Excerpt from Daniel Everhart and the Skylands of Caterra
“We were wondering where Niobe might be.”
“You don’t say.” Cypress cuts her gaze to Joost. A little smirk creases her cheeks. “She’s something special.” She pauses and examines the expression on Joost’s face. “The council was most impressed with her story. Rumor is, they’ve offered her a place here in the Nacionalan—the capitol—for as long as she wishes to stay.”
“Sweet.” I catch a scalding side-glance from Joost. “I mean, do you think that’s in her best interest?”
Brynlin sits on the edge of the portum. “She has no family or home. Her job’s finished. Why stay on Earth?”
“We could find a place for her in Bowman Ridge,” Joost says.
“And then what?” Cypress asks.
“I don’t know,” Joost responds.
“Maybe we could”—I look at Brynlin and tilt my head toward Joost—“talk to Niobe about it.”
“That seems fair enough.” Brynlin smiles. “What do you think, Niobe?”
Joost shoots up faster than a bottle rocket with its tail lit and turns to see Niobe standing in the doorway. “Hey . . . I uh . . . didn’t know you were here.”
Niobe maneuvers her way across the room with the aid of a walking stick. “Brynlin and Cypress have been generous enough to offer me a place to stay while I make my decision.”
“Wow, that’s great. Do you like it here?” Joost asks.
“Yes, it is very nice. And the presence of the Aurora brings me inner peace.”
“Wow, that’s great,” Joost repeats himself, shifting uncomfortably. “When we’re done on Earth, we’ll have the same, uh . . . inner peace.”
“Perhaps,” Niobe replies.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Cypress and Brynlin steal a quick look at the front door, then each other. “I’ll get it,” Cypress says.
“No.” Niobe turns and makes her way across the room. “It’s for me.”
She opens the door. “Hello, Lenny.”
“I brought you some flowers.” Lenny holds out a small bouquet.
“Oh, they smell wonderful.” She runs her fingers around the petals, like she’s seeing them with her hands, and steps aside to let him pass. “Please come in. I think you know everyone.”
“I couldn’t find a vase to put the — hey guys.” Lenny gives me and Joost an embarrassed smile. “It’s good to see you. I heard about the staids and dolmens. Scary stuff.”
“What are you doing here?” Joost’s words are as tight as his shoulders—and they’re riding up to his neck.
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