Rose is sitting in the dark. Since Benedict left, she hasn’t moved from the armchair in which she let herself fall. She has lost track of time. She wants to be sure Benedict is away before standing up and meeting the others again. She tries to empty her head, not to think. She jumps when a voice snatches her away from her introspection.
—Hey, how are you doing?
—Beth, you frightened me.
—Sorry, I wasn’t sure you were still here. I’m happy you are.
—Beth, I don’t have the courage to go home….
—That is not a problem, Rose. We have room here. You’ve already experimented with the sofa…. How about a trip in the transporter before going to sleep? I made you a promise, and maybe on this particular evening you need to see some wonders. What do you think?
—Yes, right now!
—Well, I don’t know…
—You’ll love Frigellya, and this will make you a time traveller…
—So I will be, how do you call it… an anomaly?
—It means that unlike other humans here you’ll always remember time travelers. In this century anyway, you already belong to the closed circle of humans who know about worlds in the future. Now I propose you see one of them. One where you’ll be very welcome.
—Beth, I’m not in the mood for…
—Oh, come on, Rose… This trip is exactly what you need. Please say yes.
—You are the one who needs to travel tonight, aren’t you?
—You unmasked me. Please, please, say yes.
—Ok, ok, I’m coming with you, answers Rose with a smile.
—I already told David I’ll go there with you. He’ll stay with Sylvester and Paul, among the men, Beth answers, with a hint of a taunt in her voice.
—Oh, so you had no doubt about my decision.
—I know you well, Rose Taylor. Shall we go?
—Sure, I’ll follow you.
Rose is surprised when Beth opens a small room with nothing inside.
—If you look intensely for about 10 seconds in here, says Beth pointing into the void, you’ll begin to see the outline of the transporter and will know where to sit. It’s absolutely invisible if you don’t pay attention.
—Oh, it’s absolutely amazing, I can see it now.
—Take your place beside me.
While speaking, Beth sets the transporter to visit her Frigellyan friends.
—Be prepared, it’s almost instantaneous.
They both disappear and arrive in the entrance hall of the castle. Their attention turns to a noise, and they can see Nori climbing the main staircase, about to reach the top.
—Hey, Nori! shouts Beth.
—Hey, you followed me? I just got back from Benedict’s farewell.
—Well, I set the transporter to bring us here a few minutes later than the last coordinates it had from your world. It helps if we come in a logical order. So we lived the same event on Earth today.
As Beth is ending her sentence, Mira, too, appears in the entrance hall.
—I was sure it was you. I’ve something to show you…, she says without even saying hello.
—I came here for my friend Rose, so she can visit your world. Maybe this can wait, Mira?
While saying this Beth can feel Mira’s impatience. It is a first! There is much happiness too.
—Oh, you’ve brought Rose with you this time; what a good idea, intervenes Nori as he heads down the stairs. Rose Taylor, this is your name, am I right?
—Shall I be your guide for a tour of the castle and its gardens?
—Nori, it’s nice of you, but…, answers Beth.
—If you two have something to discuss, interrupts Rose pointing to Beth and Mira. I’m sure Nori will be excellent company. A new world may be better visited with a local guide, she says, winking at Beth.
—We’re going to start with the Gardens, they’re particularly beautiful at night, and we’ll finish on the Great Terrace, Nori informs her as they head toward the door. You know where to find us when you’ve finished with Mira, he adds to Beth.
—Come with me, says Mira pulling Beth by an arm.
Beth takes a seat in Mira’s transporter.
—Where are we? asks Beth when they materialize.
—It’s our place, Reymo’s and mine. The one we have outside the castle.
—You really love Earth, says Beth, looking around. The room looks as would be expected of a room in any Earthly mountain chalet: wood everywhere, and a fireplace.
—Yes. Reymo and I love this Earthly mountain atmosphere. It’s why Reymo offered this to me…
While speaking Mira opens a box she’d pulled from a small chest of drawers.
—The earrings! exclaims Beth.
—Unpaired, adds Mira. One with a moon and the other with a sun. Definitely Earthly.
—So my memories are reliable…, not that I had any doubts.
—Well, I confess, not really.
—But I’m not pregnant…
—Maybe you’ve got to wait for that, as I did, answers Beth laughing.
More seriously, she adds:
—Mira, I almost went nuts waiting to be pregnant. Be patient.
—Today I am certain that your visions are trustworthy. These earrings are excellent news for me. Even if I don’t know exactly when, and, you may be right, this waiting could eat at me, I’m the happiest woman in the entire universe.
—Yeah, I can feel it…. Your place is very pleasant, you know.
—I’ve only seen this kind of chalet in movies until today. I think I traveled more on Frigellya than on Earth. Before mind traveling, I only went to two places: the one where I was born and where my parents settled, and the one where I live now. Strange isn’t it? I know more about some alien places than my own world…
—You’ve got all of time before you, Beth.
—I think I’ll travel a lot on Earth as Moira.
—Sure… May I take you back to the castle?
—Well, I’ll take the time to greet everybody tonight. Nori is certainly not already at the Great Terrace with Rose. Let’s start with Reymo.
—Let’s meet him in our shelter.
Meanwhile in the castle gardens
Rose is sitting on a bench staring at the stars.
—This is the first time I’ve ever seen a different sky. I wouldn’t have guessed it would disturb me so. Maybe because a friend taught me how to recognize stars from Earth. Here I recognize nothing.
—We are very far away in the universe…
—… and in the future, I was told. Benedict explained that I wouldn’t have recognized even the Earthly sky in the far future…
—He is right.
—Why are you standing, Nori?
—I don’t know if…
—Oh, come on, we danced together a whole evening long. You’re our fencing master along with David. You’re not a stranger.
—You misunderstood. You chose this bench to sit on, and this bench has a history for me. It’s where I used to sit with my wife to listen to the night, to smell it. We both stayed on this bench, eyes closed. And…
—Oh, it’s still painful, I can hear it in your voice. I’m sorry. Let’s go to another place.
Rose does not wait for an answer. She stands up and begins to walk away. Nori stops her by taking her arm.
—When you sat down here, you immediately looked around and I saw the sorrow disappear from your face. From this bench, you have the best view at night in this garden. It’s why my wife and I chose it too. Please sit down and enjoy the place.
—Are Frigellyans empathists like Dalygarans?
—No, but it’s easy to see you’re unhappy. I’ve seen you on other days, Rose. And you’re different today.
Nori sits on the bench, looking up at Rose.
—Please, sit down, he repeats, showing the place beside him.
After Rose complies, he goes on:
—Frigellyans gave names to the stars above their heads, too. Do you want me to show you some?
—Let’s begin with a couple of constellations and I’ll teach you more later.
—I’m a 25th-century woman, Nori. And, I’m not like Beth. I most probably won’t come here again. Beth has done me a favor today.
—If you’re not going to come back, let’s do it another way then. You’re going to choose something particular in the sky. Do you see something special up there?
—Yes, over there is a circle.
—That is called the Small Round. It’s made of millions of stars, very luminous ones, and within the center are others, much paler.
—And there, it’s like a fish.
Rose explains to Nori in detail.
—Oh, yes. Well, it’s a part of a bigger figure. We call it the Gritchak. What you call the fish is actually its tail.
—Yes, this is a legendary animal, it looks like your dragon, and it’s the symbol of royalty too.
—I’ll show you some paintings of it in the Castle.
—I’d be much obliged…. Nori…?
—I would like to try your silent thing, listening to the night, smelling it.
Nori just answers with a smile and closes his eyes.
Rose does what she failed to do on Earth in the armchair. She relaxes totally, listening to the light gurgling of water, the wind in the leaves, and her own breathing. Then she fills her lungs with smells she’d never come across before. She focuses on something sweet, floral, very pleasant to her nose.
Nori can hear her breathing deeper and deeper.
—They are called the enchantresses, he whispers.
—Sorry? says Rose louder than she has wished.
—The smell tonight, the dominant one comes from enchantresses. It’s a famous flowering shrub, and their flowers have a wonderful perfume.
—Oh, can you show me?
—Of course. But you should come back during the day, Rose. They have beautiful colors too.
—I won’t come here again, Nori, I told you. But I will remember this exceptional night all my life, I’m sure.
—And I will remember it too. I should have come to this bench earlier. I’ve found again the feelings of serenity I used to have here. Thanks to you. Follow me, he says standing up.
Nori shows Rose where the enchantresses are.
—They are wonderful. You’re right, I would like to see them in daylight.
Nori answers with a smile.
—I’ve so many things to show you in this park, Rose. Shall we go on?
This is how Nori and Rose, taking their time, enjoy the night, wandering in the Gardens, side by side. After a while Rose says:
—Nori, I don’t know how much time we’ve spent in this garden, but Beth might be waiting for me now. Could we go to this Great Terrace?
—Yes, you’re right. Let’s go back to the Castle.
When they arrive on the Terrace, Beth is sitting on a bench with two other people.
—Rose, let me present to you my nephew, Christopher and his future wife Abeena.
—Oh, the former King’s son and the present Queen, am I right?
—Yes, answers Abeena as she stands with Christopher. Nice to meet you again, Rose. You were Beth’s witness at her marriage, weren’t you?
—And my dance partner, adds Nori.
—Yes, I was both.
Abeena walks toward Rose and hugs her warmly. Rose is a bit stiff, not knowing how to behave. Christopher hugs Rose too.
—Christopher and Abeena are getting married soon, and they just asked me to be their wedding bond, confides Beth.
—I will be Christopher’s companion, says Nori.
—And Mira mine, goes on Abeena. I’ve known her since childhood. She’s like a big sister to me.
In front of Rose’s apparent confusion, Beth explains:
—Companions are the equivalent of our wedding witnesses, even if the ceremony seems to be a bit different. The wedding bond is the person who is designated by the bride and groom to be the one who will seal their union, someone who played an important role in their life.
—Beth brought me back here, says Christopher.
—I wouldn’t have ever met him without Beth, adds Abeena. She’s obviously our wedding bond.
—Oh, I understand now, whispers Rose.
—Rose, I saw my uncle smiling for the first time in a long time the day he met you at Beth’s wedding. I would appreciate it if you could come to ours.
—What?! exclaims Nori and Rose in chorus.
Abeena laughs and says:
—You can’t let him come alone. Christopher and I owe so much to Nori,. We want him happy.
—He helped soothe my sorrow when I arrived on Frigellya. His relaxation techniques did me lots of good, confesses Christopher.
—His fencing lessons helped me understand who I really was. Never would I have accepted to rise to the throne without his teachings, adds Abeena.
—When I first arrived on Frigellya, I was lost, remembers Beth. I thought David was dead, and I had a world waiting for me to be saved. Pressure and sorrow were what I had to deal with. After a few days being trained by Nori, I felt stronger.
—He’s helped me so much tonight too, whispers Rose.
—Oh, stop it, all of you…, says Nori, embarrassed. Rose, you don’t need to…
—I’ll do it with pleasure. If you agree, of course.
—Yes, and you’ll show me the enchantresses in daylight.
—I promise. But for now, just take a look at the view.
Nori takes Rose by the hand, until they both arrive at the edge of the Terrace.
—That’s wonderful, murmurs Rose.
Then louder, staring at the sky:
—Oh, I can see the Gritchak over there!
—What? says Beth.
Rose is very happy to explain something about the world she’s just discovered to her friend.
—Nori, you told me you would show me the painting of a Gritchak…
—There is one here, intervenes Abeena, pointing to the right strap of her dress. But, it is very small. Follow me.
In a corridor, not so far inside, hangs a huge painting of a Gritchak.
—Here it is, says Abeena pointing to it.
—Oh, amazing! exclaims Rose.
Then seeing Beth a bit pale:
—Maybe it’s time to go home, don’t you think?
The two women take their leave of the Frigellyans. When they materialize on Earth, in Beth’s apartment, Rose says joyfully:
—Oh, thank you, thank you so much. Frigellya is a wonderful place and I’m invited to the Queen’s wedding! Never would I have thought about such things after saying goodbye to Benedict tonight. Do you think you could show me other worlds?
—We’ll see, Rose. Frigellya is the only one I know where we can breathe normally…
—Oh, never mind. I’m already happy to have seen one… Well, we both need to sleep, I think. Look at you. It’s kind of you to take care of me, but don’t forget to take care of yourself. Good night, Beth. I’m going to the sofa.
—Do you need anything? A blanket? A pillow?
—That’s ok. Go. David might be waiting for you.
Rose goes to the sofa, lies down and falls asleep immediately, dreaming of flying on a Gritchak’s back.