The Invisibles-Chapter 2.

-Cora! Are you ready? Can I come in?

The voice of Galaor was slightly nervous. Coming back abruptly from her reverie, Cora opened the door and embraced her father.

-I’m ready, Dad, don’t worry. Look!-she said and turned round. The sunlight was dancing around her, sparks bouncing off the slender figure dressed in a blue-green dress and tunic, embroidered with gold rimmed leaves. Cora’s fiery hair was combed into an intricately tressed tail  held together by blue and green hair-pins. She took her father’s arm and left the room, walking confidently towards the Ceremony Hall, followed by her beaming mother and excited little sister. The rest of the family and friends were walking behind them, whispering to each other about their beautiful Queenie.

   The high doors of the hall opened, letting in the ten young girls and their escorts into the spacious chamber where the most important Court members were waiting for them. Soon as everyone gathered inside, the sound of the Soul Bell started to ring, announcing the arrival of the Queen. It was a deep sound, seemingly coming from the body of the Tree around them, enveloping the audience in waves of soothing music,serene yet solemn. The hind wall of the room opened and the Queen  stepped forward.

    Cora watched her, mesmerized by the majestic gracefulness of the elderly woman. She was tall and lean, her face preserving the original beauty, despite the marks of so many ages. She was wearing a long, amber colored dress decorated with emerald vines and miniature blue butterflies. Her white hair was flowing freely around her shoulders, creating a halo around her face. The wings of the Queen were glossy and translucent, with purple-blue iridescence. But the most striking feature were her eyes: deep blue with a gaze that could see behind any pretense.Still, the appearance of the Queen was exhaling benevolence and kindness. People around her bowed respectfully as she walked towards the circle of blushing and nervous Queenies. The young girls bowed deeply and the Queen gestured them to rise so that she could see each of them. The First Lady joined her, carrying the silver tray containing the Royal Acts of recommendation.

  Wise Matriarch of her little nation, the Queen stopped by each Queenie and handed out the enscripted roll, saying a few words of  personally tailored wisdom and encouragement. She gently touched their forehead with her hand, sharing protective magic that was coming from the Tree. When the Queen finally stopped in front of her, Cora sensed the powerful aura surrounding her. They looked each-other for a moment and Cora felt her heart opening like a flower under the scrutiny of those eyes. The Queen  put the roll in the hands of the girl and then she gently touched  her forehead.  Cooling sensation ran through Cora’s whole body and for a fraction of a moment, she felt a total communion with the Tree. She was the Tree from its intricate web of roots embracing the land, to the last trembling leaf up in the highest branch. The flow of magical sap was rushing through her veins and her heart was filled with emotions. There was awe and joy but also concern and surprisingly, there was fear. Something malevolent and menacing was lurking beyond the boundaries of their land….But what could that be?

“ Follow your fire, my child-she heard. Follow your fire….”

The whispers of the Queen brought the girl back to reality.

“I will-she murmured.

Music exploded around her as the ceremony resumed as the Queen left the Hall. Families, friends, people surrounded the Queenies, congratulating them, sharing their good wishes and hopes for their safe and victorious return. Cora regained her composure and smilingly joined her loved ones. After all, this would be their last family afternoon together for a while.

-Amita! Come, let’s take a flight!- she said and picking up her little sister, she flew out of the room, up to the top of the Tree. The giggling of the little girl filled the air.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When she opened her eyes she found herself standing inside a glowing, reddish orange mist. The only firm thing was the ground under her feet. No sound, no directions. Nothing, just the faintly pulsing mist. Then, a deep sigh and muffled sobs broke the silence and she turned abruptly towards the source of the sounds.

-Hey! Who are you?! What happened?!

In response a sudden vortex appeared inside the orange mist and it seemed like something was coming towards her.

“ Me and my big mouth…”-thought Cora.

Up before her stood a huge bulge of white fluff, hovering above the ground. The face of that ghost-like creature was childlike, with sad little dark eyes.

-My Tree is dying….-it veiled in a small voice. Nobody helps it and I’m frightened and lonely….

Cora’s heart sank.

-What Tree? Where is it?

But before the creature could answer her, a strong draft of bone-chilling wind push them apart and all she could hear was a faint cry.

-Help meeee……Don’t leave me alone…..!

-Don’t be afraid! I’ll find you!!-she shouted.

-Who do you want to find?-asked Bella. Did you have a nightmare? You were shouting in your dream.

 She was sitting on the edge of the bed with a worried expression on her face. Cora shook her head with a reassuring smile.

-No, no Mom, it was just a silly dream. I am little nervous about the flight-she chuckled.

Bella sighed. She was nervous to. All of a sudden, she wished her daughter was an ordinary girl, not a Queenie. But it was too late for that, so she better helped Cora to get ready for the flight. She helped her dress up and served her favorite meal for breakfast. Galaor joined them, checking each strap on the flight suit and giving his final pieces of advice. Amita rushed in and jumped in Cora’s arms, covering her face with smacks. Hugs, kisses, tears and goodbyes shared, at the sound of the Core Bell, the Golden Doors of the Tree opened wide and the row of Queenies took flight in the crisp air of the morning, followed by the loud cheer of the gathered Arberiens.

-This will be a long year-whispered Bella, leaning close to Galaor and holding Amita in her arms.

-This will be a long year-thought the Queen, watching the colorful flying squad diminishing in the horizon.

    The Golden Doors closed with a thud behind them, marking the beginning of a journey into the unknown.

 

                                                                              ***

 

Somewhere faraway, under another sky, a  young woman was hurriedly preparing her confused and frightened son. The child couldn’t understand the reason why his mom woke him up at night and why she kept silencing him, why was he dressed up and why was she wiping her eyes on and on. He saw his mom taking a small bottle from a hiding and slip it in her pocket , then turning off the faint light. She took his hand and spoke to him in a muffled but firm voice:

-Avik, listen to Mommy. Don’t say a word outside. Just hold my hand and follow me in silence and if I say “run!” then you run and don’t look back! You understand?

-Yes, Mommy!- came the answer in a little voice.

The young woman unlocked the hind door and slipped into the night with her child. She wasn’t going to let him suffer the fate of the other Changers; nothing could frighten her off and she couldn’t care less for the so called fate of the Tree. If the survival of the Tree was coming at the price of the life of an innocent child then something was wrong. Very wrong. Avik was her son and  she was determined to save him no matter what the White Guardians were saying. Her child was not going to become an Invisible, he wasn’t going to starve in the streets of the Silver City, unseen by the others, unable to get help, food, shelter. Her child was not going to be found lying lifelessly in a corner, pushed aside like a piece of garbage. The mind of the young mother was swirling with heavy questions.

 How did they end up  giving in to such horrors? She held the little boy closer and they hurried down the dark street. It was a long way to the northern wall and she wanted to get there before dawn.

Advertisements

The Invisibles. Chapter 1.

A playful ray of sunlight tickled her eyelashes and she opened her eyes with a yawn. She stretched like a cat and shook her head. The bushy, fiery strands of hair sparkled in the morning light, creating a small halo of glitter around the head of the young girl. A faint tap on the door and the whispering voice from the other side brought her back from day-dreaming.

-Cora! Baby…are you still sleeping?! Wake up! It’s getting late!

 Oh, yes…It was a big day for the family and Cora was in the centerfold of what was to come. Her eyes met the pile of gifts on the table: the flying suit crafted by her father and the colorful drawing of her little sister Amita. Sure, this was not the day to be late at the ceremony. Cora jumped off the bed and set herself in motion, while her mind was leafing through the book of memories.

                                                            ****

  They called themselves Arberians- the People of the Tree and that was an accurate depiction of the diligent little nation inhabiting from roots to the last stick a Tree that was reaching far beyond the top of the highest mountain. They lived inside it,  serving and protecting it,  in a perfect harmony that lasted from immemorial times. No one remembered how their history have had started, except for their Queens. These amazing women were the only beholders of ancient wisdom and secrets. And only the Queens were born with wings,  their  birth being regarded as  miraculous and of high importance.

   Cora’s father, Galaor was then a recently married  young carpenter anxiously waiting for the birth of his first child. His wife Bella was both beautiful and gifted; her hands used to work magic weaving colorful silk threads into wonderful textiles. She was cheerful, loving and ambitious and Galaor was madly in love with her. Right now, he was pacing up and down the hallway, glancing at the door of the bedroom. Women were entering and coming out, ignoring him over and over again. Then he heard a small cry and moments after, the door swung open and the midwife charged out enthusiastically shouting:

-Galaor! It’s a miracle! A miracle amidst us!

-What?! What happened?! How is my wife?!! What is with the child?! Tell me, madam!!

The elderly woman smiled and shook her head joyfully.

-They are both fine, my good man. But it’s nothing short of a miracle because your daughter is a Queenie and that never happened to simple folks like us! You can go inside now.

 At that moment, Galaor was simply unable to process the information. Queenie or not, all he wanted was to embrace his wife and hold his newborn child. He stepped inside and rushed to Bella, embracing and kissing her.

-Thank you, my love-he whispered in her ear. Thank you.

She was beaming.

-You can hold her-she said pointing at the artful cradle that Galaor has made for the baby.

The young man bent over it and watched the baby comfortable nested inside a fluffy blanket. He saw a small round face with funny little nose and cherry lips. The hair of the baby was fiery red, a very rare color amongst the People of the Tree. Galaor took up his daughter with much gentleness and care; the little body seemed so fragile in his big hands. It was then that he felt for the first time with the tip of his fingers the small buds of wings on the baby’s shoulders.

-Welcome to the world, little Cora-he said. You are my shining star.

The news of the miraculous birth of a Queenie amidst the lower classes spread like wildfire and soon a respectful delegation from the Queen herself was knocking at the door of the young family, asking permission to see the baby and inviting the parents to move with her in the specially designed quarters of the Court. That spring brought the birth of a number of Queenies, signaling that the time of the actual ruler was slowly  approaching to its end. The winged babies were gathered in the upper side of the Tree in order to be raised and educated properly and then, when time would come, to give a new Queen to the People of the Tree.

 So Cora spent her childhood and adolescence split between the stern education of the Court Ladies and the joyful roaming up and down the Tree, playing with other children or following her beloved father in his daily work. Right from the beginning it became clear to Bella and Galaor that their daughter would be an independent girl. She was a true free spirit, a real tomboy, much to the annoyance of Madam First Lady who was trying to turn the fiery girl into a solemn Queen-candidate. But Cora was having a mind of her own; she continued to learn and do her chores, then slip away to wander freely. Her best moments were those spent with Galaor on the top of the Tree, helping him to craft new paths and bridges in the canopy.

  From there, the world seemed infinite and the contours of the land blurred into the bluish haze far faraway. The giant roots of the Tree were visible from time to time, crisscrossing the land like huge veins and between them green pastures, sprinkling rivulets and blue-eyed lakes were completing the colorful puzzle of the known world. Cora love them all but she was more and more attracted by what she couldn’t see: the world beyond the haze.

-What is there, father? Who lives beyond our lands? -she used to ask father.

-I don’t know my dear. They never taught that in school. All I know is what my great grandma was telling us when talking about stories of the past: that land unknown to us is a place of great danger and those inhabiting it are alien to us, Arberians. Fantastic monsters roam those lands but we never got that far. Our land is safe and rich, we live here in peace. This is all I know. I hope you don’t intend to get yourself and me in trouble?-said Galaor raising his eyes from the work. Your Mom is already pestering me for allowing you to work with me.

  Cora chuckled.

-Don’t worry, Dad-she said, shaking her newly sprouted wings. I won’t do anything stupid. I’ll go back home and exercise a bit my threading skills. That would make Mom happy. See you at dinner!

Before Galaor could answer, the girl took flight and delved into the greenery below.

 

Bella watched her daughter from the corner of her eyes; Cora has matured a lot recently. She was tall, lean and confident, maybe too confident for the role she was supposed to play. Despite the best efforts of Madam First Lady in educating her, Cora never gave up on her boyishness. And her 18th birthday was quickly approaching….

Bella sighed; she had to admit that her husband was right. They were losing their daughter to an uncertain future. The Flight of the Queenies could become a dangerous quest even inside the area of their own land. Though none of them had witnessed such an event during their lifetime, they have heard lots of tales and stories about girls lost on track, becoming victims of unknown beasts. And even  if they safely returned to the Tree, only one of the girls was to become Queen. It was also true that the other contestants were highly regarded and rewarded, becoming Ladies of the Court under the new Queen. Both Galaor and Bella hoped for Cora to become one of them. The life of the Queen herself was a solitary existence that required strength and stamina and Cora’s parents worried that their freedom loving daughter might not like the limitations. Before Bella could go further with her thoughts and worries, a crystal clear little voice shook her up.

-Mommy, mommy look! Cora brought me a leaf from the top of the Tree!

   The 4 years old stormed into the room with eyes shining in excitement, holding up heart-shaped green leaf. The room filled with its spicy scent and Amita run up and down between her Mom and her big sister, giggling. Suddenly Cora grabbed the little girl and flew around the room with her. They landed laughing with tears and Bella quickly forgot all her dark thoughts.

     But soon after Cora’s 18th birthday the time for the Flight of the Queenies was set and the families started the final preparations. Each girl needed a special flight suit to protect her and to carry some supplies for the beginning. They also needed a ceremonial suit to wear it when they would be introduced to the Queen. For a hardworking family it was a great challenge to meet all the requirements. While Bella was weaving the textiles, Galaor and Cora were working together in making the flight suit.

-I have made some secret pockets for you, Cora -said Galaor with a wink. You can hide a few useful tools inside. Something tells me that you won’t land in the neighboring village….

Cora chuckled.

-I knew you would understand me, Dad. I cannot help wishing to know what lies ahead.

Galaor shook his head.

-I know , my dear. I know. But try to avoid unnecessary troubles and come home safely. Don’t break your Mom’s heart!

-I won’t. I promise. You’ll see, Dad. Next year we’ll be up here together, talking about my adventures.

    A few days later, it was Bella’s turn to have a talk with Cora, while they were making the finishing touch of the beautiful ceremonial dress.

-I never thought you’d grow up so quickly….-she sighed as she fixed a gold rimmed blue leaf on the left side of the tunique.

Cora gave a short peck on her Mom’s cheek.

-Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll be fine. A year it’s not such a long time.

Bella muffled a sigh.

-I know, baby. You’re a great girl. But before you get yourself in trouble think of your father and Amita. Don’t break their heart.

-I’ll do my best, Mom, promise. And I’ll bring something beautiful to Amita! Now could you please shorten a bit my skirt ? You know me; I don’t want to trip over it in front of Her Majesty….

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Deep inside her private chamber, the Queen was lost in thoughts. She knew that she was becoming more and more fragile with each day but she couldn’t take a rest yet. There was still a year ahead till the new Queen could be elected from the group of hopeful Queenies. For the Queen that would be one hard year as she was sensing something dark and frightening lurking near  her kingdom. Travelling through the finest roots of the Tree, the warning was coming from faraway and the elderly woman was feeling the chill deep inside her bones.

On the outside, there was no worrisome sign. It was mid-spring and the weather has turned warm, with a playful sun caressing each and every new leaf of the Tree. The thickening seep was running up and down the huge columns inside the trunk, singing a glorious song of life. The morning air was fresh and  the early breeze was carrying the scent of blossoms that were adorning the orchards of the valleys and hills. Birds were singing their hearts out and the flowers were teaming with the buzzing honey bees. This was the time when the young queen-bees were taking flight, followed by a group of workers that would establish a new home under their reign. This was the time of young queens and it was the same in the case of the Arberians; soon, the Queenies would take flight to prove themselves, before one of them would be crowned as new Queen of her people.

 The Queen glanced with a frown to the pile of  papers left by the First Lady of the Court on her table. Those were the final assessments about the ten Queenies so she picked them up and decided to read them carefully.

-Let’s see , my darling girls, how did you manage ? Which of you will relieve me from my duties?  I can hardly remember each of you as babies.What an excitement your birth created! What joy! I wish I could’ve left you better times….-she sighed.

   During the next hours, the Queen turned the pages of the minute reports sometimes smiling, sometimes frowning and  she made some mental notes. Then she  sat to her desk and started to write a small personal letter for each candidate. That letter would  be attached to the Royal Act of recommendation that each Queenie would receive before the flight. The young contestants were sent to discover and support for a year the farthest communities of the Arberiens and then return with a recommendation from those communities. Dusk descended upon the land while the Queen was still writing in her room….

THE PATHWAY

The pathway took off and boldly emerged from the morning mist. We were both a bit nervous as we have left the group and we were heading to an entirely different direction. I could feel the disapproving glances in my back and the murmur of reprobation was carried by the wind to my ears.

We live on a planet of pathways and roads. Each of us has a personally tailored one, a pathway both alive and active, just like the person generating it. The colorful landscapes are crisscrossed by the traces of recent or rediscovered roads; you can find anything from the narrow footpath to the large boulevards, depending on the number and the personality of the pathway-carriers that walked the surface of this special planet. I’ve spent most of my life leading my pathway side by side with others of the thousands of inhabitants of the megapolis,walking day by day between its soaring , fantastic buildings. We didn’t have too many options and we were not making much difference in the turmoil of the city. Still, living here was both safe and comfortable. Oh well, maybe a bit too comfortable for the well disguised rebels we were, me and my pathway. Few of the city dwellers had ever tried to venture outside the perimeter of the buildings. The ones that tried, usually reached the grassland and inevitably turned back in the arms of steel, concrete and glass of our town.

The grassland outside the city was stretching for miles, delving into the blurred horizon where the dark silhouette of a forest was trembling in the light. None of my friends or acquaintances had ever ventured that far. Telltales of dangerous dark depths and monstrous creatures were passed for generations from one another but I was skeptical about the truth of their content.

As I said, my Pathway was just as bored and boisterous as myself. This lukewarm anonymity was becoming tiresome for both of us, so we decided to run away without saying a word. The chosen morning proved to be a cooling early autumn one, with strands of mist crawling lazily in the streets. There were only a few people passing by, still some of them turned curiously after us. The street we had chosen was leading….nowhere, as much as they knew. But for us, it ended abruptly facing a nacreous wall of fog. We both stepped forward, brushing the high stemmed grass and shaking the dewdrops pending on their tips. The Pathway trembled in excitement under my feet and sprang ahead. We were outside the city and inside the unknown.

Moments later, the rising sun hopped higher in the sky, sipping the last scintillating drops of dew. The scenery cleared and filled with sizzling colors. Under the warm touch of the sunlight the silver-green of the grass blades was gradually turning into golden yellow, the grass-ears releasing their tiny grains to the ground while grasshoppers were caught in a frenzy of somersaults. Birds were singing in the skies and under the seemingly endless blue dome, we were running like two crazed spring-bucks. For awhile I wasn’t sure even that my feet were touching the ground as I was riding the speedy ribbon of my Pathway as he was heading towards the towering wall of the forest.

As the day was descending into afternoon, the heat of the sun tempered and the shadows of the trees were leaning more and more towards the field. It wasn’t just a shadow but a constant flow of cold breath emanating from the deep-green, almost black vegetal thick. The forest was growing taller and taller as we approached it, until its silhouette engulfed the last corner of blue sky. The spidery fingers of the trees were pushing the autumn azure away from our reach.

The Pathway stopped abruptly on the rim of the wood. It seemed impenetrable. I was baffled by the fact that I couldn’t find even a faint weed-covered trace of an old pathway passing by. Nothing. All I could see was a dense wall of huge trunks connected by the darkness between them. The canopy was sky high. Baffled and slightly uneasy, we both stopped, pondering if we should follow our way or try another way round. But the wall of vegetation seemed to stretch from left to right indefinitely; the only possible way was through the woods. And it was already getting too late to go back to the city; so we decided to trying our luck walking through the gap opened between two trees. The Pathway moved boldly forward , carrying me as we punctured the barrier of darkness.

Surprisingly there was a faint bluish light inside the forest and for a moment I felt I was under the water. What light could pass through the dense fabric of the canopy was falling in slow motion, dispersing and undulating around us. You would’ve expected a school of fish to emerge behind a tree or to catch a glimpse of a whale swimming gracefully above us.

Looking around, I realised that the forest was not shutting out only the light but it was muffling also the sounds of the outside world. Still, it wasn’t entirely silent. There was an almost imperceptible whisper, surging, receding, surging, receding like the breath of an enigmatic living creature. The more I listened to it, the more eerie it became, sending shivers down my spine. Even my Pathway was feeling nervous, its delicate senses connected to me. I took a deep breath, sending him some reassuring thoughts. Anyway, my curiosity was stronger than my fear.

We jumped over the fallen branches on the forest floor, over the moss covered trunks and the puddles of water soaked fallen leaves. I took a sip of air: it tasted bitter -sweet, like almonds. After awhile,the ground was sloping towards a shallow valley inside the woods. Here, the distance between the trees was becoming wider, lifting some of our anxiety caused by the confined space. We breathed out in relief. Confident, the Pathway sped up and soon, we made our exit into a clearing.

It was a perfect circle on the ground continued by a clear-cut hole made by invisible hands in the dome of sticks and leaves of the canopy. You could see the darkening sky filling with stars. Night was near so we decided to stop here and sleep till the next morning. The Pathway retreated and relaxed at my feet. Curled up on a heap of grass I fell asleep easily. The murmur of the forest was dimming into a lullaby and the air of the night was warm enough to rest comfortably. We were not concerned about wild beasts roaming the place; the forest was visibly devoid of any kind of animal life and you wouldn’t have expected trees to un-root themselves and move away while we sleep. I closed my eyes and drifted away with the waters of the dream….

I jumped from the ground, awakened by a sharp cry that soon turned into an ear-piercing veiling. Uncoiled from its rest, the Pathway was trembling at my feet. Above us, the Moon was turning gradually red; it was the night of the Eclipse and the installing of the Blood Moon was bringing the forest alive. In the thick, honey-like light the shadows of the trees were undulating, pushed from inside by an ancient, long forgotten rhythm, shaking their spidery fingers towards the orange glow above. Caught in the frenzy of tremor, the leaves were cascading on us menacingly. Carried by a sudden wind raised by the twist and turn of the entire forest, the torrents of leaves were pushing us aside, swirling, jumping in the air then falling again towards the forest floor in high speed, like furious vegetal dragons. As the eclipse was reaching its peak, the veiling turned into howling and the whole forest was crying out its pain and fury to the night skies, to the bloody eye of the Universe. So, my friends, if you were wondering where those mythical beasts did disappear from the forest, I tell you: they didn’t. In fact, the Beast was right here all the time, sleeping its thousand years dream. It was this particular night that brought him back to life, shaking off his moss-covered dreams, letting him once again weep over his solitude. The sorrow of the stranded alien, the Forest washed over me and I stumbled, stepping on the roots of a tree. It was slippery and I grabbed the trunk to stop my falling. The touch of bark felt like a lizard’s skin and in a split of à moment, the vegetal giant turned to me….

The Pathway saw it coming and took off , jumping ahead through trees and bushes like a bullet. I crouched and let him carry me, hoping to escape from our pursuer. We smashed into twigs, leaves, branches, thorns and shreds of moss but we kept speeding ahead. We’ve lost the count of minutes and we didn’t even realize that the night was over. The eclipse was long gone and the forest had fallen back under the thousand years enchantment. The shrubbery was thinning before us and light was reigning again beyond the rim of the woods. My faithful companion slowed down its run and we both checked each-other, trying to asses the damages. Surprisingly, we got off this harrowing adventure with only of few scratches and a slightly shaken confidence. But then, we were seeking adventures, weren’t we?

Stopping at the edge of the forest, we watched for a moment the wall of bright light outside. It was almost painful to look at it after so much time spent in the shadow. I’ve sent an encouraging smile to my Pathway and once again, he flew us ahead, puncturing the brightness. We landed on a grassy slope and rolled down chuckling. The veil of warm air was undulating in the valley below but the shimmering contours on the horizon were holding promises of new adventures. We both laughed and stretched our limbs in expectation.

The Pathway jumped forward, carrying me into the light.

THE JOURNEY

The wizard descended on the shore; the flight proved to be exhausting. The sun has already set behind the ragged line of the mountains, its crimson light dying out slowly on the ragged peaks.

The ocean quieted down, moving back and forth slowly, like a huge beast. Foam bubbled under the young man’s feet before it faded, suckled by the thirsty sand. The azure of the summer sky deepened into ink-blue then turned velvety-black. One by one, stars lit up in the skies, like diamond specs scattered in convoluted patterns all over the canopy.

The salty breeze swirled around the tall, slender shape, ruffling the rebellious strands around his face. The wizard shivered and wrapped himself into the cape. The night was just beginning…He had to wait till sunrise; these shores were dangerous places even for a bold and gifted bearer of magic like him. So he sat on the sand and leaned against a boulder. What was he doing here? What incomprehensible need has pushed him to take this flight? The high pitched veiling of the sirens was still ringing in his ears; they almost succeeded to bring him down. He had to gather all his strength to shut them out and follow his way.

The fiery red corral-island that housed these dangerous beauties dwarfed into the distance as he sped over…Now, here he was, safely ashore, puzzled by his own need to reach this remote land. As the hours passed by, the constellations turned in the skies and the breath of the ocean chilled into laces of mist. The young sorcerer fell asleep.

He woke up suddenly; he wasn’t alone anymore. Somebody was watching him. He heard a soft laughter and turned towards the sound. Half hidden in the constantly shifting shadows there was a small human shape sitting atop of a rock. She was looking at him with a slightly amused smile on her face, her dark eyes twinkling.

-Forgive me for interrupting your dreams, Wizard but the night is almost over and we need to talk.

He peered at her intently, trying to figure out who she was. He had never seen her before, yet there was some familiarity in her presence that he couldn’t grasp.

-It was I who summoned you, Wizard; I wanted to share something with you. Watch!

She held out a hand and drew a magic sign in the air. Something flickered but she quickly captured it. She then turned towards him, opened her fist, showing the grain of light nested inside. The golden seed pulsed quietly.

-What is that?- the young man asked.

-That…is you. Can’t you feel it?

Warmth arose from that glowing and enveloped him; it seeped inside until it reached his heart. It felt strange and he shuddered under that touch. Outside, the light brightened up, changing its shape. The Firebird took flight, spreading his wings, igniting the skies and diving into the dark abyss. It kept shining there, leaving a trail of light behind.

-I called you because time has come to release you. Your destiny is not this tiny ball of dust, no matter how beautiful. You have all the might and strength to light up the far depths of the universe. Go! Rise and shine, child of magic!

The glow from above showered back upon him, blinding him for a moment, then it faded out. Silence surrounded him and only the breath of the ocean rippled inside that. The spirit of the planet has vanished. A thin line of gold and pink lighted out the horizon. A few moments after, the sun started its daily climbing on the ladder of the sky.

The wizard stood up, stretched his limbs and took flight. His journey has begun.

 

 

Inside the Lost Island

 

The Wizard looked around. He wasn’t going to leave this place without inspecting it a bit. After all, the Lost Island was a place of legends and many of those inhabiting the main land doubted its existence.

The narrow limb of sand ended up in piles of boulders massed at the feet of a steep, rocky slope. Wild, dark bushes crawled upon the ragged land and a thick forest filled the horizon at a further distance. The morning fog was still lingering above the landscape, hanging rows of glittering beads of dew upon cobweb and grass blades.

As the sun rose higher, the ocean became restless, rolling its waves against the shore, spreading laces of foam upon rocks and scattered pebbles.

The young man took a deep breath from the salty breeze and flew towards the mountains.

 

 

Cloaked in invisibility, the Spirit of the planet watched him silently. She always kept her children under protective watch, but seldom interfered with their lives. This young magician proved to be a real enigma. He wasn’t born on the planet; the comet that brought that golden seed of light has long faded out somewhere in the dark belly of the Universe.

The child that was born from that magic grain grew up oblivious of his legacy. As special abilities surfaced with each day of his life, he started to face awe or discontent of those around him. He fought back, struggled to preserve his inner self, lost and won, got scarred and healed…the final result being hard to grasp, even for the spirit guarding him from the shadows.

She closed her eyes and reached out towards the young wizard. It was a trancelike state of mind and soul; she could feel him through her palms and fingertips. As she connected to him, she opened her eyes and sighed. Unseen, she would follow him through his journey inside the island.

 

 

The forest emerged abruptly in front of him. Huge, tall shapes, standing in close ranks, like giant organ columns, with glittering straws of light seeping from above, puncturing the dense canopy of entwined muscular branches. The rugged trunks were of various shades of blue, from the bright azure of the younger trees to the steel-blue of the old ones.  A web of aging cracks filled with darkness completed the features of this living fortress. The light wind that only rippled the surface of the ocean grew into a low, menacing vibration resounding through the trees, like the discontent growl of a mountain lion.

The forest stretched all over the mountain slope, leaning against the high wall of rock. The Wizard descended on a patch of secure land, facing the stern gathering. He wondered for a moment…Did he really need to go through the forest or he could just skip it and fly over the mountain?

He decided that he won’t step back from any challenge set by the island. There was a power surrounding the giant wood, making him restless. He smiled playfully and stepped inside.

 

Inside the forest the air was still and the roar of the wind down toned to an eerie choir of veiling and grumblings. Strange voices, interweaving, circled the trees, plunged under the tangled greenery of the forest floor just to rise again and dissipate into the trembling foliage above.

The thin threads of light added up to a dim, bluish glow where elusive creatures of shadow played hide and seek. No living creature inhabited this forest. It was a huge living organism itself, one that wasn’t taking lightly any intrusion under its dome. Despite that, there was a faint but tangible pathway leading into the depths, so the Wizard wasn’t the first bold trespasser…

He grinned and picked up the pace; the road must have leaded somewhere. As he got deeper and deeper, the change in the mood around him became tangible. The forest acknowledged his presence and things were about to change. There was a stir inside the majestic columns; sap gurgled down the branches, hiding inside the intricate weaving of roots. The Wizard could feel the forest floor moving under his feet, channeling unknown energies to fill up the trees. Even the veiling of the wind died out, replaced by a faint murmur of hushed voices. Though the words were unintelligible, the young man knew that he was the cause of the whole unrest. He made a mental note but followed his pathway undisturbed.

A few steps later the row of trees opened into a small clearing. He looked up and for the first time in hours his eyes met the sky; it was turning dark outside. The patch of sky was an oddity in this place; it was a window opened towards the skies but also one that allowed the sky to peer inside the dark belly of the wood. It wasn’t clear who was watching who…

The magician stepped forward; the grass was coarse and slippery under his feet. The young man looked around and found himself a comfortable spot, drew a protective circle and sat, wrapping the cloak around his shoulders. As the night closed the eye of the forest in total darkness, the voices that escorted him united in a low hum…

 

 

 

He woke up in cold sweat and confused. The scenery has already changed while he slept; a sick pale full Moon was peering down from the opening, like a ghost face. In the light pouring from above the trees were faintly glowing and deadly silence filled every corner. Tension built up all over the place.

Something was lurking in the shadows, a menacing, devious presence. The young Wizard became alert. A strange emptiness built up inside him; it felt like an icy claw had tore up the surface of his soul. Somebody or something probed the depths of his inner world while he was asleep, unlocking the hidden demons. He tensed as he found the seal of horrors broken. Leaning against a tree, he closed his eyes and focused on the surroundings; he extended his senses, touching the void filling the space between the trees. His sharpened hearing quickly detected the rasping sound of a heavy body sliding across the forest floor. The unseen beast was moving quickly towards him.

The youth drew four magic signs in the air, building up a protective wall. It wasn’t much, considering the size of the menace detected but inside this place, his powers were limited. He set on patiently waiting the confrontation.

A low hiss preceded the emerging of the dragon into the clearing. It was a huge, pit-black shape, with constantly changing contour. It stopped at the edge of the circle of light, exhaling steam and ash. They faced each other silently.

The beast slowly changed its features; an ugly face emerged from the dark, fluid dust, a human face with a cruel grin spread all over it. He fixed the youth with cold, evil eyes and laughed, blowing hot ash towards him.

-So-he said derisively, we meet again…You thought you’d never see me again…you thought you escaped…

Numbness overcame the magician as he watched that face in horror. Paralyzed by the haunting memories emerging from his wounded soul, he was unable to push out a breath. Desperately, he shut his eyes….this was not happening!!!

-Awww…you’ve lost your tongue I see-sneered the monster and shifted closer.

He slowly circled the stupefied youth, searching for a breaking point of both the wizard and his magic.

-You’re nothing but a pitiful, useless daydreamer, a powerless sleepwalker, a piece of nothing!!!

The malicious voice thundered around the wood, reverberating in each tree. The dragon suddenly stood up, uncoiling to his full height and he threw himself upon the Wizard…

He missed the hit; seconds before the assault, the magician jumped aside, spun and changed shape. He chose the shape of his protective animal, the wolf.  Hurt and anger built up from inside, propelling him into action. Old scars, ruptured by the flow of slurs, bled inside him, setting him in flames. The wolf growled, his mane rising menacingly. He stood there, confronting the embodiment of his oldest nightmares.

The dragon roared and tried to overturn him but missed again. The wolf moved swiftly, biting hard into the black flesh. Sticky, pungent blood oozed from the wound, leaving a foul taste in his mouth.

The dragon spit fire and set ablaze the lower vegetation. He hoped that the Wizard will return to his human shape, the one that was vulnerable to his deeply cutting insults. This only embittered the wolf, setting him in a murderous rage.

The fight between the two beasts spiraled until it reached its climax. Blood mixed with dark sooth, staining the premises, splattered from the multiple wounds both of them got. As the confrontation heated up, the wolf got into frenzy. His teeth slashed the flesh of the dragon with mad anger…The need for revenge seeped through his body, spread through the veins and filled the heart with inhuman rage. The wolf was changing, loosing the touch with his inner humanity…

The Spirit watched the fight from the shadows. Connected to the Wizard, she could sense him drifting away. While dying, the dragon was winning the battle. He was turning the warm hearted young man into a revengeful monster. Only one bit into the weakened flesh was separating human from beast. The wolf howled and prepared for the final bit…

-No!!!!-the voice of the Spirit broke into his mind and echoed all over his brain.  Don’t!!! Kill him now and you’ll become like him!

Time halted and everything froze for a moment. The fire of madness slowly died out in the eyes of the wolf. He stepped aside, leaving alone the dying monster. The torn, shredded black shape was fading piece by piece…

-Bastard…he hissed, but his voice broke and a pile of smoldering ash was all that was left behind.

The Wizard returned to his human shape and curled up under his cloak. Exhausted, he quickly fell asleep. The Moon showered upon him a dust of silver light.

The spirit left her hiding and sat next to him. She breathed over her palms and a pale glow gathered in her hands. She gently ran her hands over his battered body, leaving a healing sheen of light that mended the wounds.

She then plunged inside his tormented soul, locked the dungeon of darkness and closed the cracks and scars of the inner world. She walked carefully the delicate, twisted pathways, listening to the sound of the ocean of the soul. She stopped at the gates and gave a quick look inside: the stormy waters were quieting down, regaining their balancing move of back and forth.

The Spirit sighed; she was relieved as peace was returning in the world of her protected one. She emerged next to him, revived with a brisk touch the four magic signs and reunited the protective spell.

With one final glance towards the sleeping magician, she faded into the forest. The first battle has been won.

 

 

In the open

 

 

He was dreaming; he was back in his childhood, a delicate boy with bright eyes and rebellious, hazelnut hair. His brother was there to and they were running and laughing, chasing emerald bugs or rainbow butterflies until they both fell on a heap of grass, breathless and exhilarated.

Their mild and lovely mother was following them smiling, enjoying the moments of undisturbed joy. They have camped under the protective shade of pine and fir trees, the powerful odor of the honey like, sticky resin still lingering in his nostrils. The boisterous twins kept stumbling upon each other while collecting branches for the camp fire. They giggled, fought and rolled in the grass, oblivious of the sun dropping behind the golden peaks, of the shadows emerging under the rocks and tree hollows, or of the magic that speckled the night sky with glittering diamonds….

The campfire wrapped them in warm, golden glow and mother finally silenced them with mouthwatering goods. The boys fell asleep almost instantly, tired of so much freedom and out bursting of happiness. They couldn’t see the shadows crossing mom’s beautiful face, the light shimmering for a moment in her gentle eyes…yet he remembered that her kiss tasted sweeter, her hands rested longer on his face, her fingers ran lovingly through his hair and that there was a faint glittering in the corner of her eyes.

The enchanted song of the stream cast a peaceful dream upon all of them. These rare moments were gems cut out from a life that held not too many sunny days for any of them.

There was another memory brought up by the dream…the image of a face looking back to him from the surface of the stream, while they both watched the rainbow-trout zigzagging between the rocks. A friendly smile and playfully twinkling dark eyes…he looked up to see her but there was no one around except the two of them.

He never saw her again until this journey; he recognized the light in her eyes and the faint touch in his soul that seemed to be there from the beginning. He smiled inwardly and woke up healed and ready to follow his journey.

The sun was high up in the sky, showering the land with brightness and warmth. The Wizard looked around in slight wonder: the forest has completely changed during the night. Without loosing its majestic feature, it became tame and pleasant. The clearing opened up towards a well lit pathway, rounding behind a cluster of old oak tree. For the fist time since he entered the forest, the air filled with song of birds, buzzing of bumble bees and golden bugs…

The breeze gently played around, turning upside-down the trembling leaves, channeling the glittering solar dust in all directions.  The young man stood up, looked around for a moment then stepped towards the way opening between the trees. He felt the rush of adrenaline through his veins and laughed…This journey has stirred his interest for sure.

 

 

The Spirit was sitting on a branch above the pathway, watching her protégé…the more she watched, the clearer it became that this turned into a journey for her to. Spirit of the Earth as she was, she still carried a human heart and emotions were building up inside her, threatening to burst out and sweep her off her feet…

She knew that the Wizard still had to fight some of his demons before he could properly finish his journey. But all the same, the Spirit was fighting her own demons. She bit her lower lip in frustration and took a deep breath to calm down. Before she could sort out her confusing feelings, she had to warn him about the challenges to come. So she turned invisible and plunged into the shifting greenery of the wood.

 

 

The forest ended abruptly in front of an unexpected natural sighting. The rocky wall in front of him had an almond shaped opening. Beyond that, an endless blue sky stretched, giving the odd shape the appearance of an inquisitive, yet inviting eye.  The young man walked towards that eerie window.

-Don’t rush, Wizard! We need to talk before you follow your call.

This time he recognized her voice and turned. The Spirit was her usual self; sitting upon a fallen tree trunk, with the same playful smile and the glittering of the dark, brown eyes. But the tone of her voice was serious.

-Things are not getting easier, Magician. You bravely overcame your darkest demon but you’re far from the complete healing. The world beyond that eye in the sky is one that changes according the lights and shadows of your soul. Dormant now, it waits for you to give it a new life.

Beyond that elusive world there is a waterfall; that is your final goal, the door that opens to the shore of a new beginning. But until you’re not free from your downfalls, you cannot cross those waters.

Think about it. Don’t go further now. Wait until the night falls; the Moon will lead your steps down there…

-You were the one at the river-he said, watching her intently. I’ve recognized you in my dream…

She laughed silently, spun and disappeared. The young man shrugged. Oh, well…maybe some other time. He stopped in front of the opening, peering down into the depths; under the slowly flowing blanket of mist, a world was reshaping itself. Above them the sky was spotless and the horizon was hidden and blurred.

He sat on the edge of the “eye”, leaning against the rock. He closed his eyes and dived inside, stirring the quiet waters of his ocean-soul…

The Moon was a diamond perched in the skies when he finally emerged from his inner labyrinth. The world beyond the wall of rock was waiting. He stepped through the “eye” and stopped on the narrow terrace. With a swift movement of his hand, he caught some light and blew over it. Spreading the gleaming mist in the air, he murmured a magic spell and waited.

The slowly descending bits of light gathered into the shape of a huge, fantastic bird with a slim body covered in glossy, white feathers and burning, ruby eyes. The Silverbird circled for a while in the skies, flapping the broad wings, stirring the cold air of the night and turning it into a small whirl wind. Finally, it descended and took the Magician on his back. The moment they started the descent towards the dimmed shapes, the Moon unveiled the site all in a sudden.

In that split second, reality stretched and filled with wonder. Down below, sizzling ribbons of rivers crisscrossed around forests, orchards, hills and pastures, ponds and lakes twinkled under the touch of the light, fantastic creatures filled the land and the air…As the Silverbird came closer to the spread of magic, night faded above, the sunlight overtaking the skies, lighting up and painting everything in blazing colors. Down here, the air was fragrant and teamed with life. Unseen birds were uniting voices into the welcoming of a new day. Sunbeams were playing hide and seek with elusive shadows around each tree and grass blade.

The Silverbird landed on the ground and left the Wizard at the entrance of an orchard. A small pathway paved with moonstones lead there. The young man bowed thankfully and stepped forward. The bird stood for a moment; an unseen hand was gently ruffling its feathers.

-Walk safely, Magician…whispered the Spirit, almost inaudibly.

She stood there, watching him vanishing between the trees…She released the bird and faded into the shades.

 

 

It was midsummer inside the orchard, one that brought him back to younger years. The smell of sun-heated grass melted into the sweet-sour aroma of the light-green apples. From the warm, vibrating air and the blazing light a delicate form emerged, one of a long lost memory…

She stood there, just like then, her dark-brown hair gently ruffled by the breeze. She was smiling at him…and they were madly in love. Time suddenly flowed backwards and emotions overflowed the Universe. Hand in hand they roamed happily the pathways opening before them.

They dived in the magic of each moment, oblivious of whatever happened outside their circle of love. But they were both very young and he was flamboyant and restless. New horizons kept calling him and he couldn’t resist; it was a way of life that sometimes shadowed their deep connection. She was having difficulties following his energetic run through the minutes and hours of life and sometimes she lagged behind, torn between the need of joining him and her own insecurities.

But the young Wizard was blinded by the challenges of the new horizons and he couldn’t notice the way she was drifting away…until the day she got lost. The moment he realized that the precious link between their hearts has broken, he rushed back to find her. Suddenly, everything became dull and pointless.

He found her at the river bank, sitting silently on a heap of grass, staring at something hidden in her cupped hands. The youth stopped next to the girl and watched carefully. Nested in her hands there was a delicate heart of glass, with a long crack running on its side. The Wizard bent and lifted the heart; it was warm but badly damaged. The crack slowly webbed around it…

He stopped it with a touch, running his finger along the crack and mending the heart of glass. Finally, only a small scar remained, with a drop of light encompassed in it. He placed the heart in her hands and she smiled at him. The golden light of summer enveloped them both, blurring her contours until she totally vanished.

Like awaken from a deep dream, the Magician found himself alone outside the orchard. The road was rolling under his feet towards a new destination. He shook his head, took a deep breath and continued his way.

-Wonderful, Magician-whispered the Spirit, smiling inwardly. Keep safe, it isn’t over yet…

A gush of wind ran through the leaves and she shuddered. There was a tint of menace in that, a hidden warning…

 

Days passed by as the road of glossy moon-stones meandered through the fantastic landscape. There were days of joy and days of sorrow, days of gleaming light and days of chilling shadows…With each experience, the young man left behind moments of challenge or failure that had scarred the soft walls of his soul. He felt lighter with each step, each encounter yet there was a lingering feeling in the back of his mind about something still waiting.

During this time, sometimes he walked alone, sometimes friends emerged from his past or it was simple strangers walking beside him. Time swirled and twisted, past and present blended and bubbled to the surface of his mind, giving consistence to the ever changing landscape.

He also knew that the Spirit was following him closely but so far she kept hiding from him. He had some questions in his mind he wanted to address her but it looked like time hasn’t come yet for that friendly confrontation. He chuckled; Spirit or no Spirit, she seamed a bit withdrawn and intimidated lately…But he wasn’t too worried; she looked brave enough and his mind was set on his new companion.

The woman was pleasant, well balanced and she proved to be a good company. She told him that she was pursuing her own journey towards a lost city and that she was pleased to have somebody nice and reliable to walk along. Her soft, velvety voice sounded familiar, just like those wide, mesmerizing blue-green eyes but he couldn’t grasp the moment in time when they had previously met. After some futile tries and a proper headache he dropped the inner questioning and just enjoyed her gracious company.

They walked through colorful and crowded cities, crossed green pastures spotted by wild-flowers and passed through narrow mountain gorges. All this time they got along wonderfully, her presence wrapping warmly and comfortably around his soul. He grew to trust her as she got closer and closer to him. But deep down, in the rear of his mind a nagging feeling refused to sleep. That small doubt, that sixth sense stood there stubbornly, like a thorn, keeping him alert.

They were leaving a town as the night was taking over the land so they set a camp at the edge of the forest, near a small, quiet pond. It was an awkward night, with no wind and an eerie silence around. The young man drew some magic signs to protect their sleeping place from roaming monsters.

The sky looked strange with that sheen of lustrous clouds smeared all over it, dimming the stars; the Moon was nowhere to be seen. After sharing a quick meal, the Wizard and his lady companion retreated in their tents. The youth fell asleep almost instantly.

He plunged into the murky waters of dreams and woke up fighting for breath. In the pitch-black darkness he was unable to discern what was trying to smother him. he fought against it, pushing the heavy mass kneeling on his chest; the skin under his touch was cold, damp and slippery. Finally he managed to push it aside, coughed violently and tried to breathe. The aggressor slipped out in an instant.

The Wizard gathered his strength, stood up and stumbled out just in time to see that something big disappeared in the lake. Looking around he realized that during his sleep his companion has vanished. A blood-red Moon was hanging in the skies above, mirroring in the lake. Suddenly the surface started to boil, pushing the red-stained waters to the sky. The young man took a step back as the cascade broke and a furious white snake lanced towards him. He quickly drew a protective wall of magic and faced the maddened beast. This time he recognized her easily; the two sea-green eyes fixed him with murderous rage.

-I promised myself that I will eat your heart the moment you left me. You ravaged my life and torn me to pieces when you left me for a pretty face…ssssssssssssss!!!!

The ugly hiss cut into his mind like a knife. With a powerful hit of her tail she shattered the wall of spell and faced him with poison dripping from her mouth.

The Magician felt the fabric of his soul tearing apart, the heartbreaking pain engulfing him like a tidal wave.

-I have never asked anything from you and never promised anything!!!-he shouted back, pressing the words out in agonizing pain and anger.

She circled around him in frenzy, trying to bite or get a grip; he turned into a bright-blue dragon and fought back. With each swift movement, more and more of the hurtful memories surfaced from his bleeding soul…the breach of trust, the betrayal, the loss of his treasured love, his own life poisoned by the flow of lies pouring from the mouth of that enraged woman. He has had put his trust, his faith, his life in her hands and she tried to keep him in a golden cage…But he escaped towards freedom, found his own horizon of happiness before she caught him from behind.

Just like this horrible avatar of her, soiling everything with burning poison, this former healer, protector and friend tried her best to break him down out of madness and revenge. She had almost succeeded…

Now, he was confronting her for the last time. She had coiled around him, squeezing hard, biting and hissing as he stood there numbed by the flow of pain from the past. She was draining him of energy and will to fight…What was left to fight for? All the marvels of the Universe were less than the love he’s lost; his heart was an endless void. His inner light was slowly fading out…

In the darkness that was gradually enveloping him, there was only a shimmering, small grain of light and a tiny voice, whispering in the depths of his brain:

“ Don’t give up…You’re more than that…”

He faintly remembered the voice, the light and his own quest…the graceful flow of the magic waterfall. With   the last of his energies he focused and pieced himself together. The flow of magic from inside rebuilt the walls of his shattered soul and strengthened his will and his body. The blue dragon blazed with sizzling light and shook down the white snake. He grabbed her neck and swirled her, smashing the monster into the lake. The purple surface split and swallowed up the limp body. The dragon exhaled and changed back to human form.

He staggered to his tent and spaced out.

 

 

The Spirit watched the fight from the safety of her invisibility. While the Wizard was gradually failing to fight the tormenting monster, she was breaking inside along with him. She wasn’t allowed to intervene in this confrontation…yet she was unable to watch him falling apart torn by hurt, despair and loss of faith. Before everything was lost she enhanced her inner message through the subtle connection that kept them in touch.

She whispered her last hope into his drifting mind, trying to hold him back from fading. She reached the bottom of Hell for a moment, but then the message broke through and they both resurrected. Finally, the young man won his hardest battle but at a very high price.

The Spirit sighed and kneeled next to him. She drew a dome of healing energies above him and then looked around. Scattered ghosts of the past were drifting around like fireflies; she collected them one by one and locked them in a bottle. She placed the bottle near the sleeping youth.

There was only one thing left to be done; the Spirit dived into his inner world and carefully shut the door of the heart. Her own heart sunk as she faced the painful emptiness. Though she carried enough love to ignite the Universe, filling his heart wasn’t meant for her to do…The turmoil of the inner ocean was slowly subsiding as she left the intimate premises.

Outside the night was withering under the touch of the first rays of the Aurora painting the clouds in pink and gold. The scenery has already changed; the forest was now bordering a majestic river, rolling its waters towards a misty horizon. The journey was closing to an end. The Spirit bent over her protected one, gently pushed away a rebellious strand from his face and smiled. She then disappeared into the morning light.

 

 

 

 

He woke up to the soothing sound of the river. The sound of the graceful sliding of water sheets above each other, their gliding over rocks and broken tree trunks united in a harmony that washed through every corner of his soul.

He lied there motionlessly, musing over the battle and the memories breaking up from the past. He took a deep breath and stretched like a cat; his hand caught something small and cold…a bottle. A magic one. He could easily recognize the delicate artwork designed to hold the captured spirits. From the touch of the glass and the swirl of blue and gold shapes inside he knew who they were. He also recognized the one that has left this gift: his guardian Spirit.

Her light touch echoed through the corridors of his soul and left a faint trail of tenderness on his face. He felt grateful for her undiminished care and protection…I t was time to move on; the young man jumped to his feet, gathered his belongings and headed to the river.

 

The pair of dolphins waited until the Wizard reached the river bank. They greeted him with joyful whistles and chirpings, arching their glossy backs. He stepped on, took the reins and signaled the departure. The fantastic carriers jumped ahead, cutting deep into the dense flow of water. The cool breeze of the morning ruffled the young man’s hair, colored his cheeks and filled him with expectation. As they followed the rush of the river the banks on the both sides seemed to blur as the expanse of water was taking over more and more of the landscape.  Soon, the hurried flow conquered all the space around; the river turned into an ocean flowing towards unknown horizons.

The droplets separated to fill up the distances and the thick body of water turned into a light but steady flow of mist. Even the sounds softened to a murmur resembling more to the echoes of outer space. The dolphins came to a halt and the Wizard stepped off their back. He thanked them with a bow and they returned into the hazy distance. The young man took a step and he found himself on solid ground; only the ghost of the mighty river was swirling around him. And that was when he saw the stars.

Right in front of him the Universe has opened its gates of diamonds; few steps away the river was cascading into space…He walked slowly to the edge of the touchable world and stood there for a moment: this was the final frontier. From the cluster of blazing celestial bodies, one star was facing him directly.

The blinding white light coming from it surrounded him step by step; he felt his physical body dissolve  in that powerful flow of energy. As his contours faded, he mirrored the star al the most. The thin pencil of rays lighted up suddenly and touched him under the chest, while his own energies sucked into that point. He felt himself igniting like a new-born star and he plunged into the cascade…

Perfectly round, translucent droplets of water passed by, like a shower of crystal pearls, light and darkness filtering in and out through them. As he flew by, they brightened up with his light like a heavenly fireworks…He swirled and peeked back to the cascade: it was falling from the height of the sky, the twinkling curtain of water revealing a huge arch of stone that seemed to support the endless canopy of air.

He changed his course and punctured the waterfall; he landed safely, exhausted but exhilarated on the white sands of the Lost Island. His journey was complete now.

 

 

Curly waves splashed at his feet as he walked along the shore; he breathed in the salty air and relaxed. His sharp senses detected the light footsteps behind and heard the voice he expected:

-You succeeded, Wizard. I’m proud of you.

He turned to face her; the Spirit was smiling but her eyes were filled with sadness. He returned the smile and bowed gracefully.

-Thank you for watching over me. I know you were around in the hardest moments.

-Don’t mention it, Wizard. You’ve completed the journey on your own. I’ve just performed some small tricks once in awhile…

-So, what now? –asked the young man, looking deep into the twinkling brown eyes.

She sighed, turned to the sea and drew a magic sign in the air. She then faced him with a serious expression.

-The comet that arises now will lead you through Space. Our commune journey ends here, Magician. I am a Spirit of the land; you belong to the stars. I cannot follow you…

Her voice trailed for a moment.

-I will miss you but I’ll watch the skies. Each autumn the shower of stars will bring me news about your travel. As long as you remember me, our connection will remain untouched…

He listened carefully while the air around them started to tremble. The comet was arriving. The youth bent over the Spirit and cupped her face with both hands, trying to read what was behind the sadness darkening them. She touched his hands for a moment and then gently pushed him away.

-Go, Wizard, your guide has come!

The comet filled the skies; the young man spun and turned into a blazing Phoenix. He flapped his wings of fire and lanced towards the fiery tail of the Star-traveler. They both disappeared slowly, leaving a trail of sparkling star-dust.

Night fell over the land as the Spirit reached the edge of the forest. She sank into the tall grass, leaning against a moss-patched rock. She closed her eyes. As the eyelids slowly descended, tears cascaded from under, like a freshly erupting source.

The Moon hid behind a sheet of clouds. Parting from loved ones was always hurtful and she didn’t want to intrude. The Spirit deserved some privacy. That night invisible hands scattered beads of tears all over the place. The World woke up to a sizzling landscape, drowned in light and moistened by dew.

The small, dark shape sighed and shook her head. For a moment, the worldwide gleam mirrored in her eyes; she had no reason to hurt after all. Her protected one has completed his journey, got his wings and was heading to new adventures. She smiled inwardly and drew a magic circle. The world exhaled in happiness and she faded into the glow.

 

 

 

 

EPILOGUE.

 

 

The Spirit sat on a high branch, abandoning herself to the sighting of the gently rocking sea. It was a week since the Wizard left but her pain wasn’t subsiding. She found that disturbing; her deepest emotions had overtaken her and she was devastated by the sense of loss. The steady flow of feelings took by surprise the human hearted Spirit.

Ever since that fiery seed of light landed on the tiny planet, she had pursued his life till he grew into the bold young Wizard, completing his journey on the Lost Island. And though she cared and loved all the creatures under her gentle protection, this particular one has found a place of his own in her sensitive heart. They were both immortals but belonged to different worlds. She was an Earth creature; he was a child of the fire that burned inside the stars. A sparkle of that magic has seeped into the heart of the guarding Spirit of the planet and for the first time since she’s been watching over the life on this tiny ball of stardust, her heart ignited.

Now, that fire was consuming her from the inside and all her tears couldn’t diminish the emotional turmoil. She spent days turned into a silver bird, flying over endless fields, hills, lakes and sandy shores, leaving behind raining teardrops falling off the tips of her large wings. She had enough tears to drown the world…

Now she was back on her favorite spot, up in her oldest tree, contemplating her self-inflicted misery and the way out of the heartbreak. She hopped down the ground as she finally made up her mind. With a slight movement of the hand, she opened a new reality.

Inside the forest, a hidden pathway unfolded, protected by low hanging branches. The trees were bearing blue leaves and golden flowers. The Spirit looked at the real world for a moment, sighed and stepped in. A protective spell surrounded the planet while the new reality closed behind her. The road ended in a strange place; endings and beginnings met here, Space and Time waved slowly, planet cores and star-hearts ignited, others collapsed….there was no up or down, nor left or right…Such notions were of no significance here.

The Spirit stopped. She stood still, concentrating. A sizzling halo of light emerged, draping her around; she took it off gently and placed it at her feet.

-Are you sure, child?- asked the deep voice. You are my best apprentice and the Planet loves you. Wouldn’t be better if I remove that troubling heart of yours?

-No!!!…It’s no use; I cannot do this anymore…Release me, please…-she whispered.

-Hmmm…I will not waste such an important life so easily-said the voice. You can keep your heart but you need time to come to terms with your feelings. Sleep now and dream ahead. Time will come for you to resurrect!

A Time-Space bubble built up around her and the Spirit fell asleep inside. From the depth of nowhere a new spirit emerged, took the cape of protective energies and left for the surface of the Planet. The balance of the Universe has been restored.