My friend Erin Kleveland (@treasureplanetjimxzara ) and I have been having a little story time fun lately. I created some character designs and concepts on my Instagram account (@whimsicalillustration) and Erin has whipped up some wonderful stories around them! (I’m deeply grateful to her for all her talent with words!) Thought it might be fun to share what we’ve come up with thus far in terms of text and images – we’d love your feedback on this little idea so please comment below –>>>
The rhythmic step of Jarrett’s boots on the hardened earth paused for a moment as the young man turned his eyes upward to peer through the brief break in the line of seemingly endless trees. There it was. The ocean. He had only ever seen it a handful of times, but the way the golden rays of evening sun now danced on its rippling surface was a sight he had never taken the time to watch. It was breathtaking.
The nearly unnoticeable weight of the companion balancing atop his shoulder now disappeared entirely as the squirrel leapt from his perch to scurry to the top of the closest tree, his little furry head just partly distinguishable once it made its way into the open air again.
Shading his eyes from the sun’s piercing last light, Jarrett let his voice carry up to his friend, hoping that the response he received would be a welcome one. “QB? Are we getting close?”
The squirrel seemed to search the horizon for a brief moment of silence, the reprieve soon broken by his enthusiastic chattering as he came running back down the tree to meet his friend. The creature scrambled over Jarrett’s shoulder to rest atop the young man’s head, attempting to point him in the right direction before leaning slightly upside down to let Jarrett see him nod in eager confirmation.
“Thanks buddy. I’d have never made it this far if I took this trip alone, I know that for sure. Didn’t realize how far out Jora really was. And QB? Thanks for coming. I needed the moral support with this first one. N-Not that I’m afraid of her or anything. She’s just…tall. Really tall.”
The squirrel gave a small chirping chuckle as he moved back down to rest on Jarrett’s other shoulder, knowing full well why they were traveling to spend time with Jora first.
QB’s introduction of Jarrett to his other friends, all girls mind you, hadn’t exactly panned out as he had imagined. Between a few of them nearly tripping over each other at the mere sight of him and another seemingly perturbed in contrast, Jora had been the only one to truly keep her composure through the brief encounter. QB had been, in truth, more than relieved when Jora invited him and Jarrett to spend a day with her, the idea of getting to know the girls one at a time a welcome solution to how the previous event had turned out.
The trees now completely cleared from the path, Jarrett found himself shaking his head a little to regain coherent thought before giving a low whistle in approval. “Well then…A castle.”
The thought had never occurred to him, but there it was, a castle of the purest white marble gleaming in the evening’s last bursts of light. The brilliant white against the ocean’s crystal background, it really was a sight to behold. But with each steady step, Jarrett could feel his chest tightening in anxious uncertainty the closer they came to the cliffside on which the structure stood.
The setting sun was all but a memory now as the darkness of early night overtook the canopy above the travelers, the castle just ahead of them seeming to glow of its own accord as its luminescence shone forth in ever direction as if to welcome them to its gates.
The young man tread carefully over the perfectly paved stones beneath his feet, each step ringing out to echo into the silence around them before stopping to stand face to face with the ominously large pair of doors looming magnificently above him.
Tilting his head back to see the full extent of the castle’s face, the nervousness that had been building up inside him all the while was given momentary relief as his eyes worked their way back down to the bottom of the doors. There, carved into the base of the entrance was an inscription, the words giving him a strange sense of courage as he released the last of his nerves with a small nod to his companion beside him.
Peace and Wisdom Reign Here.
“Woah.” For a moment, Jarrett could only stand in place as the magnificent double doors before him slowly opened up on silent hinges with hardly a knock to urge them forward. White. Pure, glorious, white. It was not the overwhelming color of a hospital hallway, but the soft hue of moonlight which colored every surface he could see. It wasn’t until he received a few questioning taps from QB that Jarrett found the composure to make his way inside, curious as to where their winged hostess was.
“Hello?” Nothing but the subdued echoes of his own voice replied. “Jora?” Turning his head to receive confirmation from his companion, Jarrett found some relief in how calm and silently cheerful QB seemed to be, realizing that his own instinct of intimidation was probably all for nothing.
Intrigue quickly snuffed out any other feeling of discomfort as several unique items filling the entryway pulled at the young man’s attention, making him unaware of the angelic figure who now stood just at his back.
“It means ‘harmony’.”
Jarrett about jumped out of his skin as the soothingly rich voice of a woman spoke from very close behind him, forcing the poor squirrel perched atop his shoulder to grab at the young man’s hair to keep from being completely flung from his seat.
Jarrett was quick to take a step back upon realizing the close proximity in which they were standing, unable to hide the stunned confusion in his dark eyes as he looked up at the pale-haired woman he’d met only once before, his single word sounding fumbled even to his own ears. “W-What?”
The angelic woman smiled sweetly as she folded her snow-white wings behind her, nodding once more toward the unique inscription above the mantled fireplace. “Harmony. An ancient script long forgotten by most, aside from those of us who still take to the air. It is said to bring the true intentions of what is written if done so in its forgotten text.”
“Ah.” Jarrett didn’t know what else to say at first, feeling only a little less than completely lost as he glanced back at the mantle. “Very cool. Neat place you got here, Jora. Bit of a trick to get to.”
Finding his simplistic answers endearing, Jora’s smile brightened all the more as she carefully reached her hand out to QB, letting the small creature nuzzle playfully in the palm of her hand before motioning toward a well-lit hallway nearby. “I do apologize for that, but I have made up the dining room for your complete recovery in the respect of all good things to eat. Unless, of course, you’d like to see the rest of the castle first?”
Receiving an excited nod in confirmation from his squirrel companion, Jarrett relayed the reply up to their hostess as he opened an arm with theatrical flourish. “Lead the way!”
Jarrett released a heavy breath as he leaned more heavily against the white marble railing, his eyes never leaving the star-kissed sky as he waited for any sign of movement. “How high does she need to go?”
Merely glancing down at his furry friend for an answer, QB simply shrugged his little shoulders before continuing his distracted scuttling along the balcony rail.
Turning his gaze upward once more, Jarrett’s mind began to wander over the events of the evening, pondering everything that Jora had shown him. There was so much he didn’t know before, or at least, had never taken the time to really think through. Despite the monolith of knowledge that had been heaped upon him in those short hours, he somehow felt lighter, more at peace than he had when he first arrived. But the young man was only allowed a few more moments of reflection before the excited chattering of his companion brought his attention back to the here and now.
Sure enough, there was Jora flying down toward them, actually more gliding than flying before she lightly touched down on the smooth balcony floor. For the effort flying must take, Jarrett was surprised to see how perfectly composed the angelic woman still seamed, not even a heavy breath to confirm to him that she had expended any energy at all.
“I have returned with your gift, as promised.”
Jarrett quickly shook his head to convey how undeserving he truly did feel. “Jora really, you’ve given me more tonight than I could ever repay. I should be giving you stuff.”
The woman’s quiet laugh rang like a clear bell as she extended her closed hand toward him, waiting until he finally surrendered his own hand before opening hers.
For a stunned moment, Jarrett had to turn away, wholly unprepared for the white-blue light which suddenly met his eyes. As soon as he could understand what he was holding, the young man found himself speechless once more, a state he’d often found himself in that evening. “Woah. This…This is the real deal? This is a star’s heart?”
“Only just a piece. To hold the entire heart of a star would require more power than even I possess.”
Jora’s hand was soft to the touch as she carefully closed Jarrett’s hand around the small bottle which held the shining star.
“May it bring you clarity and light as you walk through this dark world. I hope that it will remind you of all we’ve spoke of this night, for I am truly glad that you came, and I would hope you feel this also.”
“Oh definitely. No, I had a great time. I think QB did too, didn’t ya buddy?”
“Be mindful of your step as you leave this place. Your journey here was eventful, yet I’d hope the road home would prove smoother for you.”
“Trust me, we hope so too, but thanks for the warning. Come on QB. I think it’s time we started back. Thanks again, Jora. I’ll stop by if I’m ever in the neighborhood.”
“Peace be with you, Jarrett. May next we meet come swiftly.”
(To be continued…)
Story by Erin Kleveland – Illustrations & Character concepts by Micheline Ryckman