For years more, we continued on the same. More traveling, more objects, and more knowledge. We had reinforced her basement with steel and magic after tension with the local town had escalated, and had traveled to the New World several times to learn of the legends and objects of those continents.
After a while she had stopped using the pocketwatch every iteration, except for on New Years Day, for it showed nothing else new to her. Her reaction had abated some from that first year, but I could tell it would still bother her. But I had noticed something else, as each year passed, she was beginning to grow anxious. It was as if she was expecting something to happen, or more like she was expecting for the time to make something happen.
This continued until the eve of the year of 1599. We had only been back at her mansion for a couple days, weary from her insistence on winter travel there from the south to be back for New Years Day. She was rather somber that day, speaking little, but I was of little interest in her behavior with my fatigue. Just as I was going to retire for the night, she had confronted me, voice scarcely above a whisper.
She had addressed me by my true name, which she had not used once since I began to work for her. "Please wait," she said.
"You must be considerably troubled to use my real name," I said in reply, standing still in my spot in the hall that I was in when she used it. "What troubles you so greatly?"
"I have something I have to show you, something I have been keeping from you for years."
I turned, and looked her direct in the eye. "The vision upon the reset of the pocketwatch's dial?" She looked at me, slightly surprised, and much more sad, and finally nodded.
I went back, and sat next to her on the sofa she was seated at, and she placed her hand on my shoulder. "I," she started, barely a whisper, and then turned away for a moment. "I have seen the end of the world."
This struck me as something odd, mainly because I couldn't imagine any particular reason on which she should be troubled by it. The watch could see 480 years at its maximum, and various religious subjects had predicted the end of the world somewhere near the end of the millennium or somewhere into the new millennium. And it was far from then, of course, so there was no particular worry right now. I decided to venture a gamble in my response, and simply replied with, "So?"
She gave me a strange look, and stood up. "It's more than that," she said, and went over to the wall. I had decided to move my copy of the illustration to the main room, to which she had no problem, and she took a pin and placed it at the exact top of the circle. "When it becomes New Years Day, the watch resets to the maximum, 480 years in the future as you had guessed. 2079, it will be at midnight.
"The world is dead," she said, her voice quieting again. "A good amount of structure is still around, but there is no life. Of any kind, really, not just humans, there is no other animal life either. I want to show you that world, once it becomes midnight, but there is something else I must say first."
I leaned forward, curious. Was she worried about dying as well? I was not sure if I would still be alive then, but I had no reason to believe she wouldn't live that long. "I've seen a number of years before that," she continued. "When I showed you 2005, the world was fine, but it wasn't long after that, war started, with deadly weapons that ended up killing off everything. But no matter how much I tired, I could not see why.
"The why?" I asked, starting to understand what she was trying to go after. If she knew the beginning event, she would possibly be able to stop it at that time. "The cause of the war, you mean?"
She nodded, and turned back to look at the canvas. "It is always one singular event. I've seen many wars start, both in the past and in the future, and it is always one event, one singular point in time that starts it. But for this…" Her voice trailed off, and she walked slowly back to the sofa, and sat down. She slumped over, leaning her head on my arm, and took out the pocketwatch. More time had passed than I thought, as it was only seconds from midnight.
After a minute or so after the clock ticked past, and the arm realigned itself to the exact top, she sat up again, and nodded to me. I placed my hand on the top of the watch, and she gripped it from underneath, activating its power.
Around us, my perception of that reality melted away, and after a moment of darkness, another reality melted in. We were both standing now, both still holding the watch, and were in front of a ruined building. I couldn't get any specific features from looking at it, it was heavily damaged from explosions and fires.
"This is 2079," she said. "It should be South Africa, this was some sort of government building. It's like this all around the world, important government facilities destroyed, large cities that once held millions of people leveled, and no life anywhere. "
I pushed my gamble further. "Why does it concern you so much now, though? This is at least four hundred years in the future, why deal with it now?"
"I," she said, then stopped. She let go of the pocketwatch and stepped away, returning us to her mansion. We were both standing in front of the couch. "A long time ago, a man I knew had charged me with making sure everyone lived, after being tricked into sending thousands to their death and he himself not having long to live after that. " She lifted up the pocketwatch, and gave it a look I hadn't seen from her before, a look almost of nostalgia for something from the past, and then she put it away again, and turned to look away from me.
"Well," I said, shrugging. I could tell from the tone in her voice that this man was someone important to her, and must have been someone, hard as it was to comprehend, on her same level or perhaps even superior to her. "If that's the case, why don't you just go find out what happened?"
I don't know why I said it, the words had just popped into my head and had no meaning behind them. But when she turned and gave me such a strong look of curiosity, I suddenly realized that it wasn't just a idle notion, it was something that very possibly could be done. "How," she said with an accusing tone.
"With your power," I said finally, my own voice somewhat distant, and I turned and ran down towards the basement. Realizing I was onto something, she followed quickly with a light, as I made my way to the library section of the basement and grabbed the book from where it had been stored away.
I set it down on a nearby table and flipped to a page. It wasn't the page with the chart that was used on the watch, it was another, much larger page, attached in the binding in a way that it could be folded and unfolded into the book without damaging the page. It was a larger drawing, made up of nine circles arranged in a grid with different patterns and writings around each, and strange bridges surrounding connecting them. In reality it meant nothing to me, but just seeing it was enough to make me realize what had suddenly sparked me.
"I haven't seen this one before, what sort of babble is this page?" she asked as she looked at it, and I just waved my hand. I carefully folded up the page and closed the book back up, and set it aside. I grabbed another paper and a pen, and quickly sketched a few things, a simple version of the clocks engraving one of them.
"You're hiding away your special power," I said to her as I drew, and didn't bother to look at her reaction. "But I know you have the power to teleport, or something along those lines. We could go to the New World right now if we wanted, in just a second, instead of traveling the long distance to Spain or Britain or such and buying a pass on a ship."
"Well," she said, her voice somewhat boastful at the same time as being curious, "Yes. But how could-"
I waved my hand stop her, drawing finished. I looked up to look at her, finally, and her eyes went wide. She then grinned, very pleased. "Of course," she said quietly, "the sundial."
My illustration focused around a figure to represent the present, a figure to represent the future, a bridge between the two, the pocketwatch, and another object, a sundial. It was an object we had found long ago, which had some magic power but nothing we could activate, and only finally figured out what it did completely by accident. "The Sundial should allow you to project your power into the Pocketwatch, and open a portal into the future, so you can go there and find out for yourself."
She nodded, excited. "I knew it was a good idea to make you my servant. You're a genius."
"We'll have to be prepared," I said to her. "I have no idea if this will work, and you will need a way back as well. We shouldn't do it now, we should wait until next year."
She nodded in agreement, and we both headed back upstairs. "Then 1600 will be the year," she said. "I will find out what really happened, and when , so I can save the future."