Excerpts from: The Treasures of Carmelidrium

Chapter one: Archway

Missie’s song swept high, the staccato notes like a summer breeze through aspen leaves, the flute’s clarity as clear as a meadow lark. In her mind she heard a wind chime and the flute tinkled the notes in response. Now she dropped the rhythm, and counted, one, two, and three…hold.

The final crescendo left her breathless and emotionally drained. With hours of practice, she knew every beat, every pitch and felt the pace within her heart. Her new flute’s precision justified its price.

Missie lowered the instrument and gazed at Professor Cloche in the first row. Her classmates, who’d already performed, were scattered throughout the University of Colorado’s music auditorium, listening to her recital.

“Bravo, bravo.” Cloche stood. “The rest of you should learn from Mademoiselle Kersten’s example. She gives her full attention to her music and as a result has achieved in three years what has taken some of you five or better.”

Her face hot, Missie lowered her gaze to avoid the glares of her classmates. She pulled the flute apart and nestled it in the case while the professor lectured her classmates. She hated being held up as an example. It didn’t win her any friends. Neither did Cloche convince her that her abilities were awesome. After fourteen years of study, since age six, she hadn’t improved much in the last year.
Missie glanced at the wall clock: 2:47 p.m. She jumped off the stage, headed for her backpack in the first row seats, and deposited the flute case.

Cloche adjusted his reading glasses and continued. “Midterm grades will be available online a week from Monday after spring break. Class dismissed.”
Missie’s senior year classmates gathered their belongings and noisily left the auditorium. Rama Muhammad stood at the back and waited. Missie gave her a nod.

“One moment, Mademoiselle,” Cloche said.

Missie waited for him as he adjusted his gray sweater.

“Michelle, you are the most brilliant student I have ever taught.”

“Thank you, professor, but my name is Missie.”

“That is your nickname. Why do you continue to use it when your true name is extraordinary? I believe you will find more respect as Michelle in your profession. Soon you will seek a position in an orchestra. Missie doesn’t suit your talent.”

Her father had always called her Missie, but Professor Cloche didn’t have children. How could he understand the bond between father and daughter?

“I’ve been sending out inquiries already,” she said.

“Michelle, I think you are ready now.”

“I’m sorry, what do you mean Professor? There are two months left before graduation.”

“Oui, oui, of course. I did not mean that. You are a professional musician. Some in this class will never achieve that status even though they will have a degree. My only regret is that you didn’t take my advice and study French. I would have loved communicating with you in my own language. And I believe the knowledge of other languages would be a benefit for your future career.”

“I didn’t have time.”

“Ah, Mademoiselle, French is a beautiful language and it is true, what they say about love and the Frenchman.”

“Love is a distraction.” Irritation gnawed at her. What was with Cloche today? He’d always displayed an interest in her personal life, like an uncle, but he’d never been overbearing.

Instead, she said in a gentler tone, “Love will come in time, but for now I must concentrate on my goals.”

“What are your goals?”

“I want to travel Europe, and perform with the major orchestras there. I’d also love to be involved in creating musical scores for theater and movies.” She lifted her backpack and slung it over one shoulder.

He took her arm, halting her departure once again. “Michelle, you give yourself so little credit. Your music will change the world.”

Cloche’s hand on her arm felt warm, and with his touch, she heard the song of distant birds in the back of her mind. She sensed the world slowing down. The smell of redwoods came to her as if she stood in a faraway forest. She could almost see it. Frightened by this sudden vision, she pulled her arm out of his grasp and stepped back. The moment faded.

“I’d better leave,” she turned. “I’m going home for spring break. Mother has me scheduled to play at the country club tomorrow. She’ll be upset if I’m late.”
She joined Rama and together they left the auditorium.

Rama grinned. “Great job.”

“Cloche thinks so.”

“But you don’t.” Rama tucked her arm through Missie’s. “You never think its good enough.”

“I can do better.” Missie frowned.

Rama glanced at her. “Why do you always say that about yourself?”

“Because, something is missing. I can feel it. I just can’t…explain it.” Missie pulled her arm from Rama’s.

“What did Cloche want?” Rama kept pace with Missie’s longer strides.

“He wants me to take French.”

“Again? He bugged you about that last year.”

“And the year before. I don’t know. He seemed different this time. And something weird happened when he touched me.”

Rama smiled. “Weird? What?”

They entered the student union and grabbed a table. Missie sat back while Rama bought two plastic water bottles. When Rama joined her, Missie fished two dollars from her pocket and gave it to her.

“You’d better tell,” Rama said.

“When he touched me I thought for a moment that I was in the middle of a redwood forest. I could hear birds and smell the cedar.”

Rama inched closer and lowered her voice. “If I didn’t know you better, I’d think—”

“Drugs,” Missie finished. She leaned in and studied Rama’s dark eyes. “It went away as soon his touch did. Do you think something’s wrong with me?”

“I think you have a great imagination.” Rama sat back and took a long drink from the water.

Missie frowned. It was more than imagination, but what?

“You still going home?” Rama asked.

“Yes.”

“You should come with me and Steven. He’s got a friend who’s interested in you.”

“No thanks.” Missie lifted the water bottle but didn’t drink. “That reminds me. Cloche thinks I should find love.”

Rama choked on the water she just gulped. “What? Did he come on to you?”

“No, no it’s not like that. He’s more like a father or uncle or something.”

“I’m glad he doesn’t treat me like that. You’ve always been his favorite.”

“You deserve as much or more attention than I do. The opus you’re working on is fabulous.”

“Don’t forget your rather significant accompaniment, Missie. I play the piano. I can’t imagine being able to blow a steady stream of brilliance into the aperture of a flute. It doesn’t even touch your lips.”

“I can’t play the piano to save my life, so I guess we’re even.”

Missie noticed Steven the minute he entered the building. He had a friend with him and she wondered if that was the guy Rama had mentioned.

She stood. “I’d better go. See you later.” She hurried toward the far door and left.

**********************

Several hours later, Missie straightened her text books on the shelf. She finished filling the backpack with a change of clothes, her cell phone, her flute case, and finally the folder that held her most recent musical scores. Removing the flashlight from the side pocket, she changed the batteries and then returned it to the backpack.

The flashlight had accompanied her everywhere after a power failure had plunged her into complete darkness her first year at the university. She had been in a private music room at the time and couldn’t see the door to get out. There was nothing like an old childhood fear of dark and enclosed places to bring about a panic attack.

She pulled on her CU Buffalo sweatshirt, grabbed the backpack and left her one-bedroom apartment. Her parents lived in Westminster, a suburb of Denver and a short drive from the Boulder campus. She threw the backpack on the passenger seat of her red Jeep Wrangler and drove away.

Earlier, the March day had been mild, but typical to Colorado, the day had now cooled and dark clouds threatened a spring snowstorm. She hadn’t gone a block before a drizzle forced her to flip on the windshield wipers. As she approached the Boulder Turnpike, traffic slowed. She tapped her finger against the steering wheel. The sound of sirens warned her of the approaching police car, followed by a fire truck, and then an ambulance, all of them headed for the interstate.

She veered onto the highway between Boulder and Golden. As the shadows lengthened and night slipped over the landscape, she turned onto the old road that bypassed the Boulder Turnpike. Strangely, it was almost deserted.

Large snowflakes landed on her windshield. Belatedly Missie switched on the radio to hear the weather report. The station played a commercial jingle and she punched the radio buttons in search of something else with no success.

“Whatever,” she said to no one.

The road traveled the natural terrain downward and wound around the hills. Thick, wet flakes obscured her vision. Missie set the windshield wipers on high, but the snow fell like big white cotton balls from a giant’s sack. She slowed the Wrangler as she rounded the corner and considered pulling off until the storm passed.

Then, the headlights illuminated a man in the middle of the road. She caught her breath and slammed on the brakes. The tires skidded across the wet pavement toward the man.

“Oh my God, move!” Missie clutched the steering wheel so tightly her fingers hurt.
He didn’t. A closed-in sensation overwhelmed her. The hood of his jacket concealed his face. The snow fell, the wipers whooshed, and kept rhythm with her pulse. She watched as if in slow motion. The man pointed a staff directly at her. Fear pounded against her ribs along with her heart.

He held a globe above his head which lifted from his palm and began to spin. A strong vibration emanated from the ball. Within its center a light flashed and a beacon grew to fill the sphere with a glow as bright as the sun.

While the globe rotated, the strange man thrust his staff to the side. The steering wheel spun in Missie’s hands and the Jeep followed the direction of his staff. Then, the sphere flew over his shoulder, lighting a path across the wet ground, and parted the black night like a curtain pulled aside in the morning.

Missie’s Wrangler left the road for the embankment. She tried to yank the wheel back, but it wouldn’t budge. Stars formed an archway over the snow-covered ground and opened like a door. Thick snow met a stream of sunlight that radiated through the arch from the other side and evaporated the wet snow. Her Jeep hurtled through the passage, leaving behind the snowy Colorado night for a sunlit meadow at the bottom of a steep hill.

The radio blared static and went dead. Bile filled her mouth. The engine roared. The red Jeep sped down the grassy knoll and violently jolted her against the side window. She lost her grip and clutched the wheel in panic. A loud pop from behind rattled the windows, but she couldn’t divert her attention for even a moment to peer back. The Wrangler went airborne for a split second before landing in a creek. The resulting wave nearly submerged the Jeep before it slammed onto dry land and careened toward a large campsite.

“Oh, God!” Tears slid along her cheeks.

Two men stood on the other side of a long table directly in front of her. No! She couldn’t hit them. She yanked the wheel sideways. A huge tree blocked her path and…

Excerpt from Chapter Fifty of The Treasures of Carmelidrium:

“I know you have many questions about your family.”

Surprised, Missie gazed into the brilliant green eyes of the elfin queen. “Yes.”

“There is a way for you to see them. And there is a way for you to see the truth of the past months. Do you wish to gaze into the past and learn what has happened to your family and, what happened to you?”

Excitement tingled within her. “Oh yes.”

“Then come into my inner chamber.”

Together they entered past the flower-laden shrubs that gave entrance into a huge meadow. The trees grew close and leaned in to create a canopy of branches that formed a roof. A few chairs, woven from tree trunks, were in one corner.

Táwien crossed the grass without leaving any mark. Missie followed while Mozart waited at the entrance.
She felt as if she’d taken a few steps when they reached the center of the meadow. A breath later and they stood before another shrub on the opposite side of the inner chamber with a wooden door that hung between two tree trunks. Circular shapes were woven from living vines and grew on the door.

Táwien waved her hand before the door and said, “Tinénduil.” It opened and she stood to the side. Missie stepped through into a vast, evergreen forest. The sensation of wind whipped around her and she felt her body lifted, floating above the ground, and then set down in the grass. A sense of timelessness tingled around her. The shrubbery appeared distant. In the center, a calm lake of crystal blue waters reflected the white clouds above.

“Sit beside the lake,” Táwien said. “When you are ready, touch the waters and it will show you your family. This may be painful for you, my Lady. I will be near if you need me. But while you use the lake, you will be unaware of this place.”

Missie swallowed her concern and took the kerchief Táwien held out for her. She sat on the bank and gazed into the lake. It appeared like any other. The sandy bottom had a few smooth rocks and small fish. She set her hand in the water which caused a cascade of ripples. The swell increased despite her gentle touch. As the lake grew calm, the waters took on colors and shapes. Then, within it, she saw her parents in their Westminster residence. Her mother wept while her father spoke into the phone. Without hearing, she understood them.

“My daughter has been missing for two days, what have you done?” Jonathan Kersten said to the Boulder, Colorado police.

The officer on the other end of the phone said, “If you come to the station.”

“You’ve done nothing,” her father said.

Their lives slipped by day and night. She watched members of her family, along with her friend Rama and others walk through Boulder and put up flyers in store windows and on poles with her photograph on them.
That evening, a crowd of students held candles outside the music building and sang “Amazing Grace.” Her parents and Rama attended the all night prayer vigil with them.

The days sped up and became months and her birthday arrived in October. Her mother went shopping and purchased a new pair of her favorite blue jeans, a lilac sweater and a gold bracelet with X’s and O’s linked together. Missie started to cry. “Mom,” she said to the image. “I’m okay.” But her mother didn’t respond.

In December her parents met with the famous host of a TV show that hunted for missing people and criminals. On the day after Christmas, the show aired.

“If anyone has seen this talented young woman, Michelle Kersten, please call…” For the first time in the history of the show there were no phone calls.

The days passed in swift succession and she saw her parents huddled together in their living room. In the upstairs bedroom, which had been hers, Christmas presents were added to the pile of gifts. Her mother had gone gray and didn’t trouble to dye her hair or wear any makeup. Her father’s shoulders slumped.
Then the waters cleared and Missie no longer saw her parents. She hugged her legs and cried, rocky back and forth. After some time, she dried her eyes and blew her nose in Táwien’s handkerchief.
She hesitated, what would happen next? She touched the lake. The waters responded. Renwyk sat at his desk. She recognized his study. The Lord of the Symberveen looked around the room suspiciously. He senses me.

After a moment he stood, and went to another door, and unlocked it. Within, he lit a number of candles. The picture blurred and then reappeared. Renwyk sat at a long table before a mirror within his bedchamber. He had a mask and pulled it over his head. He made several adjustments, peered into the mirror and the image of Prince Healden gazed back.

Missie jolted backwards in shock. “Oh.” For a moment she couldn’t look into the lake. Her heart physically hurt. Did she just see what she thought she saw? Then she took a breath, shut her eyes for a moment, then gazed back into the lake.

1 comment:

Inspector Saahab said...

this is good ! damn good. you are such a talented and gifted author :)