Westminster, 1634

Ramsey dropped the half-quatern sack on the grass of the Abbey’s cloister and waited for Lilly and Scott to join him, his mood darker than the London evening and twice as cold. He had sought Lilly out, several weeks earlier at his house on the Strand to discuss the matter at hand. Though he thought he had impressed on the astrologer the need for secrecy in their endeavour and the importance of securing the services of someone familiar in the employment of the mosaical rods, (someone of rank, definitely of experience) and even though Lilly had nodded gravely, given his word he knew of such a man, it appeared he did not. Lilly had arrived at the appointed hour with John Scott,  the former page of Lord Norris, mocking Ramsay even as Scott stuttered his way through questions regarding his experience and the integrity of his knowledge. Opening the door for the two of the, Ramsay swore under his breath at his stupidity in trusting someone like Lilly. The seriousness nature of this investigation, which came with the blessings of both Dean Williams and that of the King, appeared to have been lost on up-start astrologer and his half-wit accomplice.  Within minutes of arriving the first of the uninvited observers found their way into the cloister and Ramsay’s hunt turned into an evening of entertainment for Lilly and his cohort.

Ramsay ordered the six labourers to wait at the southern end and none objected. The mad Scotsman had promised them each a month’s wages regardless of what was found. The walkway was warmer than the damp air of the grassed square, the floor covered in rushes and a low fire stoked for them to huddle around. There was silence as none dared speculated within earshot of the royal clockmaker what compelled him to dig in the Abbey at night.

From a satchel, Ramsay produced a grid map on a sheet of rough paper and took unnecessary time and effort in flattening the folds and reviewing the grid references it in the light of Lilly’s lantern.

“We will work in a systematic manner from North to South, East to West, taking measured steps,” Ramsay stated, his thick brogue crystallising in sharp ivory puffs. He made no effort to modulate the volume. There was no point in trying to keep anything a secret. “You understand, Scott? Methodical. This is not the hocus pocus of your mentor.”

The young man flushed under Ramsay’s stare, but nodded. The hazel rods trembled in his gloved hands. Lilly’s face twitched for a moment and he executed a dramatic sneeze to cover the full extent of Ramsay’s debasement. Whatever illusion of friendly partnership remained, froze with the grass beneath their feet.

The trio walked to the north-east corner, their foot steps carving imprints in the lawn. Lilly took the lantern from Ramsay and raised the wick in both. They moved slowly, Scott with the hazel rods held lightly before him, Lilly with the lanterns at head height throwing as much light before them as possible and Ramsay counting under his breath and notating the map as they went.

The moon climbed high above them, the sliver doing little to illuminate their progress. More lights sprung up in the arched windows of the cloister. The weather and late hour had kept all by the hardiest and most curious of onlookers away but still Ramsay scowled. This was not a public performance, though Lilly had obviously gone to great lengths to ensure it was despite his word to keep their visit to the Abbey a sworn secret. Animated chatter stole across the square. Wagers being taken. Stories compared. By tomorrow evening a furious trade in phantasical tales would be had in all the pubs in Westminster and beyond.

Halfway across the cloister Scott complained of the cold and Lilly of cramps. Ramsay called a halt, checked the time on his pocket watch and drew a silver flask from his satchel, offering it only to Scott.

“Uncover what the Abbey hides, laddie, and you’ll not be grovelling for whims over Lord Norris’s chamber pot.” The young man nodded and fumbled the flask, almost dropping it. “Now that, laddie. That would be a true crime.”

Day Twelve #nanowrimo

day 12Words for the day: 2144 (target was 2.5K)
T-shirt: 2010 Official ‘Snakes and Ladders’ NaNoWriMo t-shirt
Best music vibe: UNKLE

The love of a woman will undo a man’s very sanity. It will pick him apart at the seams and restitch him in a way that only he can feel. And the world will carousel around him as if nothing has changed. But different he is, for to love is to gain and lose the entire world in a heart beat. ~David Ramsey

As a storm bears down on my corner of the world, just as there’s also a storm brewing in Dalhousie.

Today I reached the midpoint of the novel. Coming in at 36.5K this means the novel will be somewhere in the vicinity of 75K when finished. That means I am literally in the middle and if I keep writing, there will be time aplenty to end this before the month.

Today I got to delve into the other side of Ramsey and I was surprised at what I found. All manner of truly smart things come out of his mouth (and Christian too making me realise more than ever how much of a CHANNEL I am for characters. I couldn’t think this stuff up if I tried!)

David Ramsey is modeled on a real life man from the mid 17th Century. He was the first master of the Guild of Clock and Watchmakers. He was Clockmaker to James the First but fell from favour, ended up in debtor’s prison and his death is recorded as a post script in a letter from his son.

While Ramsey loved his cogs and springs, he like most of the other scientists of his time made all manner of ‘instruments’ and was deeply interested in the occult. When I stumbled across him back in April looking for information on clock making I had no idea he would end up front and centre of my story.

And now, after all this time, I know what motivates him. Plus, how it is possible that Christian may become the next Ramsey.

The scene that ran through my head in the depths of the night, I’m not sure if it will play out just the way I saw it. It’s a bit like the scene with Tabitha and the Sculptor. It came to me in the dead of night and I thought it far too awful to work within the story. But I made it happen and I suspect, given it’s the same antagonist the same will happen with Christian. But that’s all saved up for tomorrow.

Yesterday I gave you a look at the Brothers Hammond, today it is my pleasure to present Ramsey!

* * *

“Do you love Tabitha,” Ramsey asked, swinging the lamp off the bench and holding it beneath him so the light played tricks with his face.

“I am afraid to know my heart.”

“Afraid you should be.” He caressed the music box briefly and turned back to Christian. “I loved a woman. Her name was Antoinette. That was Antoinette’s silhouette in the music box. There is another of her buried somewhere in this house, a portrait, painted by Paul van Somer, not a silhouette.

“Why not put it front a centre where everyone can see it, such a fine painting that it is? To do so would be to place it where I would pass it every day. Two, three, a dozen times a day. Do I wish to say to the world this is what I loved a lost. To relive each time that loss as I gaze up at her. No. I took her painting and put it somewhere safe. And as long as I live, so does she. To die is to truly lose her forever because only I am left to remember her.”

Ramsey looked up and realised he was talking aloud.

“Where did you meet her?”

“I applaud you Mr MacLeod either as an ignoramus of merit or an astute scholar of time. For you ask where and not when. Good, good.”

He began to pace and the lantern threw chaotic shadows against the walls. The machines at the back appeared to momentarily live and then die.

“We are not so un-alike, Mister MacLeod.”

He stopped pacing as though he needed to halt the forward momentum for his thoughts to catch up with him.

“Where? Yes, Where? I met Antoinette at the King’s court. She had come to be lady-in-waiting to the Queen. And both Paul and I fell passionately in love with her. Only I was married and Paul wasn’t. The painting, it is his. Forever am I tormented to see her through the eyes of the man who was my friend, who did not have the tenacity or imagination to be her lover for all time.”

He began to pace again and his mechanical minions lived and died by the swing of the lantern.

“I lost everything to try and win her: my commission at court, the small amount of money I had saved, my house, my reputation, everything until I was thrown in debtor’s prison. And it was there she finally came to me and confessed her love. By the time I had bought my way out of debtor’s prison, it was too late. She was dead from a fever. Paul had returned to Brussels and I was alone again in a life I didn’t want to be part of.

“I was old before my time. Worn out. Prison had leached from my will to live. I thought I was dead inside. Rather than go home and attempt to resurrect myself I died in a fire. Easy enough to do back then, not so much poking around in the ashes to decipher the who, what, when and why. And David Ramsey, the first Master of the Clock and Watchmakers Guild died and I was born in his ashes.”

He lifted the wick of the kerosene lamp and unlocked a door on the far wall, motioned for Christian to follow him.

“I have spent the rest of my life experimenting with the parameters of time…” Christian stepped into a huge circular room. The light bounced off a massive clockwork mechanism in the middle. “…trying to find my way back.”