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prejackpot OP t1_j2a1uz1 wrote

Lord Rowan felt cold rage running in his veins as he peered through his ambaric viewer at the village below. He had imagined finding Lydia dead, or even – heaven forbid – held captive, suffering a fate worse than death in some chieftan’s smoke-filled tent. He had steeled himself for such eventualities, and comforted himself with thoughts of the vengeance he would wreck on the primitives who did it.

What he hadn’t expected was to see Lydia out and about in the village, dressed in skins like an ancient savage herself. Good Lord, was she skinning a deer? Was she their slave?

This was Lydia’s own fault, he knew. A chronovelic excursion was no place for a lady, but she had insisted and badgered so relentlessly he had finally attempted to find a safe destination for her to accompany him to. He should have been stronger, he realized now, for both of their sakes.

What had they done to Lydia, he wondered? Her movements were unladylike; one of the other primitive females had said something in their own tongue, and Lydia responded with an undignified cackle of laughter. He had never heard her make such a sound before. He had to rescue her, he thought as he reached for his elecro-rifle.

No, Lord Rowan suddenly realized. He had heard her cackle like that before. Before they were married; when she was a girl, and he was a young scholar, and she would insist on hearing the gossip from the academy. He would make her laugh like that then.

A tribesman approached Lydia, and she turned and – oh, God – kissed him full on the lips. Lord Rowan squeezed the rifle and prepared to take aim.

She used to kiss him like that, when he would come upstairs from the laboratory, from another long day and night of failed experimentation, to find her still at her sewing. Before the chronoveler. Before the lordship.

When had she last kissed him like that, he wondered? When had she last laughed like that?

Lord Rowan thought of the Lydia he knew now: shrill-voiced and pinched, choked with rage at some society snub or some transgression of his own. Not the girl he had loved, he had found himself thinking before.

He looked through the ambaric viewer. The woman down in the village laughed again and fed some cooked meat to the tribesman. No, that was not his Lydia, not anymore. That woman was far too happy.

Lydia had died, he decided he would tell the academy. A tragic accident during an irresponsible chronovelic experiment. There would be some censure, to be sure, but it would be mild. She was only a woman, after all. Yes, Lord Rowan decided. That would be the best solution all around. Quietly, he lowered his elecro-rifle, and began to prepare to return home.