“Amazing,” she said finally, picking up the watch to examine it. Aside from the strange vision it had given us, it looked mostly like any other watch. It had an unusual black metal face, with a thin silver plate sitting atop it carved with a pattern of circles and spirals, much like the head of a sunflower. The hours were written in the style of Rome, instead of the Arabic number system that was increasingly taking hold throughout the region, but there were more hands on the watch than usual.
“What did I tell you? Did I not tell you in the letter it would be well worth your while?” The short, portly man smiled, and licked his lips, as he took the watch from her hand. “It is the finest timepeice I have ever crafted, far more advanced than anything else out there, and it’s power is simply beyond belief.”
“To see the future,” I mumbled, surely not audible over the noise of the crowd outside. She tried grabbing at the watch to look at it more closely, but the man recoiled quickly.
“Aha,” he snickered, “not without payment. I’m sure there would be many buyers interested in this, for a great price. Just imagine, a poor craftsman could use it to take an invention from the future, and make a fortune. The next Leonardo da Vinci could be someone with no knowledge or skill at all, but simply this pocketwatch to see things to come.”
She began to appear cross at the man’s ideals, frowning as he continued. “Or, perhaps, a military leader? I could sell it to Don Juan of Austria, and it could aid him even further into victory.”
“Or we could report you to the Church,” I offered, and the man’s grin immediately vanished. “I’m sure the office of Pius would love to hear about this heresy.”
She laughed, and the man stepped back cautiously. “You wouldn’t.”
“He would,” she said with a smile. “I wouldn’t.”
The man seemed to relax, and she laughed again. “No,” she said quietly, so he would have to strain to hear over the din. “I would simply kill you where you stand and throw you into the canal. Or I could leave you here, and nobody would discover you for weeks until the partying died down.”
She made a motion as if she was reaching behind her into her cloak to grab something, and the man cowered with terror. “Okay!” he said in fright, as she pulled out a small sack. She pulled from it several gold coins, and dropped the bag at his feet.
“That is my offer,” she said simply. After a few moments of staring blankly, he cautiously picked up the bag to count the coins.
“Well,” he said finally, voice still shaky. “I think that is an acceptable offer.” He handed her the pocketwatch, and she opened it to look at it again more closely.
“So how did you get it so small, and what are these extra arms?” She said, noticing what I had on the first glance.
“Ah those,” the man said. There were two other arms on the face. “Well, this watch was made much the way it functions, by peering into the future. It’s one of a kind, and won’t be anything I will be able to produce again, unfortunately, and its improvements won’t start to appear in watches and clocks for some time still.”
He moved up closer, to point at the arms on the face. “That one there tells the minutes, and the fast one tells the seconds.”
“And the last arm, that appears to be unmoving,” I asked, looking at the face from the side. There was a very long, thin arm protruding out from under the silver spiral, different in color than the other arms and reaching all the way to the edge of the crystal.
The man returned to his original devilish grin from before the ‘negotiation’ began, and stepped back. “That,” he said, as he turned to look through a shelf of books, “is how you know the time it will show you.”
He pulled out a book from the shelf, and opened to a page and showed it to us. It had a pair of circular charts, illustrated in segments and written in a strange, fluid script I had never seen before. “I don’t know all of how it is figured,” he said, “but somehow mathematics of Fibonacci and Euclid factor in it. The hand will jump around at regular intervals, counting up from the 12 o clock hour as the number of years in the future it will show from where we are.”
He closed up the book and handed it to me, and I put it in my satchel. “I will give you that to study further, you might be able to figure it out better than I could. I did not design it, myself, it was given to me in a vision.”
I nodded, and we both left without saying anything else. “Would you really have reported him to the Inquisition?” she asked me as we walked through the back streets of Venice.
“Would you really have killed him?” I simply asked back, and then we both laughed.
“So how do we get out of here, anyway?” I pulled out a small scroll, a magical item we had acquired several years prior that would draw a map based on the latent energy of moving people. Because of the crowd celebrating, however, it was a complete mess, and useless.
I put that away and pulled out a simple compass instead. “This way,” I pointed in a direction after reading it, and we headed outwards.
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After a few weeks of travel, we made it back to her mansion in the west end of Russia, which for years we had not been to for any longer than to just drop off items that did not directly help our travels. This time, however, we were going to stay there for a while, to try and decipher the book and the method of predicting when we would be able to see next.
It was clear from reading it that the book was not written by the man who made the watch, it was older by perhaps several hundred years. The writing was very fluid, curvy, but also messy, and I couldn’t decipher anything it said. It didn’t match any other language I had seen, and if I tried making up sounds for some of the characters it didn’t match any language I had heard. But there was far more in the book as well than just the charts factoring in to his strange carving. Most of the pages depicted strange plants, some of which were incredibly rare and some I had never even seen or heard of before.
She seemed uninterested in this strange development, though, instead focusing on the pocketwatch. She had figured out a way to reverse the way it was demonstrated to us, and project the images from the future inwards to her mind instead of outwards to the room. She held it constantly, rarely letting it leave her possession. Only twice did she show me something from the future, once something close, just forty years in the future, and once to much further, which we guessed was somewhere around the year 2005 Anno Domini.
The visions from that were even more fantastical than what the man originally showed us, which was somewhere in the early 1900s. In this time I saw now, people had harnessed the power of lightning to use in everyday machinery, had perfected the designs of Da Vinci and had machines for flight, and had devised various forms of metal mechanical vehicles to travel great distances and speeds.
As we watched the needle jump around, nearly on a 2 and a half day cycle, the ability to measure became simpler to see, although the prediction was still lost to us. The ticks for the minute hand were marked along the outside of the face, and the needle jumped to one of 8 positions in between one minute and the next, giving us about a 480 year maximum. She balked, however, at my idea of opening it up to see if the arm would turn all the way around the face or stop somewhere before, not wanting to possibly destroy the ability.
After each time she used it, she became incredibly excited, no matter what year she had seen. For a couple of months, we remained at the mansion, trying to decipher the book and the pattern of prediction, and her sitting there just watching the future more and more. I began to despise the watch, a sort of uncharacteristic jealousy that it was taking the attention of my master away from me, but I also had some fear of it. I couldn’t tell what or why, but something about the watch scared me.
That all changed, however, once the year became 1572. As I was preparing our meals for the day, she came out of her chambers with a somber, frightened look, drastically different than what she had been ever since she got the watch. “What did you see?” I asked her, wondering from her expression if she had perhaps seen her own death.
“I,” she said quietly, stammering. “I’m not sure.”
“You couldn’t identify it? Let me use it, perhaps I could te-“
“NO!” She shouted, angry, the first time she had ever raised her voice at me. I nearly dropped the food from surprise, and she looked away from me when I turned to look directly at her.
“I,” she mumbled, “I have to find out something.” She then turned, and departed into the basements, where were kept other things that she had collected. I couldn’t understand, but I did not want to make things worse, and so I stayed above, waiting for her to return to the surface. But I knew that something had happened, something terrible, something it was better if she had not known about.
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