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By TeraS


There is a place in the Realm which is known formally as the Realm Retreat. Few have been there, know of it, or, for that matter, really understand what is there. Some believe that it must be some kind of grand palace, fit for the Queen and her King, an estate at which they hold gatherings for important beings, tend to state business, and so on.

The truth is far more important.

There are a few places in the universe that intersect: points in space and time where two or more realities overlap, more or less. Where this happens, something special comes to be. That something can take many forms, many possibilities. Regardless of all else, that place is special to those that know of its existence.

Many years ago, two linked souls searched. They wanted to discover something special: a spot in which they could go, be away from the hustle and bustle of the city and their lives; a place for him to fish—for that was his only other passion; his soulmate came first—a place for her to rest, occasionally sunbathe, her own passions being more of a moment’s respite before continuing on with their lives. They had searched for quite some time, having seen many a place nestled in a wood, near a stream, over by some hills. Nothing really quite was right, called out to them, suggested that they had found what they had been looking for …

… until, of course, they found what they were looking for.

Many years ago, they signed the deed, agreed to the deal, and, in time, came to own that which they had been searching for. Over time, they brought into the world a family, one in which they all came to visit, doing the things that family do. The family grew, the children became adults and, in time, they married. They and their soulmates would visit, sometimes alone, sometimes with the other souls to whom they were linked.

Time passed, things change, as they do. But one thing never really changed very much: the place they all thought of as their sanctuary. It was a small, white cottage with red-trimmed windows, a single chimney to one side. A long pathway led from the water’s edge to the welcoming door. A dock at the water’s edge hosted a white boat bobbing in the waves. All of it formed the reality of a cottage, on the edge of a river, where a family grew.

In the Realm, there are many streams and rivers to be found. Some of these are set aside, never to have buildings beside them, so as not to disturb the tranquility. Others have a smattering of places where, at some point, someone thought they would be a nice spots to be.

Some distance from the Palace—at least a good three or four hours away by carriage, or car, or other such transport—stood a bridge, straddling a deep chasm. If one was so inclined, if they were travelling upon that road, and cared to look over the edge of the bridge, they would notice a river flowing beneath. Few knew the river had a name, fewer still knew that if one was to find themselves a boat, or canoe, or kayak, and travel in one particular direction, they would find themselves bobbing in the waters by an island with a cottage situated there. A small white cottage, by the way, with red-trimmed windows, a single chimney to one side, a long pathway leading from the water’s edge to the welcoming door, and a dock at the water’s edge, hosting a white boat bobbing in the waves. All of it forming the reality of a cottage, on the edge of a river, where a family’s dreams grew.

Each year the family would gather after the passing of the winter and make their way to the cottage, to the annual opening of their place of refuge—or, as some would say, retreat. This year, however, the time came and passed, the cottage not feeling the presence of those that normally came there. Time passed, the cottage still waiting. Then, finally, one day, the little white boat came around the bend, across the bay, and made its landing upon the sandy beach there.

Three souls were there. The fourth, who had been there from the first day, was not with them. The soul that was linked to the other for so long … seemed to be alone. Not alone in the sense of being there by himself, for he was accompanied by another pair of linked souls, while the echoes of the first two were very clearly felt.

They all set to work; there were things to be done. The dock was pushed into the waters, the boat tied up neatly there soon after. Windows were opened, the cottage aired out after the long winter’s nap. Linens were changed, dishes washed, all of the minutia of setting things out for the new season there undertaken.

The day continued on, some problems being addressed, notes made for things to do on the next visit. A pause for lunch, some memories shared, the cottage protecting those within as a single rain cloud made itself known for a time.

Afternoon came, with a father and his son gathering their things for a bit of fishing on the river. An embrace was shared and then they untied their boat, set out on the river, and disappeared from her view.

In both worlds, a ebon-haired woman came down to the dock soon after. In one world she had a pair of red horns in her hair; in the other, they were only visible to those who knew how to look. In both, she carried two chairs to a specific spot on the dock, setting them up there. In both, she returned to the cottage, then came back carrying two tall glasses of iced tea. She placed one on the chair to her left, then settled into her own chair, looking out over the river.

She began to speak, talking about the day, the travel to this sacred, important place. She mulled over her thoughts as the sun caused little diamonds of light to play over the river’s waves. She looked out towards the last place she had seen the little white boat disappear around the river’s point.

She continued to look there, sometimes sipping her iced tea, sometimes speaking again as the thoughts came to her. In one reality there was no one there beside her in the empty chair with its refreshment resting there. The other was slightly different.

As she looked over the waters, the outline of a woman came into view, the chair once empty now the resting place of a visitor. The visitor looked at the one beside her, listened to the stories. She smiled, frowned, sometimes shook her head, but said nothing as the red-tailed one continued to talk and sip at her iced tea.

The sun continued on its path across the sky, the day turning slowly towards the night. As the sun touched the horizon and began to set, the little white boat came into view once more. She remained where she was, watching them return, the small worry she had for them both leaving her. The boat glided to the dock, bumping against it.

“How was the fishing?”

The older soul replied: “Nothing this time. But it feels good, like we’re all here.”

The younger soul asked: “Had a good time?”

In both realities, the ebon-haired soul turned to look at the empty chair beside her, the glass there as empty as the one she held in her own hand.

“We had a quiet day together.”