Britannia Unleashed - Richard M. Ankers - E-Book

Britannia Unleashed E-Book

Richard M. Ankers

4,99 €


Evil will come and champions will fall, but Britannia shall reign eternal.

Every world has its heroes, and every hero has tales to tell. Britannia, Queen Victoria's realm, is not the least of these, for its many heroes are varied and inextricably linked. If but one falters, then others might follow.

In a Victorian world off-kilter with our reality, a malevolent entity and an incarnation of past evil seek to overpower Britannia and its weakened queen. The disenchanted Sir Belvedere Magnanimous Wainthrop, the Lion of Britannia, will brave time and space to battle this unholy alliance and return glory to the empire. Others shall follow his lead, and destiny will test every ounce of their courage and resolve.

From a Himalayan Shangri-La to a subterranean London and the corridors of Buckingham Palace itself, this disparate group of individuals will battle the odds and come together to make the ultimate sacrifice. But will it be enough?

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Copyright (C) 2017 Richard M. Ankers

Layout design and Copyright (C) 2022 by Next Chapter

Published 2022 by Next Chapter

Edited by Graham (Fading Street Services)

Cover art by CoverMint

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the author’s permission.

To Angela for everything.




I. Britannia Unbowed


The Unmade

Interlude: A Decade Of Disintegration

My Clockwork Shangri-La

II. Britannia Unbound

Interlude: Old News

Unnatural Occurrences

The Mad And The Madder

Perkin Perkins: Hero Of The Empire

III. Britannia Unleashed

Darkness Rising

Ghosts Of Britannia

Interlude: Grace Grace And The Need For Expedience

Hidden Hosts

Interlude: A Queen And How To Die

IV. An Extended Finale

A Certain Release

Between The Waves


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About the Author


There are worlds beyond our own that run in parallel, askew, yet the same. Histories intersect in births and non-births, some names familiar, other names unknown, the underlying lusts for power recognisable in them all. These worlds are but misted memories of the one true dream, this non-linear story of us, but makes them no lesser existences than ours.

In one such timeline, Britannia, an altogether more fearsome version of our own Great Britain, the same indomitable Queen Victoria rules with a velvet fist, firm when needed, gentle when not. A mastery of those most pertinent scientific forces has meant Victoria’s Britannia rules not only the waves but half the planet. Long would its citizens have this continue.

At this time of great change and prosperity, the vast majority know happiness, but not all. Some would call this minority dissidents, rebels, free radicals, others would more accurately term them Nazis. We would know these devils from years in our future, whereas Britannia would need to deal with the spawn of Germany’s deceased Kaiser far sooner. In truth, they presumed they had.

And so, we are almost caught up with only the minutiae to observe.

Queen Victoria’s beloved husband, Albert, smitten by a disease that has ravaged him, will soon die. He begs for death, but a distraught Victoria would share her soulmate’s imminent demise. He refuses her request as she refuses to end his torment. Two minds are twisted. Fate is set.

It is at such times that vermin strike, sniffing out opportunities where none were foreseen, nibbling away at what has taken centuries to build. And so they have, bit by bit, little by little, piece by piece.

However, hope remains, for like everything, evil also has its enemies, and this is the story of one disparate group who are just that. Some heroes, some ordinary men and women, others something else, they will fight for all Britannia has made and they shall never surrender.

Read on, dear reader, if you dare, for as stated when this rambling monologue commenced, things are not so very different from our own.


“It is not an unreasonable request to ask if one’s life might be ended by one’s soulmate.” The Prince Consort eyed his Queen with cold, damp eyes, the sickness evident but expunged for a time.

“It is only unreasonable to end it without me,” she replied, her dour facade cracked by concern.

“Nonsense, Victoria!” Albert coughed into a monogrammed handkerchief and placed it to one side, the blood-spattered letters ‘A’ and ‘V’ entwined in a golden embrace. “I will not have your death on my conscience as I pass into eternity,” he heaved.

“We should share eternity.”

“Eternity is for lovers, not a queen and her consort.”

“You are ever selfish.”

“I am sorry you see it this way.”

“I do,” she said, rising to her feet.

“So, this is how it must end, in bitterness and regret.”

“You know my feelings. I have no life without you. There is no life without you. Only your refusal to acquiesce to my wishes, your queen’s wishes, sours our final moments. Your stubbornness, your unwillingness to accept me for what I am has cursed us both.” Victoria gave her bedridden husband a look for which words held no meaning, turned her back, and walked away.

“You only ever loved your country, and this country isn’t mine,” a final spittle-ridden riposte.

“I would have given it up for you,” said she, unmoved. “Goodbye, my once love. Godspeed.”

Victoria adjusted her crown, paused as if to catch a breath, then exited into the palace’s frostbitten corridors. By the time she’d nodded to Perkins, head of the household, to take over the prince consort’s tending, he had passed.

This was the last time she saw her husband’s body for Victoria refused to bear witness to it in death.

The Queen’s closest advisors saw to Albert’s removal, burial, and funeral, not she. Sir Magnus Monk, head of the Ministry for Empirical Advancement and chief scientist, dealt with the body, Lords Devonshire, Charlesworth, and Jackson, saw to the rest.

Victoria shed no tears, though history claimed she did, marking her husband’s passing in her own way, her assumed widow’s colours a permanent adornment. She refused to look upon Albert’s glass-topped casket, her face remaining impassive throughout. She refused everything, some claimed, even life.

Albert’s burial was to take place at the Frogmore Estate and the newly erected Royal Mausoleum. A date was set that Victoria cared not for, at a time she knew not when. Apparently, at whatever time and place and date it was, she had an appointment for a manicure.

Yet, if one was to have observed Victoria’s disdain in those intervening days, the chipped veneer, the changes, they might’ve noticed the signs of disintegration earlier: ragged breathing, squinted eyes, the lessening of self, and a slow separation of the spirit. Some might have called it time, the unavoidable progression of our march towards infinity. Mortimer Headlock, investigator extraordinaire and the Empire’s finest mind, did not.

Every word they uttered turned his stomach.

“He’s in a better place,” said one, an elderly dowager who claimed to be from somewhere south of London.

“Is there anywhere south of London?” replied the crinkled crone beside her.

“There’s Brighton,” said another.

The elderly dowager frowned so hard as to have resembled a newly ploughed field. “As I said, is there anywhere south of London?”

No one answered.

“Anyway, it’s probably for the best,” said a man dressed in full military regalia, his golden epaulettes twinkling in the gloom.

“Indeed, the best place for him, although you didn’t hear me say that.” A subdued Lord Devonshire lowered his usual booming self to a baritone whisper. Second only to Sir Belvedere Wainthrop in rank, tattling was not for such as he.

The inane banter shuttled back and forth at a funeral unfit for the Queen’s Consort, a ragged wind tearing at them, the incessant rain pounding out a dirge.

Mortimer Headlock recognised them all. He also recognised the contempt with which the servants attended to them. It was almost as though Perkins himself was there, head of the Queens household, but that was never likely to have happened, not whilst Victoria remained at the palace, anyway. If ever cups of tea were served with malice, those staff did. If ever cubes of sugar were administered with more of a plop than they ought, that was the instance. Only Field Marshal Sir Belvedere Wainthrop, lion of the empire, a giant of a man, stiff-backed and shovel-like fists balled, drew any genuine looks from the staff. He was ever the hero, ever the man to admire, even in such sombre circumstances. The big man had not long since lost a love of his own and Headlock thought it told upon him.

Mortimer Headlock wished the ageing manservant was there even more when viewing Belvedere’s saddened features. Perkins would have known what to have said. Time, however, was against Headlock and his regrets were dispelled. So, utilising the skills God had gifted him, namely the art of being unobtrusive, he faded first into the background, then the windswept scenery, and then simply away.

Prince Albert lay in stately repose, no less fierce in his departure, no less complicated. His coffin was a simple one, its lid replaced by glass so to better facilitate the mourners one last glimpse of Britannian royalty. Of course, a draped and rather elegant silk union flag hid his face; nobody wanted to see what remained of that. Tears were shed but ever were on such occasions.

The rain took hold with the force of an Indian monsoon. Those who had bemoaned Victoria’s nonattendance, instead, bemoaned their own lack of umbrellas. The Royal Mausoleum cleared out quicker than a church on Sunday and the place was left deserted of all but ghosts, at least, for a time.

Mortimer Headlock approached the coffin head bowed with the respect Victoria’s consort deserved, then began tapping upon its glass lid in a way he did not. To the untrained eye, one might have thought he appraised it out of loss or pain or some strange fetish. His reasoning was altogether direr. Headlock tapped twice in the same place, his ear close to the glass. Removing something that glinted in the candlelight, he drew his hands thrice across the transparent sheet. There was a slight ching as a triangular section of Albert’s window on the world fell inwards. Headlock glanced around, but he was alone. He remained unnoticed.

What happened next was bizarre. Far from being a religious man, Mortimer crossed himself, muttered a few words, then plunged the scalpel, for this was his tool of choice, deep into the chest of his once prince. There was no reaction. The coffin interior remained… well, dead.

Mortimer Headlock let out a relieved and very audible sigh. “My apologies, Your Highness, but I had to be sure for both yours and Britannia’s sakes.

He left in a swirl of coattails, a raven departing the corpses of the battlefield and vanished into the hell of the oncoming evening. Only the devil would have seen his departure.

Frogmore House’s curtains rustled, then twitched with hidden glee. A beaked face sneered from behind the purple drapes which concealed his small, hunched form. He watched the shadowed figure’s hasty exit from the mausoleum through narrowed eyes as the rain came down like an upturned bath. The deluge soon swallowed all, Britannia washed clean by heaven’s tears. The curtain stilled.

If one had listened closely in those intervening minutes, one might have heard a snort of derision from that room, or thought it the hiss of a spectre, self-satisfied elation of a monster. Britannia, however, heard nothing, and Prince Albert’s day was done.





Sir Belvedere Wainthrop shielded his eyes with one large spade of a hand, whilst extracting some bitter-tasting flora from his mouth with the other. Whatever was caught up in his walrus moustache required more careful extraction. Said surgery complete and several squints later, his eyes reluctant to wake from their induced sleep, he found himself adjusted to the blinding light. Compared to the dour London he’d left behind it was akin to stepping into a Persian noon. Belvedere pulled himself gingerly to his booted feet and gaped at what he beheld.

“Good God, I don’t believe it! The damn thing’s only gone and worked. Look at all this: palms, magnolias, horsetails, clubmosses, and as if all that wasn’t proof enough, one taste of this air would be. The past has become my present, the gates to a new era in exploration unleashed. Even the biggest sceptic would have to admit the Ministry have pulled off the greatest miracle since the resurrection.” Belvedere gave his broad chest a mock gorilla beating and inhaled deeply. “Ah, so fresh it reminds me of Scarborough on a good day. No, I stand corrected, I believe it closer to an early morning perambulation on Dartmoor. Hotter, too. Very much so,” he added, mopping at his already sweating brow.

Being a man of purpose, Belvedere did what any good Britannian would do in the same situation, he straightened his cuffs, beat the dust off his trousers and slicked back his short, dark hair. He then made a point of thanking himself for remembering to dream up a full apparel. Being the first Britannian to explore prehistory would not have earned too many plaudits if done so au naturel. Much too French. That wouldn’t have done at all.

A few good gulps of invigorating air and it was time to take in the scenery. A slow, purposeful full circle revealed him three-quarters surrounded by dense jungle, one-quarter not. It was towards the open end of his arboreal surroundings that Belvedere headed straight towards the blazing sun.

The golden orb was a welcome sight for a man who’d grown used to the underground laboratories of London’s secret chambers; Belvedere was never destined to be contained. He threw one large arm over his furrowed brows pausing until the tiny stars ceased waltzing across his vision. When he reopened them, he was no more than a foot from the highest, steepest cliff he’d ever seen. And that was saying something for a man used to adventure.

It is at this point that a brief explanation as to how Sir Belvedere found himself on said clifftop would be beneficial to his readers, perhaps, even enlightening.

It had started with the accidental discovery of a quite remarkable drug by a Britannian scientific expedition led by the singularly brilliant explorer Sir John Fitzwilliam. Whilst charting a route along the Amazon River, he and his colleagues stumbled across an indigenous tribe of ill repute. The peoples, hunters by tradition, instead of killing Sir John, allowed him to partake of a drug made from some rare plant leaf smothered with the essence of a rare, blue frog. The stuff induced a state of vivid dreaming unlike any other where feel and touch were as real as when awake if not more so. All it cost the Britannians were a few spare clothes and one rather beat-up, old rifle. In exchange, they received the potential to unlocking new realities. Or, to be more exact, they received the keys to travelling through time.

Sir John had taken as much of the drug as offered, then copious amounts more after some compelling Britannian marksmanship. The party had fled the way they had come returning home as heroes.

Upon Fitzwilliam’s triumphant return, Queen Victoria, astute as ever, had ordered the drug impounded and handed over to the Ministry of Empirical Advancement. This was Sir John’s last great sacrifice for the Empire. On leaving Her Majesty, he had the unfortunate luck to fall down the palace steps, breaking his neck in the process. An unbefitting way for a man of his stature to leave the land of the living. His country honoured his death, of course, but his colleagues secretly bemoaned it. Rumours, where new discoveries were concerned, were all too easily started, and the great white hunter’s demise was the first in a string of such events. Thus, the curse of the Amazon Blue gained notoriety.

But those who worked for that most secret division of the Britannian Empire were made from hardy stuff. Despite occurrence after occurrence of unusual mishap related deaths, the Ministry, or M.E.A, proceeded to test one theory after another.

The process of corporeal realignment had been theorised by one Sir Magnus Monk, a man, strangely for a scientist, of extremely devout religious beliefs. There were some who said he wished to become the first living man to stand before God, but this was all hearsay, of course. There were others who guessed him driven by Her Majesty herself in the relentless pursuit of reunification with her long dead husband. This was hearsay, too, though nobody dared discuss it out loud.

When Monk and his associate, Professor Albert Chambers, felt confident they had cracked the process of recorporealisation all they had to do was find a subject to test it on. The problem was finding somebody trusted enough for the job. Much to the dismay of Albert Chambers that person, at the request of the Queen herself, was Sir Belvedere. He was everything the Queen could have hoped for in championing the Empire’s cause. Belvedere was many things to many people: a war hero; a man of impeccable social status; an adventurer; and most appropriate to the situation, single. He was a man without ties and worthy of his queen’s total confidence. Sir Belvedere had never married, nor even come close since the unfortunate death of his once sweetheart and betrothed, Gwendolyn Chambers, sister of Albert. Since then, his only mistress had been and ever would be the Britannian Empire. He would do anything to protect it. Anything!

Belvedere had taken no convincing. Death held no fear to him, nor the possibility of it, and what could have been a bigger adventure than travelling through time. The problem was, he was also Albert’s best and only friend. The two had fought together, conquered together, and drunk together. If either had had a brother of choice, it would have been the other.

Now, Albert knew exactly what the risks were, but dared not speak them; it would have cost him his life. Queen Victoria was ever vigilant of such things. So, when the day came, Belvedere finding himself strapped to a polished, mahogany table ready as he ever would be for the process to begin, he found himself shocked by his best friend’s attitude.

“You don’t have to do this, Bells,” Albert whispered.

“I must, Albert. If I don’t, who will?”

“I don’t care,” Albert hissed a reply just audible enough to his friend without causing suspicion from the loitering Monk. “It could kill you, or worse.”

“Bah, I’ve been through hell enough times in my life to know when I won’t be.”

“Ever the hero.”

“No, my friend, just ever me.”

“Are you certain?” Albert whispered, a syringe of blue liquid hovering close to Belvedere’s bared arm.

“I’ve never been more certain of anything in my life. Do it, Albert.”

Albert did. He injected him with the serum, then wished his drowsy-eyed friend Godspeed, an ever-grinning Magnus Monk at his back.

Belvedere gazed out over a scene of Jurassic proportions, an endless jungle broken only by scattered mountains of gigantic, jagged peaks.

“Good God, this damn place is denser than the jungles of Borneo. I’ve never seen so many trees. And not much else,” he added. “Pity Albert couldn’t be here; he’d have lapped it up. Not that he wanted me to, methinks.” He shook his head with disappointment, then chanced a look over the cliff edge. “Good God, I’m high up!” he exclaimed, then chastised himself for having taken the Lord’s name in vain three times in quick succession. “Well, well, well, what to do? There’s no knowing how long I’ll be here before the drug pulls me back to the present, or is it the past? I’ll be buggered if I go back of my own accord,” he said, fingering the small phial of blue liquid that hung from a gold-link chain around his neck. He took another look behind to the blanket of trees that stared back in ominous darkness and weighed up his options.

Belvedere could have taken it easy, meandered around the top of the plateau, made a note or two, but that wasn’t what had made Britannia great. He stood considering what to do next when a light of such dazzling intensity it rivalled the sun blinded him. What it was, he could not be sure, but it emanated from a distant rocky spire. So high was it set on the shard of rock, it could have indeed been a second sun precariously balanced there in case the first should fall. The thing shone like a diamond cutting a blazing path through the primaeval air.

Belvedere took a few steps to the left, the intensity of the light lessening. “Hm, so it is refracting the sun,” he mused.

If ever there was a decision to be made that sealed the deal; he was going down, to go up. The adventurer in him had won out.

And that is why Sir Belvedere Wainthrop clambered over the edge of the abyss hoping the object he’d seen might be yet another impressive scalp claimed by him on behalf of Queen Victoria and the Britannian Empire.


Belvedere had never been a man who was good with heights, even trimming his moustache gave him a headache. However, in true bulldog spirit, he puffed out his chest, focused on the crumbling cliff face and lowered himself steadily down, hand over sweaty hand. Being a strong man, the effort of the climb did not bother him; the insects did.

“Confound and blast these damnable things. Have they nothing else to chew on other than my neck!”

Belvedere’s cursing grew progressively bleaker the lower he descended. It seemed the closer he drew to the jungle canopy, the greater the insect population’s density: not an equation he relished. When a ledge of sorts provided a temporary respite from the monotony of the climb, Belvedere took the opportunity to remove his jacket. In a very un-Britannian manner, he draped the thing over his head and tied it by the arms under his chin, the whole effect being one of a moustachioed bunny with its ears tied down.

“Damn fine sight I look,” he bemoaned. “Thank goodness I’m alone, I should never live it down.”


A sound of distant magnitude broke Belvedere’s protestations. Instinctively, he backed against the crumbling cliff, pulling the vines he clung to across his frame. The plant matter offered little protection against being seen, but anything was better than nothing. Leaning forward a touch, he allowed himself to angle out over the only slightly lessened abyss and gazed down with intent.

At first, there was nothing to be seen, nor heard. Belvedere strained his every auditory and visual senses, but the jungle was still, a never-ending spread of emerald-green like looking down on the top of a piece of broccoli if one was an ant.

A second bestial growl shattered the fragile peace. Belvedere, remembering lessons learned from several African safaris where rampaging elephants had burst from the bush unannounced, remained motionless.

The fact several distant trees shivered of their own volition suggested his decision apt. The arboreal canopy undulated, as though an ocean of green, the leaves atop it rustling like a living surf. So loud was the disturbance, it almost eclipsed the sound of breaking branches. Almost, but not quite.

Belvedere watched as the tidal nature of the jungle roof swept towards him, and even though being far too high to be affected by it, he experienced fear. Belvedere was not a man prone to such outbursts, yet, on this occasion, he felt it understandable. No living beast could have smashed through the jungle like the mystery creature below, none.

Belvedere furrowed his brow; the commotion troubled him. For a moment, he thought he’d made the wrong decision in choosing to climb down those high cliffs, the blue phial around his neck dangling with ever more precarious worry. But worrisome inaction was unfamiliar ground to a man known for his valour, so Belvedere set his jaw and prepared to confront the beast below.

About to further his descent, our hero paused at a second set of barking noises, which halted the trajectory of the more vocal beast. Whatever the thing may have purported to be, it turned tail and fled, as indicated by the back-surge of movement across the rolling treetops. The fact such a beast should run from anything be it another gigantic beast or many smaller predators, was a vexing notion to Belvedere. What happened next was even more so.

“Shabat! Shabal! Shabe!” A trio of sharp calls divided the prehistoric world into sections. The voice was human, as was the accompanying triad of whistles.

Belvedere strained every optic muscle but there was nothing visible through so dense a jungle. He contemplated shouting to whomever was below; experience prevented it. Belvedere was not a man of science, he’d never pretended to be, but even he knew nothing resembling humanity should be in this time zone. The urge to hail his fellow denizen of the past was suppressed and common sense prevailed.

The shouts and whistles continued a while, as they moved further away. Eventually, both the large, small, and human beasts diminished into the distance until our hero heard them no more.

Belvedere toyed with the phial around his neck. “What to do? What to do?” he mused. “I know what Albert would have me do, drink the damn stuff and return home. But Albert isn’t here,” he said to himself, “and I’ll be buggered if I give Monk the pleasure of seeing me return like a frightened rabbit.” The mere mention of Monk’s name, a man he detested due to his insidious nature, was enough to make Belvedere’s blood boil. He made his decision: onwards.

The descent, although dangerous, swapping from vine to vine like some crazed monkey, was fast, but still not fast enough to lose the nipping insects. Belvedere should rather have faced an army barefooted than those bothersome midges. So, when at last his feet brushed against leaves, then scratching twigs, then came to rest upon a large branch that abutted the cliffs, his body encased in foliage, he breathed a great sigh of relief. Another two, and that hero of more wars than he wished to remember regained his composure if it had ever left. Instinctively, Belvedere squatted low to the three-feet diameter wooden arm and peered over its lofty edge to the jungle floor. The place was silent, too silent, and dark as pitch, the leafy canopy blocking out all but the thinnest, rapier shards of sunlight.

“So, Bells, up or down?” he said to himself without coming up with a convincing argument for either. “Is it to be Heaven or Hell?” he added, wiping the sweat off his forehead, and flicking it into the abyss. “If only I’d brought a coin to toss, Ah, well, I’ll know for next time.”

A second more intense stare down to the distant ground gave a defining reason for remaining in his arboreal berth. An indentation he’d first taken for a natural crater in the grassed floor, revealed itself upon closer inspection as the undoubtable imprint of some gigantic, three-toed beast. “Heaven,” he said with an intake of breath. “Definitely Heaven.”

The tree Belvedere lodged in was enormous, far bigger than anything found in his own time. The giant was of such stature that its branches made living pathways amongst the trees. He set off along one such walkway, skipped up to another, and thus made his way with rapid effect through the treetops.

Large lobed leaves slapped against his face with frustrating regularity, punkah wallahs with attitudes, but, otherwise, Belvedere found the way refreshingly easy. The verdant trail was even exciting until he chanced upon a splintered, arrow-straight road of destruction heading in the same direction as he. The creature that had done it must have been akin to a land whale, or so he thought, for nothing past or present could have caused such damage. Large holes in the treeline had been ripped open causing the sun’s dazzling rays to shine down like the searchlights he’d seen used in wartime. Such an amount of sweet-smelling sap ran from this carnage that he likened it to the Lake District’s hillside streams but of a transparent gold rather than clear mercury.

Belvedere stopped, mopped his sodden brow, and recalled a discussion he had had prior to his departure. As per always, anything said between he and Albert had been done under the ever-mindful eye of Monk.

“The creatures you may encounter will be quite unlike anything you have seen on your African travels, Bells. A lion will be as a kitten to them, a crocodile like a minnow, they will be everything you can imagine and more.”

“I have seen reimagined dinosaurs in the Britannian Museum, they hold no fear for me.”

“They should,” Albert pressed.

“Is that concern in your voice, old friend?”


“Spit it out, man!” Belvedere’s raucous laugh echoed through their subterranean hidey-hole.

“I just don’t want you getting bitten in half or some such thing.”

“I’m sure there’s nothing for Sir Belvedere to worry about,” Monk said, slithering into the conversation.

“I believe there could be,” Albert had rallied.

“Could. Would. Should. All words that amount to the same before an adventurer,” Monk slimed.

“And that is?” Albert retorted.

“They mean nothing to such as he. If he bore them heed, he would never have explored anything. Am I not right, Sir Belvedere?”

“I believe you are,” he confirmed.

“You see, Chambers,” Monk said, addressing Albert by his surname, which he knew he hated, “nothing to worry about.”

“Well, either way, I made a promise to Gwendolyn to ever be the conscience that Bells here so often ignores to his own imperilment. I shall continue to do so whatever I am told.”

“And if it was Her Majesty that told you? That could be interpreted as treachery, or worse.”

“Is that a threat?” Albert barked.

Monk just smiled a sleazy, lopsided grin, his hooked nose almost slicing the thing in twain.

“Now, now, Albert,” Belvedere said, wrapping one large arm about his friend’s shoulders. “You don’t have to worry. I promise I shall remain ever guarded against the past.”

“You say that…”

“I do,” Belvedere interrupted.

“But Gwendolyn!”

“That’s enough, Albert,” Belvedere snapped. “I’ve heard that, I promised Gwendolyn routine, more times than I care to remember. Just because she was your sister and my betrothed does not mean she holds thrall over us still. She is dead, after all,” he added dispassionately.

Albert had stormed off and Belvedere had regretted his words. It wasn’t that he worried about upsetting his best friend, they had had many such arguments, more that he secretly courted such danger in the hope of death himself. The possibility of reuniting with Gwendolyn on some far-off plane of existence was an attraction he had considered many times, wheresoever she might be.

The second thought of his once betrothed snapped Belvedere back to the present, or past, as it was.

“Damn you, Albert, you always knew how to affect me,” he said fingering the phial about his neck. “But I’ll not turn back now regardless of what may lie ahead. I can’t.”

And with those foolhardy words spoken, Sir Belvedere Wainthrop pushed deeper into the jungles of prehistory, not for Albert, nor for Queen Victoria and her Empire’s progression, but for the memory of his dear Gwendolyn, the only woman he had ever loved.


He sweltered, but Belvedere refused to remove anything other than his jacket; it wasn’t the done thing. His one concession, rolling up his shirt sleeves after first checking nobody was around to witness it — old habits and all that.

He scampered through the trees, more squirrel than man, making great haste. Not that Belvedere needed to move fast, he was, after all, moving within the confines of a dream, albeit a hot and sweaty one, more that it was just his way. He had always been a man of progression, a leap before you look kind of fellow. He knew nothing else.

So it was, our hero followed the broken path of whatever beast had forged it. The destruction headed in the general direction of the gleaming spire he had spied and that was good enough for him. Plus, although he would not care to admit it, the odd flashes of daylight the damage afforded held a certain reassurance in a world otherwise black as pitch. However, Belvedere was no fool and made certain to remain within the confines of the absolute shade. One look to the mighty-sized footprints made quite sure of that.

He made good time in his arboreal pursuit, or so he thought, for it was hard to judge time when the light remained constant — a salient detail he’d noted but not addressed. Neither did the absolute silence help his judgement in such things. This continued absence of further life was suspicious. Belvedere had thoroughly expected a world of monstrous noises, bellows, guttural growls, and the like, but there was nothing. It was a most unusual sensation for a man who’d been brought up with birdsong, then later gunfire, to hear nothing. Even the mosquitos, or whatever they’d been, were absent from the place. The jungle was barren of life, or life chose to remain hidden?

The thought of hidden beasts of any size let alone gigantic ones caused Belvedere to pause, his fingers busy at the blue phial again. He had always been a bit of a twitcher, the product of a restless mind, and decided it best he tucked both the phial and the chain it hung from back within the confines of his shirt.

“Hmm,” he mused. “I think you’d best stay under lock and key my little, blue trinket. You’re my ticket out of this strange world if anything, well, er, unusual should happen.” The irony of his pause was not lost on him, neither was the sound that came next.


“Gadzooks! That sounded a little too close for comfort.” Belvedere pressed back against a tree trunk’s solid girth. There he stood stock-still, listening. “Oh, for God’s sake man, you won’t get anywhere lurking like this.” He chastised himself thoroughly, the sound of his own voice a slight placebo in the situation. A quick scan of the surroundings, for what good it did, and he pushed back off in the same direction as the savage sound.

Belvedere hadn’t realised just how close to the jungle’s exterior he’d been until almost falling from it. If not for some hasty thrusting out of hands, he would have fallen straight out of the leafy canopy and into the hell that was monsters at war.

Fortunately, he caught hold of a robust branch and hung for a moment over the ensuing madness. Directly ahead, occupying the centre of a meadow-sized clearing, one that had gone unseen from the cliffs, was a beast to give most people nightmares: Belvedere was not most people.

“Good God, what am I looking at?” Belvedere whispered under his breath. For there, not more than a hundred feet away, stood a behemoth. The beast balanced on two legs, not unlike a human, but that is where any resemblance ended. One-half tail, one-half gaping maw, the thing roared and bellowed like a pride of angered lions. It stood close to twenty feet tall with razor teeth each the size of Belvedere’s forearms. The creature was a king, but a king not without enemies.

Belvedere hadn’t seen the three lesser beasts, so drawn to the mightiest of them was he, but a trio of miniature versions of the larger stalked their giant relative. The three crept through the long grasses in military-like deployment. Two of the man-sized lizards moved to flank their foe, whilst the other, almost right below Belvedere’s elevated position, crept towards it in plain sight. Most amazing of all, which caused our hero to wipe at his eyes with his free hand, the central of the three held a rider on its armour-plated back. This must have been who Belvedere had earlier heard, but there was no sound from he or his fellow hunters now: they sought to kill by stealth.

Belvedere eased himself back into the leafy branches in an effort to silently camouflage. It was not silent enough. He had made only the faintest of rustling sounds, but the rider heard it and span round, twisting on the creatures bare back. Human eyes met inhuman eyes, the creature he had taken to be a man in both shape and sound, in fact, far removed. The thing, proportioned as a human, even in skin tone, bore the red, slitted eyes of a demon.

The creature glared into the treetops as the mighty giant pawed the ground at his back. Only when satisfied that Belvedere posed no immediate threat did the demon turn back to its gigantic quarry, but too late. The enormous beast had decided that attack was the best form of defence, one that ordinarily Belvedere would have admired, but because it hurtled towards the mounted demon and the tree he himself resided in, he was less ecstatic.

A moment’s readjustment and the red-eyed demon had regathered its wits. “Shabat! Shabal!” it bellowed. The two flanking lizards shot forward, flinging themselves at their greater cousin.

Belvedere knew all too well the art of warfare and that the two, although brave, had been forced into actions beyond their control. Like a thing possessed, their giant prey flung them into the grass with flicks of its gargantuan head. Not for an instant did it slow its momentum as it crashed into the third predator. The demon rider leapt to one side as the mighty beast hurtled through and on into the tree that had become Belvedere’s sanctuary. The collision was almighty: his fall painful.

Belvedere’s eyes opened to chaos. He lay on his back in the long grass close to the towering presence of the behemoth. He did not panic; it was too late for that. The giant creature had regained the initiative although not entirely. The three smaller beasts had relaunched themselves at the larger in a desperate, last-ditch attempt to save their master. They tore at the larger animal with scimitar-like claws and teeth a tiger would envy. The three strove to allow their master time to escape with a venom bordering on suicidal; he had other ideas. The demon rider stood over Belvedere, those reddest of evil eyes fixed upon him. Despite having to duck to avoid the swinging tail of the mega-beast, the demon had drawn a dagger of fearsome proportions with the clear intention of gutting the sprawled Britannian.

Belvedere thought of only one thing in those moments, or of one person to be more exact. Despite the screams of fearsome creatures all about him; despite the leering devil that stood over him, slit-eyed and evil; despite being the only man to have slipped through time, he thought only of being reunited with his beloved Gwendolyn.

Years of military service, time spent adventuring in all the wildest landscapes, and a sheer unwavering resolve to never surrender, never give in, were hard to discard and they forced our hero to kick out with all his might. He caught the devil in the midriff and Belvedere was up and off like lightning. Through the tall grasses he hurtled, their sharp edges slashing like cat-o’-nine-tails in a merciless jailor’s hands. He ran as though his lungs would burst, his breath expire, then ran some more. When the devil barked out, “Shabat! Shabal! Shabe!” from his rear, the supposed names of those lesser monsters, Belvedere knew he’d not run fast enough.

A resolute Britannian turned to face the hurtling lizards, the giant having fled back into the jungle. He even took the time to roll his sleeves back down and straighten his collar, to wipe down his trousers and slick back his hair. He would not face death in an ungentlemanly manner.

“Let’s have it!” Belvedere bellowed to the onrushing triumvirate. “Do your worst, you damnable demons!” For some unknown reason, he even laughed, as he raised his fists to his foes. “Marquess of Queensberry indeed.” He huffed into his knuckles and gritted his teeth.

There was a rush of air, as though snapping jaws were mere inches from his face, then a lightness, perhaps, the precursor to death. But there was no pain, as he closed his eyes, no pain at all, as he felt himself lifted towards heaven at a speed only God could induce.

“Not such a bad way to go,” sighed a lightheaded Belvedere. Then he felt, heard, nor saw, anything at all, a senseless man on one final voyage.


Darkness pooled over the insides of his eyes, a liquid thing ever in motion, ever in turmoil, a flowing oblivion. An endless nothingness enveloped Belvedere, oozed over him with a reassuring warmth. The heat masked the fear he should have felt but had already accepted. Eternal night came for him as snowflakes began to fall, or stars, or something equally amazing, twinkling and dancing across his vision before coalescing into something brighter than a newborn sun.

Belvedere opened his eyes to those of the most beautiful creature he had ever seen, a face so serene that Da Vinci himself could have painted it. She regarded him through those angel’s eyes, flaxen hair streaming in unfelt winds. Clear as crystal, clearer even than a Britannian rainstorm in midsummer, they observed him, stark against her skin of powdered gold. The world stood reflected in her golden epidermis, amplified ad infinitum, until the difference between she and all that was became insignificant. What magnificence she portrayed.

A dazzled Belvedere shied from the beauteous creature ashamed by his own appearance, but weaker than a spring lamb, only adjusted enough to glimpse her snow-white wings unfolding into forever. He supposed himself dead and in the arms of a seraph then, for what else could she have been.

Serenity washed over Belvedere in endless waves, and for the first time in too long, he knew happiness. Only when a shiver of such magnitude as to almost propel him from the arms that cradled him did he realise he was still very much alive.

“The altitude? My apologies, I shall fly lower. I forget myself at times.”

Belvedere swooned at that angel’s voice of honeyed silk. It swept through the biting winds, soothing his troubled mind, allaying his fears, capturing his heart.

Belvedere watched the night diminish before his eyes, the full intensity of that primordial sun taking hold of him. The solar beams caught his angel at an ever-decreasing angle, the reflected light moving across his face like a sundial playing out a day in mere seconds. Her aura grew more spellbinding with every passing moment. The winged one’s skin seemed alive in an ever fluid gold, the stuff illuminating her in shimmering majesty, a rolling ocean of captured light. Belvedere noted each tidal surge that rolled across her perfect cheeks, down her neck and across the curves of her breast: she was naked, and a gentleman knew shame.

Quickly averting his eyes, as any decent man would, Belvedere twisted in his guardian’s arms, so he faced away from the golden beauty to look down, down, down. The landscape was a patchwork of emerald and ochre interspersed by towering mountain massifs those he had seen when awakening into this world. The peaks of the mighty, snow-tipped mountains looked close enough to touch, and Belvedere felt an irresistible urge to reach out and do just that.

“Like touching infinity,” he chuckled, as the two swept through a cloud of bugs. He absently swiped at the things when a sharp sound pierced his head with pain. Belvedere covered his ears, but it did nothing to help. A second blast of high-pitched wailing stung at him, again the intense pain. The angel appeared not to notice Belvedere’s discomfort. Only when he winced a third time did she draw back her wings forcing the two into a steep plummet.

“Oh, my goodness!” exclaimed the passenger. “Oh my, oh my, oh my!” Belvedere stuttered like a child. However, much to his relief, as the ground grew equidistantly closer, the sound grew less and less stinging. “Are we to land?” he asked, trying to sound inquisitive rather than scared half to death.

“Not quite, my friend,” she sang back.

Before he could ask more, the angel’s wings shot back out catching the jungle’s heated updrafts to sweep the two back into the sky like a rifle shot. Belvedere felt his stomach lurch as the momentum flung his head forwards into his hostess’ fulsome frame. There was no time to close his eyes as etiquette demanded, for they had already caught sight of the gleaming star rested upon her breast. He turned away, almost blinding himself in the process, to what he was sure he’d spied from the clifftop: a diamond the size of a mansion house sat atop a shard of rock. No ordinary if overly large diamond was this either, for it was also the angel’s destination. They’d arrived.

The beautiful, golden creature shot up and over a railing carved from a single layer of crystal, which undulated its way around the diamond like a great, gleaming serpent. Descending over this, the angel placed her guest on the floor of liquid glass and spread forth her swanlike wings. “Welcome to my home,” she announced with decorum, her bare feet displacing the quicksilver surface.

Belvedere wobbled, taking hold of the balcony rail to look out over the world as an eagle.

“Good God, this is astonishing!”

“You like the view?” a musical response.

“It is incredible. It beggars belief. Excuse my French,” he added, turning back to his host. “Oops,” he said catching her full-frontal and hastily averting his eyes.

“My form disturbs you?” the creature asked, tucking her wings behind her.

“Well, er, hm, it’s just not the done thing, that’s all.” Belvedere feigned an interest in his own infinite reflections cast within the diamond’s glistening skin.

“Is this better?”

Belvedere felt her voice carry across the distance between them to tongue his inner ear.

He allowed himself a peep into the diamond wall. Much to his relief, his saviour stood wrapped in a light silk dress that matched the tones of her skin. The garment accentuated every sweeping curve of her form, but at least it covered her modesty. Just.

“Belvedere Magnanimous Wainthrop, pleased to meet you,” he said, offering an outstretched hand.

The beauty looked at it askance a sudden danger sweeping across her serene features. It lasted but an instant as she took his proffered hand in her own. “Alunia,” she replied.

Belvedere thought he might melt there and then. Alunia the name echoed around his soul. He shook his head and soon got a hold of himself. Belvedere straightened his cuffs, as was his way, and cleared his throat. “Damn!”

“Is something wrong?”

“Oh, bugger! I mean, sorry. I’ve been in the company of men for too long.”

“Do not let it trouble you,” said she of the honeyed tones.

“I appear to have lost my jacket in the midst of my adventure.” Belvedere pulled a puzzled face that made his hostess smile. He melted a second time.

“So, this is an adventure to you?”

“I believe life to be one long adventure.”

“Hmm,” mused his hostess. “Yes, I believe it is,” she agreed. “Do you approve of my home?”

“It is beyond belief,” his honest answer. “I have never seen the like, nor suspect I shall ever see the same again.”

“There are no such things in your world?” she said cocking her head inquisitively to one side.


“I mean homeland.”

“I should say not.”

“Then, this is all new to you?”

“Very,” he replied, unintentionally rubbing at one of his still stinging ears.

“My apologies if they hurt you. They are a frustration at worst and a nuisance at best.” The gold of her skin looked tumultuous for a flickering instant like a storm brewing out over a hostile ocean.

“They?” Belvedere enquired.

“The little people.”

“You mean the mosquitos?”

“No,” she laughed; Belvedere’s knees buckled. “The Scintillians.”

“The what?”

“Little people. They are a bad-tempered community. They seek to bother me whenever the opportunity arises.”

“And do they?”

“Oh, no, but I let them think so. It keeps them on their toes?” She winked, one gold eyelid closing over a translucent eye.

“Crocodile eyes.”


“Oh, I’m so sorry. Please, do beg my pardon, it was instinctive.”

“Instinctive, why?” she breezed.

“Just reminded me of a hunting trip to Africa.”

“You hunt?” She took a step back at that. If it was with surprise, or fear, Belvedere could not tell.

“Not as much as once I did. Times have changed somewhat since Britannia ruled the world,” Belvedere replied, relieved she did not press on his prior comparison.

“Please explain, I know not of this Bri-tan-nia.”

Belvedere frowned before able to stop himself. “It is the empire ruled by Her Majesty, to whom my loyalties lie. Doing her bidding is what keeps me active. Not that I would complain mind as I enjoy it very much.” He added the latter to not sound slanderous.

“Who is this, Majesty, ruler of Bri-tan-nia?”