Sir Parlane MacFarlane stormed about the Cavern, shouting and roaring, his voice echoing back at him from the rock walls: "stupid, stupid bloody idiot, not fit to be the wrangler, oh why, oh why do I expect anything more – it's the wrong fucking plat, Jesus wept! we're in the wrong bloody Time and Place, even I can see that, God knows where we are, wrong! wrong! wrong! we're in fucking Melrose – oh shite, I swore I'd never come back here, it's where it all started to go wrong because of that Learmonth and bloody Doubleday, thinks he's so plummy but he's just a fucking serf, oh woe, woe, why did I trust him? it was only a case of taking these bloody hills back thirty years, God knows how far back he's taken us, and thousands of miles away to the wrong place – I dread to think of the fucking mayhem he's caused! it's Him, Him, I should just abandon him here – but he's the one who's supposed to work the bloody thing – how the fuck am I going to do it single handed? it takes two to operate the controls – I'm the bloody Captain, he's just the Mate, but the Mate's the one who does the fucking steering! where the Hell is he now?" and overcome by a wave of mono no aware that suddenly swept over him, he slumped down against a rock, part of the hidden door, cleverly designed by the Landscape Architect who had supervised the creation of this identical replica of the three famous hills, quite unaware that just a few metres away, on the outside, Dominic Doubleday was scraping frantically – and ineffectually – at the outside; dazed by his fall, he had struggled to his feet and then, unable to stand because he was concussed and kept falling down again, he had crawled up to the entrance, followed all the way by the drone, Eagle 2 and even now, he could hear, through the buzzing in his ears, the different sound approaching – the Quad Bike, with Tom and Milly and just above that – literally – the HEMS Helicopter which had just delivered an injured farm worker to the BGH; to the watchers in the Incident Room, it was a bit like seeing the Fifth Cavalry riding to the rescue!
Meanwhile, in Melrose Cop Shop, Isa was quickly established as the wrangler and Tom from the Mountain Rescue next door took on the duties of Wayfinder; all the properties on the citerior, North side of the Bypass appeared to undamaged, while to the South, the new Eildons had obliterated everything! but Tim , also Mountain Rescue, had already sent a couple of drones up – Eagle 1 and Eagle 2, and the live feed was displayed on two large monitors in the Operation Room; it was hard to make sense of it – it seemed so higgledy-piggledy, topsy-turvy, tapsell-teerie, and just plain wrong; they all knew what they should be seeing, but apart from a chimney-pot here or there, the appearance of a wall or a roof, on the lower slopes, everything had gone: "can we get a visual on the hilltops?" asked Isa, and Tim, obligingly, sent Eagle 2 up to hover above the second North Hill, and scan the second Mid Hill: "look," said Milly, excitedly: "it's got the Trig Post and the Cairn, it's not just some hills, they are exactly the same as the real ones, the old ones, like they've been cloned, even the sheep-tracks are the same, and the broom!" and she was right; and then Tom pointed to something moving on the Western side of the new Mid Hill: "do you see it? a whole section of the broom slid under the are next to it, it's the entrance to a cave, or Cavern, zoom in on it, Tim," and the image grew on the screen and it really did seem like an entrance to a large Cavern and then . . . . . "Oh My God!" gasped Milly, as two men came into view, one carrying a kind of scroll, which he unrolled and showed to the other – they seemed to be looking at a map and comparing what they could see with what they expected do see from the map; then the first man ripped the map in two and shoved the second, hard, causing him to lose his footing and roll down the steep slope, while the other strode back into the cavern and, almost immediately, the entrance was hidden by the broom which had slid back into place; Tim made Eagle 2 swoop closer to the man who had rolled down the hill – he seemed to have hit his head against a rock and lay motionless, as if was unconscious: "Tom," said Isa, can you and Milly get up there on a Quad, while I call the Air Ambulance? whoever that guy is, and whatever state he’s in, we need to bring him here so we can find out what's going on!" and Tom and Milly didn't need any second asking, as they hurried next door to get one of the Quad Bikes: giving Milly a helmet, Tom took the opportunity to say: "hold onto you hat, Kid, this could be a bumpy ride!"
"Sex Montibus!" said Milly, staring at the impossible view, and then switching from Latin to our commoner tongue: "where the fuck did them ither three come fae?" and in front of us they loomed, towered, rose magnificently – seeming to stand alongside the originals, but grafted on, identical in shape and form, cheek by jowl; I rubbed my eyes, to rid them of the double-vision, but when I looked again, they were still there; Isa had been gabbling on her phone, calling all the emergency services and as I heard her, I realised that there must be casualties: "the South side of the bypass, all the housing up Dingleton Hill, at the old Dingleton Hospital site, OMG! what about the Borders General?" but Isa held up a finger to silence me, then turned: "the BGH is okay – but we'll need specialist search parties, Mountain Rescue and probably Mines Rescue; yes, I'm heading towards the Cop Shop now, patch me through as soon as you can," she ended the call and told me and Milly to hurry as she ran down to The Greenyards and cut across to the unmanned Police Station; tapping the keypad and opening the door, she turned to me and said: "sorry, Teri, we're going to be running a rescue operation from here, essential staff only, go home and check our Aunties are ok and make sure the rest of the family are accounted for – you know what they're like about heading out for walks without telling anyone where they're going," and she kissed my cheek and closed the door behind herself and Milly – it felt exactly like what it was: being shut out of the most dramatic, unbelievable, totally unreal thing that had ever happened right on my doorstep, like a pair of wranglers consigning an old nag to the knackers' yard – our three Eildon Hills had identical Siamese Twins, sorry, Triplets! well, I wasn't going to quit, so, like an onager, acting entirely on my own volition, I headed straight to the Sorting Office, behind the foremer Post Office in Buccleuch Street, arriving just in time to see – and hear – Whistling Jack, our regular Postie, coming out, whistling Scotland the Brave: "stop!" – – I cried, rushing up to him and, somehow, bustling him back inside, where Maisie, who did most of the sorting, stared in disbelief! forgetting all about what had happened above the town, I asked him about the postcard from Berlin he had delivered this morning to Debbie Downer's mother; he was immediately havey-cavey, humming and hawing, crossing his arms and staring up at the ceiling, whistling a few bars and then, suddenly, the other shoe dropped! Jack snapped his fingers and led me across to one of the huge pigeon-hole cabinets that stood against a wall: "this is the ane fer letters an cairds, Teri," he said, "yer mair muckle heavy items like books an manuscripts," with a wink to let me know that he was indeed referring to the packages I regularly receive, "they gauns ower there," pointing to where Maisie was working, "weel, see, it wis cause a caird slipped atween thon gap, an a pult oot the cabinet tae retrieve it an there wis another ane, sae Ah pit them baith in the hole fer the Downer's street – it wis only when Ah wis walkin up the path that Ah noticed the stamp an the Swastika – that fair hud me flummoxed, bit ye ken Donnie's intae aw thon stuff, so Ah thocht it must be fae ane o his pals – Ah only saw it wis postmarked 1939 as Ah wis haunnin them tae Jessie – Ah hope they've no complained aboot late delivery! Ah wisnae here in 1939 – Ah wisnae born even an tho she's in wi the bricks, even Maisie dusnae ken owt aboorrit!"
"Hark! laddies," said Blind Harry, leading the way doon the path, an keen tae demonstrate his sharp hearing: "ah kin hear an auld broken-doon nag, bein led doon ahent us, bi an auld hackman wi ginger hair, an acquisitive cast tae his lourin, scowlin features, piercin een an they're as black as sin – am a richt Humphrey?" an Humphrey squirmed at being asked: "c'mon laddie, tell us whit ye see!" sae Humphrey swallowed herd, afore launching intae a torrent o words: "weel Harry it's a horse richt enuff but it's a warhorse bein ridden uphill bi a squire wha's a young loon wi bricht blue een, blonde hair an a straw in his gub an he's gien us a freenly wave. . . . ." but Harry kicked a stane an then said grandly: "ah wis richt – a horse! then he stuck baith forefingers in his lugs, as if howkin oot wax, shook his heid tae dislodge it an growled: "hurry up laddies, ma belly's grummlin fer lack of food and liquor!"
And at the same time – but not in the sense you might think I mean – and hundreds of miles away, on the North West Coast, and hundreds of years in the past - but not in the sense you might also think I mean (because, see if you turn around quickly and slip through that wee gap in the air, you'll likely find yourself there) - in Glen Glum, the Cradle of Chivalry, itself, Blind Harry and the Laddies stood stock still in the heady atmosphere, the glade, in the gloaming, held the weight of it's history like a plaid; "youse laddies look like a Parliament o Indris, but ye'll nae ken whit a Indri is, wull ye, Gibby Lonnegan?" – and Gibby turned scarlet and stared at his feet, as if he expected the answer to creep oot frae between his taes: "naw Harry, ah divnae, but!" and Harry smiled at the laddie's admission: "bit ye, wee Padraig Macaroon, descendant o Kwasi, ane o the maist illustrious Lairds o The Isles, Ah'll warrant ye'll ken weel enuff, um a richt, then?" – and the wee black boy blushed, as he always did when his name and the great Kwasi’s were used in the same sentence: "it's a muckle Lemur, Harry, it's oan wur Coat o Airms, intit?" and Harry nodded: "aye, Padraig, that it is, but dinnae ye ither loons worry that no kennin a answer wull mean sumdy else supersedes ye an gets tae jump the queue an pull at The Lochlann's battle axe afore ye, it's nae goannie work like thon; come awa, ye've aw worked like Picts this forenoon, oo'll hie awa tae a wee hashery ah ken doon in the Glen, they hae guid food an their ain braw Malt an oo'll fortify oorsels fer the Maist Important Task o Yer Lives: findin oot jist which ane o ye's goannie be able tae pull oot the Battle Axe an be King o Scoatland!
At home and quite oblivious to what had just happened, and stopped me, Isa and Milly in our tracks, not to mention – but I will – poor Debbie, who fainted at the shocking sight, our Aunties were hooting with laughter at the radio after listening to the latest soap opera episode in the horse race campaign for the leadership of the Tory Party between Mr Bean and Goldilocks; it had been an unusually gritty, and strangely weird, interview with Goldilocks in which, asked what he did for relaxation, he eventually, after apparently falling asleep and
snoring loudly, began bumbling about painting "things" and "making model thingies, you know, buses," eventually confessed that he played at buses with large cardboard and wooden boxes, which he decorated himself, and the interviewer, TalkRadio's Ross Kempsell, seemed to find this admission more than a mite troubling coming from The Man Who Would Be PM!
Isa turned over the postcard and we saw that it was actually a photograph showing two women sitting outside the Hippodrome Café in Unter den Linden and one of them was Gertie, although the other was a stranger to us; she turned back and we read the message, which was short, but imbued with some meaning: We're looking forward to the fireworks when Prince Paul makes his cavalcade to meet the Fuhrer it's going to be Totally Mega – our friend, the Bulgarian, has arranged a good vantage point for us and the Americans; JAP has been measuring the coffee spoons – wish us luck! Gertie; and below her signature, a smudge which on closer inspection turned out to be a fingerprint, but not in ink – it was some dark substance pressed into a small blob of glue: we'd better get this to Carolina Moonbeam," said Isa, "her technical people will be able to tell us a lot about this," and she turned to Debbie: "is that okay?" she asked and Debbie nodded: you know, the funny thing is, in 1939 it was my Grannie and Grampa living in the house, but see how it's addressed to my mum and dad and me? there's no way she could know that we would be living there – my mum hadn't even been born then!" and Isa reminded her that Gertie had disappeared last year: "so, although she wrote and posted it in 1939, it was with with knowledge of this Time and the adynaton 'Totally Mega' is her kind of hyperbole, and she must have known a way to ensure it wasn't delivered till now!" and Debbie, excitedly said: "of course – the Postie, you know him, Whistling Jack - told my mum he'd found it tucked into a corner of the Sorting Office, but the place was renovated a couple of years ago," and Isa's eyes flashed bright: "she must have found a contraption, a Portal - she passed it through Time and Space, ensuring it was delivered now, today or a day or so either side; I wonder if there's any way we can write back to her - is Whistling Jack still on duty?" – – Milly checked her watch: "if I'm right, he'll be finishing his shift in about twenty minutes," and Isa took the decision: "Debbie, you take the card down North to our house, give it to Auntie Cristo and tell her what we've been talking about, she can call Professor Moonbeam and get it to the Lab, we'll see if we can catch up with Jack, c'mon, chop-chop!" and she started running up South, with Milly and I lagging behind and it was just as we crested the top and could see the North Eildon looming over the town, that it happened: some Smart Alecs say Expect the Unexpected – well this was one hell of an Unexpected that none of us could have Expected!
Achillized by the innuendos and ithyphallic jocularity of the Professor, Isa, Milly and I went for a walk past the Parish Church and down the hill to the Tweed; we sat awhile at the start of the old Mill Lade, gazed at the rushing water over the remains of the old Melrose Cauld, and soaked up the sun which continued to beam at us, and were only roused from our lassitude by the arrival of Debbie Downer, who joined us and asked if we had heard any news about Gertie Mountcastle – our cousin, last heard of in Berlin in 1939: "we got a postcard from her yesterday," said Debbie, "it had taken 80 years so the postie delivered it personally – I mean, instead of simply putting it through the letterbox, he knocked and handed it to my mum," and I remembered that Debbie's mum is an auntie of Gertie on the other side of the family; "can we see it?" asked Isa, suddenly alert, and Debbie produced it from her handbag: "here it is, I was on my way to your house, 'cause I know your Aunties are connected to the investigation," she said, as Isa seized the card and stared at it; the postmark bore a Swastika and the date: Juni 1 1939!
Next morning, Professor Steatopygous, was holding the fort in the living room when I came down, his puckish personality having survived the drink of last night: "please accept my apologies for last night, Theresa," he said solemnly, "I was compelled to achillize the moon around Cauldshiels Loch last night, when the call came from your Aunties and it was a hard run doon here at nicht, so Ah wis puffed oot by the time Ah goat tae yer door," he lied glibly, his smorgasbord of formal English acquired at Oxford overlaid with a strong Greek accent and the lapse into the colloquial tongue of the Borders: "was it worth it?" I asked, expecting some reason for my Aunts' calling him in: "aye," he said enthusiastically: "yon bunny chow o May's is sumpn else awthegethir – be'er than the hair o the dug, eh? nudge, nudge, wink, wink!" but I was already leaving the room, not being in the mood for his innuendo, particularly when added to the fact that Isa, Milly and I hadn't got any of Auntie May's renowned cob loaf stuffed with Bengal Lancer Lamb Curry last night, but he had!
Last night, after the emotional rollercoaster of the Scotland v Argentina match in which we led by 3 goals to 0, then gave away two goals and in the dying seconds had a penalty given against us! what a con – there seems to be a policy in this Women's World Cup where we've been punished by a dubious penalty in each match! DOOMED again! naebdy likes us, abdy hates us, but we dinnae care! oh, but we do – the penalty was saved by our brilliant goalie, HOORAY we had won 3-2, Here's tae us, wha's like us? gey few an they're aw deid! but then – the referee ordered it to be retaken and Argentina equalised, the whistle blew and we were out of the competition; ROBBED as usual! later, I relaxed reading We by Yevgeny Zamyatin and my thoughts returned to the Journal we had examined earlier: it was rather gallus, the language I mean – and the content – I think Maude may be right, the woman seems to have been a procuress for de Sade, but also engaged in a series of physical exertions with MacFarlane and become quite close to him (obviously she must have shared his perversions – hussy! but what can you expect from someone so intimate with the Marquis?) and then came the Fortune Telling: she was quite specific about him not living to see the year 2020 – if she had written 1820 there would have been nothing remarkable, but 2020! he must have told her about his Time Travelling, but would she have truly believed it? and that was when there was an insistent ringing from the front door bell, as if someone was leaning on the button with all their weight – and when I opened the door who should be doing just that, but Hermeneutic Steatopygous, Professor of Ancient Greek at He riot-Watt University in Galashiels, with all the demeanor, and appearance – wild eyes and unruly hair, of a man absolutely mullered! – he fell through the doorway and lay prostrate on the carpet so I called for Isa and Milly to help me drag him in and put him in the recovery position for our Aunties to deal with, for ii was obviously them that he would have come to see.
PS: we took a break from considering Daphne and Maude's unexpected findings in Register House, to watch the BBC 'Debate' between the Five Guys Named Moe who want to be our next Prime Minister: sitting on bar stools and dressed almost identically, there was Big Fat Moe, Long Legs Moe, Four-eyed Moe, Brother Moe and look at Mister, look at Mister, Look at Mister Mojo Moe! we really did expect them to start singing hits from their long-gone Boy Band days, but instead there was the usual philippizing, gurrier asides, shouting each other down, challenges to step outside and settle insuperable differences with a punch up the bracket and the expected ettle for the Tory Backwoods to think of the good of the country instead of their own self-interest – some hopes! by the time you read this, they'll be down to a Quartet, but Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian this morning wrote of the 'terrifying truth: one of these men will be PM!'
When Maude eventually pulled the sheet of paper out of one of those Scotland's Records envelopes in which you've probably received copies of your own or your ancestors' Birth, Marriage or Death Certificates (obviously the latter not being your own!) we were all fairly crowded around her and certainly I felt slightly disappointed at what was apparently a photocopy of an old Diary or Journal, showing a double page spread which, so far as I could see was written in French! "and the other, please Maudie," prompted Daphne, and from her bag Maude drew another envelope, this one marked Republique Francaise – Charges d'Affaires Ecosse, Edinbourg and took out a sheet of paper with the same official heading: "it's a translation, not ours, but theirs," said Maude, "just in case anyone thinks we're playing silly buggers," but no-one laughed; it was Auntie Cristo who broke the silence: "well, isn't one of you going to tell us what you are playing then – Daphne? Maude?" and when Daphne sat back, with one of her rather smug expressions, it was Maude who explained: "you know my chum Lettice?" no-one bothered to confirm the obvious, so she continued: "well, when she was helping out with some tidying up in the Archives – I mean the real Archives, the ones no-one is allowed to access without extremely High Permission – she came across a box of stuff which had come over from France at the beginning of the German invasion in August '14 – it had originally been deposited with the British Embassy in Paris some time after The Terror but before Napoleon, by a Scottish nobleman who had been trying to find out what had happened to relatives during the Revolution, and it was only regarded as a temporary holding, but the chap never came back for it, which was why it was still there when the war broke out, I've got no idea why or how it was sent to Edinburgh, or ended up in the Archives; it looked to Lettice as though the box had never been opened for 100 years: it was marked as the property of Sir Pontius MacFarlane and the Journal was that of a Mlle Eunice Eglantine!" this produced a gasp – could she have been a descendant, surely not, of Sister Evadne Eglantine? more likely she was descended from a relative of the Scottish nun murdered by Sir Parlane in the oubliette under Edinburgh's Royal Mile discovered by Daphne a couple of years ago: "anyway," said Maude, "according to the translation we got from the French Attaché, she was at the château of the Marquis de Sade when two Scotch travellers visited him and during their visit she read MacFarlane's fortune and told him, apparently, that he would never live to see the year 2020!" this brought another gasp: it is known that Sir Parlane and his servant, Dominic Doubleday, used Worm Holes in the Space/Time Continuum to travel backwards and forwards in time. and obvious aliases wherever they went but, true enough, although he was known to have been in various parts of the Earth in the 2030s and even further in the future, there was no record of either of them being around in 2020: "how could this woman in the years after the French Revolution – remember that de Sade died in the Asylum of Charenton in 1814 – make such a prediction, unless she knew that she was dealing with a Time Traveller?" it was beyond belief, beyond reason, it was incredible! "well, " said Daphne, we've had a read of it on the train – we only received it yesterday – and even for the time, the language is rather gurrier – of course we know nothing yet of this woman, but she rather philippizes, it is possible, I daresay, that she was one of the Madames who procured girls for de Sade, or indeed was one of the girls herself, but that is conjecture – we only have the one volume, perhaps others will turn up in the Archives. . . . ." but Auntie Cristo held up a restraining hand: "nothing is insuperable to women such as we, if we put our minds to it, perhaps Maude, dear, you could summarise the most relevant parts of the Journal for us, while Daphne explains exactly what she is ettling us to do about it!"
Last night, Ludmilla Lermontova, in a spirit of Gastrodiplomacy, made a huge pot of Borscht which we ate with freshly baked Soda Bread to her Irish mother's recipe and, of course, Auntie Cristo brought out her bottle of Laphraoigh; with what might have been simple curiosity or, rather, Socratic irony, Ludmilla pondered the relative merits of Scotch and Irish whiskies – that really sett the cat among the pigeons, as everyone tried to explain why their favourite tipple was best: as so much about whisky is a matter of taste, and nothing to do with measurable differences, it got pretty raucous – as Isa and Milly were there, too, and our Embra Aunties, Daphne and Maude had arrived earlier with Father Mungo and Lulu (he has lost his driving licence so she has now assumed the permanent role of Driver, Distance no Object, except when her removal business has a job on) followed closely by Gordon and Goldie Brevity; Father Mungo insisted that anyone who didn't appreciate that Irish Whiskey – or better still, nudge-nudge, get the pun? poteen - was superior to Scotch Whisky was Midas-eared at which Gordon pooh-poohed such a "boilerplate argument," insisting that it was like comparing tea and coffee, or bread and butter, or even rose-water and Holy Watter! – which, fortunately Mungo took as a great joke and the two went out for a smoke and an exchange of hip-flasks: "you know," said Auntie Daphne, "now that the men have given us peace, I wanted to ask you all about something that Maude and I found deep in the bowels of Register House – but don't worry, it's not an example of civil service bumbledom, nor a tasty morsel about a Moderator of the Church of Scotland flouncing about the General Assembly with his cassock caught in the elastic of his g-string, which we did see one time but we're naming no names, while the children are still here! no, there used to be a bit of an Ice Age in there, but since the new Registrar General took over, things have definitely thawed, she greets us by name, which her predecessor never did, in twenty years of passing us in corridors, or sitting at the same table in the ref, oh a cold fish, Doctor Tunnock, but no, it's about Sir Parlane MacFarlane meeting his Waterloo, go on, Maudie, show it them," and Maude duly did!
As far as my cousins and I are concerned, the old tarzy in our Aunts' garden has been there forever and a day – since you and I were young, Maggie, and we used to race home after school to claim the lion's share of the prize; it was theoretically possible, once the old tyre had been added, for two, or even three, to ride it simultaneously, but in those days we lacked that sense of common purpose which allows pleasures to be shared, and if any of us was possessed of that Achilles' heel which was an inability to resist the hostile/covetous stares of three, four or five girls of about the same age, size and strength, she knew better that to reveal it, for we pounced on any weakness in our struggle for the title of Top Cat, awarded once a year on Midsummer, when Auntie May produced a tray of sandwiches, pastries, cheeses and biscuits, to be followed by Auntie Cristo's Strawberry cake with fresh double cream, all washed down with Babycham; the giveaway is the bit pronounced Sham! but we didn't care, believing ourselves from the age of 7 to be sophisticated young Ladies, rather than jist gurrrrls, as the boys in class or street, said it; and though we now may be older, wiser and even settled into a job – or career – there must still be a bit in us of that recidivism that hankers after the security of those golden summer days when we we could pick and chose who, from one end of High Cross Avenue to the other, was permitted to come in and play with us: it may be simply that we were learning how to bestow or withhold favours and so establishing ourselves as Very Important People in that part of Melrose – or as Auntie Cristo said it: "Very Impertinent Bairns!" but as I was idly swinging on it this afternoon – being self-employed has it's benefits – I mused about the security we all have here – obviously myself, Isa and Milly, because we all actually live in the house, but also our other cousins, Elvira, the twins Roxie and Trixie. Ginger, Gertie, Jerry and Nikki, Sammy, Jinty and Pru, Jasmine and Rosie, of whom there are usually at least two most weekends and when it's a proper Holiday Weekend, the majority of them will be around and about, in and out at different times; of course, familiarity bestowing on us three Residents, that contempt which differentiates us from the Visitors, so we also tend to give them first dibs on the swing - something which, as children, would never have entered our childish heads, for we had all learned about the Survival of the Fittest in the great battles we enjoyed during the long summer holidays: High Cross, Darnick, Priors' Walk, Newstead and Dingleton were the five territorial gangs of boys and girls who roamed over, clashed on, battled for, won or lost, the three hills which hunch over our town: "Wir Toon!" – and most days' play would end in a race from the Trig Point on Mid Hill, to our Aunties' house, where all-comers were welcome to pancakes and jam and home-made lemonade – with that sourness that draws in your lips and cheeks; and everyone got a turn on the swing; so I think it represents all that was good about those years and provides the substance that still binds us all together – but now, if I am alone, I will usually be reading a book, with a cigarette and a glass of Laphraoigh close to hand, but the sense of security and belonging is rooted deep in my own heart's core.
And so it came to be, that the Archbishop led his Bishops and their prisoner out of a cave in the mountainside, into a sunlit glade and sat him upon a boulder that had lang syne been severed by lightning storms from the great rocky crag and rolled down to the place where it now stood: "give him watered wine to quench his thirst," said the Archbishop, "and meat to eat his fill, and let us listen to what he knows of Quixote," and he kicked the man's foot and one of the Bishops cut his bonds and held a goatskin to the man's lips and he drank greedily, and another Bishop gave him a platter on which slices of venison were laid; and a third Bishop pulled away the strip of cloth that had bound his eyes and Sir Parlane MacFarlane stared at his captors and sighed, for he knew this place to whence he had been brought and knew that no rescue was possible, he had been here countless times, and even in his oneiric returns, for the dream-state enabled him to repeat his best memories, he knew that this valley was one that afforded an erratic Worm Hole as the only means of escape, but it was risky, because it could lead the unwary to almost the Point of Destruction!; years had passed since he had first gained his knowledge of the Worm Holes, years during which he had travelled further in Time and Space than any other, saving, perhaps, his half-brother Dominic Doubleday, or one of his many aliases: Desmond, Duncan, Django, Doughty (ha ha, such an oxymoron, silly fucker, a Moron for sure) and the Red Etin; years in which he had lived his life to the full, had exploited and profited from his knowledge, had corrupted and debauched and depraved, only and exclusively for his own pleasures and now, it seemed possible, that he had reached the End of Times; he didn't know how or why the Spanish Inquisition had tracked him down – he had no knowledge of the poor fellow they were pursuing nor how or why they had chanced upon him – his security had been breached, in much the same way as Dominic's had, when the Shottstown Ladies Quick-Draw Club had found his supposedly secure Love Nest in Edinburgh and spirited away his illicit pleasures, oh yes, that had been the beginning of the End of Times, deceived by Dominic's Achilles heel – a craving for tender young shoots and a misplaced belief that his exalted position in Police Scotland made him inviolate – and it had just been a matter of time until he had reached this point – it was all so silly, random and unfair, but that was probably The Creator's way of getting back at him for abusing that one little error in the Universe to benefit his own appetites; he slowly returned his attention to what was happening in this present time: the Archbishop was giving him the full bloviation, his justification for the Terrors of his Spanish Inquisition – there was no need to listen, until he got to that bit when he told MacFarlane exactly what he needed, the one vital piece of information which, if given, would result in the immediate release of the prisoner – that was the Archbishop's Achilles heel, he needed the information but, alas and alack, MacFarlane did not possess it; how should he free himself from this Unholy hassle? which was when he heard a jingling of harness and in the distance saw a lone knight upon his horse and he said: "hark! is not that the person you seek? just emerged from the same cave as by which you brought me here?" and the Archbishop looked where MacFarlane pointed and he was visibly elated: "yes, indeed! that is the Quixote we seek, that is he, the man whose soul is in jeopardy, you can go!" – and with that, the Spanish Inquisition forgot about Macfarlane and set off towards the old man whose horse looked as weary as any that has carried the weight of a man in full armour, and now unheeded, MacFarlane made his way towards the cave and entered it, glad to be shot of them and hoping only that this time the Worm Hole would would lead him back to his hotel suite, for he still had unfinished business to attend to; ah, but there was a wrinkle in Time and the Worm Hole, as if it had a mind of it's own, took him elsewhere!
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