The Time Hunters (Book 1 of the acclaimed series for children of all ages)

BOOK: The Time Hunters (Book 1 of the acclaimed series for children of all ages)
12.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
 

The

Time Hunters

 

By

Carl Ashmore

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

To
Alice and Lisa

 

To
Athina and Gabe

 

To
Pamela

 

To
Kath Middleton

 
 
 

In
Memory of Bernard Ashmore

 

CHAPTERS

 

Chapter 1: A Blast
from the Past

Chapter 2: Becky,
Brothers and Budgies

Chapter 3: Uncle
Percy

Chapter
4: Bowen Hall

Chapter 5: The
Discovery

Chapter
6: A Question of Time

Chapter 7: The Time
Room

Chapter 8: Otto
Kruger

Chapter 9: A Mammoth
Event

Chapter
10: Bowen Library

Chapter 11: A
Victorious Revelation

Chapter
12: Will and Marian

Chapter
13: The Omega Effect

Chapter 14: Harpy
Attack

Chapter 15: Phineus

Chapter 16:
Argonauts

Chapter 17: The
Messenger's Message

Chapter
18: In the Shadows of the Past

Chapter
19: Capture

Chapter
20: Dungeons and Dragoons

Chapter
21: A Young Old Friend

Chapter
22: All the Kings Horses

Chapter 23: Edgar

Chapter
24: The Minotaurs Mark

Chapter
25: Uncle Percy's Wish

Chapter 26: Bird's
Eye View

Chapter 27: The Red
Caves

Chapter 28: The
Great Gate

Chapter
29: Nephele's Fleece

Chapter
30: The Traveller Revealed

Chapter
31: Rumble in the Jungle

Chapter
32: Brothers in Arms

Chapter 33: Harold's
Lair

Chapter
34: London Calling

Chapter 1

 

A
Blast from the Past

 
 

January
15th 1900. London.

 

Bernard Preston shut the door to number 17 Cromwell
Gardens and scurried down the steps onto the bustling street, acting as
casually as he could. He had never knowingly committed a crime before, and
certainly not theft.

Reaching the pavement, he stared out over the
Thames. Mist clung tightly to the water. He turned right and began to walk, the
Houses of Parliament rising majestically before him. Ordinarily, he knew the
sight of it, coated in snow like icing on a cake, would have taken his breath
away.
But not today.
Today, he just felt anxious. He
knew he had to get out of here, and fast.

Preston levelled his bowler hat and quickened his
pace; the package in his overcoat pocket felt unnaturally heavy, a reminder of
the crime he had just committed. Still, he didn’t feel a trace of guilt.
He had the Theseus Disc.
That was all
that mattered.

Walking briskly now, he turned his collar to the
wind and watched a hansom cab rattle by. As it passed, it revealed an enormous
man with cropped flaxen-hair, on the opposite side of the road. At first
glance, the man appeared to be dressed in a manner befitting a Victorian
gentleman, but since when did Victorian gentlemen wear thick black sunglasses?

The man’s lips curved into a mocking smile.

Preston’s spine froze.

Oh, please, no
,’
he
begged to no one. He watched with dismay as a second man, slightly shorter,
joined the first, and together they walked parallel to him, their expressions
cold, impassive, like shop mannequins.

He knew he was in trouble now. If only he had
brought his
pagidizor
. But then what
use would it be? This wasn’t a registered trip.

No one knew he was here.
 

Taking a moment to contemplate his next move, he
gulped a lungful of icy air. And then ran.

Struggling to keep his footing on the slippery
ground, he sidestepped a bewildered pedestrian, and then another, his mind fixed
on one thing:
Ethel
. If only he could
reach her he could escape in an instant.

Looking back, he saw four of them now, powering
towards him like juggernauts. Turning a corner, he found himself in a long,
narrow alleyway. It appeared deserted, but he knew it wasn’t.

Ethel was there - invisible maybe, but definitely
there.

Tiring now, legs like girders, he reached the
alley’s midpoint and glanced back. To his astonishment, the four men had
stopped at the alley’s mouth. He skidded to a halt, puffing madly. Had they
really given up? Before he had time to dwell on this, however, he heard the
following words.

‘Hello again, Bernard.’

Preston spun round to see a tall, sallow-faced man come
out of the shadows, a wide brimmed top hat covering his raven black hair,
pitching his face into darkness.

Preston couldn’t believe his eyes. Words caught in
his throat. ‘Y-you?’ he stammered. ‘It can’t be.’

‘Oh, I assure you it can,’ the man said coldly. ‘Now,
if you would be so kind as to give me the Theseus Disc. For some reason, the
Omega Effect has stopped me procuring it at every point. It can be such an
annoying occurrence, don’t you think?’

Preston couldn’t find a reply.

‘Cat got your tongue, eh? Good. I always thought you
a supremely dull conversationalist. Very well, Bernard, allow me to put it
another way: pass over the Theseus Disc or you will answer to my Associate, Mr
Kruger, and his trusty service dagger. Believe me, I wouldn’t recommend that
option.’

Preston turned deathly pale.
‘Otto
Kruger?’
He glanced round to see the flaxen-haired man striding towards
them, his huge right hand curled around a long knife that glistened in the
misty light.

With a roar of desperation, Preston rushed the man,
knocking him off-balance, and continued his charge.

Nearing the wall that marked the alley’s end now, he
pulled a small device from his pocket and pressed a button marked with the
letter ‘I’. As if from nowhere, a small, mint green, three-wheel car
materialised just ahead of him: Ethel.

He
 
threw
open the driver’s door when a loud bang echoed off the walls. At once, he felt
like he’d been punched in the back. Pain seared his body. He collapsed on to
the driver’s seat, his trembling hands reaching for the dashboard, where he
typed six numbers onto a keypad. Within seconds, a blinding silvery light
filled the car, and with an ear-splitting
crack
,
it vanished.

*

The stars glittered above Bowen Hall in an inky
black sky. The lawns, the forest, the lake were as still as a tomb. Yes,
everything seemed in place for a perfectly normal summer’s night. Everything
was just as it should be.

But then something peculiar happened. An unnatural
wind swept the grounds; the temperature plummeted. Just then, an explosion of
light erupted above the front lawn - crackling, twisting, brilliant. Whipping
the air, it spiralled like a dazzling whirlwind. Then, with a shattering BOOM,
it had gone.

Bernard Preston’s Reliant Robin stood where the
light had been.

The driver’s door creaked open and Preston stumbled
out. He was fading now, his body shutting down. He knew he had only minutes to
live. He had to make them count. After all, he had made it to Bowen Hall, the
home of his dearest friend - the one person who could right these terrible
wrongs.

Hunched over, numb with pain, Preston limped forward,
his gaze fixed on the Hall, never looking back at the bloody trail behind.
Resolutely, he staggered on, further and further, before slowly mounting the
high stone steps to the front door, where he rapped twice before his legs gave
way and he crumpled to the ground. Using the last of his strength, he pulled
the package from his pocket.

At
least this would be in safe hands.

The door opened. A tall, willowy figure stood there
wearing a crimson dressing gown and novelty slippers in the shape of two loaves
of bread. Percy Halifax stared into the distance, a bemused smile on his face
as though the victim of an impressive practical joke. He heard a rasping voice
from below. ‘P – Percy…’

Horror-struck, Percy Halifax dropped down and
cradled Preston in his arms. His eyes widened as a scarlet puddle leaked all
around. ‘Bernard, what the -’

‘Y-you must listen to me. He’s alive. It was n-no
accident.’ Preston’s eyelids flickered. ‘F-find the Fleece … S-see Aubrey…’

‘Bernard, stay with me. Just - ’

Preston clawed for air. ‘Take this,’ he slurred,
pressing the package into Percy Halifax’s hand. ‘And P - Percy...’ As his voiced
trailed to silence, he whispered, ‘
Find …
Suman …’
His body grew still.

With these dying words ringing in his head, Percy
Halifax closed his friend’s eyes and held up the package. Shakily, he
unwrapped
it carefully to reveal a gleaming orange disc; a
number of strange markings were etched around a central hole, the size of a
coin. The disc blurred as his eyes misted over.

Percy Halifax felt hollow. One of his oldest friends
was dead. Shot in the back. But who could kill a man like Bernard Preston?
A good man.
The finest of men.
And
as his gaze fell on an unusually large black bird circling overhead, a crushing
sense of purpose swept over him. He could do something about it. He could try
and prevent Bernard from dying. He knew it was a long shot, the Omega Effect,
as a rule tended to prevent it, but he could try.
It had worked before.

For the next hour, Preston’s words visited him again
and again. ‘Find the Fleece’ - ‘He’s alive’ – ‘See Aubrey.’ And then there was
the mysterious disc. What could it all possibly mean?

Percy Halifax demanded answers. And he was
determined to get them. However, no matter how much he discovered about
Preston’s final hours (and in time that would be a great deal) something still puzzled
him:
who or what was Suman
?

 

Chapter
2

 

Becky,
Brothers and Budgies

 
 

Becky Mellor lay in bed, her eyes wide open and
fixed on the ceiling. She had woken up in a bad mood and just knew today was
going to be one of those days. For one thing, she’d discovered a spot the size
of a gerbil on her forehead.

But then her eyes were drawn to the gap in her
curtains and her heart fluttered. Sitting on the ledge, as still as a statue,
was a small bird with a mint green chest and a yellow head marked with black
stripes.
 

The budgerigar’s head slanted left and, for the
briefest of moments, Becky had the strangest feeling it was watching her. Then,
to her surprise, the budgie tapped three times on the glass.

Becky couldn’t believe it.

The budgie did it again.

A tiny smile arched on Becky’s mouth. She was about
to let it in when the door crashed open and her younger brother raced in, his hands
flapping like a seal. The budgerigar flew off at once.

‘C’mon, Becks!’
Joe yelled impatiently. ‘Mum says we’ll be late if you don’t get a move on.’ He
grabbed her duvet, hurled it to the floor and dashed out of the room.

Becky growled loudly.
 
She loved Joe, she really did, but there were
times she wanted to beat him with a garden spade to within an inch of his
miserable life. Furthermore, she was definitely awake now and the full horror
of today struck her. For the next six weeks she had to stay with an uncle she’d
never actually met.

Her fingers reached to her neck. As she clasped her
lucky pendant, she couldn’t help but think today would be the worst in her
thirteen years of breathing. Who was this Uncle Percy anyway?
 
From what little she did know, he sounded
like a total loon - a batty hermit who spent his days inventing silly gadgets
that probably didn’t work. It didn’t matter how upbeat her mum tried to be, the
reality was that for six long weeks she wouldn’t be able to see her friends, go
on Facebook, sleep when she wanted to, or do anything that resembled her normal
routine, which she happened to enjoy very much. No, this would without question
be the dullest summer of her life.
 

She was determined to hate every minute of it.

*

Becky brushed the knots from her wavy black hair, cleaned
her teeth and smeared half a tube of concealer over the offending spot. After
changing into a t-shirt and jeans, she slouched downstairs into the small but
tidy kitchen.

Joe was sitting at the table. Glancing up at Becky, utter
joy spread across his face. ‘Look at that zit, mum. It’s like a third eye.’

‘Shut up,’ Becky snapped at him, as she sat down.

‘Seriously,’ Joe replied, ‘it could be a horn.’

Becky’s fists clenched. ‘I won’t tell you again,
digweed.’

‘Oh, pack it in, you two,’ Mrs Mellor said firmly, pushing
a bowl of cornflakes in front of Becky. ‘And I really could do without any
trouble from you today, young lady. It’s going to be hard enough as it is.’

‘Tell monkey boy to keep his gob shut then.’

Joe’s grin widened. ‘I’d rather be a monkey than a
rhino.’

Becky plunged her finger into the bowl and flicked it
at Joe. A soggy cornflake landed on his nose.

‘Oi!’
Joe barked, wiping it off.

‘Becky!’ Mrs Mellor snapped. ‘We’ll have none of
that, thank you very much.’ She shook her head and joined them at the table. ‘I
really don’t know what’s got into the two of you lately? Why does everything have
to turn into a pitched battle?’

‘It’s her,’ Joe said.

‘It’s him,’ Becky said at exactly the same time.

Mrs Mellor turned to Becky, whose gaze was fixed
miserably on the table. She hesitated for a moment, and her voice grew soft. ‘Can
I assume you’re still not keen on going to stay with Uncle Percy?’

Becky looked up and noticed her mother’s blue eyes
seemed dimmer than usual. ‘I can’t wait. I think it’s brilliant that I’m being
abandoned by my mum for the summer and palmed off on a barmy old nutter that I
don’t know. What’s not to like about that?’

‘Uncle Percy is not, as you so delicately put it, a

nutter’
.
He’s a little eccentric perhaps,
but also very warm, exceptionally kind and lots of fun. Your dad thought the
world of him, and I know you will too. His home, Bowen Hall, is a wonderful
place. I’m surprised you don’t remember it.’ Mrs Mellor looked at Becky, hoping
for a change of heart. She didn’t get it. ‘You’ll be able to ride, swim - ’

‘If it’s so great,’ Becky said sharply, ‘why aren’t
you coming?’

‘Because I need to work,’ Mrs Mellor replied. ‘Because
if I don’t work, how will we keep a roof over our heads?’

Becky sighed. ‘I know you have to work, but that
doesn’t mean we have to be sent away. I can look after the house while you’re
not here … I can even look after him.’ She waggled her finger at Joe. ‘I’m old
enough.’

Joe looked distinctly put out. ‘I don’t
need
looking after.’

‘You’re thirteen, Becky,’ Mrs Mellor said simply. ‘Joe’s
eleven. You
both
need looking
after. I mean, if your dad was alive then …’ her voice faltered, ‘but he isn’t,
so that’s that.’
 

Becky felt guilty. It had been six years since her
dad had drowned in a boat accident off the Welsh coast, and she knew this
coming Thursday would have marked their wedding anniversary. Her voice softened.
‘It’s just we’ve never met this Uncle Percy.’

‘You
have
met him,’ Mrs Mellor said, composing herself. ‘We’d see him all the time when
you were little. He thought the world of you - of both of you. I’m really
surprised you don’t remember it.’

‘Then why haven’t we seen him since dad died?’

Mrs Mellor shifted uneasily on her seat. ‘Well, some
time ago, he and your father had an argument and they didn’t speak for a while.
Your father died before they had a chance to settle their differences.’

‘What was it about?’ Becky asked, suddenly
intrigued.

‘I honestly don’t know. Your father wouldn’t talk
about it, but I know he deeply regretted it. Anyway, I was delighted when Uncle
Percy phoned to invite you for the summer.’

‘Why didn’t he invite you?’

‘He did, silly,’ Mrs Mellor said, smiling, ‘but I
have to work. Besides, you’re always harping on about wanting more
independence. This is the perfect opportunity. And it’s not like I won’t be
seeing you. I’ll visit every weekend and some evenings. Trust
me,
you’ll have an amazing time...’

Becky wasn’t convinced, but decided against pressing
the matter further. It was only for six weeks, and six weeks was a relatively
short space of time.

Wasn’t it?

*

It was a stifling July day as the sun pounded the terraced
houses of Lyndon Crescent. The glint from the house windows opposite made Becky
squint as she and Joe loaded two heavy suitcases into the boot of their mum’s tiny
car.

‘This is going to be awesome,’ Joe said excitedly. ‘We
haven’t been on holiday in years, and this is loads better than that boring caravan
park in Llandudno.’

Becky was about to spit a reply when she heard a soft,
melodic twitter from the tree to her left. She turned round to see the budgerigar
sitting on a branch. Her expression softened.

Joe noticed. ‘What’s the matter with
-

‘Shhh!’ Becky cut in. Her voice fell to a whisper.
‘Look...’ Slowly, so as not to frighten the bird, she inched towards the tree.
The budgie’s head bobbed up and down eagerly.

‘Hello,’ Becky said softly, moving her hand up to
the budgie’s chest. It chirped happily. She began to tickle its tummy.

Without warning, the budgie gave a spine-chilling squeal
and, claws extended, wings thrashing, swooped at Becky’s throat.

Becky screamed. She held up her arm, blocking the assault,
when suddenly the budgie swerved right and flew away, hovering just above them.

Joe froze with shock.

The budgie’s dull black eyes locked on Becky again, unnatural,
eerie, and it attacked again, talons aimed at her neck.

Joe snapped out of his daze. Looking round, he saw a
gnome set in a thick patch of Azaleas. He scooped it up. ‘Get away from her,’ he
yelled, swinging the gnome with all his might. The budgie ducked the blow.

Trying to run to the house, Becky stumbled, landing
face down on the ground. The budgie saw this and hurtled towards her, screeching
wildly.

This time, Joe leapt in front of his sister. Timing
his swing to perfection, the gnome connected with the bird with an oddly dull
clank
, and it was pitched into the air.
Joe watched, relieved, as it gave up the fight and soared off into the
distance.

Confused, Becky got to her feet, panting heavily.
‘Has it gone?’

Joe nodded.
‘Yep.’

Becky’s voice trembled as she spoke, ‘Since when do
budgies act like that?’

‘No idea,’ Joe replied, bewildered.

Just then, Mrs Mellor appeared at the door jangling
her car keys and grinning.

‘Are we ready to go then?’ Mrs Mellor’s smile soon faded
when she saw Becky’s disheveled hair and frightened expression. ‘You two haven’t
been fighting again, have you?’

‘No,’ Becky replied, colour returning to her cheeks.
‘But Joe did use a garden gnome to save me from a demented budgie. Thanks, bro.’

‘Anytime, sis,’ Joe replied.

Mrs Mellor didn’t know what to say to that.

BOOK: The Time Hunters (Book 1 of the acclaimed series for children of all ages)
12.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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