The Artifact (Book 2, Time Trilogy)

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Chapter Fifty-Seven: Randy Jordan, THPO

June 2024
Richmond City University
Richmond City, Virginia

}}}-----> MORGAN <-----{{{

“Oh, you know who you can ask about the artifacts is the Cherokee Heritage Center right outside of Richmond City!” Tracie’s excited voice echoes over the phone. “If they don’t want them, they might know someone who does.”

Morgan sits up straighter in her chair. “I didn’t even know there was a center here!”

Tracie laughs embarrassedly. “Yeah, they’re relatively new, actually. I hadn’t heard about it either until Wahya. After he left, I went searching for ways to improve my own cultural knowledge and language skills and found out about them.”

“Really?!” Morgan exclaims. “That’s awesome!”

Tracie laughs again, “My daughter is starting to speak Tsalagi better than me!” Then more seriously, she adds, “I just heard that they’re talking about putting together a museum of sorts, but I don’t know anyone on that side of the organization. Let me give you the number to the folks who do the language class, and they’ll know who you should talk to.”

Morgan writes down the number and thanks Tracie again before hanging up, feeling like things are going in the right direction. Her hopes of finding Ned some suitable places to donate his artifacts seems to be well within reach. Earlier in the day, the Richmond City American History Museum said that they’d send out a curator to look at the Colonial-era objects, and if they didn’t want them, she would recommend the Department of Historic Resources despite the fees.

After speaking with the Cherokee Center’s language instructor, Morgan calls the organization’s Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, better known as the THPO, who happens to be the one taking charge of the new museum project. When one answers, she leaves a voice message stating that she has some artifacts they may be interested in and would send them an e-mail with details and photos to the address on their website.

An hour later, an extremely detailed e-mail has been drafted, and she attaches the entire catalog of Native American artifacts, along with a link to view the photos on the University’s online shared drive. As she hits send, she pleads aloud, “Please, please want these artifacts!”

The next day is a success, as the Post-Contact Period Curator from the American History Museum calls to say that she has space for the Colonial collection for an exhibition regarding lesser-known Colonial settlers in Virginia. The fragmented objects would be perfect additions.

To brighten her day even further, after lunch, Morgan opens her e-mail to find a relatively short, but positive reply from the Cherokee Center’s THPO:

Dear Ms. Walters,Thank you for reaching out to inquire about the possible donation of artifacts to the Richmond City Cherokee Heritage Center. We would be very interested in obtaining the artifacts, as not only are we attempting to build a collection for our future museum, but per our mission, we would ensure the artifacts will be used in the education of the Cherokee people and others regarding Cherokee history and culture.

I look forward to working with you on their transfer. Please let me know what you need from me in the meantime.

Regards,Randy

Randall S. JordanTribal Historic Preservation OfficeCherokee Heritage CenterRichmond City, Virginia

Morgan quickly responds to the email with an affirmation that she can have everything ready to go within a couple of weeks, pending the finalization of the artifacts on her end. Those weeks speed by, and June turns into July as Morgan prepares the artifacts that Ned had been very happy to donate to both the museum and heritage center. Finally finished cataloging the last of the year-long excavation finds, packaging it all for transport, and getting the necessary paperwork printed, she coordinates a date for delivery, hoping the weather will be good for moving boxes in and out of the van.

Transfer day comes and the quiet in the lab feels eerie. She’s the only one here today, as Emory has begun his two-week vacation for the summer, and Dr. Clark is finally getting settled up north in New York for the summer field session. Walking through the artifact storage room on her way to the get the last boxes of Billings Farm artifacts, Morgan reaches out to touch Wahya’s Wall, as her and the others who’d known him, fondly call the location where he’d entered and exited their time and lives.

It’d become a habit - lightly touching the drywall surface with her fingertips - and she sighs, remembering that the day he’d fallen through was very similar to today - only rainy. Recalling how she’d been carrying the gorget when it’d happened, she sadly remembers that the gorget is considered part of Ned’s collection, and would soon be transferred with the rest of the artifacts to the Cherokee Heritage Center.

“I don’t suppose they’d let me just keep that... Actually, I’m surprised Ned didn’t want to keep it. Maybe I should ask him if he would let me keep it!” Entering the secondary artifact storage room, she looks at her reflection in the glass cabinet and shakes her head. “No, I have all the rest of Wahya’s things. The Cherokee people should have his gorget - it was his from his own time. Besides, if it’s ever used as a time travel device of some kind again, it’d probably be better to have the next guy pop in on a Cherokee curator and not me.”

Morgan loads up the university’s van with all thirty-five boxes of artifacts, putting the ones for the Cherokee Heritage Center in first, as they will be offloaded last. Making her way to the Richmond City American History Museum, Morgan parks in the loading zone, where she’s met by Nora the curator and her assistant. Between the three of them, they make quick work of the transfer, hauling the twenty-four boxes of Colonial-era artifacts in only a few trips and signing the official transfer paperwork.

Driving the twenty miles to the north side of the city where the CherokeeHeritage Center is housed, she pulls into the parking lot a few minutes early. Waiting in the van, she doesn’t know why, but she feels nervous. Perhaps, it’s because she really is giving Wahya’s gorget away, she thinks to herself. She sighs audibly. “But it’s the right thing to do.”

She closes her eyes momentarily, remembering Wahya’s last moments and wonders if he was able to make the difference that he was sent to the future to learn from. Looking out the window, she focuses on the large sign welcoming visitors. She laughs lightly as it dawns on her that someone, or several individuals throughout the Cherokee’s long history had to have made the difference. The very existence of this cultural center proves the resilience and perseverance of the Tsalagi people, not to mention the obvious means to educate future generations. That’s what Wahya’s job was… to teach others.

Looking at the clock on the dashboard, Morgan turns off the van’s ignition and starts towards the entrance. Unsure of where exactly she would need to offload the boxes, she decides to take only the small box with the gorget inside, it being the singular Native American artifact from the Cliffside Site and not the Village Site they later found. It’s also one of the few whole and complete artifacts of the entire collection. The rest are mostly fragmented pieces of pottery or broken arrowheads, scrapers, and flaked stone that had been thrown out by some ancient person making tools. All things that Wahya would have thought odd to be keeping, she thinks, remembering his confusion at seeing the artifacts in the lab.

Once inside the contemporary, yet tribally decorated building, the friendly young woman at the front desk directs her down the corridor. “It’s the last door on the left.”

Morgan gives her thanks and quietly makes her way down the hall. Having never met the THPO, only corresponding with him via email, she imagines the man in this position to be an aged tribal elder of sorts and probably someone with lots of experience like Dr. Clark.

As she pads down the carpeted hall, she hears what sounds like a class going on in one of the rooms, as laughter flows from the doorway. Hurrying by, while curiously peering into the open door, she’s not paying attention to where she’s going, and suddenly collides with a large body coming out of the THPO’s office the next door down.

“Oomph,” both she and the victim of her negligent walking simultaneously groan, as to her horror, the small box flies out of her grasp. Even worse, the man in which she plowed into, bounces backwards against the doorframe, losing his balance in the process, and also meeting the floor alongside the bagged gorget, which helplessly topples out of its box.

“Oh! I am sooo sorry!” Morgan exclaims as she focuses on the scene of her sudden impact, then goes to help the now-sitting man up off the floor. But as he lifts his surprised face to see who had knocked him down, Morgan freezes and her breath catches. “Wahya!?”

Looking at her in confusion, the obviously Native American man with cropped raven-black hair clears his throat. “Excuse me?”

He rolls onto his knees to stand and Morgan stares. “He can’t be, can he?”

Finally, Randy Jordan stands, towering over Morgan at near six-feet and dusts off his dark gray slacks, smoothing out his pale green button-up shirt before looking down at her again. Morgan shakes her head for clarity.

“What did you just say?” He asks again with confusion.

Taking another good look at his face, Morgan realizes her mistake. “No, he looks a lot like Wahya, but he’s definitely not. I’ve just got Wahya on my mind, what with transferring the gorget today and all.”

Instead, she says, “Um... ‘I’m sorry.’ That’s what I’d said.” She laughs nervously, suddenly flustered by not only knocking the THPO down but also mistaking him for Wahya.

In turn, he scratches his head and bends to pick up the gorget thankfully still in its plastic bag, as Morgan, now realizing again that she’d dropped it, goes for the empty box it had fallen out of.

“Are you okay?!” She continues. “I wasn’t paying attention and...” She looks at the gorget in his hands feeling guilty for allowing it to be dropped on the ground. It’s a cultural item, not to mention Wahya’s prized possession, and she’d let it fall because her mind wasn’t on task. She cringes inside. “Kill me now!”

Morgan straightens awkwardly and swallows nervously, and Randy notices her apprehension as she eyes the gorget in his hand. Knowing it isn’t broken, the THPO gives her a small smile trying to lighten the situation. “No harm, no foul. It’ll take a lot more than that to break me.”

He holds the bag with the artifact out to her and Morgan tentatively takes it, putting it back in the box as she clears her throat. “You must be Mr. Jordan?”

His smile grows. “Randy. And you are...?”

“Morgan. From the RCU Archaeology Department.” Hoping to get past the incident as quickly as possible she proceeds, “I’ve got more in the van, but wanted to start off with this...”

Handing the handsome man the whole box, she explains that it’s the gorget she’d told him about in her e-mail. He nods, carrying the box over towards his desk. “You can come in,” he motions for her to enter his office. Setting the box down carefully, he reopens the lid, and as though he hadn’t just held it moments ago asks, “May I?”

“Oh! Yes, of course!” Morgan’s nerves are still running high, and even more now that he’s going to examine the precious piece of stone.

Pulling it from the bag, Randy hefts the stone in his large palm and whistles lightly. “Heavy, isn’t it?!”

Speechless, Morgan only nods, a strange sensation coming over her as though a door in her life were closing at this very moment. Randy notes her expression and concern floods his mind. “Are you okay? You didn’t get hurt back there, did you?!”

Morgan is pulled back to the present moment, truly focusing on the man in front of her without trying to compare him to her beloved Wahya. Blinking a couple times, she replies more confidently, “Oh yeah, I’m alright. It’s just that I’ve spent a lot of time with that gorget over the last year, and well…,” she pauses, unsure of what to say.

“You’ve connected with it?” Randy offers, half asking, half stating.

“Yes.” She considers, “It might sound a little weird, but it carries a lot of memories and meaning for me.”

He considers her momentarily, and she’s sure he finds her statement odd as an obviously non-Native woman and archaeologist. To her surprise his expression softens, no hint of judgement to be found. “Good ones, I take it? Memories, that is?”

If only he could read her mind, she thinks, then nods, smiling weakly. “Yes.” Unsure about what her answer would be should he prod for details about those memories, she shifts the conversation. “But, what’s even more important, is that it’s now home where it belongs. With the Tsalagi people.”

His eyes flicker with recognition of the true name of his people and he once more studies her, trying to determine her place in all this she’s sure. “You know the Native word for ‘Cherokee?’”

Morgan’s nerves begin to dissipate and she nods assuredly, coming up with a quick explanation. “I have a friend who’s Tsalagi. You might know her, actually. Tracie Fischer? She and her daughter have been coming to the language classes here and she’s the one who told me about the Center and that you were starting a museum.”

“Yeah, I know of them! I have some other stuff going on when they hold the language class, so haven’t been but a couple times. That’s great she referred you to us though!” He relaxes further then glances back to the gorget still in his hand.

Recalling Morgan’s explanation about the artifact in her e-mail, he reverts back to the topic at hand and gives his acquiescing and professional opinion on its origin. “Being a lone and inadvertent find, I think your assumption that it was unintentionally dropped would make sense.” Then looking her in the eye, he continues, “Even so, perhaps there was a reason that you were part of its journey, and this is why you feel so connected.”

She catches his lightly intense gaze and smiles broadly, hoping he’s right. “I couldn’t agree more!”

He reverts his eyes back to the gorget and laughs lightly, hefting it once more. “It’s heavy enough, you have to wonder how someone would have dropped it without knowing it though.”

Morgan’s heart constricts a bit, knowing exactly how it was lost. Effectively changing the subject, she proceeds, “Uh, I do have eleven more boxes of artifacts in my van. Where do you want ’em?”

Agreeing that his office would be the best place, Randy offers to help bring them inside, and the two make smalltalk as they offload the remaining boxes into the corner of the room next to the large bookshelf. Per normal transfer protocol, Morgan pulls out the transfer form she’d prepared earlier. “I just need your signature saying that I gave these over to you, and then I’ll sign the bottom. I brought two copies. One for me and one for you.”

She watches his profile as he leans over his desk, taking pen to paper, and after having spent a good half hour with the man, she must admit that Randy is appealing. Having already noted that he isn’t wearing a wedding band while they were taking boxes from the van earlier, Morgan instinctively glances around his office looking for photos of family, friends… girlfriends. He interrupts her wandering thoughts as he hands her copy of the letter back to her.

At this point, she would normally say her goodbyes and head back to the lab. But Morgan isn’t ready to leave just yet - something urging her to continue. It’s the first time she’s felt like looking at and talking to a guy in a long while, and truthfully, it scares her just a little.

As her nerves build up again, she stumbles on her words. “So, this museum you’re putting together... What’s it going to be about?”

He gives her an odd smirk, and she catches herself. “Ugh! That was a dumb question! Obviously, I know what it’s going to be about! What I meant to say is, what else do you have planned to exhibit?”

Intrigued by her flustered nerves, Randy takes the hook. “Would you like to see our collection so far? That is, if you have time and all.”

Morgan doesn’t hesitate, her reserves gone, now replaced by excited energy. “Yes! I’d love to see it!”

Randy’s radiant smile beams brighter than ever, effectively capturing Morgan’s breath, as he motions for her to accompany him. Her excited nerves get the better of her though, as she miscalculates the distance between the doorway, herself, and the handsome THPO. The two reach the door at the same time, and in trying to maintain a platonic distance, not noticing that he was allowing her the space to go first and not watching where she was going yet again, Morgan vies to the right, unintentionally bouncing off the doorframe clumsily. Propelled back the way she came, Morgan once more runs into Randy, this time eliciting a squeak in response to the small collision.

Grabbing her by the shoulders, Randy gently sets her upright, looking down on her with surprise as she turns to apologize. “I’m sorry! I just don’t know what’s gotten into me! Probably need to get my eyes checked or something!”

He chuckles lightly in response, a twinkle in his eye as his touch spends sparks into her skin. “Remind me not to let you near the breakable artifacts, Walela.”

Continuing to move out into the hall, he ushers her to follow, but Morgan is grounded to the spot. Her heart is racing and her head is spinning. “What did you just call me?”

His gorgeous smile fades slightly, seeing her suddenly serious expression. With her personable and appealing atmosphere, he’d felt relaxed, but hadn’t meant to be so familiar with her, and instantly regrets saying the instantaneous nickname he’d just given her in his mind, aloud. And yet, he thinks, unless she knows the Tsalagi language, she wouldn’t know what he’d called her. If her friend had only started taking language classes recently, Morgan shouldn’t know much either he reasons, hoping he might be able to play it off.

Studying her momentarily, he notes that her face doesn’t necessarily display insult, rather more of an urgency to know, and he’s sure he’s been caught. Feeling compelled to be honest with her he utters the noun as if asking if it’s the right word. “Walela?”

Morgan perks again at the familiar word Wahya had called her numerous times, not having thought of it in a long while. Though she never determined what exactly the name had meant, she recalls that when Wahya had used it, he meant to be both teasing and as a term of endearment.

“Yes, that’s it! I know that word! What does it mean?” She asks again with urgency.

Randy’s face flushes and his pulse jumps as he realizes just how it’s going to sound to her, after they’d only just met. Rubbing the back of his neck, he finally replies, “Hummingbird. It means hummingbird.” Guiltily, he continues quickly. “I didn’t mean anything by it, really. I have a bad habit of calling people nicknames in Cherokee when I meet them. Helps me remember their names where I know them from and all. And you... well...”

It’s obvious that he’s extremely flustered now, and even more so by the beautiful smile unabashedly growing on Morgan’s face. Forcing her smile away again, Morgan grills teasingly, “And what exactly made you give me that nickname, Randy?”

He swallows hard as he thinks about how to word it without offending her or coming off too strongly. “It’s just that you’re...uh... tiny. And... quick? Bouncing around the room and all.” He doesn’t add attractive and sexy, nor that her eyes are the color of hummingbird wings. Clearing his throat to take control of the situation, Randy straightens, his smile still red from embarrassment, but more natural. “Now that we’ve both been equally embarrassed, shall we go ahead with this tour?”

Morgan laughs, knowing that she likes Randy even more now. Not only had he dispelled the mystery of Wahya’s nickname for her, but had proven that he also felt something similar towards her, making her wonder just how hummingbird-like she must be. Topping it all off, she finds him handsome, with his velvety dark eyes, and his easy going and genuine personality, making her feel good inside. “Yes, let’s!” She motions for him to lead the way.

The two spend the next hour enjoying each other’s company while touring the heritage center and viewing the sparse collection of artifacts Randy had already procured from local families and the tribe. Ending the tour, he walks her to the van, and she extends her hand, a giant smile on her lips.

He warmly shakes her hand in response and they each search the other’s eyes for unspoken feelings. Mutually, they feel like they’ve been friends forever and neither wants to take their leave from the other.

Finally, Randy is the first to speak. “You know, the Cherokee don’t have a specific word for ‘goodbye.’”

Morgan smiles knowingly, having learned this before. “That’s what I hear.”

She notices that he hasn’t let go of her hand just yet, as he continues, “Well, I’d rather not say it to you in English either.”

Morgan’s heart skips a beat and she prods, “What exactly do you want to say, then?”

He takes a deep breath, finally letting go of her. “How about... I’d like to see you again. If that’s alright?”

Her smile deepens and her heart flutters at the words she’d hoped he’d say. “I’d like that very much!”

Randy breaks out in his own breathtaking smile and waves to her as she pulls out of the parking lot, suddenly feeling excited about the possibilities the future might hold with this unpredictable, funny, and amazingly beautiful woman. And Morgan, who can’t help but squeal with joy as soon as she gets on the road, feels warmth and fullness in her heart for a change. But even more, she feels hopeful. His warm and friendly personality, the ability to laugh at himself, and the honesty he’d already displayed are attributes hard to come by. Not to mention their mutual interests and, of course, his smoldering good looks.

More solemnly, Morgan ponders whether it might be possible that Randy could be a distant descendant of Wahya’s, impossible to determine, considering the lack of DNA evidence and such. Then she wonders at the sheer coincidence of the current situation. Or not a coincidence at all, and instead the effects of a planned future by none other than the Traveler?

“If Wahya hadn’t dropped his gorget hundreds of years ago, Ned would never have brought it into the lab. Then Wahya wouldn’t have been brought to the future - via the gorget - to learn what he needed to take back with him to the past. And I wouldn’t have ended up coming to the Cherokee Heritage Center today.”

Driving back to the lab, Morgan allows contentment to fill her senses, as she feels like the universe is on track and that the future will be bright for them all.

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


3587 BC
Avebury Cave
Albion (Neolithic England)

}}}-----> MELIA <-----{{{

Looking into the fire of which she stirs a hanging pot of herbs, the young, but powerful medicine woman smiles to herself. “It happened! They met today! In a few thousand years - but today!”

With everything coming together so nicely for Wahya and Uwonidi Tsisqua, and also for Morgan and Randy, she’d never felt so connected to her life’s purpose.

Sitting back on her heels, she wonders at the tangled web of the past, present, and future, as she waits for her own true love to return to her yet again.

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