The Time Machine Strikes Again (Pt 3)

28 04 2010

The story continues.

I gasped unintelligibly for several long moments. Richmond’s eyes crinkled at the corners but his mouth stayed severely immobile. My scattered wits gathered together like birds slowly coming to roost.

“Richmond what are you doing here?”

“Ah, my dear Viktor. I am growing old. A fate one cannot escape no matter how far into the past one travels.” He turned to face the fire, leaning on a staff I had not noticed before.

As the amber light fell on his face it carved out deep crevices around his eyes and mouth. Wrinkle upon wrinkle cast stark shadows on skin I had only known as smooth and young. It was a disconcerting sensation to see age where I anticipated only youth. My eyes traced his face, following lines and curves with the desperation of a lost man looking for a map. But his face gave me no clues, just line upon line leading back into the labyrinth of lost time.

“It must be a shock for you, seeing me like this and seeing me here, heya?” Even his voice had changed, mellowing and deepening into a cadence and accent unknown in modern Britain.

“Yes.” I swallowed hard. “That hardly begins to describe my surprise. We thought you dead. I was sure of it. There was blood on the Machine and no trace of you. To find you at all was unlooked for- how did it happen that we are both here? I mean here and NOW?”

“Oh.” He waved a hand dismissively and lowered himself into the throne-like chair. “I installed a mechanism on the Machine. The details are unimportant. Suffice it to say that as soon as someone came along to give the Machine enough power it would return to my location in Time. You must have done so when you attempted to Travel farther than a year. You DID attempt such a thing, did you not?”

“I did. I wanted to go forward in time three years.”

A rasping chuckle oozed from between my friend’s lips. “Bit of a nasty shock for you, then?”

“I should say so.”

“I am sorry for that. If there had been any way to program the Machine to send itself back to me I would have. I never anticipated losing it at all, you know. Unfortunately I became forcibly separated from my invention forty years ago. The man who did it sent the Machine back and stranded me here. Or so he thought.”

“What? How could anyone have done such a thing? No one knows how to work it except yourself.”

“And you, my friend.”

I shook my head in frustration. “That is neither here nor there. I want to understand who could have done this!”

Richmond gazed at me for several long moments. Waves of warmth from the roaring fire bathed me and lit my friend’s eyes with a fire that had nothing to do with the flames beside us. He leaned back and  the wing of his chair cut off his face from light. “Pull up a stool, Viktor. I will call for wine.”

Obediently I turned away from the fire and paused to allow my eyes to adjust. Dim shapes gathered themselves together in the gloom of the hall and I found a smallish chair. It was heavy and I had to drag it, my bruised muscles protesting the whole way, until I had once more entered the circle of light cast by the fire. Meanwhile Richmond had summoned some kind of page, who slunk into the room like a whipped dog then slunk back out again. I settled into the chair and a dank silence descended over the hall.

I took the time to look again at my friend. In the chancy half-light his figure seemed more like a tree than a man. Twisted and gnarled and strangely rooted in place. Perhaps it was my own experiences and perhaps it was fear but Richmond loomed larger than reality for those few moments. He had most certainly changed.

The wine arrived in a silver pitcher with two wrought-silver chalices. The page poured the wine and waited to be dismissed before melting into the dark and disappearing. Richmond passed me a chalice but said nothing.

I sipped at the wine and was surprised to find it very good. “I saw no vineyard,” I observed.

“There are none. The wine is purchased from Armorica.”

“Ah.” I paused, allowing Richmond time to answer the question hanging between us. He was silent, however and my patience was quickly exhausted. “So who did it, Richmond? Who stranded you here?”

He sighed, a sound like strong wind in old trees. “Are you familiar with the name ‘Merlin’?”

To be continued some more….

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