The Time Paradox

Extract: The Time Paradox

'You are in luck, Artemis,' said demon No1, wiggling his eight fingers. 'I did a module on time travel last week on the warlock diploma course I'm taking.'

'Small class, I bet,' commented Artemis dryly.

'Just me,' admitted No1. 'And Qwan, of course, my teacher. Apparently, I am the most powerful warlock Qwan has ever seen.'

'Good,' said Artemis. 'Then transporting us all into the past shouldn't pose any problems for you.'

Foaly had projected himself on to five of Artemis's various monitors. 'All?' spluttered each image. 'All! You can't take Number One with you.'

Artemis was not in the mood for argument. 'I need him, Foaly. End of discussion.'

Foaly looked as though his head would bulge through the screens. 'It is most certainly not end of discussion. Holly is an adult – she can make her own decision – but Number One is little more than a child. You cannot jeopardize him on one of your missions. A lot of hopes rest on that little demon. The future of the fairy families.'

'None of us will have a future if Number One doesn't take us to the past.'

'Please stop,' said No1. 'All this arguing is making me dizzy. There is no time for it.'

Artemis's face was red, but he held his tongue, unlike Foaly who kept shouting, but at least he muted the screens.

'Foaly needs to vent,' explained Holly, 'or he gets headaches.'

The three waited until the centaur calmed himself, then No1 spoke: 'In any event, I cannot go with you, Artemis. That's not how it works.'

'But you transported us from Limbo.'

'Qwan did that. He is a master; I am but an apprentice. And, anyway, we had no desire to go back to Limbo. If you wish to return here, I need to stay as a marker.'

'Explain,' said Artemis tersely.

No1 spread his arms wide. 'I am a beacon,' he declared. 'A shining supernova of power. Any magic I release into the ether will be attracted back to me. I send you into the past, and you will snap back to me like puppies on a leash.' No1 frowned, not happy with his simile. 'One of those retractable leashes.'

'Yes, we get it,' said Artemis. 'How long will it take to weave the spell?'

No1 chewed his lip for a moment. 'About as long as it takes you two to remove your clothing.'

Artemis leaned close to the demon's cornet-shaped ear. 'Why do we need to take our clothes off?'

'That is a very good question,' said Holly into the other ear.

'It's quite simple,' said No1. 'I am not so skilled as Qwan. And even with Qwan overseeing the last transfer, you two managed to switch an eye each, which was probably because someone was focusing on stealing magic. If you take clothes or guns in there, they could become a part of you.' The demon raised a stiff finger. 'Lesson number one of time transfers,' he stated. 'Keep it simple. It's going to take all of your concentration just to reassemble your bodies.'