The Journey Between the Worlds

I see before me the Tunnel of Time. I project myself toward this place and am drawn down and down, back and back, way, way back to before the dawn of Christendom in a land of emerald green and ageless beauty.

I am flying low over rolling hills and moorlands, circling freely over forests and small hamlets of country folk, over manor and mere heading toward an inevitable destiny.

I slow and close the distance between my world and this. The timelessness of a winter’s night is silent; not even the sounds of the hawk or the owl can be heard through the thickening pall. I descend.

Now I hear muffled sounds from the marshland below me. I come to ground level where the mist is not so thick, but moving, steadily shape shifting as it swirls around the mire.

There! Just ahead, on horseback, holding high a lantern to pick a path through this desolate place, is the horse and rider that I have been seeking.

I swoop slowly and land, as a mist, upon the horse’s rump.

We think of naught; we must not lose our thoughts upon any other theme than that of following the almost imperceptible path through this empty place.

No life here. The lights of a thousand lost souls glint through the mist to remind us of our peril, but we hesitate not and heed, not their warnings. My destiny burns within my soul and would destroy me were it not fulfilled.

I can see myself clearly by the light of the lantern; outlined with the ravages of many a sleepless night, I am gaunt. My jaw twitches with my effort, and my eyes are haunted by the dream. I am physically strong, cat-like. I clench the lantern, vice-like, in my hand. My clothing is simple: thronging crisscrossing the furs about my calves and woolen leggings as thick as mail about my thighs. My jerkin is the skin of a wolf snared in some past day and my cloak is russet and of heavy woven wool that hangs limply along the sides of my mount. I wear a hood of leather, but my hair lays in tangled rivulets down my back.

The length, thus far, of my journey lays heavily upon me, and my shoulders are bent forward with fatigue; but we may not stop until we are past this dreadful place.

Hour upon hour we move, well into the midnight, until at last the horse raises her head and snorts as she stumbles onto the grassland. We travel slowly still until the rider is certain of our bearings, then we roar with triumph and we are off, running like the wind, as the plain thunders beneath us!

We slow as dawn creeps above the horizon in a washed-out blur, and horse and rider, sweating at their efforts, breathe deeply at the sight. We come at length to a copse of trees into which we walk. We dismount and lead our beloved mare into the depths.

There, a stream, cool and deep, at which we drink before we lead the horse to graze beneath the oaks and peer around, cautiously, to guess that none come here often; that we might have peace for a few hours during which we will rest.

I know not why, but know it I do, that the rider wishes to be seen by no one, so we ride by night and hide by day so that none may know that we are abroad.

We unsaddle the mare, crooning to her as we do so, and rub her down with the blanket from beneath the saddle. A smile crosses the rider’s face, and a look that stirs my soul with its intensity and passion. Our task done, we proceed to prepare a small fire over which we roast potatoes and a strip of dried meat.

We draw a leather flask from our pouch from which we quaff deeply, the contents sweet and fiery. Having eaten of our simple meal, we stamp the fire and curl within the cloak to sleep away the daylight hours.

And so I watch —

— at one point I rise above the trees and seek to ascertain our safety, for although the rider is furtive and a feared of noticed, I ache for the quest, knowing it is also my own, and my compassion reaches out to the strength within our sleeping form who would do no harm without good cause. I know not how I would rouse us should danger approach, but there is no farm or village within distance, so I fear not for us.

I return to find us turning about restlessly in our sleep, the dream causing much mumbling and sighing; and so it is for a few hours more until I am woken by my own shouts. Sweat beads upon my face, I stand and remove my hood and cloak, and walk to the stream to wash myself, and so lose the dreaming. I again light the fire and draw from my pouch a large cup that I fill from the stream. I brew a draught of strong herbs to help me to wakefulness for the long night ahead.

My journey will be done, thus far, on this night at least where riding is concerned. The journey of the rest of my life is just beginning, the end of which is assured in my mind. There is no turning back from what I so earnestly seek but what I so earnestly dread, for it is unclear to me what ventures will befall me between the present moment and some eventful death.

I stamp the fire and cover its remains with dirt and brambles so that none may know that any had passed this way. I call to my horse and she comes from her grazing by the stream. I saddle her and attach my pouch to my belt. I don hood and cloak, and mount. We move slowly through the trees in the direction of the setting sun. We reach the edge of the woods and wait.

When the night is black, I ride; hour upon hour do I ride. This night is clear and I watch the stars for a bearing. Sometimes I walk the horse, sometimes it almost seems that she flies. Rising behind me the Moon glows full and high, lighting the way.

Ahead I see monolithic rocks rising to the night sky and the mist of ocean reaches all about us. The tang of salt is in the rider’s nose and I see my nostrils flare and my eyes widen with that same unseeing passion. We approach the cliffs and I hear the roaring of waves thrashing upon the rocks below as if relentlessly drawing all within themselves. A wild place is this! I see a vast expanse of inky blackness within each rock’s shadow, which is also the sea over which the Moon glows, causing a pathway between herself and the things beneath the waters.

I stop to light the lantern for the path is rough and the mare troubles with each step. I sigh and lay my head upon my arm before raising myself straight within the saddle. “It is now,” I whisper, “We wait and seek no more! As known, I have arrived!” I look ahead to a rocky outcrop like a finger upon the sea.

I ride hard then, sparks flying from the horse’s hooves upon the granite way. As we approach the peninsula, I see a faint glow, as if from another lantern. I slow down now, and throw my own light over the cliff. I am wary and seek to approach unseen. I dismount and walk toward the glow. I see a small cottage almost buried, so deeply was it built within the overhang of the cliffs, like a tiny fortress against the wild winds and sea. A lonelier spot I have never known.

The rider’s face is set like stone and I cannot perceive what thoughts are veiled within. We walk with dignity, as if to our death.

I come at length to the door, of massive proportion compared to the size of the cottage. I hesitate not but bang a fist upon it, a sigh upon cold lips. There is a wait, the a woman’s voice calls from beyond the door, “Who comes?”

“I am called (Name),” I shout. There is a laugh from within and the door is swung wide. There stands a small woman dressed in male attire, with wild copper hair cascading down her back.

“You are doubly welcome, (Name), and thrice! We have waited long for you!”

“I knew it to be true!” I reply, although I smile not. “Was it you who called me here?”

“It was your own dream, (Name), and not of our doing. Enter. I shall tether the mount and see her well.”

“What name have you?” I ask, without moving; but she just smiles and shakes her head and again bids me enter.

The room is dark save for the lantern in the window and the fire in the hearth. I see that only the first of the cottage is man-hewn and that the rest is of solid rock formed from the depths of the cliff. A hooded figure stands from a chair beside the fire. Straight of frame and as tall as an elm, but with the whiteness of hair to tell of great age, that falls to shoulders that show no stoop, hallowed with fire glow. He wears a robe of heavy dove-gray wool, and as he moves toward me he smiles. I see great love in the smile, but as I look into his eyes I flinch at their blackness and depths. There is unfathomable power within them as though they had seen the passing of time from its very conception and had learned from the travel all that had been there to learn.

“I’ve missed you, (Name)! Blessed be!” he says, as though he knows me well. He takes my arm and leads me to stand before the fire. “We have known that you would come.” He laughs with obvious glee.

“Who is the woman? By all the Gods, who are you?” I demand, as, although this whole thing excites me, I fear it also and am tired of the mystery that has haunted me waking and sleeping.

“She is who I am, and who you are to become!” he replies.

“Her name?”

“Call Her (Goddess), and She will answer you!”

“And you, Sir, what be your name?” I ask again.

“(Same Goddess) is one of the names that I am known to be, child.”

“And why am I here?” I ask, hoping for confirmation of my yearning.

“To learn, (Name), the secrets of life and fire! To be at one with Her and mold tomorrow with all of my yesterdays!” he says.

“What must I do?” I ask.

“Show me the ritual!”

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