The Dreaded Time

Excerpt from RockShare chat.   Date of posting: 02/11/05  
I heard this story in a bar in London, back in 1886. There was this guy who's managed to outwit Time. Well, I didn't believe it myself, but it was fascinating. They told me that this guy was a Localite, of all people! Well, nobody knows how it went exactly, but apparently, before this encounter, the Persians won against the Greeks, and a chunk of Classical history as we know it was completely different!

— Giovanni-Pelazzo!2005


Time-travelers think of Time as a sentient entity. Some think of it as a tall red-headed woman with bronze skin, wearing a chic white dress with rich ornamentation. Some imagine Time to be a weird black essence with shadowy tentacles connected to events all over time. But what it's imagined to be is irrelevant. More important is, how it ("he?", "her?"... Let's go with "her") functions.   Time's main goal is believed to be the preservation of the timeline as it is. And in it, Time prefers elegance to blunt instruments.  
Let's say you want to kill William the Bastard, the future king of England when he's fifteen years old. You take a pistol and travel to 1043. You find the place in Normandy he likes to visit during his hunts. You hide behind a tree and wait until William starts aiming his bow, and his entourage is distracted. You show up from behind the tree, you aim and you pull the trigger... And your pistol jams. Well, time to run for your life, since the entirety of Duchy of Normandy is after you now. Reach the Sending Stone, try to outrun their arrows!
  "This is not an elegant approach", - Time Travellers would say. "This is the abuse of anachronistic technology, Time doesn't like that in games like these, oh no, she doesn't", - they'd add. Now, what about learning how to use a bow, training to become a master marksman? You repeat your actions three years later, in 1046 during a rebellion in Normandy, and now you shoot the prince on the battlefield. Well, assuming you're really good, your arrow will hit your target. And let's assume you manage to get out of there alive.  
Now you're back, you open Wikipedia... And there's nothing new. Yes, there isn't a William anymore, but now there is some other French noble claiming the throne of England. You didn't even see his name before, he had just appeared out of thin air! History heals itself. We cannot even be sure if William the Conqueror himself isn't one of these substitutes!  
How to achieve true change in history, you might wonder? Well, nobody knows. There is this mythical Greek hero that turned the tides of Greco-Persian wars by outwitting Time, or haggling with her. But it's impossible to prove this ever happening.  
  There are hundreds of stories about all the different methods Time uses to destroy you. Throughout history, time travelers have vanished, were brutally murdered, contracted dreadful sicknesses. One traveler survived to tell the tale of how he decided to introduce a concept of a bicycle a couple hundred or so years earlier in China. He'd open a workshop in Nanjing and would even teach people how to produce them. The materials needed to do that he brought from the future. All was well, and the wealthy citizens were glad to pay for these vehicles until a local official learned about it. He ordered the traveler to be seized along with his pupils. Whatever the traveler did to hide, he always failed. He tried to wait out the hot pursuit by sleeping in the canal. Well, someone just randomly came along with a torch and spotted him. He tried to reach the Sending Stones on his bike, and from nowhere appeared his client, on his own bike, and collapsed into the traveler. After being tortured on the orders of the official, the traveler was rescued by his colleagues. He has never set foot in China ever since.  
The bottom line is, they do believe there is an entity called Time. She vigorously regulates time travel and has a very bad temper. And, sometimes, a very sick sense of humor.

Historical Basis

Let's look at why they're so sure of Time's existence. Well, we've got one example already. But additionally, every time traveler is swearing they've encountered something way more paranormal than wizards, elves, or Divine Intervention, during their numerous travels. It can be a product of their ignorance, unprofessionalism and sensitivity, but these claims can't be ignored.   The experiments help in accumulating confidence in Time's existence. Trying to shoot a historical figure is one of the methods you can use to check if Time is watching, we've already covered that. Attempts at getting rich quick using superior knowledge from the future also provokes a brutal response. It's lethal actually. Out of all people who have ever placed a bet on a winning horse, knowing that it would win from some kind of almanac, nobody ever survived. They could encounter muggers. Or the not-so-legal owners of this horse race might pay a "friendly" visit shortly after. A purse with gold coins could attract a lightning strike and a stack of old paper money spontaneously combust with just one small spark. Time hates people that take advantage of the past. As the result, time travelers aren't really rich: even some historical items they bring with themselves do not look old enough to be considered "a historical item".   There are also records of positive encounters with Time. Travelers claim that they've at least once spotted an anachronism they had to extract and put into its respective time period. Usually, it's something that can hurt things immensely: a charged pistol in XII century London, or a gunpowder barrel on a Viking longship, or a smartphone with an archive on military history somewhere in the court of Napoleon. Travelers claim they feel like Time puts them on a path where they will find an anachronism and wants them to get rid of it.


Fringers don't like to discuss Time Travel, but the myth of the Dreaded Time often becomes a subject of argument. Many believe that time travelers invented this "Time" to prove their ability to roam in the past but not change anything there. It understandably annoys many travelers.   There are more scientifically-minded fringers, though. And they believe that even if Time didn't exist, she should've been invented. Her potential existence makes her real existence more likely because many travelers believe in her. Though, the very same time-travelers can't agree on this point, either. There weren't any recorded cases of new gods emerging after the The Enlightenment, and there aren't enough time travelers to create a god. Look at the Pastafarians. They do believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, even though most consider it a joke. Their god still doesn't exist and doesn't act. Also, there are some questions pertaining to how time travelers' belief works. Does all of this faith add up throughout space and time? Or does it only count in the time periods when they're active? How do you pray to Time to get magical powers from her? There are many questions, indeed.   In conclusion, Time Travelers do not think that Time is a goddess. They're sure she's a function of the Universe itself.

Variations & Mutation

Many stories the travelers tell about Time are, in fact, exaggerated. You won't cause a paradox by stepping on a butterfly. You won't be punished by Her if you kill someone not elegantly enough. Every traveler did encounter some kind of a paranormal reaction to their actions or travels, but this is it. It was just that one time. They won't mention it unless they're asked directly, and they don't like to tell you about it.   Some did those previously mentioned experiments, though. Can you trust them? Did they do all these tests? Well, you can try and ask them. But it's obvious how they would answer. They would say - yes, they did all those experiments, they can definitively prove the Dreaded Time's existence. But if you can't take it at face value, you sure as Hell can try to do those yourself. But you shouldn't experiment alone. You'll have to sacrifice a lot of people, maybe even yourself, doing these experiments, and you can never ever let Her understand that you're planning to learn something about Her nature this way.   Time doesn't give second chances. She warns you, gently: you can miss while shooting, you can notice a bad omen here and there, you can be stopped by a carriage ruining your coat. Then She starts being more persistent. You can fall flat on your face, or someone can hit you during a bar fight you're not participating in. And if you keep doing something She doesn't like, she will definitely just kill you off, and she won't feel bad about it. So, Mr. Doubting Tomas. Good luck with your experiments!   One can't understand if they're just bluffing or they're just trying to warn you.
Date of First Recording
Today. Any of todays
Date of Setting
Through all of Time

Cover image: Kosmos by Carl Roesch


Please Login in order to comment!
20 Dec, 2020 17:27

Довольно элегантный способ избавиться от ломающих мозг парадоксов причинно-следственной связи. Почти также круто, как и в Докторе Кто. К тому же, меня сильно порадовала отсылка на Back to the Future.

Grandmaster Teyvill
Andrew Belenkiy aka Teyvill Dost
20 Dec, 2020 17:28

Спасибо за добрые слова)

28 Dec, 2020 23:37

I love the tone this article is written in - it's both playful and threatening. Time herself sounds like an entity I would never want to cross. :)

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
Grandmaster Teyvill
Andrew Belenkiy aka Teyvill Dost
29 Dec, 2020 08:43

I'm glad I could achieve that tone! ;)

30 Dec, 2020 22:46

I cannot tell you how much I love this article. Time and Her twisted sense of humour -- as well as the ambiguity of Her nature -- appeals to me on so many different levels. :D This is top-notch worldbuilding. Loved reading this on stream!

Author of the Wyrd West Chronicles and the Toy Soldier Saga. Mother of Bunnies, Eater of Pickles, Friend of Nerds, First of her Name.
Grandmaster Teyvill
Andrew Belenkiy aka Teyvill Dost
8 Jan, 2021 15:32

Thank you very much for your kind words ;) Just got around to implementing corrections, thanks for reviewing the article on stream! ;)