Monday, November 21, 2011

Cypress - Gen 9 Ch 5

I froze in place as I answered the door. What was she doing here? It had been several days since I had met her in the park, and I had been doing my best to not think about her - although little Magic was a constant reminder.
"Hi! My Uncle Louis told me where you were staying. May I come in?" She asked brightly.

"Uh... errr... I'll.. mmm.. just step out on the porch," I mumbled, quickly closing the front door behind me. There was no way I was going to be alone with her inside my cabin. Who knows what might happen? Not that I would do anything.. but.. well... never mind. Better to talk to her outside. Much safer. I guess I must have stood there for longer than I thought, because she crooked her eyebrow at me.
"Are you alright?"
I nodded. Geez, Cy. Way to make an impression, standing there staring for who knows how long? Not that I was trying to impress her, or anything.

"I just stopped by to see how Magic is doing? But if you're busy I can come back later." Then she gave me that look again, the one that gets me all flustered.
"Oh, sure. I mean, no, I'm not busy."
"Great! Where is the little rascal?" 

I cracked open the front door, and out he scampered, straight to Star.
"Hi there, little guy! I brought you your favorite toy. Here you go!"
She rolled the little jingle ball playfully toward Magic, then looked up at me and laughed merrily.
"He remembers me! I meant to give you his ball, at the park, but I forgot. And looky here, I made him a feather dancer, too! He's too little to play with it right now, but when he gets a little bigger, you'll see. He'll love it!"
She fastened the feathered toy to the cabin wall and gave it a little flip with her hand to show me how it worked. I nodded my approval.
"Thanks. I was just thinking I needed to get some toys for him. He made a real mess with the newspaper ball I made for him. Bits of paper all over the floor."

We stood there on the porch for a while longer, watching Magic play. Finally she bent down to give Magic a hug, and reluctantly turned to go.
"Bye bye, Magic. Maybe I'll see you later. Bye, Cypress. Thanks again for taking Magic."
She started to walk off, then turned abruptly back to me.
"Say, you wouldn't happen to like to fish, would you? I'm the best fishing guide in the village, and I'm always looking for work."

I met her at dawn the next morning, and thus began the best several weeks of my life so far. She knew the mountains like the back of her hand. Not only did she know all the best fishing spots, she could read my moods like an open book. She seemed instinctively to know when to engage  me in an animated conversation, and when I preferred to fish in quiet contemplation. I got over my initial nervousness quickly; Star was so easy to talk to; I never had to worry about her putting me on the spot, so to speak.

As the days passed, and we got to know each other better, she would occasionally mention her granny. Her mom had died when she was a baby, and her granny was the only mom she had ever known. Her granny sounded like a fascinating person; I held out hope that she might know some of the history of the village. But Star continually sidestepped me, every time I suggested that I would like to meet her. That didn't keep me from trying, though.
"So, uh.." I began for probably the tenth time, "tell me a little bit about your granny. How old is she, anyway? You always make her sound ancient."

Star laughed. "That's because she is ancient. Old as the hills, she likes to say. She has all kinds of stories of what life was like, before the outsiders came..."
She must have noticed my shocked expression, because she immediately backtracked.
"... I mean.. before I was born."
Now, I am not the best at reading people, but even I could tell she had just spilled something she was not supposed to. 'Before the outsiders came?' If the 'outsiders' were the resort people, that meant her granny must be.. almost two hundred years old, at least. How was that possible?

I wanted to ask her about it, but then I saw the distraught look on her face, so I let it slide. She quickly changed the subject by dropping her fishing pole and calling out with forced excitement, "Oh, Cy! Looky here! A goldfinch! Come quick, before he flies away."
I watched as she held out a trembling arm, and the little goldfinch hopped right up onto her wrist.

I smiled reassuringly, to let her know I wasn't going to call her on the secret she had inadvertently revealed about her granny. She smiled back in relief, and I watched in amazement as the tiny gold and black bird made itself at home on her shoulder.
"How did you do that?" I asked, now totally distracted.
She shrugged gently so as not to disturb the finch.
"I guess I just have a gift."

For the rest of that day, she went on to show me more of the wildlife that inhabits the mountains.
"This here is a womrat. You want to pet him?"
I thought he looked like a guinea pig, but I guess they don't call them that here. I rubbed my thumb gently across his back, before she lowered him back to the ground, and we watched him scamper away. Little did I know, that this would be the last day of guided fishing trips.

The next morning I received a call from Louis Swete, telling me that Star would be unavailable as a fishing guide for the indefinite future. He wouldn't say why, and when I pressed, he abruptly hung up. I didn't realize how much I valued Star's company until she was no longer there.
"Where's your mistress, little Magic?" I demanded as I reached to pick up the kitten. Funny, I still thought of him as hers, even though I'd had him for months now.

"I wish you could talk, little guy. I bet you could tell me how to find what I'm looking for."
I laughed and scrunched up my face at him.
"Aww.. you are the cutest thing ever, you know that? I still wish you could tell me what's up with Star, though."

It was rougher, exploring the area for signs of the past without Star as my guide, but I persevered. I didn't forget the pendant, either. Other than the soft glow it gave me when I first drove into Old Town, it had been silent. One day as I was out searching, I came upon an amazing natural bridge. I was in awe at the beauty of it all. My first thought was, I wonder if Star knows about this. Of course, she must. I sighed, and walked on.

I found an old graveyard one day, but it appeared to be the last resting place of some of the first 'outsiders', as Star called them, that settled in what is now Hidden Springs. I took some rubbings anyway, and made a mental note to ask Star if there was another graveyard for her ancestors, if I should ever see her again.

Every morning before I venture out, I spend some time with Magic. I was surprised one day to see him playing with the feather dancer that Star had made for him. I hadn't noticed how big he was getting. He's not really a kitten any more. I wish Star could see him. I'll have to tell her how much he likes the feather dancer, if I see her again.

This morning I ended up at the town library, hoping to find something, anything, about the history of Old Town - something I might have missed my first dozen or so visits, that is.
I was intently studying the shelves in front of me, when the sound of someone loudly clearing their throat behind me made me jump a foot in the air.
I spun around only to come face to face with .. what was her name again... Star's cousin.. um..?

"Oh... um.. hello there... Emmaline? Hey, uh.. you haven't seen Star, have you? Can you tell her something for me?"

I was taken aback at the glare I received in return.
"You! Why are you still here? You should have given up long ago, why are you still here?" she repeated, even more forcefully than the first time.

Now, I'm usually a pretty easy going guy, but her attitude really set me off. Who was she to care how long I stayed?
"I'll stay until I find the information I'm looking for," I retorted. "My family's history began somewhere near Old Town, and I mean to stay here until I uncover it."

I saw something in her eyes that that made me change my tactic.
"Please? Do you know anything at all? Why won't anyone talk to me?"
She backed away.
"It is not for me to say. Leave me alone."
"Can you at least give me a hint?"

At this, she began to laughed hysterically.
"A hint? A hint, you say? Alright then, here is your hint."
She leaned close, and whispered in my ear," You will find your secret in the spring."
Then she walked out the library door, still cackling quietly to herself, as if she found the whole exchange a huge joke.

I turned her phrase over and over in my mind. 'You will find your secret in the spring.' It sounded so familiar. Where had I heard it before? It was from one of my journals, I just knew it. I quickly did a search of all my translated journals. Hmm, nothing. I don't forget stuff like that, how could I have been mistaken?
I then tried a document search of the whole hard drive; maybe I'd misplaced something. Ah, there it is - not in the translated journals, but in our own family's journal. My ancestor Max, a Chinese ghost had imparted the riddle to him. And he had thought the ghost had meant the Dragon Spring in Shang Simla, but what if.....what mind was whirling.

Going to Emmaline again was out of the question; there was only one person I knew in Hidden Springs who might be willing to talk to me. I walked the short distance down the dirt road from my cabin to Louis Swete's house.

I was relieved when he invited me into his study. So far so good. Now to try and phrase my question so he wouldn't shut me down immediately.
"So.. I was wondering... I've been to all the springs listed in the resort guide.. but.. well.. do you know of any others? Ones not listed in the guide?"

"Why would you want to know something like that. Isn't there enough springs in the guide for you?" he growled at me.
Ack! I wasn't expecting that reaction. Or maybe I was. One thing I know, I wasn't sure how to react to his vehemence. 

"Whoa.. I was just asking. What's wrong with you people? Everyone gets so upset over simple questions. If I didn't know better, I'd think you all were trying to hide something?"
I think I got through to him a little, because his face smoothed out, and he tapped his chin a few times before replying.

"Perhaps I have misjudged you, young Cypress. Star has had nothing but good things to say about you, after all. So I will say this: There are some things not meant to be revealed, except to those who have the eyes to see them."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cypress - Gen 9 Ch 4

The next few chapters are brought to you courtesy of Twallan's new mod The Traveler, which allows travel to any installed world.

I can't believe I actually did this. But, here I am, in what I'm quite positive is the site of  'Misty Waters', the place described in the oldest of my three journals. Of course, the settlement called 'Misty Waters' has disappeared in antiquity - the village is now called Hidden Springs, and to my chagrin, appears to be a carbon copy of every other little resort town in the world. How am I going to find any evidence of Misty Waters under all this commercialization?

I guess it can't hurt to check the records at the town hall. The clerk there was quite pleasant, but insisted she had no records before the founding of the resort town, less than a hundred years ago.
I was turning to leave in defeat, when she called after me.
"You might try asking around in Old Town. The natives there like to keep to themselves, though. They don't take too kindly to strangers."

I beat a hasty retreat from the town hall, hopped into my rental car, and headed down the highway. Soon I was cruising along under cool overhanging pines, leaving the town proper behind. An old stone sign at the intersection of a dusty dirt road marked the entrance to Old Town.

The first building I spotted was, of all things, a museum! There had to be some clues here as to the area's history. Sadly, there were none. It was a museum of natural history, and while the animal exhibits were interesting, they were not what I was looking for. I was standing there, staring aimlessly off into space, wondering what I should do next, when I was interrupted by an odd-looking gentleman.
"Excuse me, I'm the curator here. You look a little lost. Can I help you?"
'Um.. well... I don't know. I'm looking for information on the history of the area? Ancient ruins, artifacts, that sort of thing?"
"No, nothing like that around here, I assure you."

He paused, smiling, and I suddenly realized I was staring. He had the most unusual olive tinted complexion, and his hair - it wasn't quite as green as my own, but still, I'd never seen hair even close to mine anywhere but Riverview.
"Is there anything else I can help you with, young man?" he asked impatiently.
"Uh.. are you sure? I mean, is there anyone else that might know?"
"Know?" He barked sharply. "Know what?"
"Umm.. about the ruins?"
"Oh that." He replied dismissively. "Definitely not. Nope. No one."
"Okay," I mumbled resignedly. Such an odd man, I thought again to myself.

I did have the foresight to ask the curator if he knew of a good place to stay, as I didn't really feel comfortable staying at the resort in town. It so happened that he had a small cabin for rent, just around the corner from the museum. As soon as I saw it, I knew it would be perfect. I shook my new landlord's hand firmly, and boldly signed the six month lease.

I grinned as I walked through the door of my new home away from home. I loved the rough log walls and the slight smell of pine. I plopped down on the threadbare couch and sighed contentedly. Tomorrow my real work would begin. I didn't quite believe that no one knew anything about the history of the area. I would just have to dig deeper.

To my surprise, Louis Swete, my new landlord, followed me in, and sat down next to me.
So, young man, you mind telling me what really brings you here to Old Town?"
Everyone tells me how impassioned I get when I talk about my favorite subject, and this time was no different. Maybe I should have been more circumspect, but he seemed like a harmless old guy, and he was a good listener.

"Hmm.." I sat there staring for what seemed to be an eternity, while he appeared deep in thought.
"Hmm.. perhaps you should talk to Emmaline... Yes.. I'll tell her to expect you tomorrow afternoon."

The next morning I woke with nothing to do but explore, until my afternoon appointment. I wandered slowly down the narrow dirt road, just taking in the beauty of the mountains, until I found myself in a small wooded park. Immediately I noticed a girl, sitting despondently on a worn blanket, two small kittens scrambling playfully in and out of her lap.

When she saw me, she brightened a bit.
"Hey Mister! Come over here a minute!"
I hesitantly stepped closer, then stopped abruptly. I could hardly believe my eyes. She had to be the most beautiful creature I had ever laid eyes on. She also had to be no more than sixteen.
I would have turned and run right then, but she quickly closed the distance between us, and begged in the most pitiful voice imaginable, "Hey mister, you look like a nice guy. Do you want a kitten? Please? My granny says I can't keep them both, we have too many at home already."

"A.. a kitten? Me?" I was having  hard time wrapping my mind around the idea.
"Please? At least come and look at them?" I couldn't resist the tears in her eyes. I reluctantly agreed to check out the kittens.

"You won't be sorry, I promise!" Her face lit up with the cutest smile.
Argh! Stop it, Cy. Just look at the kittens and leave, I thought to myself.
"Why me, though?" I asked again. It was a legitimate question. She obviously cared a great deal for those kittens. Why would she want to give one to a complete stranger?
She smiled knowingly. "Oh, I can always tell. I have a gift you know. My granny says so. Besides, who knows, you could be a long lost relative. I've never seen anyone with green hair before. Besides me. And my Uncle Louis. And cousin Emmaline. What's your name, anyway?
"Uh.. Cypress.. Greenbow." My head was spinning.
"Hi, Cypress. I'm Star. Now, which one do you want?"

"The black and white one is a girl. Her name is Pixie. The grey tabby's name is Magic. He's a little boy. So, what do you think? Who do you like best?" Star asked. She bit her lip nervously when I bent down to pet Pixie.


I could tell right off that Pixie was Star's favorite, so of course I chose Magic.
"Take good care of him, Cy. Goodbye little Magic. You be good for Cy now." The little tabby mewed almost as if he understood her. "Come on Pixie, Granny's waiting for us."

With that, she took off running. I stood there watching until she disappeared from view down the dirt road. It still hardly registered that I was now the proud owner of one tiny grey kitten.

Star had given me directions to the local pet supply store, so Magic and I walked the short distance from the park, to pick up some necessities. 

"Let's see, I need a food dish, and a bag of food, and a litter box. What else would you recommend for this little guy?"
The clerk suggested a scratching post, so I ordered the best one they had - the triple decker.

I glanced over and saw Magic making himself at home in a giant turtle shell hideaway.
"Mmm.. I'll take one of those hidey things too."

When we arrived back at the cabin, I set the bag of cat food on the kitchen table and unloaded all my new supplies. As I unpacked them, I realized I had forgotten one essential thing - toys. I tore a page from yesterday's newspaper and crumpled it in a ball.
"Here you go, little guy! Get it!"
I playfully pushed the improvised ball toward Magic.

I laughed as he reared back fiercely and attacked it with his tiny paws.
After filling his bowl, and assembling the kitty condo, I patted him on the head.
"Be good while I'm gone. I have to go talk to Emmaline."

My heart pounded excitedly as I knocked on the door of Emmaline's cabin. I hoped she would be able to answer at least some of my questions. My face fell when she met me at the door. She had the same olive skin as Louis and Star, only her hair was darker - almost black, with a few green highlights showing through. But the expression on her face was sour. She obviously was not happy to see me.
"Who are you and what do you want?" she asked, annoyance emanating from every pore.

I was taken aback at her greeting. Had Louis not informed her I was coming?
"Um.. well.. I..." I nervously tried to form my thoughts.
"Spit it out already, I haven't got all day!"
"Uh.. okay.. did Louis tell you I was coming?"

This seemed to tick her off even more than before.
"Louis." She almost spat the name. "He had no right. Who does he thing he is, bringing in an outsider?"
"Wait, wait.." I exclaimed, trying to calm her down. "Will you at least let me explain?"

"I do not wish to hear any explanations of yours. Begone! And don't you show your face at my house again!"
She came at my, arms flailing, and I prudently backed up out the front door, as fast as I could.
"Okay, okay... I'm going. Sorry to have bothered you....."

Once back in my own cabin, I frowned in frustration. Why was everyone in Old Town so leery of strangers? And how was I supposed to finish my research if no one would talk to me?