Casket of Shadows

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Unlike dragons these creatures connect to the mind, not the heart-mind. I felt the almost bullish attempt to meld without asking in a language with which I was not familiar with. For a second I did not allow it and then I felt a confusion which was almost simultaneously connected to the flight pattern of my ride as it seemed to falter instead of following its mate. So I opened part of my mind, allowed it to absorb the language and the melding, and immediately gave my name, the one Artour had told me was to be used in her world.

“I am the one called Nee-shar-tar and you will take me to Artour so I may continue on my quest. I mean you no harm.”

Funny, but saying that name seemed to pull in an unseen power into my avatar from all around me. My transport seemed to feel it to, and the flight became smooth again and the feel of the connection, the mind-melding changed and was no longer hostile.

We glided downwards and also far out over the massive forest below. For the first time, I was able to see not only the vastness of the area but also to gain the feel for the trees and their ancient nature. I found I could feel and hear them as we passed above them. Many I now understood were many hundreds of thousands of moon cycles old, yet they spoke of recent dark times and there was still a lingering fear within them. I couldn’t help myself, I sent out a gentle message of love, peace, and light in the hope of easing their fear. There was a forest-wide silence. No thought was emitted, no breeze in the leaves could now be heard. It was if everything held its breath.

Then an ancient oaken spoke.

“Who are you stranger that you can hear and feel us? Your essence is not one we know. Who are you in truth, that you understand and speak our sacred tongue?”

“I am named Nee-shar-tar and the goddess has instructed me to be here at this time. I send greetings, peace, and healing to all as I follow my quest here, for this I feel is much needed and I give it freely for all to receive if it is their will.”

Now my head and the air seemed to be filled with whispers. Other voices where added as we slowly circled and moved across the skies above the forest below. The entire forest was alive. Amongst this chaos of sound I heard the call Artour had used before to call the lizards, it was then that I noted that her flying lizard had disappeared ahead of us. Our flight was nearing its completion.

The air shivered and warped in front of us, a portal or veil through which we passed leading us into a hidden space or another dimension within the main space and now there before me was a gigantic volcano whose rounded peak was coated in ice and snow that was just visible through the broken cloud that surrounded it. Far below the land was as before, an ancient forest of magnificent trees.

I saw Artour standing on a cleared section still above the canopy height of the forest, yet not even halfway up the undulating slope of the mountain As we came in at an angle to land, presumably aligning with convection currents, I also noted a smaller open toped cinder cone that had been born at some time on the side of its mother, here I watched in amazement as a lizard left the open top and using the thermals obviously caused ridding them high into the air in an effortless gliding flight.

My ride also noticed this and through our connection I felt a warmth of coming home.

Artour walked over, and with her long-fingered hand gently caressed the lizard’s nose.

“Thank you young one for carrying our special guest. Now, go home and enjoy yourself we shall have no need of you now for a while.”

Then she looked at me and smiled, her large eyes blinking slowly as she did so.

“On behalf of all, may I thank you for the blessing you gave as you flew here, yes, Nee-shar-tar, blessings of healing, peace, and light are much in need still here both amongst my people and our world.”

She dropped her gaze and I heard her sigh as I unseated myself from the lizard and also gave my thanks to it and then watched it slowly walk away and disappear into a very large cave opening which I had not previously noticed.

Artour was now standing with her long slender arms crossed in front of her, each hand hugging her shoulders, looking out over the expanse of the forest below and ahead as far as the eye could see. I quietly stood next to her and could feel a deep sadness well up inside her. I touched her arm gently.

“Artour, please tell me what happened. I believe I need to understand more before I continue on this path, and as you have brought me to secure space, I can only believe that your people at this time would be afraid if I was known to be here, this would also bring the understanding to the avatar you chose for me, in case we were seen.”

She uncoiled her arms and took my hand.

“Come Nee-shar-tar, it is time to get you the answers you seek, but not from me, from those who hold the memory for that is part of why you have been brought here.”

The path was narrow and steep leading from the landing-place down, down into the forest below. On a couple of occasions we had to cross, on steppingstones the heads of rivers as they plunged over sheer cliffs and fell down to be lost in another layer of trees and undergrowth may be hundreds of feet below. I had to remember, as we did this, that in this form, I too was well in excess of nine feet tall. Silently I followed the loping gait of my guide. Taking the time to absorb the natural surroundings and the quiet whispers from the forest that seemed to increase as we passed.

Many turns and passes I detected as we moved forward, sometimes doubling back on ourselves, sometimes going upwards again before once more returning to a lower level until finally, we arrived at a clearing surrounded on three sides by thick vines that seemed to bar our way.

Here Artour simply sat herself down and crossed her legs as if to go into a meditation on the soft earth outside the vine curtain.

“Now we wait here for entry to be granted.”

She tapped the space next to her,

“Please, come sit with me and I will tell you a little about me while we wait. It should not belong.”

I sat myself down facing her, also crossing my gangly limbs to the same position as she had, I could feel the warmth of the soil below me and at any other time may well have said greetings to the essence that made up this planet, yet, for now, I was drawn instead to list and concentrate on the story starting to unfold.

Artour conjured up a holographic image between us, it shimmered slightly as it came into being. A planet that was blue and green, very similar to my own home, Earth. But here the land was all one large area completely surrounded by sea. Every part was covered in trees from what I could make out.

“Arborum, the place I was born and raised. I lived with my parents and the extended Forndar family clan. As you noted when we first met our genetic race is elfin, yet we are from a very ancient stock, and also as you notice we are a mix of all the elemental energies on a planet. The land, the air, the water, and the connective life. When I was what we call the tadpole stage of our life.” She smiled.

“Yes, very young. I used to go with the women and my mother and learn about the herbs and the plants, the connection to the trees, and all that is our daily world. When our clan mother talked in the evening time, I would hang on her every word.”

Her eyes closed and she seemed to go within herself, to memories she loved, then she was back, and the sadness shadow crossed her large eyes once more.

“ My brother Zyronfor went with the young men and the elder males and learned to hunt with compassion and to protect all that we are. Our clan was very much one of peace, never taking more than we needed and always, always aiding all that needed aid. But there were others who became lazy and they lost the connection and could not work with nature, so they would come and take what they wanted from our clan and others like us when they found we would offer help without wishing for anything in return. They believed us weak and then over time our world changed.”

She shook her head sadly.

“When I was on the point of becoming a woman, I chose to join the sisterhood and work with the spiritual and natural balance of the All in our world. I was so proud that day when I was officially accepted, and I was not sad when it meant I had to leave my clan and move out into the sacred space to complete my learning.”

Now there was silence again. This time I felt she was listening for something rather than going back into her memories. Now, I understood that she was one of the priestesses for the clan. More started to make sense, but still the reason for me being here and the traps and hidden entrance in the desert on Rondilium still didn’t make sense.

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