We’re getting close. This one has gone to the editor. I will be announcing the release date soon.
Let’s go with heroine Iris and her son Thomas to have a look at the Kalquorian Temple of Life and its head priest Imdiko Rivek:
Morning’s first light was barely in the sky when Iris approached the Kalquorian Temple of Life. She held a food container in one hand and Thomas’ wrist with the other. For once the little boy wasn’t struggling to escape her and go his own way. He stared at the temple with wide eyes.
The structure was beautiful, probably the most stunning Iris had ever seen. It looked like something out of a fairytale. It didn’t quite resemble a castle, but she could almost imagine a princess sleeping somewhere within, waiting for the enchanted kiss of her one true love that would release her from a spell.
It was so white, it put the surrounding snow to shame. White and blameless enough that it almost seemed made of solidified clouds and vapor. The spired and sweeping architecture couldn’t be pinned down to any specific shape. It was as if a smallish mountain had resolved to turn itself into a something between a gothic cathedral and a palace. As if the earth itself had formed the building at God’s request.
Iris had never seen its like. She thought she would not be one bit surprised if angels resided here.
As they came closer to the open entrance that yawned wide yet showed them little of the shadowed interior, a tall figure in robes stepped out. Iris swallowed to see the large Kalquorian watching them with interest, even though his demeanor couldn’t have been more welcoming. After all, he was only the second of the alien race she’d been up close to despite living the last year on Haven. Most Earthers kept away from their hosts, especially since the E.I.K. had begun threatening everyone.
Yet she didn’t really feel fear as she looked at the alien. She felt more a sense of anticipation.
The priest – Iris assumed he was the Kalquorian equivalent of a priest – was as amazing a sight as the temple itself. His features were strong, as if sculpted from granite. It seemed to Iris such robust masculine features should make this man look as fierce as Jol. Instead, he radiated kindness and warmth. The forward part of his black hair was braided at the temples and the rest left loose to hang to his ankles. She’d never seen such long hair on anyone.
His robes matched the snowscape and temple with shimmering layers of white, gray, and blue. Bare feet peeked from beneath the flowing hems. A braided cord of gold circled his waist. He somehow managed to look ethereal as vapor and solid as granite at the same time.
Iris had never seen his like anywhere, yet he looked – right. As if he was what she had expected to see, though she’d not known what to expect when she drove here.
As she and Thomas neared this amazing specimen of the Kalquorian race, he bowed to her. “Good day, Matara. May I assist you with something?”
The man’s voice was smooth, like brushed silk. It tickled Iris’ ears and seemed to slip down her spine. She had to restrain a shiver. First Jol’s distant thunder voice, and now this. It made her wonder if all Kalquorians had such distinctive tones. But then, Thomas had a musical voice himself, like the tinkling of piano keys. Maybe it was simply the way she heard things.
Iris smiled at the nice priest. “Hi. I, um, I was looking for Imdiko Rivek? I understand he’s a priest here?”
The Kalquorian’s eyebrows rose. “I am Rivek. Please enter.” He swept an arm towards the entrance.
Iris blinked. “You’re Imdiko Rivek? Oh, well, I don’t want to take up any of your time. I’m here because your Nobek did a wonderful thing for us yesterday.”
Rivek cocked his head as he regarded her. “You are Matara Iris? And this must be Thomas.” He leaned down and widened his gentle smile at the boy. “Hello, Thomas.”
Thomas not only looked the Kalquorian in the face, he even responded without prompting. “Hello. Train.”
He held out his latest construction for Rivek’s inspection. It was the same engine he’d shown Jol the day before, plus a caboose he’d made from a small wooden box that Iris had kept her sewing needles in. She still hadn’t found all of the needles after Thomas had dumped them on the floor. No doubt bare feet would seek out each and every one for weeks on end.
Rivek crouched down to inspect the pieces closely. “This is a train?”
“Yes. Engine and caboose.” Hook and eye closures, also swiped from Iris’ sewing materials, coupled the two together.
The priest told him, “I’ve never seen one before. Quite remarkable. Did you make this train, Thomas?”
The boy nodded solemnly. “Yes. Thomas’ train.”
“It is a wonderful train.” Rivek rose to his full height, perhaps an inch or two taller than his Nobek, Iris thought. He again swept his arm at the open entrance and said to her, “Please, come in and get out of this cold.”
She held out the food container. “I really wanted to just drop this off, if that’s okay? It’s a pie. To thank Nobek Jol for saving Thomas’ life.” Her cheeks warmed. “It’s not much, certainly not enough to repay his kindness to us, and I don’t know if Kalquorians would even like apple pie—”
Rivek gently interrupted her embarrassed babbling. “I have not tried apple pie yet, though I understand it is an Earther favorite. I know Jol will be very appreciative. Please, Matara, do come in.”
Iris peered into the dim environs beyond the doorframe uncertainly. “I don’t want Thomas to break anything valuable. He can be a little destructive.”
Rivek’s chuckle tickled her ears anew. “That is no concern, truly. Please.”
He took the food container from Iris with one hand and gently pressed her shoulder with the other, ushering her in. Still clinging to Thomas’ wrist, Iris found her feet moving her through the entrance.
“Well, if you’re sure,” she said. She was very curious to know how the amazing structure looked on the inside.