[20050625 Sat].[Ch1].[Sc2].[Celeste Green, Professor Sebastian Alicea].[Celeste goes through the Kiva at Balcony Palace without her father and disappears/is teleported].[Mesa Verde National Park, CO].
They followed the tour guide, a park ranger, hiking with their small group across the black paved winding path. The path took them lower, making Celeste worry about her father. The trip back up this way was going to be hard on him. He shouldn’t have left his wheelchair in the car.
“Perhaps I shouldn’t have left my wheelchair in the boot of the car,” her father mused quietly.
Celeste nodded fervently, “Are you having trouble now? I was just thinking of how difficult it’s going to be for you on our way back up.”
“I’m fine for now but I was thinking about the same thing,” he admitted in a low voice. They stopped to listen to the tour guide talk about the benefits and drawbacks of living in the Mesa Verde for the Pueblo ancestors. The tour was strenuous for the professor. In the back of her mind, Celeste anticipated her father would be resting all through tomorrow whether he wanted to or not.
“The Balcony House is harder to access than the Cliff Palace, sir,” the ranger explained, his posture and tone suggesting he didn’t recommend that the Professor attempt the climb, “There is a thirty foot ladder and then you would have to squeeze through the relatively tight passages.”
“I think I will have to pass on that particular tour,” the professor said lightly.
“Oh,” Celeste made an audible sound of regret.
“Don’t worry, Celeste,” her father reassured her, squeezing her hand, “I may not be able to make the climb but I know you’re capable and eager. I trust you will look after yourself and respect the ranger while you’re up there. I’ve had about as much walking and hiking as I need for the weekend.”
“Yes, Papa,” Celeste promised, nearly vibrating with excitement, “Are you sure you don’t want me to stay with you?”
“I’m certain. I am old, dear, and I need a rest,” the professor shook his head at her, “You go make the most you can of it. I’ll be waiting here for you when you return.”
“There are a few kivas that you’re welcome to climb right down into,” the tour guide advised the group, “Kivas are the temples of the village. The kivas served primarily as centers of religion and worship but these Pueblo temples were also used as meeting halls and for other social gatherings.” Celeste and some others among their group followed the tour guide down into the kiva.
She climbed down the ladder, descending into the dark. Her eyes would need a moment to adjust but the rungs of the ladder were evenly spaced so she didn’t have hardly any trouble getting down without seeing where she was going.
“This kiva was a center for social gatherings,” the ranger explained, “We can fit twenty people in here. Sixty to eighty people would have lived in the apartments above but the kivas here are relatively large.”
Celeste milled around with the other tourists, listening to their guide.
“A cornerstone of the Pueblo religious system contains the belief that the Pueblo ancestors travelled between worlds, coming up from lower worlds,” the park ranger gestured at the floor of the kiva as he spoke, “It’s Celeste, isn’t it? You’re standing over one of the spirit holes. The Pueblos believe that these holes allow spirits to come up from the other world.”
Celeste was uncomfortable when attention was directed at her but she tried to let it slide off of her.
“They say they moved because the other worlds were full of crime and they weren’t very good places to live,” their guide continued, “When they came through from the other world they used prayers to seal the passageway between the two worlds.”
Recognizing that she was in a holy place Celeste closed her eyes for just a moment to say a short, silent prayer of respect. She had a moment of dizziness, a feeling of lightheadedness, and falling. She jerked and opened her eyes to find she was standing in a fire.
[date] [chapter] [scene #] [characters present] [summary] [location/place name] [important notes]
.[Ch2].[Sc1].[Celeste Green, Tag, other clerics].[summ].[Mountaintop temple, Otherworld].[Meeting the Mentor & Call to Adventure & Refusal of the Call].
Celeste shrieked and jumped out and away from the flames automatically. Hands caught her before she could realize that she wasn’t burning. She checked her clothes and they were untouched. She looked back over her shoulder at the fire. It was still going and it was warm but there was no smoke, no wood. The hands on her shoulders dropped away and Celeste looked forward again.
“You’re not in our tour group,” she spoke without thinking.
“Wikwee,” the man sounded surprised as he stepped back from her. He wore a dark linen tunic that fell to mid-thigh with a slit on either side up to his hips. The trim of the tunic shined even in the dim light. His pants were loose, simple, and they matched the long sleeved undershirt he wore. His hair was long, black and his eyes seemed to glow like liquid gold by some trick of flame and shadows.
Celeste looked around. There were eleven others wearing clothes like his but they were all sitting, staring up at her with confused expressions. The park ranger and the rest of her group was gone, as far as she could tell.
“Did I fall asleep or something?” she muttered, grabbing for a rung on the ladder. She avoided the fire burning directly below the ladder. One of the women reached out to her.
“What is it?” Celeste asked but the woman had already placed two fingers on Celeste’s left temple. The woman said a few words in a language that Celeste didn’t understand and for a moment Celeste felt strange. She pulled away from the oddly dressed woman.
“I’m sorry I don’t understand,” Celeste told her, wishing desperately that she could be anywhere but here.
“You should understand now,” the woman smiled warmly at Celeste.
“Oh! You do speak English,” Celeste was partly relieved but she still thought the woman was odd.
“No, we do not,” the man behind her contradicted, “The cleric simply cast a spell to allow us to communicate. You are now speaking our language and you understand our language. There will be some words that do not come across well such as… English.”
The way he said English was slow, like he was trying it out for the first time. Celeste’s eyes went wide. Crazy people. She’d fallen asleep standing up and had woken up surrounded by crazy people.
“Okay, well, I’m going to go rejoin my tour group. Excuse me,” Celeste bolted her way up the ladder as quickly as she could manage. When she stepped up out of the kiva she was shocked. This was not the Mesa Verde National Park.
She was standing on the edge of a cliff staring out and across a valley of towns and villages connected with swollen blue rivers bordered by tall, thick hedges. Some the multicolored pastures were spotted with livestock. Celeste started to worry maybe she’d lost her mind somehow. The people who had been sitting in a circle around the fire below climbed up and gathered around her.
“Preeminent Palatine, Messenger of the Veil, Daughter of Faith, promised and foreseen,” one woman said, petting Celeste’s sleeve. Celeste wondered who had fallen and gotten a concussion in the kiva.
“You wear odd clothing,” the man remarked. He was one to talk, Celeste thought, grumpy. Celeste noticed with a sinking feeling in her stomach that his irises were really golden. They were also cat-like, with vertical pupils that examined her. As his brows lowered and drew together lines appeared between his brows. His nostrils flared then he made a chuffing noise, a sort of breathy snort. He had one fist pressed to his waist and the other he ran through his hair.
“We prayed and cast the divine fire together so that you could be summoned to this world from the other,” another man explained, “We need you, Lady Palatine.”
This is a dream, Celeste thought, this isn’t real.
“The Queen’s royal consort, her husband, has hidden and sealed her majesty away,” the woman explained, “Will you help us?”
“What can I can I do?” Celeste asked, still worried about her own mental health, “I’m not who you think I am. My name is Celeste. I’m only sixteen years old. I don’t think I’m the person you think I am.”
“I am the Priestess Archmage Zara. These are the Priest Monks and Priestess Nuns of this mountain temple,” Zara indicated the other men and women, although the man with the gold eyes stood apart.
“This is Priest Tag,” Zara gestured at him, “He will be your escort and guardian.”
“I must be dreaming,” Celeste threw up her hands, “This isn’t happening.”
“This is not a dream,” the priests seemed upset. Some were glancing between each other, whispering, while a few just stared at her expectantly.
“Then I want to go home,” Celeste insisted, “I want to wake up. I want to be away from here. I’m not who you need. I can’t help you.”
“Is she right?” Tag asked Zara, perplexed, “Did you make some mistake?”
“We prayed and we performed the ritual,” Zara gave him a dark look, “The energy of the universe, deity itself, chose her and pulled her from the next world into this one.”
Tag looked back at Celeste, “The prophecies, the foretellings, and the covenant have all been consistent. What do you know about our world?”
“Nothing,” Celeste admitted quietly. He nodded, his eyes falling to her hands as she rubbed them together nervously.
“There hasn’t been clear communication between the worlds in many years,” he told her, “So that makes some sense. We are a world of magic but your world has very little magic. The worlds with more magic are harder for mundane humans to settle and control. Our world has humans like you but we also have non-humans like myself.”
“You look human,” Celeste interrupted, “Mostly.”
Tag smiled grimly, like a grimace, and held out his hand to her. She looked, curious, and just as she was about to ask him what she was supposed to be seeing there was a snap. His sharp, pointed fingernails protracted enough for her to realize they were actually talons.
“There are other differences,” he told her solemnly, while she gave him wide eyes, “My father was human but my mother was draconian, a dragon in human form.”
“Dragons requires too much magic to live for long on your world, although they are a very long-lived race on our world,” Priestess Zara added, giving Tag a withering stare which he ignored, “The daevans have the same problem but rather than lose their minds and their magic like the dragons the daevans would feed off the energy of others. The decision was made eons ago by our ancestors and yours to seal the worlds. We broke the seal and opened the doorway to call you through.”
“Our prophecies and covenants say that the one who answers our call will be a daughter of faith. Are you spiritual?” Tag asked her. He seemed relaxed, as if it didn’t matter to him one way or another how she answered.
“I’m Trinitarian,” she answered hastily, “I attend services every Sunday. I’m a cantor that means I sing for my temple or I lead others when we sing as a group.”
Tag nodded, “The name you call your faith matters little here. The covenant says you will be the Messenger of the Veil. You are a messenger or herald of the divines. The Preeminent Palatine is a position, a job as well as a title. You are the highest level of official in the royal court after the Queen herself. Our government and our church as the same; a high level official of the state is also a high level official of the faith.”
“I am not joining your faith,” Celeste objected immediately and with vigor.
“You do not have to change,” the Priestess assured her, “It only means you have the ability to lead a congregation. How you lead a congregation or if you lead one is entirely up to you. The church and the state will respect you and your word. You outrank all but the head of the church and state, our Queen.”
“What is the Queen going to say about that?” Celeste asked, shaking her head.
“The Queen needs you. You are the one who must find and free her,” Tag told her, “If you wish.”
“If I wish?” Celeste asked and the rest of the priests and priestesses gave him a sour look.
“You outrank us all,” he told her coolly, ignoring the others, “If you wish to return to your world, we cannot stop you.”
“Send me back then,” Celeste glared at the rest of them, “My father will be worried sick about me.”
“You don’t know what will happen to us, to our world, if you go back,” Priestess Zara argued, “Her new husband hid her and sealed her away after the marriage ceremony so that he could wrest control of our world from the worship of the divines and give our world and all of its magic to the daevans.”
“I’m just a girl,” Celeste argued, frightened, “I want to go home.”
“Your will be done,” Tag told her, as he held his hand out to hers, “Now that the seal has been broken you can take any portal to your world. If you would give me your hand?”
Celeste gave him her hand and he held her hand gently.
“World Gate!” Tag spoke. With her eyes open she saw the space around and beneath them become translucent. Celeste could see the tour guide and the other people come into focus. Celeste felt dizzy and lightheaded as she had before and suddenly she and Tag were on the other side and his world faded away. He was still here with her though. He looked around briefly when he whispered something, his clothes changed. He was suddenly wearing black jeans, a red t-shirt, and a black and red hoodie. His clothes weren’t identical to anyone else’s but they blended right in. He pulled the hood over his head and smiled at her.
“How did you do that?” Celeste asked in a whisper.
“Chameleon,” he whispered back, “It’s an illusion spell. I’m still wearing the same clothes. You should be able to do small spells like this close to a higher portal.”
Trinitarians did believe in occurrences outside of what science could currently explain but Celeste had been like any other young child, racing around the house playing make believe. None of the make believe spells she’d made up as a child had really worked. Celeste ignored Tag the best she could. He hovered just behind and beside her, never more than five feet away. Finally she gave up.
“Tag, right?” Celeste finally said, as they walked back to the visitor center where her father would be waiting, “Thank you for bringing me back home but what are you still doing here?”
“I am meant to serve and protect you. I would swear an oath to do just that if you would have me,” Tag answered her while his avid gold eyes examined everything. He didn’t look at her, even when he turned his head towards her to listen or speak.
“I don’t need your oath or your service or your protection,” Celeste replied, walking a little faster up the steep paved path.
“We shall see,” Tag murmured, easily keeping pace with her, “I would like to leave something with you, in case you need me or if you change your mind.” His long, slender legs ate up the distance easily.
“If I take it, will you go back?” Celeste whispered as her father caught sight of them and waved. The last thing she needed was for her father to ask about her new friend. He’d gotten his wheelchair from the car so Celeste could be relieved about that at least.
“As you wish, Lady Palatine,” Tag bowed only slightly but any bow was archaic, formal, and completely out of place to Celeste’s mind. Her face took on a hot flush and a look of horror. She grabbed the pendant on a leather cord out of Tag’s outstretched hand. She turned away from him and hurried to her father’s side. When her nerves forced her to glance back, Tag was gone.