Friday Nibble

From the third RajWorld book. An excavation turns up something new.

(Cyril is Rigi’s 10-years older brother.)

“This whole place is passing strange,” Cyril snorted. “Lexi’s found something and is digging at it. In there,” he pointed. Rigi and Martinus peered in the open doorway. Something felt odd and she backed up for a better look. The doorway wasn’t square. They stood in shadow, so she pulled out her light again and started inspecting the door frame.

“Martinus, sit up. Grip,” she put the light in his mouth and he sat on his haunches, shining the light onto the surface at an angle. She worked quickly, letting her eye and hand take in the design without trying to focus or analyze. The doorway curved out then in, a bit egg-shaped. She didn’t draw the entire border in detail, just fifteen centimeters worth or so. “Thank you. Good dog, very good Martinus.” She took the light back and he sat normally. Rigi petted his head and back pad. “Very good Martinus.”

“Um, Rigi, that’s not standard behavior.” Cyril seemed to be giving Martinus a wary look for some reason.

“It isn’t? I programmed it, like I programmed him not to scratch the floor at the house.” It was mostly true. She’d come up with the behavior parameters and commands, and basic code, and the technicians had added in the details when he’d had his last major update at the depot. The military depot did all the heavy work on him now, since they’d done the repairs needed after he’d intercepted the bomb.

“Oh, OK then. He’s a strange m-dog.”

“Wooeef?”

She petted Martinus, sighed, and turned to a clean page in the sketch pad. “I know. I suspect he was made from bits and pieces of other things, since he’s not a military m-dog but not a standard civilian model either.”

“Miss Auriga, come here, please,” Lexi called. She ducked through the doorway and followed his voice to where he crouched in the center of the room. “What do you see, ma’am?” He shone a light down onto a dust-covered swath of floor. He’d dug into a layer of sediment and dirt at least as thick as his claws were long, probably longer.

“A mosaic of . . . Are those tiles?” She knelt to the side, ninety degrees to his left, and peered down. “I don’t . . .” She ran her fingers over the design. “It feels smooth, gritty but I don’t feel any relief on the surface. As if someone painted or printed it to look like a mosaic, like a picture made of tiles,” she said as she saw Kor peering over Lexi’s shoulder. He moved to face her on the other side of the cleared area. “But the design. It’s beautiful. I’ve never seen this before.” She stared down at the delicate features of a female Staré, a blotched cream and reddish tan individual with perfectly shaped and proportioned features. The artist had been far more skilled than Rigi dreamed of ever being, catching the faintest hints of light on the fur and in the eyes, the exact shade of pale pink inside the ears, the slight turn of the head that allowed you to see one eye clearly. Lexi backed up, still crouching, and dug more, tossing dirt left and right. The figure wore a decorated vest and he revealed the embroidered or beaded top of a modesty apron before he reached the border of the design. “Ohhh,” Rigi breathed. “It’s so beautiful!” The female had a very young pouchling, if the barely visible tips of tiny ears peeking over the top of the apron were really ears and not dirt. “So beautiful.”

A hand rested on her shoulder. “Lexi, you found the Madonna of the Staré,” Aunt Kay whispered.

Rigi studied the picture and decided that yes, it had the same emotional feel as some of the religious paintings from before the First Wave of colonization. “That is what she looks like, ma’am. Congratulations, Lexi.”

“This is a masterpiece. So beautiful,” Kay echoed Rigi’s own words.

Kor puffed agreement/awe. “Someone cared much for this female.”

“Or sir,” Lexi asked in Staré, quiet, hesitant, “is this all females? Is this a Spirit Female?”

Kor inhaled a long breath. “I do not know. And the one who might have known is long gone of age.” He made a complicated gesture with his forefeet and ears. “We have lost so, so much, so many Wise Ones gone.”

Lexi turned off the light and lowered his forefoot. The image seemed even more lifelike, as if the female were about to step out of a doorway. Doorway? Rigi backed up and looked from the frame around the image to the outside door, then back. Could it be? She took out her sketchbook, and the light, and leaned forward, shining the beam on the visible bits of frame, comparing them with the design from the outside door. “It matches! The frame is the door. And it’s that tree-of-life pattern from Stela Site’s gate! Look, Aunt Kay, look.”

The Staré joined her aunt in studying the book and the image on the floor. “It’s at least part of the pattern,” Kay agreed. “But don’t jump to conclusions, dear. Knot-work can be very similar without being a deliberate repetition.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

(C) 2017 Alma T. C. Boykin All Rights Reserved

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6 thoughts on “Friday Nibble

    • I’m still waiting to hear from the publisher I submitted it to. If I don’t hear anything by March, I will ask them to remove it from consideration and will add it to my queue. Should that happen, I’ll probably try to find some free-lancers to help and will attempt to get the first one out in the fall.

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