star.

The Sentinels had been specially created as guardians of the fragment. They were vaguely human in appearance, though twice as tall, and their skins were luminous steel. Quick and flexible as cats, they had no hands, but single blades sprang from each wrist. Each Sentinel was responsible for the space between its own hour and the next, and their leader ruled them from the position between twelve and one.

The metal Sentinels were overseen by a carefully chosen corps of Inspectors, lesser beings who would not dare question the breakers of the Will. Once every hundred years one of these Inspectors would appear to make sure that all was well and that the fragment was safely locked away.

In recent aeons, the Inspectors had become lax, rarely doing more than appear, squint at the cage, box and crystal, salute the Sentinels, and disappear again.

The Sentinels, who had spent ten thousand years in faithful service marching between the chapters of the clock, did not approve of this slipshod attention to duty. But it was not in their nature to complain, nor was there any means to do so. They could raise the alarm if necessary, but no more than that.

The Sentinels had seen many Inspectors come and go. No one else had ever visited. No one had tried to steal or rescue the fragment of the Will. In short, nothing had happened for all of that ten thousand years.

Then, on a day that was no different from any of the more than three and a half million days that had gone before, an Inspector arrived who took his duties more seriously. He arrived normally enough, simply appearing outside the clock face, his hat askew from the transfer, his official warrant clutched firmly in one hand so the bright gold seal was clearly visible.

The Sentinels twitched at the arrival and their blades shivered in anticipation. The warrant and the seal were only half of the permission required to be there. There was always a chance the watchwords delivered by the previous Inspector would not be uttered and the Sentinels’ blades would at last see blurring, slicing action.

Of course, the Sentinels were required to allow the Inspector a minute’s grace. It was not unknown for a transfer between both time and space to briefly addle the wits of anyone, immortal or otherwise.