‘I have wanted to meet you for a long time now but our mutual friend, one Henry Crumble, felt that you needed to focus on your studies. And as usual, Henry was right. I understand that congratulations are in order.’
Jimmy was struggling to ground himself. His night was meant to be a few beers with his mates in the Bell and a takeaway on the way home. Sharing a mug of tea with the Head of the Time Council wasn’t on the agenda.
‘I’m told that Kingston is a very prestigious Art College. I want you to know that the Time Guardians are very proud of you.’
‘Thanks,’ mumbled Jimmy. He picked up his mug with a trembling hand and sipped his tea. He needed the Earl Grey to work its magic. He needed it to calm him.
‘I particularly enjoyed your exhibition at the Library in Leighton Buzzard,’ continued Auron. ‘The anti drug theme came through very strongly.’
Auron had been to his art exhibition. Why hadn’t Henry told him?
‘You’re very quiet, young Jimmy,’ said Henry. ‘I normally struggle to get a word in edgeways when we’re together.’
‘I think our young friend is a little overwhelmed. Perhaps I should get to the reasons why I’m here. I have some news for you, Jimmy, and I felt that it was my responsibility to tell you personally.’
Jimmy suddenly felt the tension in his stomach. What could it be?
‘Spiron is dead.’
‘He was killed in an unfortunate accident on Chronos,’ continued Auron.
So that’s why he was here.
‘My heart is heavy, Jimmy …’ Auron hesitated and swallowed deeply. ‘My heart is heavy, as Spiron was my brother.’
‘He had returned to Chronos and gave himself up. He said that he was tired of living so far away from home and was genuinely sorry for the pain that he had caused you and that he would accept whatever punishment the Council deemed appropriate. He handed his watch over to the Time Council and put himself at their mercy. It was decided to keep him a safe distance away from the Time Chamber, so he was being held in an isolated building in the grounds of Castle Chronmere while the Council considered what they should do.’
‘There was a fire. We’re not sure how it started. The guards fought long and hard to put it out, but alas, to no avail. The building burnt to the ground and Spiron’s charred remains where found in the debris.’
Jimmy was speechless. Spiron was no friend of his but he didn’t want to see him dead.
‘In the early days of the Council, we worked very closely together. We both recognised the heavy responsibility that we shouldered. It was our strong sense of duty that carried us forward. We went about our work with great energy and dedication. But then Spiron started to question our role as the guardians of time. He saw what he considered lesser civilisations profiting from the Universe and he wanted us to have the same opportunities. But it could never be. Chronos, and our time castle, Chronmere, will always remain the same. The centre of time must stay constant. We knew that was how it would be when we took on such an onerous responsibility. There are no tangible rewards for a Time Guardian; it is about the honour of doing the job.
‘But Spiron couldn’t see the dangers in what he was proposing, so he inevitably ended up explaining himself to his colleagues on the Time Council. Of course, they disagreed with him, and it came to a head when they unanimously decided to vote him off the Council, an act for which he never forgave me. He couldn’t face the rejection by his colleagues, so he went into exile with a community on the far side of Chronos. We never heard anything from him. We knew nothing of what he was doing. Then, totally out of the blue, he came back to Castle Chronmere and convinced the Council that he’d realised how wrong he’d been and would we give him another chance.