Chapter 3 A Quaint Lesson in Submission
“Wake up, Conrad!” I heard a voice yell shrilly. “I’ve been waiting for two hours!”
I opened my eyes to see Mary leaning over me.
I sighed. “Is knocking no longer considered a common courtesy in your world?” I murmured. “And have you really been watching us sleep for two hours?”
“Lesson number one: Never question the actions of your superiors.” Mary said as she pulled me out of bed.
Edith was just now waking.
She yawned. “What? You’re leaving already?”
“Oh, my apologies, Edith. I did not mean to wake you.” Mary said innocently.
I could not help but laugh. “You screamed in our faces. I doubt that―” I was interrupted when Mary punched me in the stomach, knocking the breath out of me.
Edith motioned for us to leave. “No, it’s fine! Take as long as you need, Mary. Keep him up all night if you’d like!”
It was obvious that Mary was pleased with my sister’s enthusiasm concerning my lessons. Of course, my sister could not have cared less for the lessons themselves. The only thing that mattered to her was that I would be spending time with this woman that I barely knew and, quite frankly, scared me. My thoughts then returned to what Edith had said last night, asking me if I wouldn’t mind to stay here in this future and her theory that I was meant to save these Gray Maidens, as I began to call them. Was my sister really planning to force me upon this woman, hoping that we would have a son and save this world from destruction?
Unable to protest, I took my uniform from the wardrobe. I began to remove the white medical robe that I had been dressed in during our procedure. I paused when I noticed that Mary was staring at me with an expression that portrayed more than a little curiosity.
I glared at her. “Do you mind?” I asked, quite annoyed that she would barge into our room and now refuse to grant me even the slightest amount of privacy.
“Oh! No, I don’t mind. Go ahead and change.” Mary said, her gaze unwavering.
I looked at Edith who was struggling in vain to contain her laughter as her face began to blush.
I sighed. “That’s not what I was insinuating . . .”
I gave up and changed into my uniform with as much composure as I could muster. Once I had changed, Mary observed me from top to bottom.
“You look nice. Are you prepared to leave?”
Could she make this any more awkward?
“Yes, but first, allow me to gather the shattered remains of my dignity.” I said with a hint of sarcasm.
Mary nodded, taking my words with utmost sincerity.
I stared at her in awe. “It was . . . a joke.” I murmured, running my hand down my face.
Mary stared at me for what felt like hours until she burst out into uncomfortably loud laughter.
“Yes, I see! It was very funny, Conrad! Let’s go!” She said, each word interrupted by her numerous giggles.
Yes, Edith was right. This girl and I were alike in every way. I was now actually looking forward to our day with the most excitement I had felt since arriving in this world.
“Goodbye, Edith!” I gave her a stern look. “Please try your best to stay out of trouble.”
“Oh, don’t worry!” She laughed. “I will! Have fun, Conrad!”
I could tell by the look in her eyes that Edith was lying. I imagined she would have a full investigation conducted before I returned. She was always very inquisitive. Mary bowed to Edith and we left the room. She began leading me down the corridor, though I hadn’t the slightest idea as to where she was taking me.
“You and your sister are quite close aren’t you?” She asked.
“Well, yes. We practically raised each other.” I frowned. “It doesn’t make you uncomfortable does it?
“No, just jealous.” Mary said, looking away from me.
We continued our walk silently while Mary observed my steps.
“You must have been in the military quite recently. I can see it in your walk. How many wars have you seen?” She asked.
“My walk? Did my uniform not stand out to you at all?” I sighed. “I’ve only fought in one and it was brief. It took place four years ago . . . by my time, of course.” I said nervously, hoping that she would refrain from asking about any of my experiences during the war, as I could not remember most of them myself.
“Did you win your war?” She asked flatly.
“Yes, we did, and shortly after, we unified as the Reich.” I puffed out my chest. “We formed one German state and became one people.” I said proudly.
“Ah! Much like my own people. That’s quite an achievement, unifying an entire nation.” She paused and clasped her hands together. “You know, we could really use skills like that in our war.”
I laughed and shook my head. “My efforts were immaterial. The Reich would have been established with or without me.”
Mary stopped abruptly and grabbed my arm. She then shoved me against the steel wall of the corridor.
“I better never hear you say anything pessimistic like that again! Do you understand?” She yelled.
Too shocked to form words, I merely nodded to satisfy her. She smiled and released me. Mary’s sister, Anwen, noticed us as she walked by and laughed.
“Breaking him down to fit the mold, are you, Mairwen?” She asked, crossing her arms.
“He’s a pitiful excuse for an engineer. I’m already very busy, and now, thanks to you, I have to whip this fool into shape!” Mary yelled quite loudly. Though, thankfully, we were far enough from our room so that Edith could not hear her.
“I’m sorry to hear that, sister. Oh! I have a brilliant idea! Why don’t you take him to my flagship? It looks like he could use some”—there was a glint of malice in her eyes—“hands on experience.”
I was quite frightened at this point, for the thought of being on one of their naval vessels whose designs and functions were alien to me made me more uncomfortable than I would like to admit.
Mary suddenly began to tremble with fear. “What? No, that won’t be necessary, Anwen. I was only planning on taking him to the archives today and giving him some study materials.” She smirked. “I mean, he’s so thickheaded that seeing such a magnificent vessel as your flagship would drive him mad! He wouldn’t learn anything from it!” Mary stammered nervously.
“No, I insist!” She laughed. “How else am I to apologize for placing such a heavy burden upon your already laden shoulders?”
She began to walk away when she called out, “Just make sure he doesn’t break anything,” she smiled, “or get broken. That would be very unpleasant.”
Mary, her body shaking with anger, glared at her sister as she walked away.
“I’m so sorry, Conrad.” She sighed. “I’m such a fool.”
I frowned. “Forgive me, but I do not understand the situation.” I said cautiously, not wanting to upset her again.
“Oh, I apologize if I frightened you.” She laughed pleasantly. “If my sister had seen me being nice to you, she would have assigned you to someone else, but I guess I took it too far.”
I began to wonder just what extents this girl was willing to go to for me.
“My sister’s flagship is an astounding feat of science. I was its head designer and could tell you everything about it, but my sister’s officers idolize her.” She rolled her eyes. “They would take their own lives if she ordered it. They also hate men almost as much as she does. Anwen only wants you on her flagship so that you’ll get in trouble with them.”
I laughed at this. I found it quite absurd that Anwen would try to do something so devious instead of carrying out the deed herself.
“There is no need to apologize.” I smiled excitedly. “I would gladly face any trial to see such an engineering feat. Lead on.” I assured her, placing my hand on her shoulder.
She gave me an unsatisfied look.
“All right, but let me do the talking.” She said, managing a smile.
You can imagine my surprise when we arrived at the hangar to see, not a naval vessel before me, but a heavier-than-air aircraft. It was massive, beyond any war machine I had ever imagined. Its wingspan stretched from end to end of the hanger. It was powered by three engines that I was sure required a substantial amount of seren. The ship’s hull, made of black steel, converged to form a wedge at the bow of the vessel. I observed several weapons that were similar to artillery batteries which dotted its broadsides. I was certain that these were also powered by seren, though I was unsure as to what type of projectiles they fired.
“Let’s go inside. Just stay close to me and I’ll take you to the reactor chamber.” She winked at me “We can talk there.” Mary said, grabbing my hand and walking swiftly towards the vessel.
As we boarded the ship, I received my usual amount of suspicious and contemptuous stares. Mary released me once we were inside.
She sighed. “I would lose every bit of respect I have if my sister’s subordinates caught me holding your hand. Follow me to the reactor chamber and don’t make eye-contact with anyone! Do you understand?” She whispered sternly.
I nodded as I marveled at the devices about us, not really paying her any attention.
She sighed and grabbed my arm. “Just keep up.”
We continued down the corridor. It resembled those of the compound, composed of steel and lit by fixtures of seren. The vessel’s structure was very sound. I couldn’t imagine how such a weapon like this could be countered. I wanted to compliment Mary, but I knew it would be unwise to speak with the crew constantly rushing by us.
As I was admiring the vessel, we were stopped by a large, boisterous woman. She was actually my height and, judging by her uniform, she was one of Anwen’s dreadful officers. I braced myself for the worst.
“Mairwen?” The woman glared at me. “What are you doing aboard our ship with this man?” The woman asked.
It was apparent that Mary was struggling to control her anger.
“My apologies that I did not send word of our visit, Daiva. I was simply hoping to show this man an example of our power. Now, If you’ll excuse us we’ll―”
The woman, Daiva, held her hand out for us to stop.
“It is a pity we were not notified. I would have received you with much more hospitality if we had. Though, I do agree that this man should witness the incomparable power of the Matriarchy.”
Hearing this woman call their state a matriarchy confirmed my theory that these Gray Maidens were an imperialistic people, no doubt ruled by a woman.
“Though, I think a more . . . personal method would be more appropriate.” Daiva began walking around me. “I must admit that he is a handsome man, though . . .” she stopped, “I think he would be much more appealing beneath my boot!”
The brutish woman threw me to the floor and rammed the heel of her boot into my stomach. I grimaced in pain but refused to utter any sound that would imply weakness. However, the woman still derived great pleasure from my pain as she laughed astringently, her face almost demonic in appearance. This spectacle drew much of the crew’s attention. Most of them joined Daiva in her hysteria, creating a frenzied chorus of shrill laughter and mocking sneers.
“Enough!” Mary yelled. The corridor was silent. Daiva frowned and stared at her. Oh, how I would have buckled under the gaze of those inhumane eyes!
She stepped toward Daiva. “He is my student! I will be responsible for any disciplinary actions!” Mary yelled sternly.
She laughed and released me.
“You are weak, Mairwen.” Daiva scoffed. “You will never become a Cadwalader like your sister. She will be remembered as a hero! Who will remember a spineless whelp like you?”
Mary sighed and looked down at her feet.
I struggled to rise. “I will,” I rasped in pain.
The spectators let out a collective gasp. Mary looked up at me, her eyes filled with tears. She shook her head in remorse.
Slowly, Daiva’s entire body began trembling in rage.
“You dog!” She yelled. “Return to the floor or I shall make it so that you shall never rise again!”
I did not move. Daiva paused and regained her composure.
“Obviously, you have not disciplined him adequately, Mairwen.” She smiled. “Meet me at sunset on the Rosynbryn, man! I’ll teach you a lesson in respect!” She yelled and stomped off down the corridor.
The spectators also left, speaking excitedly amongst themselves. Eventually, Mary and I stood alone in silence.
“Conrad, you idiot . . .” She murmured, wiping her eyes.
I handed her my handkerchief. She took it and forcefully wiped away her tears. She sighed once she was finished.
“Daiva just challenged you to a duel, Conrad! The Rosynbryn is the Hill of Roses. It’s where all of our duels and executions used to take place!” Mary yelled, grabbing my arm.
I laughed with delight. “What a colorful name! I am aware of the situation. I will gladly kill that witch if I must.”
Mary shook her head. “You don’t understand, Conrad! In her family, Daiva is called Kraujo Kariai: The Blood Warrior! She’ll kill you without hesitation! She’s slain countless of the Gaelturi!”
“She’s never fought a German.” I said with a smirk.
“And you’ve never fought one of us, a Maiden.” Mary said, crossing her arms.
“No, but I have fought Frenchmen.” I’ll let the reader interpret what they will from that statement. “Attacking a woman is deplorable in the Reich. Of course I’ve never dueled with one.”
Mary was becoming quite annoyed with me at this point.
She sighed deeply. “Come on! Let’s go to the reactor chamber before you get into anymore trouble.” She said and continued walking down the corridor.
I followed her to the chamber. She opened the massive steel door by entering a numerical code. I stepped into the chamber and witnessed an astounding piece of science! The reactor was actually a gyro sphere suspended in the air by a magnetic field. In the center of the sphere was an orb of seren that shone just like a star. It was remarkable! The seren orb was the only light in the room, giving it a silvery tint. The two metal rings that rotated around the orb caused shadows to pass over us like waves.
Mary expressed a faint smile. “It’s beautiful isn’t it?”
The engineer nodded, though the only beauty he saw was in the technological breakthrough of this work of art. He saw it like he would any other piece of industry.
“No one will bother us in here.” She blushed. “We may speak freely.” Mary said as she sat down against the wall.
Obviously, being in this room relieved her from the tension of our previous conversation. Mary motioned for me to sit down next to her, but I ignored her in my ecstasy. I walked over to the reactor to observe it more closely.
“I must compliment your work, Mary! This ship, this reactor―it is the greatest engineering feat I have ever witnessed!” The engineer said amidst his examinations. These were not my words. They were the empty words of a worldly scientist. I have never regretted any words more than those, for they were the words that told Mary I was an engineer and not a man.
“You must compliment me?” Mary asked, barely audible.
The engineer looked at her in confusion.
“Well, yes, it is very impressive.” He said, becoming uncomfortable.
“It’s impressive?” Her voice was quavering. “Does that mean that I’m impressive too? Do you judge people only by how they contribute to science? Is that all that matters to you?” She yelled in a sudden outburst.
Unable to comprehend what she had said, the engineer did not respond.
“When I was designing this room, I always thought about how romantic it would be when it was finished. That is why I wanted to come here, not to teach you anything, but because I thought you were different from all the other men!” She sobbed bitterly. “Then, when you stood up for me in front of Daiva, I thought you were really special, but I guess I was wrong.” Mary said as she rose to her feet.
In his ignorance and child-like comprehension of such feelings, the engineer could not understand how he had offended Mary. To him, the only way a person could receive recognition was through science. To him, science was everything from which all things originated.
“Good luck fighting Daiva tonight. I won’t be there.” She said, using my handkerchief once more to wipe her eyes.
She opened the door of the chamber and ran off; her reverberating sobs fading as she continued down the corridor. The engineer looked back at the reactor in confusion. He could not fathom how he had offended her so greatly. I left the chamber and carefully retraced my steps to leave the vessel. On my way, I received no glances or stares, but I could hear the women whispering as I passed. Word of my confrontation with Daiva, I imagined, spread quickly throughout the ship and the compound itself. Perhaps all of the Matriarchy was aware of our impending clash.
On my way back to our room, I experienced a horror beyond any occult or demonic image I could ever imagine: Edith was socializing with two of the Maidens and she was wearing one of those obscene outfits they had provided her. I gasped and ran over to her.
“Oh, is this your brother, Edith?” One Maiden asked pleasantly.
“Yes, Conrad, this is Delyth and Eirlys. They’ve taken me all throughout the camp today! They’re very kind,” she laughed, “and pretty too.”
I glared at her. “Edith what are you wearing? I can’t believe this! What a sorry day this has been! If I did not have the execution of a witch to look forward to this evening, I believe I would end this day now.” I lamented, shaking my head in disappointment at Edith.
“Excuse us for a moment, ladies.” Edith said pleasantly and walked down the corridor with me.
She frowned. “What’s wrong, Conrad? Why have you returned so soon?” She asked concernedly.
“I’m afraid I upset Mary.” I sighed. “I’m not sure if she will continue my lessons.”
She gasped. “Oh no! What did you do to upset her?” Edith asked desperately.
“That’s the issue!” I shrugged. “I don’t know what I did, Edith! I complemented her on a vessel she had designed and then she yelled at me, accusing me of judging her only by how she contributed to science. She also made some”—I rolled my eyes—“confessions.”
Edith raised an eyebrow in curiosity. “Confessions?”
I looked away in shame. “Well, do not take my word, but if I interpreted what she said correctly, I would draw the conclusion that she had hoped for us to learn more about each other, not science, in our lesson today.” I said, stumbling to find the proper way to word my claim.
She clasped her hands together. “Oh, she likes you! That’s wonderful! Don’t worry, I’ll talk to her! I’ll set everything straight, Conrad!” Edith said happily as she skipped off down the corridor.
I began to run after her. “Edith, wait! I do not need you to intercede for me!”
She ignored my command and continued her quest to find Mary.
“Just what is she going to tell her, that I have a mental illness or that it’s somehow her fault that I’m so emotionally inept?” I murmured.
I turned to Edith’s new friends: Delyth and Eirlys. I should mention that they did appear to be the most respectable Maidens I had met thus far.
“Pardon me, but would either of you know where I can find the Hill of Roses?” I asked, trying to sound as convincing as possible.
They glanced at each other. “Yes, it’s just west of the compound, across the airfield.” Eirlys said, indicating the direction.
“What business do you have on the Rosynbryn?” Delyth asked.
“Oh . . .” I faltered. “I had heard of its historical significance, and I believe I know the hill’s location in my own time. I figured it would be interesting to see how it had changed. Thank you and good day to you both!” I said hastily and walked away.
I turned a corner and almost ran into Anwen, which would have truly ruined my day beyond repair.
She smiled pleasantly. “I heard Daiva challenged you to a duel; she is my strongest warrior. I’ll definitely be there to observe.” She laughed. “I’m excited to see how a German bleeds!”
“We bleed iron.” I said and continued walking.
To my dismay, she actually followed me.
“My sister is very distraught, not that I care, but you did upset her. I doubt you’ll be able to find another teacher.”
I stopped. “You overestimate your sister’s value to me. If the resources are available, then I can build another Chronostat. Though, I do not approve of this foolish game you are playing with Mary. Quite frankly, the thought that you would attempt to ruin your sister’s life disgusts me.” I said sternly.
She laughed richly. “Please! My sister ruins her own life well enough! She is fond of you and I can’t stand you, so we are clashing.” Anwen said flatly.
“How childish for you to vent your hatred for me onto Mary! She is innocent!”
“I am the Cadwalader, the highest position next to the Mother herself! I don’t need a man to tell me what’s wrong or right!” She furrowed her brow. “You’ll die tonight, we’ll send your sister back to her time, and Mary will forget all about you. We’re always at odds! This is just another controversy for me to win. My sister’s been a failure ever since she was born! She was the reason this war started and the reason our people are going to be annihilated!”
“Those accusations sound . . . exaggerated.” I said, crossing my arms.
She pulled me down and stared into my eyes. “You know nothing about this war or the countless lives we lost at the hands of you men. You should’ve stayed in your Reich, germ.”
Anwen shoved me back and walked on down the corridor.
Thankful that she was gone, I continued to our room. Once I had removed my uniform, I began practicing with my sword. I began thinking of ways I could turn Daiva’s strength against her. Of course, I knew from the very beginning that my greatest advantage would be her emotional instability. I was sure that either a man had wronged her in the past or perhaps she lost someone very close to her when these people separated. I couldn’t imagine what a tragic day that must have been. Some might call my plan abusive, but manipulating her emotions would certainly give me the upper hand.
Suddenly, the door swung open. It was Edith and she did not look very pleased. She grabbed her violin bow and struck me on the head.
“What’s this? You were challenged to a duel?” She yelled in disbelief.
I crossed my arms. “There was no way I was going to allow that witch to ridicule Mary as she did.” I said flatly.
“You’re so stubborn, Conrad . . .” Edith sighed. “These people have a different society. This isn’t the Reich. I’m sure Mary appreciates what you did for her, but I think she would appreciate you breathing even more.”
I laughed. “I’m guessing you spoke with her then?”
“I did.” She smiled. “Mary wanted to apologize and she hopes that she can still be your teacher.”
I gasped. “Really? What did you tell her exactly?”
Edith laughed and blushed slightly. “Oh, I just told her that you were being yourself and that you meant no offense.”
Obviously, Edith wasn’t telling me the whole truth about her conversation with Mary, but I did not want to question her as their talk was most likely sensitive. Dusk was also arriving and we would have to make our way to the Hill of Roses soon.
“We must leave. I don’t want to keep Daiva waiting.” I said, sheathing my sword.
“I can’t believe you’re really going to do this, Conrad.” She struggled to hold back her tears. “If I lose you I-I don’t know what I’ll do.” Edith said shakily.
I smiled and embraced her.
“Now, don’t you worry about me, Edith. I pulled out of much worse situations during the war.” I said, trying to comfort her.
She smiled and nodded. Though, I could tell what she was thinking by the look in her eyes: “I don’t want you to be in anymore of these situations.”
Edith clenched her fists. “Right! I have faith in you Conrad! Let’s go!” She said with renewed resolve.
“All right, but first,” I sighed, “would you change into something more appropriate?”
“Ha!” She laughed and ran out of the room.
I shook my head and grabbed my overcoat, throwing it on as I walked out the door.