The Wrath of the Pointless Puzzle
"A Sheridan Holmes Story."
The Pharaoh's Royal Guards carried the heavily, golden scrolled coffer on a stretcher of silver and alabaster into the deep chamber below the Pharaoh's final resting place. It had been his express orders that it be hidden thus, until he could arise from his sleeping death and complete what he had placed in the coffer. His advisor, a wise man from the East, with a long red beard and pale olive skin, had eyed the coffer thoughtfully a moment as the Pharaoh had placed the object inside.
"You honor the dead, who have no honor."
"I thought you would be pleased with the plainness of the coffer."
"It is still a waste of the future."
The Pharaoh was a learned man and ignored the blasphemous words of his advisor. "Perhaps so, my good friend, but I suspect the future will attend to itself as it always does."
The advisor had inclined his head. He knew when to let it go and this was such a time, since he didn't want to be buried with the Pharaoh along with his seven thousand wives, slaves and guards.
The Pharaoh turned to him then and gave him a curious smile. "Do you believe in the future?"
"I believe in the now, which stretches into the future."
The Pharaoh laughed good naturedly and nodded. "Well spoken. Now, let's get back to the court before the nobles there decide to remove me prematurely from my reign.
The advisor smiled. "I sincerely doubt they would ever try such a thing, your highness."
"Oh, you don't know their hearts as well as I do...." Sheridan said, reading the book in his lap to the twelve children gathered about him and the campfire.
Emily sat with them, handing out rolls she had made and sweetened with honey and butter, while they listened, feeding their stomachs and their minds at the same time.
Finally, Sheridan shut the book.
The kids all booed him.
He held his hands up. "Please, please, have patience, the story is not yet finished."
Emily rose smiling. "Oh, I thank it is. Time for bed, children."
She clapped her hands and they all scrambled to climb into their small tents in teams of two. She watched until the last one had clambered inside, then announced. "We will have hot cocoa and sweet scones for breakfast."
"Yay!" Came cheers from all the tents, then they zippered them up and all was quiet.
Emily came over to Sheridan and sat down alongside him, enjoying his warmth as well as that of the still sparking fire they had fueled about a half hour ago in anticipation of the coming night. "You read well to children."
"You always call me a child."
"I do not!"
"So a child reading to children should not be such a stretch."
She raised a fist to punch his shoulder and on the grin he gave her, lowered it. "Must you always tease me so much?"
"Must bears do...you know...in the woods?"
"There are no bears here."
"Exactly. All the much harder for them, isn't it?"
"Oh, you're impossible!" She growled.
"Father doesn't think so."
"Well mine does. He says you and Sherlock are slivers of the same two by four."
"You should speak. You and Watson are birds of a feather...stuck together." He put his tongue out to give her a raspberry and she caught it between her fingers and glared at him.
Sheridan shook his head and looked at his tongue. She let go. He rubbed his tongue, and then gave her an amused look. "Violence is the last resort of a frustrated intellect."
She stood up, and then kicked him in his right shin.
He looked up at her, his face in pain. "What was that for?"
"For being right again. Good night!"
She stomped off to her tent, clambered inside and zippered it up, effectively shutting him out from any further conversation. At that exact same moment an odd noise came from his right. He twisted about to look, but all he could see were the tall Elder trees and shrubs that surrounded their camp site. That and a large owl, whose luminous eyes were examining him with a hint of amusement.
When he thought that Emily was probably asleep, he slipped into his tent with his book, and then came out with a small coffer, the exact duplicate of the one he had described in his book to the kids. He set it in his lap and examined the scrolling marks on its sides and top. He began translating them out loud.
"That which is broken must be joined together. That which is less, must become whole."
He frowned a moment. "Some kind of curse maybe?"
Gently, he fondled the silver clasp, the only thing notable about the coffer and unlatched it. The coffer opened with a creaky sound. He froze, fearing Emily or one of the kids would awaken. Nothing. Satisfied, he opened the lid all the way. Inside were blocks of marble, cut to various sizes. He noticed that the coffer had latches on the inside as well. So he began loosening them. He placed it on the ground to do so.
As he unlatched the coffer, it spread out to form a kind of board with a vague form upon its surface. "Some kind of puzzle?" He queried himself, truly puzzled at its purpose.
He began placing the pieces of marble on the board, over and over, until they began to take some kind of shape. As he did so they finally came together in a rudimentary face with a smile upon its lips.
"You say what?" Emily spoke to him from in front.
He looked up startled.
She rubbed her eyes dreamily. "I heard you chuckling and making all kinds of baby talk out here, so..."
She froze as she saw the coffer and the board and parts. "It's a puzzle."
He gave her a surprised look. "Why so it is!"
Excitedly, they began placing the marble pieces into positions bordering the design on the board, and as they did so, the face with the rudimentary smile turned into a second face, this one with a scowl and a warning.
Emily poked her finger at the warning. "It's a warning, Sheridan."
"Bit late now." He told her, miffed at not getting it first.
"Beware the wrath of the pointless puzzle." She read aloud.
He broke into laughter. She looked at him angrily, thinking he was making fun of her, and then saw the twinkle in his eyes. "Why are you laughing?"
"Because it has read my mind."
"How is that possible?" She asked. This is obviously from thousands of years ago. No one could possibly have known it would land in your hands.
Sheridan sobered up a moment to consider her words. "But what if they had?"
"How so?" She had asked in a manner that was very reminiscent of her famous father, Doctor John Watson.
He rose and began to pace back and forth, his hands clasped behind his back, head bowed over, his deerstalker cap slanted forwards, almost dropping off. A picture perfect replica of his famous father, Sherlock Holmes. He stopped and eyed the puzzle a moment, then Emily.
"Magic? Even with magic, you cannot control time."
He frowned a moment, then his eyes widened. "But Jules and Wells had traveled through time, why not another?"
"Are you saying that you traveled through time and placed that puzzle in the coffer so you could puzzle yourself in this time and space?"
"But don't you see. It's perfect. The humor. The pointlessness of it. It's exactly the kind of thing I might do, had I the ability to travel through time and space."
"Now you're really creeping me out." She answered with a shiver shaking her beautiful young body.
"No, seriously. Maybe I stowed away on Jules Master of the World and got off to do this thing."
"But how did you get back again without their ship?"
"But that's the whole point of this, maybe I didn't! Maybe the man I was, became, knew he wouldn't be returning and passed this forward to warn me of the now."
She stood up and yawned. "Whatever. Wake me up when it's time to make breakfast. Goodnight Sheridan."
"Goodnight, Emily." He told her sweetly, watching her enter her tent, and resolved one day to tell her how much he cared for her, his heart straining at the effort of hiding his true feelings, which had he been a more clever man than he thought he was, he would've seen in her own eyes that she already knew what he felt and was reciprocating it.
He took the coffer into his tent and sat down, pondering it again. He was about to place it back into the rucksack he carried it in, when he spotted a set of initials on the far bottom corner of the coffer with a small symbol
He plucked his spyglass from his coat pocket, and then examined the marks and the symbol. It was S.H. etched over a small smoking pipe.
"I shall not tell Emily about this. I annoy her enough as is, without giving her a pointless puzzle to worry about."
He smiled a long moment at his words and the words of the puzzle he had learned, and then he laid the coffer inside the rucksack, closed it, and lay down on his makeshift bed. He wouldn't sleep that night, because now he knew why it wasn't really a pointless puzzle after all. It was a warning to him to be careful or he would lose all that he loved.
He smiled. Maybe. Maybe not. Then sleep caught him in its gentle arms and swung him away into the blissful rest we all deserve after a hard day of labor.
But before he was lost to this world, for a brief shining moment, he saw into another world and saw himself plunging through time and space in the dark hold of a mysterious vessel. Then time and space vanished and he vanished in the bliss of deep sleep.