Casket of Shadows

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Hidden Realm

“Welcome to our kingdom of Arborum. My name is Artour. There is no need for your protective shield here for you have been welcomed and passed the tests so designed to weed out the undecided from the truth.”

I turned back the way I had come and there at eye level to me, while still standing on the ground fully three steps below me, stood a blue being. She, for inform it was female in a long flowing gossamer robe of pastel blue-green with earthen tones mixed in almost as if the material was a galaxy in the making. Her flesh was pale blue and her eyes wide, almost almond-shaped and dark pools of soft yellow with amber flecking, her hair worn like an avian cap of feathers.

She bowed her head slightly and then moved silently up the staircase and past me.

“Come. I have been instructed by the goddess to take you into the inner sanctum and give you the instructions given to me by our protector, the goddess Athena.”

Her voice was a sing-song tune, yet below I detected a purr which would be more in keeping with a Lyrian feline. As we reached the exterior pillars she turned and looked down at me smiling.

“I know I do not have to tell you that everything is a hologram, that what you see is not what is truly here, yet, for you it was what you would have expected. Come stay close and let us enter my world. Please, before we do may I touch the ‘gift’ the goddess gave you, to activate it for this sacred space?”

A little confused, yet feeling no harm was meant to me, I removed the gossamer armguard from my sword arm and watched as her massive hand gently moved across the moving form below my skin.

I felt a tingling run throughout my being and watched in mild astonishment as emanating out from the area of my subcutaneous friend my flesh started to take on a slightly sky-blue coloration. Next everything seemed to stretch, and I could feel my entire avatar changing. The feeling was strange, I had never felt anything like it in all the changes I normally made between the various I’s that I could utilize as I shapeshifted. I looked up at her questioning, but then couldn’t believe my own eyes as I was now nearing her own immense height.

She cocked her head slightly to the side and looked at me.

“Mm, yes, I think that is more in keeping with our home.”

Then I heard a peal of gentle laughter as she turned back towards the entrance area to the temple and led the way.

We walked into the coolness of the shadow between the pillars. The air shimmered and when it cleared, we were standing on a rock ledge high above an ancient forest. The sky was rose-tinted, and the air was fresh but humid. Below there seemed to be nothing but the never-ending canopy of mighty trees.

“Welcome to Arborum. Now before we leave let me instruct you a little as to why I chose to intervene and change your avatar rather than allowing you to systematically do it from what you saw.”

She smiled at me and I could feel a true gentleness in her heart.

She spread her fingers to show me what she meant. Amazingly, and I had not noticed, the elongated, almost pianist fingers were webbed. A thin but obviously strong membrane between each finger rather like the hand of a toad, or foot of a waterfowl, yet something was different. She flexed the long fingers and from nowhere the top part of each finger appeared to be made of tiny hooked bristles. Within a circular sucker.

“Oh. Is that for holding on?”

I felt a little stupid, but I was getting a flashing picture of blue beings jumping between the trees in the canopy and the hands gripping into the fibers of the bark, similar to a gecko. Able to literally stay in place even upside down. I shook myself back into the now.

Artour was looking at me.

“You are very receptive, and yes, we live much of time in the canopy, the trees are our friends, our home and in many ways provide all our needs as well as our protectors. The goddess has been very generous to us and we are thankful for this. In our history, occasionally there have been times when we have had outsiders venture in via portals, occasionally the veils thinned and then we had to be ready to protect ourselves.”

She looked away, unable to hold eye contact. I felt something was wrong, but she was not ready to tell me. Was this why I was here?

“You will be called Nee-shar-tar while you are with us, you are an honored guest sent by the goddess and that is how I will introduce you, for many are nervous of strangers. I hope you can accept this small deviation from the full truth, yet, there is truth within it, not deception.”

Now I felt her sadness and placed my strange hands on her arm and said I understood. When I touched her skin it felt clammy and cool to the touch, I smiled at her and she nodded slowly. Then I took a deep breath looked out over the crazy drop down to the canopy and let forth a sound like I have never heard before. A mix of the vowels a-o-u, but running together, in an elongated sound that emanated down deep within her. Her head and neck stretching outwards as the sound flowed from her.

“You can fly?”

“Yes, I can fly. I can fly as a dragon rider, I can fly with or without my own wings, I can, if it is easier translocate as long as I know where to and know the area is clear.”

I watched her mouth open as if she was truly surprised. Then a sudden panic crossed her face.

“Please, you must not talk of these things here, do not even think openly of them. No I meant, I was asking if you would be able to fly alone on the back of one of our flying lizards or squirrels, no more than that.”

She looked away and called the same call again out into the vast expanse in front of us.

Far in the distance two specs came into view. They seemed to rise using thermos from the land of trees below. Now, Artour pointed to them.

“They come. When they come alongside simply jump onto the back and your hands will automatically grip and create not only a physical connection but also a telepathic connection to the lizard. This is our way; we live in harmony with our world.”

I nodded and waited, watching as two dragon-sized flying lizards came in alongside, one behind the other. She jumped and landed squarely on the first and as it moved off in a steep curved dive towards the trees below my mount came in and letting caution to the wind I to jumped and allowed myself to become one with my ride.

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