A strange thing from Chuck Wendig this week – giving over to someone else who asks for a message from the future to be put somewhere else as part of a project. I haven’t got my head round it yet. I decided to make a message that Sir Woebegone receives by accident instead. Yay! It’s another Sir Woebegone story! Click the tag at the end for the others.
Voices from the future
A woman’s voice: “Helen? It’s your parents. We hope you are well, darling – and the boys. Listen, we haven’t much time. The water is much higher now; we’re cut off. But we’ve plenty of provisions, we’ll be okay, really. Don’t try to rescue us. We love you … (say something).”
Man’s voice: “Yes, we love you; I’m so proud of you, Poppy. Here’s your mother.”
Woman again: “Don’t forget us, we’ll always be with you. We love y…”
The message ended abruptly. The woman’s voice had been rising, rushing. Sir Woebegone recognised a damsel in distress when he heard one, even if he didn’t understand much of the rest of what was going on. Water rising. Cut off. They must be stranded somewhere. Sir Woebegone put his hand on his empty scabbard, remembering the sword that had given him his magical power, closed his eyes and concentrated on the voices.
There was a fresh breeze and a smell of mud and water. He opened his eyes to find himself next to a barn-type structure, empty save for some wisps of hay and old animal muck. From one end of the barn there was a tree made of metal, with huge metal mushrooms pointing this way and that. It reminded him of a windmill. The barn was on top of a low rise. He wandered over to a hedge and stood in the gap, surveying the sheet of water, lapping gently at the grass in front of him, more turbulent further away, before low hills painted a dark green line in the distance. Where the turbulence was, he made out a castle’s turret emerging from the waters, and some more obstructions in the water that might be roofs.
This is not where the message came from, he thought to himself. There was a strange grey surface, firm to the feet, leading away from the barn. The road, if that was what the surface indicated, led through a copse. He followed the track, to the edge of more water. There was a hill, closer this time, and near the top was a manor house. A grey path led up to it. His quarry was certainly there, he thought, and what’s more, this track could lead him there, albeit through the water. He stepped forward boldly.
He went steeply downhill and was up to his neck before he had time to plan. He took courage in the sight of the track on the other side of the water, took a deep breath, and plunged onwards through the murk, trusting his feet to keep on the path. His lungs were near to bursting when he crested a short rise, and broke the surface. Spluttering and gasping, he took stock of his progress. Over halfway. He pulled his visor down and carried on grimly, thinking if only his helmet was waterproof maybe he could have captured some air in it.
The track was rising beneath his feet again as he ran out of air once more, and he lunged desperately forward, tripping and rolling on his feet, sucking in air, but clear of the flood. An elderly woman stood at the door of the manor house, strangely dressed, but definitely a woman.
“Who are you? What are you doing?” she demanded.
A man appeared behind her, grey headed and grizzled, many years Sir Woebegone’s senior.
“Sir Woebegone at your service, my lady, my lord,” he said, bowing low and squeezing more water out of his surplice. It ran down his boots, which were already full. He wondered if they would mind him emptying them. “I am pledged to offer my assistance.”
The woman looked at the man. “Go back inside, Mollie,” he said, gently manoeuvring to put himself between her and Woebegone. “What are you doing here? Where have you come from?”
“I received your message. You are distressed. Prithee accept my succour.”
“Look, I don’t know what you’re on, but you’d better come in. You can’t stay, though, we only have enough for ourselves.”
“Thank you, my lord. Might I divest myself of my wet clothing?”
The man took Woebegone upstairs to a bathroom and offered him a pair of old trousers and a sweater. The pair returned to the kitchen where Woebegone’s raiments were offered to the lady of the house.
“Have we got enough power to dry them?” the man asked.
She checked a tablet on the wall that flicked numbers across it. “Yes,” she said. We might as well use it as not.” Woebegone watched as she put his clothes into a cave, shut them in, and a banshee started to attack them.
“Would you like a coffee?” she asked him. “Or tea,” she added as her husband grunted.
“Any beverage would be an honour, my lady.” He bowed.
The man took him through to another room, walls surrounded by bookshelves and adorned with detailed pictures of people. They sat in soft chairs and the lady brought them drinks in pottery mugs.
“Who are you?” the man demanded.
“I am Sir Woebegone,” he started. “I am charged with helping people in distress. I heard your call and attended you. Pray tell me, what has happened here? Why this monstrous flood?”
“It’s the politician’s fault,“ the man said. “We told them it would happen. I was a climate scientist at the turn of the century. We showed them the inevitable consequences of failing to control and reduce carbon emissions, but they wouldn’t listen. They said it would damage competitiveness. Then Stern showed them that climate change would cause irrevocable harm to the economy, but they still didn’t listen. Greed and votes. Then the storms came, and people wanted flood prevention. We couldn’t afford it. When they said it was a choice between country and city, they chose city, where more people lived, where commerce was based. So we lost agricultural land, and the floods got the cities anyway, since so many were on the coast.”
“Our daughter was wise,” said the woman. “After the riots and the witch-hunts, she helped the new government relocate to Halifax. King William was drowned leaving Anglesey, and now King George reigns in Wales, but we are three separate countries again.”
“Three separate countries?” Woebegone was more confused than ever.
“Yes, Scotland was already independent of course, but they made sure no English refugees could cross the Borders. Wales and England made peace once it was clear the king was safe there. The NLD rules in Halifax, but many parts have their own governments again. Novanglia would have, but there’s not much left after the sea level started rising. Kernowmoor is an independent state too. The government just organise relief and allocate housing and rations for the most part.”
“And promote good will and prevent pillaging,” added the man.
“Are there no knights?”
“Not now. Where did you come from?”
“I heard your call and came. Perhaps I should return, if there is nothing to be done and you are content with your lot.”
“Perhaps you should, sir knight,” smiled the lady. “Your clothes should be dry now. Will you need to tackle the flood to find your way home, though?”
“I think not, my lady. I shall leave you to your fate. Climate change, you blamed for this disaster?”
“Yes. Tell your world to heed our warnings. Save energy, use no fossil fuels, preserve the forests, and take only what you need. Don’t live as we did.”
“I will,” said Sir Woebegone. He changed into his suit and armour, and stepped outside. “Farewell, and thank you for your warnings.”
I wonder who I should discuss this with, he thought. Maybe I’ll pay a visit to the dragon. And he concentrated on his destination, leaving the flooded 21st century behind.
(c) 2014 J M Pett