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I recently completed my third reprint of my novel Hell & Hugh Waters, and as far as I can see, its as close to perfect as I care to get. OK , I planned on chapter illustrations, but I just wanted it done and dusted, leaving my mind to mve on the the next thing, in this case Market Of Souls, the sequel.

However, it also brought with it a sense of closure on more than my literary efforts.

Last week I gave in my notice at work, with the aim of flying away from old blightly at the end of January. Where to?

That will have to wait for another blog, but its just strange that I decided to do it, and hang all my reservations.

In India I saw a therapist, and one thing came to light. I gain more from the creative process than the outcome. Hell! I got 50 copies of Hugh printed and most of those I will give away!

This has also been evident in other areas of my life, including my relationships. I thrive on the creation of things, and then get bored once they are completed. Theres probably a word for that.

Weird but true.

Anyways, to commorate Hugh’s 3rd edition, I’ll post here, the first few chapters of the sequel.

Enjoy


Chapter One              Peachings Farm

The door burst open and the farmer rushed in.

‘Where’s me bloody wood axe woman!’ he yelled before, with some difficulty, sitting down hard on a stool, his leg thrust out, the tear on his tunic, dark with blood. His wife, startled and flustered by both her husbands entrance and condition, rushed to him, a wet cloth already in her hand.

‘Jon! Not that cockerel again?’ she muttered sadly, applying the cloth.

‘Too bloody right that accursed foul! I’m gonna chop its bloody head off!’ he spat.

His wife instantly stopped in her attention and stood up her arms crossed, her face covered in a look of pure severity.

‘Jonathan Samuel Peachings!’ she growled. ‘You will do no such thing! You know as well as I that the animal is blessed with good luck, the old woman told us nigh on five winters past, and naught we know have come to woe since then!’

‘Lucky! Lucky!’ the old farmer rumbled. ‘Lucky, if it makes another winter, by thunder!’

‘Don’t be stupid. Just in future, try and be a little quicker when you’re feeding them there chickens.’

‘But he jumped at me?’ the farmer protested, holding up the rip in the tunic.

‘I have said my piece Jonathan Samuel Peachings’ she said as she turned and strode away.

Something rang in the cobweb filled recesses of Jon Peachings mind. She had used his full given name twice.

That didn’t bode well. Silently he thanked his fortunes for stopping him before he had got to three times. As it was he wouldn’t be sleeping in the marital bed tonight. Next time it would be in the pigsty. He turned and cast a hateful glare out at the chicken shed. There silhouetted by an oil lamp, was the shape of a large cockerel.

It was looking back at him.

The cockerel was also angry.

The cockerel was always angry.

Not that kind of anger that humans experience, which tends to flare up and then vanish with the application of the right drug, drink or restraining order.

Human emotion rises and falls constantly.

Chicken’s obviously don’t go and get drunk when they’re angry, or lets face it the pubs of the world would be crowded with the little buggers getting pissed and leering over the barmaid.

Chickens don’t build up vast reservoirs of anger because lets face it; they don’t live long enough to.

Spitroast, as the affectionate and highly intellectually challenged daughter of his first owner had named him, was lucky.

He was lucky because one day his owner came down with an infection and would have died if a neighbour had noticed the big cockerel was jumping up and down in the middle of the hen yard making clurk clurk churl noises. They found the old lady and she got help, and everyone said that the chicken had been shouting the alarm because its owner was in danger.

The truth was that Spitroast had been jumping up and down in an insane fury because the bloody old woman hadn’t fed him yet.

And so he had sidestepped the natural existence and demise of poultry and now was rapidly approaching an amazing twelve winters old, which is a long time to build up anger, without having someway of releasing it. Or having the problem solved by someone chopping your head off!

The core of Spitroasts own internal atomic device of emotion was the fact that Spitroast wouldn’t believe he was a chicken. Every fibre in him knew, for a certainty that he was not a chicken. Okay, he had no idea what he was really, but this beak and feathers thing just wasn’t right at all. Something had gone wrong.

So he was left at a point where his natural chickenish urges battled against the knowledge that anything chickenish just wasn’t the kind of thing he should be doing, he supposed.

Outcome?

More anger!

Then his last owner had sold him to the Peachings, and slowly, Spitroast had found a way to work off his frustrations. He was now on day one hundred and seventy four of his own private war with Jon Samuel Peachings.

The only problem was that farmer had already won.

The morning after the unfortunate tunic incident, farmer Peachings sold the cockerel to an exorcist!

And Spitroast found a whole new outlet for his rage.

Chapter Two              The Brand of God

The manor lay on a small island and had been built and rebuilt, changed and added to over the decades on the ruined remains of an ancient edifice that dominated a rocky outcrop surrounded by a lake. Now a wooden beamed house had been built onto the original stone structure and this jutted out over the gently lapping waters, supported by a network of beams and supports. The keep was a simple square affair, with a circular tower at each corner, but with a taller central tower set in its centre which raised another storey above the keeps battlements.

A wide bridge stretched the fifty feet to the mainland and met the keep with a high gatehouse fitted with an ornate set of double doors, so heavy that it took four men to draw them open. Above the gate itself, the gatehouse was built out and fitted with murder holes, now the only remaining defence the keep held against would be attackers. Other than the bridge and gate, the keep was inaccessible thanks to the rugged rocks of the outcrop itself, while the lower windows had long been bricked up, making the only access through the main gate.

Above the gatehouse, set into the wall of the keep itself and opening into the great hall was a high arched window, over thirty feet in height and half that in width, and fitted with stained glass as that of a church, but in this case, depicting a huge colourful hunting scene with packs of hounds and men on horseback in pursuit of a mighty white stag.

In all, the keep itself stood three stories, while the wooden long house stood only one, with the latter having a narrow walkway around which guards could patrol the lake side of the manor, with the walkway connecting to the upper battlements by means of a series of steps, fitted with iron hand rails that climbed up the side of the keep before entering the upper guardhouse. Here the guards rested between watches and was the only access to both the upper battlements and the interior of the keep itself.

What marked this bastion apart from so many in England was the southern tower. There, at the very top, stood a large tree, that fate had planted there a hundred years before, its branches now all but reaching down over the battlements.

This was De Lars Manor and had been the ancestral seat of power in the shire for many decades since Norman invaders had laid the first stone, and in that year of 1473 it remained as such.

At that moment in time it was the home of Edward De Lars, a cold and proud man who cared little for the lands about him, spending his time in study and the search of knowledge, appointing the mundane tasks required of him to well paid members of the local village hierarchy. But, this had done little to silence the whispers of darker deeds from his serfs and it was more out of fear that his minions guarded his interests. Those who he counted as faithful were few and as was there master’s custom, had little to do with the common folk of that land.

On a cold night, hinted with the threat of storms, many of these men were there at the manor, while the night pulled in tight around the flickering sconces on the towers walls and tighter still around the guards on the battlements as they patrolled ceaselessly.

In the distance, thunder rumbled, while overhead the full moon was shrouded in low grey and black clouds, making man and beast witness to them feel oppressed and wretched.

Within the hall, watched over by the stained glass and the pictorial hunt, De Lars and his followers toasted the night and laughed in the glow of the lamps and open fire pit that lay in the centre of the great gatehouse, over which servants laboured to turn a roast deer, which filled the air with its mouth watering scent.

Over the fire and it’s roasting hung De Lars pride and joy. A huge iron chandelier which held two hundred candles, its origin being the sacking of Jerusalem in the First Crusade and returned to England’s shores by one of De Lars forebears. Now it served as the only heirloom that gave him joy to behold.

It was the Eleventh hour as the sound of the minstrels in the gallery behind him began to fail in their task to hide the brooding storm outside. De Lars sat at the head of the feasting table and stared up at the chandelier, toying with the silver goblet in his hand, while his companions revelled around him and gorged on the banquet laid out before them. The great hall was typical of the domains of powerful men in medieval times, decked out as it was with tapestries, gaudy hangings, suits of armour and walls displaying sword, pike and shield. Behind him beneath the gallery was a wide arch leading into another smaller hall and the stairs that led to the upper levels of the keep. Above it hung the De Lars coat of arms and their family motto, Aut Vincere Aut Mori, Casus Belli, Death or Victory, the rest is wanting.

The struggle of the minstrels began to annoy De Lars and with a yell they were dismissed, leaving only the sound of the merry makers and the rumbles of the coming storm. With the exit of the minstrel’s, only three figures remained, looking down into the great hall, seated on the balcony and dangling their legs over the edge.

‘Well, I must say, I must my friends, dat it’s a good turn out this night for sure!’ announced a bloated devil the colour of cats vomit.

‘He’s certainly got a lot of meddlers here methinks,’ replied a demon who resembled an opaque cat with the tail of a scorpion and long horns mounted on its temples. ‘What say you Bleeder?’

The fiend known as Bleeder, who was basically a large, bloated toad, sporting a body covered in spines, a long mane of white hair and a huge Roman nose, grinned wickedly. ‘I says it will be quite a show me hearties,’ it croaked. ‘An, I has a mind to commend you both fer such as you ave dun in this here labour. Fer I would not hath been so bold as ta be whispering in his lordships ear as such you ave.’

The other two creatures let out a succession of modest dismissals at Bleeders comment.

‘Nah! I must say Nah!’ laughed the cat demon. ‘It were you as suggested the virgin!’

‘An a fine suggestion it were!’ added the devil.

Bleeder sighed and looked down at the mass of men below. ‘Ah virgins, wot a treat says I. An one as to make the old git wallow in regret heir his day do come.’

‘An one as to ave the vill’s turn on him once news gets out methinks,’ the cat demon.

‘How do we wants him?’ asked the devil.

‘Crispy an staked!’ chuckled Bleeder.

They broke in a chorus of unearthly laughter before silenced by the voice of De Lars from below.

‘Ere we goes,’ whispered Bleeder.

The guards on the battlements, huddled in their robes against the cold, never saw the small boat move out of the darkness that hung over the lake, like a veil. Never noticed it finally glide up to one of the huge supports that held the stilted house above the waters. Never heard the muffled clank of the cloth wrapped grapnel find its hold on the walkway above, or the faint rustle as a figure climbed swift up. The unfortunate guard who had been passing above only heard a quiet whistle, which distracted him from his patrol long enough to enable a shape to slip onto the walkway and jump up in a single powerful leap, onto the slanting roof, where it huddled for a moment, blending into the night until the guard moved away again. Then in moments it had covered the length of the roof and jumped onto the stairs that led up to the tower battlements.

The guardroom was occupied by two men-at-arms as a shape slipped up to the door, which was eased open gently, letting orange torchlight bleed out onto the stairs. There was a movement and a bladder of sand was tossed at the torch, extinguishing it with a hiss. The guards jumped to their feet as sudden darkness silenced their conversation. There was a grunt as the nearest guard crumpled to the ground as a heavy boot connected with his codlings, while the second man feebly drew his sword, which was torn from his grasp by the blade, the hilt being violently jabbed into his face with a crack as his nose broke. Another blow to the forehead laid the man to the floor, the bloodied sword being gently replaced in its sheath, before the door to the battlements was opened carefully and the shape moved on, closing the door behind it.

A guard who was unlucky enough to be in the intruders path was felled with a single blow and then unceremoniously tossed over the battlement, tumbling silently onto the rocks below before rolling into the water and vanishing from sight. The shape moved quickly on, slipping silently past two more guards, sharing a flask against the battlements. Onward the shape moved until apparently reaching its destination, where with the use of another rope, the shape dropped down onto the roof of the gatehouse, as the storm finally broke and rain began to fall in almost biblical proportions.

‘My friends, my friends!’ came De Lars voice over the tumult. ‘Silence lest we forget our purpose on this night!’

The dozen or so men at the table silenced, as the servants quickly left the hall, closing the doors behind them.

‘Let us as one, raise our goblets in honour of our eternal host,’ De Lars said rising to his feet. The other men did the same and they stood in silence for a moment, watching their host.

‘To he who guides our steps without fear through the roads of Hell!’ De Lars announced.

‘To he!’ the men intoned.

‘Lucifer in all his guises!’

‘Lucifer of the light!’ they replied.

Then they drank.

De Lars finished his drink and tossed the goblet aside then turned to the arch behind him.

‘Let the sacrifice be brought hence!’

The men turned towards the arch as two men appeared, dragging between them a young girl, bound and gagged. They moved forward until they halted beside the fire pit, the girl struggling to scream, her eyes wide in terror, moving from man to man in desperate hope of finding a redeemer. The men’s faces leered and grinned cruelly back at her.

De Lars walked forwards until he stood in front of their victim. Then slowly he ran his fingers through her sweat matted hair and down along the contour of her cheek. She made a mumbled cry and twisted her head away.

De Lars chuckled.

‘Onto the spit with her and we will toast our master with her screams!’ he declared, turning away and walking slowly back to his seat. The men cheered several rushing forward to remove the deer and prepared another roasting pole for the girl.

Outside, the storm finally gave up its brooding and there was a flash of lightning followed by such a roar of thunder that all those within the hall were shaken for a moment. Then with nervous laughter and embarrassed silence the evil deed continued.

It was a voice that froze every man in the hall in their deeds.

It was strong and powerful and seemed for a moment to echo from all around them. Even the thunder of the storm seemed to lessen with its words. Each man began to turn this way and that in search of its source, many drawing their swords in response to this unexpected interruption.

‘The Lord let his eyes fall on the beast he named Man,’ came the voice. ‘Only to see the taint of the Unholy One, as the harvest is tainted by the blight. And said the Lord to his heavenly host, “Let not my creation be thus.” And as one they replied, “Your Will shall bring an end to wickedness, to shadow, to diabolism.” And the Host called out the beasts named Man, “Be there one amongst thee with the heart to throw off thine evil, and serve the Lord. And one Man came forth!’

There was a flash of lightning that illuminated the shape of a man standing in the centre of the stained glass window, bringing a startled cry from the men below, while more swords were unsheathed.

Then silence.

‘The one who came forth. That’s me by the way!’ the figure announced, somewhat peevishly.

On the balcony, Bleeder gasped. ‘Oh shit!’

‘What? What?’ the cat demon whined.

‘It’s a bloody witch finder!’ cried the devil

‘Which one?’ asked the cat demon.

Bleeder turned and glared. ‘You trying ta be funny?’

‘It don’t matter which one. It just means dis ere parties over!’ the devil sneered.

‘Can’t we just kill him? We gots roast virgin on da menu!’ the cat demon protested, turning to Bleeder. But Bleeder was gone.

‘I dun’t get it!’ it said turning to the devil, who had also vanished.

‘Sod dis!’ it mumbled before vanishing with a sickly pop.

‘Begone or ye will join the wench!’ cried de Lars, before waving his men forward, several rushing for the walls and snatching down an assortment of pole arm’s and spears that were displayed there.

‘Ye will answer for your sins De Lars now and forever in the fires of damnation!’ the figure cried, ‘Preferably the sooner, the better!’ the figure added before thrusting out its arms. There was another flash of lightning, causing the mans form to become a crucifix shape, silhouetted against the stained glass. Then his clenched fists sprang open and blue fire erupted from his hands, spreading quickly down his arms until his forearms and hands were wreathed in boiling blue flame. De Lars men rushed forward as the figure leapt down from the window ledge, falling amongst them, the fire from its arms trailing behind him.

‘What is your name child?’ her saviour said, his voice, now deep and gentle.

They sheltered from the rain and storm in the shade of a large oak, which looked over the lake and its island keep. The girl was only slightly hurt from the cruel attention of her captors but now drank deeply from a flask the man offered her.

‘Barbarella,’ he replied, her voice still betraying her suffering.

The man seemed to muse on this for a moment then stood up and began to remove the strange armoured gauntlets that covered his forearms and hands, carefully placing them in his pack. They steamed slightly.

Though still recovering from her terror, she was curious. ‘The fire, the blue fire, was that bewitchment?’

The man laughed kindly. ‘Nay, just an old trick of the ancient Greeks, from far away in their homelands. For more effect than ought else. Oft I mused that I should have been a player weaving wonders before the eyes of others. But battle be in mine blood as surely as the sun rises and morning comes, and to be honest, warriors make lousy players!’

‘Have you warred in such far off lands?’

The man sighed heavily. ‘Child, I have warred in many lands, for the count of many years.’

‘Thou art a knight good sir?’

The man’s mood suddenly changed and he gave a loud laugh. ‘Nay!’

‘Thou art a man of great bravery methinks,’ he sighed.

The man looked down at her, the distant flicker of lightning illuminating his features for the first time. They were handsome but weathered, his eyes strong and sure, a long scar running from his hairline, through his left eye and down his face to his chin, the eye touched by the wounds passing being nothing but a bright white orb.

He gave her a warm but melancholy smile. ‘Nay my child, I am a simple man.’

He knelt down beside her and stroked her wet hair with his fingertips, his eyes following their path before looking into her eyes.

‘I am a simple craftsman who is naught but worthy in the eyes of his master at the tasks appointed to him. See you, that in this life, one must always try to do the best you can, but never be too good, for fear of drawing the attentions of jealous masters to thee. Some masters do not welcome the thought of losing something precious and of value, something….’

He laughed softly and shook his head, as if throwing aside his thoughts. ‘Listen to me, preaching to a girl no more than fourteen harvests old, about life. You will find out for thine self the truths of this world, and some truths will be hard and some will make thine heart sing like a nightingale and long to follow the birds into the skies above. For such is the world we live in.’

He stood up and began to walk away.

‘Kind sir, please! Thy name?’ she cried after him.

He stopped and half turned,

He gave her again that wide warm smile, which seemed to light his face even more. ‘You may call me Briar, my child. To all others I am and will be till mine task is complete, the Brand of God.’

Then he walked away, heading back to the island and its keep. The young woman stayed in her shelter for an hour, watching the flames rise from the island stronghold, consuming it in fire. As the morning arrived only a blackened husk of stone and smouldering timber remained.

Those that escaped the inferno told tales of Gods vengeance on the island and its wicked master. Vengeance in the form of a man who wielded the flame of heaven and burnt the followers of evil with his touch. Only one person had a name to put to the tale and she never spoke it, unless in remembrance of that night or in her thankful prayers.

Chapter Three                        Bastard Feudal

Nausea.

It was the type of nausea that made Hugh feel like someone has lassoed his stomach, via a long thin cord inserted down his throat, and by slow degrees was pulling it up towards his mouth.

It was all consuming.

He couldn’t see because of the tears that filled his eyes.

For some reason he couldn’t hear either but the sickness was so potent that he really didn’t care.

His gag reflex seemed to be constantly stimulated into a succession of gut wrenching sensations that forced his mouth to open in the readiness of vomiting, but nothing came. Just the urge remained and after his bodies repeated attempts to expel whatever it could, the action was now only pain.

He bent over and gripped his stomach with both hands, the action slowly abating, the tears beginning to cease, the powerful sick ache in his belly growing slowly less until be braved to open his eyes. Before him, a green blur appeared. He blinked to clear the tears away, and the green gradually took shade and texture, though his sight remained like looking at a watercolour left out in the rain.

In the subjective silence he could make out that he was standing on a rich bottle green carpet of grass that moved slightly with the touch of a breeze, though he could hear nothing of its presence, though his skin did thrill with its cool touch.

He stared, for a moment fascinated by its movement as sound returned to him.

First he was conscious of the distant sound of crows calling high over him, then the sound of the breeze itself, its noise growing in fractions as the seconds passed. The nausea was all but gone as he raised his blurry eyes. Someway off there was a suggestion of sunset, far away. Then as his sight returned, it paled and separated into dozens of individual sources, of varying sizes, far off across the stretch of velvet green. Then more shapes appeared. These seemed ordered, set in lines, but undefined by their lack of proximity.

They suggested upright shapes, hundreds of them that moved and fidgeted in the distance. His mind struggled to make sense of what he saw, but then he felt the vibration.

It came from the ground on which he stood, still bent over from his nausea, but with a steady rhythm they began to grow and grow until his knees trembled with the sensation. He half turned to look behind him. Through tear stained eyes, he saw more shapes, though with these there was no mere suggestion of movement. These jumped and shuddered. A long line of colour and shape, highlighted occasionally by light to reveal hints of silver and white.

He blinked to clear his eyes.

With the clarity that this afforded him came a sudden explosion of sound that made him straighten instantly. The shapes and colours coalesced into form, revealing something that made his mind scream with sudden recollection. The vibrations had gone to be replaced with a sound like nearby thunder making the ground shudder. A line of mounted horsemen was charging towards him, the light reflected off a hundred armoured bodies, while the air was split with the sound of snorting horses, muffled war-cries and the thunder of hooves, which churned up the ground into a cloud of dirt and ruptured grass. The charge seemed heedless of his presence. Their approach forming a doom-laden wall of horse flesh and plate mail, sword and lance that with every instant bore down on Hugh as he stood in numb shock, watching their approach.

For some reason Hugh would latter never truly understand, Hugh remembered the shapes he had seen first upon opening his eyes. He turned back. Now they had lost their shroud of vagueness and he could easily make out line upon line of men, each standing heedlessly still, all set in a similar stance. Each holding something before them. As he watched, as if following the same unvoiced command they raised the object and Hugh’s mind understood.

Archers!

His legs were moving before his mind had fully acknowledged the idea of flight. Across the shuddering ground he stumbled, away from the onslaught of the cavalry and back towards the archers, but at a right angle so as to avoid ever actually reaching them. His eyes picked out the shape of woodland to his right and for this he moved as the air above him was filled with the whistle of arrows. Behind him they met their mark and a noise followed that made Hugh think of some divine hand picking up a scrap yard and dropping it from the heavens. Screams tore the air along with the crash of horses, forced into the ground with dreadful momentum, only to become obstacles for those horsemen behind. The result was a tumultuous concussion of men, horse, arrows and plate mail, all being forced into both the ground and each other in a single wave of fatality. The sky overhead was filled with the whistling progress of arrows, thousands of deadly flights that rained down on the horsemen like a vengeful biblical hail piercing helm, breast plate, barding and flesh.

The silence of Hugh’s waking realisation had quickly changed into a something that spoke only of pain, of rage, of death. The world around him had taken on an unnatural air, so that his flight felt like running underwater. His progress seemed to be almost dreamlike, with the carnage ever threatening to reach him, bringing deaths touch to his useless steps.

At one point he glanced back to see a group of armoured riders merely yards behind him, so close that he could see the horses breath, see the wild madness in the creatures eyes as the rider urged it on, then there was a succession of hisses and the rider and mount were both feathered in arrows and then hit the ground in a cloud of dirt, only to be hit by those who followed, the nearest hitting its fallen comrade and being flung head over heels, the rider tumbling out of the saddle and crashing into the ground on the spot that Hugh had left just moments before at his heels. He cried out and staggered on, forgetting the curiosity that had made him turn. Now he only wanted to be away from that place of war and death.

Ahead he could see pike men advancing, a vast line of weapons moving out to meet the surviving cavalry, he forced his legs to work harder, but he knew it was pointless. Even with the rain of arrows, the horsemen numbered in the hundreds and those remaining were jumping the bodies of their fallen, and continuing the assault. Hugh still lay in their path. Death beckoned to his terrified heart, threatening to blight it with its hopeless whispers.

He couldn’t make it.

He would be trampled, heedlessly by the attackers, and left bloody and forgotten on a battle field hundreds of years before he would have ever been born.

He stopped and turned to face the onslaught.

Moving as if in a dream towards him was hundreds of armoured shapes, surrounded by a cloud of dust making them look unworldly and inhuman.

Shining heralds of his inevitable demise.

A tear slowly traveling down his cheek

They were almost on him when there was another sensation, as a chill that ran through his body, bringing with it shift, complete darkness. The last thing he saw was the point of a lance, only an arm’s reach from his face, the space behind him unfocused.

‘You alright?’ said a nearby voice. ‘Hugh! You okay man?’

‘I’m dead.’

The speaker laughed. ‘Well, I’m talking to you without the need for a Ouija board, so I don’t reckon so man!’

Hugh kept his eyes closed. ‘Then where the hell I am?’

‘I think we’re in a hovel.’

‘A hovel?’

‘Yep, that’s the correct term I think. It certainly smell’s like a hovel, cows shit with a general fodder-like odour.’

Hugh could smell the unmistakable smell of animals, mixed with a dank, musty scent like burnt hair. He opened his eyes to find Ethan sitting opposite him. The other man smiled his usual mildly lunatic smile.

‘Got to you just in time huh?’

‘I was about to be trampled by a cavalry charge, so I guess you could say that, yes!’

‘Not sure what happened there man,’ Ethan said with a shrug. ‘Never done this time travel stuff before so I just put it down to lack of experience.’

‘So what the hell was going on. You said that we were aiming for between the Hundred Year War and the War of the Roses!’

Ethan looked suddenly rather embarrassed, his smile fading. ‘I-I-I made a bit of mistake. You see its all fine and good to think about a period in history but sometimes certain points just kinda take mental prominence.’

‘Mental prominence!’

‘Well, I always found Agincourt rather fascinating.’

‘Agincourt?’

‘Yeah, and I was focusing on 1483, and Agincourt kinda popped in there!’

‘Kinda popped in there!’

Ethan tried to smile. ‘What can I say but….opps.’

‘That opps almost got me trampled to death.’

‘Yeah but it didn’t so it’s kinda okay yeah?’

It was pointless getting angry at Ethan. He was undoubtedly too sane for his own good. Sanity that pushed the boundaries of reality, but beside a slightly sadistic sense of humour he was in the end very honest, and after all, he had managed to put them into the medieval period with just a thought. Hugh decided to concentrate on the facts.

‘So is Agincourt earlier or later than 1483?’

‘Agincourt was 1415, so we’re a little early, but watching just the bit I saw was amazing. I really must do this more. It’s like having the option to watch your favourite films whenever you choose.’ Ethan said cheerfully.

Hugh held back his temper. ‘Well, if you ever choose to witness the D-Day landings, don’t invite me. I don’t fancy the thrill of getting cut in half by German machine guns!’

He stood up and stretched. ‘So, what do we do now?’

‘Get our bearings, soak up some ambience and then I’ll move us to where we should be. I thought I’d focus on London first. We should be able to find a few leads there.’

Already the ambience of the environment was making Hugh feel claustrophobic. The gloom was stifling and the smell didn’t make it any better. He also felt incredibly hungry. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten anything, and his last drink had been the coke that MotNocte had given him.

‘Can’t we just focus on Tolpuddle?’

Ethan shook his head. ‘This is medieval England. If I focus on Tolpuddle, we might end up in some place we really wouldn’t want to be. Remember this is a high point for the human concept of hell and damnation. Last thing we need is to end up as day-trippers in Dante’s Inferno.’

‘Okay I understand, but can we get it together soon? I’m starving.’

Ethan lay back on the dirt and laughed. ‘You might find the food in this century a bit basic Hugh. Burger and fries won’t be invented for hundreds of years. And English cuisine did tend to be even more boring than it is in our time. But no worries! I’ll sort us out. First though I just need a while to collect my thoughts. Don’t want my mind wandering again.’

Hugh managed a laugh. ‘Shit, take all the time you want.’

Then a thought occurred to Hugh and he turned back to his companion. ‘Time really doesn’t bother you does it? I mean the fact that we’re here.’

Ethan for a moment he gave Hugh a deep, penetrating look. ‘Why should it? We both know that reality is only what we perceive it as. It’s totally subjective. The only difference between you and me is that I can affect everything in my own reality. You just have to open your eyes Hugh, and you will. Everywhere I am is where I’m supposed to be. I don’t suffer from doubt anymore. I just know, and also choose what I know at any given time. I know that we are here, at the moment, in Medieval France. Once I’ve got my head together I will know that we’re in London in 1483. It will be a fact, as certain as the sun rising.’

Hugh sighed. ‘Its just…you know, this whole thing with enlightenment was a bit rough on me, and not least a surprise. But now I’m time traveling!’

‘What is time Hugh?’

‘Well, by definition I guess its existence as a linear succession of states, past, present and future.’

‘Have you ever sat down and thought about what happens in one moment across the world?’

‘Might have when I was really stoned!’

‘In one moment an infinite amount of things happen in existence around us. Somebody’s mother or father die, a new child is born, someone gets a raise, someone loses their job, someone is killed by another, somebody saves someone’s life. In fact, in every moment, everything possible is acted out somewhere in our existence.’

‘Wait, it’s possible that a volcano erupts, but it doesn’t happen every moment.’

‘If a tree falls in a forest, does it still make a noise if there’s no one there to witness it?’

‘So you’re saying everything possible is acted out, but we just don’t know about it?’

‘Exactly, and always remember that Time is an abstract concept!’

‘If you’re gonna say something about lunchtime then I appreciate the homage but you’re not being clear.’

‘Time is a constant but its perception can be very objective. There are reported incidents where people in survival situations have perceived time slowing down, and in that slow time, they have managed to do things that would have been impossible in the actual amount of time as perceived by others. That is thought creating reality. They slowed time down themselves in order to survive or save somebody’s life or whatever. They weren’t enlightened. But they somehow managed to manipulate time anyway.’

‘So?’

Ethan smiled. ‘What I’m trying to say is that you may feel this whole time travel thing is weird but even normal people can manipulate time, so it can’t be that weird can it?’

‘What’s that got to do with everything possible being played out in every moment?’

‘Hugh, I’m just trying to say, that you may think enlightenment is one hell of a head fuck, but in reality, existence is a pretty amazing thing anyway, whether you’re enlightened or not. So, don’t let it get on top of you. This new place you find yourself in is gonna get at you, but take it easy as the song says. You just have to accept how wonderful life is and in the end, you’ll realise that your place in life, no matter how you got there, is how its supposed to be.’

Hugh felt a pang of envy for Ethan’s view of reality. It was as simple as he wanted it to be. He didn’t strive for power or wealth. He was the ultimate tourist. A tourist of reality. The only difference was that he could choose what that reality was and how it touched his existence.

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