Forever winter (Part 28)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


CHOICES AND CHANGE

Rushing inside, the gentleman of the boxes had to catch his breath momentarily. This was not due to this strange new world in which he’d found himself in, but instead due to a physical reaction he had when entering the illumination station. His heart had double thumped, the air seemingly pulled out of him in a quick rush which left him struck for a moment. He looked inside the huge space, blue spikes of ice jutting up from the ground, a static electricity pulsing from one to the next. The spikes glowed, little lightning strikes coursing up and down each one as the room hung with an energy and weight.

No one was around, he quickly flashed his eyes across the space, checking his solitude and registering his fear. He was shaken, disturbed to be on a different world, far away from the underground soil and clutches of earth he had come to know well. This displacement had rattled him, his plan of consuming the power of the girl, and finally overcoming the lady of the jars had been taken from him. He felt little anger with these thoughts, a flash of opportunity perhaps settling in his bones. This place, this cold world was alien, but he knew and felt a source of power and control here, in this room and in this time.

Going across to one of the spikes, he automatically put out his hand to touch the icy surface. The energy within junction-ing at the spot where his skin touched. His mind flashed to his book, the incantations seeming to scroll through his mind as if he had memorised them. He pulled his hand back, his eyes wide.

“No. Not now, not after.” He said aloud, surprised at his voice echoing around him.

The energy seemed to pull his hand back towards the iced spike, the white light coursing up and down beginning to bleed a red hue, like blood poured into water. Suddenly he gripped with both hands, and his eyes crashed shut.

In his mind boxes thrust upwards all around him. He could hear the splintering sound of broken wood, crashing about and smashing together. Boxes made, assembled all around. He spun in his mind, the boxes being filled over and over with these stranger creatures, ones from this planet, ones that looked like the girl. The eyes shut, their faces contorted in a pain and despair. The boxes packed up on themselves, stacking higher and higher until they touched the roof, bursting forth as the sky seemed to open. Down flooded the Dimian like rain, their green phosphorus glow consuming the boxes, the ice and everything they touched. Finding their way to him, they started to devour his feet, quickly bubbling up to cover his legs, their rabid hunger devouring him and his soul as he silently screamed.

His eyes flew open, his hands still on the spikes. The energy inside seemed to have gathered, flashes of red and white streaks eager to break out and go somewhere. All on his direction, he knew. He could feel the power beneath the cold ice in his hands. A little fleck of ice fluttered down and landed gently on his nose, it looked like a snowflake. He pictured the forest back home, swathed in a blanket of white. The perpetual winter. He shook off the ice, and the feeling which was rushing through him suddenly and uncontrollably. He pulled his hands away just as he heard a shout from behind, calling his name. His real name, one he’d not heard for many years.

Back on earth, back in the clearing the mist had swelled and seeped steadily, covering everything. The Stones shone like giant eyes in the foggy conditions and Ezra could only just see Malthrop, though he stood close. It had happened in a blink of an eye, all around was covered with the unusual mist and very faintly they could hear something out in the otherness.

“What is happening now, this is getting a bit too much for an old man to take.” Malthrop said, quite unused to these courses of magical happenings. Ezra stood, looking and thinking, piecing it all together in his skull, his mind that of the lady of the jars, turning over the magic like a mixture in a bowl. What was this?

“The correction!” He said suddenly and enthusiastically.

“Tell me, is that a good or bad thing?” Malthrop asked, unsure.

“It’s good, trust me. This is what she needed; this is what P’erl was here to do. It’s the correction that the world needs.” Ezra replied. Malthrop looked on, seeing only the dark and fog, shadows moving about beyond.

“If you say so, I hope you’re right. To me it looks ominous.” He said, pulling his cloak in a bit tighter to him.

“It’s all an illusion. Have you gone through a day ever feeling a bit off? Like something was missing, or kept you from enjoying a moment? Have you felt the coldness in someone’s voice, or seen an emptiness in their eyes? It’s how the world has slipped over time, with everyone putting their needs first, their actions of comfort being the central theme to their life. No one said life should ever been easy or comfortable. Everyone pushes against the difficult, burying it when it will only sprout in other areas. This world has amassed a great underground burial of darkness, it’s what keeps everything never quite right.” Ezra said, rather impassioned.

“And this correction will fix all that, for good?” Malthrop asked.

Ezra shook his head.

“Not forever no, but it resets everything and gives us all another chance to start over. This mist is sweeping through and absorbing all the darkness, all the negativity and pain. It’s quite an amazing event. It needed the girl; it needed the power of the magic and the energy that came from Europa.” He added.

“But what will happen to the darkness, surely it can’t just disappear.” Malthrop said, taking it all in. Ezra turned to him; his eyes alive with excitement.

“The brightest light of course comes from the darkest places, it will transform it, and I think we’re about to see that happen.” Ezra said, and just as he did, they heard a sound off in the distance but close too as if it tickled their own ears. An ethereal sound began to grow, like water washing inside a shell, it spread outward and inward at the same time, a beautiful sound like prayers caught in the ceiling of a temple. On the horizon a small light burned into existence and grew outwardly, it was one of only two times in Malthrop’s life where his breath had been taken away in wonder.

“Quickly.” The lady of the jars said, rushing forth towards the illumination station. They could see a sparking light emit from the place through the icy shell. P’erl had left herself for a moment, hurrying off in her mind to a place she had known from birth. A Library is a rough description of where she went to in that moment, but it best fits what the place on Europa was. A place of knowledge, or guidance, of help. The power in those frozen words, collected and stored for eons, etched in water which flowed and froze in memories recorded in time. She left, only for a moment, to find in that place all that was needed.

The lady called his name, it sounded odd to them both there in that moment, a million miles later. Few knew him, few could remember who he once had been. Back at the start, where it needed to end and begin once more. He turned to her, his hands pulling away from the ice in that moment, the energy stuttering, not knowing where to go.

“Come back, back from the brink.” She called again, her voice traveling with speed to surround him, on the wings of tiny invisible creatures to pop by his ears. He looked at them, a desperate calling in his eyes, a darkness and sadness which leaked outwards in the bright atmosphere of Europa.

“I hate you.” He said, the darkness spilling from his mouth. The lady laughed, knowing there suddenly they had finally won.

“You hate the snow, that is all. The darkness hates light, but it needs it to be. You may have chosen this route, but you can always choose a different course. Come, it is the end.” She said, stepping forward and holding her hand outward. He reached for her, the darkness dispersing like smoke in the wind. He broke away from the connection with the ice and turned to her, he reached out also, a smile and warmthless appearing there on his face. Behind him a great surge in energy fired through the icy spikes, all of them erupting now with giant flashes of sparkling white light.

The lady turned to P’erl, uncertainty there only for a moment. P’erl held her own hands out towards the gentleman and the lady.

“There is no danger, this is as it should be. Your earthly energies are strange but not unknown here. Choices and change are more powerful than many see.” And with that, they all grasped each other’s hands, the ancient magic of the lady of the jars, the transformed darkness of the gentleman of the boxes and the cosmic swell of the girl from Europa joined there in that moment, sparkling the ice all around them like huge shattering diamonds of light.

The clearing was still and quiet. Ezra and Malthrop found themselves on the floor of the clearing, the snow beneath spreading a chill. Malthrop opened his eyes, lifting his body upwards to sit and look at the view before him. The mist and fog were gone, and he could hear some early bird song off in the distant trees.

Next to him, Ezra stirred, rubbing his head as he too sat up.

“I’m getting pretty tired of all these surprises you know.” He said, looking around also to see what had happened.

“It has been something that calls for a good write up I think, a story to pass along to others lest they don’t believe.” Malthrop replied, smiling.

Behind them the Mondol stones continued their connection with Europa, the transportive image showing the moon on the other side of space.

“So, all has righted itself then?” Malthrop asked, shaking off the snow from his hair.

“I believe so, this world needed a great correcting.” Ezra said, looking out into the clearing.

“Changes to come then, for the better still I hope.” Malthrop said. Ezra nodded his head.

“Much will change and has changed. We all need to be mindful that what we do affects others more than we usually realise.” Ezra added.

In the space between the two, a clump of snow fell away and up through the white covering a sprout was pushing its way upwards searching for the light. Before them the green, struggling against the pull of gravity, burst forth into a yokey brilliance. A daffodil smiled back to them; its yellow petals dusted with the snow it had needed to escape through to be.


snowflake up close

Forever winter (Part 26)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


BRIGHT WHITE LIGHT

Snow, all around her. Light white brilliant snow. She could smell it, sense it. Hear the silence that always came with it. Little flecks of moisture in the air now suspended in perpetual intricate beauty. Those snowflakes had carved themselves of her heart, and she would never undo their grooves.

The whiteness dazzled. It sung in its blinding opulence, covering everything before her, around her and inside her. Fresh snow has a distinct crisp glow, untouched and virginal it lays there awaiting the drops of dirt or imprint of a foot to begin the entropic change. A great white blanket thrown over her landscape.

She saw this now, feeling the cold tiptoe up her skin as a light cold breeze completed the scene. She shivered in happiness, gone was the brilliance of the sun and the heat. That humidness which made her sweat and attracted the flies to everything. The forest and plants heaved under the weight of the fallen snow, yet sprouts and tufts of ferns poked through, not covered completely. Already adapting to their encasement, the flowers turned towards the sun, though hidden behind a grey cloth of cloud. Breathing it all in, she was amazed not only by what she had done, but the power of nature itself.

It was her first great display, her first control of weather that she had earlier bottled in a jar. She had climbed the great green dragon, the mountain at the edge of their little world. Many younger and stronger souls would not brave such a climb, but the lady of the jars had done just this. Reaching the summit to bottle the snow and cold, now twinkling in a jar left casually on her kitchen table by the orange bowl. She had succeeded, her frozen landscape stretched as far as her eyes could muster in the blinding white. She knew herself, for a first attempt, there was a limit to its reach. But with more attempts, the winter she so longed for creeped further and further from her, casting its cold hand across the land.

It was the white, the blinding iridescent collide in her eyes and mind that took her back to that first great unravelling of her power. It, like that first snow, surrounded her now. Coursing through her body and electrifying all around. The power of the stones had struck the lady of the jars like lightning strikes the sand, and inside her thoughts and her being were burnt to a crystalline liquid, where she could see through to her soul. It took only a moment, but in that flash, she saw all of time. She breathed in the life of those around in the clearing. From birth to their coming deaths, she watched as all their lives fell slowly like snowflakes. She saw P’erl’s home planet, the surroundings of her childhood and growing up with the hole her mother left. The gentleman of the boxes slid out on the ice of her eyes, his fragile boyhood, smacked and damaged by life. Malthrop’s recent pain shimmered like diamonds with drops of blood within. And even the Dimian’s all-consuming drive was spun out on god’s fingertips, showing her the balance of the universe and the need for all life’s happy accidents. She saw her own death, and she smiled seeing how she would finally leave this material realm, and who waited for her in the next.

It was these lives that were important, that was clear to her. Not the power or the control; or even the great cosmic shifts that were happening there in that small clearing. That was what came with the voice in the light, the tinkering chime of bells like sleigh bells announcing an arrival. It was strong and determined, the essence of life and its importance. How precious people and things really are, and how easily damaged and corrupt they can become without love. In the white light, she slowly began to make out the shapes, like the opposite of the dark when you can see things out of the corner of your eyes. It all came back in slow motion, materialising out of the force around her, her heart skipping not once, but twice over as the energy passed through her. She knew what must be done, and she knew that she had been given a glance at this moment before in her life. In dreams and feelings, in moments where she had felt the future but failed to grasp it, like trying to cup breath on a cold day.

She closed her eyes and allowed the force to take her. Willing her body across to where the Dimian were huddled, offering them the most divine and fused banquet for their small little mouths.

Ezra and Malthrop stood, shielding their eyes from the burst of light emitted from the stones. They had watched the lady of the jars stride forth towards the centre. The Girl from Europa had hung by the other Mondol stone, she and the gentleman of the boxes seemingly caught in the static pull of the stone nearest to them. The scene was electrifying as the white light smashed down into the clearing, out of the stones, and blistering around them. Ezra smelt the hum of static electricity and could taste the change in the air. Like glimpses at the sun, they waited for their vision to return and the white smear across their eyes to dissipate.

A soft snow had begun to fall once more, and Ezra searched the place with his eyes to where the lady of the jars stood moments before, but nothing was there. Malthrop in similar confoundedness looked to where P’erl had been with the gentleman of the boxes, but that space too yawned an emptiness that was only repeated by the disappearance of the Dimian. The clearing was empty of souls but those two, the giant stones quiet and silent now as the snow began to settle on their crests.

“What happened, where did they all go?” Malthrop asked, unfamiliar with this extent of magic and calamity.

“I…I don’t know.” Ezra mumbled back, unsure of everything himself.

He walked forward slowly, his eyes scanning the clearing as if maybe they were all hiding behind a tree. The silence about them felt heavy, the static in the air now gone and only the little flakes of snow drifting through like white embers.

“What was most likely to have happened, logically what would have taken place?” Malthrop asked, coming next to Ezra. They both stood between the two stones now, the giant rocks ached in their stillness. Ezra turned to the ground, thinking desperately. His own mind was flashing between what he had seen before, and the thoughts and memories of the lady of the jars. A parade of her life intersecting with the white flash he’d just witnessed.

“The Kahall.” He said, quietly. And though he hadn’t seen, a little spark popped out of the centre of both of the stones. He went on. “The Kahall, they were the ancients who transformed the natural magic. They siphoned the great light through everything you see, hear, touch. This life hinges on the motes of energy within. They used the stones, like a great well, plunging the depths of the world to control the magic. It’s here written on the rock.” Ezra said, pointing to the one closest to them.

Malthrop stepped closer to the stone, looking at the base and following upward the spiralling pattern which bore the knowledge.

“It’s for everyone, it does not recognise good or bad. It is power, energy; and it’s how we use it that results in what we manifest. The lady, she was…is the kindest soul. She would want to restore the balance, to roll things to a time when no one was pushing forth a need of their own. Too much of a good thing can be just as bad as too much of the wrong. P’erl was the essence of good, innocence. But her strength is otherworldly and quite powerful. Balance, she would have looked for the balance.” Ezra said, his head low, thinking still.

Malthrop turned from the stone.

“What would have made that balance possible?”

“To receive anything, you must give. She would’ve given herself to stabilise all the energy. A filament for the moment. She knew the magic; she knew the balance. She had become, herself, too needful of her control of the weather. It came from a good place, but it tipped the scales as much as the gentleman of the boxes had. She would’ve recognised this and did what she had to. She knew it was coming.” Ezra said, sadly.

“So, they’re all gone then, is that what you mean?”

“The consequence to balance, some things disappear.” Ezra said, the realisation hitting him suddenly and pulling at his heart.

“What a terrible waste, there is too much loss already in the world. Are things safe now then?” Malthrop asked, suddenly noticing that all the bodies had disappeared from the clearing.

Ezra looked around again himself.

“Yes, safe and better I’m assuming. The wrongs have been corrected, there is peace and order again in the land.”

“Then come, let us go from here if it is all complete.” Malthrop said, coming across to Ezra and putting his hand on his shoulder.

“I might stay for a while, just to see….” He trailed off.

“Come my friend, if I go, you go too. No point in remaining here alone, come back to my house and I’ll get us some much-needed food.” Malthrop said smiling, comfortingly.

It was the spark from the stones and the thought in his mind, suddenly illuminating at the same time. A Little light emitted from the centre of the stones again, and with Ezra’s realisation, there might be hope.

“If I go, you go…” He said aloud. He looked between the stones now, the sparks spluttering with a bit more urgency.

“I only meant…” Malthrop began, but Ezra cut in.

“No, it’s good. It’s good. If I go, you go. She said it. The crazy old fool must have been right. She can’t be gone yet, for I’m still here.” He said, smiling now.

“I don’t understand.” Malthrop said.

“I know, and it’s a long story. But believe me, there is a chance that it’s not as bad as we think. She’s alive, somewhere. And that probably means the others are too. I don’t know what is happening, but the stones are trying to tell us something now, look.” Ezra said, and Malthrop turned to see the stones himself, each one leaking a string of white light from the centre.

“What’s happening now?” Malthrop asked.

“Let’s watch and find out…maybe we’d better step back a little.” Ezra said, urging them both backward, away from the strings of light which were snaking towards each other across the floor of the clearing.

The strings began to whirl a pulsing sound, like two desperate hands reaching for one another. The light began to intensify the closer they got and the little sparks at the end fizzed and hissed, chasing away the dark. Malthrop couldn’t help it, but he held his breath just as the two ends met, a shower of light, sparks and white heat once again exploded around them.

With the two points fused together, a rotating blue pulse emitted from the centre, plunging backwards into the stones. As the throb quickened, the middle of the stones began to cave away, revealing a cloudy opening like an eye. The white and the blue swirled and swirled, and the centres opened up further offering the two souls who stood before them a glimpse at another world.

It is not unusual to find rock on Europa, though the types that are there are very different from those on earth. Though they indeed exist, they are not used in building or any structural elements, the Europans preferring the icy caves and hollows to fashion their world out of. Most stones and rocks hold a different set of use and practices for them, many used as the centre of some ceremony or ritual.  Lying in the navel of the great Koddoah, a huge building shaped similarly to a flower, lay five giant stones. The Koddoah is an ancient place where the energy and power of all around is recognised, but not worshipped. It is venerated through ceremonies and events that remind all Europans of the great essence of the universe. These stones are marked with the same carvings as those in the clearing on earth, and on the frozen white moon two of these stones had just begun to come alive with light.


snowflake up close

Forever winter (Part 25)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


The time yet to be

Chu’zin was known for its fireworks. Of course, the city was known for a great many things too, least of all the cherry blossoms that bloomed in such substantial proportions that it made the city look like a floating pink cloud from the distant regions of Marloagh. But it was their firework displays, and production that many new the place for. The usual festivals made use of the renowned colourful displays, but once a year in the winter they had a very special festival which lit up the sky like heaven was exploding. K’boah, the time yet to be. An event the whole city, and surrounding villages came together to mark the advent of the future. Not a new year, but the light of the future which they drew down into their hearts. The fireworks were used to signal up into the heavens, that the people were eager for another day, another life ahead. Firing rockets and colour up into the sky, drawing down the light for a new tomorrow.

The displays of K’boah were legendary, with each year new floating lanterns and arrangements set to outdo last year’s efforts. The whole city looked as if it were on fire, the energy positive and hopeful for change. A soaring section of fireworks were always kept constant, plunging upwards into the night sky, creating a ladder of light up, up and up. Drawing down the light from beyond, drawing in the new tomorrow.

These were the lights Malthrop had seen, on one visit to Chu’zin. The lights he and the others saw now in the clearing were just as intense and commanding, but they held a more magical aura. The Mondol stones shone upwards, their lights never breaking, and glowing in their beautiful hum. The green and the blue pierced the sky above, pointing rays to the stars above them. The blue misty light from one side of the clearing reflected off the snow, a white haze moving towards them like collected fog. On the other side, the spluttering lizard green which made it seem the trees were alive. It hissed like a static wave, pouring forth into the clearing with heat and intensity.

The lady watched the blue light bobbing out into the open, she cast her eyes towards Malthrop who remained on the ground, holding the body in his arms still. He too was drawn to the lights, which hypnotically weaved into the lives.

“What’s happening, is this his doing?” Ezra asked, his eyes alive with curiosity.

“No, I don’t think so. But look at the colours, the blue and the green. It’s like….” The lady said but was cut short by the appearance of the Dimian now in all their collectiveness, getting closer to the Mondol stone which shone with the green light.

“Look, look at that!” Ezra said, pointing towards the mass.

The Dimian were toppling over themselves, their little bodies bobbing up and down in the strange light that cast over them. Little sparks emitted from them as they jumped and swayed towards the stone, it too striking off arching lights that sprung forth from the edges.

“It looks like they are charging up or something, being fuelled by the stone.  Why is it doing that?” Ezra asked, his eyes glued to the scene. Not many people had ever seen a Dimian, and never in such numbers; least of all surviving to tell the tale.

“They are feeding off the energy, but something else is happening; it’s not their usual source of power. It’s reacting differently with them it seems.” The lady of the jars said, equally fascinated. She knew a lot about the magic of the world, and indeed of the Dimian. Seen for their destructiveness, they were also the cleaners of the world, the insects of the realm that mopped up any extra magic that was lying around.

“Look there!” Ezra said, pointing off over to the other side of the clearing where the foggy blue mist made contact with the other stone. “It’s P’erl.”

They all looked over and they could see the girl from Europa now, a cocoon of light swam around her, beating like a heartbeat. Next to her they could see the gentleman of the boxes, falling down to his knees now as the blue mist touched the other Mondol stone. Unlike the sparks from the Dimian, the light here seemed to wash them like waves, little tides of blue flowing from the stone over them, the intense white from P’erl unfazed by the ripples, like a diamond poking out of the ocean.

“What the hell is going on!” Ezra asked.

“I think we are here for the end.” The lady of the jars said, and stood forth and commandingly, as if announcing herself to the clearing, the stones and to the world at large. With a loud crack of thunder above, they saw a lightning strike of ice burst out of the sky and rocketed down to where she stood, little flakes of snow hissing all around them as they melted in an instant in the heat from the lights that encased them in the clearing.

The Dimian are necessary creatures in the world, though many would wish them to never be. They are seen as dangerous, evil and selfish. The locusts of the underworld, consuming and collecting, caring not for what they destroy or what consequence they leave behind. They are dormant for many years, consuming vast quantities of power and energy to sustain their sleep periods which can last generations. They are creatures on Europa also which follow a similar pattern. The Lankaripii are small little clouds that can fit in the palm of your hand. They move through the ice caverns, sucking up the nitrogen that bleeds out of the ice and rock, the stuff of comets. They then gather, en-masse, in giant cloudarys, a type of funnel, which hang from the roofs of the deeper caves. They pulsate a purple radiance when they hibernate, the nitrogen sustaining their sleep while they slowly oxidise and expel powder particles which line the walls and allow for the Europans to breathe at such depths. All a cycle, all part of the process.

But unlike the Lankaripii, Dimian do not discriminate in their source of fuel. They consume whatever is powerful, whatever energy source they can devour. In turn, it can have a subtle effect on their nature. Negative power can cause them to be volatile and unstable. But the opposite is true of the positive nature of light, in which once it is consumed, the Dimian will emit rebuilding molecules in their expelling processes and be more collectively beneficial; and usually seeking slumber quicker. The negative power seems to aggravate as well as stimulate.

The gentlemen of the boxes had fed them dangerous magic, an unstable and corrosive form which only sought to destroy. They were encased and rattled, unable to be their true state of being. Once his power was broken, and they were free to escape, they had exploded angrily into the clearing, hungry for more of the dangerous elements.

The Mondol stones themselves are neither good, nor bad, but a collective balance of power. Like a lightbulb, they work on both positive and negative elements to exist. Generating an energy from the world around them, feeding into a new power. They have many properties of course, and many uses, though most people revere them too much to investigate or know. That is to say, just the one stone, for the other had been hidden for centuries. The lady of the jars knew what power the stones held of course, she had read about the old magic and knew of the balance it could create in the world and beyond.

As the Dimian were frozen in their state of consumption, they all watched as P’erl moved towards the other stone, the blue light emitting from it suddenly surging towards her in an arc. In a flash the two stones connected themselves, the blinding white light exploding all around them and sending a white pulse up into the sky above them. The whole clearing was bathed in the brilliance, the white snow evaporating in an instant as the heat and light melted it all around.

“Should we do something?” Ezra asked, casting his hand over his eyes and turning to where he thought the lady was. But she was striding forth now, towards the centre of the clearing between where the two stones and pillars of action were. “Wait, is it safe?” Ezra called after her, sparks and cracks of light emitting themselves in little hissings snakes all around the stones, the girl and the Dimian.

Ezra spotted the gentleman of the boxes now, on the floor of the clearing over where P’erl was by the stone. He was cowering, holding his hands up against the light which must have been blinding so close. He watched as P’erl floated on the spot, her eyes open and transfixed on the stone before her. Swinging his glance to the other side, he saw the Dimian throbbing and shaking, slowly building themselves upwards, atop each other as if climbing up towards the stone, slowly arching over towards the light which shot through them. It was an awesome scene, the frazzled smell of heat with water lifting all around.

“Do we do something?” Malthrop asked Ezra, who kept his eye on the scene before him.

“I think we have to see what happens; she knows what she’s doing.” Ezra said, watching the lady of the jars striding into the centre of the clearing.

She strode forth, watching the light arc above her head, mindful of all the knowledge now coursing through her mind. The magic, the memories, the pain and the joy. What her mother had told her, what she had learnt from her book. What she felt in her heart. A great connection had been made before them now. This was no accident; this had been planned. P’erl was here to bring a balance, the Dimian were driving the negative side. P’erl, from the other side of space had come here to give herself to them, to correct what was wrong. But what was so wrong? That thought stopped her now, caught in her head like a bit of toast caught in a throat.

What is needing correction?

The world was difficult, painful and hard sometimes. Her own life had taught her that. The pain she had experienced, which had led to her control of the weather, to banish those sunny days. The pain she knew about deeply. But there was joy and wonder too. She saw the hope and love in the eyes of the children, in the souls of the village near to her, in books and stories that she read. She looked over and saw the gentleman of the boxes, and she felt pity. She had driven him, in part, to his deeds. She and her control of the snow. She had sought her own comfort from something outside herself, without the consideration of others.

Had the painful events in her life not have happened, could she be the person she was today? The lady of the jars, who read stories to children and baked gingerbread. Who helped those who needed it and bottled, not just weather, but things for others if required? The plants in her jars, the essences for medicine. Helping those in the village. A kind soul who had turned the dark of her life, to the light she bottles and gave away. Was life, this world really in need of such a correction? Or was it as it should be.

These thoughts coursed through her now, mindful of prophecies that dripped in her bones also. P’erl, the girl from Europa who she had come to call a friend. She was here, she’d been sent for a purpose. But it now seemed distant to her, as if she was unsure of what to do. She knew she was here to do something, and she knew that all this had been aligned. But she was suddenly unsure of what she herself needed to do. She listened to the frantic static of the light, coursing above and all around her. The pulse of blue, green and even dapples of red illuminations speckling her eyes and popping in her mind like the fireworks of Chu’zin.

As if sensing she needed a little prodding, a giant strike of light exploded from the side of both of the stones, finding the body of the lady of the jars and funneling thousands of years of knowledge, power and magic into her. As her eyes exploded in white light, she saw what the future held, and knew then that everyone was invited to join her. A light given for tomorrow.


snowflake up close

Forever winter (Part 24)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


Lights shine the way

He was able to subdue the water, it was slowing off anyway as he uncorked the little vial and let the rays of sunshine beams out into the tunnel. The water evaporated in an instant, the light’s rays almost making the water disappear before his eyes. Such power, he thought to himself as he then sped on through the tunnel, sploshing in the occasional puddle that remained on the muddy floor.

He passed a broken box, the remains wedged into the side where a little alcove cut into the walls. A hand buried partially into the sides of the wall which looked soft and wet from the water. The magic seemingly nearly gone from the body, he wondered why it had not lasted. Still, no matter. He rushed on through, knowing the tunnel system well, weaving and slithering down the tunnels; back to where he had left the woman and the boy.

He suddenly came to a fork in the tunnel, which was not a part of his memory. It looked as if the water had burst through from another section, a ghostly side of the tunnel system that he was unaware of. He poked his head around the side, looking deep into the darkness. The light from this vial, which he’d bottled back up, cast a glow and a line which he directed downwards, the tunnel sloping slightly. He thought he heard something. He held his breath and listened. There! That sound, what was it. Singing, someone was singing down here. The lady of the jars, what did she, or any of them have to sing about?

For some reason, this angered the gentleman of the boxes further, as if in the face of all his plans that endeavoured to betray and harm them, they had a cause to sing.

The song grew steadily, echoing now around the hollowed-out tunnel. It sounded choral, enchanting. As if little fairies were whispering delicately into his ears. He shook his head, trying to think straight. But the sound grew stronger, and he was suddenly aware of how tired he was. His eyes now becoming heavy. He looked down the tunnel and saw a little blue light weaving and bopping up towards him. It was like a blue candle as it swayed his way, lulling him along with the ethereal voice of song.

Before he knew it a blue mist was swirling all around him, little hands seemed to be stroking his head, his back and arms. Comforting, calming. The touch of another that he’d not had in so long. He closed his eyes for but a moment, allowing the soothing state to take over. But then he snapped back, his mind present in the now and assessing what was happening. But he couldn’t move, his arms were glued to his side, his eyes couldn’t even scan around him; stuck looking forward as he saw the girl explode forth from the candle like a dam breaking.

He tried to speak but found he could not. He was at the mercy of her now, the girl from Europa; the one he wished to consume and then destroy. She looked at him, her sapphire eyes gleaming in the glow from all around. His muddy eyes glowed back, an anger rising in him much more potent than he’d care to admit. For the gentleman of the boxes no longer knew where he and the magic ended and began. Indeed, the cells of his body were encased now in the darkness which had corrupted like a cancer. She sensed it, she felt it now as she hovered her hand above his heart. The oil inside, dripping and sludging through his soul. He tried to shut his eyes, but it only made them shake and puff out of his head slightly, as if he was holding his breath.

She leant forward and placed her finger on his forehead, and his world turned inside out.

They both breathed in the cold night air as they burst out of the ground. Ezra and the lady of the jars found themselves surrounded by mounds of snow many feet deep at the base of the huge trees of this part of the forest. They also found themselves at the feet of a man that they thought, for a moment, was the gentleman of the boxes.

“Are you alright?” Malthrop asked kindly, extending a hand and pulling them both to their feet.

“We are now, to be out of that damn warren.” Ezra said, dusting off his clothes of the soil that had smeared in their ascent.

“Thank you, yes.” The lady of the jars said, rightening and taking in the sight of the new soul before them. “A pair we must look like”. She added, knowing they both must look like they had been through quite an ordeal, and indeed they had.

“It’s late to be out, do you mind if I ask if you know anything about the light.” Malthrop asked, smiling with his eyes, letting them know he was of no danger.

“And who are you when it it’s at home?” Ezra said, rather curtly.

“Ezra, manners.” The lady quickly added. Malthrop shook his head apologetically.

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry. My name is Malthrop, I live not far from here. I noticed the strange light from the Mondol stone.” He said, pointing off over through the trees. Just as he said this, Tanker came bounding over the nearest drift of snow and tumbled down to their feet, woofing and hollering. He sneezed where he landed, the snow fluffing off into the night air and then he turned his attention to Ezra, jumping up at him and barking, a friendly bark.

“Tanker, down. Get down.” Malthrop said, starting forth to pull the dog away.

“He’s fine, as long as he’s friendly.” Ezra replied, lowering down to calm the dog, petting his cold fur.

“The Mondol stone you say, is it alive, shining?” The lady asked, excitedly.

“Indeed, it is. Well, it was when I set out. But just as we came across that bank there.” The man said, pointing behind him. “Another light burst up into the sky. Green this time.” He finished. Tanker skirted to his feet now, circling the man before going up to the woman and sniffing her clothes. She stroked his head, soothingly.

“Wonderful. Just wonderful.” The lady said, smiling to herself.

“So, you know what this is all about then? Are you a witch too?” The man asked, though no alarm rippled through his voice.

“Well, I’ve been called that before, but I assure you I’m on the good guy’s side.” She replied.

“Then there’s a bad side?” The man asked.

“There definitely is. And he’s a right old bastard I can assure you!” Ezra added indignantly.

“Ezra, language.” The lady said. “Though I admit, he’s been quite the pebble in our shoe I must say. The gentleman of the boxes.”

“He is no gentleman. What kind of gentlemen goes around trying to kill people!” Ezra cut back.

“He dangerous then?” Malthrop asked, concerned.

“You got that right bud, and he’s about in this forest doing deeds and wanting to make things pretty miserable for everyone around here.” Ezra said.

“I see.” The man said, taking in this new information. He looked up through the trees to where the lights were beaming up from the stones. “And the stones are a part of this? I usually avoid the area, but they seemed to call to me tonight.” He added.

“They are ancient and knowing, they speak to the deeper souls. Though who know love and loss, right and wrong. I sense your heart is recently heavy, I can see it in your eyes.” The lady said. The man was silent.

“Well, we best go and see what all the fuss with the stones are about then, if you think this is the answer to all of this. Would be nice to have a rest and let things be for a while.” Ezra said, rubbing Tanker’s back.

“Come, let us go through together. Safety in numbers, these woods have been pretty dangerous as late.” Malthrop said.

“Dimian.” The lady replied.

“If you say so.” The man said, smiling at her, helping her up the bank of snow that led deeper into the trees.

The boxes and the bones washed their way out of the tunnels and into the clearing, smashing over one another and the stray rocks that strew the area. The slosh of water and snow made for a freezing scene, the blue and green light emanating from the Mondol stones made it look like a giant lake, glittering in an atmospheric hue. As the water flow finally ceased, it seeped away back into the soil, staining the ground with it’s rush of recent travel.

It was down in the ground where the Dimian were still trapped, encased in the power of the gentleman of the boxes. They twitched and murmured, thronged and ached to be free. Suddenly, like a spark of light, freedom overwhelmed them. Their invisible chains were cast aside, and they exploded in movement, their minds frothing and hungry for the power they could feel all around them and could now devour.

Pearl learnt it all then, his memories and thoughts rushed inside her like icy water. She saw and felt the pain, the disconnection, the hatred. Yet deeper, longer back she saw a love, a lighter energy that had never been extinguished, but merely buried in an inner box. He felt no pain as she walked through his life in her mind. Instead, it was as if a boil in him had been lanced, gushing forth all the toxicity.

She looked into his eyes, and she saw humanity. She saw a love for another that had followed her from one planet in the solar system, to another. The eyes that looked back were no different from the eyes of her family on Europa. The light that shone there was made from the same cosmic dust that illuminated those souls on her home planet. The same light, just in a different vessel.

She moved her hand down to his chest and felt his heart beating. Spasmodically thumping in fear and uncertainty. She knew he felt remorse, but there was something else there, something hiding in the dark shadows of his soul. She searched, sending her vibrations through him like sonic waves. It was there, lurking. Something that didn’t want to be found. She pushed on, desperate to find it, her hand feeling the way over his heart. There, a flash of crimson. She nearly got it, her mind hurrying now past trauma and loneliness.

Her eyes flew open, and she gasped.

It was as if it had bit her, little teeth snapping at her soul. She let go of him and he shook his head, shaking off her aura that had swelled around him like a fine mist.

“What, what are you doing?” He coughed up, dry and hoarse. When had he even spoken last?

The girl looked at him, assessing him still.

“It’s too late, it’s all too late.” He said and hung his head.

“Then you need to put it right.” She said, turning her back to him and stepping forward into the tunnel. Like a rope pulling him, he was tugged forward and with a blink of an eye they were suddenly rushing out through the tunnel, the walls blurring as they sped past in the blue stream of light.

“Look, there.” Malthrop said, coming out of the clearing.

They had seen the lights of course, two beams pulsating upwards into the cold night’s sky. But now, coming to the clearing, they could see the Mondol stones, both of them at once. The original stone stood where it always had, cast down from the skies like the mythical peach pit discarded. The other sat across from it, on the other side of the clearing, about twenty strides apart. It’s green light too pulsed up into the sky. It had been forced up out of the ground, as they had seen, now stuck in the open as if it had been there for years.

“They look exactly the same.” Ezra said, as he flicked some snow off his shoulder which had fallen from the nearby tree.

“Perfectly the same.” The lady said, smiling.

“You know about all this then?” Malthrop asked, they all were entranced by the lights given off by the stones.

“A little, that I hope helps.” The lady said, casting her eyes around the clearing. Her smile evaporating.

“Look at all that.” Ezra said suddenly, referring to the boxes and bodies which they could now make out on the floor of the clearing.

“Are those bodies?” Malthrop asked, stepping forward.

“Yes, they are.” The lady said. She had not moved, the wind catching a tear that had crept at the side of her eye. She watched for a moment, as Ezra and Malthrop stepped forth, out of the woods and towards one of the nearest broken boxes. The sound from the Mondol stones echoed around them, like a crackling fire, the light splattering disconnectedly around the scene.

“Who are all these people, all these things?” Malthrop asked, coming across the body of a badger. The fur had been sheared off in places, and a strange little wooden frame had been placed through the skin, forcing its arms and legs outward, it’s eyes swirling with a strange dull red light.

“Don’t touch them, not yet.” The lady said, coming over to him. She knelt down, looking at the creature. “The magic is faint, but still there slightly.” She shook her head.

“People, I can’t believe he did it to people.” Ezra said, standing near to them over a mangled body face down in the grass. “Building some unnatural army!”

“We need to set all this right.” The lady said, standing now and looking towards the stones. “We need Pearl.” She said. “If we all spread out…..” The lady stopped. Malthrop had moved away from her, towards another body which stuck up awkwardly from the ground. The box it was in had crumbled around it but was still intact slightly, the body lulled half out of it like a tongue out of a mouth.

“Malthrop….” The lady said, a sudden realisation coming over her as she saw the scene. “Oh, no.” She said, her heart sinking.

Malthrop bent down and picked the body up into his arms, a sob extended out quietly where they were, but spread quickly and painfully around the clearing, like a pebble dropped into an agonising lake.

It was sudden and explosive, two lights very different from each other tracking silently in the woods suddenly flared on either side of the clearing. The blue misty glow on one side, and the greeny red bubbling on the other. As if it had been planned by some twist of fate, each burst through the trees together, showering those within the clearing with confrontation.


snowflake up close

Forever winter (Part 23)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


Discoveries at the edge of chaos

She sensed it; she could feel the power of the water charging beyond in the tunnels. The flow and the power, the energy coursing, and of course her friends. She knew they were safe, so to speak, currently riding along beneath her feet somewhere. P’erl stood before the coffin box that blocked the tunnel in front of her. She could see the gaps between the box and the walls, a little light dancing beyond in the tunnel somewhere. There was movement beyond. There was movement too in the eyes that watched her now, flicking back and forth.

P’erl was tall, and she stood with a stoop in the tunnel, her head bent just below the roof. The coffin was wedged into the space, but the thing inside was smaller than she. She knew what it was, she knew what he’d done. The man of the boxes. He’d taken a body; she did not think he’d killed them himself; perhaps removed it from a grave or found a corpse somewhere in the forest. A traveller caught in the white storm. She knew it had passed, the energy of life that she could sense in other beings was deadened here. But she felt the other force, the other magic. The reanimated spell he had put over the thing. She stepped towards the box just as the lid slid open, falling towards her like a gang plank.

The yellow eyes were swift, but the body was slow. Unaccustomed to its new lease of life perhaps. The old man, his clothes ragged and covered in soil; lurched towards her with outstretched arms. She watched as if in slow motion as it stumbled over the lid, the limbs moving at odds to the intended direction it seemed. The eyes though, they were rabid. Frantic and angry they dug into her, and it was then she felt it. It pinned her in place, the eyes streaming a force over her like a dreadful ray of sunlight. The sickly yellow glow seemed to glue her arms to the side, covering her in an invisible wax that seemed to hold on to her. She felt the hatred from those sockets, the one and only intent was to hurt and conquer.

The smell of the body engulfed her then as it approached, like a spider attacking a caught fly. The waft of death circled her, and she closed her eyes just as the man drew up. There were few threats on Europa, but she knew how to protect herself. Traveling to different worlds had made her aware of the imbalance in the universe, where some things took a dominance over others; painfully and completely. She knew death of course, and she knew that this thing before her no longer contained a soul. There was an essence left in the body, like tea leaves left in the bottom of a cup. And she felt now the glimmer of that being who once resided within.

But the darkness and despair of this new creature was commanding, and she felt the energy powerfully in her mind. It was thick and hate filled, and she knew that within that, it would never win. Around her the glow began, luminous like a lamp slowly coming to life. The blue aura lifted off from her skin, phosphorus and almost sticky. The thing crashed into it, plunging forth in its hatred. It screamed in horror as the blue clung all around it, spreading like a river across the deadened skin. It wailed and shrieked in place, like it was being burnt; yet the soft blue glowy light slowly progressed, encasing the creature.

P’erl did not move, she did not open her eyes until it was over. Once she did, the thing before her had dissolved away, leaving nothing but a small white ball the size of a marble on the floor of the tunnel. She bent down and picked up the ball, looking at the detail on the surface. She could see marbled streaks of gold, the essence left from the man and the deeds of his life. Golden and permanent there in the ball. She smiled at the many small veins that coursed all around the tiny sphere. The hope she wanted to find on this planet, the goodness that shone out in gold before her. She placed the ball in her pocket, and she once again made her way down the tunnel, smashing through the coffin with such ease the splinters exploded in an instant as she passed through, still glowing her blue aura.

“Ezra are you okay!” the lady spat, swallowing a huge wave of water as they rushed through the tunnel. She tried to steady herself, but the force of the surge bobbed her back and forth like a dry leaf caught in the rain. She caught sight of Ezra’s head behind her, poking out of the torrent, followed by clutching hands.

“Of course…I’m bloody not!” Ezra called back, he too swallowing copious amounts of water in trying to talk.

They sped on, the dirt from the walls mixing with the crystal-clear water, creating a muddy flow. They jostled and spun, slamming into the sides, the roof and the forks in the tunnel until finally they came to a large open section where the roof soared upwards.

They slowed slightly as the water filled up the huge space, and in that time, Ezra was quick to lunge forth and grab a giant root that dangled from the ceiling. Quickly, the lady saw what he was doing and turned herself, pushing against the wall and leapt forth, grabbing a hold of his legs.

“You can do it!” She yelled at him, his trousers already starting to slide down.

“You need to keep out of that damn biscuit tin!” He wheezed, trying hard to lift himself and her upwards away from the flowing water below.  She rolled her eyes and pulled her feet up clear from the water as a huge row of boxes suddenly washed into the room and below them.

“He’s been busy!” Ezra said as he pulled onto another root and heaved them up higher. The lady looked at the boxes, all different shapes, all painted red and black.

“He’s been planning this a long time it seems.” She said, pulling herself up onto one of the roots, relieving Ezra. “Look, there.” She said, indicating a small hole which seemed to lead upwards.

“I’m on it.” Ezra said, and with a swing on the root he was holding on to, he spun his body upwards and dove feet first into the hole. It was relatively secure, an old fox warren which was compacted around the sides, and he lent out backwards into the chamber, reaching down for her to come up. Surprising him with her agility, she too was able to spring across the dangling roots, as thick as her arm, and spun upwards for him to catch then heave her up out of the chamber.

Moving up a little further, away from the hole they both stopped to catch their breath and fling out some of the water which weighted their clothes.

“He’s not just after you, or the girl. He’s been doing things to others and packing them away in his damn boxes!” Ezra said, shaking his head.

“Yes, I didn’t think it was as bad as this. He must have slipped further over to the darkness.” She said, shaking her head, dislodging a large dew drop of water which had begun to dangle from her nose.

“Crazy. He’s got to be stopped now. Before I thought I just thought he was annoyed by all the snow and had it in for you. But he’s lost it, he’s killing people.” Ezra said, alarmed. The lady shook her head still.

“No, I don’t think he’s killing. Or at least, not yet. Something tells me this isn’t as it seems.” She said.

“Oh, come on, you’re defending him? Why do you always give people the benefit of the doubt?” He replied, annoyed.

“Everyone deserves that, we never truly can see the whole picture. But something in me tells me this isn’t as it seems.” She said, wringing out her sleaves which were soaked.

“Well, you can if you like. But when I see him, I won’t be taking any chances that’s for sure.” Ezra said, almost petulantly.

“You may get that wish sooner than you think, I know he’ll be after the other stone.” She said.

“Good!” He replied, clapping his hands together. In a flash of light that exploded in the tunnel, they were both suddenly dry and a few embers sizzled and faded away as they began their ascent once more, this time only a few feet from fresh air. A few feet from fate.

He stood at the opening, peering into the dark. He imagined the comfort from the underground, the silence and the heaving warmth from the soil around him. Though the snow had stopped, the cold wind blew about him there in the woods, and despite himself, he shivered. The moon shone down on him, speckled through the few tree branches that hung over the entrance to the tunnel.

It hadn’t been too long, and he wondered now how long it would be still. How long would it take for the creatures to bring the girl to him. He knew she was powerful, but he anticipated her passiveness and surprise. The creatures below, for there were many he had placed, would follow his orders and bring her up and out. He worried little over the woman and the boy now, they were secure down beneath and the girl would not find them. The Dimian were secure too, ready and waiting for when he had her.

Now, he wanted that power now.

He swung forth a bag and reached inside, extracting the book that had changed his life so many years ago. He crouched down and leaned the book on his knees as he scanned in the light of the moon. His creatures in the boxes, that was a good step. It had taken him a while to master it, but he knew they would come in handy. They were immune to the hungriness of the Dimian, their power dead in their hungry little eyes. He could trap and keep them where he wanted. He had planned this all of course, but he needed…

He heard it then, a rumbling coming from the hole. He wondered why the creatures would be making such a noise, but as the sound grew louder, he began to back away, unsure of what was about to charge out of the tunnel.

In a flash he was covered in cold water which had burst forth from the hole and smashed him to the floor. The ice and snow all around swamped him, sending freezing chills over his body as he struggled to push himself up. What had happened he wondered. He rolled over to the side, away from the plume of water which continued to surge from the ground.

“That old woman!” He cursed up into the sky. Her and her meddling weather. She must have created some sort of flood, some manipulation to the natural scheme again. Cold and wet, he was enraged with an anger which raced through him. Every step she took, she controlled the things around her, affecting everyone else. He stamped his feet and threw his bag which sploshed against the trunk of the tree. He remembered it then suddenly, and quickly went across to his bag, tearing it open. Inside he pulled out the bag within the bag, the one that belonged to her. He had glanced in it before of course but he had not taken much notice. Now he plunged inside, rummaging frantically for something, anything……ah ha.

His hand drew out of the bag, clutching little vials that raged and hummed. Her weather. Little bits of it contained in the glass. He peered in, looking at thunder and hailstorms, blinding sunshine and cyclonic winds.

“Time to fight fire with fire.” He said aloud to only the woods as he moved towards the entrance of the tunnel which still spewed forth the ocean of water.

Malthrop had been sleeping, it was late after all. His little house in the woods was surrounded by the creak and winds of the trees for which he’d been accustomed to after so long. He hadn’t lived alone, his partner had died only a month ago, and the grave and the pain were still both fresh in his mind. Death had taken them, probably for the better as the disease within had brought about ungodly pain already. Blessings in disguise, veiled relief as his friends would say.

Now it was only he and Tanker, his trusty but very lazy dog. Black as the nights sky, Tanker woofed and barked noisily, his nose at the door of the cottage. Malthrop had seen the blue light, off just over the trees. Reaching forth like the fireworks he’d seen once in Chu’zin. That had been a glorious day, the fireworks had mirrored the feelings in his heart.

This light seemed pure and magical, and though he’d not had much involvement with the mystics and the witches that roamed the wood, he knew their deeds were usually good. And this light, this almost Luna spectacle seemed to penetrate deep within his soul. Calling him.

He donned his jacket, and though surprised by Tanker’s eagerness; was glad that his dog wished to join him as he set out towards the Mondol stone, a place he usually avoided but was always respectful of; knowing the power that surged in this spot.


snowflake up close

Forever winter (Part 22)

The Story so far or Listen to this episode


Before the flood

She knew they were underground. She didn’t need to open her eyes to feel the oppressive nature of the soil all around them. It was hot, stuffy and smelt terrible. Though her snow gave a chill in the bones, there was something very different to being surrounded by earth than the feathery white flakes from the sky.

She was tied up, and the knot was tight around her hands, she could barely wriggle them behind her. Both she and Ezra were bound, separately but just as securely down in an underground vault not far from the Mondol stone. A candle was spluttering around the corner to the area they were being kept in, no bigger than her larder back at the cottage. The candle’s little light danced shadows around the place, but she could see Ezra bound on the other side. He was still unconscious, his head lulled forward like a drunk outside a tavern.

Her heart was racing, a mix of the confinement and the toxin the gentlemen of the boxes had used on them both. She could see nor hear him now, and aside from the little candle spluttering she heard nothing, as is the case underground. Quiet as a tomb.

Her legs were bound also, but not as tightly as her hands, and she was able to thump them a little in Ezra’s direction. After a few tries, she managed to knock his feet, but he didn’t stir at all. She kept on, quietly calling to him to wake, which he eventually did.

“That old bastard!” Ezra boomed into their small space.

“Shhhh, I don’t think he knows we’ve come around yet. I’m not sure where he is.” The lady of the jars hushed, her eyes desperate to peer around the side.

“Come around? I’ll make him come around and back and down and all over the place. That nasty old….” But she cut him off.

“Ezra, shush. We have to think to get out of here. They’ll be time for retribution later.” She hissed. At this Ezra smiled and nodded to her.

“How tightly are you bound there?” He asked her. He wriggled his own hands behind him.

“It’s very taut, he’s a whizz at knot tying it seems.” She said.

“Well, what else is there for the old fart to do all day sat underground! Right, let’s sort this out quickly.” He said, and with that he banged his feet up and down on the ground three times.

A crackling sound came from around the corner, and she saw the candlelight dim suddenly before the small sound of insects began to buzz. A throbbing light came pulsating into their little space, strobing a yellow light around them. The point of the light then broke off into two dots, one going over to Ezra while the other found the lady. They were little fireflies, born in the candle flame and now finding their way to the rope that bound their hands. They rested only for a moment before the ropes burnt away, the singeing smell filling the air momentarily. With a little snap the fireflies disappeared, extinguished now of their little magic flowers.

“Wonderful!” The lady said, rubbing her wrist involuntary and getting to her feet. Ezra stood too, ducking his head slightly in their confines.

“So, what do we do now?” he asked her. The lady looked around, but the place was bare of anything of use for them. She knew the gentleman of the boxes had taken everything off them.

“Well, we need to find out the extent of this underground place. We know that he wants the girl, but what he plans to do with us I no longer know.” She said.

“Well, he hates your weather, we know that. Sorry, but he’s had it in for you for ages now.” Ezra said.

“Well, it’s not my fault he can’t appreciate the beauty of winter.” She added.

“You’ve had it coming for a while, it’s all I’m saying. I know you’d be my downfall.” He said. She frowned at him.

“When I go, you go. You know that!” She huffed.

“We’ll see.” He said and made his way towards the corner of the room, poking his head around.

“There’s a long tunnel, that candle is almost out. How long do you think we’ve been down here?” He asked her.

The lady put her hand to her head, laying it flat on the top. She twisted it twice in place.

“I would say three hours.” And she joined him by the corner.

“Then who knows what’s become of the girl already.” Ezra said.

“Yes. It’s not looking good. Come on, let’s try and find a way out of this infernal warren.“ And with that she set off down the corridor, grabbing the candle as she went, Ezra marching behind her.

He’d watched her descend, seeing her come down through the clouds. She glowed like a blue ice crystal, the magic from the stone sparking upwards. He thought he’d heard the space exhale as she landed, but it must have been the wind.

The gentleman of the boxes lurked at the edge of the clearing, hidden by the thicket of bushes that clung to the larger trees at the edge. He’d been mindful of the Dimian, which he knew were clustered over by the other side of the clearing. He’d set up a little magical blockade, keeping them contained in the area by the cavern where he was keeping the lady and Ezra. His own magic had evolved significantly in the past few years, and what had seemed so foreign to him at first now came as second nature. What he failed to realise was that he’d slipped further and further into the darker realms of the power. Not fully registering what he had to give away of himself, in return of something only he desired.

He wanted the girl; he knew what she was. He didn’t really see her as a girl at all, his eyes now blinded by the power source that emanated from her. At first, he’d only wanted to end the tormented weather that had blanketed everything, that was his driving force. Then he wanted to teach the lady of the jars a lesson, nothing too bad, but something she would remember. But his thoughts had descended quickly, the little friend now forever by his ear telling him he could have more and more. Why not other things in boxes? Why not bigger and bigger boxes to store things that he didn’t want to see, or that he could keep forever contained. Why does the world tick to a tock that he must follow? Cannot things bend to his whim just for once, after years of being so uncontrolled. When was it his time to succeed?

These short-sighted thoughts had pushed him on, pushed him to do things that many years before he knew were rotten and would not have conceived. He took the lives of the animals before but knew there was a balance in nature. Now he took the lives, because he could, and not just of animals. Now he did the rotten things because he did not see the other side of it any longer. The darkness had spread over his eyes. Perhaps from being too long underground.

The stone sparkled and ran with a magic electricity. Sparking at the points where the girl touched it. She looked around the clearing, searching for the others. He watched as the doubt began to spread across her face. Quickly replaced with pain. He had to wait of course; he could not do anything with the stone. His study had taught him that.

The girl now sat down on the stone, crossing her legs and allowing the flow of energy to course through her. Where she made contact with the stone, it blurred with her own skin, rippling like mercury in a shimmering dance of magic. She placed her hands together and closed her eyes, replaying what had happened there. She saw as the gentleman of the boxes had captured her friends, taking them away to a place not far from where she sat. She watched too how he had ensnared the Dimian, and where they were now caught in a maddening cycle that he had placed over them. She opened one of her eyes and saw him now, crouched and trying to hide at the edge of the clearing. She could see it all, and she could see the darkness that now swelled within him. How his anger had let such negativity inside. The stone had changed him too, powering the thoughts he had, the will he wanted. Energising the darker aspects of himself.

She knew what he wanted, but she also knew that he was not powerless himself. She needed to get her friends back first, then they would deal with him. And she knew exactly what the best lesson would be to teach. She opened her eyes and looked up towards the sky, and with a simple thought she shot up like a rocket, so fast the gentleman barely saw it. Yet she had not gone skyward, but simply burst some energy up into the night while her body had slipped off the stone and made its way towards the Dimian.

It is sometimes forgotten how vast the underground world can be. You can dig for years and still only scratch the surface of the world. The gentleman of the boxes had become a master of underground life. He liked it there, with no weather and no change. He could control his environment, and he knew what came and went. He knew this land and all the cave systems that rooted and veined underneath the feet of those above.

Down deep is where he had put them. Many levels down, in a confusing maze of dead ends and vast rooms. He knew the area of course, and he knew that unless you knew the way out; it was all but hopeless. But the gentleman was no fool, and he also knew that magic was on their side. So, although he’d been quick, he’d placed his own precautions down there underground to keep them contained while he took the girl.

“We’re lost!” Ezra said, exhaustively.

“What, how can we be lost.  We didn’t know where we were to start with.” The lady said, looking down two separate tunnels, gauging which was the better route.

“Well, I know you don’t know where we are or which direction to go.” He said, looking back from where they’d come.

The candle they’d taken was down to a nub, the little light struggling in the overpowering darkness.

“Look, you’re meant to be a help to me. Now, do something with this candle.” She said, thrusting the little wax towards him.

He took the stump and cupped it in his hands, plunging them into darkness. She could smell the extinguished candle, reminding her suddenly of a birthday party. She heard Ezra breathing in loudly, and she watched as tiny sparkling bits of dust began to lift from the side of the tunnel. He breathed them all into the cupped hand, a little light collectively coming together to burn on the ends of the wick.

“Not much down at this level, we must be quite deep.” He said to her, handing the back.

“Please, keep hold of it.” She said, and she began to place her hands on the side of the tunnel. Bits of the earth tumbled away, and she brushed the dirt gently.

“What is it?” Ezra asked her.

“Something. Something is here.” She said, her hands now flat against the wall of the tunnel. “It can’t be……”

“Urm, I think we might have some company.” Ezra said, looking off down the tunnel. He could see a greenish glow, very distantly.

“Dimian!” the lady said. “Come, we must go the other way.” She darted quickly; Ezra was suddenly surprised by her speed as she raced down the other tunnel which led away from the Dimian. With the candle bobbing in his hand like a mushroom glow, he doubled his pace to keep up.

“What was back there, what did you think you felt?” He asked her, he was getting out of breath as she raced like a mole through the tunnels.

“I’ve read about it of course, and it would make sense for it to be here if anywhere. But I’m sure I felt the vibrations; it was so clear to me. It came into my head like a picture.” She said, not the least bit out of breath herself.

“Well, what is it?” Ezra gasped.

“The other Mondol stone.” She said, glancing back at him.

“You’re kidding me. Now there’s two?” He said, tripping slightly over a big rock on the floor.

“There were actually three to start, at least that was what is written. But it’s always been assumed from the current texts we only have the one. The others lost or destroyed. But it’s here Ezra, I felt it and saw it!” She said, an excitement in her voice.

“So, what does that mean?” He asked her.

She stopped suddenly, he almost smashed into her.

“It means we have a bit of leverage on our side, and I might be able to live through all this after all”. She said with a smile.


snowflake up close