Portals – Chapter Four

PORTALS
By Sheri L. McGathy

(As is, and I really mean that 🙂
Copyright© – No part of this may be reproduced without permission

Chapter Four
"Why?"

Dione allowed the frothy fringes of the lapping waves to wet the bottoms of her feet as she contemplated how long she could sit there before the tide rushed in to claim her solitude. How long could she remain hidden from the tasks of training with Aldous, trying to coax something to the fore that refused to surface, safely ensconced from the burdens of the everyday life she now found herself living?

She smiled. "Not long, I'm sure."

The sun was just hinting that it might seek the shelter of the horizon, and she had some time left before true night was upon her.

She sighed as she looked out across the sparkling water. Her gaze roamed upward to the soft, velvety azure expanse surrounding her. The sky seemed alive with the rays of the setting sun, the colors sharp and intense, stretching out into infinity across a canvas of deepened blue.

As she took in the beauty of the approaching eve, she thought Empyreana really was one of the loveliest places they'd been so far. As well as one of the oddest, her cynical side spoke up. It wasn't just the planet, but the planet's inhabitants.

 "Winged beings." She shrugged. "And now birdboy as a new traveling companion. Who'd of thought such things were possible?"

She felt his presence without actually hearing his approach and smiled.

Turning her head slightly, she tossed an invite over her shoulder, "Join me?"

The large warrior came forward and stood above her, his shadow sheltering her. Just as his sword was a constant shelter from those who would harm, she thought.

She patted a sandy spot beside her and without checking to see if he'd really join her, looked wistfully toward the far off horizon.

"Dione, it will soon be time to leave," Lance gently offered.

"Oh, I know," she said as she turned and raised her gaze to look into his concerned face. She smiled as she added, "I'll be along soon, I promise."

Lance watched the play of shadows cross her face and saw the bare emotions that lay exposed, open for any to read if any cared to look. He caught the sadness that swam upon the surface of her dark eyes, and wished he knew what he could do to ease her pain and confusion.

Dione watched him for a moment, and then, gesturing with her finger, she again asked him to sit. He nodded and sank down upon the beach beside her. Pulling his legs toward his chest, he leaned his arms across his knees. He remained quiet.

She offered him a slight grin. "What am I doing here?"

Lance shrugged. "What do I do here?"

"Well, I think I can see how you got involved in all this." She laughed. "I can even rationalize the Sci-Fi stuff I seem to be caught in, sorta, but why was I chosen? The meager powers that seem to have come upon me won't come again, no matter how hard the old man pushes me. Must have been a fluke. So, why am I here?" She threw a rock toward the glistening water and watched it skip across the surface: one, two, three, four hops and then it was gone.

"It just makes me wonder, Lance, that's all."

Lance studied the water, noting how the sun was swiftly sinking, the sky growing grayer, matching his, and apparently Dione's mood. He could only shrug, unable to give voice to his thoughts.

Dione pulled her feet from the water and drew her legs toward her, much the same as Lance. Crossing her ankles, she wrapped her arms about her calves and propped her chin upon one of her knees. Eyeing Lance sideways she said, "For me, this whole…. let's call it an adventure…. has been in conflict with what I once believed. Everything, all the things I thought I understood changed the moment ya'all happened upon me.

"I never believed in other worlds; I certainly never imagined life beyond my own world, and then bang! In less than a heartbeat, my whole belief system was turned inside out!

"We've now been to countless ‘other' worlds; met innumerable ‘other' beings, and you know what I think?"

The warrior could only shake his head.

"I think I don't know whose reality I'm living, and I think I am confused, and I really want to understand but I don't. I don't even know if it matters that I'm here or if it would matter that I wasn't." Dione sighed. "I guess I should have told you my thoughts wouldn't make any sense."

The gentle swish of the building waves added a mournful echo to the prevailing silence encasing them.

Lance took her hand in his. His shaggy hair cascaded over her wrist as he ever so gently brushed his lips against the soft inner flesh of her palm. The soft gray of his eyes sought out her opaque ones. "It matters to me." Then he folded her fingers gently over the spot as if to hold the warmth within and stood. Without another word, he walked away.

Alone again, Dione continued to stare out at the water, where just a hint of moonlight was spreading across its dark surface.
 
She shut her eyes and sighed, yet again. One small tear escaped through the sealed lids to trail slowly down her cheek. Opening her eyes, she looked down at her still closed fist, and smiled, a sad, gentle upturning of the lips, and whispered, "Me too, Lance, me too."

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