3 January 1906
From Joanna's bed, she could look out the window and see the river as it returned to normal over the last few days. She was still on bed rest, recovering from the hypothermia she had when the driver brought her to the doctor's home. The driver had told the doctor that he saw her walking along the shore when she slipped and fell into the river. She had decided it best to let them accept that story.
Across the river, news had reached Allegheny that Dr. Price, Rev. Halzberg, and Old Tom had been lost in Madison and three bodies that seemed to be theirs had been found, badly burned, in what remained of the Matteson estate. The city was in uproar, many blaming the Wozniaks for the deaths and others trying to defend the family. Either way, there was rumor that the Wozniaks were looking to leave Allegheny out of fear, and other whispers that Pittsburgh was filing paperwork to absorb the city while the populace was too fractured to stop it.
It was too early for the doctor to confirm Aaboukingon's words about Joanna, but she rested a hand on her belly and wondered what she would do all the same. As she watched the water, she noticed her ring on the nightstand beneath the window. It looked odd today, almost as if it was growing dull. Hesitantly, she reached out and touched it, only to watch it collapse into a small pile of sand. She choked back a tear, then turned to ring the bell beside her bed.
"Please," she asked, when the doctor's wife opened the door, "could you find me a small container? I should like to collect that." She indicated the sand, and the other woman looked at it puzzled for a moment before slowly nodding and leaving the room. She returned with a small glass vial, which had previously held some medicine or another but had since been cleaned out, and Joanna carefully gathered the sand into it. After making a crude label for it, she marked it "Abe" and strung it onto a necklace. She would need to have it available if she expected Aaboukingon to turn it back into her wedding ring.
12 April 1929
As the evening crickets began their songs, the water of the Ohio River stirred. The water began to rise, and slowly form into a more human shape. As it stepped toward the shore, the look of it changed until a Native American man stood on dry land. He looked around, then knelt and scooped up a handful of sand. He smelled it, then turned back to another mound of water rising from the river.
"How long has it been?" he asked.
"You've been gone twenty three years, Aaboukingon," a voice from the trees answered. He turned and looked, finally spotting two ravens sitting on a branch. One of them had a faint blue glow to it.
"No, no, that-that doesn't make sense! I was only gone a moment!"
"For you. Humans do not operate on our timeframes." Aaboukingon dropped down, sitting on the ground and looking out toward the water for a long moment. Finally, he turned back to the trees, his eyes beginning to water.
"You. You saved her. Is she still alive?"
"Yes," the black raven said.
"Where is she?" The two ravens looked at each other, and then the blue one sighed. They flew down to the ground, changing into human forms just before touching down. One was a man, dressed in a hooded robe that cast a shadow across his entire face except his mouth and chin. The other was a woman, floating above the ground, composed entirely out of flowing blue energy.
"I'm sorry," she said, floating over to Aaboukingon. "You're too late. She's been forced to leave the river." Aaboukingon stood and wiped at his face as he began to pace.
"No, no. I came back. I told her I'd come back!"
"She couldn't stay."
"Does she know? Will she know I came back?" he asked, stopping in front of the woman.
"Not yet," the robed man answered.
"Will you tell her?"
"She will know." Aaboukingon covered his face with his hands. The woman came beside him and wrapped her arms around him, letting him cry. Finally, he stepped back, and turned to the robed man.
"Will she return?"
"After a fashion."
"Can I wait for her?"
"Not here. Your river still needs you. But ask the others, and they will tell you what they see." Aaboukingon wiped his face again and stood for a moment, before nodding.
"Of course. I will do as you say." The robed man nodded, and then Aaboukingon turned and walked back into the water, vanishing beneath the surface. After he was gone, the woman floated back to the robed man.
"When does she return?" she asked.
"Too soon," he said, turning and walking away from the shore.