The Chronos Clock
by Wendy L. Callahan
Published by Musa Publishing
Time was irrelevant to Demetra Ashdown since she would live a longer life than most. However, she embraced order and routine as necessary to a fulfilling existence.
Consequently, Demetra thought pre-dawn hours were most convenient for the task of poking about in a dark corner just outside the Tower of London. The chilly early spring breeze seeped through the wool of her black frock coat and the flimsier fabric of her day dress. Suppressing a shiver, she glanced back the way she had come. A solitary walk around the shadowed perimeter would unnerve even the most daring soul. It would certainly send most women into a fit of swooning, but Demetra prided herself on not fitting into feminine stereotypes. She lifted her chin and continued around the imposing edifice, approaching the White Tower, the innermost keep of the eight-hundred-year-old prison.
Extending her Aetheric senses, Demetra felt the tug of an answering item at the base of the tower—an item empowered with Aetheric energy. It rarely took long for Demetra to find what she sought, and this piece was no exception. She narrowed her eyes and called to it, drawing the thing from its resting place of over four centuries. There was no resistance. Her hand was empty one moment, and the artifact appeared in it the next.
Demetra boasted a reputation as the most successful artifact hunter in all of Britain. Granted, that status remained a well-kept secret, but that did not deter her from feeling pride at her latest accomplishment.
Handling the article delicately, she turned it over in her hands, pleased it had the good manners to respond so promptly to her summons. Ultimately, obtaining this little piece of history would be worth the lack of sleep. She smiled down at it, allowing herself a satisfying moment of egotistical self-approbation.
As Demetra looked down at her prize, she reached into her coat to bring forth a fan with her other hand. She felt the other Aetheral before she saw the flicker of shadowed movement just beyond the perimeter of her vision.
The only thing displeasing her during this moment of triumph, besides the disruption to her sleep, was the presence of the other. By his energy, she identified him as a celestial, probably intent upon taking the article for himself.
“That simply will not do, angel boy,” Demetra muttered. With a flick of her wrist, she snapped the fan open in a flash of silver.
The celestial snarled at her. “Do not speak so disrespectfully to me, woman. How did you make that thing come to you? You must have used daemon magick!”
Demetra batted her eyelashes at him. “You say ‘daemon’ like it's a bad thing.”
Tucking her prize in the pouch hanging from her black leather corset, Demetra watched as the other Aetheral stalked her. He circled her, a large sword clutched in his hands. The celestial power streaming off the blade flowed around Demetra like a wave of heat, filling the vast area around the Tower with a smoldering energy that threatened to set the night ablaze.
“Oh my, we are serious, are we not? I take it you want this.” Patting her pouch, she swept her fan up in front of her face. “Too bad you won't be getting it.”
“That thing contains daemonic energy and must be destroyed. Hand it over if you want to live, you infernal jezebel,” the celestial retorted.
“Or what? Will you unleash hell?” Demetra quipped with a wink. “I suggest you bring your language up to speed with the modern standards of the nineteenth century.” Despite being only twenty years old and a lady of rather high social standing, very few insults surprised or upset her. Such language, she felt, was the mark of one who lacked inventiveness.
With a roar of rage, the man charged at her. Demetra side-stepped at the last moment, neatly evading the swing of the celestial’s blade.
She turned as he rushed past her. “Your Aetheric powers are far more effective than your skills with a sword. I suggest you forget this item and find something else to do with your morning. You are wasting your time here.”
Once more, the celestial made an inarticulate sound of anger. He charged her once again, the sword still gripped in both hands. Demetra watched as he bore down on her, her face a mask of boredom. She even raised her hand to her mouth to cover a yawn.