writing

A Queen’s Place

The lady entered the great hall, dressed in silks foreign to the gathered crowd. Her crown sparkled of gems, carefully selected to finish her look, or perhaps it was the other way around. The bold red, deep emerald, and royal blue tones reminded all of her place in this world, and it was at the head of the table.

The knights and lords fell to their knees and silence took over where once was a frenzied din. The ladies curtsied as she passed. To each she nodded and shared a genuine smile. As she ascended to the elevated table at the front of the hall, she lifted her skirts slightly, revealing leather riding boots.

She stepped up to the table and welcomed her guests, “Please, rise! This is a festivity!” She raised her glass. “To the people of Riggs, the house of Whitney welcome you!”

With those words, the band resumed playing, the men rose, and the wine began to pour. Queen Filippa straightened her skirts before sitting. As she reached for her chalice, a page kneeled beside her.

“Your Majesty, Yarl Mikkel of Riggs wishes for an audience.”

Filippa looked out across the room and Mikkel nodded his head in her direction. She looked with annoyance back at the page with her dark eyes. “I shall see him. Tomorrow, in the morn. Ensure Lady Aramith is in attendance.” She pursed her ruby lips and waved off the page with the swift tilt of her head.

The page nodded and slipped away with little notice.

“Uncle,” Queen Filippa turn to the man to her right, “why do these roguish men whose lands have come under my protection keep groveling to take my hand?”

Her uncle scoffed.

The Queen continued, “I understand why,” stressing the word why vigorously, “but why can they not see I have all that I want, and easily can take more if I want it. I don’t need these fools falling at my feet. Goodness, I need a real man!”

A hearty laugh escaped her uncle’s mouth. “My dear, they seek the power, and, forgive me, who wouldn’t want a piece of you?”

Queen Filippa rolled her eyes and found levity in his words. Nothing like honest Uncle Abe to state the, well, obvious. She looked down her bosom and shifted a bit to ensure all was in the right place then exhaled in frustration. “I grow tired, Uncle. I shall see you tomorrow.”

Uncle Abe nodded at her as she departed the table to retire from the party.

Filippa paused outside a moment as she returned to her quarters to breathe in the night air. The river and the mountains which ran alongside castle laid awash in moonlight. She thought to herself, These are the views I want to share… The small quiet moments between the flurry of the crown’s demands; this is when I need somebody holding my hand.

She released her breath and continued to her chambers. Tomorrow brought another day of royal duty and another day of sorting out suitors. Tonight she would rest easy knowing Riggs lands and it’s people were now hers.

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Coincidence

A grass covered field laid out before the explorers. No man had traveled here in ages. Eons had passed, and the technology had advanced.

Jon tossed up the drone which floated above the field. “Mikaela, come look!”

Mikaela stepped next to Jon. “What did you find, Riggs?” She peered over his arm at the display. Large rectangular patterns appeared in the grainy overlay. “It that…a town square?”

Riggs shook his head yes. “Looks like the old western towns from when the Americas were being settled by the Europeans.” He directed the drone to change position. “See that?”

Mikaela saw an elongated triangular shape on the screen. “That looks like a Church…oh, what’s it called…a steeple?” She questioned herself.

Jon began walking across the clearing toward the steeple. He turned back and waved at Mikaela to follow.

“There should be a graveyard near the church. We should find some remains near there,” Jon stated matter of factly. Jon steps quickened as he neared the spot.

Mikaela raced to keep up with him. His legs, longer than hers, gave him an advantage. When they finally arrived at the spot and stopped, she drew a sharp breath.

The drone floated overhead. Jon turned to Mikaela. “The markers were usually made of wood, but we might luck out if we can find some made of marble. Those will be engraved.

Skillfully, Jon guided the drone into the air, scanning the plot of land to the south of the church steeple. Rectangular patterns started to appear as the radar and X-ray scanned the ground. “I need to adjust the intensity. We may be able to see remains.”

The fuzzy images of what appeared to be skeletons started glowing in the display. “We’ve got something! Look, two skeletons entwined!” Jon looked at Mikaela. “Let’s start there.”

Jon made a beeline for the spot. Then he paused and looked back. He called out, “What are you doing, Mikaela?”

She looked at him confusedly. “Where are the graves? I don’t want to step on them.” It was a custom her family carried forward. “We shouldn’t walk over the bodies. Where’s the pattern?”

Jon thought it was silly but sweet. It wasn’t a custom he’d heard of. He looked over the diagram on his screen. “Okay, go left three steps. Now turn and walk directly to me.”

Mikaela took a ragged breath as she stepped over the vine covered graveyard. She finally caught up to Jon.

“Okay, follow me.” Jon guided her to a plot near a maple tree. He shivered and looked at Mikaela.

Mikaela approached and stepped beside Jon. This time, she shook to her core and looked at him. “Tell me we aren’t standing in a grave.”

He focused the drone overhead. “Step back a step and then one to the right. We were on the edge of the grave I wanted to check out.”

She stumbled through her next words. “The the story I have, have been told is that if you step, if you step on your own grave, a chill will go up your spine.” Mikaela wrapped her arms around herself looking for warmth.

Jon brought the drone down to sit on the ground next to him and arched his eyebrow. “Really, funny we both felt it. I think it was just a cool wind blowing through.” He smiled reassuring her.

They looked over the footage the drone took. Jon pointed out a small rectangular shape. “I think that’s the headstone. Do you have the excavator?”

Mikaela pulled a small barrel shaped rod and pushed a few buttons. The device floated over the ground. “Jon, you can take control.”

Jon guided the excavator to remove the layers of soil which buried the stone. Only a few inches covered the headstone. Soon, the gray and white veining of the marble became apparent.

Mikaela and Jon walked over and read the inscription. The date was not readable. They paused and stared at each other a moment. “That’s not possible…” Jon slowly spoke. “This slab is hundreds of years old.” He read the inscription again.

Riggs

Jonathan & Mikaela

Devoted Partners

Their Love is Now Among the Stars

Mikaela froze, then she giggled and scoffed, “Wow…that’s uh, quite a trick there Riggs.”

“No trick. I,” Jon paused and shook his head, “I don’t understand.” he stared intently at Mikaela.

Her eyes locked with his. At least it wouldn’t be a bad way to go… Then Mikaela waived it off, “You know, Riggs could just have been a popular name in this area.”

Jon grinned in agreement, “Yeah, that’s it. Just a big coincidence!”

writing

Fly Me to the Moon – Part Five

Jon and Mikaela walked out of the lift on Deck Three. She smiled when they walked out into the atrium, but then sighed and looked at Jon. “It isn’t anything like home, is it Jon?”

He looked ahead and shook his head, “It’s definitely something different.” He chuckled to himself. “But different can be good, I guess.”

“Well, hopefully you like different food. We definitely have some unique meals here on the station.” She guided him over to a glistening silver and white box with a touchscreen. The screen flashed an assortment of foods that seem like they did back on Earth.

Nothing seemed too out of the ordinary. “Everything looks great! Either that, or I’m starving.”

Mikaela glanced over, “You’re starving,” and grinned crookedly.

Jon chuckled and picked out his choice. A ticket printed. Mikaela then made her selection and pulled the table tent number. “Still a little service around here. They will bring it to us.” She walked over to a table which faced out to the lunar surface.

Jon followed her and took a seat. “Do you get used to the lower gravity?”

Mikaela smiled, “Oh, sure. But going home is always interesting. Especially the longer you stay. I always get home and am over five foot six, but it rapidly disappears.”

Jon smiled as they exchanged conversations and glances. He noticed her hair had streaks of gray coming in and small laugh lines around her eyes.

“You’ll probably be six four or more when you get back,” Mikaela observed then chuckled.

Jon and Mikaela continued exchanging a few stories, then the lights in the atrium dimmed. Mikaela looks up with a sad look. “We’ll, that’s our cue. Time to head out for sleep.”

Jon looked at his watch and nodded his head. “I’ll walk you back?”

They made their way to the lift and she pressed the same floor as Jon’s. “Our quarters are all together.”

Jon’s knuckles lightly brushed against her hand as the lift came to a stop. Mikaela grinned, but then swiftly stepped off the lift. “I’m right down there,” pointing down the hall in the opposite direction. “Good night, Jon.”

Jon watched her as she turned and entered her room. He raised his hand, waved goodnight and headed for his own.

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Hi-Tea – Part One

Small intimate tables dotted the floor of the cafe with comfortable chairs. The air smelled of madeleines and other sweet treats, and the display case held savories and pastries alike. A sign hung in the window welcoming guests. It was finally opening day.

Sally straightened her apron and tucked a loose curl behind her ear. She’d picked the name “Hi-Tea” for their shop because that’s how her grandmother used to say hello to her, “Hi-ty!” It was something she herself would say upon waking as a small child. She grew out of saying it eventually, but the stories continued of how she’d greet the day from her mom to all who would listen.

She hoped her location on Heavenly Village Way would attract the locals and the tourists alike. It was a prime spot near the gondolas and heavily trafficked, but she knew it could be hard to keep consistent business throughout the year if the locals didn’t also come.

She walked to the front door. Morning was just dawning, and no traffic filled the street yet. It was late Spring, and a chill lingered in the air. She unlocked the door and stepped outside to wipe down the two sets of cafe tables and chairs waiting outside.

She looked up and down the street and spied a lone jogger out on their morning run. She waved hello as they passed by, then turned to go back inside for a little warmth. Her sweater was comfortable, but the morning temperatures were getting to her hands. She rubbed them together for a little warmth as she walked back inside.

“Nervous?” a voice from the corner called out. Her silent business partner, Sam, decided to not be so silent at times. “How about a cup of coffee? I’ll be your first customer.”

She glanced his way and stuck out her tongue, “To be a customer, you’ve got to pay!”

He laughed and retorted, “Oh, I think I bought a lifetime of coffee and pastries, woman. Go get me some!”

She rolled her eyes and headed behind the counter, then prepared him a creamy, frothy cup. She also pulled out a “salmon with everything” savory and set it on a plate. She took both over to the corner where he sat comfortably working away on his own pet project.

As she set it down, their first real customer came in. Sally greeted the customer and provided them a small menu to help with their selections.

The older lady perused the drink selections and walked over to the counter. “May I have an English Breakfast with cream and sugar? I haven’t had one in years.” Her voice had a faded English accent. “Also, do you have any financiers?”

Sally was thrilled. She could finally have someone let her know if she was close with her recipe. “Yes! I do. Please have a seat and I’ll bring everything to you as soon as your tea is brewed. Would you prefer a cup or a pot for one? A pot has two cups.”

“A cup will do, thank you.” the lady responded as she took a seat at one of the small low tables in a comfortable highbacked chair.

Sally went to work behind the counter plating a financier and gathering the supplies for the lady’s tea. She fixed a small plate with sugar and a small creamer, then delivered it to her table. “I’ll be right back with your tea and financier. You’re my first customer!”

She went back to the counter and finished up the tea, then picked up it and the financier, then returned to the table. “Here you go. Enjoy.”

The lady nodded thanks and began to prepare her tea.

Sally hesitated a moment, then turned and returned to behind her counter. She’d envisioned quiet moments like this, but she hadn’t planned for what to do with her time. She started fiddling with the display to make sure everything looked good and filled in the spots emptied by serving the salmon savory and the financier.

“Excuse me.” A quiet voice spoke from behind the counter. Sally almost didn’t hear her, but she saw a figure through the display case and popped up her head.

“Hello?” Sally walked around to see who was speaking. “Can I help you?” As she turned the corner, the figure disappeared. Sally shook her head; was her mind playing a trick on her? It must have been her own reflection.

Sally headed over to the lady in the high-backed chair. Maybe that’s who she heard. “Can I get you anything else?”

The kind lady said no, then asked if she settled up at the counter. Sally nodded yes and made her way back to the counter to close her tab and take payment.

Sally looked at her first customer sweetly. “Was everything okay?”

The lady nodded yes, then commented, “Your financier was delicious by the way. I wouldn’t change a thing!” and she winked at her as she handed Sally a tenner. “Keep the change dear. You’ve got a good setup here. I wish you luck.”

With that, the lady exited the cafe and wandered away.

Sally walked over to Sam sitting in the corner still and wondered out loud, “Did you see a little girl come in then walk out by chance?”

Sam just looked at her and shook his head in a firm no.


writing

Snowy Owl Lane – A Late Spring Day

Part Six

The snow melted and the spring sun brought the field aside their home back to life. Wildflowers swayed in the gentle breeze and filled the air with a light fragrance. Suzy looked out over the field and felt inspired to head outside for a bit. She picked up her mat and gear, leaned down and kissed Steve on the cheek as he busily worked on his latest book, and headed out the front door.

She found her way to the steppingstones they had laid when the fields were low and walked to a small platform that they built at the high spot in the field. It was a serene location with 360-degree views of their property and their neighbors, along with sight to the mountains. She unrolled her mat and put a small strip of extra padding down for her knees.

She took in a deep breath and relaxed her shoulders as she exhaled. She looked at the house and saw Steve’s head bowed down working steadily. She refocused on her stance and started to move through her sequence.

She first moved into her Cat-Cow combination. Her knees revealed it had been a bit since she had practiced. The extra padding helped at least. She moved into down dog and stretched back, feeling the tightness in her legs begin to loosen.

She continued moving through to a standing position and came into Warrior II. Her balance swayed as she struggled to keep her footing. Finally, she was able to stabilize and move into triangle, but she remained unsteady. She started to move into side angle, then her being out of practice became apparent. She lost her ability to stand and landed on her butt.

Instinctively, she quickly sat up and looked around hoping no one saw. Well, making sure Steve didn’t see. She looked back at the window where he had been sitting, but he wasn’t there. She sighed in relief and stood back up, backing up to Warrior II to start the sequence again.

She struggled to get through, but finally moved on to chair, then folded over and moved into the floor positions. By now, she was sweating. It was something that amazed her; nothing in the sequence was too difficult, but she always found putting it together would cause her to get warm.

Finally, she approached the end of the sequence and Savasana, her favorite part in the practice. She stretched out and relaxed her body. As she came back to paying attention, she looked at the sky and decided to keep laying there a few more minutes watching the puffy clouds and enjoying being in the field.

The sound of steps came from behind her. A shadow cast across her as Steve kneeled down at her head and gently kissed her. Then she felt a chill on her shoulder. Steve had slipped a cold water against her skin and she jumped, then laughed. “Why, I oughtta!” she exclaimed as she sat up and turned towards him.

“Oughtta what?” he retorted with an impish smile as he set down a small basket on the platform. “I thought you could use a bite to eat. Can I join you?”

Her shock at the cold water faded and her face changed into a smile. She slid back on her mat to give him room to join her. “What did you bring us?”

He pulled out a few items from the basket – cheese, grapes, crackers, some dried meat. He hesitated a moment, then he pulled out two small bowls, one full of sweet gherkins and for dessert, some strawberries.

Suzy’s eyes lit up. “My favorites!”

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Fly Me to the Moon – Part Four

The lab was abuzz with activity when Jon and Mikaela arrived. Sam was setting up the machines, no larger than a couple cubes while Gene set up the robotic arms. Several more cubes were set up to the side, in line for the configuration.

Sam’s tone had lightened from the earlier interchange. “Hey, Boss, did you give Jon the two-dollar tour?” followed by a chuckle. “You know, there’s always magic behind the curtain!”

Gene just shook his head and tended to connecting the robotic arm to its base. “You’re a nut, Sam.”

Mikaela just shook her head as she pulled out three chips required for the setup. She checked their integrity and slipped each one into the cubes. Slowly they pulsed. She looked at Jon. “The installs are automated with these chips. We’ll have to train the basic movements here, then make final adjustments on the floor.”

She handed Jon another set of chips similar to the three she had so he could start on the next set, then looked at her watch. She sharply exhaled and uttered, “Where is Scott?” She looked at the door and tapped her hand against the table. He’s always late. Why would tonight be different?

She turned back to the machines she was installing and saw they were finished. She popped out the chips and moved them a table by the robot, then came back. “Let’s build them all this evening, then train them tomorrow. We have 14 sets to get through. I hoped it would just be an hour, but looks like it might be a little longer if Scott’s a no-show.”

Jon looked over at Mikaela. He knew the look on her face, a mix of disappointment and displeasure. He’d seen it long ago. He knew this is why she was always so hands on with the work; she had a hard time trusting others to just show up.

15 minutes later, the door flew open and Scott, breathless, came in. “Sorry I’m late…”

Mikaela held up her hand, holding up three chips. “No excuses. Here are the chips, get to work.”

Scott stammered and his face turned a little red. “Sure thing, Boss.” A smell of tobacco followed behind him. He snatched the chips and took three more machines to start the install.

Gene piped up. “Well, Mikaela, I have the test robot set up. Want to come check it out?”

Mikaela walked over and Gene showed her all the connection points. “I also bolted it down temporarily, you know… should anything happen.”

Mikaela smiled with pleasure. Gene always delivers and thinks ahead. “Thanks Gene, great work. Why don’t you get out of here for the night?”

It was only the second genuine smile Jon had seen from her since they arrived at the lab. Jon wrapped up the next machine and looked up. “Looks like we have about three to go — one for each of us.”

Mikaela looked over. “No way, that’s great!” She looked at her watch and realized it had just reached 18:00. Her smile grew. “We’re basically on track.”

Sam pulled on Mikaela’s arm. “The machines are all here. Do you still need me?” He was almost timid suddenly talking to Mikaela. Jon couldn’t make heads or tails out of the interchange. Mikaela however didn’t seem surprised.

She knowingly blinked her eyes and looked at the door. “Get out of here. See you in the morning.”

Sam thanked her and quietly slipped out.

Scott and Jon finished up their final machines and Mikaela wrapped up hers shortly afterward. Jon could see exhaustion in Mikaela’s face and spoke up. “Ready to shut it down for the night, Mike?”

Mikaela looked up for a moment. “I’ll just be a few more minutes. I have some final things to wrap up. You two go ahead and head out.”

Scott bolted to the door, ready to leave. “Bye!” he shouted as the lab door shut behind him.

Jon pulled up a chair and took a seat next to Mikaela. “Mike, you haven’t changed.” He placed his hand on her device, and she looked up. “You need to stop. Dinner – let’s grab a bite and catch up.”

Mikaela forced a grin and pocketed her device. She shrugged, took a deep breath, then responded with hesitation, “Okay.”

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Fly Me to the Moon – Part Three

Sam looked at Jon, then back at Mikala, then back at Jon. “Mike, you know this guy?” Sam sneered.

Mikaela took a brief moment and brushed Sam’s inquisition off. “Yeah, we worked together back on Earth ages ago. Got a problem, Sam?” Mikaela’s eyes locked with Sam’s, daring him to push.

“Oh, okay.” Sam stuttered. He wouldn’t challenge her after the look she gave him. “Guess we should get to work, Boss. What’s the plan?”

Mikaela straightened herself and began walking the team through the schematics. “Sam, you and Gene will need to head to storage bay eight to pull the machines now and take them to the lab. Jon, you and Scott meet me up in the lab on deck four at five, I mean 17:00, and we’ll start the builds. Everyone without an assignment have the night free. Meet back here at 8 tomorrow.”

The three without assignments bid everyone good night and seemed to be a bit giddy as they wandered off. Jon walked over to Mikaela as the others walked off. “Want to give me an overview, Mike?”

Mikaela grinned a moment, then turned serious. “Why are you here? Did you know this was my team?”

Jon knew there was a chance, but it wasn’t definite. He shook his head no.

Mikaela pursed her lips, halfway not believing him. “We’ll, you’re here, so I may as well use you.” She hesitated a moment, then pushed a button on the corner of the blueprint. It shrunk into a more manageable size. “Nanobots,” she flatly spoke.

Jon was impressed. He hadn’t seen that technology previously. “Handy!”

“I may as well show you instead of pointing to pictures. Follow me.”

Mikaela led Jon to the lift and pressed deck 8 then scanned her wrist over the security control. They descended down toward the core. The lift door opened to a pitch black corridor. As Mikaela stepped out, rows of lights turned on.

Jon took it all in. Every level of the station seemed to have different builders. This deck was ultra modern, sleek, and cold.

“You will want to dress warm down here. It is kept cold to offset the heat generated by the machinery.” Mikaela walked forward pointing out the server room and leading Jon to the main floor. “Our robots will be installed here.” She scanned the security control. Double doors opened as a large room lit up.

Jon looked around then turned to Mikaela. “Did you plan all of this?” He was flattering her and truly impressed.

She blushed a moment, more from embarrassment than taking it as flattery. “No, I’m not that smart.” She stammered. “A whole team of engineers designed this. I just deal with the machines.”

He knew her better than her words, but he let her off the hook. “It’s an impressive project. Glad I’m a part of it.”

She smiled, and lightly tapped him with a punch in the arm. “I’m glad you are too.” She looked at her watch. “We need to get to the lab.”

He marveled at how she switched back into boss mode as they headed back to the lift. They loaded onto the lift and she scanned to head up to deck four. The lift door closed as the lights turned off on deck eight.

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Fly Me to the Moon – Part Two

A voice squawked over the intercom. “Jonathan Riggs, check in.” The speaker crackled off.

Jon rubbed his eyes as he hopped off the bed. The lower gravity made him feel light on his feet as he crossed the room. He didn’t notice it earlier.

He spoke out. “Responding, Jonathan Riggs.”

A crackling voice came back on. “Meet up with your team at 15:00. They will be on deck 3.”

“Will do.” Jon then looked at his wrist. His brain spun a moment….15:00? Oh, 3:00…that’s right. His watch read 2:45. He walked over to his boots and strapped them on and headed out.

He walked out to the hall and made his way to the lift. The LED lighting cast a blue glow down the hall. The dim light washed out the faces of others in the hall. The overall drone combined with the lights was depressing.

Jon started questioning if he made the right decision. Should I be thousands of miles from home for a job I barely enjoy, just for the money? But what else am I going to do? Home was just a shell of what it was anyway, nothing remained to keep him there.

He boarded the lift and announced “Three”. The lift began to descend down into what felt like darkness. When it stopped, the door opened. Jon took in a breath before stepping out.

Deck three was the main gathering area on the station. The builders appeared to take more time in this area. Jon stepped out into an atrium dotted with vivid green plants and almost fresh smelling air. A small group of men were gathered nearby around a table with a blueprint laid across it.

Jon shook his head to himself. That must be the team. He made his way to the table. “Hi, Jon here. Is this Team Chi?” He pronounced chi as the Greek letter as kai.

The men looked up from the table towards Jon and stood straight. Directly across from him, a smaller framed person lifted their head.

Their short hair belied their gender. His eyes met theirs. Then he realized he knew those eyes. She smiled at him, but kept it under control. “Hi, Jon.” She glanced at the watch on her own wrist, more to gain her composure than to check the time, then looked back up. “Nice of you to join us.”

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Fly Me to the Moon – Part One

The sound of a metal door echoed into the hollow room as it screeched open. A man dressed in cargo pants and a heavy over sweater walked in. His boots thudded against the hard floor. His light eyes scanned the room.

The light was dim, but just enough to make out the details. A sterile white table with plastic chairs set in the corner. A small kitchenette was recessed into the wall to his left.

To his right, a doorway led to the head. It was compact, definitely only room for one to clean up. He sighed heavily.

Before him laid a small bed, sized for barely one. No sheets, but the surface was smooth. He walked over to it and set his bag down. The bed gave slightly to the weight of his pack.

He touched the surface of the bed to find it oddly comforting. It wasn’t what he imagined for the sterility of the room. He looked at his wrist; old habits of keeping time on his arm followed him. Plenty of time to relax before he needed to report in.

He moved his bag over to the table and kicked off his boots. It was nice to let is toes be free. He crawled onto the bed and rolled onto his back. It was then that he saw it.

Looking up, a large sky dome allowed him to see the darkness of the night and the glimmering of strange lights above. He rested his head on one of his arms and looked over the millions of stars floating overhead.

Soon he drifted off to sleep.

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Fly Away – Part Six

Morgana pushed herself up from the cold water. Her hair clung to her roundish face, and her cheeks blushed red like a cherub. She wiped her face dry with her hands, then flicked the water off her hands. Then she quickly looked around, hoping no one heard the commotion as she fell through the portal.

In the distance, she saw a figure approaching. Quickly, she reached into her pack and swallowed one of Doc Jones’ doses. She felt tingles throughout her body, then flowing out of her shoulder blades into her wings. She glanced over her shoulder and watched her wings disappear from view. She could still feel her wings, they were just now obscured from view.

The figure continued approaching and started waving at her. A voice called out, “Everything okay over there? Is everything okay?”

Morgana smiled and waved while responding, “Yes, all good. No worries here.” She hoped the figure would stop and turn around, but he continued coming closer. She glanced over her shoulder to make sure her wings were not visible and took a deep breath.

Winded, the figure neared and slowed his approach. As he neared, Morgana got a better view. He was a short, older man with golden brown eyes. He waddled more than walked as he approached. His smile was kind however.

He stepped over a few rocks and stopped a few feet from Morgana. “Hi, I’m Riker. Are you okay? I couldn’t hear you,” he conveyed as he pointed to his ear. Morgana saw a contraption hanging over his ear.

She vigorously nodded her head, “Yes, yes, I’m fine.”

“We need to get you into some drier clothes. Come, follow me.”

Morgana tilted her head at the little man and determined he wouldn’t be a threat to her. She looked around and realized the only path away from here was to follow him anyhow. Adventure is what she set out for, so she shrugged and followed him.

The shore of the lake was covered with smooth round rocks and pebbles. The jagged mountain rose straight up, with brightly colored flowers clinging in the crevices. Some areas were bare black rock, slick and dew covered, other spots had hundreds of these floral plants sprouting everywhere.

“Excuse me. What do you call these flowers? They are beautiful!”

Riker turned back to her. “Oh, those are orchids. Do you like them? You can take one for your hair if you like.” The old man’s cheeks blushed as he said those words. “You’re a pretty girl. I have a son I’d like you to meet. Perhaps he’ll be home later today.”

Morgana blushed and smiled. She bowed her head and a strand of wet hair hung down against her cheek. “You’re too kind. Thank you.” She didn’t really know what else to say at that point. She turned and picked a bright white orchid from the wall, then tucked the wet strand of hair and the flower behind her ear.

A few more yards ahead, she spied a wood structure, unique to anything she had seen before. A small arched bridge went from the shore over a stream flowing down from the mountain. It stopped atop a large wooden deck which seemingly floated over the waters edge. The roof had a gentle upward curve, while the main floor was very straight, almost grid-like.

“Is this where you live? It’s beautiful.”

Riker smiled. “Yes, I came from another land and fell in love with their architecture here.” He softly opened the sliding gate and slid off his shoes. “Would you like to come in?”

Morgana slipped off her boots. “Should I also take my socks off?” she asked. She realized he was barefooted.

Riker smiled, “Whichever way you are most comfortable.”

Morgana opted to leave on her socks. At least they were still dry. She followed him inside.

The home was sparsely furnished, but the artwork on the walls caught her attention. A large painting of the mountainside loomed over a fireplace with a waterfall cascading down. She noticed that the archway she passed through was in the smallest of the details.

“Here you go, a towel to dry off. Here is also one of my wife’s wraps. You’re welcome to change into it while your clothes dry. There’s a small room over here where you can change.”

Morgana followed him. The room was cozy with a simple chair, small table, and a bed. For a moment she hesitated.

“No worries. It’s my daughter’s room. I’ll go make some tea.” Riker waddled off.

Morgana chuckled at herself. She could flatten the old man in just a few seconds if he tried anything, but he’d been nothing but nice to her. She closed the door behind her, then removed the flower from her hair. She dried off and changed into the silken wrap.

She looked around the room for a mirror, but noticed there wasn’t one in the room. How odd. Then she looked at the artwork on the wall. A small painting hung on the wall of a girl in a doorway with two cats. Raindrops were falling in front of them, but they were shaded by the overhang and a sakura tree hung overhead. Morgana smiled at the peaceful scene.

Morgana finally broke from her reflection on this little piece and made her way outside. “Riker, why are there no mirrors in the bedroom?” She fiddled to put the flower back behind her ear.

Riker grinned. “Here they practice something called feng shui. Ever hear of it?”

Morgana shook her head no. Riker motioned her to come to the sofa and he handed her a small book. “It’s a basic guide, but a bedroom should be calming and they believe mirrors can bounce energies around the room, so you either place a mirror out of sight of the bed or not put one in the bedroom at all.”

Morgana found it odd and furrowed her brow.

“It’s about balance, creating good energy, really interesting. You can read a little more about it. That’s a simplified guide.” Riker wandered back to the kitchen. “I’ll get our tea.”

Morgana flipped open the book and began to read.

A voice from the door bellowed, startling Morgana. “Hey Dad. I’m home.”

Morgana looked up and locked eyes with this new stranger. His 6 foot 1 inch frame blocked the light from outside. Silhouetted against the bright sky, she could still see his skin was darkly tanned and his piercing eyes black as coal. His hair was as dark as the jet black night sky. She inhaled and held her breath.

He was something to behold.