A twinkle of silver lit the room, and then a small, silver tree grew out of the offering basin at the altar’s center. Its entwined trunks untwisted to form a translucent oval and the sylph Cyrena greeted them from within its frame. “Creator keep you, my madams. Queen Manasa, I know that you both seek a way to contact the Reformed Mirror and its keeper. The shards alone will not give you enough strength as you have likely guessed. The power you seek is in the Wraith Realm itself, but finding it is more dangerous than you know. You will need a guide if the pair of you are to survive this night,” she said.
“I will be that guide,” Damya said as she wafted out of the center of the Sapphire Keystone hanging from the werecat’s neck.
Cyrena nodded. “You will need the blood mirror shards with you. Keep their necklaces fastened and touch the altar with their tips.”
Obediently, the females stood on side of the altar, and then bowed to touch the spearheads against the altar’s offering basin as Cyrena indicated. With a flash of crimson and silver, all three beings stretched through the ethereal tree’s oval and then appeared in a place as different from the dank dungeon as daylight is to darkness. Grasses eddied and flowed like the waves of a great ocean around them—each curving leaf infused with green hues far richer and varied than any Katja had ever seen in her own world. The wraithwalker smiled at the breathtaking beauty of the Wraith Realm now around her, but her joy evaporated when she saw what lay just beyond the vibrant green.
The great boundary river of Edgewater snaked its way along the edge of the grasslands—a contrast to their beauty in every way. As ugly and deadly as it was, Katja knew that the river’s boiling black eddies were the only barrier keeping the inhabitants of the ruined land beyond the river’s shores from infecting the perfect land her dead family members now called home with their pestilence.
Except now the river’s winding length could no longer hold back the danger. Three new sandy breaches had now bridged the river and encroached into the pristine meadow—spreading their sickness into the yellowing grasses at Edgewater’s banks. Katja’s ears lay flat against her head and she hissed when she saw them.
“Be on your guard,” Damya said. “Dangers now abound in this land.”
A loud screech met them then, and Katja and Manasa both turned to see a gnarled, black creature flying toward them on tattered membrane wings.
“Get down!” the firesprite screamed as twin fireballs erupted in her tiny, blue hands. She launched both of them at the creature, who dodged the first but not the second. With a screech of pain and anger, it veered away from the small group and flapped back toward the river where more of its fellows readied their attack.
“We are here, Kumos!” she screamed.
“Make your way to us! Hurry!” the werecat wraith yelled.
That was all of the encouragement that Katja needed. Grabbing Manasa by the hand, the werecat wraithwalker scrambled through the high grass toward her dead brother and his fellow wraiths.
“Lytzsibba, you are not dead, but you may very well die while you are here. What possessed you to return here?” Kumos said as he hugged his younger sister.
Before Katja could answer, Queen Manasa spoke. “Forgive me, my sir, but I am the reason we are here. Katja and I combined our wraithwalking and dreamdrifting talents tonight to dreamwalk between the Realms of Reality. Since time and space have different values here, going through the Wraith Realm was the only way that I could hope to traverse the distance of the Sylvan Continent to contact Master Caleb. We are in dire need of his aid in finding the Keystones that are still hidden across the continent. Without them, we cannot hope to destroy the deadwalkers…”
As Manasa was speaking, a human youth stepped forward from the gathered wraiths and Katja’s ears drooped when she saw him.
“Mother?” Sandor asked in a voice shrill with surprise and confusion.
“Sandrie!” Manasa ran to embrace him.
The last time Katja and Manasa had seen Prince Sandor had been when Daeryn had held him hostage while trying to bargain for three of the Keystones. When Lauraisha refused to exchange the Keystones for her brother’s life, the vampire bit open his neck and left him to die in front of her. Now Katja and Lauraisha shared a common grief for dead siblings just as they shared everything else.
“Mother, are you dead now too? Did Daeryn kill you as well?”
The hands that held him began to shake. “No, son. I am alive. We are both alive, Katja and I…”
“Kumos,” Katja said, interrupting her, “it is urgent that we contact Caleb. How do we do that here?”
He shook his head. “The only way I know of is to use the Scrying Pools at Edgewater’s Bend, but it is nearly overrun with Drosskin now. Since you last walked in the Wraith Realm, sibba, four new breaches have opened up along the rivers’ banks. Our enemies are massing for a full-scale invasion of the Sacred Grasslands. If they succeed in overtaking this place, it will cut off our communication to you through the Tyglesean Wraithwalking Altar.”
“Still we have to try. Can you take us to the Scrying Pools?” Katja asked.
Again Kumos shook his lion-like head. “We cannot abandon this post. If we do and the enemy attacks, it will sever communication through the Tyglesean Wraithwalking Altar, and your souls will be trapped here for eternity.”
Katja shuddered. “Faht’s warning…”
“Yes, our father warned you not to come here, but you did not listen. Now we are all in danger.”
I hope you enjoyed this week’s entry in the SCRAWLS Diary from my in-progress book Fireforger. We’ll pick up with more of this scene next week. In the meantime, I welcome your comments on what I’ve shared with you today.
As always, SCRAWLS is designed to be a public journal of my fiction and artwork as I create it. In the way of writing, you’ll see new scenes, rich characters, and, of course, enchanting worlds. In the way of art, you’ll see everything from vivid photography to intriguing drawings. As always, my goal is to bring you both finished work and the rough stuff. After all, showing you some of the behind-the-scenes scaffolding that I use to create my work allows you to truly walk the creative journey with me through all of its ups and downs.
Until we meet again, may we each rewrite our world for the better!
The Seared Cranium Report: An Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with enchanting fantasy fiction, deep love, and vivid art for all. As always, contact me with any questions or thoughts. Thanks!