The Artifact (Book 2, Time Series)

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Chapter Five: Introductions

July 2023
University of Richmond
Richmond City, Virginia

}}}-----> WAYHA <-----{{{

“Mog- an,” Wahya tentatively tries, and the strange woman smiles, repeating what he assumes is her name...

“Mor... gan.” This time she emphasizes the sound of the middle part which he’d apparently not said correctly.

So, trying again, he copies the sounds of the first part, “Mor...”

He knows he got it right this time as she nods happily, pointing to herself again, saying her name slowly once more. Putting it together just as slowly, he repeats, “Mor-gan.”

She nods again, smiling and says what sounds like encouragement. He repeats her name once more, putting the syllables together more smoothly, “Morgan.”

“Yes! Morgan!” She crows, seemingly much less frightening now.

}}}-----> * <-----{{{

> EARLIER <

When Wahya had first opened his eyes upon crashing into the strange woman from his roll down the steep slope, he thought he’d hurt his head and wasn’t seeing properly. Her eyes were the first thing he saw, and never in his life had he seen irises that weren’t black or brown in color.

Hers, on the other hand, were a dazzling green mixed with blue and a tinge of yellow. He had seen stones of those colors, but not eyes. And hers were mesmerizing.

Then there was her smell... A soft, almost floral scent, like springtime when the flowers in the meadow start to bloom and the various fragrances combine. He never knew anyone could smell of such a nice combination.

Not only are her eyes a strange color, but he now realizes so is her hair. Looking at her cropped locks, it would have been easy to believe she was elderly with the color being so whitish, but by her distinctly smooth and feminine face he knows she’s youthful. Then again, her hair isn’t quite white, more of a yellow. And so short compared to the style of both women and men of his people.

At first he’d been embarrassed to have fallen on top of such a small woman and thought he might have hurt her, as his body more than covers hers, when her soft, but stifled voice brings him out of his spell. But his thoughts are soon interrupted as he looks up, taking in his immediate surroundings, as he attempts to get off the woman.

Frozen in place his mind reels, “What is this place?!”

From his view at floor-level he takes in the long aisle of tables, noting the large space, like the tribal ceremonial longhouse, but bigger and... brighter. Strong, but sickly sunlight fills the space, and though it’s bright, coming through the rectangular openings in the roof, it isn’t so bright that he can’t look directly at it, unlike the sun he’s used to.

The space is filled with the odd tables, covered with various items and strange, smooth rectangular baskets, many with lids.

“The light... The woman with the colored eyes... This place... Is this what the afterlife looks like?!” His thoughts are interrupted by the woman uttering something again, obviously having difficulty breathing, and Wahya looks down at her again, ashamed that he was still laying on top of her.

But fear soon takes over. Frightened that he might be in another realm and unsure if it’s a good or bad place to be, Wahya leaps to his feet and away from the woman. Realizing that his knife is missing - probably lost with his gorget in his fall through the trees - he spins around to find where he came into the building from. The gaping hole in the wall glows with fog, unnerving him, and he jumps to the side, being careful not to get too close to the woman or the hole again.

The fog is suddenly sucked into the abyss, and the hole disappears into oblivion, leaving a smooth surface with some kind of flat rectangular box in which tiny, discolored, and flattened people seem to be frozen in place. He’s horrified, “What kind of dark magic is this?!”

He forces his eyes off the black and white image on the wall, unsure if the people are cursed, living, or dead. Still slightly out of breath from his fight with the Iroquois hunter and his fall through the trees and down the slope, his heart pounds heavy with the thought that he’s dead.

“The afterlife is nothing like I thought it would be - a Happy Hunting Grounds! My body still aches from two days of running and falling, and I still have cuts and bruises. Shouldn’t I feel whole again?

The woman, who’d been making surprised sounds when the hole closed, finally sits up and looks at him, before exclaiming with embarrassment, averting her eyes as though looking upon him was improper. “Maybe she is a spirit and is not supposed to look at me.”

While she looks away, he takes a quick moment to take a better look at her instead, noting that not only is her hair pale, but so is her skin. But not in a sickly way, as her cheeks and lips are a healthy pinkish tone, “In fact, her cheeks seem rosier than before - is she blushing?! And her clothes... I’ve never seen materials or fashions like that.”

Despite her peculiarities, Wahya decides that she’s very pleasant to look at, in an exotic sort of way he hadn’t expected. He’d always thought Spirit People would look like regular people, but he’s not necessarily disappointed.

She gets up from the floor and says something he doesn’t understand again, still not looking at him directly. Suddenly he feels a bit wary, deciding that she’s probably magical and could be dangerous, and therefore changes his stance to defensive. “She may be trying to trick me by taking a beautiful form and is really a bad spirit.”

She says something again, her eyes still averted, but not understanding her, he says nothing. This time she holds up her hands in the universal sign for peace or surrender, then stoops to pick up the items she must have dropped when he’d knocked her over. First is an odd-looking headpiece, black with round rings in the front, which she sets on top of her head, resting in her golden hair with the straight sides angled down and behind her ears. “Perhaps she’s someone important with a headpiece like that.”

Then she stoops to pick up none other than his stone gorget - the one given to him by The Traveler - and she seems intent to put it in a tiny rectangular container as if to keep it for herself! Wahya doesn’t know how it came to be here now, as he distinctly remembers it being pulled from his neck in his fall through the trees. But it doesn’t matter. Before he knows what he’s doing, his anger builds and he rushes forward, grabbing the stone from the Spirit-Woman, checking his prized possession for damage.

“This is mine, Spirit-Woman! You cannot have it!” He dares not say that aloud though and hopes she cannot read thoughts.

She looks shocked and mutters something, but to his relief doesn’t move to take it back. Realizing that he could have angered a being of magic, Wahya moves back against the wall, not wanting to come into contact with her again. Examining the stone, he knows it’s definitely the same piece, the holes are in the right place and the one side is broken, like it was when it was given to him years ago. But somehow it’s different. Smoother and more worn, he decides. This bothers him greatly and his distrust of the situation and the woman grow.

Wahya feels her watching him and glances over to her in time to see her straighten herself, looking him directly in the eye for a change, thus unnerving him further. She’s obviously displeased with him about taking the stone - he can see it in her multicolored eyes. But instead of getting upset, she calmly speaks as though she were explaining something.

Having her full attention on him scares him, and Wahya looks away from the Spirit-Woman, quickly taking in his surroundings again, trying to find a means of escape. But there seems to be no door leading outside, just more spaces connecting to this room. He backs himself up flat against the wall behind him, surprised by the smoothness of the cream-colored surface. The buildings he’s helped construct, called asi (wattle and daub), were all made with wood, vines, earth, and clay and weren’t nearly so smooth and evenly colored.

Mustering his courage, he looks at her with determination and says as confidently as possible, “This is mine! You can’t have it! Tell me where I am. And who are you, Spirit-Woman?”

She looks confused, then says something that he doesn’t understand. After a moment, he repeats his question, “Where am I. Who are you? Are you good or evil?”

She doesn’t seem devious, but he was raised on stories of trickster spirits and is unsure of what her magic could consist of. So when she moves closer, reaching towards him, he instinctually backs himself further against the wall, closing his eyes, almost wishing he were back with the Iroquois again, as he waits for the inevitable spell that he’s sure she’s casting.

Instead, she does the most unexpected thing - lightly touches his forearm crossed over his chest. Her unidentifiable words are genuinely soft and kind, not menacing, cruel, nor seductive sounding. Her touch is caring and tender. Relaxing slightly, he wonders, “Maybe she’s a good spirit.”

He opens his eyes to see her expression soft and her eyes questioning, and he relaxes more, slowly releasing the breath he’d been holding as she continues to speak soothingly, removing her hand from his skin, a look of understanding in her eyes.

Her next words sound like a question. Again, he says nothing. Looking at him contemplatively, the Spirit-Woman turns her attention to the wall, beginning to examine the location where Wahya had entered the Spirit World. She looks confused, taking down the flat object with the tiny people inside, setting it aside, and again studying the wall intently. “Did she not expect me to come through the opening? Maybe I’m not supposed to be here?!”

He thought as a spirit she would know more about his presence here than he, yet concerned concentration is etched across her face, and he knows now that his being here is not normal, even to the Spirit-Woman.

An idea must have occurred to her though, he determines by her excited exclamation and the now-joyful look on her face. She rapidly speaks aloud, and her beautiful features are amplified by a happiness and excitement emanating from her whole being, and Wahya can’t help but relax a little more. He’s not sure if she understands him, but takes his chances, “I don’t know what you are saying, but I think you want to be helpful.”

The Spirit-Woman obviously senses his flicker of trust, and more calmly begins again, pointing to herself, repeating a single word several times. Finally, he determines that she’s trying to tell him that she is called “Morgan.”

Wahya’s relieved when she smiles at his attempt to say her name in return - poorly done he concedes, but an attempt, nonetheless. When he combines the syllables correctly for the first time, she’s so happy that he can’t help but feel good about it, too, smiling just a bit.

He looks down at her tiny figure and thinks, “‘Morgan’... It probably means Hummingbird in her language. She’s so small and full of energy. And her eyes are so colorful, like hummingbird feathers. And she smells like the nectar of the flowers the hummingbird drinks.”

Drawing him from his thoughts, Morgan looks at him inquiringly, and he knows she wants his name now. He decides to trust her for now, and clears his throat, pointing to himself, “Adatlisvi Wahya.”

Her eyebrows raise in overwhelmed confusion, and he tries again, “Ad-at-lis-vi Wah-ya.”

She still looks confused, and he starts slower, “Ad.”

Smiling she nods her head and repeats the syllable, “Ad.”

He continues with the next sound, “at.”

Morgan copies, “at.” Then puts the two syllables together, “Ad-at.”

He helps her through the remainder of the first word of his full name, Adatlisvi - meaning Running. Taking a deep breath, Morgan repeats it stiffly and his lips kick up in a slight smile at her struggle to remember the order before he continues. “Now for the second part. Wah-ya. Wahya.”

She easily constructs the word meaning Wolf, and he nods his approval. Wahya then points to her, repeating her own name, then back to himself saying “Adatlisvi Wahya,” motioning for her to do the same.

He senses her apprehension at putting together his full name and has her practice again. When she gets stuck once more, he decides to simplify it, thinking that spirit names must not be very complicated.

Shaking his head to signal for her to forget all that, he repeats only the second part several times, “Wahya. Wahya.” He reiterates that her name is ‘Morgan’ and his is simply ‘Wahya’ now, and she easily repeats their names with precision, seemingly happy to be able to use a shortened version of his.

“I guess I’ll simply be ‘Wolf’ instead of ‘Running Wolf’ to her. That’s alright I suppose,” he tells her with a nod, as he wonders what will be next now that a tentative trust has been established and introductions made.

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