We set out very early in the morning while the sky was still dark. We certainly didn’t want to stir up any negative activity, within the Village or elsewhere. Ky’riak was content riding on my shoulder, while Ikthar, the Skydragon scouted ahead on the trail. Ferrin walked nonchalantly beside me, catlike in his movements. We didn’t speak, but understood each other in the inherent link of soul-sibs.
We had stopped momentarily at the Royal Palace, to say our farewells. Kyri-el and the Captain were there, as well as the Oberon and Tatiana. I received hugs all around. Tatiana slipped something into my pocket and said, “This is from both of us. Leave it until first camp. Take care. I know you will do well. Come back.”
Then, the Captain handed me a small dagger in its sheath. “I know you don’t use weapons, my Lady, but, if your friends need help, this may be the quickest answer – and you may need that edge. This enemy may underestimate your resolve. I don’t. Remember to have Ky’riak bring us updates.” And he turned away to talk to Ferrin, leaving me standing with Kyri-el.
She said, “We are linked – you and I – so send what message you can through your thoughts, once in a while. We all care here. Fare well on your Journey.”
Then, Ferrin and I, with Ky’riak on my shoulder, left the Village. I asked Ferrin if Deja-el had given him some of the Unicorn elixir, and he said, “Yes; indeed.” I myself was carrying extra elixir, for those who would join our Party who were not protected. The four of us then proceeded on to the Aeronel River, which divides the Elf and Dwarf domains. Ferrin and I poled our way across on the ferry raft. As we landed, Smashfoot and her son, Chip, met us. The transition between the lands appeared inconsequential, but in reality the taste and texture were vastly different. Not so much the light tingly energy of the Elves, but more dense, as to flow off the tongue like aged honey, kept in stone pots for centuries. The energies were similar in the mystical, ancient essence that bespeaks sentient magic.
Smashfoot had packed us generous portions of bread, cheese and jerky, and some kind of substances that looked like little stones. She said that, if we sucked on them, they would provide nourishment. I tried one and was a bit skeptical of the “nourishment” part. She offered us fruit and tea for breakfast, and a pastry as we left. There was no room for lingering. She gave us all hugs (leaving me breathless in its intensity), and then we moved on to the domain of the Rock Trolls. Her husband guided us through a deep tunnel that traversed the Dwarf domain, and opened onto the Rock Trolls’ land, saving much time.
Ky’riak flew on ahead seeking his own breakfast, and I could hardly see Ikthar at all, he was flying so high. Toward midday, we came upon the Rock Trolls’ central gathering Place. There were murmurings and disturbances in the air. The Chief lumbered over to me and spoke.
“It is good to see you, my Lady, although the circumstances could be better.”
“I know what has happened with the Elves, Ergt. What is wrong, here?”
“Sometime in during the day, yesterday, while we slept, ‘something’ opened a fissure near our resting Grounds. It connects somehow to your Human lands, and has allowed in some kind of poisonous corrosive fluid that is etching its way through our Land and injuring my People. It burns into their souls, Lady. You are fortunate to have Human ears – you cannot hear their distress.”
However, it was obvious that Ferrin, Ky’riak, and Ikthar could, by the expressions and movements they were making. I replied, “That is true, but I can feel it, and it makes me cry. Show me where this is.”
We walked over to the northeast part of their Land, and – sure enough – I could see the acrid smoke and steam rising from a vent. It looked like a sword had sliced through flesh, festering in its poisonous inflammation. Even Ferrin had to look away. I had made a mist-spray from the elixir to carry, as an inhalant in case of some type of air-borne attack on our breathing. I took it from my pocket, and called Ikthar to land in the nearby field.
I said to him, “We are going to cauterize this opening. I will spray the mist and you breathe fire through it onto the vent to seal it. I can only hold the can, so try to be precise in your flame, sir.”
“Wait, my Lady.” It was Tonner, the Chief’s son. “I can balance the can, and spray it. It is much safer for me than you with Laser-breath, here.”
He morphed his stony self over as close to the vent as he could, and I followed, setting the can where he directed. I watched in fascination as he manipulated smaller pebbles of himself to brace the can, and provide leverage to release the spray.
“Step away, my Lady. Go on, Laser-breath! Let’s get this over with!”
“Firing away, Boulder-brain.”
Tonner grinned at me, as if to say that the light-hearted banter eased the tension, and I agreed. I was very glad they weren’t serious. Then he dropped a stony “digit” onto the nozzle. Ikthar aimed and shot out a very focused and intense flame, through the mist and towards the vent. Many of the Rock Trolls had gathered in a half circle about our group.
In curiosity and amazement, we all watched as gradually the mist-laden flame etched its way through the tear in the Veil, and began sealing both the Human stream of corrosive material and the sabotaged Veil itself. So entranced was I by the proceedings, that I did not see the splashes of acid that were hitting Tonner. Finally, it was accomplished and a small quiet celebration ensued.
Tonner told me not to worry about the scars, as they made him look more the ‘warrior’. And this had been his first real Challenge anyway. His dad was equally proud and etched on him the mark of the Troll Elite, who protected the Land and People.
We rested, Ferrin and I, for about an hour, and then gathered our Party to continue. We were six now, including Tonner. It crossed my mind about questing with seven being optimum, but dismissed it as an errant thought. I asked Chip if anything unusual had happened in the Dwarf lands.
He responded, “Nothing so dire as with the Elves or Trolls, it seems. However, the truce with the Goblins appears to be disintegrating, as small groups have begun attacking isolated mine camps and villages. No serious injuries yet, but there is a sense of organization and intent not common to the Goblins’ way of life.”
“Well, as we are heading there next, perhaps we will discover the root cause of all that.”
“It will not be that easy, my Lady. There is no central command. It is an anarchist society, with survival of the fittest as the motto. Even if one Chief gives us sanction to cross – which I doubt – it will not hold true beyond his holdings.”
“What do you suggest?”
And then Tonner spoke up, “What can you offer them?”
“Yes. They enjoy barter and bribery.”
“Well, what is it that Goblins want? What would they barter for? What kind of bribe would they respond to?”
“Weapons they cannot make, magical artifacts – whatever can give them the upper hand against anyone.”
Then Chip jumped into the conversation. “But such things can make them even more dangerous to us!”
“A conundrum…” I replied. “Let me think.”
We reached the outlying regions of the Goblins’ domain after dark, and chose to remain in a huge, deep cavern just this side of the border, and wait for morning. Later, Ferrin came quietly back into the Cavern, and said, “It’s very strange, my Lady, but there seem to be a multitude of torches and campfires northwest of us, as if they were waiting – as if they knew we were coming – but not waiting like friends…”
I felt somewhat comforted now, having the Captain’s dagger, even though I was loathe to use it.
Sometime in the pre-dawn hours, Chip – who was on watch – exclaimed something quite ungentlemanly, and a struggling ensued. It woke us all, and we watched as he approached our small campfire, deep in the Cavern.
“Shall I twist its puny ugly face off, my Lady?” he asked with such vehement distaste that I thought he would do it anyway… that he was just asking us as a courtesy.
“No. Hold him, and let me hear what he has to say.”
At that moment, the Goblin started gibbering rapidly, looking about in fear.
“What’s he saying, Tonner?”
“Something about magic, a geas, my Lady. Something about some evil Presence among his People.”
“What about him, then?”
Tonner asked him, and he began gibbering in that rapid-fire clicks and grunts that I have never been able to emulate. Fortunately, my Gift lay in receiving intuitive pictures and linguistic understanding. Unfortunately, what I was receiving was horrific and unimaginably devastating. Apparently, some ‘demons’ (as he called them) had been loosed from the Portal for the express purpose of coordinating the Goblin People, so they would attack first the Dwarves, then the Elves. Most unsettling of all to me was the faded image of this endeavor, showing some of the ‘demons’ being loosed into Human lands.
“Tonner, how does he explain his presence here, in this Cavern? Is he also under geas? Is this all a trap, a deception, to lure us also into enthrallment?”
“He says he was out looting a Dwarf mine when this happened. He said it hasn’t affected him and he is worried about his family.”
“Dirty little filth-bag! I’ll rip you limb from limb messing about in my Land!” Chip shouted, and began efforts to detach the Goblin from his head.
“No.” I spoke – intense enough to stop him from making another move.
Tonner interceded, “He said the mine was empty, that he hurt no one. Just took a few baubles and sparklies, and an old war hammer. He says he wants to help us.”
“How did he know about us?”
“He said our movements have been monitored by this head ‘demon’ or whatever. He says he overheard his cousins saying they had to watch out for an army coming this way.”
“Well, we are surely no army.”
“True, but then we may be underestimated. That may be our strategic point.”
Chip spoke, then, subdued but angry still. “Ask him why we should not kill him.”
I let that go because it was still a reasonable question. Chip had not loosened his grip on the Goblin, but neither was he hurting him. Again the Goblin rattled off an explosion of linguistic sludge, like a trash truck dumping its innards onto the ground. Suddenly, I thought of the Gift that Tatiana had put in my pocket. I took it out, and realized it was a translator that I could wear, to speak and comprehend foreign languages. I was immediately grateful, and hooked it up to work.
Tonner began interpreting, “He says, although he has no loyalty to all his People, he is intensely protective of his tribe and family, and would do anything to free them from this evil.”
I was elated because I could finally hear for myself what the Goblin was saying.
“Yeah,” said Chip, “but how do you trust a Goblin, without his wrists and ankles tied, and a knife to his throat.”
“We have no choice,” I said quietly. “Our journey is to find this Portal, to stop this evil. We know it lies north of the Goblin domains. They are expecting us here, with every intent to kill us, or worse. We must find a trail through, if we hope to accomplish this before there is escalation of this destructive activity in all the other domains.”
“She is right,” Ferrin spoke up. “And with all of us watching him, I don’t think this Goblin could do much harm before he died.”
Reluctantly, Chip agreed.
Tonner explained to the Goblin our consensus and what was expected of him, although careful to not share specifics of our Quest.
The Goblin then replied, slowly and distinctly, that first ‘he’ was a ‘she’, and second she could also speak the Dwarf language and with the Skydragon, should the need occur. I heard her clearly with the translator, and was impressed. Another good omen, it seemed. And we needed all we could get at this stage of the journey.
Chip seemed astonished that the Goblin could understand him, and seemed a bit embarrassed that he could not reciprocate, nor had he ever even bothered to learn the Goblin tongue, thinking it an inferior language and not worth his time. He was determined now to try and redress that mistake. He pointed to himself and said, “My name’s Chip.”
She answered in his tongue. “I know. And you are arrogant, but cute. My name is Lifla.”
Although a quick blaze of anger lit his eyes, Chip checked himself and replaced it with a higher appraisal of his ‘prisoner’.
“Now let me go,” she stated – as an equal in the questing Party. A very assertive woman in her own right. I smiled.
To facilitate things, Tonner got my approval to explain who all was in the Party and the basic purpose of our Quest.
She replied, “Although they will be on guard at night, it will still be safer to travel then. I know a route we can use not far from here, but we need to remain concealed for the day until it is dark again. I know you are impatient to continue, Lady, but it must be so, if you are to succeed. Tell the Skydragon to conceal itself, too.”
As I marveled at her perceptiveness, she loosed herself from Chip’s hold, wandered over near the small campfire, and lay down to sleep. Then she said, “You all would be wise to do the same. We may be traveling for a few days straight without sleep once we leave here.”
Looking at each other, we silently agreed, and Ferrin took the next watch, as we rolled ourselves in our bedding.
True to her Word, Lifla led us through ravines and tunnels that honeycombed the Goblin domain for three straight days. I spent those nights up on Ikthar, where I could rest, keep watch, and get a dramatic overview of the landscape. Along with the Lady Goblin, I could advise where war-groups were camped or moving, and even a few traps not noticeable from ground level, and not easily detectable because of the un-Goblin-like magic being used.
On the fourth morning, as Ikthar and I were descending, I noticed a curious mist along the ground, moving as if with intent and sentience. It was headed toward the Party, somewhat north of the deep ravine they were currently traversing on a rope bridge. It, the Mist, had a subtle ichorous glow about it. I thought to move closer, but the Skydragon veered off.
“No, my Lady. It detects us. It is waiting for an attack. It thinks to follow my flame back to us and destroy us both before we have time to react.”
“Such intelligence you feel?”
“Yes; hidden, but very much alive within its foggy armor.”
Shuddering, I asked if he had any suggestions. It looked too vast for the company to attempt moving around. It looked as if no matter how fast they moved, they would not be able to avoid it.
“I will carry them. I will drop close enough that you can give this message to Ky’riak, and he can give it to Ferrin. There’s an outcropping of stone close to their right. Tell them to get up there on top. I can hover long enough for all to get on. I can carry them long enough to get beyond this harm’s way. You will need to let go of the rope harness and toss it over to use as a ladder. Sorry… but I won’t let you fall. Really.”
We circled downward to a point where I could call Ky’riak and have him relay the message. I watched as his beautifully grand self looked like a mosquito next to the Dragon. After he heard the message, he flew down to Ferrin. I watched as the Party moved eastward, while the Mist rolled elusively sluggish into the ravine, closing in on their position.
Now, Ikthar would have to hover for a few crucial moments, as the others climbed the ladder, mounting him cautiously and skeptically. Then, as Tonner took his first step, the rope snapped. It would not take his weight. The Mist was nearing the outcropping, although moving more slowly upward than it had through the ravine. There was little time left. Ferrin, with Ky’riak on his shoulder, leaped and grabbed a hold of the ladder remnant and climbed aboard.
Ikthar yelled, “Rock Troll, I only have time enough for a quick touchdown and jump. You must grab my talon as I wrap it around you. You must trust me. The Mist is clearing the edge of the Stone.”
And so the Skydragon touched down, wrapped its talons around Tonner, and lifted off. Had Tonner not held on, even at his size, he would have slipped through the talons and into the Mist. Ikthar explained that, generally, Skydragons put their talons through things, not around them, and so avoid such slippage and loss. It was hard to tell if he was smiling or not.
As Ikthar had leapt, the Mist had gathered empty-handed at the top of the outcropping and spewed itself angrily skyward. But it could not ascend near as quick and as far as a Skydragon, and finally it dissipated.
North of us, the horizon had become very dark, full of roiling boiling blackness and amber strikes of lightning. We could see tremors in the earth as they moved beneath trees and boulders. There was no other sign of life. As we neared, looking for a place for Ikthar to land and us to disembark, I could see the Portal, the Tear in the Earth’s heart. We landed on a cliff, facing it, as fear raced through us like electricity.
“Damn, that’s huge,” spoke Ferrin in an awed and raspy voice.
“How can we even get near it, my Lady?”
“And, then what? What then if we do get near it? Do we, do you, have a plan of some sort?”
I listened to them all, trying to figure this out for myself. I had made no plans. I had no idea what we would encounter. Then I spoke, “I will have to go to the Portal.”
“Not alone, Lady.”
“Yes. I will ride Ikthar as close as is safe for him. He can protect me and has movement capability that you don’t.”
“I don’t know. I’m thinking. If I make it back, I will meet you here.”
“And if you don’t?”
“Then you will need to move fast back to your Realms to forewarn your People.”
“I have no People right now, Lady. I am coming with you.”
Her tone brooked no argument.
“And we will provide a diversion,” said Ferrin, looking at Chip and Tonner. “Ky’riak can get messages to our Peoples faster than us anyway. So it’s settled.”
There was no changing of this Path, I could see.
Lifla and I climbed back aboard Ikthar. Ky’riak went with the men. Hopefully, luck would go with them as well. I waved, and then focused on the approaching Dark.
Although the horizon seemed endless with the Storm, I began to perceive a jagged piece of Blackness in its center. I knew that the Storm was a direct effect of the misuse of energy counter to the natural flow of life. I stopped paying attention to it, knowing that the Skydragon could handle most of whatever the Storm could offer.
“Nice compliment, my Lady. But it could be tricky and turbulent. Better you both tie yourselves down as tight as possible. And, we don’t know what sort of magic is afoot, either.”
As we drew nearer, it seemed as if the lightning was beginning to hunt us, as if it were being used as a weapon. Several strikes came so close that it singed a few of Ikthar’s scales, and the air stunk of ozone. But the Skydragon was an apt flyer, adept in his class, and ably navigated us even closer.
“Lady, I’m not sure we can get any nearer.” And as he spoke those words, a stab of lightning tore through his left wing. “Hang on,” he yelled. “We have to land quickly.” And we descended in a rapid and jerky spiral to the barren land.
“We are even more a target on the ground, my Lady.”
So I said, “Go now. Leave me. Take Lifla and get back to the others. Can you still fly?”
“Yes. Not well, but good enough to get out of here. Good luck, my Lady. Sorry.”
As he took off, Lifla jumped to the ground. “Are you crazy? Why didn’t you get out while you could?” I shouted above the Storm’s noise.
“I owe you. Let’s go.”
Lightning strikes scarred the land around us, but seemed unable to focus on us specifically. Suddenly, above us I saw dragons. Three, to be exact. Skydragons… carrying Ferrin, Tonner, and Chip… sending their own magic and flames into the Storm, toward the Portal, creating our diversion. We raced, Lifla and I, toward the Portal.
“What are you going to do, my Lady, that I may help?”
“You cannot assist me in this, except to protect me once I begin my own magic. And, if I succeed, to get me out of here and back home. I gift this to you,” and I handed her the dagger.
“Then I shall protect you, and you can trust that.”
“I shall.” I had to depend on her protection and the diversion, so that I could focus all my will against the overwhelming and consuming fear emanating from the Portal.
I knew, though I had not shared this, that no power-to-power struggle would be decisive, and indeed would most likely deeper enable the Beast. I knew my only hope of sealing this Portal was with Light Magic, the Magic and Love of Spirit. Now I would test how well I had learned my Lessons.
The Storm and Portal noises were ear-splitting, gut-wrenching screams of terror and pain, and nothing could be heard otherwise. Not even in my head. I signed to Lifla to remain at this point, as I continued to walk into the Portal. I saw her reluctantly agree, but still provided as much protection as she could with her own brand of magic.
I let go her image. I let go all thoughts of my companions. I let go all thought. I focused on being Light. Focused deeper and deeper. Felt the Light grow from the tiny inner flame of my heart. Felt the Light edge its way through the layers of my body, my fields of energy. Felt the impact of Darkness, recognizing danger, attacking through the fearful thoughts, images and manifestations it was sending me. Still, I knew no other recourse existed but to focus on my Light, fill it with Love, and embrace the Dark in incandescence. Focus. And then, beyond ‘focus’. So it wasn’t an activity but Beingness. An incandescent Light that filled the entire Portal with Love… not attack, not defense, not strategic maneuvers, not choking power, but Love.
And suddenly, I felt like I exploded into Incandescence. And I knew no more.
A whispering in my ‘mind’… “It is not time you should die. I have rescued you from death, as I promised.” Yeshua; I knew it was him, but I could feel nothing. I did not know myself to be myself, but only a wisp of sentience lost in some galaxy of Spirit.
Then, a gentle nudging – physical and mental – at the edge of my consciousness.
“Lady.” The whisper seemed to come from miles and years away.
“Answer me.” Another nudging. Warm hand against my cheek. Substance. Form. Feeling. And I stirred, and awoke, happy to be alive.
“Hey…” I softly grinned. “What’re you all doing here?”
“YES!!” I heard the exclamation, and thought of Ferrin. But, no, the voice was deeper. So I thought some more. The Captain?! I focused my eyes better. Yes, indeed. And what a company surrounding me!
It wasn’t my Elfhome, but the hospital. Ky’riak, Chip, Tonner, and Lifla. Ferrin, the Captain, and Kyri-el. All standing and staring at me.
The Captain spoke to my questioning eyes, “You’ve been in a coma for several days, my Lady. As you began waking, your friends here insisted on being present. The hospital is well-guarded, in case of isolated ‘demon’ things running amok. The Oberon and Tatiana will arrive shortly. New and fairer truces have been negotiated amongst all the Peoples of this Realm. It has been a busy week. And there’s a squadron of Skydragons waiting out on the west field for word of you. That’s kind of it in a nutshell.”
And then he smiled the most wonderful smile I had ever seen on him. It warmed my heart.
“And the Portal?”
“Gone, my Lady,” said an awestruck Lifla. “Nothing remains but glass where the land melted from your Fire.”
“Not my intention…”
“No matter. No matter at all. We’re just so glad you’re ok. Mum and Da will be coming this evening,” Chip remarked.
Tonner just looked at me, with such incredibly clear blue eyes, gently laying a pebbly hand over mine. “Glad you’re back,” he said simply, and laid a bag of marshmallows on the bed. “For later,” he grinned.
Ferrin took my other hand and kissed my fingers, saying, “Always here to help, my Lady.”
“Doesn’t hurt to get a complete pardon, either,” said the Captain, but he was still smiling.
Then Kyri-el took control and said, “You guys go on now. She needs some rest. Go on. Get out.” And she pushed all of them, but Lifla, out of the room.
“There. That’s better. Lifla says that she can weave her own magic with mine, and so increase and deepen the Healing of your body, mind, and Spirit. Here, drink this so you can rest, and we will do what we can.”
….. I didn’t wake until later that evening. But I did feel much more refreshed than before. Less bruised in body, mind, and Spirit, for sure. Whatever the blend had created, it certainly accomplished a lot within me. I could see through the window that an enormous bonfire had been built and lit. Tonner came in with the Captain, lifted me out of bed, and carried me – blankets and all – outside near the fire, upon a comfortable bed of feathered cushions.
One by one, we exchanged stories of the Quest, each of us filling in with unique perspectives, until we all knew the Whole, finally. Then, we kept the story going until all who had gathered at the bonfire knew it well enough to pass it on to another. Both the Oberon and Tatiana came over to talk to me, with the Prince, to wish me well, showing concern for the ordeal I had been through. Chip’s Mum, Smashfoot, and his Da also came over to me, fussing about my being so headstrong and all. I just looked at her and said, “You told me to quit being so roundabout… so I just went right in. Now, you’re fussing at me.” But I warmly smiled at her affectionate murmurings and ministerings about me. Lifla stood close to me, uncertain about her standing in this crowd. But I took her hand to reassure her, and told her I would escort her when I was well, back to her Domain if she wished. She smiled at me, and thanked me. Tonner and his family were also here.
Finally, we got out the marshmallows and toasted them. Or, as the Dwarves and Trolls did, burnt them into flaming balls to flick up in the air for the Skydragons to munch on… or themselves…depending. It was good to know that the Quest had ended well this time. It was good to be alive to enjoy it.
Pictures of the Quest Party: 1
Pictures of the Quest Party: 2