"Tasha? Miss?" A distant voice pulled me away from my dream and for just a few seconds I believed I was in London.
"Yes?" I opened my eyes and came face to face with not my own mother but the rotting smile from the night before.
"It's time to go mother thinks you need to be going early. So that no one sees you leave." Lizzy said before scurrying out of the room.
"Tasha put this on over your clothes, you won't be stopped on the way if you do." Hannah said. She handed me a cloak of rough woollen material, as plain as the life it belonged to.
"Lizzy and Edward will take you to London, here is some food for the journey. Once you get to London you head straight for the palace, you'll be safer there." Hannah said ushering me out of the back door of the tavern where Edward was waiting with a cart. The sun was barely up, red stripes glinting on the horizon.
"How can I ever thank you?" I asked.
"Jus' get there safely." Hannah said as I got into the cart. She pressed my hand and then the cart began to move jerking along the uneven surface that served as the road.
"How far is London?" I asked.
"'Bout ten miles, not far. Take us a few hours." Edward said.
"So Tasha have you got any brothers and sisters?" Lizzy asked.
"Yes I have one older brother." I said.
"What's his name?"
"Jacob." I said.
"How many people live in your house?" Lizzy asked, not in the least bit of afraid of this complete stranger sitting beside her.
"Four: me, my brother, my mum and my dad." I said.
"What about servants?"
"No." I laughed.
"You sound like you have servants." She said.
"The time that I come from no one has servants, only the Queen does." I said.
"You have a Queen?"
"Yes." I said.
"We have a king. King Henry VIII." She said. My heart began to sink when she said that. God knows what was in store for me if he was on the throne.
"Do you know how to read?" Lizzy asked.
"Yes amongst other things." I said laughing slightly.
"You must have servants. Only the rich are educated." Edward called from the front.
"Everyone is where I come from. It's compulsory to go to school until you are sixteen." I said.
"However, for all my education I do not know how to sew." I added.
"Lord!" Lizzy exclaimed. Soon after she fell asleep on my shoulder and the interrogation ended. How she had fallen asleep I could not fathom, the rattling of the cart and the uncomfortable hardness of the wood beneath me made me long for the cars back at home where ten miles took minutes not hours.
"Edward how long has the King been on the throne?" I asked.
"'Bout two harvests now." He said. I was slightly confused when he said two harvests and it took me a few minutes before I realised that that was his way of measuring time. In my English two harvests meant two years so Henry would be around twenty six, still amiable and not in any hurry to burn down monasteries. I calmed slightly at this, England was so far at peace and not several Queens into a holy war.
"Do you like him as a King?" I asked.
"Honest, we peasants don't really notice change. Life is same as it always was, but yes I believe he is popular. Queen Catherine is certainly very popular amongst the people." He said.
"May I ask how old you are?" He asked a while later
"Eighteen." I said.
"You are not married?" He asked and I laughed.
"No and probably won't be for some time." I said "In my time, we think getting married at eighteen a little young." I added at his confusion.
"I see. Here it's very unusual for a woman not to be at least betrothed at eighteen." Edward said. I knew this of course but it was only with his evident disapproval that it hit me how much of a male dominated world I was in. I was not used to being looked down on, treated as if I was simple and made for marrying and child rearing.
"London." Edward said nodding to the skyline. Rising up was a great stone wall and beyond it were the beginnings of houses, much like those in the village Edward came from. I tensed as we passed through an archway into the city flanked by soldiers, afraid they would discover me, but they merely nodded at Edward who carried on through as if nothing was amiss. As we moved deeper into town the streets became narrower, busier, the houses packed tightly together all higgledy-piggledy. It was not difficult to see how the Great Fire of London had started. It also smelt, badly, especially as we got nearer the Thames. But the one thing I really noticed, perhaps down to my paranoia of being arrested, was the sheer number of soldiers marching around. The journey had been fine, no one had even given us a second glance but now I felt as though a hundred eyes were upon me.
"Are there usually this many soldiers around?" I asked Edward.
"No." He said quietly. Eventually we came to a great square, which was crammed with hundreds of carts and stalls, the noise level almost deafening as people advertised their wares. Edward jumped out with ease and then helped me down from my seat, careful not to let anyone see my odd clothing. We left Lizzy with the cart and ducked immediately into a dark alley in the corner of the square. There was so much dirt covering the stones beneath me that I was sure my flimsy twenty first century shoes were not going to last a day. I took off the cloak, its hem already visibly dirty and handed it back to Edward.
"To get to the palace follow the river, you'll come out on the edge of the city. Follow the road straight, it'll take you to the main gates. Keep the cloak you'll need it." He said handing it back to me.
"Thank you." I said.
"Go." He urged pushing me along. I put the cloak on and flicked up the hood a knot forming in my stomach as I realised I was going to have to navigate an alien version of London without running into any soldiers or being noticed as an oddity by the general public. Staying by the river was easy, the stench made it impossible to miss but more than once I had to duck into alleys to avoid being caught. The streets were busier than I had ever imagined and more than once I nearly got run over by a horse and cart and the rubbish I saw people throw into the Thames put me off ever walking by it again. Eventually I made it to the edge of the city and onto a gravelled road that ran straight into greener areas. After walking for about fifteen minutes and my lungs had cleared of the foul air that had lingered by the Thames I saw the gates of Greenwich palace at the end of the road. The palace sprawled behind them, a great imposing grey stone building and at the sight of it, bile rose in my throat as I realised what I was going to have to do.
"Halt." One of the guards at the gate said "What business have you here?" He asked. I took my hood down and tried not to look nervous.
"Er, I am here to see the King." I said quietly and the guards laughed.
"See the King? Peasants do not see the King." The other guard said. They were big, burly men with swords at their waists and spears resting casually against the wall.
"Well I -." I began to say.
"Go on off with ye!" The guard said. Frustrated, I took the cloak off fully so they could see I wasn't your average peasant. The guards looked surprised but did not immediately part for me.
"I need to see the King. I'm the fallen angel everyone's been looking for." I said. But at this the guards burst out laughing.
"Really, I am." I said.
"Perform a miracle then." The guard jeered.
"What?" I asked.
"A miracle. Go on."
"I can't do it on command." I said desperately, I couldn't do it at all but it was probably best not to admit that.
"Nice try. On your way now." The one on the right said.
"No I have to see the King." I said and out of sheer desperation and unwillingness to lose my one hope to get home tried to push past them.
"Alright missy you want to see the King? You can go and see him in handcuffs." The one on the left said getting angry, pinning my arms behind my back whilst the other one fetched some large iron handcuffs. I was pulled and pushed into the palace along flag stone corridors, lit with flaming torches and taken down into the vaults towards what looked like a dungeon. I was thrown into a cell, the barred door locked behind me.
"Shit." I cursed, sitting down on the one rickety wooden stool that there was. I could faintly hear the moans of the other inmates, the scurrying of rats up the wall and the dripping of water onto the floor. I felt suddenly cold, but having left the cloak on the ground outside had only my thin jacket for warmth. I felt like crying, the faint glimmer of hope that the news of the other angel had brought was now fading fast. From the grate at the top of the cell I could see the sunlight getting stronger as the hours passed and with every footstep I heard I prayed it was someone coming to let me out.
"The King wishes to see you." The cell door was finally unlocked and I was pulled up from the stool and then along corridors, moving up through the palace. The decoration got finer, the temperature warmer and more people seemed to be moving around. Courtiers and servants alike bustled through the palace, too busy to notice a prisoner being dragged past them. Finally we reached great, carved double doors, which opened to reveal a vast room, with a high vaulted ceiling, sunlight streaming in through the windows. Before I could take anymore in I was thrown to the floor hitting my knees roughly on the stone, my hands scraping themselves on the fall as they automatically went out to break my fall. I could see the feet of all the wealthy courtiers around me, the hems of the ladies' dresses embroidered in rich colours and suddenly I felt more out of place than I had done in the village. I also felt rather exposed in the middle of this crowd, obviously fixated on my novelty.
"My guards tell me that you say you are the fallen angel." A commanding voice said above me. I didn't look up, I didn't dare.
"Yes Your Grace." I said
"Tell me where did you fall?" He asked
"In a clearing, in a forest not far from the village of Little Hanglington." I said
"And what did you do after you found yourself in that forest?"
"I walked, I walked in the rain until near nightfall where I came across the village and I went to find shelter in the church." I said.
'Well-." The King began to say but he stopped and instead said, "Ah you are awake, we are deciding whether this is your fellow angel." Out of sheer curiosity I lifted my head to see who it was he was talking to. When I saw the young man standing there in his jeans and t-shirt, the crop of floppy dark brown hair falling into his eyes, the cross-shaped scar on his wrist I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. James Munroe was neither genius nor hero, I had known him all my life and yet he had never failed to meet my very below the bar expectations of him.
"Oh you have got to be kidding me." I said completely forgetting where I was.
"Not happy to see me then Tasha?" James asked smiling.
"I beg your pardon this is the other angel? You are acquainted?" The king asked astonished.
"Looking a little more dishevelled than usual but yes." James said helping me up. "Christ, Tasha where have you been?" He asked picking straw out of my hair.
"Well not everyone gets to land in London." I sniffed.
"Your Grace this is my good friend Tasha Carlton." James said and I curtseyed awkwardly.
"It's a pleasure to meet you. A thousand apologies for earlier." The King said inclining his head.
"Now might I suggest somewhere a little more private?" The King said and he gestured towards an open doorway behind him. I followed James, desperately trying to smooth my hair down as I passed the courtiers dressed in their finery, their whispers making me self conscious.
"Please sit." Henry VIII said indicating the chairs around the table in the smaller, but no less fine room. "Might I inquire as to how you two know each other?" He continued. His face looked young but his build was broad, if he had born in my century he would almost certainly have made the scrum in a rugby team. The red hair made famous by his daughter Elizabeth was full and I could see that he was handsome. Perhaps not what we would consider good looking but still handsome. But it wasn't his looks that made him kingly, dressed in furs and rich gold, his fingers dripping with rings but it was his presence. Even away from court he emanated a commanding power that was unexpected for such an inexperienced King.