- Chapter One -
On the planet
"Hello, Mr. Phil! Hello!"
The falsetto voice was meant to enhance the image of the homemade doll that bounced from side to side playfully in front of Phil. The net effect, unfortunately, was lost on the Tetrite.
"Most entertaining, sir, however I am at a loss as to how I should respond."
"Oh, lighten up, Phil." scolded William lightly, removing the dancing doll from in front of its unappreciative audience. "I just wanted to show you what I made for Mara. What do you think?"
"I am sure the Little One will find it most useful, sir. What is it?"
"It's a little bunny rabbit." Again the doll was momentarily placed directly in front of Phil to dance. Its long ears flopping from side to side with every move. Phil sighed slowly, enduring the moment.
"My mistake, sir, said Phil dryly. "I thought it might be a Tuifli Dorh."
The dance immediately stopped.
"What's a Tuifli Dorh, Phil?"
"A long-eared species that resides on Varn, sir. The species is generally avoided by most of the other indigenous species on the planet due to its persistently disagreeable aroma."
William brushed the ears of the doll back lightly with his hand. "Do they make the smell themselves, Phil?"
"In a fashion, sir. The Tuifli Dorh line their nests with their own dung."
"Oh, man!" exclaimed William, rolling his eyes at the thought. "I could have gone through my entire life without hearing that one."
"Indeed, sir," murmured Phil, remembering the falsetto voice. "I am familiar with that very thought."
"All right, Phil, all right. You want to be a grouch today, fine, but nothing's going to spoil this for me. "Mara is just going to love this doll. All little girls like little fuzzy, cuddly things and this one will be Mara's." William had a sudden thought. "Maybe I should have made a teddy bear."
Phil turned slightly to see Mara playing with a dozen small Tetrite infants. The billowy down of the youngest and the immature fur coats of the older infants tickled Mara as they scampered, tumbled, and played together. It was common to see four or five Tetrite infants cuddle with Mara during her afternoon nap.
"Has the Little One expressed her concern about a shortage of fuzzy, cuddly things, sir?"
William, oblivious to the scene behind him, continued to perfect the appearance of the bunny rabbit doll.
"Not in so many words, Phil, but I know little girls. She'll just love this thing and..."
The greeting from overhead wasn't unusual enough for William to look up. His response was just as familiar.
His naked mate descended immediately before him, her arms collaring his neck in a surprise embrace that included a deep kiss. The kiss ended in a question asked with a silky voice and a subtle smile.
The wide smile that formed on William's lips gave her all the answer she needed. She could feel his firm hand pull her closer, his fingertips in the deep crease at the center of the small of her powerful back.
"I love the way you come home, Lillith."
"That's because I love to come..." Lillith noticed the doll. "Oh, a Tuifli Dorh!" She scrunched her nose unappreciatively. "Yech, they smell."
William instantly released her to instruct them both on the correct interpretation of the happy-go-lucky doll.
"That is NOT a Tuifli whatever it is!"
"Dorh, sir." offered Phil. William waved the effort away.
"It's a bunny rabbit, a little fuzzy bunny for my daughter to play with. Got it? Bunny. Fuzzy bunny."
Phil and Lillith both nodded their understanding.
"Bunny. Got it." said Lillith firmly.
Eyeing the two spoilers of all things fuzzy and cuddly, William mumbled to himself before turning around to call his daughter.
"Tuilfi..." he groaned contemptuously. "... dung."
Lillith lowered her eyebrows at the last word, unsure what that was all about.
"Mara!" called out William pleasantly. Mara immediately stopped playing to look in her father's direction. Unfortunately, at that moment she was also supposed to catch a tiny Tetrite infant who had jumped trustingly off a nearby rock. The infant was rolled tightly into a ball and squeaked once when he unexpectedly hit the ground.
"Yes, Daddy," she responded.
"Come here, honey."
"I sorry, Daddy."
"No, honey, you didn't do anything wrong. I want to show you something."
Mara and the Tetrites immediately returned to playing as if no other demands had been made on her time. A few seconds elapsed before William realized that she wasn't coming as he had just asked. It happened from time to time.
"MARA'LYN!" he commanded a bit more forcefully.
"I come!" responded the Little One without looking up. Evidently, there was something important to complete in what appeared to the untrained eye as random play. Mara finished whatever that something was and was soon running as fast as she could to her father.
"Yes, Daddy," the tiny voice said to her smiling father who immediately held up the new doll for her to see.
"This is for you, honey-bunny," he announced proudly.
Mara looked blankly at the handmade rabbit before glancing to her mother. Lillith made a mother's facial command understood by most children and nodded toward William. Mara got the message and said the proper words.
"T'ank you, Daddy." The words were fine, but the lack of enthusiasm hit William like a sledgehammer, leaving him devastated. Mara wheeled around without accepting the doll to scamper back to her playmates. William lowered the rejected plaything back to his side in total defeat.
"I... I really thought she'd like it." He wasn't speaking to anyone in particular.
"Mara!" called Lillith. "Come back here, velorinna."
Mara stopped and turned, but only walked slowly back this time. Parents are such a problem sometimes.
"May I?" asked Lillith, taking the doll from her dejected mate. She examined it briefly while Mara traveled the short distance back to her. "Nicely done, darling. It's beautiful."
William nodded meakly as he accepted her consolation prize of praise.
"Sorry, Mommy," groaned the slump-shouldered child.
"No, Mara, you didn't do anything wrong," corrected Lillith. "I want to introduce you to a visitor."
"Uh-huh." The doll took center stage before Mara as Lillith spoke seriously to her. "This creature comes from far away and has been stranded on our planet. There is no way for the creature to go home now and it is all alone."
"Yes. There are so many dangers and the creature needs our friendship and our love."
"Most of all, the creature needs our protection."
Mara's eyes widened at the idea. She looked directly at the doll and spoke with all the authority a four year old Protector could muster.
"I p'otec' you."
Lillith handed the doll to her eager daughter who immediately cuddled it warmly.
"I knew you would, velorinna. Protect always."
"P'tec' aw-way," parroted Mara. "Look, Pil!"
"Yes, Little One, we've met."
"That's all, Mara. Go show your friends."
Without another word, Mara ran as quickly as she could back to the waiting Tetrites. They huddled around Mara's new charge, full of questions and wonder. Mara's instincts were strong even at her young age. She was, without a doubt, the daughter of a Velorian Protector.
Lillith strutted majestically past a stunned William and a speechless Phil. Her smug smile the highlight of her self-satisfaction. Stopping her parade before him, her finger dragged lightly under William's chin before pushing his slightly agape mouth shut.
"If you boys need any more help with anything," she said with an exaggerated sigh, "I'll be in the house."
Her parade started again and continued down the path to the house as she hummed happily. Her audience of two remained silently in awe.
"Oh, she's good," mumbled William, still a bit bewildered.
"Very good," agreed Phil.
Five years later, in Mara's bedroom in the house
"Mara, why are still holding on to this old doll? It's getting so worn out."
"Mom!" Mara protested loudly. "I want to keep that. I've had that bunny ever since I was a kid."
"That long, eh?" remarked Lillith with a wink.
"You know what I mean."
"I know, dear," said Lillith, smiling brightly. Leaving the room, Lillith called back over her shoulder to her only daughter. "Come downstairs and eat, dear. It's time."
"I'll be right there, momma."
Alone again, Mara put the old bunny doll back in its place of honor in front of her mirror. Her fingers petted the frayed ears into place on the discolored fabric.
"Protect always," she whispered, smiling at the thought before running from the room to join the family downstairs.
In the kitchen, Lillith found William gazing out through the window with his coffee, smiling warmly.
"What are you smiling at, silly?" she asked.
"Nothing," he mumbled. "Nothing. I just feel good today, that's all."
Lillith didn't have to say anything more about it. She knew his acute hearing could hear a pin drop at five miles. Instead, she merely stood close behind him, kissed him briefly on the side of his neck, and rested her chin on his shoulder to peer out through the window with him.
"Me too," she sighed.
In the vicinity of Thebes, Tetra's largest moon
The small ship drifted without any sign of power or life. The corroded aging hull was completely darkened, without so much as a navigation light illuminated. Even the windows that encircled the upper deck were dark, except a few that faced forward.
At the bridge deck windows, a modest flicker of light came and went, hardly noticeable unless you peered into the ship through one of them. There, on the deck of the small compartment that served as the bridge of the ship, you would see three figures huddled together around a small candle. The male, barely conscious and sprawled on his back with his head held tenderly in the lap of the female who cared for him. Next to her sat a young child about nine years old. The child remained impassive, not daring to touch or speak to the male, whispering occasionally to the weakly gasping female who could only respond with an occasional nod or shrug. Each knew that these were their final moments of life. Their ship was already dead. They would follow soon enough.
The child asked yet another whispered question. The female tried to answer, but her words were cut short by a groaned demand by the male for them both to be silent.
They all spoke Velorian.
The Visitor continues....
and suggestions are always appreciated!