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

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Chapter Fifty-Six: Uwonidi Tsisqua

AD 216
The Tsalagi Village
Eastern Piedmont Region, North America

}}}-----> WAHYA <-----{{{

Wahya had already finished resetting the fish traps in the creek this morning and now begins some chores for his grandmother before the sun rises higher in the sky, as he wants to get the heavier work done while it’s still cool.

“Grandmother, I have cut the firewood,” he says as he pops his head inside their newly constructed summer house. “Do you want it all out back, or do you need some for the hearth already?”

The elderly woman ducks out of the doorway, looking at the fair amount of firewood her grandson had brought. “Oh, I could use one bundle here, but the rest can go under the lean-to. When you are done there, I have something for you.”

Wahya smiles as he begins moving the wood, knowing his grandmother probably has a delicious snack waiting inside. He takes a moment to stretch his back and looks towards the sky. It’s a nice day he thinks and he’s glad summer is finally here. Finishing his task, he goes inside the mud and daub house and hints, “So, what good things are you cooking up today, Grandmother?”

“Come sit, boy,” she motions to him. “What I am making is for later this evening when your father is with us. But here is a little fried corn.”

Taking the crispy treat, he kisses her on the cheek and starts for the door instead of taking her invitation to sit down for a moment. “Thank you, Grandmother. You are the best!”

Before he makes it past the doorway, she calls, “And where are you off to in such a hurry? I do not suppose it has anything to do with that girl?”

Wahya’s cheeks flush—she knows him only too well. He tries to hide his nerves, making a serious face. “I do not know what you are talking about, Grandmother. I am just off to enjoy the fine weather for a change.”

“Pfft!” she scoffs. “You better be doing more than soaking up the sun!”

He gives her a teasing smirk as he hurries out before she can grill him any further. Behind him she hollers, “You are not getting any younger! And neither is she...”

Wahya slows down as he clears the little row of rectangular houses, making his way into the trees. He isn’t really in a hurry, as he doesn’t need to be at the clearing until later. But, the change in season marks a whole year since he’d made the surprising journey to the future and back, and he feels contemplative today. He needs a moment to think about what had transpired then, and examine his life now—so much has changed since then. He has changed since then.

Sitting on a large boulder at the edge of the clearing, nestled not far from the large river, Wahya takes his knife out of its sheath and examines the grayish-tan quartzite stone blade, remembering the one he’d lost when he’d fought the Haudenosaunee braves and leapt over the cliff. That seems so long ago.

He remembers stepping through the portal with the Traveler, back into the dense trees at the base of the cliffside, just under two-thousand years before Ned would raise his crops there. The memory of Morgan’s tearful farewell, as the mist from the magical doorway soon clouded over the opening, closing him off from her forever, is still clear in his mind. Yet, the Traveler had been kind, resting his hand on Wahya’s shoulder, knowing how pulled he’d been. He already missed her then, and a big part of him still does now. He begins to wonder what she’s up to, but remembers, She has not even been born yet, and will not be for hundreds of years to come.

He instinctively feels for the gorget that had been such a large part of him for so many years, and yet it’s not there. When he’d made an attempt to find it on the ground in the trees after returning to his own time, the Traveler instructed him to leave it behind, ensuring that the circle of past and present he had created by bringing Wahya to the future in the first place would stay intact. Wahya thought he understood, realizing that Ned would need to find it in the future, then give it to the university so that it would open the portal to the lab when it did, allowing Morgan and him to meet.

After that, the Traveler had quickly sent him on his own in the direction of his small tribe, who were already making their way towards the village they ultimately joined just before winter set in nearly six months ago. This new settlement, much larger in comparison to the one he’d lived in before the great sickness, had very accommodating and hospitable people, who welcomed them warmly and offered the protection and comforts of civilization. It felt good to have a home again.

Wahya, still being relatively new to the community, wasn’t sure how to go about beginning what the Traveler said he should do—teaching and preparing others for the future. He determined that he just needed more time to settle and build a relationship within the community. Eventually, the time would come naturally. And so, he’d put it at the back of his mind, as settling in and setting up a new home took priority.

And while his experience in the twenty-first century had changed his outlook on life, now something—or someone—else in the present has made an even more dramatic impact on his feelings than anything else since his arrival back in the Middle Woodland Period. Uwonidi Tsisqua—the woman who Grandmother teased him about with merriment back at the house.

Wahya listens as a squirrel chases it’s mate in a tree. Drinking in the warm sun on his back as he sits, his mind wanders to when he’d first heard her name. Some of the other, younger braves had been talking about eligible women they were interested in. One had started bantering the other about how he could court Uwonidi Tsisqua now that she was officially available. The others had laughed raucously, and the young man leered in response. Wahya had assumed the now-eligible woman must be ugly or mean-hearted by the way they carried on but hadn’t gotten himself involved in the crude conversation to ask.

What he did know was that her husband had passed away from an infected injury he’d received during a hunting trip, and now her time of mourning was over, making her officially eligible for marriage again. Rumor had it though, that she wasn’t looking for a new husband any time soon and had been quite vocal about it. But not because she was still mourning the death of her husband, but because she didn’t care for the eligible men she knew. Many of the men, young and old, thought her to be demanding and difficult to keep up with—her thoughts flitting from one thing to another.

He recalls how all his assumptions changed after he began working with Anidonav Wohali, a young teen who’d been having trouble with his archery skills. Being one of the best, Wahya had taken the boy under his wing. Others had tried to help the youth before, but soon became irritated with him because he couldn’t seem to hit the broadside of a longhouse. Topping his lack of coordination, he had attitude. Not all the time, just when things weren’t working out—which seemed to be quiet often.

Wahya soon learned how to handle the thirteen-year-old, determining that Wohali’s far away vision wasn’t the best—something the boy had desperately tried to hide. Wohali also had a bad habit of giving up when things got difficult, and a knack for using his non-caring attitude to hide the fact that he was having problems. Wahya discovered that he really did care—a lot— and was acting out in response to his own embarrassment. So, he began giving the boy unique incentives for accomplishing smaller tasks leading up to bigger ones, never berating the boy for not being able to do something right. Before long, with Wahya’s careful instruction, Wohali was using his other senses to compensate for his poor vision, and his confidence and archery skills were improving to everyone’s delight and amazement.

Within weeks, Wahya had formed a strong bond with the boy, who was indirectly learning discipline and manners to make his own, and everyone else’s lives happier and easier. To thank him for working so well with his son, Wohali’s father had invited Wahya to share supper with the family who lived in a different section of homes on the other side of the large village. That evening, Wahya learned that Wohali had a much older and very beautiful sister. And that beautiful woman happened to be the infamous Uwonidi Tsisqua.

While they ate, Uwonidi Tsisqua maintained an aloof persona, and Wahya felt just a little intimidated by her, despite the fact that she’d hardly uttered a word to him, nor spent much time in his presence. The little she had spoken hadn’t been rude or abrupt, but nonetheless, he felt her eyes looking deep into his soul, as if searching for something.

The next day, Wahya had been deep in thought, working on a new bow. Jolting him from his thoughts Uwonidi Tsisqua approached, standing over him as he sat on a log. Her expression was neither fierce or friendly. With an ‘osyio,’ she simply asked in a blunt and straightforward way, “How did you manage to tame my little brother?”

Taking the situation in stride, Wahya soon had Uwonidi Tsisqua laughing fondly about the ups and downs of working with Wohali, who she’d tried to tutor when he was a younger child, before she had married. Their friendship soon blossomed and Wahya and Uwonidi Tsisqua spent much time together talking about the mysteries of the world, life, and the small things that mattered to each of them. But besides being a good companion, it hadn’t taken Wahya long to discover that he liked Uwonidi Tsisqua—a lot. He smiles at the thought. She is beautiful, there is no doubt. But it is how she excitedly begins chattering along when she feels comfortable around others or is very interested in a topic that captivates me. It makes her so… endearing. He knows that was one trait he loved about Morgan. It hadn’t taken him long after getting to know Uwonidi Tsisqua, that he soon discovered both women, though very different in appearance, had many similarities and equally likable qualities.

While he never told anyone besides his grandmother and father about his time traveling experience, Wahya has been beginning to feel like Uwonidi Tsisqua would understand and be interested in what had happened to him. He revisits the thought as he sits in the clearing now. Would she believe me? What would she think about things like cars, glass, phones?

But there’s no way to think on these subjects and not think about Morgan. At first, he felt guilty thinking about another woman. But he realized that while Morgan would always have a place in his heart, she was no longer attainable. The Traveler had said that they were not meant for each other, and Wahya now found that he couldn’t extinguish his ability to love another, as difficult as it was to let Morgan go.

He had yet to broach the subject of being more than friends with Uwonidi Tsisqua, and the thought makes him nervous. He didn’t want her to back away from the relationship they’d already established on account of his deeper feelings, and she had made it clear to everyone that she was happy to be single. And yet, he reflects, Grandmother was right—neither of them were getting any younger, with both of them being in their late-twenties and most people their age being married and having children of their own.

Well, she has never said she wanted to stay single to me exactly. It would not hurt to hint.”

As if on cue from his thoughts, Uwonidi Tsisqua appears in the clearing, carrying a small basket and wearing the sweet smile she usually broke into when she saw him. Her hair is braided long on both sides, and bone-beaded feathers are carefully tucked into the tops of each raven-colored braid. Her braids are somewhat unkempt, giving her a bit of a tousled look, and Wahya knows she’d been working this morning. Her features are chiseled, like that of all the Tsalagi people, yet her smooth, high cheekbones soften drastically when she smiles. Her dark eyes aren’t quite as dark as his own, reminding him of the sweet, dark brown confection he’d enjoyed so much with Morgan. What would she say if he told her that her eyes looked like chocolate chips, he often wondered.

“Osiyo, Wahya! I brought some of the dried fish I prepared from the trout you gave me the other day. I thought you and your grandmother and father would like some.”

Standing, Wahya takes the basket graciously and peeks inside, a huge grin spreading across his lips. “Wado! I am sure we will all enjoy it.”

Sitting together on the ground, leaning against the large boulder, the two chit-chat for a while. As the conversation wanes, Wahya wets his lips and swallows heavily. He knows he must do it now if he’s going to have the courage ever again.

“Uwonidi Tsisqua, I know we have not really talked about it, and if you do not want to, you do not have to.” She tears her eyes from the sky she’d been focused on and looks at him inquiringly. “Your marriage to Gigage Uweyv... Was it... happy?”

Uwonidi Tsisqua smirks lightly, sensing Wahya’s nerves, and nods. “Yes, we were happy. I believe you know that we were married for three years.” Wahya replies with a nod, and she continues, “Gigage Uweyv had been my childhood friend, and we loved each other very much.” Wahya feels even more nervous, for surely anyone who she gave her love to would find unconditional happiness with her. “What I loved about Gigage Uweyv the most, was that we were like-minded and felt the same about many things. Much like the relationship between you and me. He did not mind my talkative personality and I liked that he did not hold back his thoughts from me. We demanded open honesty with each other.”

Wahya nods again, listening intently. She laughs, the soft sound like a tiny brook. “Actually, I imagine that you would have gotten along with him quite well. In many ways you remind me of him.”

Wahya is sure that she’s about to say that while he’s great to be friends with, there’s no replacing Gigage Uweyv, and he wishes he’d never brought it up.

“You should ask me why, after three years, we had no children,” she suggests suddenly and with little emotion.

He hadn’t been thinking that and looks up at her with surprise now. Waiting for her to continue, he doesn’t answer. But she stays silent, waiting for him to ask the very personal question. Quietly, he proceeds, “Why did you not have children, Uwonidi Tsisqua?”

“Because as much as we thought alike and understood each other, we just were not... in love.”

She begins to blush and Wahya realizes that it’s the first time he’s ever seen her nervous. He thinks back to his relationship with Usdi Agisa, as they had both been compatible in every way, except for passion, something he didn’t even know had been missing in their relationship until he met Morgan.

Obviously, unsure of how to continue without embarrassing herself, Wahya gives her a thoughtful smile. “I understand more than you know. I thought I was in love with the woman I was going to marry, but she died before we could be married. We were friends always and everyone just assumed we would end up together. I loved her very much, but there was no... passion.”

His voice strains slightly, as he looks deep into Uwonidi Tsisqua’s velvety brown eyes, and his heart beats wildly in his chest. With his mouth dry, he knows beyond a shadow of doubt that he would like to find out if there could be passion between him and Uwonidi Tsisqua.

He continues honestly. “After her, I did love another—with more passion than I knew existed.”

He looks off into the distance and pauses, and Uwonidi Tsisqua gently prods, “What happened to her?”

Reverting his eyes back to the woman next to him, he smiles. “We also were not meant to be. While we both loved each other, we were from two separate worlds that we could not bridge. I had to say goodbye to her as well.”

Uwonidi Tsisqua looks disappointed and quietly replies, “I am sorry.”

Wahya shakes his head firmly, “Oh, do not be. I accept fate and know that we will both be better for the circumstances. But, if I learned anything from both of these women, it is that loving someone with all of your heart... mind... and body... is important.”

“Yes, I suppose you are right,” she agrees. “There must be a physical and mental compatibility for it to be emotionally right.”

Her tone is contemplative, yet her lack of connection to the subject makes him realize that she’s never really been in love before. And more than anything, he wants to show her what that’s like.

“My mother and father are the opposite of how it was for me and Gigage Uweyv. All passion. But I do not think they understand each other at all. That is probably why they love Wohali to death but have had so many arguments about what to do about him.”

Wahya smiles. There she goes again, talking away just like her namesake, the Magpie. Is she really caught up in the topic, or is she stalling?

They sit shoulder-to-shoulder while she continues speaking, and Wahya calculates the distance between his own and her delightful lips. Without hesitation, he turns to face her and bridges that gap, planting a full kiss on her still moving mouth. She is warm and soft, and his stomach somersaults as sparks ignite throughout his body. She stops talking in surprise and freezes momentarily, not expecting his blatant, but gentle instigation. Wahya, fearing that she won’t feel the same, holds the kiss for a moment and begins to back off when she doesn’t move. But to his relief and elation, she realizes her choice in the matter, and chooses to return the favor, suddenly pushing her lips back onto his, and what he thought was warm and soft before, becomes hot and tender. He rests his hand on her forearm, pulling her body gently towards him as they both deepen the kiss a little more.

Finally, they break apart, equally breathless and flushed. Wahya searches her eyes for confirmation, and yet she remains frozen. She seemed to enjoy the kiss during the moment, yet she looks uncertain, and so he says, “Uwonidi Tsisqua, I enjoy your friendship very much, and I never want to lose that. But I am very much interested in getting to know you as something more, too. You deserve to be loved in all ways. And if you would permit me, I would like to see if you and I can find that kind of love together.”

Uwonidi Tsisqua blinks, then suddenly breaks out into the most gorgeous smile Wahya thinks he’s ever seen. “Adatlisvi Wahya, I would like that very much, too!”

Wahya takes her hand in his and leans back against the boulder again, looking up to the sky with a large smile across his face. Uwonidi Tsisqua rests her head on his muscular shoulder and stares out into the landscape in front of them. Both feel the contentment in the wave of their budding relationship and the innate desire to spend the rest of their days basking in the deep and honest love that will soon blossom and grow between them.

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

Anidonav Wohali = Standing Eagle
*Uwonidi Tsisqua’s little brother

Gigage Uweyv = Red River
*Uwonidi Tsisqua’s deceased husband

Uwonidi Tsisqua = Magpie
*Wahya’s friend and love interest

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