Casket of Shadows

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The Mission Begins

Now in solid form I stood near the door and watched Dralinmer. I also looked around me as there must have been a reason he said specifically to land where I now stood. Three steps ahead of me, on the floor, was a narrow bridge leading to the main section of this cave. Either side of this bridge the ground fell away into what appeared to be the abyss. I also noticed that the bridge did not take a direct route, but was at an angle, so as I looked at it, the landing place on the other side was at an angle slightly to the right. On a clock face this would be at the two o’clock space. Obviously, my thoughts were open.

“You are right. But do not cross the bridge. That is a trap for the unwary. Take the number of individual traps you found and subtract them from the number you imagine this end of the bridge would mark on a clock face in an earthly twenty-four-hour day. That is your starting point. Then, taking the fact that you would have fallen into the abyss if you had turned the door ring clockwise, walk across the abyss on a path that would be equal to the visual bridge path, yet anti-clockwise from the twelve o’clock. Most important of all, trust.”

I took a deep breath and telling myself over and over again that I was safe I took a step forward into the open abyss. My foot rested solidly in mid-air. An invisible bridge held me and one step at a time, one foot in front of the other I inched forwards.

The lion Panlong and Dralinmer watched me silently. Once over I walked to them and looked into the waters of the pond.

“Greetings Aisha. Yes, I know who you are for it was foretold that it would be you who would come.”

The lion Panlong bowed his maned head slightly.

“You may call me Drondicles, for that name, was given to me by the goddess when she fashioned me for this task.”

I now bowed my head keeping eye contact with him as I had been taught by Master Weng Choo.

“Greetings Drondicles. It was indeed a path that took more than normal understanding to enter and if I had not asked the goddess for her help I may have failed. Thanks also to you and my teacher here for the answer to the final puzzle.”

I felt him in my heart center, as with Little One the dragon connection is based within the core of the heart and is warm and inviting.

Now I felt Dralinmer watching me.

“Are you ready to complete what you have been brought here for?”

I looked at him a little confused.

“When you braved the diamond white flame in the mystery school run by the Daughters of Athena and survived, you became a chosen one of the goddess, and as she gave you her gift which now you are learning to master, you also added her to your learned teachers on this journey within the Ancient Cosmic Prophecy. Now, she wishes you to take another step forward and I have agreed to help you as you may need some assistance in coming to this.”

He paused and his head turned slightly to one side, his icy blue eyes held my gaze, as if weighing me up, a second of pride flashed across his face. Then it was gone.

“So, are you ready? On this I may not come with you, and anyway, you are far better suited to the world of the Panlong than I am. I prefer to keep my feet dry, so to speak, but I shall remain here for your return.”

I had already learned on this journey to go with the flow. I could feel a movement in my arm, just under the skin, and looking down saw that where the amulet given to me by the goddess Athena had melded into my body, now there was a shape moving below the skin, like a snake. I was being called. So I took a deep breath to quell my inner nerves and climbed over the edge of the pond, lowering my avatar into the icy water alongside the maned Panlong. As the water flowed over me and I allowed my head to fully submerge I automatically changed into a more suitable avatar, the mermaid allowed me to breath underwater and would also allow me a heat centered telepathic connection to all water beings on this journey. I was ready, Lastly, I touched the hand of my teacher and left him sitting alone in the cave as I followed Drondicles down into the depths.

The feeling of the water on my flesh was invigorating, and I felt my whole body coming alive. The deeper we went I noticed that the light did not change. The light emerald green light appeared to be emanating from the very walls of the tunnel as we now continued in a horizontal, narrowing tube-like tunnel. The maned Panlong slithered forwards effortlessly and I followed just out of reach of his tail. Now the tunnel was narrow enough that I could no longer see past my guide and I was unable to swim with my arms, allowing only my tail to propel me forwards.

Suddenly, almost like a cork out of a bottle I was in open water and we both surfaced. Where were we?

Everywhere was bright, but not with blue sky and clouds, there was still a greenish tinge to the light yet also yellow and it was warm. In my mind I could only liken it to as a child playing in the garden at home and making a camp using a pastel green bedsheet hooked over some chairs, this was the same light as in there, looking at the sun through the sheet.

“This is as far as I take you.”

My guide's voice spilled gently into my mind.

“I will go with you to the beachhead and there you will take the path, do not leave it, neither to the right nor the left, keep always to the main track. Your destination is the temple on the hill which you will see in due course. When you get there do not go directly in, but, sit upon the third step from the bottom and ask within yourself for the next directions. There is a guide awaiting you there.”

I was about to answer when I became aware that the final part of this message had been passed by the dragon – rider connection through the center of the heart space. It was not to be overheard by any.

As the sandy beach came closer and the water became only deep enough to cover my mermaid avatar, I willed myself to change. This was something I had learned to master so it simply happened, and I was never, as in the early days, found embarrassed by lack of clothing.

Now I stood on the sand, the water still lapping around my ankles but now I was dressed in country style skirt and gypsy bodice over my elfin lightweight suit. My cloak now, in keeping with the rest of my costume was short, but within it the hidden pocket carried all my possible need in miniature. Lastly, I brought my walking staff into full size, checked my short sword on my hip, and felt for my light sword, which now nestled in the pocket. The fact the Panlong had gone to the most secret link for part of the last conversation told me that there may still be some unexpected excitement to come.

I turned to my guide just in time to see his head go below the water surface. I closed my eyes and going into the deepest part of my heart. mind I reached out to say thank you, and ask a question, but he came through first, strong, and direct to the point.

“Aisha, you have the gift of the Goddess, if at any point you are lost, or find a choice of track and both seem the same. Look to your gift from her and it will direct you. Do not allow yourself to be drawn from this path before you reach the temple. While this world is protected, there may be those who wish you to fail to reach the objective of this journey. Stay centered and remember you are here for reasons only known to the goddess, not even her brother has managed to break the codes. I shall wait here, yet, I also know you may not come back this way. May the goddess and the universe give you speed and good fortune.”

I could not reply for he broke the connection completely. Now I felt truly alone. Time maybe to look around before dashing off into whatever lay ahead. Visually I tuned in to all-around within a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree zone. No I would not risk turning bird as I had a feeling there was something here to counter such things. For now I would follow the path on foot, however, maybe it would be prudent to do so invisibly. No magic involved, no magical signature left for others to feel, I simply turned the elfin cloak inside out and it automatically reversed its size to ensure I was invisible from any eyes.

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