I opened my mouth to speak, then closed it again. I had an idea. My crystal, stone, in the pommel of my staff, was obsidian as was the one on the pommel of my sword. Maybe I could connect to the stones via these and find out what was needed to give access. I retrieved my staff and manifest it into its full size. Immediately I felt it vibrate. The naturally faceted stone in my staff was vibrating and shimmering slightly as it was drawn by the forces within the obelisk obsidian of the circle around the dais. Now I not only felt it but could hear a hum resonating in the air, steadily growing louder until the entire space was filled with the sound.
I closed my eyes and opened my heart to connect. Now, I could see the consciousness that lived within the circle. Every stone now showed the being within. They appeared as a golden white flame, flickering around a light body of over nine feet tall. The power they brought forth with their appearance was incredibly strong. There was no darkness within, yet, they were setting a tone of laws and the need to do things to correct protocol no matter what I was aware that I would never be allowed to simply place the casket, get a pat on the back, and walk away. This was going to be a test beyond anything I had faced until now.
The probing of my heart was rapid and like a hammer smashing into my very core. Then it stopped and I heard their words in my heart-mind.
“You believe you have the right to enter? You, even with the one called Athena being your sponsor still have to prove your worth. To fail will result in being voided, to succeed will allow entry into our circle only twice. Do you accept this?”
I paused, my closed mind now racing. If I was to only be allowed to enter twice this could be a trap to ensure I could not later retrieve the casket when asked to give it to Metatron. Think, think Aisha, how can you ensure this doesn’t happen. An idea rose in pictorial flashes. I unclipped my cloak as I answered.
“Yes. I accept the challenge for that is your law which I respect.”
I threw my cloak over the casket with the interior invisibility outside so the casket now was invisible.
“What are you doing?” boomed the question, it seemed to be all around, not just inside me.
“I wish to ensure I have all I will need before I undertake any test, if I may be so bold, as a warrior and dragon rider, this is my way. Please, allow me this time to prepare in case I do not reach the desired level of your honored choice to return.”
I waited for a second to see if this would be accepted and in that space of time realized their attention had shifted to the Goddess and they were together conversing in light language, a little one-sided as it were but it would give me the time I needed with their attention, I hoped directed elsewhere.
I stood my ground, trying not to show either my ideas nor fear. I knew I would return, yet, for a better word I felt the possibility of a trick, of Loki being present somehow. Accepting this sly projection, I felt I had to ensure I was not separated from the casket. I systematically checked my swords, the bolas which were given to me by Tandur, my spell pouch, and visually in my mind checked my hidden pocket for anything else that may be of use. I then reached once more for my cloak and at the same time magicked the casket into a small pearl-like necklace to slip around my neck. I faked the finding of this in the cloak pocket and slipped it into place and tucked it into my tunic. Whisking the cloak once more, invisibility side innermost, around my shoulders I took the opportunity to place a holographic replica of the casket in place of the true one.
“I am ready if it is your will to proceed.”
The last thing I saw was a nod from Athena and then the whole scene changed. I was standing in a landscape I did not recognize. My instincts had been triggered automatically and as I appeared, landed, I had encircled myself with my warriors' shield of light, the glowing blue forcefield totally surrounded me rather than just being to my fore.
There was not a sound. The air was full of the stench of sulfur and the sky was red and dust-filled. No orb of sun nor planets could be seen it was so dense. Around me the scenery was barren and rock-strewn, not a very hospitable place by any standard, yet, I was here I knew to be tested as worthy and so shield remaining around me I started slowly to walk forward for behind me my way was blocked by a sheer escarpment of rock. Ahead smoking boulders as big as houses and the occasional sudden whoosh of steam made my movement cautious.
“Ah, there you are.”
The voice seemed to come from everywhere. I spun around, a complete three-sixty but saw nothing.
“Before the Game starts let us tell you a little of what is to come. You will encounter as many trials as there are stones within the circle. Each of us has a trial for you to complete. If you do so, you shall have access once more to the dais, if however, you fail any you will continue and keep doing so until you indeed pass all. We believe not in punishment but in learning. Learn from each challenge and once mastered you shall indeed have passed, as yet, none have ever done so, but, then none has ever got this far before either. Yes, they failed and returned to Source, for this is the law.”
My mind flashed back to earth and the craze of the games that hold young and old alike for hours on the internet or computer, games of survival, of monsters or warriors which have through various levels of challenge, to be overcome. Now, I was in one of these holographic worlds myself and wished I had paid more attention. My next thought was of things Little One and I had overcome. Of my training with Master Weng Choo, Ipagar and others, of my dear friend and sorcery teacher Beloldwen. I took a deep eternity breath, centered myself, and was ready to begin.
The ground shuddered below my feet. I looked at the top of the massive bolder close to me, maybe ten feet away. I then made a move towards it, removing for an instance part of my shield so I could turn my cloak inside out and thus become invisible from whatever was coming, for I knew something was.
Using my shield almost like a tortoiseshell I protected my back as I used my hands and feet to climb. The rock was uneven and finding hold was not too difficult and thus before long I reached the uneven summit. I was not really prepared for what now lay ahead of me. From the ground I had seen a narrow scene because of the rocks, it had seemed to be simply a barren flat landscape, now, however, the whole scene was changed. In the distance, far below in a wide valley, I could see what looked like domes, between me and them was a no man’s land, not barren, but with little cover except for rocky outcrops, or that is how it seemed from up here.
Still the ground shook and I now had to take a wider stance to stop from falling over. Earthquake? Mind you that was probably the wrong word to use anyway as I was not on Earth. I had no idea where I was, except, I was here to fulfill the challenge of the keepers of the obsidian circle.