The Chrysalis Emerges
by K Griffin © 1998
"Magic is but a name for things that are not understood. The anomaly is that true understanding is the greatest magic."
extract from 'The Ancient Book of the Magi'
Chrys followed Ryrf along the rim of the canyon. Their passage slowed as the path narrowed. At times, Chrys could not even make out the path that they were apparently following, although Ryrf seemed sure of the way. Ahead, a large rock appeared to block the way totally. As they got closer, Chrys could see that the path actually diverted around the rock and headed down into the canyon. Ryrf stopped before they reached the giant boulder and turned to look at her speculatively.
He said, "They don't welcome everyone here. They've learned from experience not to be too trusting, so let's hope you can be tactful." Before Chrys could ask who the mysterious 'they' were, Ryrf was moving again and as she watched he disappeared around the boulder and dropped below the rim of the canyon.
She considered leaving him and simply heading north as she'd originally planned. A strange prescient mood had settled over her but it was not the place itself that sent the warning signals to her subconscious. There was something else here, some faint presence, that she suspected could unlock her dangerous memories. She stood beside the boulder looking across at the tip of the strange submerged Mountain that Ryrf had named Fire Mountain. The last rays of the sun slanted across the mountain peak and as the day died the rays turned violent red. The tip of the mountain glowed and she wondered if this was how it had gained its name. The strange Dark Castle that Ryrf had mentioned was a silent eerie presence that the light seemed unable to touch. The rest of the mountain was hidden beneath the deep shadows that the high walls of the canyon cast. Some fires that might have been torches bobbed along the lower faces of the mountain, but there was no movement at all near the Castle.
The longer Chrys stared towards the Dark Castle, the more certain she was that the dark forebodings that shivered up and down her spine, were a warning to be taken seriously. She doubted she was yet ready to face the fullness of her past. She could perhaps go down into the canyon, but she could not yet go up the mountain. The lightness had left her tread as she sighed and slowly followed Ryrf around the boulder and down the trail into the canyon.
Ryrf was waiting for her around the first bend in the trail. It was a measured look that he gave her as though judging the decision she had made. He seemed to understand the dilemma she had faced, but he said nothing. Chrys glared at him, daring him to comment, but he held his silence, then he grinned and disappeared again. Chrys blinked, but her vision didn't clear. One moment he had stood before her, then the next moment he'd disappeared. She stepped forward tentatively and almost tripped over a pile of sticks. A shrill voice shouted something unintelligible. A blur of movement erupted from the shadows to her left and some small hands roughly pushed her aside. Chrys might have been angry except that she didn't have time to think. Her heart was in her mouth as she regained her balance. A stolen glance behind her was a reminder of just how deep the canyon was and she watched as some loose stones she'd dislodged slipped silently into the darkness.
Chrys took a deep breath and stepped carefully around the scurrying figure who was straightening the ramshackle pile of sticks. She edged past him, not daring to look at the steep drop behind her and found herself at the mouth of a dark cave. As her eyes adjusted to the gloom, she realised that Ryrf was sitting in the mouth of the cave watching her. She had a suspicion that he was smiling, but she was still too irritated by his smugness to talk to him. She turned to inspect the devastation she had caused and watched as the repairs were undertaken. She couldn't see exactly how the finished product differed after all of the attention, but eventually the little figure straightened, apparently satisfied that order had been restored.
He was an unimpressive little man consisting of awkward points and angles from the tip of his long pointed nose to the heavy hobnail boots that covered his oversized feet. His clothes hung on his bony frame like burlap sacks. Chrys couldn't make out the colour of his hair, nor the colour of his skin since he was totally covered in a thin layer of red dust. The camouflage would have been perfect for blending into the rock face except that he never stood still long enough to achieve the full chameleon effect. He pointedly ignored her and addressed Ryrf. "She'd have been over the edge if you hadn't vouched for her," he muttered. Chrys seemed to hear Ryrf's voice echoing around inside her head, softly repeating the words over and over again, "Be Tactful."
Chrys didn't like to admit even to herself that she was seething with anger at the rude treatment. She turned her back and looked across at the glowing crown of the mountain. She'd intended to collect herself enough to be the patient demure little lady that Ryrf wanted, but her gaze again settled on the Dark Castle.
Chrys stood mesmerised as a strange beacon of inky blackness began to bridge the deep chasm. It was as though a drawbridge was being lowered just for her. She could hear the voices of Ryrf and the strange little man bickering behind her, but their words did not penetrate the thick still air that suddenly surrounded her. It was only as the black bridge reached her and she stepped onto it that Ryrf suddenly seemed to notice. She heard him yell a warning but his words were too late. A strange peace settled over her as the bridge withdrew. The decision had been made after all. She would explore Megren's castle now. Ryrf could only stand and watch helplessly as she was carried back to the Dark Castle.
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