Derek Scuttle and the Time-Wheel

Antikythera

A dangerous new adventure in the past for the student mage and his girlfriend Gwennie.

****

“What would Professor Armstrong do?” asked Gwennie.

“He’d have some clever spell to put things right, I can’t think of any anything.”

Gwennie turned to the other person in the cell, “Miss?”

The Master of Egyptology and former pharaoh shrugged. “I am not magic user just magic person.”

“Why did I have to turn that wheel?” bemoaned Derek Scuttle.

“I don’t want to say told you so but I did.” said Hattie Shepsut…

The three of them had been clearing out Professor Penda’s old study, after his accident with the wicker man he had decided to give up lecturing and retire to somewhere very cold and wet. Tibbles, Gwennie’s cat had followed her in and springing onto a shelf knocked a shining golden object to the floor, she grabbed the feline before he could do any more damage while Derek picked up the strange device. It looked rather like a spinning top set into an ornate stand and he had gingerly examined it to find it would not rotate clockwise but turned widdershins quite easily and being the inquisitive sort of chap he was gave it a quick spin.

“No, leave it alone.’ shouted the Egyptology mistress in horror. “It is time-wheel!”

The trio braced themselves for the worst and the campus vanished around them to be replaced by bucolic surroundings. “What’s happened?’ asked Gwendolen still holding her cat.

“Bloody idiot has taken us back in time to when Mackintosh University not here.”

“Where are we then?” continued Derek’s girlfriend.

“I would say your seventeenth century judging by people over there.” observed Hattie.

Derek looked to where a group dressed in sombre clothes was watching suspiciously from a distance. “They didn’t like magic users then, how do we get back?”

“Turn wheel back foolish boy.” said Hattie.

“I can’t Miss Shepsut, it got jammed somehow.” he wailed, the crowd was growing as more people came down the road to stare and now somebody was approaching them.

“Who art thou stranger?” a man in a tall brimmed hat demanded of Derek.

“Er Derek Scuttle sir.” He replied shakily.

“Verily thou art an odd fish as are thy companions and why dost this young girl be half naked?” he pointed at Gwennie whose tight T-shirt and pink shorts were very inappropriate for the times.

“Ask him about the painted woman in the long shift, she is surely from foreign climes?” said a sour faced woman glaring at the Lecturer in Egyptology. The crowd had followed the man.

“I saw them appear by magic I did.” ventured a farming type.

“Be this the truth Derek Scuttle?” asked the man in the hat who seemed to be a figure of some importance.

“I… err…” Derek began.

Someone spotted Tibbles in Gwennie’s arms. “The unclothed girl dost hath a black cat, Satan’s chosen beast!”

“Don’t be so bloody stupid!” shouted Gwennie.

“Thy profanity is an insult to the Lord.” a wizened man in a black robe had appeared.

“Witch!” shouted someone.

“I was turned into a newt.” said another a little less clever than most.

“What would thou have me do Reverend Mathers?” asked the authoritative man.

“Seize them Constable Peel and kill the witches familiar!” screamed the man in the robe.

Hattie neatly floored a man trying to grab her but it was too no avail as they were all quickly overpowered, Gwennie dropped Tibbles who tried to scuttle away as a yokel attempted to spear him with a pitchfork.

The cat dodged it easily then biting the shaft in half hissed evilly before disappearing into a hedge.

“That is proof were it needed that they are sent from Lucifer himself.” spat the wild-eyed clergyman. “They must be hung for consorting with the Devil!”

“That I cannot allow Reverend.” said the Constable. “They deserve to be tried and found guilty first, I will take these miscreants to the gaol.”

“Very well Constable Peel I will summon the Witchfinder.” said Mathers.

They took the trio to a sturdy stone building in the centre of the nearby town and after forcing Gwennie to wear a rough dress over her skimpy clothes locked them in…

“Time-wheel is only hope we must get it back.” said Hattie.

“I’m frightened Derek, that old vicar type kept leering at me.”

Scuttle put his arms around her. “I’m scared too Gwennie, Miss this Witchfinder will torture us won’t he?”

“More likely than not.” replied the Egyptian, she had already searched the interior of the tiny prison for loose bricks or something to use as a weapon but there was nothing useful to be had. “They went into building across road I think they took our things there.”

A meowing noise came from outside. “It’s Tibbles he’s found us.” exclaimed Gwennie.

“Shame he can’t open the door for us.” said Derek. “Miss Shepsut you tore a door of its hinges once can’t you do it again?”

“I have changed greatly since then.” then Hattie remembered the reanimated cat’s precocious ability and an idea came to her. “Gwennie, call him see if he will come to you.”

“Tibbles, here kitty-kitty.” the girl called.

“Meow?” the reply.

Gwennie got on her hands and knees and peered under the ill-fitting door. “Tibbles?” she could see his paws. “Puss-puss?” there was a splintering noise as the cat chewed at the bottom of the door making enough space to squeeze through.

“I did hope for bigger hole in door.” Said Hattie in her heavy accent, examining the gap made by Tibbles while he rubbed himself affectionately against his mistresses legs. “No matter, now we have cat there is other option.”

Before Derek could ask what that might be people could be heard approaching.

“Don’t let them see Tibbles!” said Gwennie in panic.

The former mummy picked up the cat and stared into its eyes. “Go and hide!” He did as told crawling under the straw that served as a bed (?) just as the door opened. The constable regarded the wood splinters in the doorway curiously as the unpleasant clergyman barged past with a thickset man in tow.

“Foul miscreants, Matthew Hopkins the Witchfinder hath journeyed here to prove the truth of thy evildoings.” He leered at Gwennie. “Seth, we will take the maiden first.”

Derek attempted to stand in the way but the heavy pushed him to one side only to double up as Hattie placed a well-aimed kick to his nether regions, it helped them little as the constable quickly overpowered her while another man entered dragging Gwennie away.

“Put the painted creature in chains!” screamed the Reverend Mathers pointing at Hattie.

As their captors left the constable spotting Derek’s horror said. “I have summoned Judge Mackintosh to officiate, the Judge is a worthy man and if thou and thy companions be innocent he will not let this fool Hopkirk punish thee unnecessarily.” Peel was a pragmatic village constable, (he’d even been to school!) and found the current obsession for finding imps under every bed and devils in the pantry somewhat excessive, in his opinion the Lord would never allow such a thing and recognised that most accused of witchery were either unpopular characters accused by those who bore a grudge or they were simply strangers, or both.

Gwennie stood terrified before the three men seated at a table, one was the creepy vicar while another with a neat dark beard seemed just as unpleasant and sitting between them was a well-dressed man with a kindly face. The simple dress had been taken away from her and now wearing her modern clothing she realised that in this unenlightened age she appeared quite indecent.

This man spoke first. “Young lady I promise upon my honour that thy case will be fairly heard, what is thy name?”

“Gwendoline Poole sir.” she squeaked by way of reply.

“And from where dost thou come Mistress Poole?” he asked.

“Exford sir.” answered Gwennie.

“Exford, from tis very town, I am from Exford but I do recognise thee, are you perchance related to Old Mother Poole?”

“Is she a witch?” asked Reverend Mathers. “Surely that must be a witch’s title?”

“No.” replied the man in the middle. “She is an ale-wife who runs the Three Bells tavern, her brew is most fine.”

“Drink is the Devils contrivance!” the bearded man spoke for the first time. “A true believer should reject such temptation.” his manner reminded Gwennie of a reptile.

“Yes Hopkirk thou would say that but these are troubled times and folk need what little pleasure there be.” said the man again. “Or are allowed” he said under his breath.

“Judge thou are too lenient, abstinence be necessary, drink be a sin.” said the clergyman.

“Didn’t hurt anyone as far as I know.” the constable had joined them, the one called Hopkirk scowled at his comment.

“Let us get to the matter in hand.” The Judge looked Gwennie straight in the eye. “Mistress Poole art thou a witch?”

“No of course not!” she answered truthfully, witches danced in the moonlight and dabbled in potions, she was studying to be a mage. Mages did classical Magick learned from books!

“Hast thou ever consorted with incubi or other divers devils and imps?”

“No, what sort of girl do you think I am?” I might have helped Derek conjure a few up though.

“Explain why thou has a familiar?” asked Hopkins.

“Huh?” said Gwennie.

“Thy black imp that takes the shape of a cat?”

“Tibbles, but he’s my pet?”

“A pet that I am told bit through the shaft of a goodly farmer’s tool?” asked the Witchfinder.

“A devil, she’s a witch I tell thee.” yelled Mathers frantically. “Ask the Constable, he spied it too.”

“Is this true?” asked the Judge.

“It was Walt Gilman’s fork sir, he is not a diligent husbandman it may be the shaft was well-aged and broke on the ground.”

“Pah, I know what I saw Constable Peel.” snapped the clergyman.

Hopkirk placed a bundled cloth on the table and unrolled it to display a collection of spiked and hooked tools, Gwennie blenched at the site of them. “Gentlemen we waste time, I can soon discover if the young woman is indeed a witch.”

“By using that fearsome assortment no doubt?” asked the Judge, a stern look upon his face.

“With God’s will the devils mark may be found upon her body and that will suffice as proof in the eyes of church and law.” Hopkirk replied.

“Yes, yes find a mark.” Mathers was almost gleeful.

“Why Cotton Mathers, thou dost seem eager to see the accused examined, it hast no bearing that she is a comely young woman perchance?” suggested Constable Peel.

“Do not dare to speak to God’s minister in such a way!” snapped Hopkins.

“A hag can take on divers forms, this may not be its true appearance.” sneered the clergyman.

“I am sorry but I will not permit such a thing unless there be no alternative.” interjected Judge Mackintosh.

“Permit me to say sir but thou sound much like a supporter of the old king!” Hopkirk was enraged. “Thou would do well to remember how he found his end on the scaffold.”

“I am a representative of the law such that it be and thee sir are nothing but a popinjay that revels in a vainglorious reputation for harm.” The judge retorted.

“See how the Devil sets us upon one another, witchery I say!” shouted Mathers over them.

“Be silent lecherous old cretin.” All were surprised that this came from Hopkirk who now stood pistol in hand. “God’s work needs to be done, do not stand in his or my way. Mathers thou art keen to do this get my tools.”

As the clergyman eagerly reached for the implements a muffled scream came from somewhere outside then the door flew off its hinges knocking the constable to the floor.

Something stood there, it wore a plain white dress and had long straggly hair but the grey leathery skin stretched over the skull-like face did not belong to any living woman. Mackintosh laughing moved to the back of the room while a panicking Hopkirk discharged his pistol with no effect then the apparition turned its yellowed eyes on him to advance menacingly…

Derek sat with his back against the cold stone wall, he was disconsolate. “They’ll torture Gwennie won’t they?”

Hattie Shepsut was slowly coming round. The blacksmith fitting the manacles had knocked her out when she struggled. “Derek shut up I have headache.”

“But Gwennie?” he wailed.

“Cat, come here!” she ordered, Tibbles emerged obediently and she stared into its eyes once more. “You know what you have to do!” the cat disappeared under the door.

“What?” Derek was bemused.

“Cat has gone to find time-wheel.” she explained. “In my world cats very important in magic and is possible to use him to assist us.”

“Cats don’t help people they’re not like dogs!” he remembered seeing mummified cats in the museum.

“You have not met right cat, this one is very special.”

Can’t argue there thought Derek, Tibbles had been brought back from the dead after all!

Tibbles returned after a while dragging the time-wheel. “Pick it up Derek and see if you can fix it.”

He picked up the golden object which had a red smear on it. “It’s blood!” he cried in alarm.

“Bad cat!” said Hattie with a grin. “Just bloody see why it stuck.”

“There’s a bit of grit in the mechanism, got it!” he could move it easily in both directions now.

“Good now unscrew and open little door on top.”

“What?”

She rattled the manacles. “I can’t bloody do it can I?”

“How do you know so much about this thing?”

“Look on bottom.” She replied.

Hieroglyphics were visible upon the base on which the wheel spun. “Oh!”

“Yes we invented them and as you have found out they are bloody dangerous. Now point open end at me and spin widdershins, a lot!”

“Why?”

“Chronological thaumaturgy will come out of opening.”

“Wha…”

“I need to turn back to mummy, I don’t want to but is only way I can think of to get us out of here.”

“But?” he started

“Just bloody do it, I only hope it can be reversed.”

Derek spun the time-wheel backwards, a slew of rainbow patterned something came out to envelop the Egyptian and he watched open mouthed as her skin aged, cheeks sinking in. When it was done the living mummy of Queen Hatshepsut stood snapping the metal chains as it they were paper growled to Derek and pushing the door outwards off both lock and hinge strode out into the town, it was then that the screaming started…

Professor Armstrong sat back in his armchair and took a swig from his whisky. “That’s quite a story.” He looked at the three of them. “If you hadn’t been there Hattie I would say you two students had either made it up or had a mass hallucination.”

“It wasn’t made up Gwennie was in serious trouble.” said Derek.

“Yeah they were going to stick pointy things in me and I dread to think what the hooks were for?” confirmed Gwennie.

“And Tibbles the cat?” he asked.

“We made sure he came back with us we couldn’t leave him there.” said Gwennie.

“And you Hattie are completely recovered, no overwhelming desire to suck anyone’s life energy out?”

“Yes completely.” she replied guiltily. How did he know?

“You know this Judge Mackintosh wouldn’t have let any of you come to harm don’t you?”

“Just because he has name of university doesn’t mean anything.” stated Hattie firmly.

“Oh but it does, who do you think founded it. He was a mage who was sick of seeing usually innocent people suffer at the hands of fanatics, he kept it a secret and it’s something we don’t often speak of even today. The first college was hermetic then when the age of enlightenment came the university was able to come out into the open making true magic acceptable.”

“So he would he saved us?” asked Derek.

“Most definitely, now where is that time-wheel?”

“Oh! here.” Derek passed the golden object to Professor Armstrong.

He examined it carefully then put it on his desk. “Thank you Derek you may both go.

When the couple had left Armstrong turned to Hattie. “You could return to ancient Egypt to find the priest who trapped you in the sarcophagus and reclaim your title.”

“No thank you Winslow I belong here now.”

“We could change history, undo so many wrongs.” Armstrong mused looking at the top-like artefact.

“And in doing so create so many more?” replied the former pharaoh.

“Then Hattie we are decided?”

“Yes!” she agreed.

Professor Armstrong reached into a drawer in his desk produced a hammer and smashed the time-wheel into pieces.

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