The Artifact (Book 2, Time Trilogy) (EDITING)

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Chapter Fifty-Four: The Tsalagi Don't Say Goodbye

July 2023
Richmond City University
Richmond City, Virginia

}}}-----> MORGAN and WAHYA <-----{{{

Morgan takes a deep breath as she prepares to pull out of her driveway with Wahya en route to the university, exactly one week since the brave tumbled through the portal and into her life. She swallows the lump trying to form in her throat, still preparing herself for today, when they both will attempt to send Wahya back to his own time.

She doesn’t have a specific ceremony in mind, but with a fresh mindset and the logic that the time warps had been seeking Wahya out all along, Morgan reasons that they could, in turn, reach out to the warp themselves. Beyond logic and reason, Morgan feels that this is the right thing to do. Still filled with guilt, she reminds herself that Wahya not only wants to go home, but should go home to keep order in the universe, if nothing else. Even if it doesn’t work, at least they’ll have clear consciences knowing they tried and that physics, fate, destiny, spirits, or whatever power is in control didn’t desire Wahya to go home—at least not yet.

Morgan had already called James and Samantha, Emory, and finally Tracie with the plan, inviting them to participate. But the answer had been the same all around. It was Morgan alone in the lab when Wahya arrived, and she should be the only one to help release him, if Wahya’s theory about her energy keeping him here is true. Any extra energy may cause interference.

Morgan’s only consolation for having to brave this on her own is the fact that James needs to be in class today, so would be in the building, and Samantha had agreed to meet the pair at James’ office to give Wahya back his breechcloth and belt, and to be there for moral support afterwards.

Morgan holds tight to Wahya’s hand on the entire drive to the university, and though they’re both nervous about what’s to come, there’s a feeling of resolution between them, not that it lessens the heartbreak they both feel.

“We’re here. Ready?” Morgan asks, trying to sound more upbeat than she feels as she parks the car. She tries to gauge his emotions, but he simply looks back at her and smiles his usual breathlessly handsome smile.

“I’m ready, Walela,” he answers in his own language, realizing that she’s hesitating and waiting for him to move first.

James, Samantha, and baby Melia meet them in the anthropology professor’s office. James is the first to bid Wahya his farewells, and they all wish Tracie could have come to translate.

“I have to go, Wahya. If this is what you want, then I wish you the best of luck and safe travels. It’s been an honor knowing you for this short time and I consider you my friend.”

James’ actions speak just as loud as his words, and Wahya replies in kind as the two shake hands and James squeezes the younger man’s shoulder, an unspoken bond of friendship and brotherhood between them. “Wado, James.”

James turns to Morgan next. “Good luck. Come get Samantha and me if something happens or you need help, okay? I’ll have my cell on.”

Morgan nods, trying very hard to hold back her emotions as James gives her a brotherly hug. He pulls away, then turns to lightly kiss Samantha, who looks a little distraught herself, then says quietly, “If you need me, interrupt class, alright?” He waves, acknowledging Wahya once more before walking out the door.

Carefully, Samantha hands the leather breechcloth and belt to Wahya, and smiles up at him. “If things don’t work out, you have a job as an archaeologist for me. You’re a great shovel test digger and screener! Now go home before I start crying, okay.”

She gives him a tight hug, blinking back the tears in her eyes as he tenderly pulls away, obviously feeling for her. Thanking her as well in both Tsalagi and English, Wahya caresses little Melia’s bald head and gives her a big grin of farewell as she babbles and returns her own toothless smile from her mother’s arms.

Samantha, in turn, hugs Morgan briefly but tightly as she gives her friend energy to do what needs to be done. “It’ll be alright. If he’s supposed to go, he will. If not, then he won’t. But either way you’re doing the right thing by trying. I’m so proud of you!”

Morgan is unable to speak, her emotions ready to cave. Instead, she gives a quivering smile and quietly pulls Wahya from the room.

“If I don’t hear anything in an hour, I’ll come see what’s going on, okay?” Samantha calls after them, bouncing Melia lightly more for her own comfort than the baby’s. Taking a seat at James’ desk, she wipes a tear from her cheek.

Morgan and Wahya quietly ascend the stairs to the archaeology lab and Morgan closes and locks the door behind them. Going directly to the artifact storage room in which Wahya had entered this time, they stand in front of the wall the portal had appeared in on that rainy Monday. After a moment, Morgan removes the framed poster, and her mind flashes back to the moments after Wahya had knocked her over. It feels like a lifetime ago, and I feel like I’ve come such a long way from the woman I was seven days ago.

She turns back to him, and Wahya nods, removing his twenty-first century sports shoes and socks and proceeds to undress, laying all the clothing Morgan had bought him in a neat pile on the floor. Removing the band tying his hair back, his locks fall across his back, and he smiles at the memory of their confusing, yet humorously sensual clothes shopping experience. It’s no secret he’s happy to be rid of the confining garments—one of the few things he will not miss from Morgan’s world, should he be able to return to the Middle Woodland Period.

Lastly, standing bare, he removes the gorget from around his neck, lifting it over his head and handing it to Morgan. Holding her breath, she carefully lays it in the small box it had sat in before Wahya had unceremoniously crashed into her and lay claim to it and her heart days ago.

Morgan hands him the breechcloth, and he fastens it around his pelvis, then wraps his belt at his hips, looking much like he did when he’d appeared from his own time period—only cleaner and with now-healing wounds. He feels odd not having the gorget around his neck, nor his knife at his hip, but as he’d lost those before coming here, he must leave without them as well.

Seeing a single tear pool in the corner of Morgan’s eye, Wahya takes a deep breath of his own—his emotions shaky as well. With nothing else to do in physical preparation for summoning the time warp, he pulls her tightly to him, and she buries her face in his chest as she no longer holds back the pain in her heart. They stand like this for a long moment, unmoving and clinging to one another until Morgan weeps no more. Wahya pulls back slightly, lifting her chin so he can see her eyes.

As he sweeps her cried-out tears away with his thumb, Morgan holds her breath, attempting to reign in her emotions and think logically. But as he bends to kiss her tear-streaked face a strange voice emanates from inside her mind. The distinctly feminine tone whispers words like those her sister had uttered at her father’s birthday party.

“Letting go shows more love than holding on. Your destiny awaits, Morgan.”

She hears the lyrical words repeat in her mind again and again, louder with each instance, and there’s no doubt in her mind that it’s time to say goodbye. Is this Wahya’s spirits talking as they wait for him?

Wahya feels it too, and he wraps his arms around her middle while she encircles his neck with hers. The lovers draw each other into one final kiss—deep, sincere, and long. This, they both know, is a kiss of goodbye.

While their eyes are closed to the world, the powers of beyond begin to roll and collide. The fluorescent lights above them flicker and one after another go out silently throughout the large room.

Wahya is the first to break the kiss, feeling a presence nearby in the now mysteriously darkened room. Upon opening his eyes, he wonders if it’s his own watery eyes that deceive him, or if there really is a mist and a strange light cast on the infamous wall. But Morgan’s gasp confirms his suspicions, and the two slowly turn towards the bright, yet soft multicolored light emanating from the drywall as if the material were translucent. The rest of the room is dark, and the growing fog-like cloud deepens as it permeates into the depths of the windowless room.

“Wahya, this must be it,” Morgan whispers, swallowing hard as her heartbeat pounds in her chest.

The lovers from two different worlds look into the other’s eyes once more, and the panic they initially felt is replaced by a calm and peaceful knowing. There’s no pain to be had this time, and an acceptance of the future washes over the pair.

Still holding onto one another, their focus is brought to the tiny, glowing speck of light at the center of the wall. It begins to shimmer and grow brighter in quick bursts. Soon the pinprick of light grows at a steady rate, the shimmers revealing a hole filled with billowing clouds, sparking intermittently with multicolored impulses.

Their eyes are large with wonder, and yet Wahya squints as the opening enlarges and the shape of a kneeling figure begins to emerge from the other side of the glowing portal. His heart pounds in his head and he wonders if this is a spirit, come to retrieve him. Yet, there’s something very familiar about the hooded man who’s features become clearer as the opening swells and the light behind him shifts to a more natural color.

Morgan and Wahya release their embrace, maintaining a firm handhold nonetheless, as the man rises from his knees. The clouds dissipate somewhat, revealing a grassy and naturally lit dimension through the drywall. As the man steps through the now fully opened wall, the misty clouds swirl around his leather bound feet and he steps onto the carpeted floor of the artifact storage room.

Instinctively, Wahya reaches for the gorget that is no longer at his neck, as he recognizes the barely discernible face as that of the Traveler from his youth—the man who’d given him the stone pendant years ago.

Morgan is surprised as the figure speaks—not dramatically nor foreign sounding as she would have expected, but familiar and friendly. And though to her ears he speaks in English, it is apparent that Wahya understands him perfectly as well, answering the man as though they were both speaking Tsalagi. She only wishes she knew what Wahya was saying in turn.

The hooded figure, who looks to be not much older than either of them, speaks to the brave first. “Wahya, it’s good to see you again. You’ve grown up since I knew you last.”

“Jonas, I did not expect to see you here! Have you come to take me back to my time?”

The Traveler nods and smiles, then addresses Morgan. “You must be the powerful Morgan Walters.”

Morgan can only squeak out her one-worded question of an answer. “Powerful?”

The man chuckles in a warm-hearted way, “You are powerful in your love. I’m just glad that the woman of my heart is powerful in her own ways, otherwise getting through to you by myself would have been impossible. Though your sister’s talents of the subconscious and her love for you proved to be very helpful as well.” He must sense her apprehension, and continues, “Don’t worry, Morgan, I mean neither of you ill will. You should know that Wahya’s coming to your time was intentional, though not necessarily in the way he did. The plan had to be changed at the last minute, and I never foresaw you.” He laughs lightly. “Your falling in love with each other created quite the problem with his return. That love grounded Wahya to this time, and on more than one occasion I thought you both would never get to this point.”

Finally, Morgan’s courage builds. “Who are you?”

The mysterious man contemplates her question for a moment, then answers. “To Wahya, I’m known as the Traveler, though now in the twenty-first century, I suppose Time Traveler would be more appropriate. I cannot give you more than that, so that fate and destiny will not be changed. I’m no more a spiritual visitor than yourself, but merely a scientist on my own journey. I’ve been given a mission to ensure Wahya’s descendants embark upon the path they need to take, for the future of the world depends on it. A future that extends far beyond your time.”

Morgan’s eyes are full of wonder and she’s speechless. To Wahya he says, “Are you ready to go back to your time? It will be exactly seven days since you crossed into this time, and your enemies have moved along. You will need to travel south to catch up with your people, as they have had to move along to maintain their distance from the Haudenosaunee.”

Wahya nods in acknowledgement. “Thank you, Traveler. May I ask why I was sent here?”

The Traveler smiles again. “Your descendants will reach far, Wahya, despite the tragedy that will befall the peoples of the Americas once the Europeans arrive long after you are gone. Your descendants will play a role in the future, even long after Morgan is gone. But in your own time, you will be instrumental in opening the minds of others to learn about the world around them and to grow with your ever changing surroundings. While specific inventions you have come into contact with here are not important to your future, it is what you learned of the future and its people that is important to your lineage.”

Wahya nods with understanding and looks at Morgan, knowing that somehow, she fully understood the words the Traveler had spoken as well.

“Alright you two, I can’t hold this door open forever,” the Traveler beckons to Wahya.

Simultaneously, Morgan and Wahya squeeze each other’s hands, looking at one another with pained expressions—this is it.

“I miss you already,” Morgan tells him. Wahya releases her hand and cups both sides of her face, his eyes watering as he gives her a trembling smile. Tears fall freely again from Morgan’s eyes, as she finishes. “I love you, Wahya, and I always will!”

He looks deep into her eyes and replies, “I love you, Morgan, my beautiful Walela. I will never forget you.”

If only whatever magic or science allowed them to mutually understand the Traveler worked between them as well they both think. But the two know that their love goes far beyond the spoken word, and that in itself is enough for them. They kiss one last time—a short, soft, yet heated kiss—melting into each other, wishing to delay their inevitable parting as much as possible.

Finally, letting go of one another, Wahya looks to the Traveler and nods. “I am ready.”

He steps through the opening, following the Traveler onto the grass barely visible through the smoky haze on the other side. Turning back, Wahya sees Morgan’s smiling, yet tearful face through the mist thickening before his eyes. Lifting his fingers to his lips, he sends a kiss across the barrier with a final wave as he simply raises his arm above his head. In return, Morgan blows him a kiss with both hands, then clutches her palms together as the tears stream freely down her face, despite her tender smile.

The Tsalagi don’t say goodbye—only farewell—and thus Wahya turns to meet the future that awaits him in the past.

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