Travel back in time to Elizabethan England with Kate Oliver, a Tempus Guardian who uncovers a fiendish plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth. With the help of playwright Christopher Marlowe will they succeed in stopping the villains from killing the Queen?
Kate Oliver had been asleep. Sound asleep in fact. When she became aware of a heavy feeling in her chest and a roaring noise in her ears. Her training kicked in and she went from asleep to alert in a second. Sitting bolt upright she turned on her bedside light.
‘Owwww. There was no need for that!’ said a muffled voice Kate recognised.
‘Ludo, you infuriating beast. What on earth do you think you were doing?’ Kate sat, blinking as her eyes became used to the light.
‘Trying to wake you up carefully. It didn’t work out as I planned, to be honest.’ Ludo sprang back onto Kate’s bed and focused his violet eyes on Kate’s green ones. Ludo is a cat, well a cat and a wizard. It’s a long story. The little cat with fur the colour of grey smoke stared intently at the girl in front of him.
Kates curly red hair was a mess and Kate was blinking at Ludo in confusion.
‘You will have to improve on your responses young lady,’ the cat grumbled. ‘A Tempus Guardian should not be taken by surprise. You should be ready to deal with anything, anytime. Look at you, not even awake.’
‘Really?’ Kate replied with a slow smile as she nodded her head in the direct of the cat’s stomach.
Ludo looked down to see the tip of a very sharp knife resting on his fur. Kate giggled and yawned, and the cat shuddered. He knew he should not have underestimated the young Guardian. Kate had recently proved herself more than a match for a difficult situation in keeping Queen Eleanor of England and her newborn son safe from harm.
‘Yes, well, very clever I’m sure. But there’s a reason why I’m here. It’s not for the good of my health you know,’ was Ludo’s sarcastic reply. ‘We, that is, Jonathan and I, have been notified by the office of Father Time that a situation is brewing in Tudor England. I needed to make sure you could come to the bookshop tomorrow to discuss it with us.’
‘Why me?’ asked Kate.
‘Because you have proved to be more than capable, little one; and Jonathan thinks your particular talents would be well suited to this problem. After all, you have worked hard these last six months to perfect your skills and knowledge; but get some sleep Kate and I will see you tomorrow.’ And with a quiet pop and a wisp of grey smoke, Ludo was gone.
Kate shrugged. Well, I wonder what that’s all about, she thought and settled back down to sleep.
Strangely enough, Kate did sleep. In fact, it was her alarm that woke her in the morning. Had she dreamt Ludo’s visit? No, he had most definitely been there. As it was a Saturday, Kate was able to go into town to Jonathan Carrs bookshop. Kate’s mum was well aware of Jonathan and her daughters’ abilities as a Tempus Guardian. Kate’s father had been a leading Tempus Guardian until his mysterious disappearance. Kate had been through Christmas and a birthday since he had gone.
Kate packed her sword, Saviour, into her fencing case and headed into town by bus. As she trundled along, Kate tried to imagine what was in store. Tudor England. It sounded interesting. Queen Elizabeth the first, the Spanish Armada and all that. It sounded exciting. Little did Kate know just how exciting it would become.
Meanwhile, in the bookshop, there was an interesting conversation going on between a Guardian trainer and a talking cat.
‘At least this time we can prepare her properly,’ Jonathan said as he closed the dusty curtains in the shop window and turned on lamps on several tables.
‘And you are right Ludo, Kate has come on by leaps and bounds. Her sword skills were always excellent, but she is now proficient with a dagger and to some extent as an archer.’
‘Indeed, her knowledge of how things work has also grown.’ The cat interrupted himself for a quick lick of his front paw. ‘She knows why Tempus Guardians are needed and the types of people she may encounter, including witches and to some extent, magic. She could do with knowing more in that area, to be honest.’
The bookshop tried its very best not to be noticed by passing people. The brown flaking paint and dusty display in a rather dirty front window did not say ‘come in and look around,’ and that was precisely the point. Johnathan’s shop was there as a meeting and training point for Tempus Guardians. Messages were left, visits arranged, training organised, missions assigned and reports given. Jonathan was a Moderari or the trainer of Guardians.
The inside of the shop was actually quite large but was an odd shape, full of nooks and crannies; and everywhere, there were books. The walls were covered with bulging bookshelves. There were tables of all sizes from large kitchen tables to small round side tables, all piled high with books. Old, new, hardback, paperback and some wonderful ones bound in leather with gold lettering. There were comfy looking old armchairs beside some of these tables and the occasional Turkish rug on the floor; but the whole place had a feeling of slight neglect. Ludo was quite proud of it all. It had been a labour of love for him and Jonathan to get it all looking just right.
The little brass bell on the door tinkled as Kate entered, her fencing bag slung over her shoulder. It was summer now, and she was dressed in a long gypsy skirt with white trainers and a white t–shirt with a big red rose on the front. Her hair was piled on top of her head in what Ludo considered a mess but he had been assured by Kate it was the way you wore it these days and that he should stop being so old fashioned.
‘Wow, it’s getting hot out there,’ said Kate throwing herself into her favourite comfy armchair and resting her bag beside her feet. ‘Edinburgh in June, who would think it could be so hot at eleven in the morning?’
‘Do you think it’s warm?’ said Jonathan who was wearing his usual cord trousers, lace up oxford shoes, tie and knotted waistcoat. He was a tall thin man with a bald head and a long face. His face wasn’t very lined, but his eyes were old, very old indeed. However, today he was smiling at Kate. He had become incredibly fond of her over the past few months. They had been through a tricky patch when Kate thought he was plotting behind her back, but they had worked past that now and had a relaxed, teacher and pupil relationship. Standing beside Kate’s chair he looked at her fondly and saw energy, enthusiasm and intelligence shining from her.
Kate was a very special Tempus Guardian indeed. She was only the second known female Guardian. Kate had met the first known female Guardian, Heloise, who was a Lady in Waiting to Queen Eleanor of England. As they looked so much like each other they had bonded immediately; they could have been sisters. Heloise had the same flaming curly red hair and green eyes as Kate. She had returned from her adventure in medieval Oxford with a greater understanding of her power and skills as well as more confidence.
However, beneath it all Jonathan was still worried. Kate’s father, Matthew Oliver had disappeared from Jonathan’s life and his role as a Tempus Guardian at around the time Kate was born and now Jonathan knew why. Matthew had gone into hiding in Edinburgh, reimagining his career as a clockmaker; but eighteen months ago, he completely vanished, despite a police investigation, and in the last few months, both Jonathan’s and Ludo’s efforts to find him, they were still none the wiser.
However, today was for other things and he pushed his worries about Kate’s father to the back of his mind.
‘Don’t worry Jonathan. I am fine, honestly. We both know Dad left to protect me. I am sure we will find him soon,’ Kate said, smiling at her friend and mentor.
Ludo shivered. Honestly, the child could be unnerving at times with her ‘witchy ways’, as Ludo called them.
‘Will we be doing any training today? I brought my sword,’ Kate said, while nodding towards her case on the floor.
‘It’s too hot I think dear,’ Jonathan replied. ‘Besides, we need to talk about the contact we received from Father Time. He needs someone to attend to a problem that seems to be escalating in Tudor England, March 1598 to be exact. Have you heard of the actors called The Lord Chamberlain’s Men?’
Kate shrugged. ‘No I haven’t’.
‘They are a group of actors or players who were based in the centre of London in the Elizabethan and early Stuart era. They were formed around the greatest actors of their time. Richard Burbage* and William Kemp, among others. They were the first to perform plays by Shakespeare, who was also a member of the company. Modern acting started with them. One of the playwrights they worked with frequently was Christopher Marlowe*. He was a brilliant playwright and poet. There have always been rumours about Marlowe being a spy for the Queen, and he was; but he was also a Tempus Guardian.’ At this point, Ludo made a strange huffing sound and wandered off, tail erect.
Kate sat forward in her chair. Spies and Guardians, she thought. Now this does sound interesting.
‘Marlowe has reported to Father Time that someone was trying to meddle with a proposed staging of the play being put on for Queen Elizabeth – strange goings on and the kind of mischief that only another time traveller would think of.’
‘So, what has this got to do with me?’ Kate asked.
‘The problems only arose when the company was at Richmond Palace. They experienced what some thought were ghosts, but Marlowe recognised them as time travellers and other weird and wonderful things such as missing equipment. The actors, the Queen’s advisors, the Privy Council, the senior noblemen who advised the Queen, are all worried. The Queen herself is resolute about staying at Richmond Palace. However, the actors can’t stay there. It simply isn’t done in Tudor times. Acting did not have the prestigious image then, as it has now. It was not considered a noble profession and therefore they can perform for the Queen but not under the same roof.’
‘I still don’t see where I come in,’ Kate said, looking puzzled.
Jonathan sighed. ‘Marlowe has come up with a plan. The Queen needs a new Lady in Waiting as one of her favourites is leaving to marry, much against the Queen’s wishes. Marlowe has suggested a Tempus Guardian who can pass dressed as a woman, to replace her in order to have someone on the inside, and Father Time thought this would be the perfect assignment for you. We need to ensure that these Scrutari, (the name given by the Guardians to those interfering with time for their own goals) are not going to succeed.’
‘You want me to go to the court of Queen Elizabeth the first in disguise as a Lady in Waiting and find the culprit?’ Kate said, swallowing hard.
‘That’s the idea,’ Ludo replied as he jumped onto Kate’s lap.
‘But they will find me out straight away! I know nothing about all that etiquette stuff and courtly manners.’ Kate was beginning to panic.
‘It won’t be a problem my dear. You know more that you think after your Oxford trip and we have time to teach you the basics. Marlowe has thought of that too and suggests making the new Lady in Waiting someone from a very sheltered part of the country. You would be the daughter of Earl Charles Rivers. He is a reliable man and is aware of the Tempus Guardians from another incident and is sworn to secrecy. He will be at court to help you. You would be Lady Kate Rivers.’
Kate just stared at Jonathan; her mouth open. Then she giggled and laughed. She laughed so much that Ludo slid off her lap and landed on the floor with a thump.
‘Rude,’ said the cat.
‘You can do this my dear.’ Jonathan knelt down in front of the young woman he had become so fond of and held her hands in his. ‘I know you can; Ludo does too, don’t you, old friend? You have come so far and your skills have improved immensely since your return from your last task.’
‘Debatable at this moment,’ replied the cat haughtily.
‘And you will have help from Marlowe and Earl Rivers; but there will be times when you are alone in the Queens close circle. It is then you are most vulnerable, and it will be up to your own judgement to take anyone else into your confidence.’ The old man’s concern was evident on his furrowed brow and questioning eyes. He knew Kate could do this. However, he was not so sure whether Kate herself knew she could handle it.
Blinking a few times and taking a deep breath, Kate smiled. ‘Okay then. What do I have to do to prepare, more fencing practice?’
‘Etiquette,’ said the cat. ‘More specifically, how to behave in an Elizabethan court without getting your head chopped off.’
‘Behave Ludo,’ Jonathan said, giving the cat a long stare. ‘He is right though my dear. We need to give you some help in this. For example. most eating is done with a knife or fingers. Spoons are rarely used, and forks are non-existent. Nobody drinks the water in London as it comes from the Thames and is filthy. Instead, they drink diluted ale during the day and wine at court. Mead, made from honey, is also drunk by most people but is also alcoholic, so you need to bear that in mind.’
Kate looked horrified. ‘But I have only ever had a small glass of champagne at a cousin’s wedding. I have never drunk anything alcoholic. I am only thirteen.’
‘Oh, and no chocolate or potatoes,’ Ludo said. ‘Walter Raleigh has only just brought them back from his travels. Nobody has a clue what to do with them yet.’
‘I think this is going to be harder than I thought.’ Kate looked concerned, but she stood up and squared her shoulders. ‘Where do we start then?’ she asked.
For the next few hours, Kate learnt about Elizabethan London; who was important, and why, how they dressed, how they ate, how they walked and talked and what was going on historically at the time. Jonathan told her it was important that she understood the background of what was happening and why. She couldn’t simply blunder in and alter history, especially as a Tempus Guardian. She had to be careful and think of the consequences of any actions she took.
Kate went home on the bus late in the afternoon. She left her sword at the bookshop as she had a heavy bag of books to read. Some were historical but there were a couple of fictional adventures that Jonathan recommended, that had been well researched, where she would learn about the society and enjoy doing it. Kate had always been a reader, so she was looking forward to getting stuck in and finding out more for herself.
After dinner with her mum in the back garden; just a salad and cold meat due to the heat, Kate took herself off to her bedroom to start her research. Her room was as everyone’s bedroom is. It was a reflection of who Kate truly was. She had several of her father’s clocks, including the alarm clock he made especially for her, on her bedside table. Several bookshelves held some of Kate’s favourites and a desk and chair sat under the window that looked out onto the garden. There were a couple of fencing foils hanging on the wall, along with a new addition of a blown-up photo of Kate, her mum, and her dad on a holiday not long before he disappeared.
They all stood in a row with their arms around each other’s shoulders with Kate in the middle, holding onto her parents’ waists. They were smiling in the sunshine wearing shorts and tee-shirts and looking relaxed and happy. The walls were a newly painted pale apple green and a rug on the floor in shades of green matched the curtains that had been the work of Kate’s mum. She had wanted to do something for her daughter on her return from Oxford, especially when Kate gave her all the details. Kate loved the room; not that she hadn’t before. It was now a grown-up room; not a cute little girl’s room anymore.
It was midsummer and still light, so Kate curled up in the chair at her desk and began reading. She was still there when her mum went to bed and she had to be chased under the covers for some sleep. That night Kate dreamt.
We all dream, of course we do, but when a Tempus Guardian has a dream it can mean something specific. It could be a warning they have sent to themselves from a time they travelled to in the past. This could be both useful and scary; and in Kate’s case tonight, it would be a definite nightmare.