Written by: Mandi "Mandolin" Ohlin and Alan "Ordell" Coleman
Outline by: Christi Smith Hayden, Mandi "Mandolin" Ohlin and Todd Jensen
Artwork by: Christi Smith hayden
* * * * *
Previously on Timedancer...
"So how long ago did this magus die?" Primus asked after Brooklyn finished reading the passage.
"Nearly three hundred years ago." The Mage held out a scroll, stamped with a gilded wax seal. "This was attached to the original document that the story came from. According to that, this scroll contains the secrets of the Phoenix Gate but it has been sealed magically. For years I have been trying to find a way to get break the spell, but have failed. Perhaps you are a blessing, Brooklyn. Here, take this, please. As a servant of the Gate, you are the only one who might have a use for it."
Brooklyn accepted the sheet of rolled-up parchment and stuffed it into the pouch along with the Phoenix Gate. The Mage smiled as if a great burden were suddenly lifted off his shoulders and let out a deep breath with a cough.
~Out of Joint, part II~
* * * * *
"Who are you?" Sata asked in an even tone.
"Khensu Haravash." The wizard gave a slight bow, "I have come to offer my assistance." The wizard spread out his hands, palms open in a non-threatening gesture. "I must say Brooklyn, you picked an interesting time to return to Kemet. This coup should be brief."
"I have nothing to do with where or when I show up. You know that."
"Yes, I do, and I may be able to help you with that."
"You know how to control the Phoenix Gate?" Sata asked. Brooklyn immediately looked doubtful.
~The Sun and the Serpent, part I~
* * * * *
Blaise then suddenly paused, as though he had just thought of something. "Oh, and there is one piece of good tidings for you, my friend," he added. "I looked through the Grimorum during a rest, and found a formula which can aid you with your scroll. And I tried it out, as well. Here."
He pulled Brooklynís scroll out of his pouch, and handed it to him. The seal had now broken, and the scroll could be unrolled.
"I have not opened nor read it," said Blaise. "That is for you, my friend."
"Thanks," said Brooklyn, eagerly unrolling the scroll. "Thatís quite a big help to me."
He looked at the writing on the parchment, and his heart sank again. "I - I canít read this," he said.
* * * * *
The Phoenix flame subsided, and Brooklyn found himself kneeling on the damp, cold cobblestones of an alleyway. Hiro's prone form was gone.
Brooklyn knelt there for several seconds, staring at the empty space where he'd seen the fallen gargoyle only moments before. All he'd needed was another moment. One more second to warn them, just to say a few words. But as always, the Gate would not even give him that much. Its caprices would not even permit him to mourn a fallen friend. He barely knew Hiro, or any of the Nagasaki clan, but their passing still pained him.
It took him a moment before he became fully aware of the change in his surroundings. However, what registered first, and most unpleasantly, was the presence of Payne. The scientist was yammering on incessantly about something or other.
"...first in the path of the A-bomb, now this," Payne grumbled, pacing back and forth. With a deep sigh, Brooklyn slowly got to his feet as the scientist continued. "Where in the blazes are we now?" he exclaimed, peering down the alley in time to see what looked like a Model T passing by. "The Dark Ages?"
"Not that far back," Brooklyn answered, earning a skeptical look from Payne. "Trust me. I grew up back then."
"Well, it might as well be!" the scientist exploded, kicking at a loose stone. "Look at this! Wherever, whenever we are, they haven't perfected the art of smooth surfaces on roads yet, have they?"
"Hey, be glad there's any kind of pavement," the Timedancer muttered, only half paying attention. He was focused on the night sky above them. They had been fortunate enough to dance into an empty alleyway, and no one had seen them yet. But being seen was not his foremost concern. Although the buildings on both sides of them hampered his view of the horizon, it looked as though it might be getting light in the east. "Hang on a second, will you? I'm going to get a better view."
He turned and dug his claws into the stone wall beside him, taking great care to make as little noise as possible as he climbed. Payne, however, didn't seem to understand the concept of silence. "Wait a minute, Timedancer! You're not leaving me here!"
"Shhh!" Brooklyn waved at him frantically. "You want to bring every cop in the area here? I told you, I'm just going to take a look."
The only response he got was incoherent muttering, which Brooklyn took as a good sign. Carefully, he turned and hoisted himself onto the roof of the building, glancing around. One look to the east confirmed his suspicions. As much as he'd like to find a nice deep hole and drop Payne into it, that would have to wait.
He jumped to the ground, using his wings to soften his landing. "It's almost dawn. We'd better find some shelter."
"Shelter? Shelter? In this... this industrial mess?"
"What did you expect?" Brooklyn demanded, whirling on Payne. "The Plaza Hotel?"
Payne scowled. "Don't you try to intimidate me, Timedancer! After all, this is all your fault! If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't be here!"
"My fault?" Brooklyn echoed, scarcely able to believe what he was hearing. "Would you rather I left you back there? Because I would have in a heartbeat!"
"I might have been better off!" Payne snapped.
"That makes two of us!"
"Fine, then!" the scientist exploded, throwing up his hands. "You don't need me, and I certainly don't need the likes of you! Goodbye!" He turned away.
"Good riddance," Brooklyn muttered as the scientist stormed off. Payne did not react, striding out of the alley.
Sighing, Brooklyn glanced back up at the lightening sky. Yes, he was alone again. But this time he couldn't blame it on the Gate. Watching Payne's retreating form disappear between the buildings, he shook his head. True, the scientist was not the ideal choice for a companion, much less a confidante, but at least he was someone to talk to, to trade insults with. And now he was off on his own in an unknown time with no money, no identification, and a big mouth.
Brooklyn smacked himself in the forehead. "Idiot," he scolded himself before turning in the direction the scientist had gone. "Payne--"
But as fate and Murphy's Law would have it, the sun rose before he could utter another word.
* * * * *
That statue hadn't been there the day before.
Surprised, the old man wheeled the tricycle about, nearly colliding with a couple of children who were chasing each other down the street, heedless of their mother's calls. Seeing that his change in route hadn't harmed anyone, he carefully dismounted and wheeled the tricycle to the side of the street for a better look. Yes, indeed, that was a statue, and it hadn't been there the last time he'd checked. It was situated smack in the middle of an alleyway, half-concealed in the shadows. Had he not happened to glance to his left at the precise moment, he might have missed it. Most of the passersby probably hadn't noticed it, but then again, not everyone made a point of looking out for minute details.
He practically made a career out of the art of observation.
Curious, he slipped into the alley, momentarily forgetting about his morning exercise as he approached the statue. "What do we have here?" he wondered to the air as he got a closer look.
It looked like one of those grotesques on churches, of the fearsome gargoyles that protected a sacred place. Yet while its features - the beaked face, the horns, the bat-like wings and claws - were strange and perhaps grotesque, it certainly didn't look fearsome. He slowly walked around the statue, examining the workmanship carefully. Whoever had carved it had done so with great skill; it was so lifelike, so detailed, that he might have believed it to be a living creature in dim light.
What particularly intrigued him, however, was the expression on the statue's face. Even etched into inhuman features, the emotion was evident, the pose telling, as if it was calling out to someone.
The tolling of a bell in the distance startled him back to reality. Fumbling in his pocket, he retrieved his watch and popped it open. "Blast," he murmured, stuffing it back into his pocket. Great discoveries always seemed to come at the least opportune times. Sighing, he straightened up and wheeled the tricycle out of the alley, promising to return.
* * * * *
Dr. Isaac Payne of the year 2043 had not seen home in a long time. He had been dragged away by what some would call a demon, others a monster, and some the incarnation of pure evil. Payne knew him only as the Timedancer.
The Timedancer, who had taken away all he knew, and had abandoned him here. Where were they? London, perhaps. Early twentieth century, for sure.
"Miserable situation," Payne mumbled as he walked down the street, getting as far away from the Timedancer as possible. "I have no food, no shelter, and no one in this place will know me."
Payne's eye soon caught a bread store as he walked by. He stopped and looked in the window. How easy it would be to get something to eat for nothing at all. These people are vulnerable, anyway. It was a victimless crime. Besides, he was hungry and -
"Stop!" Payne told himself. What was he thinking? He was doctor of science, not a petty thief in an uncultured society. "Blasted gargoyle, if it wasn't for him..."
Payne continued to mumble as he carried himself back to Brooklyn. It was, after all, his only logical choice.
"I am not a Timedancer," Payne said to himself, "the gargoyle is. Blasted Timedancer, he's nothing but a blistering idiot."
Payne continued along his way, the shuffle of a nearby newspaper escaping his hearing. The man behind the paper watched the strange character walk past him, mumbling like a fool.
"Timedancer?" he whispered as he folded the paper neatly and tucked it under one arm. The sunlight was caught by the pin on the man's lapel as he turned and followed Payne down the street.
* * * * *
"I say, sir," Major Wallace exclaimed, trying to keep in time with the older man hurrying ahead of him. "Isn't it rather late in the day to be making such an excursion?"
His employer sighed. "If you hadn't scheduled the entire day away, we could have been here sooner. As it stands, Wallace, it is now or never. Some vandals may have discovered it by now--"
"Yes, yes, but for a statue?" the Major argued, panting. It never ceased to amaze him how a man twenty years his senior could easily outdistance him if he was excited enough.
"Yes, a statue! A statue, my friend, that before this morning was not sitting in the middle of an alley. Now while that may not interest you," the older man continued, "the size and density of this sculpture was such that it would require a great deal of effort to transport it even across the street."
"And it should have attracted some attention, then," Wallace finished, having a fair idea of where this was going.
His employer nodded, slowing his pace slightly for Wallace to catch up. "Precisely. Yet none of the locals about noticed anything of the sort."
Wallace sighed. "You can't resist a mystery, can you?"
"Of course not, old chap. Always looking for material."
It was nearly dusk by the time the two men reached the alleyway. Despite himself, Wallace could not help but stop and stare at the sculpture standing there. Seeing his reaction, his employer chuckled. "Now you see what I mean."
"Very odd," Wallace agreed, joining the older man in a closer look. "Curious subject matter. I certainly don't recognize the style - or what it is supposed to be."
"Like the gargoyles on cathedrals," his employer murmured, leaning thoughtfully on his cane. "The workmanship is amazing..."
As he leaned closer, Wallace caught his breath to see cracks forming in the stone. "Sir!"
Hearing the warning, the older man jumped back just in time, as the cracks spread over the statue's surface. A moment later, shards of stone exploded from the statue to reveal a living, breathing creature within. It turned to face them, eyes glowing an unearthly white.
Wallace suddenly wished he'd stayed at home.
* * * * *
As Brooklyn burst free from his stone sleep, he was dismayed to find that he was not alone. Two well-dressed men were standing before him, stunned into silence. The white-haired man was clutching his cane in shock, while his younger companion seemed absolutely petrified. Payne was nowhere to be seen.
In a moment, one of them would come to their senses and start screaming for the police. Brooklyn had no time to lose. He abruptly spun away from them, leaping onto a barrel and starting to climb the nearest wall.
"No! Wait! I beg you!"
Surprised, Brooklyn hesitated, his talons digging into the wall. There was no sign of terror in the man's cry. He turned to see the older of the two men, who had broken free of his trance and was approaching. Oddly enough, the fear and revulsion Brooklyn was used to seeing was absent in the man's eyes; the expression on his face could only be described as sheer amazement. "Forgive my ignorance, but you - you are a gargoyle, are you not?"
"Last time I checked," Brooklyn answered warily, keeping his talons firmly dug into the stone in case trouble erupted.
Instead, a delighted grin appeared on the man's face. "Stone by day, flesh by night... I'd be a fool to discount those old tales now!" He composed himself, suddenly aware of the odd look Brooklyn was giving him. "You'll have to pardon me, I-I've never actually met a real gargoyle before..."
Something in the man's manner told Brooklyn that he wasn't about to call for help. "I'm not going to hurt you," he interrupted cautiously, more out of habit than anything else.
"I can see that," the man retorted. "You've had plenty of chances to already."
Brooklyn smirked, gesturing to the younger man, who had yet to snap back to reality and stood there like a statue. "I was talking to him."
"Wallace?" The older man turned and sighed. "Never mind him; I suppose he'll come to." He studied Brooklyn intently. "Out of curiosity, where exactly are you from? You don't strike me as a local."
The man frowned at that. "Really? I'd have taken your accent for an American."
Brooklyn managed a wry smile at that. "It's been a long time since I was there last."
"Indeed," the human agreed, looking him up and down thoughtfully for a moment. "You're not a hallucination, are you? At my age, one tends to wonder about such things."
As Brooklyn opened his mouth to answer, a sudden gasp broke from Wallace's lips. His eyes rolled back in his head, and he promptly passed out on the cobblestones. Surprised, the human stared at his friend's prone form, then exchanged puzzled glances with Brooklyn.
The gargoyle shrugged. "Uh, delayed reaction time?"
Sighing, the human took his cane and hurried to Wallace's side, kneeling down beside the younger man as Brooklyn approached. "Major Wallace!" No reaction. He checked the younger man's pulse, then tried slapping him lightly on the cheek to rouse him. Wallace did not respond. "Blast. He must have struck his head, poor devil." He stifled a chuckle, realizing the irony of the situation. "I suppose that answers my question, doesn't it?"
"We're going to have to get him off the streets," Brooklyn advised. "Is there a hospital around here?"
"Hospital? No, no, no need for a hospital," the man insisted. "Besides, you can't very well walk in with us." He paused for a few moments, thinking. "Perhaps my home would be a more appropriate place. My wife and the children are away in New Forest, you won't disturb them"
Brooklyn blinked. "Your home? Are you sure? He needs a doctor."
"I am a doctor, if you must know," the man responded. "You can stay in the garden. It's walled off, of course; the neighbors won't notice a thing."
As strange as this human was, Brooklyn didn't see a better option. "Just show me the way."
* * * * *
"What do you have for me?" the Client asked impatiently.
"I saw a man, sir. He said something about the 'Timedancer,' saying that the gargoyle was the Timedancer, not him. He was an odd looking fellow," the man with the pin told the Client.
"What did he look like exactly?" the Client inquired, more curious now.
"Well sir, he was bald, and a bit short. He looked cold and alone, but he was definitely looking for someone."
The Client smiled. "Very good. Very good indeed. This is earlier than I expected," he mused aloud, catching the attention of the other man.
"Pardon?" the man asked.
"Nothing, nothing. I was simply thinking aloud. You have done well, and I will see that you are rewarded. You are dismissed, but if you see anything else, report back here," the Client said, still smiling. The man merely nodded and quietly thanked the Client, then turned and walked off into the night.
"You don't approve?" the Client asked, seemingly talking into thin air.
A voice came from the shadows, almost slithery in its tone. "Of course not. What good are they to us in this time?"
"If the time is right, my dear partner, they should have just what we need." With that, the Client put his hands in his coat pockets and walked out into the night.
* * * * *
South Norwood, London
"Ohhhh," Major Wallace moaned, lifting his head and feeling for the tender spot he knew was there. "Always looking for material, he says... I should know better by now..."
"Yes, you probably should," his employer answered cheerfully, sitting down across from Wallace. The younger man sat up, blinking, as he took in his surroundings. They were seated in his employer's parlor, instead of lying in the street. He had been laid out on the couch, while his host had taken a small stool and was watching him with great amusement. "How are you feeling, Wallace? Better, I trust?"
"As well as can be expected," Wallace sighed, gratefully taking the cool cloth offered to him and pressing it to his sore head. "Thank you. I had the strangest dream--"
He broke off, realizing that his employer hadn't been the one to hand him the cloth. At his confused look, the older man smiled. "It was no dream, old chap."
Wallace turned around slowly, dreading what he would see. Standing behind him was a crimson monster, beaked and horned and clawed, almost looking sheepish as it towered over him. Wallace let out a cry, nearly falling off the couch in his terror. "Good heavens!"
The creature cast a wry glance at their host. "There's gratitude for you."
Stunned, Wallace stared at his employer, who looked completely unconcerned. "Mr. Doyle, have you gone mad?"
"No, I have simply discovered proof that I am sane," Doyle replied with a smile. "Really, Wallace, calm yourself. Our friend here was kind enough to bring you safely here to be treated. Neither of us are in any danger."
Stumbling to his feet, Wallace looked from the winged creature to his employer, still holding the cold compress to the back of his head. "Sir, you are aware that there is a winged monster standing in your parlor right now?" He glanced warily at the creature. "Ah, no offense."
"I get that a lot," was the response. "Just for the record, I'm a gargoyle, and the name's Brooklyn."
Wallace nodded, dazed. "Pleasure to meet you." He turned back to Doyle. "This is what you mean by finding new material? What would your wife say?"
"Jean and the children will not return for another week," his employer answered blithely. "And she will have nothing to say, for she is to know nothing of this."
"Right." Wallace started to back towards the foyer. "Well, then, if you have no further need of me, I'll be on my way home."
Doyle got to his feet, looking concerned. "Are you sure you're feeling up to it?"
"Quite sure," Wallace answered hastily, snatching his coat off the hook. "Arthur - sir - Mr. Doyle, do be careful," he stammered before hurrying out the door and into the night.
"Well," Doyle said after a moment. "I think he took it well, don't you?"
Brooklyn was staring at the man. "Wait a minute. He called you..."
"Arthur Conan Doyle, at your service," Doyle replied. "I don't suppose you've heard of me?"
"Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?" Brooklyn echoed, shocked. "Have I heard of you? Who hasn't?" He grinned. "Boy, what Broadway wouldn't give to be here right now! He's probably read every single Sherlock Holmes mystery in existence."
Doyle snorted. "Ah, yes, Sherlock Holmes. Never could get away from those stories."
"There's worse things to be known for, believe me," Brooklyn assured him. "You ever solved a real mystery yourself?"
"Actually, yes," Doyle answered, remembering. "I've solved two cases through deductive reasoning. There's nothing I enjoy more than a good puzzle." He sat down in the nearby armchair, giving Brooklyn a searching look. "Which brings us to you, my friend. If you ask me, you're a long way from home."
Brooklyn sighed deeply. "You have no idea."
Doyle gestured towards the empty stool, inviting Brooklyn to sit. "Scotland, eh? I was born in Edinburgh myself. What part do you hail from?"
"Well, I--" Brooklyn hesitated. Where in Scotland had Castle Wyvern been situated? More importantly, where in the Scotland of this time? "I - uh - it's a long story."
Hearing that, Doyle merely chuckled. "I can't resist a long story, especially a good one. Besides, as Wallace noted, I always need new material. I've become completely stumped on how to end my latest, and you look as though you could use a friendly ear."
For several moments, Brooklyn didn't reply. He turned towards the window, unsure what to do. To say he'd been misled and misused several times during his travels was an understatement. Even those whom he'd considered great friends had become enemies in the end, and it was getting harder and harder to tell friend from foe. He wasn't sure he could trust Doyle. He wasn't sure he could trust anyone.
But what other choice did he have, aside from being bounced back and forth through time without a friend in the world? Sure, that was how he had begun his dances, but after losing Sata the loneliness of his journeys was far more acute than ever before. At the very least, he had to talk to someone, needed to confide in someone. In that respect, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was right. Brooklyn glanced back at the mystery writer, who merely sat there, expectant and eager to listen. If there was anyone who would believe his crazy story, Doyle probably would. Despite his dislike of the scientist, he needed to find Payne; and who better to help him search than a man who built a career from solving mysteries?
After another moment, he reached into his belt pouch, drawing out the Phoenix Gate. Doyle's eyes widened in surprise and curiosity at the sight of the gleaming amulet in Brooklyn's talons. But their attention was diverted as something whitish came free from the pouch as well. Brooklyn made a grab for it, deftly catching the fallen object before it hit the floor. Realizing what it was, he stopped and stared.
It was the scroll. The scroll that might contain the secrets to controlling the Gate. The scroll that had been unlocked.
As he stared at it, a sudden possibility formed in his mind. With everything that had occurred in the last few dances, he had completely forgotten about the scroll. Payne vanished from his thoughts as the significance of the broken seal came to him. Now that it was open, perhaps - perhaps it might be able to tell him how to control the Gate for a change. It just might be his ticket back to finding Sata, if he could decipher it.
"I say, are you all right?"
Brooklyn looked up to see Doyle watching him curiously. "I might be," he replied, holding up the scroll for the writer to see. "But if you like puzzles so much, maybe you'd be up to helping me solve this one."
* * * * *
Payne was cold, hungry, and most of all, lost. Where was the Timedancer by now? It was dark, and he surely wouldn't have stayed in the same place he had been hibernating for the day.
Payne continued walking, mumbling to himself about the situation he was in. How he longed just to be home, with his inventions and colleagues.
The doctor suddenly looked at his position and realized that this was the spot that he and the Timedancer had arrived. Of course, the demon was gone, and Payne felt a surge of anger and frustration rise in him. He stormed off, ranting to himself even more about his troubles.
The figure following Payne had heard enough to confirm him as the target. He wasted no time in batting the good doctor over the head and dragging him by his feet into the nearest alley. Payne never knew what had happened to him.
* * * * *
"...and before I could stop him, the sun came up," Brooklyn finished, glad to finally be done with his tale. He'd related the general details of his travels to Doyle, leaving out bits and pieces that he didn't feel like relating. "Ahem. I'm done."
Doyle nodded absently, his gaze fixed on the scroll laid out before him. "That's it, then?"
"Well, the Reader's Digest version," Brooklyn quipped, earning a quizzical look from Doyle. "Never mind."
"Fascinating," Doyle enthused. "Simply fascinating. To be able to visit the great moments in history, to know what the future holds..."
Brooklyn flinched involuntarily, half afraid that Doyle would ask about his own future.
But Doyle caught the look on Brooklyn's face. "Or perhaps not."
"I'm sorry, I can't..." Brooklyn began.
Doyle cut him off. "Don't trouble yourself; I have no desire to know my future ahead of time. It would take all the fun out of living." With that, he turned back to his perusal, carefully transcribing the symbols on the scroll to a fresh sheet of paper.
"Find anything?" Brooklyn asked after a moment.
"Yes, and no." Doyle slammed one of the linguistic tomes shut with a snap. "The good news is, there is no way that this language could be any derivation of Greek or Latin. So we've eliminated those possibilities."
"And the bad news?"
"I have no idea where this language stems from," Doyle murmured. At Brooklyn's groan, he waved a hand. "Wait, wait. True, it looks nothing like any derivation of Latin or Greek - but if this document is as ancient as you say, there may be an explanation."
"Which is?" Brooklyn prodded.
"It may very well predate the earliest Greek civilizations!" Doyle exclaimed.
"Well, I thought it looked Egyptian," Brooklyn added, "but I wanted to be sure."
Doyle nodded. "An excellent possibility! Now, while I can't decipher it myself, that may only be because I do not have the resources on hand to translate such an ancient dialect." He closed the rest of the books and put them away on the shelf.
Brooklyn was confused. "I don't see how this qualifies as good news."
Sighing, Doyle rolled up the scroll again, taking great care not to crumble or damage the parchment. "I may not have the resources, but I know someone who might." He handed it back to Brooklyn and stood up. "Of course, it will require some time. Nothing's open for business at this hour, so we should wait until tomorrow to continue."
Assuming the Gate didn't whisk him away before then. "Are you sure you're up to this?" Brooklyn wondered, noticing his host's obvious fatigue. He bit back his initial excitement, half afraid that it wouldn't pan out.
"Am I? You present me with such an intriguing puzzle, and you have to ask me if I'm up to it?" Doyle yawned again. "I really should be off to bed. You're quite welcome to remain here for the moment. The garden is quite well secluded."
"I don't want to be any trouble--" Brooklyn began.
"Believe me, it is no trouble at all," Doyle assured him, stifling another yawn. He leaned across the table to grin at his guest. "Besides, you never know; this might be just the inspiration I've been looking for." With that, he left the study and made his way up the steps to the bedrooms upstairs.
"Good night," Brooklyn called after him, but Doyle was already out of earshot.
Alone in his host's study, he held the scroll in his hand and stared at it. He didn't put it away immediately, but simply sat there for several seconds, contemplating the talisman. It was entirely possible that the scroll was his ticket home, back to Manhattan, back to his clan, back to Sata...
Sata. Brooklyn jerked upright at the thought. It suddenly occurred to him that he had no idea just how the scroll would affect the Phoenix Gate. In his excitement, he had simply believed that it would allow him to control the talisman, to use it to go where and when he pleased. To release him from the endless string of dances, the countless times the Gate had flared when he'd least wished it to. Sata was the only reason he hadn't tried to ditch the talisman again. While the Phoenix Gate sometimes seemed to have a wicked sense of humor, it was his only hope of seeing his wife - or their hatchlings - again.
What if that wasn't the scroll's purpose?
Brooklyn had assumed that to be free of the Gate meant that he could control it. But that wasn't the only way. What if the scroll merely dumped him back in New York, right where he'd started? Back with the clan, back home. No Phoenix Gate, no Weird Sisters, no more time-hopping... no more Sata.
Was it worth the risk?
Brooklyn shut his eyes for a moment, bringing her face to the forefront of his memory. For a few seconds, he allowed the image to linger before his eyes opened and reality reappeared. Sata was worth any risk. Doyle planned to try to translate the scroll, not activate it. Once it was deciphered, all would be made clear. Brooklyn was sure of it.
He studied the scroll for a few moments more before carefully sealing it in his pouch with the Gate and leaving the study. It might be a good idea to see just how secluded this garden was.
* * * * *
A light woke Payne up from his slumber. He was tied to a chair, the light shining directly into his eyes. "How cliché," he muttered to himself.
"First off," the voice of the Client came through the light, "let's start with your name and where you come from."
"Oh, of course," Payne sneered, "I'll get right on that. Let me out of this chair!"
"I don't think that will be possible," the Partner said with a more feminine tone.
"It better become possible, or you can be assured I won't answer any of your questions." Payne told both of his captors.
The Partner sighed. "He's no use to us. We should just kill him. He'll never help us in finding the Timedancer."
Payne's ears perked at the word. "Timedancer? You want the Timedancer? I can get him for you, I swear. Just let me go."
The Client smiled again. "It looks like our little captive might be a bit scared after all. Dr. Payne, is it?"
"How did you know that?" Payne asked in horror.
"I have my ways. We'll take your offer, but only if we do things my way, understood?"
"Completely," Payne answered.
"Now, if you will excuse us, my partner and I have some things to discuss. I'll return for you later Payne," the Client said, his voice moving to what was obviously the door.
"No, don't leave me here!" Payne yelled, but his screams and protests were only met by the light being turned off and the sound of the door slamming.
* * * * *
"He has it. Brooklyn has it," the Client said.
"How can you be so sure?" his Partner asked, still unsure.
"Either he's looking for Payne, or he trying to translate that scroll. Either way, when we find him, we'll get something."
"If we find him. How would he ever translate that blasted scroll in the first place?" the Partner scoffed.
The man with the pin cleared his throat. "Sir."
"Perfect," the Client said. "My good man," he said, taking the man aside, "I have another task for you..."
* * * * *
London Metropolitan Museum of History, Antiquities Department
As soon as the museum curator was out of earshot, Major Wallace dropped his polite veneer. "What are we doing here?" he demanded under his breath.
"We are simply doing a chap a favor," Doyle informed him coolly.
"A chap? A chap?" Wallace hissed, forgetting to be quiet. "You can't schedule an entire afternoon away on a whim doing a favor for a winged monster!"
Behind them, a well-dressed man was inspecting an intricately carved, yet woefully chipped vase from the Gupta dynasty. At the words "winged monster," he hesitated, turning his head a bit to listen in.
Oblivious to the fact that they were drawing attention, Wallace continued to rant. "I'll have to rearrange half the week to make up for it!"
The curator was speaking with a nervous-looking little man, short and bespectacled with the look of a scholar about him. After a moment, the man nodded and headed in their direction. Doyle smiled, keeping his gaze forward and his expression pleasant. "Isn't that what I pay you for, Wallace?"
"Yes, and not very well."
Surprised, Doyle shot his secretary a look as the scholarly type reached them. "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I-I presume?"
"And you are?" Doyle asked, shaking the proffered hand.
"Edward Cottingham, at-at your service," the man stammered, adjusting his spectacles. "I have had considerable experience with ancient languages. If I'm not mistaken, you are in n-need of my services?"
"Perhaps," Doyle answered, reaching into the pocket of his waistcoat and carefully withdrawing the sheet of paper with the transcribed symbols. He unfolded it, holding it in front of the researcher's face. "Does this seem familiar to you?"
Cottingham's eyes seemed to grow twice as large as he scanned the symbols on the paper. "Yes - yes, I do believe I have seen these characters before." Gently, he took the sheet from Doyle, handling it with the utmost care. "If you gentlemen would follow me?"
Nodding, Doyle and Wallace followed the researcher away from the exhibits deeper into the offices of the Antiquities department. The well-dressed stranger straightened up and silently counted to ten before following them.
* * * * *
"Mmmm-hmmm," Cottingham drawled, studying the lettering with a practiced eye. One hand was flipping through a tome of similar symbols, while another was trying to write out their meanings on a fresh sheet of paper. "Mmmmm-hmmmmm." He stared at the sheet Doyle had given him, then at the book, then at the sheet again. "Hrmmmm."
The humming and mumbling was starting to frustrate even Doyle. "My good man, have you found anything?"
"Well, I've-I've-I've identified the language, if that's what you m-mean," Cottingham responded hastily. "Most d-definitely Egyptian hieroglyphics."
"It would seem that our friend's earlier assessment was correct," Doyle said excitedly. "So you can translate it, then?"
"I-I didn't say that." Cottingham removed his spectacles, rubbing at the lenses with his handkerchief before replacing them. "I don't recognize the exact... type... for lack of a better term. There are a great number of variations of Egyptian hieroglyphics, you see. While it is a pictorial language, it varies according to region. The closest approximation I've seen is a little-known form of them that has turned up on only a few, very ancient locales."
Wallace and Doyle exchanged glances. "How ancient?" Wallace asked.
Cottingham flinched. "Apparently preceding even the foundation of the Old Kingdom of Egypt by Menes - which traditionally begins ancient Egyptian history. And-and I'm h-having difficulty translating th-them into English," he finished hastily, wringing his hands.
At that revelation, Wallace sighed and nodded. Doyle, however, frowned. Something was amiss. "Very well, then," he sighed, taking the sheet from Cottingham. "Thank you for your help. I'm sorry to have taken up your time."
"It-it was no trouble," Cottingham began.
Doyle barely heard him, picking up his cane and heading towards the door. "Come along, Wallace."
"What?" Wallace blinked, surprised beyond belief that his employer was retreating so suddenly. Doyle did not reply, striding purposefully out of the office. Confused, Wallace nodded briefly to Cottingham before hurrying to catch up to his employer.
He very nearly lost sight of the author, for instead of going straight for the exit as Wallace expected, Doyle took a detour, heading back into the Antiquities Department. Or, more specifically, towards the artifacts pertaining specifically to Egyptian excavations.
Wallace finally found him standing in front of a glass-enclosed papyrus, peering at the inscription and date with a critical eye. "Sir, would you care to explain," he began as calmly as possible, "just what happened back there."
Doyle did not look up from his inspection. "That man," he answered after a moment, "was a liar. And a very poor one at that."
Suppressing his best oh-not-this-again expression, Wallace sighed. "And how do you know that?"
"His stutter," Doyle told him, looking up from the inscription. "It wasn't consistent. Now when he was going on about the date and region of the language, he was perfectly understandable."
"Mmm-hmm," Wallace responded, waiting for the punchline.
"But whenever he mentioned translation, you see, his speech impediment was back in full force," Doyle continued. "In fact, he became greatly agitated whenever the question of whether or not he could translate it arose. The constant cleaning of his spectacles, his habit of wringing his hands, the way he adjusted his collar..."
Wallace was nodding. "Yes, I did notice the collar. You believe he was lying?"
"I did not say that. I do believe that he knew a bit more than he let on." Doyle removed the sheet from his coat, unfolding it and peering intently at the papyrus before him. "We'll be off soon, Wallace. I would like to check a thing or two before we go."
Sighing, Wallace reluctantly allowed his employer to lead him on to further exhibits. Neither man noticed the well-dressed man standing several paces behind them, listening in on their conversation.
The man hesitated, nodded, and turned on his heel, striding purposefully towards the back offices. Cottingham was still puttering around in the office where Doyle and Wallace had left him, utterly absorbed in his task. He did look up just in time as his guest entered the office, closing the blinds and shutting the door behind him.
Several minutes later, the stranger emerged from the office just in time to see Doyle and the Major heading for the exit, arguing vehemently about something or other. Straightening the pin on his lapel, the well-dressed man followed them out.
* * * * *
South Norwood, later that afternoon
"Four-thirty already?" Doyle looked up from his frustrated scribbling to glare at the clock in his study. "Ah, well. Perhaps a short jaunt will clear my head."
"No luck?" the Major asked knowingly.
Doyle shook his head, taking his coat off the hook. "Still can't write my way out of this. I never should have included this character, but now I'm stuck for it." He sighed. "The only reason I continue to do this is because it helps me write."
"As long as you don't pick up any more oddities," Wallace commented, "I have no objections."
His employer only chuckled as he stepped out into the busy London streets. Alone in the townhouse, Wallace let out a deep sigh of relief, setting his pencil down and getting to his feet to stretch. He was so relieved to have a moment of peace that he barely noticed the faint scuffle of feet behind him. When the heavy platter was brought down upon his head, he stopped noticing everything altogether.
As Wallace crumpled to the floor, the well-dressed man tossed the platter aside. He nudged the unmoving body with his foot a few times before he was satisfied that Wallace was down for the count. There wasn't much time to spare if his sources were correct.
The study yielded nothing, nor did the parlor, nor the pantry. The stranger made his way through the townhouse, frantically searching for the object in question. But no matter how many drawers he pulled out, no matter how many cupboards he ransacked, neither the scroll nor the Gate could be found. Frustrated, he dealt a kick to the leg of an old armchair. When his toes smashed against the chair, he instantly regretted it. It was all he could do to keep from crying out. In his haste and pain, the man failed to notice that the pin on his lapel was gone.
That was the final straw. Defeated, the intruder limped out of the parlor towards the back of the house. He was just about to give up when he glimpsed something unusual outside.
It was hidden in the center of the garden, kneeling between two tall bushes. But even half-hidden in the foliage, it was plain to see the shape of the statue that the bushes concealed. Before him was the stone form of the Timedancer.
A slow grin spread across the stranger's face, his crushed toes forgotten. Perhaps his efforts were not entirely fruitless after all.
* * * * *
There was really no quiet way to awaken from stone sleep. Brooklyn was acutely aware of this as he awoke with an instinctive roar, shedding flakes of stone skin. Realizing where he was, he caught himself, ducking down in the bushes just in case anyone had heard him. Despite his host's assurances, he was still a bit leery about sleeping in a garden in the middle of London.
Fortunately, no one had heard. No lights came flickering on, no heads poked out of windows. The night was as silent as before. Brooklyn sighed in relief and stood up, making his way back to the townhouse. He rapped on the back door, hoping that Doyle had turned up something. Maybe luck was on his side for a change.
No one answered. Brooklyn frowned, and rapped harder. Still nothing. On a whim, he tried the knob. Unlocked, the back door swung open easily. Brooklyn frowned. It should have been locked and bolted. Something wasn't right.
When he stepped into the kitchen, he realized just what an understatement that was. It looked as though a miniature cyclone had gone through the room. The lights were dimmed, but even in the scant light of the moon, Brooklyn could see the extent of the mess that had once been a fairly neat and comfortable kitchen. The cupboards and drawers were wide open, their contents spilled and scattered all over the floors.
"So much for having luck on my side," Brooklyn murmured.
It didn't take a sleuth to figure out that someone had broken in. On closer inspection, the intruder couldn't have been a common thief. Lying on the floor with just about everything else was a silver pitcher and some loose coins. If the guy had ignored that, he was either stupid or had been looking for something. Somehow, Brooklyn didn't think the thief was stupid.
He thought he heard voices, but he couldn't tell who was speaking. A jolt of fear traveled up his spine as he remembered his host. Doyle didn't look like he'd be much use in a fight if it came to that. Carefully, Brooklyn laid his hand against the door, pushing it open a crack and peering out cautiously into the parlor.
To his dismay, the parlor was almost as badly ransacked as the pantry. There was no sign of the writer or his personal secretary. Quietly, Brooklyn slipped into the parlor, closing the door behind him as he took in the scene. His fears were building by the minute. Someone desperate enough to tear the place apart might just be desperate enough to resort to violence. A sudden thump and a yelp startled him, and the crimson gargoyle whirled, wincing as his tail knocked something else to the floor.
His panic subsided as a petulant voice issued from the study. "--didn't come into your employ to risk my life! If I'd any idea of the physical pain involved, I'd have asked for an increase in salary months ago."
Brooklyn's fears dissolved as he recognized the speaker. Wallace sounded far more irritated than afraid. As he peered around the half-open study door, he grinned with relief and amusement to see his hosts intact. The study itself was more or less in one piece, largely due to Doyle and Wallace's efforts. Actually, it was Doyle who was doing the cleaning; Wallace was simply complaining.
"I would hardly consider a bump on the head 'risking your life,'" Doyle admonished as he put away the last set of books. "And besides, I would have refused."
Brooklyn chose that moment to clear his throat. "Doing some remodeling?" he quipped as both men turned to face him.
Wallace was baffled by that comment, but Doyle seemed to understand. "If only that were true," the writer sighed as Brooklyn stepped into the study. "It would appear that we have been robbed."
"What?" Instinctively, Brooklyn reached for his belt pouch before he realized that the Gate and the scroll could not have been taken. "What'd they take?"
"As far as I can see," Doyle replied, "nothing of any real value." He dusted his hands off and started out of the study into the parlor. "I keep most of my valuables in my study, and all were accounted for."
Confused, Brooklyn followed his host into the parlor. "But you said--"
It was Wallace, surprisingly, who interjected. "They did not find what they came for. Simple as that."
"As for the identity of 'they,'" Doyle added, stooping to retrieve a fallen lamp, "I am not entirely sure. But I do believe--" He broke off suddenly. "What's this?"
Curious, Brooklyn carefully picked his way through the mess as Doyle stood up, replacing the lamp and peering at something in his palm. As the crimson gargoyle reached his host's side, he could see that Doyle was holding a small gold pin, inspecting it curiously. "I take it that doesn't belong to you."
"I've never seen this symbol before," Doyle replied, handing it to Brooklyn, "yet there's something oddly familiar about it."
Brooklyn took the pin as Doyle lit the lamp. Holding it up to the light, he peered at the symbol intently. The pin was in the shape of a pyramid, with a fiery eye atop it. A pyramid. Brushing off the unpleasant memories that symbol evoked, Brooklyn continued to study the pin. "This does look familiar." His eyes narrowed. "Wait a minute. Egyptian hieroglyphics? A pyramid? It couldn't be..."
Before he could continue, something banged hard at the door. Brooklyn whirled, forgetting about the pin, as the door was kicked open and three tough-looking men rushed in, shutting the door behind them. From between them stepped a smaller, albeit impeccably dressed man with a malicious smile on his face. "Pardon me," he began. "I forgot to knock."
"Bad guys and their catchphrases," Brooklyn muttered. "Some things never change."
Doyle straightened up, a stern expression on his face. "What is the meaning of this?" he demanded.
The intruder looked Doyle up and down thoughtfully. "Now, really, you of all people should have divined that by now."
"Wait a moment!" Wallace exclaimed. "The museum! You were in the Antiquities department!"
"Cottingham," Doyle murmured. "I knew he was hiding something."
Smirking, the thief turned to Brooklyn. "The scroll, Timedancer. Hand it over and no one gets hurt."
Brooklyn stepped between his hosts and the intruders, adopting a defensive stance. "I've got a better idea," he snarled, his eyes glowing white. "Why don't you four leave now - and no one gets hurt. Hey, the longer we wait, the sooner the police will get here to deal with you."
"Have it your way," the leader sighed, snapping his fingers.
From behind the group of thugs, a new figure was shoved forward, his arms held behind his back and a pistol pointed to his temple. "This is not what I meant by being of service," he grunted, before meeting Brooklyn's stare with a sheepish shrug. "I made a few wrong turns."
"Payne," Brooklyn groaned. "I completely forgot..."
"Well, that makes me feel so much more special, Timedancer," Payne snapped irritably.
The thug holding him pressed the pistol tighter to his forehead. "Be quiet!"
"That's enough," the leader scolded him, turning back to Brooklyn. "I propose an exchange: your friend, with his head intact, for the scroll."
Brooklyn scowled. "Just so we're clear on this, he's not my friend."
"Well," the well-dressed man replied, "you won't mind if we shoot him, then."
For several moments, Brooklyn did not reply. Yes, it was true, Payne was not his friend. The man was arrogant, self-centered, obnoxious, and a loudmouth. But he wasn't so bad as to merit a bullet in the head. Reaching into his belt pouch, Brooklyn retrieved the scroll, contemplating it.
"No!" Payne cried suddenly. "Timedancer, don't do it!"
Surprised, Brooklyn stared at the scientist, amazed at what he was hearing. "What did you say?"
The scientist shook his head as best he could with the pistol at his temple. He looked near to tears. "Look at me, Timedancer! I'm a failure! My experiments - my life's work - gone! My own time - lost to me! There's nothing for me to live for. My sorry carcass isn't worth the trouble."
Brooklyn was almost inclined to agree. Looking at the scroll, however, his thoughts drifted to Sata. Her strength, her beauty, her keen sense of honor. How would she react if she discovered what he'd done to hold on to the scroll? To allow the death of a helpless man - even someone as frustrating as Dr. Isaac Payne - was deeply dishonorable. Of course, if it did get him home... she'd probably never know. But he would know. And it would stay with him, every time he was reminded of life and his nature to protect. His need to protect.
There was no way he could have saved Hiro, or any of the others in Nagasaki. Brooklyn understood that now. This time, he had a chance. In his pouch, the Gate showed no signs of stirring, remaining cold. Brooklyn clenched the scroll in his talons. This time, he could save a life. Even if the cost was great.
He held the scroll tightly for a moment more, savoring the possibilities, before proffering it to the leader. "Take it."
"I knew you'd see it my way." The thief took the scroll from Brooklyn's grasp, stuffing it into his coat as he snatched up the pin with his free hand. "Let's go."
"Wait!" Payne howled as the leader opened the door. "We had a deal!"
Brooklyn snarled and prepared to pounce, but the thug holding Payne lifted the pistol from his temple and hurled the scientist at Brooklyn before making a break for the door. Unable to stop his fall, Payne crashed into Brooklyn, knocking the two of them to the floor as the intruders made their escape. Just before he hit the floor, Brooklyn felt the familiar tingle of the Phoenix Gate in his pouch.
"Great timing," he muttered as the ball of Phoenix flame engulfed them both.
* * * * *
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stared at the place where the two time travelers had been for a moment. Slowly, he moved to stand in the spot, feeling the residual heat of the Phoenix flame with wonder.
"Sir?" Wallace asked weakly. "Did you just see that?"
A sudden, wide smile crossed Doyle's face. "Of course!" He fairly leapt over an overturned chair, heading for the nearest desk. "Disappeared into thin air! Why not!" The writer clapped his hands in excitement as he snatched up a pen and paper and started to write. "Wallace, you can go now; we'll save the straightening up for tomorrow."
The only response he received was a heavy thud. Setting the pen down, Doyle turned to see his personal secretary passed out on the floor.
"Oh, not again," the writer sighed. "Perhaps I should give the chap a raise."
* * * * *
The flame subsided once again. Brooklyn looked around to see the all-too-familiar image of Payne with him. He sighed as Payne started to complain.
"Oh, this is great, Timedancer. Just great. Do you have any idea what I've just gone through? Now look what I have to put up with."
Brooklyn took in their surroundings. They were, in short, in the middle of nowhere. Trees surrounded them on all sides, and the night sky was hardly visible through the foliage. Brooklyn held his breath, trying to regain himself, but it did him no good.
"Do you have any idea what I gave up to save you back there?!" he yelled at Payne. The scientist didn't move. Brooklyn screamed in rage and frustration as the sun's rays bled through the trees. Brooklyn turned to stone in front of him. Payne smiled at the image.
The scientist brought himself to the ground, lying on his back. He let out a sigh of relief that he was still alive and closed his eyes, letting himself drift off into sleep.
* * * * *
The man handed the scroll over to the Client, who graciously accepted it. "My dear boy," he said with a smile in his voice, "you will be handsomely rewarded for the endeavor. You have my word."
The man nodded and left the Client and his Partner alone together in the alley. The Client opened the scroll and began to murmur the contents aloud.
"... stabilize the Gate ... immense power ..." Harthoth said aloud, dropping his human form and taking on his more natural form of the black and gold Egyptian gargoyle. "This is it. This is what I've been looking for."
"I hope this endeavor will be useful in the future?" his Partner asked, not nearly as excited as Harthoth.
"Very useful, my dear Isfet, very useful indeed."