In this whimsical tale, the city of Cloverfall rejoices when a solitary tinker crafts a wondrous mechanical girl. The child, however, is flawed, and when she is stolen away she may never find her way home – if she can even remember it.
Written by Cera Rose Madrigal, under the name Jay Kerschner.
Not so very long ago, in the vast and wonderful city of Cloverfall, there lived a lonely tinker.
Day in and day out, the tinker would wind, turn, and watchmake his marvelous clockwork creations, and all the good people of Cloverfall would come out to see them. The tinker would give wondrous toys to the city’s children: wind-up carriages, steam-propelled slingshots, and ticking toy soldiers trickled out of the tinker’s workshop, and everyone in the city was so very happy for it.
Everyone, that is, but the tinker himself. Despite all the praises and accolades, despite the noblest’s riches and the poorest’s smiles, despite the happiness and wonder of an entire generation, the tinker was sad, and the tinker never spoke.
The reason for this was a mystery to the good people of Cloverfall. How could a man who brought such joy and wonderment into the world not feel such things himself? But that was how the tinker had been ever since he’d arrived, and—mute as he was—he was not one to explain his sadness.
The people did everything to try to bring a smile to the tinker’s long face, as he had to so many of theirs. The rich offered him wealth aplenty—a mansion and a workshop beyond his wildest imaginings. The city council offered him renown far beyond the city walls, to share his creations across the world. The children offered him their endless smiles and laughter, for the tinker’s clockwork creations were unlike any others in the land. The common folk offered what little they could, that the tinker might see they all loved him so very much. In truth some, perhaps, loved too much—more than one woman had taken a fancy to the tinker, but whenever such a woman approached him, he simply sent her on her way.
That’s what started the rumors in earnest. They began fair enough: “He was meant to wed, wasn’ he, but then she left ’im for another man. What a fool that girl must have been.” But soon the stories grew into wild tales of lost love, each more unbelievable than the last: “So ye see, he was journeyin’ about the south, when he was separated from ’er. ’Twas an accident, ye know, but they never met again. I hear she died in the Thesselbog, at the claws of some vile monster, and he’s not spoke a word e’er since.”
Soon enough, these stories told more than twenty lifetimes of journeys, but all ended in heartbreak. Why else, thought the good people of Cloverfall, would a man who brought such joy be so sad and silent himself? But the tinker gave little thought to these myths and legends. He spent his simple days fashioning ever more trinkets and curios, for that was all there was for him to do.
On a day much like any other day, a young boy went to the tinker. “Mr. Tinker?” he said, and the tinker looked at the boy, his face showing only the smallest hint of interest. The boy did not notice the tinker’s expression—or perhaps did not care—and so he asked, “Mr. Tinker, did you ever have a child?”
The boy had thought to ask this question after hearing one of the many stories told about the tinker’s supposed son, who was most often said to have been lost in a horrid storm. This story, like the others, carried not one hint of truth, but by then it was hard to tell which of the stories might be genuine and which were tall tales indeed.
Nevertheless, the boy’s question tugged at the tinker’s heartstrings, and the tinker found his mind wandering far back into his very real past. His somber face grew a bit more somber, and he gave a noncommittal grunt—the only sort of sound the good people of Cloverfall ever heard escape his lips. The tinker handed the boy a pop crackler he’d made some weeks prior. The boy took the gift happily and ran off to show his friends, quickly forgetting about the tinker’s sorrow.
The next day, the tinker’s shop didn’t open.
At once, the city was ablaze with speculation, since the tinker never left his windows shuttered while the sun was in the sky. Was the man ill? Had he left the city? Had someone done him wrong? But as the rumor mill went on its bustling way, none in the city had the strength of will to go to the tinker’s door, too afraid were they of what they might find.
The good people of Cloverfall slept fitfully that night, and they hoped that by morning life would again be as it had always been. But on the next day, the tinker still did not appear, nor did he on the next day nor on the one after that.
Before long, the city’s children began bringing food to his door since he surely did not have too long a supply himself. Each night they would leave it by his step, and each morning the tray would be empty and cleaned to a shine. Still, the tinker did not show his face.
Time soon wound along its lazy way. The days turned to weeks, the weeks to months, and indeed, the months to long, long years. The good people of Cloverfall watched the time pass by, many tracking it by clocks the tinker himself had made. Without him, the city’s streets soon turned dull, and the joyous cries and laughter of its people were muted, replaced by empty chatter and lonesome footfalls. Without its beloved tinker, Cloverfall felt as though it were left without its soul.
Seven years passed in this way. Most had given up all hope of the tinker’s return. The children who had once flocked to him each day had all grown up, and the new children had never known him or his great wonders. Some people would still bring supplies from time to time, but there were fewer such people with each passing year. When the tinker one day posted a notice just outside his home, it took hours for someone to see it—but when word got out, it spread far and fast, igniting an excitement the city had long forgotten.
Join me in Thimbleton Square at this Friday’s eventide, the notice read, for the unveiling of the greatest of my creations.
At once, the city’s spirit returned. “The greatest of his creations,” everyone echoed, and rumors once again flooded the streets. This time, they were not stories of the tinker’s past, but hushed guesses of what was to come. Friday seemed an eternity away, but in time it came, and that evening all of the city gathered at Thimbleton Square.
A hasty stage had been constructed for the event, and the tinker ascended the ramp on its side. He pulled a wheeled platform behind him, upon which was some object concealed by a large cloth. The good people of Cloverfall rushed toward the tinker, some to offer help moving the mysterious object, others simply hoping to get a glimpse of a man who had all but faded into legend. Regardless of their purpose, all who came were shooed away.
Once he was situated on the stage, the tinker looked out at the crowd, and he smiled. The excitement in the square seemed to have reached its peak, but with that one little smile it grew greater still. A smile! From the sad and lonely tinker, a smile!
The tinker cleared his throat, and a great silence fell across the city—a silence so deep, some would later say, that one could have heard a cricket’s chirping a mile away. But on that day even the crickets’ attention was drawn toward the stage, the legendary tinker, and whatever new marvel he had to show.
Then, for the first time in the whole of Cloverfall’s storied history, the tinker spoke.