I wanted to write a story about time travel and monastic orders. This seemed like the best compromise.
This story is concurrent with “The Doctor and the Druid” and other Hornworld tales. Enjoy.
Sanctuary Through the Ages, by Alexander Paul Willging
Word Count: 977
The only thing visible for miles around in the snowy badlands was the monastery.
Groaning through her scarf, Shevaun tried to keep moving. Her legs refused to work. She prayed and pleaded with them—and with her God—to just keep moving. Just a few hundred yards, that was all.
As her limbs finally cramped up and she began her sad tumble onto the ground, the last thought to pass through Shevaun’s mind was Seriously, no more adventures after this one.
She awoke in a small, cozy room. Light flickered across stone walls from the fireplace. The air was crisp with the scent of mint and other herbs. And something else, too.
Fresh soup. Her stomach growled in appreciation.
“Ah, you’re awake,” said a gentle voice to the side. Shevaun sat up in her bed and blinked.
An old man in brown and green vestments sat in a wicker chair beside the hearth of the room. And it wasn’t much of a room, she realized. More like a cell.
“I hope you’re hungry,” said the monk. “The soup’s still hot.”
“Thank you.” Shevaun kept the covers of her bed wrapped around her shoulders. She felt stronger now. Walking through that wasteland didn’t seem real anymore. Just a bad dream.
But it couldn’t be, because this was the monastery she’d seen. And it felt familiar. So did the old man.
She took a seat at the small table and began to spoon the hot soup as quickly as she could. When she paused for breath, she smiled up at the monk. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”
The monk shook his head, smiling sadly. “Still don’t remember, I see. Well, it’s to be expected.”
“Beg your pardon?”
“No need, no need.” The monk leaned forward and pressed the palms of his hands together. “I am Brother Vengard, O.V.T.” Then he spread his arms out, as if to encompass the room and the building beyond it. “We are the Temporalists. And this is Sanctuary.”
As Shevaun ate more of her soup and regained her strength, Vengard spoke. He belonged to a secular order known formally as Ordo Viatorum Temporalium.
In laymen’s terms, time travelers.
“The trouble, you see, isn’t simply traveling through time. Any Child of the Ages who makes the Great Journey will simply end up in a different timeline.” Vengard’s brow furrowed. “But there are Powers beyond the mortal races. Supernatural entities who want to merge timelines together. Create paradoxes that will suit Their Will.”
“And you… stop Them? Fight gods from changing history?”
“Since time travel was proven possible and made accessible, the Temporalists were granted a… well, let’s call it a special dispensation. We are outside the changing timelines. We observe them and we keep Sanctuary for those whom gods and men have thrown out of time for a brief time.”
Shevaun was shaking again, but she wasn’t cold anymore. “People like me.”
“I’m afraid so. This isn’t your first visit here.”
Vengard shrugged. “By my reckoning, at least eight times now. Usually from a failed expedition on Hornworld, or a war between the fey and human races. Once, you brought your friend Kyle here.” Wrinkles formed at the edges of his eyes as he smiled. “He did very well here, as I recall.”
Shevaun stared down at the empty soup bowl. Thin red cracks of agony were racing through her head. It hurt to try and remember. The worst part was that she almost could remember.
“I think…” She shook her head. “I think I was trying to save my friends. We were climbing…” She had to grip the wooden table as the memories came back. “Yes, that’s it! We were scaling Wrath Mountain. To find the Throne Primordial, where the river started…”
“And then?” Vengard prompted.
“And then…” Shevaun put a hand to her mouth. The tears couldn’t stop now. “And then I had to choose. I… let Kyle go.” She pressed her face into her palms, hating herself as she spoke. Hating herself in that memory. “I let my oldest friend die so Kumiko… sweet Kumiko…”
The old Brother put a hand on her shoulder, warm to the touch. “You are forgiven. That timeline is closed now. A new one opens and awaits.”
“How can you say that?”
“Because that is the nature of my duty to fellow travelers. Haven’t you been paying attention?”
Hours later, they stood at the Gate.
Shevaun shouldered the field kit on her back and looked at Brother Vengard. He smiled warmly like a father.
The man who stood beside him was, as Vengard had put it, a Chronoscopic Friar. He didn’t wear the humble vestments of his order. Instead, the Friar wore a green flight suit with a flak vest, long boots and gloves, and a face-concealing helmet. When he turned to Shevaun, he bowed his head and crossed his arms in an X over his chest.
He would be her escort into the new timeline. Into another chance at life and absolution.
“Remember, do not give into fear and shame,” Vengard advised. “Regardless of your choices and divine interventions, you will always find your way back here.”
Shevaun frowned. “But for how long?”
“As long as it takes, my child.”
Shevaun nodded. She closed her eyes, saying farewell to the Kyle and Kumiko she’d lost before. Wishing the best for the Kyle and Kumiko she’d meet once again.
The Friar turned to Shevaun and held out his hand. Through the muffled visor, he said, “Are you ready?”
Something about his voice made the back of her eyes sting. It was so familiar.
Almost like Kyle’s voice.
She gripped his hand and smiled. It didn’t matter. She’d see him again—or another version of him—soon enough.
With simple faith, she crossed the Gate and reentered the swirling vortex.
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