Check out our episode here! Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
Hyde Park, London
8 April 1912
While a woman sinks to her knees crying, a man wraps the chronograph in a cloth and slips it into his backpack. He sits down next to her and lets her cry. He doesn’t have a tissue for her, but a period appropriate monogrammed handkerchief if that would do? They are talking about abandoning someone, dismissing other options as not feasible. They made it possible for this unknown woman to live in safety for the next sixteen years at least. It’s not what they wanted, but with Guardians coming for them, it’s the best option. They contemplate leaving on the Titanic, soon to make its maiden voyage. They could be married at sea by the Captain!
On a regular Monday morning in St. Lennox High School canteen, Gwyneth has a dizzy spell resulting in mashed potato down her uniform. Sigh. Clumsiness is not uncommon with Gwyneth, but the dizzy spell was. It’s probably nothing, all the recent talk in her family about dizzy feelings just stimulated her subconscious. The entire family is on tenterhooks, waiting for her gorgeous cousin Charlotte to have the dizzy spell. Their grandmother, Lady Arista, constantly asks Charlotte how she is feeling and in the gaps, Charlotte’s mother, Glenda, asks the same thing. The rest of the family, Gwyneth’s mum, Grace, sister Caroline, brother Nick, and Great-Aunt Maddy just roll their eyes. Charlotte is the one with the time-traveling gene, not Gwyneth, and dizziness in a time-traveler is a sign the gene has matured. When Charlotte has a dizzy spell of her own in history class, Gwyneth is at the ready to take her home.
On their way out of the school, walking past James Pympoole-Bothame, a ghost only Gwyneth can see, the cousins squabble. Charlotte thinks Gwyneth is foolish and naïve, Gwyneth thinks her cousin is stuck up. Gwyneth wonders if Charlotte will disappear as they walk out and end up in the middle of the Great Fire of 1664! Their uniforms would go up like tinder! It’s 1666, idiot, Charlotte reminds her. Charlotte has been prepared her whole life to make these time jumps and Gwyneth is excited for her. They reach home without incident, though Gwyneth notes the man in black at Number 18 is back. He seemed to be keeping watch on their house around the clock for months. Inside, Charlotte goes to see their grandmother, but Gwyneth’s own dizziness comes back. And it’s stronger. Possible brain tumor? Gah! No, just hunger. Probably.
Gwyneth’s house is impressive, at least her best friend Lesley thinks so. It’s all the wood paneling, the ballroom, old pictures and the secret passage to a bathroom. Gwyneth’s old house was a lot like Lesley’s in North Kensington back when she lived up in Durham. It was cozy and comfortable when it was just her, her mum, dad, brother and sister. Now they live in this madhouse with all the rest of the family, but at least they have a floor to themselves. Unfortunately it is far from the kitchen and, with the dizzy spell, Gwyneth ends up stuffing eleven of her mum's biscuit stash in her mouth. Not wanting to be alone, Gwyneth goes in search of someone from her extended family to talk to.
Gwyneth finds Charlotte in a hideous-looking old nightgown-thing with her Great-Aunt Maddy and a pacing Aunt Glenda. It seems Charlotte has not made her first leap through time yet and her frustration shows. Lady Arista makes a sweeping entrance, says something about a chronograph and proclaims the de Villiers family are expecting them at the Temple and the driver is waiting for them. Without so much as a by your leave to either Gwyneth or her Great-Aunt Maddy, Charlotte, Aunt Glenda and Lady Arista depart. Who are the de Villiers though? And what is a chronograph? The de Villiers are not only bankers in the City, they too have the time-traveling gene, passed through the male line. There is a male counterpart to Charlotte, Gideon, who is two years older. The chronograph is a kind of apparatus that can be used to send the gene-carriers back to a specific time. As Aunt Maddy is telling Gwyneth all the things she overhears, because no one ever tells her anything, she also mentions Gwyn’s cousin Lucy who also carries the time-travel gene. She’s a fair bit older than Gwyneth and the daughter of her uncle who lives in Gloucestershire. It was a shocking scandal when she disappeared, and all to do with a young man. Having eaten the last of Aunt Maddy’s sherbet lemons as they talk, Gwyneth offers to fetch some more from Selfridges. On the way to the shop on Oxford Street, her stomach flip-flops, and her eyes blur to gray.
When Gwyneth can open her eyes again, kneeling on the pavement, she notices a vintage car heading around the corner and the street just seems... wrong. There aren’t any traffic signs, the street lamps are different, the road is paved with cobblestone, the painting on the fence has changed, there are no puddles! It was raining a moment ago. Oh no... Gwyneth has landed in another time, not Charlotte. Not knowing exactly what to do, she heads back home. The house looks exactly the same, but she doesn’t know what to say to make her relatives of this time believe her. Regardless, she rings the bell, but before the door is opened, Gwyneth finds herself back on the doorstep of her time. In the hall, she checks a clock. Only twenty minutes have passed since she left. Her Aunt Maddy catches her and before Aunt Maddy can go into too much detail about sugar-free lemon sherbets, Gwyneth asks her how sure they are that Charlotte is the time-gene carrier. Aunt Maddy explains that Charlotte was born the very day calculated hundreds of years ago by Sir Isaac Newton, ergo she has the time-gene. Charlotte was born October 7th; Gwyneth was born October 8th.
Standing in Selfridges on her mobile, Gwyneth tells Lesley everything. Lesley isn’t really supposed to know, but she is Gwyneth's best friend and fellow finder of the secret passage bathroom so some rules are broken. Lesley is a wonderful voice of reason, Googling the information to help Gwyneth make sense of things, telling Gwyneth to get back home in case it happens again, and to tell her mum. Gwyneth is reluctant, they’ll think she’s mad or lying, but going home is sensible. A short time later, Gwyneth thinks there isn’t any reason her mum wouldn’t believe her. She believes all her ghost stories, including the gargoyle demon from Durham Cathedral that followed her for months. His name was Asrael and he’d been so pleased to be able to talk to someone, he’d had to stay in Durham after they moved. Unfortunately, Grace is too busy with Caroline’s school terrarium issue and Nick has gum stuck in his hair.
Downstairs at dinner (minus Charlotte, Aunt Glenda and Lady Arista who will be spending the night at the Temple, whatever that place is) all of a sudden, Great-Aunt Maddy goes rigid, her pupils dilate and the color drains from her face. Everyone but Gwyneth’s mom is panicking. It’s okay, Aunt Maddy is only having a vision. Suddenly she cries out Lucy’s name and says she is leading her to a tree covered with red berries, in its roots is a sapphire cut in the shape of an egg from which a raven chick hatches. Then she mentions the wind rising and a clock tower with someone sitting, dangling her legs over the side. She cries out that a bird is swooping down at the girl, then screams the girl's name, “Gwyneth! Gwyneth!”
It’s later that night and Gwyneth still hasn’t told her mom about the whole time-travel thing. Instead they are talking about Aunt Maddy’s vision. Grace confesses that “we have rather too much imagination in this family.” So she believes Gwyneth sees ghosts, but ghosts aren’t real? That Aunt Maddy has visions, they just aren't telling the future? Gwyneth gets the message and keeps quiet. She’ll try again tomorrow... maybe. In bed, Gwyneth is restless, and dreams of ravens and clock towers disturb her sleep. When she wakes up, the dizziness comes over her so she darts to her mother's room, but on the way, she is pulled under. Gwyneth can hear female voices she doesn’t know, yet the house is familiar around her. She dashes into Nick's room and hides in a cupboard, but there is someone already in there! Someone is asleep on the top shelf and their hand reaches out to her. Gwyneth runs from the cupboard as a voice tells her to stop. It belongs to a young man in a long white shirt. Gwyneth does not stop. Behind her, the man cries “thief!” The house is awakened and the search for her starts, but luckily Gwyneth knows the house and all its nooks, crannies and hiding places. Hiding in a cupboard, eventually she feels the tugging sensation and crawls out of her hiding place. Mr. Bernard the butler is there, politely enquiring if she needs assistance.
The next day at school, Gwyneth tells Lesley everything. Lesley is incredulous. How could Gwyneth have not told her mom yet?! They make some jokes about Charlotte’s unique education and how useful it wouldn’t have been the previous night when Lesley makes the very valid point to Gwyneth that it should have been her life not Charlotte’s, instead they have been teaching the wrong person and she needs to tell her family as soon as possible. Anyway, off to English with Mr. Whitman, the most gorgeous teacher in the school to everyone except for Gwyneth who can't get over the comparison to a squirrel someone made. To her, he's a very handsome squirrel. Listening to two classmates, Cynthia defending the “best-looking, most masculine, cleverest, straightest guy ever” to Gordon who says some unsavory things about Mr. Whitman and his signet ring, Lesley points out that Mr. Whitman’s signet ring looks a lot like a clock (pointed look) and he used odd phrasing about Charlotte “returning to normal” about her absence. Gwyneth’s insides do a flip-flop and she’s off to be "sick." Lesley follows behind, but Gwyneth falls through time in the corridor. Finding a room to hide in, Gwyneth chooses the curtains as a good concealment place. In a few seconds, a young man and woman enter and are having a huge lovers' tiff. When Gwyn peeks her head out to see them, she is startled to see the woman has her face, and she has also seen her! But she gestures for her to hide and the other Gwyneth distracts the boy by kissing him. What is going on? No time to question it because Gwyneth falls back through time into the middle of Year 6 geography class.
Gwyneth leaves the thankfully empty classroom, completely stunned by what she saw. Herself? Kissing? A boy? With two doesn’t-really-count kisses, she is gobsmacked. She “bumps” into James the ghost and they start talking. He tells her he was born 1762 and had just celebrated his twenty-first birthday at White’s Club, and that he’d gone to bed with a fever and woken up to everything being a bit off. Suddenly Lesley comes upon them. She had been looking for Gwyneth everywhere! She hands Gwyneth her mobile and insists she call her mum right now, and thankfully she does. The conversation is short, her mum will pick her up straight away. When she arrives in a taxi, instead of giving the driver their home address, she tells him to take them to The Temple.
On the way, Gwyneth tells her mom everything. Grace confesses that Gwyneth was actually born on the same day as Charlotte, the seventh of October, but she convinced the midwife who wrote the birth certificate to lie about the date of birth. She did it to protect Gwyneth, so she could have a normal childhood. She goes on to explain that they are on their way to The Guardians, a very old secret society, also known as the Lodge of Count Saint-Germain. They concern themselves with myths and legends. Many famous people in history have been members. Gwyneth’s own Grandfather was a member, too. When they enter The Temple, a middle-aged woman greets Grace but says she can’t see Lady Arista or Mr. de Villiers, then Grace says she has brought “the Ruby” which makes the woman jump to attention. Grace explains all the time travelers are represented by gemstones, and Gwyneth is the Ruby.
As they wait, Aunt Glenda comes storming out, she isn’t impressed by her younger sister’s claim, she also seems too tied up in the fact that Gwyneth was two months premature, frankly she looks and sounds unhinged. A gentleman by the name of Mr. George is with her and he at least asks pertinent questions and seems genuinely interested in finding out the truth. Aunt Glenda is getting worse with accusations of stealing attention, jealousy and manipulating her pregnancy, risking a premature birth just so Gwyneth could be born the same day as Charlotte. Throughout, Grace is calm but irritated. She has an underlying mistrust for the Lodge of Count Saint-Germain, and calls them “fanatical mystery mongers and pseudoscientists obsessed with esoteric subjects.”
After a long walk through a maze of corridors, they enter an impressive room with dark furniture, tall windows and a magnificent dragon painted on the ceiling. Lady Arista, Charlotte, Dr. White, a tall and imposing figure with a small boy hiding behind his coat, and the only cheerful person in the room, Falk de Villiers (was he flirting with Gwyneth’s mum?) are there. There seems to be some disbelief that the birth certificate would be falsified by some people in the room. Grace explains they told the midwife their “family belonged to a satanic cult with a pathological belief in horoscopes… A child born on the seventh of October would be subject to severe reprisals and we’d have to give her up to the cult for use in satanic rituals.” It seems some of the reluctance to believe Grace is that she had a part to play in Lucy and Paul’s disappearance. No one is explaining what happened or who Paul is. Very frustrating. Gwyneth is led from the room by Mr. George to the documents room where, if she jumps in time again, she can be read straight into the chronograph.
On the way, Mr. George explains a little about The Temple and they pass Gideon de Villiers, the other time traveler. In the document room, Mr. George explains that they shall wait here until she jumps through time. When she does, she isn’t to leave the room and if someone should be there, she should show them his signet ring, which looks exactly like Mr. Whitman’s. While they wait, they play questions and answers. It is during this that Gwyneth finds out that the little boy next to Dr. White is a ghost, and Mr. George believes she sees things others don’t. Mr. George proclaims that it is a good time for some Jaffa Cakes, and as Gwyneth plucks one from the plate, she falls through time.
The room is dark, thankfully Mr. George provided her with a flashlight along with his signet ring. Gwyneth starts to look about and reasons it can’t hurt to peek outside... but the door is locked. Boring letters litter the desk and lots of bits and bobs and little boxes that hold no interest. It’s then Gwyneth thinks she’ll bring something from the past back for Lesley, but what? The rummage continues! The dagger or the stone things? But the decision is taken from her as the dizziness returns, so she grabs a key. In the present, Mr. George has been joined by Falk de Villiers, Dr. White with the little ghost boy, and Gideon de Villiers, who calls her Winnie. Ugggh, it’s Gwyneth.
Mr. George is about to reveal all the great mysteries of the organization, but Dr. White stops him. They talk as if she is dimwitted and not there and when they do start to acknowledge her presence, they dismiss her concerns and requests to see her mother. They take her to Dr. White’s consulting room for a blood sample and start her immunizations since the past is filled with germs. As Dr. White carries out his tests, Gwyneth talks to the little boy but they think she is talking to Dr. White. No one has spoken to the ghost boy before. His name is Robert and when she tells Dr. White, his head jerks up. As they talk, the subject of Lucy comes back up, Dr. White doesn’t trust Gwyneth because she seems like Lucy, all naïve and sweet, but then she stole the chronograph two years later. He doesn’t think highly of any of the women in Gwyneth’s family. Robert likes her though. As Mrs. Jenkins, the middle-aged lady from reception takes Gwyneth back to her mother, she tells her Dr. White wasn’t always so prickly, but then his little boy Robert died. He drowned in a pool at a birthday party eighteen years ago and it changed him. On the way they also pop in to see Madame Rossini who looks after the wardrobe and will make sure Gwyneth is properly attired for her jumps. Before turning the last corner, Gwyneth overhears Charlotte with Gideon. Charlotte is humiliated by her phantom symptoms, and holds little sympathy or regard for Gwyneth while Gideon does sound genuinely considerate of Gwyneth’s sudden situation.
When Gwyneth returns to dragon hall and her mum, Mr. de Villiers questions Grace about why she did what she did. Things don’t add up, having a two month premature baby at home, waiting a day after the birth to take the baby to the hospital to be examined, Grace refusing to be examined by the hospital, and now the midwife who attended the birth is unreachable. Mrs. Jenkins, Mr. George, Dr. White and Gideon enter the room and start talking as if Gwyneth isn’t there again. Stuff about missions, tasks and elapsing. They keep saying how useless she is, how untrained, uneducated and badly spoken she is. It’s enough to make someone speak up, and so Gwyneth does but unfortunately it doesn’t do anything but make them decide she is too young, though she is precisely the same age as Charlotte! Mr. George suggests that she meet the count to which Grace strongly objects. Count Saint-Germain is the fifth of the twelve time-travelers, he was the one who first worked out how the chronograph worked and discovered the secret behind the secret, The Secret of the Twelve. He founded the Society of the Guardians in 1745 in that very building. Grace does not want Gwyneth to meet the count but won’t say why, so without her mum providing any reason or caution, she agrees to meet Count Saint-Germain in 1782.
Grace speaks privately with Gwyneth, she tells her she helped Lucy and Paul escape by letting them hide with them in Durham. It’s now Gwyneth realizes that her cousin is hiding somewhere in the past. They stole the chronograph to stop the Circle of Blood from closing, the circle that only needs Gwyneth’s blood to be complete. With words of warning to not trust anyone, Grace leaves.
Gwyneth is being dressed by the truly wonderful Madame Rossini who seems to perform magic with Gwyneth’s costume. When Madame Rossini steps out, Gwyneth takes the opportunity to call Lesley and update her with all that had been happening before she returns with Gideon looking striking in his costume. Blindfolding Gwyneth at Dr. White’s insistence, they make their way to the chronograph where Falk de Villiers, Mr. George and Dr. White are waiting for them. At last Gwyneth gets to see what all the fuss is about! The chronograph is shaped like a violin case inlaid with jewels. It is “a strange device made of polished wood and metal with ... knobs, flaps, and little wheels. All the surfaces were painted with miniature pictures of the sun, moon, and stars, and inscribed with mysterious signs and patterns.” Gwyneth and Gideon place a finger on it and everything goes dark before they are transported back in time.
Unfortunately, the Count of Saint-Germain is not at home. He is visiting Lord Brompton in his new town house on Wigmore Street. Important matter blah, blah blah. Gideon opts to take Gwyneth there by coach. The journey is bumpy and quicker than one would expect. Gwyneth and Gideon are escorted to the Count of Saint-Germain, Lord Brompton and another guest, Miro Rakoczy (otherwise known as Black Leopard) with only mild reluctance on the footman’s part. Another conversation in which Gwyneth is the main topic but ignored takes place, this time in French. Gideon is explaining to the Count the mix-up between the cousins. And then they switch to German. Gwyneth’s grasp of French and German is only so-so, therefore she misses quite a bit of the conversation. They eventually switch back to English. Gideon hands the Count a letter which should explain everything. When the Count asks what is special about her, Gwyneth can only answer the truth as she sees it: she is not special. The conversation soon degenerates. The Count demonstrates nothing but his belief in his own self importance, his deeply flawed misogynistic attitude and his bragging about his supposed conquests. Yawn. The Count takes Gideon from the room to talk of important matters leaving Gwyneth alone with Lord Brompton and the somewhat familiar Rakoczy.
The two gentlemen, but mainly Lord Brompton, then ask Gwyneth about the twenty-first century. Lord Brompton however believes it all to be a story, one of the Count’s fanciful games. Rakoczy asks only of his beloved homeland, Transylvania. The most interesting thing is Gwyneth taking out her mobile, hidden in her bodice, and snapping pictures of the two gentlemen. Suddenly Gideon and the Count come back, and Gideon starts to guide Gwyneth to the door. As she is about to leave, Gwyneth feels a cold crush at her throat and the Count’s voice in her head threatening her.
The coach ride back to the Temple is taking longer than expected and when Gideon looks out, he sees Hyde Park. That’s not the direction they should be going. The driver tells him his orders are to take them to a meeting place at the southern end of the park. Suddenly a shot is fired and three men appear. Gideon starts sword fighting two of them at once, but then the third joins. Gideon manages to disable one, and Gwyneth, in an effort to help, takes up one of the swords and is able to thrust the blade into the back of another. The third is being interrogated by Gideon when she falls into a whirlpool.
It’s dark, the electric lights can be heard humming and Gwyneth is trembling. Gideon uses Gwyneth’s mobile to call the Temple for assistance, and while they wait, he begins to wonder where those men came from, and on whose orders? Gwyneth meanwhile is close to a breakdown. All within twenty-four hours, she's killed a man, she’s been bossed around by men in silk stockings, she’s traveled through time and now she's being told to calm down. Thankfully Mr. George has come to collect them. His face drains of color when they tell them of their misadventure. Gwyneth's mother is going to kill him! Against protocol, Mr. George agrees to take her home.
Mr. Bernard is an absolute lifesaver. He helps Gwyneth sneak into her family's suite, has made her a snack, and informs Grace she is home without Lady Arista and the other members of her family knowing she has returned. Unfortunately they couldn’t be avoided at breakfast the following morning, and it goes as well as can be expected: ghastly, loud and patronizing. Bunking off geography, Gwyneth and Lesley hide in a cubicle in the girls' loos. Gwyneth brings her BFF up to date, leaving out none of the grizzly details. While Gwyneth was traveling through time, slicing through a ruffian like cake, Lesley was researching the Count of Saint-Germain. There seems to be more mystery than fact surrounding the man, half truths, lies and guesses. Even his name isn’t real. Lesley reiterates what her mother advised: trust no one.
After being caught dolling off by Mr. Whitman, and Lesley’s file of investigation notes confiscated, the rest of the day drags. Charlotte acts petulant toward Gwyneth when she isn’t outright ignoring her. As Gwyneth is leaving, she stops by to see James the ghost and asks him to teach her to behave, dance, fence, all the stuff Charlotte has been educated in but the men at the Temple see no reason to teach her. Gideon arrives to pick her up and Charlotte, mood greatly improved, flirts with him as Gwyneth, Lesley and their classmates Cynthia and Gordon come down the stairs. After she leaves, Gwyneth heads to Gideon and the car where he informs her there has been a change of plan. She is no longer going to a cellar in 1956 to do her homework, they are going to visit her great-great-grandmother, Margaret Tilney, who is the last time traveler in her family before Lucy. She has refused twice to re-donate her blood to the chronograph and will only negotiate with her granddaughter, Gwyneth Shepherd. How she knows who Gwyneth is being speculated, but Lucy and Paul are the foremost likely suspects.
In the Temple, Madame Rossini dresses Gwyneth in appropriate 1912 fashion and Dr. White takes her blindfolded to the chronograph. On the way, she has a lovely conversation with Robert the ghost. When they arrive, Gideon is there all ready to go. Before they can journey through time though, Gwyneth’s mobile is confiscated. Damn it. They arrive in Belgrave and Lady Tilney almost seems to be expecting them. She and Gwyneth size each other up, see an obvious familial similarity and nod in acceptance then head to the parlor for tea. Gideon starts to insist Lady Tilney give some of her blood for the chronograph and talks about trusting people when a young gentleman steps out. He reminds Gwyneth of Falk de Villiers but 20 years younger. He is in fact Paul de Villiers and he’s acting as if he is acquainted with Gwyneth. Another man steps in then, the strong, silent, punch-first type. Paul is actually pleasant, asking after Gwyneth’s parents and is genuinely upset to hear of her father's death. Another guest arrives then: Lucy. They both need to speak to Gwyneth and Gideon, but Gideon won’t have it and pulls a pistol, pointing it at Lucy. The gun is a Smith & Wesson automatic, which is not era appropriate. Lucy keeps trying to talk about the Count and his persuasive powers and how he was inside her mind, and Paul keeps shouting about Gideon being brainwashed. Lucy asks if the Count knows her powers, the powers of the Raven. This makes Gwyneth pause, she wants to stay and talk. As things degenerate thanks to hired goons, Lucy shouts for Gwyneth to talk to her grandfather and ask him about the Green Rider.
Gwyneth and Gideon escape the house, run to a church, and wait in the confessional to return back through time. They agree things are getting interesting and that it could be future versions of either one or both of them who let Lucy and Paul know where to meet with them. As there is still a while yet to wait before they can return to their time, it is of course a prime opportunity to flirt, which they both take advantage of, and which ends in a kiss.
Hyde Park, London
24 June 1912
A man and a woman are walking in the park, reminiscing about wearing jeans. The woman comments that “She looks just like you” to which the man states, she looks like her, only her hair comes from him. Only two months ago they held her in their arms as a newborn and now she is sixteen. Hopefully, she’ll keep away from that de Villiers boy. They then argue about her being in love with the boy, the man adamant it is not possible. They both feel something in the air. Their paths will cross more in the future, so he best brush up on his fencing skills.