The air around Jair suddenly started to look a little shimmery and hazy. Static electricity built up until the hairs on her arms and head started to rise. Jair took a deep breath, the gulped convulsively, nearly choking, as a slit of blinding light split the air in front of her. She winced as she covered her eyes.
"Geez... there really should be some sort of warning noise that goes with that." Jair grumbled nervously. She was excited to be moving to this new place. Especially after seeing how happy Kris was. His eyes had sparkled as he described his new horse breeding and training facility.
<Really, it was the Cossack's that had him excited though.> He would be heading a band of Cossacks and living in one of the Czar's summer palaces. That had amused Kris to no end.
Tears came to Jair's eyes and she again thanked the God above for bringing Lilly, the wonderful and thoughtful Grigori into her life. That Lilly would go to such lengths to make Kris happy, just so she, Jair, would feel more comfortable was a wondrous thing. Now it was Jair's turn to step through this Grigori magic and enter the new world. It was more than a little frightening, even as Jair excited made plans for hew new life.
Jair took another deep breath and opened her eyes. The Gateway had solidified. Before Jair was a perfect "window" into this new world. On the other side, she could see Lilly and Sharon waiting for her. There was another man with Sharon that Jair did not recognize, but it was obvious he was very much in love with her. Sharon smiled at the man, and Lilly waved to Jair expectantly.
"Well, no guts, no glory." Jair whispered, as she stepped through the Gateway. For a fraction of a second, everything felt upside down and inside out, as all of Jair senses jumbled. If felt as if all the wires in her brain were crossed. The feeling was intensely uncomfortable, and just when Jair was certain she would scream, it stopped. Jair emerged into the new world, mid stride as if nothing had happened.
"Whoa... that was weird. Is it like that for everyone?" Jair blinked rapidly and shook her head a few times, copper curls bouncing wildly.
"No, only for humans," Lilly smiled. Hugging Jair close, she whispered, "I'm so glad you made it though."
Jair's face beamed as she pulled away to twirl around in a circle. It was unbelievable, but she was here. Not many people were given a chance to start life over, and Jair intended to make the most of it. Jair quickly hugged Lilly and Sharon, telling each thank you.
"You look ready to burst, Jair." Sharon laughed. "Do you want to hang around here for a while, or go check out your place?"
"Actually, I really would like to go to my place - if it's okay with you guys?" Jair answered with a sheepish grin. "I'm so excited, I can't wait to see it."
"We understand Jair, I would go with you, but there are others waiting to come.' Lilly said with an understanding gleam in her twinkling eyes. "The trail to your place is pretty clearly marked. You shouldn't have any problems finding it. It's all set up with food and everything. "
Jair hugged them both again, eyeing the strange man who hadn't said a word during the entire exchange.
"Well then, I'll stop by later to see you. Until then!!" Jair waved as she stood in the doorway. A small frown flashed across her face as she looked at the stranger, "I hope we have a chance to meet properly later."
Jair nearly ran around to the front lawn. She paused only for a moment to stare up at the volcano. Its immense size was breathtaking. The small plume of smoke rising from its cone was at once ominous and comforting. Jair smiled as she saluted the massive mountain.
"Be nice to us Mr. Volcano!" Jair laughed out loud at her whimsical mood, but vowed to think of a better name for the Volcano.
On the front lawn, Jair found Radzin holding the reins to a beautiful dun mare. For a brief moment, Jair was hurt that Kristov hadn't come to meet her. Still, Radzin was the friendlier, more outgoing of the two. Radzin was as dark as Kristov was light, with jet-black hair, deep brown eyes, and a laugh that seemed to shake the air around him. It was good to see him. Jair knew how much it meant to Kris that his friends were with him again. Kris had never complained, but she knew he had missed them.
Jair laughed again, feeling positively giddy. So many wonderful things were happening all in one day, that Jair felt certain her heart would just explode from all the excitement. The mare's long, delicate legs and arched neck were magnificent. Her coat was the color of freshly polished bronze and contrasted starkly with her silky black mane.
"She's beautiful Radzin! What is her name?" Jair breathed as she walked around the prancing mare.
"Her name means 'Tranquil Flame', but it is difficult to pronounce. Kris just called her 'Copper'." Radzin shrugged to indicate he did not understand why. "He regrets that he could not bring her to you personally. There was a fight after yesterday's horse race. Vassily demanded a hearing. Kristov must act as arbitrator. "
Radzin grinned at his friend's misfortune. Kristov, Vassily and Radzin had known each other since childhood. Kris had always been the leader, wherever they went. People just listened to Kris. It was not something Radzin had ever envied. Kris always got stuck settling disputes. Cossacks liked to fight and argue, and Radzin knew how much Kris hated it. Vassily knew this too, and had hoped that Kris would simply rule in his favor to get the matter over. Radzin knew Kris would never so openly play favorites, and if Kris discovered that Vassily had no grounds for requesting the hearing, there would be hell to pay.
"Kristov asked me to tell you that she was specially trained for you. He hopes you will come by the village some time soon."
'You are returning right away?" At Radzin's nod, Jair continued, "Tell Kristov she is beautiful, and that we will come visit him in a few days. He is welcome at my home any time. And Radzin, that includes you and Vassily as well. If Vassily isn't careful, he may need to come stay with me until Kris calms down."
Jair moved to hug the big Cossack, and was quickly drawn into a bear hug. Jair looked up in surprise. Radzin eyes seemed unnaturally bright and he looked at her solemnly.
"Thank you Jair. The three of us would not be here if it were not for you. You have made Kris happy, and given us all much joy. I am happy to be here."
Jair nodded, unable to speak. She felt the same way, but she turned away so as not to embarrass the Cossack by witnessing his tears - even if they were tears of joy. Swiftly she mounted Copper, spun around and galloped down the path. It was several minutes before Jair realized she had not checked for signs. Just as she was certain she had chosen the wrong path, a sign reading "Canopy Aerie" in bold letters flashed by her. With a sudden urgent sense of anticipation, Jair pushed Copper even faster.
Gradually, she slowed Copper to a canter. The distance to her home was much farther than she had realized. All the same, the scenery was beautiful, so the journey didn't bother here. Jair's head swiveled from side to side as she tried to take in all of the lush jungle at once. Trees towered over her, some as thick around as an elephant. The musical cacophony of the jungle surrounded her. Here and there, Jair caught glimpse of steep cliffs and rushing waterfalls.
Nearly two hours later, the path she had been following dead-ended before a sheer cliff and the largest, fattest tree Jair had ever imagined. The river she had been following was on her left. Jair and Copper stood at the edge of a serene pool of water formed by series of waterfalls cascading down the cliff from over 100 feet above them. On her right, the dense jungle camouflaged another steep cliff. In front of her and Copper, the fat tree was easily 15 feet in diameter. A small sign at the base of the tree said simply"
"Okay... so where is the house?" Jair asked Copper, who nickered in response. "That's a lot of help Copper." Jair scolded as she kneed Copper forward. A quick ride walk around the tree revealed a smaller path with another small sign saying "Lift" with an arrow.
"That sounds promising." Jair and Copper walked down the path, further into the jungle. At the end of the path, a large industrial lift waited against the base of the cliff Jair had previously glimpsed behind the trees. The lift was easily large enough for several horses. The cable looked plenty thick, and the platform appeared sturdy, but there were no gates, only the empty steel frame of what should have been a cage. Above, Jair could see the landing platform and a small bridge that disappeared into the tree.
"Well.... " Jair scratched her head thinking. Finally, she decided to bring Copper up with her. If there wasn't anywhere that looked reasonable for her, Jair could always bring her back down. Jair swung out of the saddle and led Copper onto the platform, surprised that Copper never hesitated.
"If I could whistle, I would... Kris trained you well Sweetie." Just to be safe though, Jair pulled off her shirt and wrapped it around Copper's eyes.
"No sense taking chances... 'Course that seems kinda silly on a lift with no safety rails." Jair nearly whimpered. Looking around, Jair located the on/off switch coiled around one of the corner supports. Relief swept through her as she discovered the cord was long enough to operate while standing smack in the middle of the platform. Quickly, Jair gritted her teeth, biting back the nausea rising in her stomach. She was not afraid of heights, in fact she loved them, but falling was a whole separate story! Jair punched the button as she vowed not to look down and forced herself to loosen her death grip on Copper's reins.
The lift was surprisingly fast and smooth. Jair was thankful there was no swaying or creaking on the ride up. When the reached to top, Jair realized the bridge in to the tree was narrow - obviously only for people. She turned to look at Copper while considering whether or not to bring the horse into her house and discovered a cave opening behind them. Flickering torches lit the pathway into the cave itself.
Slowly she backed Copper into the cave. Once out of the elevator, there was ample room to turn the horse. Copper's hooves clopped soothingly on the stone as she and Jair moved deeper into the cave. The tunnel opened into a large cavern, also lit by torches. Off to the left, was a stable, complete with stalls, hay, tack area ... and another horse.
"Well, where did you come from?" Jair asked, but the chestnut stallion only stomped his hoof and tossed his head. "Well, fine... be unsociable." Jair quickly unsaddled flame and swapper her bridle for the handy halter hanging next to the stall with Russian writing on it.
"This must be yours Copper." Jair laughed. "I going to have to learn how to say that!" She chuckled as she brushed Copper down before tossing her some hay. There was a water bucket in the stall, and a search of the tack area found a large drum with fresh water off the side. "Wonder how I'm gonna refill that?" Jair muttered.
Jair watered Copper, frowned at the other horse (who stomped anytime Jair got near it) and walked back to the elevator. As she crossed the bridge into the tree, Jair stopped. The view was stunning. This high up in the trees, Jair had an unblocked view of the horizon to the west. The sun was setting over the ocean in a brilliant display of purples and oranges. For a few moments, the dazzling waves and shifting colors paralyzed Jair.
"So you finally made it."
Jair whirled at the deep voice. "Kronos! - you aren't supposed to be here."
~ End of The Portal ~
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