An Age Before

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Literary_Dreamer, Feb 5, 2015.

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  1. The lights were low in the windowless library kept by the rebels. The room had been secretly built beneath a renovation of the University of Rhemuth in the 1960s and was accessible only through a magically protected door which which was visible only to those approved by the leaders of the rebellion. The walls were lined with Deryni texts, ancient, old, and new which had been saved from disposal over the years. The furniture consisted of a large oaken table, surrounded by chairs and lamps, which was now covered in papers of all ages, black with ink.

    Marin MacEwan, sitting at the head of this table had a decision to make. Her large brown eyes, set in a pale face of delicate features, stared into the distance, unseeing as she considered her options. Either she participate in this farce and send a young woman, whom she had raised almost from infancy and loved like her own child, a thousand years into the past with no knowledge of where she was going or how to get back and hope that she find her way to the Portal which would return her to the present and figure out on her own how to activate it or she refuse and abandon the girl to the execution that surely waited for her at the hands of the Imperials.

    Marin was loathe to do either. Almost unconsciously, she began to shake her fair haired head. “I cannot,” she said. “I cannot condone doing this to the princess. Neither can I sit by and do nothing, however. There must be another way.”

    “There isn't,” Alec MacKenzie replied from his seat at the other end of the table. He was a young man of a generally relaxed character but now he stared at Marin with such serious intensity that the older woman almost flinched. “Don't you think I would have found it if I could have? I love her as well as you do and, though you might not believe me, I know as well as you do what is waiting for her on the other side.”

    Marin didn't believe him. No one knew as well as she did what was laying on the other end of a trip through time, especially not one going a thousand years back. Marin had been born in 1091 under a long-forgotten name and an accident of circumstance had unlocked hidden Deryni powers in her along with an imperative set by a distant ancestor which forced her to build a Portal to the future at the cost of her maid-servant's life. That was a secret, though, and all who knew the truth had long since perished at the hands of the ruthless Aelian Empire. What Alec was referring to was Marin's occupation as a professor of medieval history at the University of Ratharkin, halfway across the province.

    “What?” she said bitterly. “Just because you study a little history, you think you know what it would be like to live there, to survive? Can you really imagine what it's like to live without this kind of technology?” Marin waved her hand through the air and a ring device on her first finger activated a holo-screen. Every room in every building was now equipped with this technology and the rebellion had chosen not to fall behind, though they ran off an underground network. “Or even just simple necessities like running water? Medicine? And the social system. You may know what feudalism is in theory but can you even begin to imagine it in practice? And what of the princess? What will they make of her? A modern woman in a medieval society. She is not even prepared for any of this. Does she even know that time travel is possible?” Marin paused here for an answer but Alec didn't respond, choosing only to stare at her. “I take that as a no. Good Lord, Alec, do you even know what you are doing?”

    “And you'd rather leave her to die than to even try to save her?” Alec replied. “Because that's what the Empire will do to her if we don't try. They will inject her with chemicals which will shut down every essential function in her body and if they get the proportions of chemicals even a little bit off, she will die in horrible agony. Further, they may choose to broadcast her death publicly as a warning to the rest of us. All for having been born Deryni. And what do you think that will do to her brother? To the rest of our people? Will we even be able to continue the fight once the princess is gone?”

    “If you can get in there and send her to the past, can't you just take her out of the prison?” Marin asked, desperately.

    “And go where? The Imperials are everywhere with their spies and snitches. They'll be looking for her and it will only be a matter of time until they find her unless we send her somewhere they can't go.”

    “What if she tries to change something?” Marin asked. “She could destroy the entire present with one wrong step.”

    “The loop is stable,” Alec replied.


    “The loop is stable. The princess can't change anything because everything she's done in the past has already happened. The present we live in is the result of all the changes which she's already made.”

    “Then why can't we send her somewhere in the nearer past?” Marin asked.

    “Because we're working off of your blueprint.”

    Marin's face when as pale as the platinum braid which she had pinned up around her head. She had spent her first fifteen years in the twenty-second century desperately researching a method to return home, even as she progressed in her training as a Deryni. After fifteen years, her research paid off and she created a spell to return home but the spell was stuck at exactly a thousand years, just like the spell which had sent her to the present and one trip back had proven to her that she no longer had a place in the past—her husband had remarried, her son had grown, and her parents had died. She had returned to the present and began focusing more seriously on her career as a professor, which she had originally taken up as a means to pay the bills. She had never imagined that her spell would now be turned on her goddaughter.

    “When I first came across your research,” Alec continued, “I thought it might be useful in a modified form to rescue and hide our members who were unfortunate enough to be arrested. We were in the process of reformulating the spell when we heard of the princess's arrest. The adjusted spell isn't stable enough to use. We'd never get her back. At least with your spell, there is a Portal on the other end.”

    “In Transha,” Marin said, “but you're sending her to medieval Rhemuth. How is she ever going to find it?”

    “She'll have to be clever.”

    “She has no reason to suspect there's another did you know there's another Portal?”

    “Like I said, I know more than you think I do,” Alec replied cryptically.

    “Well, she doesn't. From what you've been saying, she probably doesn't even know about time travel. How will she even know where you've sent her, let alone where to go to get home?”

    “We have to trust that the princess will figure it out.”

    “And if she doesn't?”

    If she doesn't, there are worse places to live out the rest of her days than medieval Gwynedd. Now, are you going to help us?”

    “Do I have a choice?”

    “That depends on what you mean by 'choice'. We can't force you to help us, but if you don't, the princess will die.”

    “It's better than doing nothing?” Marin asked, more to herself than to Alec.

    “It's better than doing nothing,” Alec agreed.

    Marin sighed. “Very well, but if something goes wrong... If anything goes wrong...”

    “I will turn myself over to her brother, the king, and take full responsibility for all of our actions today.”

    Marin had often been struck by how young Alec looked, his freckled face not living up to the maturity of his actions and his red hair, combined with an impish smile, generally compounded the impression of youth but today was the first time Marin wondered about his actual age. She'd never asked and had always assumed that he was a little younger than the king but there was a look in his eyes today which made her wonder if he wasn't much older than he looked.

    As soon as Marin's participation was secured three others entered the room, probably waiting for the confirmation of Marin's help.

    The first was Keegan, Alec's best friend. Keegan Deiniol was a regal looking young man with coal black hair and sharp gray eyes. This was said to be the traditional coloring of the Haldane kings but despite having the appearance for it and the general suspicion that he was actually of the Haldane line, Keegan had resolutely refused to have the veracity of the suspicion tested, keeping him out of the line of inheritance. He had pledged his loyalty to the current Haldane and his sister and had not swerved from that vow in the slightest, even for his friend, during the time Marin had known him. If he was participating in this, then he must really believe that it was for the princess's good.

    The second was the dusky beauty known at Natania, or Tania for short. She was was passionate woman, stubborn and determined in whatever she chose, but wise in the choosing of her passions. She had been suggested by the older rebels as a good queen for the current Haldane but Natania didn't appear to have such aspirations or, if she did, she never voiced them. If she were participating in this, then she, too, must have given it serious consideration and deemed it best for the rebel cause, if not for the princess herself.

    The third was not someone Marin was eager to see. Luke MacKenzie was Alec's father. Years ago, she had discovered that Luke had feelings for her and she had clearly informed him that she was no interested. Luke had not pressed the issue and had acted with honor but Marin still felt uncomfortable around him because of the memory. He was a handsome man with warm brown hair and pale blue eyes that made Marin think sadly of someone long dead. His manner was gentle and kind. As Marin had gotten older, she'd come to realize that her only reason for rejecting Luke was the disappointed hope that her true love would be waiting for her in the past. Regardless, that was in the past and thinking of it now would only distract from the unpalatable task before them. Luke's presence showed little to Marin about his thoughts on the task because she couldn't be sure if he was there to support his son or because he thought this was the right action to take.

    “So, what do we do?” Marin asked once they were all assembled, solemn faced in the library.

    “We can only send one person in,” Keegan said, taking the lead. “We've decided that will be Alec since he has the best stamina.”

    “It's going to take a lot to set up that Portal,” Marin agreed, thinking of the maid-servant she'd inadvertently killed setting up the first one. “It'll be more than Alec has, I think.”

    “That's where we come in,” Keegan said. “We're going to lend him our strength.”
    “From here? Over that kind of distance? You're insane.”

    “We're going to use this medallion to enhance the link,” Keegan answered, producing a metal disk from his pocket and handing it to Marin to inspect.

    “And the metal detector isn't going to catch that?” Marin snorted in an unladylike manner.

    “I'm not exactly going through the front door,” Alec answered, a dark edge on his tone.

    “A couple decades ago, there was an attempt to rescue a Deryni who had been arrested. It failed but they somehow managed to set up a Transfer Portal. The humans didn't have a clue where to start looking for it so they left it and now it's been...forgotten.”

    “And you've been there before?” Marin asked, looking at Alec.

    Alec nodded, thoughts momentarily on another time and place.

    “All right. Well, then, what are we waiting for?”

    Less than an hour later, Alec was slipping through the halls of Rhemuth's local prison. He only flexed his talents when absolutely necessary to get him past an obstacle in an attempt to conserve as much energy as possible for the casting of the Time Portal. The untapped potential of the other four surged warmly through the medallion that was pressed against the bare skin of his chest under his shirt.

    Then he was passed the last obstacle, the door to the princess's cell.

    “Shh,” he whispered to the prisoner within, “I'm here to rescue you.” He sent a tendril of confidence and reassurance to brush against her mind and preempt any questions that would distract from the task ahead.

    Without time to cast a Ward, Alec cast around for unwanted visitors, an unfortunate but necessary drain on his power. Then, he centered himself, beginning to pull on the deep power needed for this working. He began with the groundwork for a Transfer Portal, which was draining enough for him to begin pulling on the others. He re-centered himself and expanded on the already glowing symbol that had drawn itself across the floor. The symbol grew larger and more complex as he made the connections to change the purpose of the Portal. Every change pulled more on the power which he channeled through the medallion. By the time he finished and glow faded, leaving the Portal invisible, Alec was barely able to keep his feet.

    Trying to not let how drained he was show, Alec led the princess to the center of the Portal. The power of it tingled under his feet.

    “I can't go with you,” he said, “but you'll be safe where you're going.” He looked her over once with a sad smile and planted a brotherly kiss on her forehead. He whispered, “It was an honor to serve you...Highness.” Due to safety precautions, they never knew who was listening, he had never called the princess by an honorific to her face before. He sketched a little bow as he backed out of the circle. Once he was clear, he activated the Portal and transferred the controls to the princess. She would not be able to stop, reverse, or alter the process, that had been worked into the spell but holding the controls meant that it would send her to the past rather than killing her on the spot with an explosion of magic.

    As soon as the princess vanished, Alec sank to the floor, unable to remain standing, and stayed there, propped against the wall. Within minutes, the guards he'd so successfully avoided until now rushed the cell. All Alec was able to manage was a weak chuckled and a, “Too late.”
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