CHAPTER 3 - THE FATHER OF HISTORY
Professor Eden took a deep breath. “Herodotus was born over two hundred years after the death of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. He made it his life’s work for history to be accurate and fair, to be recorded the way things took place, and not made it into a ‘sensation’. Stories back then were passed down orally, but over the centuries, the stories became so embellished, that no one could tell whether they were fact or fiction.”
Troy and I looked at each other. His mind seemed as if it were about to explode. Mine, however, was beyond repair.
“During his travels,” Professor Eden continued, “he heard what happened in China. Although it was passed down as a myth, he was greatly disturbed by the accounts, and decided to seek out the Oracle at Delphi.”
’Oh, great. Here we go,” I groaned.
“The Oracle told him everything of what happened between Clio and the Dragon Emperor and ordered him to travel north, and consult the Vӧlva.”
My head shot up. “They had Volvos back then?”
“No, Tristan!” Troy hissed. “A Vӧlva was a Viking seeress.” Looking at Professor Eden, Troy asked, “What could the Vӧlva offer that the Oracle of Delphi couldn’t?”
“A Vӧlva was considered to be a powerful sorceress and worked with Siedr Magic. This kind of magic was able to manipulate Fate. With her powers, she was able to grant Herodotus the power to choose a guardian, while he looked after the fate of historical accuracy.” I closed my eyes, massaging my temples in a vain attempt to stop the throbbing.
“The Vӧlva never gave him eternal life, but imbued magic into Herodotus’ soul. Once all the shards are found and destroyed, only then, will he be able to rest in peace.” Professor Eden’s voice was gentle, almost a whisper.
We remained quiet for a while, trying to digest everything we just heard. Troy spoke up.
“So, if the shards are found, not only will the emperor and Xu Fu come back to life, but Herodotus as well?”
Professor Eden nodded. “Yes, but only for the sole purpose to destroy the gemstone. The emperor and Xu Fu, on the other hand, will rise and become immortal, and that, my dears, must not happen. Herodotus must prevail.”
“And how exactly can he achieve that if he’s dead?” I asked, perplexed.
“With the help of guardians, of course!” Miss Eden smiled. My mouth dropped. I tried to think of something sarcastic to say, but for some reason, words eluded me.
Miss Eden straightened. “Although they were originally wiped out by the Dragon Emperor, the Vӧlva gave Herodotus the ability to choose a guardian and carry on with Clio’s legacy. Guardians have been chosen throughout the centuries connected by waters that keep a person alive longer than their normal life span.” Miss Eden raised her eyebrow at me. “Do you know of what I speak?”
“Oh, I’ll just say it. The Elixir of Life?” I shrugged.
“No, Tristan! The Fountain of Youth!” She sounded irritated. I threw my hands in the air. Frustrated, I said nothing. To me, it was the same thing.
“Herodotus was told of its location by the Vӧlva. The only rule was that only Guardians could drink the waters, and not himself, since his soul is linked to history. Guardians have been carefully selected, dedicating themselves to restore balance and order. A guardian is only chosen if they are seen as worthy. Their task is to send two practical and theoretical minded people back in time and set things right if history is tampered with. These qualities, I found in both of you.” Troy and I glanced at each other. We didn’t know if we should be thankful or smack her.
“Not just to restore order,” Miss Eden continued, ”but to find the Shards of Chaos and bring them back, so the Guardian can place them in the chest that was created by the Vӧlva, who gave it to Herodotus for safe keeping.”
“How many guardians have there been?” Troy asked.
“A few,” Professor Eden casually said. “Most notably Plutarch, Julius Caesar, Marcus Aurelius and… Hypatia.” Miss Eden seemed lost in thought. She even had a look of loss in her expression when she said Hypatia’s name.
“Hypatia?” I carefully asked. “The famous teacher of Alexandria?”
Professor Eden looked at me, her eyes mournful, but she gave a silent nod.
A shiver went down my spine. “She died a gruesome death. It was barbaric.” Troy nudged me to keep quiet. Something in Professor Eden’s expression told him that there was more to this than meets the eye.
Finally, Miss Eden let out a shaky breath. “I know,” she whispered. “I was there.”
CRASH! Oops. I didn’t mean to bump the glass off the table next to me - or kill the mood - but Hypatia lived nearly two thousand years ago. “Sorry,” I muttered, “but, I thought I heard you say, ‘you were there’?”
Professor Eden gave a sad smile. “I was, Tristan. Hypatia was my tutor and when they came for her, I wanted to stay by her side, but she begged me to flee and not look back. Because I was willing to be captured and die along with her, Hypatia cast her powers onto me. I then ran for my life, not knowing where I would go. There were many times I thought I would die, knowing the mob was looking for Hypatia’s students. I was finally smuggled out of Alexandria with the help of those who were sympathetic to Hypatia’s predicament, and I travelled extensively, finally settling in Gaul - which today is known as France.”
“Ugh,” I thought, scrunching my face. The first thought that came to mind when Miss Eden mentioned Gaul, was gallbladder. Thank goodness they had the sense to change that country’s name.
“Hang on,” Troy leaned forward. “If Hypatia chose you as her successor - as there was obviously no time for her to think it through - that means you’re a--“
“Guardian,” Miss Eden finished Troy’s sentence. “Yes, Troy, I’m a Guardian. I’ve lived longer than any other Guardian--“ she stopped explaining when I chuckled.
“You lived longer than any other Guardian?” I smirked. “That’s putting it mildly! Why haven’t you chosen a successor?”
“Tristan! Don’t be rude!” Troy frowned at me.
“It’s alright, Troy,” Miss Eden muttered. “I’ve made mistakes along the way and vowed to see everything put right.” She wasn’t looking at us while saying this, but she spoke as if the whole world was on her shoulders - or should I say History, was on her shoulders - and I felt ashamed for laughing at her.
“What do you mean?” I asked gently.
Professor Eden took a deep breath. “I made a vow to Herodotus to see this through. There were times when I chose the wrong pair to travel back in time, only for them to be manipulated by Xu Fu through the people they had to face in history, and gave him the shards instead.
“Then, there was a time when another pair never came back after the events that took place at El Dorado,” Miss Eden trailed off, lost in her memories. We remained seated in respected silence. Finally, she remembered we were still there and put on a brave smile.
“In the year 1513, I sent a pair back to stop the conquistador Ponce de León, from discovering the Fountain of Youth,” Miss Eden seemed to smile at this. “He never found it, of course!”
“But how?” I asked.
“Because he was in league with Xu Fu,” Professor Eden said simply. “They wanted to create their own Guardians and pairs to go back in history to create more chaos, since it was becoming obvious that raising the Dragon Emperor from the dead was taking much longer than expected. I’m sure Xu Fu thought it was ingenious of him to toss the shards in the portal,” Miss Eden seemed to brighten at this, “but as time went on, he realised it was the biggest mistake he had ever made.”
“What happened to the pair who stopped Ponce de León?” Troy asked.
Professor Eden’s shoulders slumped, her eyes began to tear up. “It was the time of the Spanish Inquisition, Troy,” Professor Eden whispered. “I won’t tell you what the Spaniards did to them.” Troy and I could see this event must’ve given her many sleepless nights, probably even up until today. Perhaps it was the events of Ponce de León and El Dorado that made Miss Eden resolute in finishing this quest.
My mind was about to explode. I thought I may even be in need of an MRI. I couldn’t stand it anymore. I stood up abruptly. “Right, Troy, time to go and study some, uh, Mathematics.”
He frowned. “You never took that subject,” he pointed out.
“We are now.” I pulled him to his feet and ran towards the exit. How Miss Eden beat us to the door boggled my mind. She closed and locked the door. Turning towards us, she demanded we sit back down. As always, when a lecturer tells you to do something in a tone you not used to hearing, you obey immediately, like a dog playing dead.
“Sit!” She yelled. As if on cue, we sat down with a hard thump. Taking a deep breath, she looked at us with a worried expression. “I don’t need to remind you that you felt the tremor. That is because something, right now, in the past is taking a turn for the worse.”
“How do you know?” Troy asked.
“Herodotus showed me, in the book he is most famous for, The Histories. It was imbued with magical runes by the Vӧlva. If you open the book to its centre, it’ll show you where you need to go.” Professor Eden’s expression turned serious. “If history changes its course, then the old rumours of wars that never took place would happen. Vaccines would never have been created to heal the sick.”
I gave her a puzzling look. “What exactly is happening right this minute… in history?” I asked, suddenly interested.
“Medieval England is in turmoil,” Miss Eden explained. “There’s an extreme struggle in who’s to be the rightful ruler. You need to fix it before it’s too late.”
“But… Professor Eden… how are we able to fix things? It’s like being thrown into the deep end of an Olympic swimming pool.” Troy asked, sounding as if we had already lost the battle before it had even begun.
“Then learn to swim!” Professor Eden said with confidence.
She sent us to wait for her in the back room, a place that was off-limits. In fact, the room was every students’ worst nightmare. The forbidden room was dubbed ’The Smack and Whack Room’. In most classes, I’ve been in the backroom where I received my fair share of a lecturer smacking my hand with a ruler, but I will say this. Professor Eden had never called any student to the back room, nor did she enjoy punishment. She might be hiding something. I trusted in the latter.
As we were waiting for Professor Eden, I took in my surroundings. The room had a small window at the top that was too far to reach, and gave the room a little light. Looking around, there were many bookshelves along the walls, with many books that seemed so old, it should’ve been displayed in a museum. Other antique objects were displayed on the shelves, including a skull that looked as if it were made from crystal.
On the opposite wall, were hundreds of vials, containing clear liquid. Did these vials contain the waters from the Fountain of Youth? In the centre of the room was an oval-shaped, cherry wooden table with an old, thick leather-bound book. Squinting, I began to read the title, ’Ye Olde Booke of…’ Oh, hell no! You want to tell me this old hag can’t spell?!” Picking up the book and showing Troy.
“That’s old English, Tristan. Anyway, that’s probably Herodotus book, The Histories.” I rolled my eyes. If anyone spoke Shakespearean in medieval England, then we were off to a bad start. I voiced my concern to Troy.
“The people during that time didn’t speak Shakespearean, Tristan. And anyway, it’s stereotypical to think they spoke like that,” he retorted. I wasn’t so sure, though. I realised that the safest form of communication would be charades if I cross paths with anyone in medieval England. Just to prove a point, I picked up the crystal skull.
In a dramatic pose, I held the skull above and declared, “Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?!”
“That’s still Shakespearean, Tristan. And that wasn’t Romeo and Juliet, by the way. That bit came from Hamlet,” he walked past me to admire the books on the opposite side of the room.
“It’s still Shakespeare,” I muttered to myself, carefully placing the skull back onto the shelf (in case it contained a curse).
Professor Eden came into the room. “It’s time. Stand together and hold hands.”
I gave Troy a nervous look. “Um, Professor, besides the two who were sent back during the time of the Spanish Inquisition, has anyone else died on these quests?” I asked awkwardly.
Professor Eden looked pained. “Many,” she whispered, “but they were very courageous.”
Raising my voice, I looked again at Troy, “you know what? Mathematics is really the in thing nowadays! I’m just going to pop over to Professor Laurens and tell him I decided that--“
“I’m not dying over something that happened long ago! Just let things be!”
“We need to get the shards.” Troy looked at Professor Eden. “How many shards are there?”
Miss Eden thought for a while. “One hundred shards. We have found only sixty-four of them.”
“Where are the others?” I asked, suddenly curious.
“Some are already in the hands of Xu Fu.” Professor Eden looked down, looking ashamed. She fixed her mournful eyes on the two of us, “Those who went before you, even before my time as a Guardian, tried to retrieve those shards. But Xu Fu controls the villains in the past. You need to remember this. You may be entering history, but the villains have a greater ghost controlling them in the background. Keep vigilant and stay alert at all times.”
Troy and I gave her a solemn nod.
“Some of the other shards are still in the time loop. You need to find them.”
“Not all of them are in one place. There will still be many places to visit. Whether in your time, or mine.” Professor Eden sounded mystical. Accepting our task, we stood together, holding hands. Professor Eden picked up the misspelled book and opened it at its centre. It was completely black with no writings or pictures. Suddenly, a map appeared, with runes glowing blue around the edgings.
Raising her voice, she spoke as if there were more of her, echoing within the room.
“I have heard Thee, O Father of History, and will not deny thy call,
Let the past be saved, and never let it fall.
I, the Guardian, will send this pair,
And with thy power, none shall despair.”
During her mystical incantation, a swirl of mist began above our heads - a luminous, orange colour. I looked at Troy and he at me, and saw with amazement and shock that as the mist swirled over our features, we began to dissolve until our entire being was taken when the last of the mist reached the ground.