Oxford is a city with a long history: starting as a simple settlement around a ford where oxen could cross the river, the foundation of what would become a world-famous university led to it becoming a centre of culture for the UK and beyond.
With that said though, there’s no question that Oxford had flourished in recent years, and the increased strength of transport links between Oxford and London make it easier than ever to take a day out in this beautiful city. Kick back with a coffee, check out any of the city’s fascinating museums, or just take some time to stroll around the colleges and dream…
— Introduction to Oxford from London: A Tourist Guide
Despite the hustle and bustle of the university term, this corner of college was quiet. The late-spring sunlight filtered through the branches of the old oak and down to the young woman sitting at its base, her glasses pushed up on top of her head and her nose stuck deep in an old copy of A Life of Leviathans.
‘That looks like a good book.’
She jumped at the sound of a voice that seemed to come from all around her, but probably came from the young man now sitting to her right. Or was it a young man? Now that she looked again, despite the unlined face of youth he looked far more tired than any young man should.
Then again, this was Oxford. What was it for if not driving the young to ancientness through exhaustion?
‘It is,’ the young woman replied. ‘She had the most extraordinary life.’
The person to her left reached out and touched the cover, tracing the author’s embossed name.
‘Nell Hadley,’ he read out. ‘That’s . . . I’m sure I know that name from somewhere. I forget where.’ His hand dropped to lie languid at his side and he rolled over onto his back like a cat taking in the afternoon sun. ‘Forget a lot of things, now.’
‘Oh. I’m sorry?’
‘Are you?’ He rolled back up to sit. ‘Why?’
She was a little thrown by that, and took a moment to respond. ‘I don’t know. I suppose I feel I ought to be? Most people seem like they want to remember.’
‘Oh really? What about you then?’
‘I…’ She looked at the figure beside her, taking in his manner of dress. Patchwork, but quality. The stereotype of an Oxford professor, really. She took a chance: ‘I’d rather dream.’
The Gaian of Dreaming Spires looked at her, a soft smile crossing his face. ‘Then maybe I can help you.’