They’re lucky, really, that it’s Parker. Because Parker, having had the life she’s had, has no concept of time or strangeness and barely blinks to be living in a den of adult thieves she’s never met before.
She’s also already a budding world-class thief, even at eleven, so she’s capable of getting herself out of the vault, even if her escape is slightly more clumsy than adult-Parker’s escape would have been.
So they bring Parker back to the pub, call Nate and Sophie in a bit of a panic, and watch her poke around the place. She disappears for five whole minutes, which gives them minor heart attacks, but she shows back up, seemingly unchanged except for the slight mysterious bulge in her pockets.
Hardison has three computers out, digging deep into the web, looking for what the hell they accidentally stumbled on. Eliot stares at the eleven year old eyeing the exposed ceiling beams a little too curiously with apprehension.
“Want dinner?” He offers.
“What do you like?”
She shrugs again.
Eliot figures Parker probably hasn’t changed that much, so he pours her a bowl of sugary cereal to hold her over while he makes her a stack of pancakes, with chocolate chips and maple syrup.
When she’s eating, Eliot moves around the apartment, trying to be unobtrusive. Usually that’d be easy, but this is Parker they’re talking about, and a twitchy one at that.
Still, he makes it upstairs, rifles through the bedroom, and comes back down with a well-loved stuffed bunny. “Thought he might keep ya company,” he offers, holding the bunny out to Parker.
She looks at the toy, then him, then back at the toy before grabbing the toy from Eliot’s hands. “How’s you get him?” She demands, her voice relatively quiet.
Eliot shrugs. “Parker, lot a stuff you don’t remember has happened. We’re your friends.”
“You cook for me,” she notes, nodding.
“Yeah,” Eliot agrees, mouth dry. “I do do that. That over there is Hardison. He’s nice. Good guy. Wants to help you out. You could probably con him into anything.”
When Parker’s eyes light up, Eliot groans, already regretting saying it. He just wanted to tell her that they care about her. But this is Parker. This is child Parker, before the team.
“He’s working right now,” he tries to follow up, but it’s too late, Parker is already over there, making big eyes.
Hardison closes his laptop. “Where’re you going?” Eliot demands.
“Ice cream. Parker wants one of the big banana splits.”
“She just ate!” Eliot growls, before realizing that that’s really not his main concern. “Anyways. What about the research?”
Hardison shrugs. “It can wait an hour, can’t it? Let the kid enjoy some childhood.”
Eliot shakes his head. “I’m comin’ too,” he announces. “If only to ensure you two come back.”
Light Walls House by mA-style Architects. Perimeter skylights throw light across a grid of exposed wooden ceiling beams inside this home by Japanese studio mA-style Architects. Positioned in a shady location between two neighbouring buildings in Aichi, Japan, the wooden house couldn’t have many windows, so skylights were added around each side of the flat roof.
“People ask me, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and my answer must at once be, 'It is of no use.’ There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron … If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.”
–George Mallory, Climbing Everest
Mountains are a matter of proximity. From the peaceful, orderly valley below, they appear changeless. Decades pass, as do centuries, and the snow-capped peaks seem to rest in stasis. But any climber knows that this is not the case when near to the summit. Ice gives way, snow buries tracks, storms alter the face of the mountain, and from hour to hour it is different. The winds come, day changes to night, and the realization hits that this terrain is anything but still. This is one of the beautiful, yet false, appearances of mountains—that they should mask such tremendous change with such monumental stillness.
Snowpeak is no different. Temperate Zoran climes quickly give way to unforgiving arctic winds and the blank canvas of white. The path upward is always treacherous, and never easy, but it seems to be one of those things that moves the human spirit ever onward. As Mallory famously said, the purpose of climbing is simply to quell “the indomitable desire to see what lies beyond the heart of man.”
In this environment lies Snowpeak Ruins. This structure rests at an elevation far higher than anything else within Hyrule, and its very existence seems a folly—as if those that built it were testing the gods by trying to survive in such impossible conditions. And it appears as though they were ultimately unsuccessful. The ruins are in a sorry state. The weight of time and ice has laid low the walls and ceilings of this structure, and winter has slowly crept into the passageways and halls, quietly reclaiming what it once possessed.
But we can imagine the previous opulence of this place. Although we do not know why it was built, or by whom, it is clear that this family had great wealth, power, and a vast experience of travel and culture. In layout, it is very much a fortress. High curtain walls form a perimeter around an inner courtyard, and a tall central keep towers above the rest of the complex. It is perched upon an outcropping of stone in the shadow of a large cliff, and is accessible only by a narrow bridge. The façade is low to the earth, and few windows can be seen from the exterior; this is likely tied to the need for insulation, more so than the interior need for light. The complex is two stories of flat, featureless stone, with square pillars demarcating the corners. The interior is sheltered by a steeply-gabled roof, which is normal for buildings in cold regions, as this precludes massive buildup of snow upon the roof and subsequent collapse. Four guard towers rest at the corners of the courtyard, and hold a commanding view of the interior court as well as the valley floor far, far below. The keep was perhaps the personal chambers of whoever was in command of this fortress when it was still in use, and is the only chamber to have ornate windows and all the trappings of a bedroom inside. It is also incomparably more well-tended than the rest of the structure, giving it obvious importance over other areas.
The entryway is as grand as that of any European estate of antiquity. For although it is a fortress, it is also a country manor. It bears its own unique sigil not tied to any known entity of the land; it takes the form of two rapiers, crossed before a winged crest. Past the thick wooden front doors, the traveler is greeted by high ceilings, beautiful, exposed beams, intricate woodwork, and sumptuous detailing upon every surface. Light filters in through three small windows above the door, dancing upon the red carpeting and forming myriad flickering shadows upon the wooden engravings. The floor and walls are made of grey and black bricks, and are matched with dark woods and delicate tiles near the floor. In the vaults formed by the archways to either side are large suits of armor, complexly gilded with fine metals but bearing no known device.
These suits of armor present a strange notion. They are not suits made for human beings. In fact, this is quite contrary to actuality. They are identical to the suit of armor worn by Darkhammer, the miniboss of this dungeon. A chainmail undercoat covered by thick plate mail, with four-fingered gauntlets and a hole in the back for a tail can all be seen within this particular design. The stature is also curious, and obviously not reflective of human composure or frame. So, why would such creatures have equipment awaiting them within this complex? It may be that they are simply decorative—the trophies of past campaigns. Or it may be that the ruler of this mansion was not tied to the Kingdom of Hyrule at all, but was instead ruler over a sovereign polity. Ultimately, it is very odd that the protective equipment of the enemy would be allowed within the halls of such a structure.
Further into the main hall, it becomes evident that this place was certainly not built by the current Yeti residents. Like a Swiss chalet, the wood paneling upon the walls and pillars is exquisitely tasteful, presenting a stark alternative to the rugged nature of the brick walls. Both staircases leading upward have been partially destroyed, perhaps by time, and perhaps by the weight of overzealous Yeti feet. Once again, clearly this place was not made by such beings. A rack of spears lines the far wall, resting behind a metal grill, beautifully made into the shape of a flower.
A painting of the Sacred Grove
The doorway to the inner halls is equally as splendid, consisting of dark panels of wood inlayed with golden devices of the sunburst and house sigil. On the consummate carvings to either side of the door hang immense candle holders, and above is a gold and red interpretation of the coat of arms. Almost as queer as the incongruous suits of armor in the entryway are the paintings resting upon the floor and walls. The paintings that hang upon the walls are hopelessly faded. And though it is clear that they are portraits of important figures, it is difficult to even distinguish biological sex, let alone to discover their identities. But these paintings are not the strangest among them. The landscapes are far more perplexing. Scenes depicting the Sacred Grove, the Arbiter’s Grounds, Hyrule Castle, Ordon Goats, and even what is seen by some as the City in the Sky feature here on repeat. And while Hyrule Castle and the Arbiter’s Grounds may be hallmarks of Hyrulean vistas, how is it that there came to be a painting of the Sacred Grove? Locked away deep within Faron Woods, protected by an unruly spirit, and locked to all but the Hero of Time, how is it possible that someone else had been there to witness it? Could this eclectic military house have been culturally-minded travelers with a penchant for exploring the unknown hinterlands of Hyrule, or are these simply meant to confuse the average gamer?
I wish we knew.
What we do know, however, is that the range of scope of those in power here was great. These halls would have once housed a fairly large guard force, based upon the size of the kitchen and the extent of the storerooms full of weaponry and cannonry. (The instructions to the cannon, it should be made known, are in Hylian. Yet another aspect to this mystery.) We also know that someone had exotic tastes. Cheeses and pumpkins from Ordon can both be found within certain chambers, and in conjunction with the paintings it becomes obvious that at least one resident was culturally literate—and highly so. With great wealth comes expensive tastes, and this is reflected by nearly every object. Expensive time-pieces, heraldic symbols, leather-bound books upon wooden shelves, large fireplaces, chandeliers and vaulted ceilings all hint at an aristocratic atmosphere. Because this is a castle, and due to the religiosity of every Hyrulean culture, it is only natural that there be a small chapel within. This is one of the larger rooms, and is very traditional in style. High windows, the glass has long since fallen out, filter in both light and air, and a layer of snow covers the rug running the length of the center aisle. Pews line either side, and lead to some form of sanctuary, which is a separate room in itself, though much of it is visible through the two large windows on either side of the door. As there are no religious markings upon either edifice or embellishment, it is not known what religion was practiced herein.
The ruins of Snowpeak represent the human endeavor to triumph over nature, and in this brutal yet beautiful environment they pass from one resident to the next, undergoing imperceptible, but ever real, changes.
The coat of arms of this house can be found in one other place in Hyrule. On the lowest ridge of the path leading to Zora’s Domain from North Hyrule Field is a cave of ice. It consists of four rooms, each of which holds a distinct puzzle, ultimately leading to a heart piece. Magnificent arabesques glimmer from beneath sheets of ice, and torches set into the wall give the cave an air of the unknown.
The decorations herein are reminiscent of those at Snowpeak. The weapons are similar in craftsmanship, yet the decorations upon their hafts are far more ornate within this cave. And here, not only is the coat of arms present. It exists alongside the crest of the Royal Family. In addition to this, the gates of this place are Zoran in nature- exactly like those within the Water Temple. Perhaps this cave is meant to show the interconnectedness of all peoples within Hyrule. And because this cave yields no history, it is impossible to extrapolate based upon these findings. But the strangeness at Snowpeak is not now an isolate; although it is not known how this sigil was dispersed (or indeed where it originated), it now has taken a place within the larger culture of Hyrule.
After NYC, I started getting consistent job offers in LA, so I decided to rent a studio space near the beach. It was actually one of those industrial buildings turned apartments, but it was big, open and I could live and work in the same space, so it was perfect for me. The bedroom was separated from the rest of the space by walls that stopped 4 feet from the exposed beam ceiling. I set up a studio instead of a living room and had a few days of fun shopping to fill the kitchen and bedroom with necessities. It was the first time in over two years that I actually had a place of my own. I have been using my sister’s home as my permanent address while living out of a suitcase.
I was enjoying living in LA. Having the beach just a few minutes away was never something I thought I would enjoy, but I found myself getting up early to take morning jogs on the beach nearly everyday. It helped clear my mind and prepared me for my day ahead.
I spent many of my jogs on the beach thinking about the number that has been living in my phone since NYC. I have had Harry’s number for nearly 2 months but I just couldn’t even think about calling him. I had no idea what I would say. What would I even expect to come out of a conversation with him? I didn’t want to open old wounds. I was happy with my life, I didn’t want to mess that up by contacting the one person who broke that happiness.
I know I’m not the same girl I was 2 years ago. I learned a lot about myself. When you spend 2 years with only yourself as consistent company, you get to know yourself really well. I have so much more confidence and I had found joy in my life on my own. I know if I was in the same position now, I would not break the same way I did then. I was stronger, better, like I set out to become.
I had been in LA for nearly a month when I got an offer for another magazine cover. This time it was GQ. I had worked with them a few times in the past, but never for a cover shoot. I had a meeting with the editor about the look they were looking for an followed it with a meeting with their stylist who would be joining me for the shoot. I was excited to hear I would be working with Sam Smith. I loved his music and he was one of the few artists that could still make me a bit starstruck.
The day of the shoot, I took a little extra time on my appearance. Rather than my normal leggings and baggy shirt that I prefered to work in, I pick a pair of dress slacks that still have some movement and a stylish dress shirt. I felt like I should be a bit more professional. The shoot was at a studio that GQ rents out. It was chaos when I stepped inside the building. People were running to and from the studio, getting props set up and wardrobe in place. It seems that I wasn’t the only one excited about working with Sam Smith.
Sam arrived and after a short introductions, he was swept off too the wardrobe room. I took a few minutes to introduce myself to some of the crew, some of whom I’ve worked with in the past. Once Sam reentered the studio, I noticed right away that he was tense.
“This is a lot of people, don’t you think?” I winked as Sam and he shot me a relieved smile. I quickly shooed everyone but one lighting assistant and one stylist off to a lunch break. I found Sam personable and very friendly. We laughed and got along right off the bat. I didn’t have many friends in this city, and no one was from back home. It was nice to hear a familiar accent.
“I think we are done, Sam. You can go ahead and change out of that suit.” I powered down my camera and leaned over the computer, reviewing the last batch of shots. Everything looked really good. I would only have to do minimal amount of editing to get the lighting right.
“You are quite the specimen, Sam.” I laughed to him as he walked back into the room. “If you swung for the same team, I would be begging you to take me on a date.” He laughed.
“Hell, let’s go on a date anyway. Lunch? My treat?” He shot me an exaggerated wink.
“Oh, Mr. Smith, you do know how to woo a girl.” I laughed. “Sounds really nice, actually. Hearing your accent makes me a little less homesick.” I packed up my equipment and left the rest for the GQ crew to clean up.
Sam suggested a local place that he said was all the rave. We had only been sitting for a few minutes when someone called out Sam’s name. Expecting a fan, we both turned. My jaw almost dropped to see one of my other favorite artists walking towards our table. Ed Sheeran. I very rarely get starstruck, but Ed was sure to have me a stuttering mess. I knew he was friends with Harry, but I was always too nervous to accept Harry’s offer to introduce us.
Sam made quick introductions and before I knew it, Ed was shaking my hand and smiling into my eyes.
“You should join us?” Sam offered. Ed said he was meeting a friend but they would love to join us.
“Ah, speak of the devil.” Ed said, looking behind me. Sam and I followed his gaze and when my eyes met the green one looking back, my heart dropped.
Harry’s step faltered but he recovered and moved his gaze to Ed in greeting. They did the man hug and then turned as Ed introduced him to Sam. Then their eyes were all on me.
“Y/N.” He said, just above a whisper. I nodded my head in his direction and offered a soft smile, not trusting my voice. I saw Ed’s eyebrows go up in question over our greeting. He looked to Harry for explanation. Harry simply shook his head. It seemed an unspoken message was received because Ed dropped it as we all sat down.
Ed and Sam carried most of the conversation with Harry only interjecting every once in awhile. I only spoke when directly asked something. Our food arrived and I was glad for the distraction.
I was picking at my salad, finding my appetite was lost. I chanced a stolen look at Harry and felt a jolt go through me when my eyes were met with his. He was watching me from across the table. I felt my face flush and I looked back down at my food.
My phone started vibrating in my bag. I jumped to answer it.
“This is my next client, I need to take this. Excuse me.” I said quickly as I jumped up to take my call outside. My next client had her schedule clear up earlier than expected and they wanted to meet in an hour. I quickly agreed, glad for an excuse to leave lunch early. I turned to walk back into the restaurant and jumped when I found Harry standing a few feet behind me.
“Hey.” He said softly, taking another step closer to me.
“Harry.” I said warily. I wasn’t prepared for any sort of conversation with him.
“You’re leaving?” He indicated at my phone. I nodded. “Can we… I wanted to…” He stumbled over his words. Running his hand through his hair, he took a deep breath. “Can we please talk. I need to talk to ya. Please?” He sounded desperate.
"I don’t know, Harry.” I blew out a frustrated puff of air. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”
“Please, Y/N. I know I don’t deserve a second of your time, but I’m begging you. Please.” He looked like he was about to cry. His eyes were trained on the ground.
“OK.” I whispered. His eyes snapped up in surprise. I was surprised with my answer too.
“When? Tonight?” He was eager. He probably wanted to meet before I chickened out and changed my mind.
“I have this client for the rest of the day, it might run late. But I can do tomorrow evening.” His eyes lit up.
“OK, dinner, yeah?” I nodded. “Here, let me give you my address. Does 5 work?” I nodded again before opening the contacts on my phone and handing it to him.
“You’re already in there.” I mumbled. His eyebrows rose and he lifted his eyes to meet mine.
“Gemma?” I nodded. He offered me a half smile before opening his contact and adding his address.
“Thanks, I really need to go.” I indicated back towards our table after he returned my phone. I went in to say goodbye to the others. I couldn’t help but notice their curious stares at me and then back at Harry who was still waiting by the front doors.
“You good?” Sam asked quietly in my ear as we hugged goodbye.
“Yeah.” I nodded. “Just a blast from the past, you could say.” He pulled back and looked into my eyes.
“I take it you two have history? You could practically cut the tension in here, it was so thick.” I chuckled.
“Yeah. We have history.” I said softly and pulled away to give Ed a polite nice to meet you and goodbye.
I walked back to front and stopped in front of Harry. He didn’t say anything but he stepped forward and pulled me in for a hug. He took a deep breath.
“Thank you agreeing to meet me. I’ve spent that last two years wondering if I would ever see you again and suddenly you are here, standing in front of me and I can’t let you walk away without at least talking.” He pulled back from the hug and looked into my eyes.
Gemma had said he was torn up about everything but I never fully believe her until I saw the hurt in his eyes looking back at me.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.” I said softly before stepping back. “Bye Harry.” I stepped forward again and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek before turning to walk away. I took a few deep breaths to try to hold my emotions as bay.\