So, here's my second response. The ball's in your court, Crystal.
Seeing her brother’s bared torso, Celeste’s eyes dilated. Her hand went to her mouth, and she gasped.
Jacob, peeking out of the bundled shawl, thought :Jesus, Gawain. What happened to you?:
Gawain’s smile disappeared. His eyebrows drew heavy curtains of shadow over his eyes. “Damn it, Celeste,” Gawain’s dropped his left hand to cover his crotch. “This is no time for sibling rivalry.” He raised his right hand, snapped his fingers, and the light level surrounding around Celeste dimmed.
Celeste blinked until her eyes recovered from their brief bout of snow blindness. They were in a well-appointed drawing room, a fully-stoked fireplace blazing merrily away. Heavy, blood-red curtains blocked out the sunshine, and a handful of gaslamps added feeble light to the fire. Jacob was still under her arm, but her brother had disappeared.
“Gawain?” Celested looked around. Two doors led into the room. One was open and led to a sunlit room.
Gawain stepped from the sunlit room, tying the belt of a silk dressing gown at his waist. “You know, sister, there are those who would question the deep-seated psychological issues of a woman who finds excuses to strip her younger brother naked—with her husband looking on, no less.”
Celeste frowned down at Jacob, who promptly leapt from the shawl and strutted over to the fire. :Hadn’t you heard, Gawain? She divorced me.:
Celeste dropped the empty shawl and turned on Gawain. “Don’t start trying to be funny, Gawain, or to distract me. I saw those scars. I’ve never seen anything like that. What the hell happened to you, Sweety?”
:From muck-sucking, walleyed guttersnipe to Sweety in under five minutes. Not bad.: Jacob sat before the fire, licking his paw.
“Can it, Jacob. Gawain, what the hell is going on? You called us here, but then dragged us back into the Twentieth Century. Now I find that your torso is covered with scars that look like you’ve been streaked with napalm.”
Gawain shrugged. “I didn’t drag you here, and the scars are from Balrog’s whip.”
Celeste backed up, finding an easy chair with the backs of her knees, and sat down slowly. “Balrog?
Gawain, what the hell are you talking about? Balrog is a fiction. There’s no such thing.”
Gawain shivered. “No. There isn’t. Unless Ninue wants there to be. She’s incredibly powerful, Celeste.”
:Ninue? Merlin’s mythic girlfriend? If he’s a myth, shouldn’t she be one, too?:
Gawain coughed out a syllable that might have been a scrap of laughter. “O, she’s real enough, Jacob. She’s the one dragging us back in time—dragging me, actually. You guys just got stuck in the vortex. I managed to hold onto our comm-screens, for all the good they do back here. She’s trying to drag me back to England, as well, but it’s been easier to fight the traction through volumetric dimensions than through time. This—1907—is the best I could do. I know you’d rather be back up in the Twenty-First Century or maybe back home in the Twenty-Fourth.”
Celeste rubbed her temples with the thumb and middle finger of her right hand. “Hecate’s loins, Gawain. Who is this woman? What does she want with you? Why have you been tortured?”
Gawain frowned, looked at the floor. “She’s a rogue. One of ours, of course. She’s very old, very angry. She plans to remake to world using her magic. She’s living in a heavily-shielded cave in Northumbria, and she has the Merlin. She plans to activate it in A.D. 656 and bring magic to Anglo-Saxon England.”
Celeste gasped. “That’s insane. Bringing magic to a pre-Cartesian society will push scientific progress back thousands of years and inhabit the wild spaces with all manner of inhuman monsters. Why would anyone want to do that?”
“I gather from what little she said that she doesn’t think too highly of our version of progress. She’s had a rough time. She lost everyone she cared about in World War III.”
Jacob growled. :You’re talking nonsense, Gawain. There’s never been a WWIII.:
Gawain shrugged. “Not in our timeline. You should see the radiation burns on that woman. Yeek. She wants me back. She knows I went forward to the Center. She may have guessed that I had her fingerprint on my comm-screen, I don’t know if she realized I had some of her DNA. Hell, she may even think I’d already figured out who she is. I’m honestly kind of surprised I didn’t—even with the scars and the years and her messed-up throat. I should have known her.”
Jacob purred. :How’d you manage the DNA?:
Gawain grinned. “She kissed me. She was taunting me, but I bit her lip. Managed to keep a scrap of her skin wedged in my teeth until I could get my hand free.”
Celeste smirked, crossed her arms. “Okay, little brother, so you figured her out. Who is she, Sherlock?”
Gawain glanced down at his comm-screen, touched a few points. “Okay, it should be on your screen, now. This is the old woman who’s trying to destroy the world.”
Celeste looked down at the screen. “This isn’t funny, Gawain.”
Gawain shook his head, frowning. “No. It’s not. It’s not a joke.”