Time is relative for wavering loyalties
Keeper of Records
Welcome back dear readers to the second part in humanity’s history, also known as the Time is Relative series. While I am ecstatic that you have chosen to journey back to Eden, I would be remiss not to warn you of the heartbreak to come. For with the introduction of Rolland Wright, and his discovery of Eden, begins the final act in the brutal war between the mythical paradise, and Vilthe's domain of Tartarus, also known as the Underworld.
As with all wars, losses are inevitable.
We begin at the eleventh hour; where it is still early for a few to appear, yet far too late for a great many more. Shrouded by thinly held beliefs of immortality, the bravest amongst them walk with their heads held high, never knowing if their next breath will be their last. This is their story.
Six weeks have passed in Eden since our heroes, the Knights of Time, escaped the swamps of Florida with their mission (somewhat) accomplished. Since then Rolland Wright, the young Father Time, has been imprisoned under charges of illegal tampering and manipulation of the Time Stream. Indeed, Rolland had utilized the Dream Phoenix to transport himself and the Knights back to 1817 Pensacola to save his grandmother, Princess Blaisey of the Nabawoo, in order to somehow prevent his own mother’s (Taylor Wright)'s death. Unfortunately, the entire ordeal ended up being little more than a lesson in the harsh truths of how time travel works.
Rolland's new mentor, Marcus Turtledove, leader of the Knights of Time and Protector of Eden, also faces similar charges. With Eden's bureaucracy against them, can either Rolland or Marcus escape with their lives intact?
Patience is a virtue that all creatures must learn to comprehend in their own due time. For too often it is out-waiting one's enemy that can sometimes make all the difference between victory, and defeat.
... Or so the ancient ones say...
It is with great pleasure that I present to you part two in the Time is Relative series:
Time is Relative for Wavering Loyalties
Chapter 1: Grief
Six weeks following the events in 'Knight of Time'
"Woe is the grieving left after a loved one sheds their mortal coil. Where comfort once filled a part of existence, so too does the empty void left by their passing. It is a tale told by many, with fond memories, stories, and anecdotes of days gone by. Yet unlike other experiences that connect us in a primal fashion, death only alienates us further from one another."
The words from J.S. Alexander were as timeless as they were haunting. Each syllable echoed in her conscious mind as Sephanie Kelly read them again and again. It was always the same on nights like this when she was locked away in her tower. Time had become nearly immeasurable to her while in Tartarus. Though she knew that time moved here as it did in Eden, she was unsure as to the conversion rate compared to Earth.
The days dragged on longer than Sephanie could have imagined possible. Though it was not her first stay in the desolate kingdom known as Tartarus, it had by far been the bleakest. She had been his child bride here for eleven years, this season making it a dozen. In all of that time the closest thing the two had ever come to being intimate were the long, soul crushing moments when Vilthe would let his hand, or arm, linger on her when they spoke.
Skillful from a young age, Sephanie had been assigned many missions over the years. All of them at Vilthe's demand. Images of the man, Vilthe, whom she had released from the cave imprisonment following the 1817 Pensacola Florida encounter filled Sephanie's mind. That man was human looking, albeit an older and frail, but human looking nonetheless. But her husband, the man who she had been forced to marry, did not resemble a human in anything but body shape. As to the reason behind this Sephanie could only speculate. She knew Vilthe had lived in Eden once upon a time, as had been taught in her history class at the Academy of Light, and was later exiled based on his high crimes and prejudicial treatment of Elemenos and other races. Some even spoke of an epic fight with Marcus Turtledove before his banishment, but she never had summoned the courage to ask either one of them about it.
The land of Tartarus, also known as Hell, the Underworld, and the land of the Damned was as large as Eden if not larger. There were multiple cities stretching over thousands of miles, where both indigenous and non-native creatures lived side by side. Also like Eden, citizens of Earth would often wander into one of the two-way fountains that were scattered across the globe, finding themselves in the dark, desolate, foreign land of sorrow. That was where the similarities ended. The continent of Tartarus was shaped like a large horseshoe surrounded on all sides by oceans as black as ink. Despite having never travelled to the coasts before Sephanie had read stories of sailors disappearing in the Sea of Woe to the East, the Undead Ocean to the West, and most famous of all, the dark waters of the ominous River Styx that ran though the continent like a large, throbbing vein. The river itself was treacherous with its choppy waters, but it paled in comparison to the lakes that split into four separate directions that beckoned for the new entrants to Tartarus to choose one.
While Eden existed as a never ending paradise of lush, forested areas surrounding the flowing Time Stream, Tartarus was a dark, desolate landscape that seemed just as vast, with suffering filling nearly every space. Her place, as Vilthe saw to it, was caged, complacent, and under her Lord husband's thumb at all times. Sephanie sat upon a simple perch, one reminiscent to that of the fabled princess Rapunzel; a figure with which Sephanie felt she shared a great deal in common. Yet where Rapunzel awaited for her prince to rescue her from a prison on high, Sephanie was a powerful, independent woman whose dreams awaited not a knight in shining armor to save her, but an opportunity to use her wits and cunning to advance her position in life. Goals were her driving force behind her actions, the cause of the blood that flowed within her veins. The effects of which she knew would be ill tempered and painful, always painful. But that was future Sephanie's problem. For now she needed to feed her soul, consequences be damned.
The usually somber atmosphere surrounding Tartarus, and Vilthe's palace in general was especially dark for the past six weeks. As the minutes turned into hours, and hours turned into days Sephanie’s thoughts were focused on the past, both the immediate and the distant. Memories of the Marcus Turtledove, the overly lecherous Andrew Jackson, the deep regret over Scott Wright's murder, and the mountain of lies that stood between herself and her best friend Joan filled her with both comfort for the outcomes, and remorse for the paths not taken. Yet one person stood above the rest in haunting her dreams; Rolland Wright.
In the dark sky above a crescent moon rose slowly as the ever barely visible sun countered, fading into the night. With it went the notion that Sephanie could ever find any peace of mind regarding the youngest and only surviving member of the Wright family. Though she could admit to herself that she cared for the boy in a romantic way, anything beyond that was but a pipe dream. A sharp pain ripped through Sephanie at the thought, causing her to place a hand above her left breast. It was gone as quick as it came, just like her time with Rolland nearly two months past. It was illogical to obsess over something so brief, she told herself brusquely.
Still... when she closed her eyes at night Rolland would make appearances in her mind's eye, often smiling at her and offering a fresh chance at adventure. A fresh chance at life. Sometimes they lived where they were not citizens of Eden, or Knights of Time, but people, simple people. People who knew nothing of extraordinary powers, who swore no allegiances, and acted not as bartering chips between the yin and yang of good and evil. People who could be together forever, or walk away any time they pleased. But every time she would open her eyes, Sephanie remembered that these were nothing but wishes wrapped in fantasies. They were not those people. They would never be. Her current surroundings proved that much.
Sephanie shook herself out of her reverie and began to dress. She, along with the rest of Vilthe's closest confidantes, had been summoned to a meeting in the hall at the base of her small tower. Its close proximity to Sephanie's room struck her as no accident, nor did the fact that sentries walked the hall outside her door every ten minutes. After she was finished primping, Sephanie cautiously opened her door. Looking out she spied a box shaped man marching slightly down the hallway away from her, obviously making his rounds. After he disappeared from sight, Sephanie slunk out into the dimly lit hallway before jogging in the opposite direction from the guard.
'There is something very wrong with this place,' Sephanie thought to herself as she crept down the stairs from her tower cell. The narrow, ancient, stone laden passage curved sharply in a counter-clockwise motion as it descended from the fourth story of her jail. Though she'd never had the opportunity to explore the rest of Tartarus, Sephanie had heard rumors of the squalor and misery that plagued the citizens of Vilthe's kingdom. Her kingdom.
This thought consumed Sephanie, filling her with an overwhelming sense of anxiety and dreadful responsibility for the peoples’ suffering. It was more than just apathy, however, as Sephanie proved to the people of Tartarus yearly. As sure as the sun sets in the east, so had Tartarus with its queen's bi-yearly arrival. Because their king forbade public displays of celebration and joy, the local peasantry had instead begun leaving tokens of appreciation for her at the base of the high tower in which she was normally kept. Piles of molded fruit, homemade crafts, and scattered coins lined every nook and cranny of the scorched black brick structure that stood an impressive thirty-three stories high. Though the tribute to their queen took up nearly the entire first floor, not a soul dared make off with a single cent. For if they did, there was nowhere in all of Tartarus they could hide from her husband's wrath.
Each stay with Vilthe brought with it a fresh hell for her to maneuver through until Spring came again, and she could go back to Eden, the light at the end of the tunnel. As the years crept onward, Sephanie found herself longing for the vast open spaces, fresh air, and freedom that awaited once her six-month obligation in Tartarus was complete. Sephanie's current surroundings were a world away from that. Her head spinning, feet wobbling slightly, and mouth dry as a bone, Sephanie was more than happy to reach the end of the staircase. She leaned against the wall, her weight pressing into the cool stone. Across from her was an oak door and behind it lay the main hallway, a long, narrow corridor with walls made of stone that connected to every other room in the castle.
While catching her breath, Sephanie raised her head and looked through a small, tinted window near the top of the door. She spotted a cloaked figure striding along the hall. The person, though not recognizable from its outline alone, did display a few distinguishable characteristics. Despite the cloak, the silhouette revealed broad shoulders and a slim waist. It was a man. A tall man who had just began what appeared to be a prayer of some sort, though Sephanie did not understand the words from his mouth, she recognized the language.
Imhotep, or Otep as he preferred to be called, was tall and muscular with a black beard that covered his mocha colored skin. Sephanie recognized the meticulous look that sat on his peevish face. She had grown to know, and loathe Otep's vigilant behavior quite well over the years. As her mind wandered Sephanie neglected to remain within the shadows at the end of the staircase, calling attention to her location.
"Get back inside your room, Persephone," Otep ordered. "Good wives do not go gallivanting about the corridors until they are called for.”
"Not that it is any of your concern," Sephanie spoke with a false sense of confidence. "I was summoned."
"I'm sure you think that," Otep said in a manner not dissimilar to the way one would a dog, or extremely slow witted child. "Go now. Go back to bed sweet child."
Yet before she could spit out another angry retort, her eyes caught sight of a figure slumped over further down the hall. Rudolph Hess placed a cigarette between his lips as he lit a match to begin smoking it, capturing both Sephanie’s and Otep’s attention at once. The weeks that passed since his sister Alora's death had blended together for the once proud Hess, who now appeared despondent, malnourished, and little more than a shell of his former self. Much to Sephanie's surprise, even the swastika arm band that had so prominently adorned Hess' left bicep sagged downward in a depressed state, symbolic of its owner’s overall demeanor toward the waking world.
"Perhaps, you should listen to him," Hess spoke, his voice deep and raspy from a lack of use. Ash fell from the end of his cigarette fell on to the dirt floor between his feet as he inhaled another drag, filling his lungs to the brim. "This time."
"Hello Rudolph," Otep offered casually in his odd accent. It was proper, but old, rustic in its simplicity, just as Otep himself was.
"Save it, arschloch," Hess said from behind his cigarette. The dimly lit butt glowed orange and red as he inhaled, pacing the conversation with every breath. His usually polished black boots were scuffed, revealing to both Otep and Sephanie more than the man would ever let escape through his lips. "She isn't your woman to order around. You know how ze master hates to share his property."
Breathing deeply, Otep took stock of the obviously disheveled German filling the hallway with smoke. Although his adversary was mostly cloaked in shadow, the rich stink of nicotine marked his presence. Since that was the case, Otep need not even keep his eyes open while fighting the Nazi, for his nose would surely do the job. With this in mind, Otep threw a quick glance in Sephanie's direction. She returned it with an uneasy stare of her own, wanting nothing more than to run away from them both. She considered it, considered turning around and walking back to her room to wait for their liege, but as soon as she turned around Sephanie ran into another one of her husband's closest henchmen.
The emergence of the new man brought a smile to Otep’s bearded face. He was a tall, large, and bulbous fellow with a noticeable overbite and broad forehead. He wore a boiled leather breastplate over a mustard yellow tunic and noticeably wrinkled khaki pants. The two men spoke quietly to one another, both growing bolder with the advantage of numbers as they slung threatening stares across the hallway to the German smoker. More laughs followed, accompanied by impressions of rigid marching, and even a dirty wiggly finger over the lip in a bad attempt to fake a mustache from the ugly man. Hess watched all of this with a quiet, if not contemptuous indignation, all the while smoking his cigarette slowly, each drag creating a cadence by which he judged how best to kill the other two men.
"Hey Rudy, you over that slut sister of yours, yet?" Ivan asked, sitting on Hess's left side as Otep did the same on Rudolph's right. "You two weren't, you know...where you?"
As Ivan’s insinuation sunk into Hess's mind, all forethought of consequences beyond satisfying the growing sense of rage within his gut flew away faster than it took for Ivan to realize that the fight was on.
The first blow came in the form of a head butt, which hurt both men equally, and causing them to temporarily lose their bearings. Fortunately for Hess the adrenaline rush he was enjoying allowed him to bounce back first, righting his feet before balling his left hand into a fist and swinging a wild haymaker in Ivan’s direction, connecting squarely on the other man's chin.
The resulting blow knocked the bulbous man off his feet and onto the hard ground. His leather breastplate split open, enveloping his elbows and legs while he attempted to prop himself upward, only to be met with a small rock as it hit him square in the temple.
Sephanie looked over at Otep for signs of his impending entrance into the fray but he simply looked on with an almost bored expression on his face. She then looked at Hess who smiled, boyishly, for the first time since his sister's death. Although she held no affinity for Hess, she did appreciate his need to retaliate for Ivan’s comments. Usually this displaced display of masculinity would have entertained her, there was little time before Vilthe would summon them, and she had other things to worry about. Her wish that this would be the end of the altercation was dashed as quickly as it was thought of soon after Hess' smile reseeded.
"You will respect my sister's memory," Hess proclaimed loudly while sauntering closer to the cowering Otep, the limp in his walk more noticeable in the firelight. "Or join her in death.”
"STOP THIS!" Sephanie suddenly screamed, emphasizing the two words as she sent two large gusts of wind in both of their directions, forcing Ivan and Hess apart.
"Silence!" commanded a shrill voice from beyond the cavernous hallway in which they stood. The cool, moist air suddenly went bone dry. An elongated, brooding shadow crept down the hallway toward them at a slow, methodical pace. Every head, including the two involved in fisticuffs, turned toward their leader before falling to one knee. All except for Sephanie.
A tall, thin man with his hands held together behind his back glided effortlessly into the dimly lit hallway. He wore only one article of clothing, a long gray robe tied at the waist and that was tattered at the end and eerily, the garment appeared fixed, almost independent of its wearer’s movements. A common reaction to the sight of Tartarus's overlord was the sense of impending doom, a sense Otep, Hess, and Ivan were all feeling now. The number of dead since Vilthe had taken power was upwards of twelve million in Tartarus alone, a boast both Ivan and Otep proclaimed during every tavern outing to attract wenches. Sephanie had to control a shiver as her husband stopped directly in front of her.
"There is a special task that I've set aside just for you," Vilthe said to her softly, his right hand lingering on top of hers for what seemed like an eternity. His touch was cold. The bones that peeked through his nearly translucent skin did nothing to comfort his bride as she forced herself to look him in his sullen, sunken in eyes. Where normal humans held a black pupil, Vilthe had not but a bright, golden white void staring back in the middle of both of his eyes. It was a souvenir picked up upon his exile from Eden.
"Thank you, my Lord," Sephanie said, squeezing Vilthe's frigid hand tightly as Vilthe released her hand and turned his attention toward Hess.
Taking a wide, calculated step toward his most loyal lieutenant, Vilthe extended his right hand, closing the gap between himself and Hess, before resting it there on the grieving Nazi's shoulder. Taken by complete surprise, Hess suppressed a sudden urge to lash out at his master, Ivan, Otep, and everyone else in his immediate vicinity.
"As for you, Rudolph..." Vilthe said, gripping Hess’s left shoulder. Though his cloak hid Hess's skin beneath it, the purplish hue that set in began to turn a shade of blue as the skin bruised further. "I have other plans for you."
"Where are we going, my liege?" Hess asked, despite the known repercussions for speaking out of turn in Vilthe's presence.
"To obtain what human beings would call, an ace in the hole," said Vilthe, leading Hess to a rock cut out into an oval-shaped archway which they both passed through, entering a small chamber no bigger than five by five feet squared. Here, the two would wait until summoned by another of Vilthe's agents before walking, hopefully effortlessly, through a fountain at the place of Vilthe's discretion. When nothing happened immediately, Hess' heavy breathing became noticeable in the quiet. A strangle, cracking sound filled the air as the master tilted his head toward his lieutenant. "Does this put your mind at ease, or shall I accommodate you further?"
"No my Lord, actually my mind is not at ease," Hess said nervously, the wine he had been drinking earlier in the evening reinforcing his boldness. If there was one cardinal rule in which Vilthe's inner circle lived and often died by was that the word 'no' was said uttered within Lord Edward Vilthe's presence. Finding himself, Hess lifted his lower jaw, which he had allowed to slack greatly, before pressing the issue a bit further in an attempt to lay it to rest. "What is our mission objective?"
"We are going to find something that has been dangerously misplaced," said Vilthe clasping his hands together behind him in a militant stance. This rigid stance provided a glimpse of the man, if you could even call him that, who had rallied the lords of the underworld thousands of years ago, only to lure them into a trap before their mass execution. 'Chaos reigns supreme,’ he had thought at the time; a maxim the Lord of the Underworld reminded himself of on daily basis. He did this, and many other things, without hesitation or any sign weakness to any of his loyal subjects; not until the day his son brought her home. Not until Sephanie, his one weakness. As he re-entered the hallway the militant stance slacked, breaking as the black robe cascading across Vilthe's bony shoulders upon seeing the mournful look on Sephanie's face.
"My sweet..." Vilthe hissed at her, the hollow sinus cavities of his nose whistling as he spoke. "Whatever is the matter?"
"N-nothing," Sephanie said in a barely audible tone. "Do you want her brought in dead or alive?"
"Alive," Vilthe said, the slightest hint of regret saturated his voice as he spoke the word. "Take Otep with you to break her spirit before bringing her to me. I do not have a lot of time for her not to cooperate."
With an intense sense of longing inside of her that raged like wildfire, Sephanie wanted nothing more than to bash her husband’s head in, and kill as many of his lieutenants as possible before her inevitable death. Instead of giving into those urges, Sephanie bit her bottom lip softly, smiled sweetly, long enough for Vilthe to return with a hideous smile of his own.
Knowing that his queen would not ask a follow up question, Vilthe returned to Hess, drawing the sullen man into his gaze before facing the doorway from whence he came and asking a curt, "Shall we?"
Exhaling audibly Sephanie looked down at her hand. Clenched within her white, cramping fingers was a simple piece of sheepskin with a name written on it, one she recognized almost immediately:
AMELIA EARHART - LAE ISLAND, 1937
Chapter 2: Strangers in the Night
Nestled inside of the Holmes family dining room was Tina Leigh Holmes, returning the hostile glare of her twin brother Timothy from across the table's hardwood surface. Timothy’s left hand was tapping aggressively to a rhythm that purposefully skipped beats which he knew would further annoy his sibling while the family watched the television and waited for the verdict in the Council of Light's case against Marcus Turtledove.
Next to Timothy sat their mother, a sallow faced woman whose dreams had never seem to come to as much fruition as her waistline. But that was before Eden's latest craze, her self-proclaimed ‘life-changing surgery’ known as the gastric bypass. It was but the latest in the blonde woman's many phases, fads, and trends that she subscribed to in order to fill an inner void she could not quite put her finger on. Tiffany Holmes had lost nearly eighty pounds via the surgery following Tina's initial acceptance into the Knights of Time Internship Program. Therefore, Tina found the hypocrisy of her mother preaching virtues like temperance and good judgment following her 1817 Florida encounter with Rolland nothing short of ridiculous.
An evil grin crept across Timothy’s face as a special news bulletin began flashing on the television. Tina cringed, remembering that grin from the days of cruelty on the playground throughout their younger years. Though she assumed herself to be the smarter twin, she had never thought of her brother as stupid. On the contrary, Tina had learned to both respect and fear Timothy's wrath over the years. His cruel pranks and destructive tendencies left little doubt in her mind that there was no line that Timothy would not cross. Tina looked away from her brother as the news bulletin flashed across the screen again and a man’s voice came through the speakers.
"Good evening Eden, it is seven o'clock and this is your news. I'm Brad Burkhart with tonight's top story involving the Protector of Eden Marcus L. Turtledove. We now go live to our field reporter Jennifer Morrison on site at Eden Courthouse. Jennifer?"
A split screen introduced a moderately attractive woman in her late twenties holding a microphone. Dressed in a tasteful, deep purple business skirt and blouse, the industrious Ms. Morrison had worked hard on her journalistic career and credibility in Eden for years. She now somehow managed to keep a calm visage despite the idiots that currently surrounded her in full blown protest. Few citizens of Eden supported the interventionist policies that the Knights of Time espoused, believing that the Time Stream did not need protecting, and never would. This ideology was based on the preposterous notion that Eden truly was a good embodiment of a modern paradise; completely ignoring the socio-economic policies that marginalized and disenfranchised the lower classes. Jennifer explained all of this, again, for what felt like the one hundredth night in a row, into the camera. The protesters, nearly all of which held more of a personal vendetta against Turtledove and the Knights of Time rather than the accusations at hand, held signs and screamed crude, belligerent, and often sexually explicit slurs at Jennifer.
Tina watched from the comfort of her dining room table as Ms. Morrison attempted to overcome the adversity that presented her. Onlookers, some of which came to gawk at the Ms. Morrison more than follow Turtledove's sentence, took immediate notice - bellowing out catcalls and inappropriate sexual innuendo at the young reporter. Though their eyes saw a pleasing sight, not a one of them understood the power that lay underneath the able bodied Edenite.
“Just moments ago the Council of Light, in a near unanimous decision, voted for the acquittal of Marcus L. Turtledove," Jennifer Morrison said, staring directly into the camera as a gust of wind blew past, tousling her perfectly placed curls of blonde hair. The momentary gust of wind also had effect of slightly elevating her skirt, showing off another inch of skin above her knee. This flash of skin prompted more lewd catcalling from a group of men to her left.
With a sudden snap of her fingers Jennifer immediately exhausted every decibel of human made sound within a twenty-foot radius. Though the rude onlookers still shouted, each vulgar insult harsher than the last, their despicable words fell upon deaf ears as all that could be heard to both Jennifer, and the viewers at home, was the reporter’s voice.
"With a vote of eight to one Mr. Turtledove was found innocent on all charges stemming from the incident that took place several weeks ago which involved using Dr. Judah Raines’s Dream Phoenix machine to travel back in time without legal consent. This is the same incident in which Rolland Wright, a minor, and recent arrival to Eden, will face judgment for tomorrow. Wright is accused of sending himself, Turtledove, and fellow Knights of Time, including Councilman Holmes' underage daughter, nearly 200 years into the past. While Turtledove was charged as an accessory to the crime, Wright is charged with the actual illegal use of the Dream Phoenix, a far more serious charge. And while the Council of Light showed favorability to Turtledove due to his long history of service to Eden, Wright shares no such good will. Frankly Brad most people I've spoken to are surprised that more accomplices, including Tina Holmes, and Doctor Raines were not brought under indictment. This leads many to believe that the swift hammer of justice will fall hardest on Wright.”
Tina snapped to full attention at the mention of her name. The screen changed from Jennifer Morrison back to a split screen between her and Mr. Burkhart in the studio. Perhaps it was the near imprisonment her father had forced upon her since her return from Florida, but in that moment she felt connected to both reporters than she did any member of her immediate family. Without realizing it, Tina found that she was hanging on both reporters’ every word. As was her father, Councilman Thaddeus Holmes - the caster of the single vote in favor of Turtledove's conviction earlier that day.
"Now Jennifer," Burkhart began, a silver ear bud protruding from his right ear. "Can you tell us what nature of the relationship between Councilman Holmes’ daughter and Wright?”
"Well right now preliminary reports confirm that there is some type of relationship between them and while she was not on the official list of accomplices, eye witnesses have her square at the middle of this incident alongside Wright, and several others who form the fringe group the Knights of Time."
"Do you know if they have had any contact since his incarceration?" Brad Burkhart asked.
“Well, since Wright’s incarceration,” but the young reporter was cut off by an especially vocal protestor, a man with a shaggy beard and potbelly.
"Hey baby, I got something here you can replace that microphone with,” the man yelled as three or four of his group joined in with a chorus of laughter and approval.
Without batting an eye Jennifer Morrison lifted her right hand to face level, snapped her fingers twice, and again expelled all audible traces of sound within an immediate area of herself, including the potbellied man and his group.
"That's difficult to say Brad, as Ms. Holmes has not been seen in public for weeks. Our sources do confirm that she DID return to Eden following the incident," Jennifer continued, her posture returning to normal as she regained her composure.
Brad Burkhart nodded his head in apparent agreement of his co-worker’s actions before continuing with the broadcast. "And what are your thoughts on Wright’s trial?”
"With only hours left in his appeals process, the situation looks much more grim for Wright than previously thought. We will know more tomorrow when the trial takes place. For Eden News 1 this is Jennifer Morrison signing off," she said, before snapping her fingers again, returning the noise to the surrounding area.
"Thanks Jennifer," Brad Burkhart said, grinning broadly to flash his teeth, highlighted by two razor sharp canines resting on either side of his mouth. "What a cool trick, eh folks?"
"So how did Turtledove get out of it, Pop?" Timothy asked his father before jamming a piece of pork chop into his smug mouth, chewing furiously.
"Fucking politics," Thaddeus murmured under his breath, while sopping up stray juices on his plate with a flour biscuit. He repeated this process until the roll in his hand was sopping wet, only stopping once it had fallen apart and onto the plate below. "I'll tell you one thing though - that Wright kid will not be getting off so easily.”
As if by cue the three members of the Holmes family not named Tina looked at the youngest female in the Holmes clan to gauge her immediate reaction upon mention of Rolland Wright's name. Noticing this, and knowing the negative response she would receive upon voicing her real thoughts Tina chose instead to ignore their desperate attempts to goad her into an argument. Instead, she bit her bottom lip with an increasing severity as the conversation progressed along.
"So Pop," Timothy continued on. "What's your strategy going into tomorrow? You think those rumors of Wright stealing pirate treasure are true?"
Raising his right eyebrow while simultaneously tilting his head ever so slightly in his daughter’s direction, Thaddeus Holmes thought for a long moment before replying to his son's question with a snort, and a very pronounced, "Probably."
"Probably?!" Tina incredulously, throwing her efforts to ignore her family out the window. She grabbed the end of the dining room table with both hands and stood up in indignation. "You've got to be kidding me!"
Prepared for this reaction, Thaddeus Holmes raised his left hand above his head, index finger lifted in a manner by which to indicate that he was calling for order amongst the chaos. But it was his wife, Tiffany Holmes, who spoke first.
"That is enough, young lady," Tiffany said, her eyes burning a hole into her daughter’s wide blue ones. Though they looked alike in build, and hair color, there was little in the way of personality traits were shared between mother and daughter. Where Tina was capable and inquisitive Tiffany was complacent with the way of the world. "Sit down."
"No," Tina said between gritted teeth, looking from one parent to another. However, the moment she locked eyes with her father she immediately regretted it.
"So you want to defend the rebel, then?" Thaddeus roared, standing up from the dinner table, causing the plates and silverware to clash.
"He’s not a rebel Daddy," Tina said meekly, her eyes widening while her bottom lip protruded further outward in a desperate attempt for leniency.
"Oh, not a rebel?" Thaddeus said, wiping his mouth with the off white cloth napkin. "Care to try out deviant, degenerate, hoodlum, or punk?"
"Try trailblazing, misunderstood genius!" Tina fairly screamed as she flushed with agitation.
"Not another word," Tiffany said sternly, her voice completely devoid of compassion for her daughter.
"But Mom, I love-" Tina began before being cut off by an irate Thaddeus.
"Don't you dare mention that word in the same sentence as that wretched boy's name!" Thaddeus screamed, his face turning to a new shade of purple.
"The word is love Daddy!" Tina shouted, throwing both of her arms down to her side and making fists. "I love Rolland Wright!"
"YOU DO NOT!" Thaddeus said in a furious whisper as his wife stood behind him, gently massaging his tense upper back.
"Go to your room young lady!" Tiffany Holmes shouted, pointing toward the staircase at the end of the hall.
Nearly an hour following the confrontational conclusion to the Holmes family dinner, two feminine hands emerged from a second story window in which a room sat. For Tina, who had mastered the skill of sneaking out of her window when she was twelve years old, the task was not so much difficult as it was time consuming. Though she had followed the same steps in almost exact succession every night for the past six weeks, she reminded herself that it was the confident fool who was always caught. With that thought in mind, she took her time, moving silently, slowly, stepping out onto the steep, three-foot wide rooftop of the cottage. From there, Tina crawled, as stealthy as a cat, to the edge before extending her left hand, groping blindly in the dark.
From his bedroom Timothy Holmes watched as his twin sister shimmied down the drainage pipe outside her window, jumped to a nearby tree limb, slid down, and land mid-run toward Eden Town Proper. Within minutes he was following her exact path, and was sprinting after her over the grassy hill. Although he had kept far enough away to not be noticed, it was still close enough to keep an eye on his sister. He had to. It was his job.
A bit chunky for his age, Timothy was never known for his athletic prowess, relying heavily on his technical abilities instead. The roundness of his belly and sweat on his brow weighed him down as he kept on after his skinny sister and her annoyingly persistent nature. One in which he was growing tired of accommodating as he followed her closer and closer to the exact spot he hoped she was not going, Eden Prison.
It was not until they entered Eden Town Proper, specifically the wall farthest to the east, that he knew for sure where his sister was going. At the far side of the wall a large boulder stood directly in front of a gaping hole large enough to accommodate a single average sized teenager. With a practiced ease, Tina wiggled and squeezed her way through the slim fitting gap. After slipping through the wall and into Eden Town Proper Tina made a beeline for the north side of the city, keeping mainly away from the central road. Keeping her head down, Tina felt the tension in her stomach increase as she etched along the farthest side of the prison before locating the window to Rolland's cell. Arriving at it, Tina crouched down low before allowing her eyes to adjust to the darkness that surrounded her.
"Big bear," Tina whispered repeatedly as she climbed the ledge of the fortress that normally housed Eden's criminals. Built during a strange trend of utilizing levels in architecture, the fortress holding Rolland was pushed back behind two twin towers with spiral ceilings that blocked the sun ninety percent of the time and concentrated it first thing in the morning onto the cell's occupant. Planting her feet carefully Tina was able to hop across, clasping the edge of the stone spiral tower as she made her way to the cell where her beloved was being held.
"Little bear," came a deep voice from beyond the shadows above her. There, in between the two towers, with slight stubble gracing his otherwise boyish face stood the world's only living natural born time traveler, Rolland Alan Wright.
"Sorry I'm so late tonight," Tina began to say, moving the short distance between her perch on the spiral tower and over to the ledge where the cell was built into the stone enclosure, removing the grapple from her pocket and tossing it through the window. "Got into a fight with my parents."
"Again?" Rolland asked, catching the hybrid fruit and immediately taking a large bite. Its sweet juices flowed freely from both sides of his mouth. In that moment he was grateful Tina could not fully see him, or his poor eating habits.
"Yeah, but this time I have news," Tina whispered, a slight jump in the enthusiasm to her voice. "They found Turtledove not guilty - eight to one."
Not guilty - two words that Rolland Alan Wright had longed to hear for the better part of a week’s time, yet they applied to a man that he was conflicted about. Alone with his thoughts Rolland had begun to resent Turtledove and felt that he had not done nearly enough to protect him from his arrest at the Halls of Time upon their return from Florida. Add to this the fact that he was now taking what Rolland guessed to be the one and only not guilty verdict the mysterious council would hand out, the resentment grew.
"Did you hear me?" Tina shout-whispered. The dank interior of the cell told every sense in her body to stay away, yet her heart pulled her closer to the soul she knew to be inside.
From behind a thick patch of bushes, Timothy Holmes watched his twin sister silently. Seeing her as a traitor to his family, and his father's position on the council, the young man could think of little else but the building fury inside of him. Sharp stabs of betrayal made him clutch at his belly without realizing it, all the while glaring at his twin sister. Though he could not hear every word, the two he spied upon were good enunciators, making their lips easily readable. So far anyway. He hoped Rolland’s silence meant that the guards had come in and beaten his blonde ass senseless.
"I did," Rolland finally answered back, walking back to the window to meet Tina's eyes, prompting the girl to smile brightly.
"Your trial is tomorrow," Tina said, her mouth working before her brain could command it to stop. She reached out and wrapped her hand around his.
"That it is," Rolland answered, refusing to betray the sense of impending dread that consumed his insides. "I like my chances."
"Me too," said Tina, with a single tear falling down her left cheek, catching the moonlight as it traveled back to Earth. "It sounds horrible but I, well I've just really, really enjoyed the time we've spent together over the past couple of weeks."
"Yeah, me too. I don't think I would have been able to make it without your nightly visits," Rolland said, squeezing her hand a little tighter. "Thank you."
For Timothy, this spectacle was sickening to the point of nausea.
"It is the east and Tina is the sun," Rolland spoke softly, his soot covered left hand lightly brushing Tina's face as he pressed the top of his forehead up against the rot iron bars that separated the pair. "Arise fair sun and kill the envious moon, who is already sick and pale with grief."
"Do you recite Shakespeare to all the girls, Rolland Wright?" Tina asked, leaning ever so slightly closer to the cold concrete that surrounded the iron bars. Her steady footing fought her rapid heartbeat as the pair drew closer to one another, neither seeing the bars that kept them a world apart.
"You would be the first, Miss Holmes," Rolland said with genuine affection building within his heart as Tina's free hand found his on the cell window's ledge. His head had reached the edge of its zone of freedom, cut off by the restrictive nature of the bars covering the windows. There were seven altogether, each an inch and a half thick, spaced two inches apart from one another, making the window only big enough for someone with shoulders smaller than his own to crawl through. While he had hoped for a more PG-13 rated encounter tonight, the night before his trial, the bars once again acted as an agent of cold water on their shared passion.
"I should get going," Tina reluctantly admitted.
"Thank you for coming out tonight," Rolland said to her, finding her eyes once again in the dark and looking directly into them. "I know how much you hate sneaking around."
"It’s….” Tina could barely hear herself answer; she was so transfixed within Rolland's touch.. Rolland's stare...
From his perspective nearly fifty feet away from the couple, Timothy Holmes saw all that he needed to in order to leverage his sister, blackmailing her for the foreseeable future. Opening his cell phone, Timothy touched the camera application, springing the video to life, and with a touch of the red button marked 'record' forever captured the balcony moment between the prisoner Rolland Wright and the rebel Tina Holmes.