Casket of Shadows

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Challenged

Leaving the beach and stepping forward on the path I became aware of more of my surroundings, the vegetation was definitely more tropical here than I had seen on many of the lands I had been to. Yet, it also seemed larger, almost one might say pre-historic, or what I perceived prehistoric to be like. Large three-foot-long leaves, on giant fernlike trees, Mushrooms and other fungi the size of family dinner tables, I suddenly thought I would hate to meet the bugs that ate these. Then quickly changed my thoughts so they didn’t manifest in front of me. Although not fast enough as when rounding the bend in the track that was hidden by the exotic foliage of a flowering bush, I stopped in my tracks at the sight of an enormous caterpillar sat atop a mushroom humming to himself.

He was purple and his stomach area was a lighter hue of lilac. The

spots on his sides where his spiked sensitive hair sprouted from were made up of rings of black surrounded by red then electric blue. Horned antennae on his head, while short where vivid bright cherry red. His head was turned towards the path that I was walking on. I felt his smile although I did not see it. I stopped dead in my track, not sure if he had detected me somehow.

“Tis a long time since one such as thee has walked this land. I do declare I feel your presents on every hair yet can see you not.”

Perfect voice speech, although a little slurred, it still took me quite by surprise. Yet, I hesitated to be drawn into showing myself or answering.

“Come, come now don’t be coy,

come sit awhile with me and enjoy

a sliver of my hospitality.

A slice of mushroom to open your mind

and send you skipping through out our land.

Come, please, sit here beside me now,

Then later you may then continue happy on your way,

’tis so rare we have outsiders here,

come sit and talk of what you know

bring us news of off-world joy, and devious action…”

I had to stop my thoughts with care, for this reminded me of things from Alice-in-Wonderland, and yet, the final words of his speech and the warning from the maned Panlong ran screaming through my mind. No, I would not succumb to friend nor foe on this journey for there was much I had left behind, and much more I had to do, so eating mushrooms that would send my head no doubt into orbit, for I was already walking in other worlds…no. Time to walk on as if I had not heard him.

Softly as if walking on rice paperback while learning with Master Weng Choo, I passed and heard him growl and rumble as he realized he had failed. On turning back, there was nothing there, just trees and ferns and oversized mushrooms.

Many tracks seemed to cross my given path. Many had animal and humanoid spore printing, yet I felt none close at hand. Yes, I heard them, I heard laughter and also screams and cries for help. Yet I could not, would not leave the path, it was almost as if I was walking in a twilight place between two worlds, two dimensions within the same space. The path being the divide and to go to either side would draw me into that timeline. I was being tempted. The words of the Panlong before he left me rang in my ears.

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.”

Focus. Only one thing now could enter my mind. The path on which I walked, and so I touched the living gift from the goddess which rested under the skin of my sword arm and as it moved, I to moved forwards.

At first the tests were aimed at memories and calls from my Earthly life and aimed to make me leave my path to give assistance or to run into the arms of those I loved and missed, my parents. Then they aimed with surgical precision to the very heart of my empathy and the call of lost souls in danger and torment. Next the voices of my dear teachers calling me to leave the path and come to them, at first asking, then demanding, yet still I walked on. The center of the path below my feet, one step at a time, trying to close out all I heard. One step at a time.

I had closed down my mind from all around me, close and locked the gates to the connectivity that allowed others to know my thoughts. Closed down my telepathic connections and gone silent to all the universe around me. I had gone within and drew now on all the strength of all I was, I am, and knowing now that whoever they were who tried to stop me and played even now with my mind, knew who I was, there was no longer any need to hide.

I drew off the cloak of invisibility and stood tall and proud, centered and ready in my full warrior self. A light warrior, dragon rider, commander of a special unit. Around me I ensured a full body electric blue energy shield was in place and visible. My light sword was in my hand and fully charged the bright diamond white blaze of the blade was almost blinding. I was ready.

For a split second there was silence, then laughter that rang through the air and vibrated down and into the very ground where I stood. Rolling through the air like thunder, on and on and on, then in front of me the air shimmered and the veil shifted, there was the temple.

I had passed the test, or as I saw it now through my mind’s eye, I was a pawn on the chessboard of the gods and so far, I was one step ahead, the queen was obviously on my side.

I stepped onto the third step, the width and distance between them being unusually large and waited.

The peaceful feeling was easy to make one feel there was no need to hold protection in place, but I had been there before and now instinctively kept up my guard. Looking around in the rich yellow-green light it was as if I could hear a gentle soothing music floating all around me but could not work out where it came from.

The temple stood slightly elevated above the surrounding tropical jungle of fern trees and palms, of dense undergrowth and giant toadstools and mushrooms. Here on the steps which now I noticed where almost alabaster in texture, veined with a golden cream, rich and yes, flecked with tiny shards of sparkling crystal which caught the light. Looking up to the exterior columns of the small temple these too were created in the same material and for a moment I wondered if this in itself was a figment of my own creation, my own imagination.

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