Filipa cursed the way her insides twisted into knots. The bastard didn't deserve so human a response. Still, holding up her candle at eye height, she inched along the stone corridor, lifting the hem of her skirt from the ground. Easing toward the commotion.
The foyer was just around the corner and the sound was getting nearer. It must be her husband (she grasped the item in her bosom). As she came closer to the noise, she realized it wasn't just her husband, but two husbands -- no three, and a wife.
All seemingly speaking the king's English -- with a hard to place accents. Maybe it was the servants -- drunken and slurring. She immediately began to worry less for herself and more for their own safety. Hastily she turned the corner only to see her not-servants standing in strange and diverse garments. She felt like a fool. Certainly, these strangers wished to do her harm.
She started her scream but a silver haired gentleman interrupted the call to say in Portuguese:
"Madam, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Royce and I know it is your first instinct to scream, but there are six of us and one of you and-- this is not a fact I take pleasure in divulging, but if we wished to do you harm, we could do it easily. Any cries for help would only be counterproductive and --- if we are the barbarians you surmise us to be -- it would only make our attack more brutal."
"Are you the barbarians I surmise you to be?" she said in a restrained whisper, gasping for breath.
"Like many men, we are barbarians when the situation calls for it. Otherwise we are perfectly charming," he ends on a genuinely charming smile.
But Filipa is still cautious.
"I should take the word of would-be barbarians.?"
"It would be either that or the fist. Not my own but my female associate here, Mercedes.”
Filipa looked to the woman standing firmly before with a powerful frame and wearing garments just like the men. She did not look comfortable.
"What manner of name is Mercedes," Filipa queried, beginning to weave many tales of sorcery within her overactive mind.
"I will answer that," Royce replied. "So long as you answer what manner of blade it is."
"Manner of blade?" Filipa asked, both blushing and confused.
"Is it short and stout? Does it have daggers at its corners? Is it a dagger itself? Is it made of the finest steel or cheap and rotted copper?"
Filipa shot up straight and in an overly offended tone said, "I am afraid I have no idea what you are talking about!"
"You have every idea what I am talking about," Royce persisted, "because it is the dagger that is hidden beneath your bosom. The one you will use to kill your husband."
Filipa was not prepared for such specificity. Her mouth hung slack, searching, like a bedeviled man, for an adequate answer. Trying to suppress the perspiration.
“Maybe,” she said, “I had the blade because there were a bunch of strangers in my foyer.”
“Then why not have it drawn? Some good a blade does, hidden under your bosom.”
Filipa somehow felt violated by that remark. Still she moved on.
“Very well,” Filipa finally confessed, lifting her chin defiantly. “I was going to kill him because he is a horrible man and a horrible husband and an even more horrible master. If our dinner is a degree colder than his tongue can handle he will beat every slave whose hand the dish passed through. He beats men within a foot of death and then dares to beat them two feet more. You and he would get along nicely as there are none I know more barbaric than he.”
The silver-haired one pondered these remarks and finally came back with what seemed like an obvious revelation.
“He sounds like an awful man.”
“He is,” said Filipa.
“He sounds like a tyrant.”
“He is,” Filipa said again.
“And I will have to ask to never kill him.”
“Yes, it is important that he survive.”
The gentleman added these words with both caution and gravity, “It is important for history.”
“My husband? Important for history?”
Filipa was momentarily pleased for this meeting for it was during this rendezvous that she received the laugh of her life.
The people surrounding her were not laughing, however, for her husband was Christopher Columbus. His wife, formerly Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, was barely a scratch on the pages of history. Dying under unknown circumstances two years into their marriage. No one knew -- not even, the silver-haired leader of the flock, Royce.
But Mercedes, deep in her soul, knew how Filipa died. Married to a man whose most infamous accomplishments were brutality of the natives? How else could she have died? Like all the women married to bloodthirsty demons like him. The realization struck her like lightning forcing her to blurt out, “We can’t do this!”
“What do you mean?” asked Royce.
“I’ve been biting my tongue this whole mission. What on earth did Columbus do that was so damned important! Slaughter the natives? Beat his slaves? Treat his wife like garbage?”
Royce pursed his lips, thinking and then knowing the implication of what Mercedes was saying.
“You are right, of course. Contrary to American fables, he did nothing really extraordinary. He didn’t discover the world was round, he wasn’t even the first European to find America. He was, however, the first to settle there. This led to the colonies, which led to America, which led to the only superpower strong enough to turn the tide against the Nazis. It’s sad, but without the US interfering, Hitler would have taken control of the world, slaughtering millions more.”
Filipa observed as these weirdly dressed people talked strangely in her home. They talked of death and genocide. They argued passionately amongst themselves.
“We have to find another way,” Mercedes pleaded. “We must find another --”
“No,” a voice interrupted.
And to everyone’s surprise, it was Filipa. Filipa who, upon hearing the servants drunk, first cared for their being tortured by her husband. Filipa who moments ago wanted to murder the man not for the harm he had done to her, but to all those around him. If she was preventing a greater catastrophe, she believed it her duty to do so.
“This man you call Hitter,” she began.
“Hitler,” Royce corrected.
“Jackass trying to overcompensate,” Mercedes further corrected.
“Hister. Whoever he is. He will ruin the world. Cause much suffering?”
Resisting the urge to say he would cause grave and unending suffering, Royce coyly said, “That is the calculation.”
“Well, I will suffer through my husband’s shortcomings. Who knows? Maybe he will change.”
The awkward silence did not assure her of this.
“Even if he doesn’t. It is for the greater good, is it not?”
Royce at that moment, instantly fell in love, and wanted to brush his hand against her cheek.
Instead he just admired her, saying, “You are a beautiful woman.”
Filipa laughed again, “The way my husband sneaks around at night, I would guess that time has passed.”
“It has not,” Royce said. “But that is not the beauty I speak of.”
And with that, Royce and his associates walked up the hallway, mission completed…
...only to be interrupted by an enraged Christopher Columbus. He was a stout and serious man with piercing eyes that protruded from his face. His response was immediate. His voice boomed through the corridor.
“Filipa! Who are these people in my home!”
Royce, always prepared with a tempered answer for anything the Timekeepers got themselves into, was ready to respond.
“Relax,” he said, with a disarming smile. “I can explain.”
“You can explain it to the executioner’s whip. There is no reason worth listening to for being in a man’s home.”
“But if you would just hear me out --”
“I will hear your screams in the gallows! I will hear your cries in the alleyways and I will hear the lashes against your bubbling skin as you beg me for mercy!”
Royce cringed at this man’s obsession with lashings and wondered if he would be some weird type of fetishist in modern times. This back and forth went on and Royce soon realized he would have to change his tact.
A minor inconvenience, he thought.
So while this king of history berated him, Royce did the temporal calculations. A few permutations. Carried the four.
Then, just like that, he shot Christopher Columbus straight through his big fat head.
His lifeless body plopped to the ground to the audience of Filipa's wide eyes and equally wide mouth. Filipa was not so shocked by the death. In fact, an eerie sense of relief flowed through her body.
Indeed, she was more shocked by the weapon used to dispatch with her loved one. A tiny, hand-held rifle that ripped through her husband’s brow without making a sound.
“You are witches,” she proclaimed, still staring.
Royce looked to his associates, as if mentally conferring with them.
“We are something like that,” he said, echoes of the ancient movie Wizard of Oz ringing in his ear. “But we are good witches.”
Mercedes filled in the pieces, “Yes, we are like witches but instead of magic, we use a thing called science to travel through time and avert disasters.”
“But it seems,” Royce concluded. “There is an opening position in the annuls of history. Who can fill those shoes?”
Maybe, his calculations told him, they didn't have to create the brutish nation of the US that obsessed with building bombs. Maybe, he surmised, the US could be built on a foundation of peace and diplomacy so unequivocal it would reverberate throughout the world and topple the SS before it started.
In a moment of inspiration, he did another mental calculation. Coming to his conclusions, he turned to Filipa and said, “You wouldn’t happen to know how to sail, would you?”