Girl Genius
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Girl Genius

One of the signature relics of House Heterodyne, the Doom Bell is located atop a tower outside Castle Heterodyne. Carson von Mekkhan, Seneschal Emeritus to House Heterodyne, still holds the hereditary office of "Doom Bell Ringer"[1], which comes with a nice stipend.

When Agatha and friends arrive in Mechanicsburg , the bell is little more than an object of curiosity to tourists, having had its official striking-hammer removed years ago and stashed in a safe place, due to ongoing problems with treasure-seeking adventurers interested in the legend of vast Heterodyne riches being revealed with its sounding. Ardsley Wooster points out that the bell only rings when a Heterodyne is in residence at the Castle, which of course means that it hasn't been heard for more than twenty years. One of the Black Squad recalls that it rang for the birth of Klaus Barry Heterodyne. Castle Heterodyne fondly reminisces that the bell also tolls for the installation of a new ruling Heterodyne.[2]

Which means the Bell is indeed rung following Agatha's public proclamation that she is the new Heterodyne. Not by von Mekkhan in person, it turns out, but rather the large Castle-controlled mechanical statue seen in the image to the left. As might be expected from a Heterodyne artifact from the old days, the bell rings.. DOOOMs!.. with enough force to stun anyone in the vicinity of Mechanicsburg who isn't acclimated to the effect. (People who are immune, or largely resistant, include Agatha Heterodyne, Jagermonsters, the technically-dead Doctor Mittelmind, Gil, and at least one child who is up and about shortly after the bell rings . See below "novellisation" for some details.) As established by the terms of their sentence, the Bell's tolling also has the effect of removing the explosive collars attached to Mittelmind and the other surviving Castle Heterodyne repair-team inmates.

Note that this ringing is only able to occur thanks to Zola "Heterodyne" backer Baron Oublenmach, who is involved in said take-over scheme mostly because of his obsession with the aforementioned legend; it is he who retrieves the massive hammer from Mamma Gkika and literally drags it all the way across town and up into the tower . Being at ground zero, he comes out of the ringing somewhat the worse for wear, but considers himself to have "won" due to Franz the dragon ceremoniously dumping some gold coins on his head as reward for his service. Rejoice!

Novelization[]

Agatha H. and the Siege of Mechanicsburg offers a more explicit explanation of the Bell's history and effects. It was ordered constructed by one Cain Heterodyne, who dictated that its tone duplicate the experience of meeting himself face to face. And its forgers succeeded in this: it is not the volume of the "DOOM!" that is so incapacitating, but that it forces the listener to directly confront the inevitability, however currently distant, of their own mortality. Mittelmind is unaffected due to cheerfully thinking himself already dead (technically he's right), while for Gil the sound means that Agatha is alive and still fighting, so he has no reason for despair (in his own words). Jagers are immune due to previous exposure and their unique psychology, and natives of Mechanicsburg are used to horrors of being Heterodyne minions and treasuring the life while it lasts, recovering faster than outsiders (and little children presumably just don't understand the concept yet). The novel also reveals that the mechanized statue who wields the striking hammer is named Octavo, and comments that attempts have been made by parties outside Mechanicsburg to duplicate the Bell and its effects, none of which have been successful. (Which does not mean the same thing as "uneventful.")

References

  1. It says so on his calling card .
  2. "The Doom Bell rings . There's a quaint little ceremony [involving ceremonial daggers] in the Red Cathedral, the people parade around [in a torch-bearing mob] singing old folk songs, and the princes of Europa offer you tribute and beg you not to plunder their lands."
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