I centered and grounded myself to Journey in the very very early hours of the morning, or very very late of the previous night - however time has meaning. I let myself go to establish a place of manifestation, but watched as I passed many familiar places and came to where (I now know)is my Faery Inworld home: In the West, in the Oberon's domain, in my own "treehouse" or "ekele", as Mercedes Lackey might describe it. As I was sitting at my table, Merlin entered, and spoke my Inworld name. He came and sat opposite me.
"You have a Journey to go on."
Simply stated, but deceptively simple. I wanted for him to continue, excited to see him but intuitively knowing trouble was brewing.
"This needs to be returned."
He held before him, in the folds of a silken cloth, a luminescent ruby, faceted, about an inch in diameter. No need to tell that it, at once, fascinated and scared me. I could feel all my self drawn to it and yet made nauseous by the overwhelming power of that red crystal. Merlin wrapped it back into its silken chamber, and I could feel the sweet release from its presence.
"I don't think I want this Journey," I told him, quite sincerely.
"But it's yours to do."
"Because this jewel is in the Faery Lands and must return to Human Lands. It must be returned to a place in the present, a land you know. You must do this now, this very evening (for surely in this Journey time, it was just late evening - the dusky twilight of magic). And I have every faith that you will succeed," he stated.
Although I was pleased in that confidence, so much of what was left unsaid sent warning signs racing through my brain.
"Remain always in the present, always focused specifically on the job at hand. This will see you through."
"All right," I replied, "I will do as you bid. So what is this gem? And what must I do?"
Merlin began, "It is a piece of the giant ruby crystal of Atlantis. It was carried by an Elder to the land where now Israel is a country. It was passed down, generation unto generation, until it was fitted into the Breastplate of Aaron, in the upper right-hand corner. For reasons beyond even my wisdom, it was "removed" to divest the armor of its power at some point. Now, it must be put back. Now is the time. And you are the one to do it."
"And me, too," said a young voice at the door.
"Ah, son of Oberon, how long have you been listening?"
"Oh, not the whole thing, of course, Master Wizard, Master Merlin, sir," he stammered. "But I am of age and this will be my rite of passage."
At that, he attempted to stand stubborn, proud, and brave. Some of that did manage to show through. I hid my smile. Merlin managed to do the same, although I suspect he knew all along that the young man had been near.
"Let us see what your father thinks."
After some intense conversation, the Oberon acquiesced to his son's decision, with one stipulation. "My best guard must accompany you as well."
He was the Moon-elf whom I have met off and on in my Journeys: an Elf who has always been incredibly suspicious and wary of Humans, but ever loyal to his Oberon's bidding. He answered, "It will be as you say, Oberon."
Quite an alliance, this! The Moon-elf led us out of the village towards the east.
"We must cross the river on ferry. Then we will be in Dwarf land. Your friend, Smashfoot, is to meet us and lead us to the tunnel. After that, who knows?"
And he shrugged. How odd that gesture seemed! From an Elf who appeared so knowledgeable and self-assured. But my thoughts returned to the present as we approached the ferry landing. There was no one there.
"We do this ourselves," the Moon-elf said, "and it will be on the other side when we return."
Oberon's son jumped aboard and started poling out to the center current. "Careful, boy; keep watch of the reeds and ripples so you work with the river not against it. It is too strong to challenge." This from an Elf I figured stepped back from nothing.
"You don't know me, Lady," he whispered.
But I did know that I felt safe with him.
At the other side of the river, we were met by Smashfoot and several of her friends, who gave us sacks of food to eat as we continued on. There was no time to stop; it wasn't safe to stop - not with that gem in my pocket.
They led us to a cave opening, large enough for us all to walk comfortably together.
"This is it, Roundabout (my Dwarven name). Good fortune to you and your friends. Be careful. We will remain at the entrance til you return. Someone will always be watching your back."
Gratefully, I thanked her, as concern was quietly setting off alarms in my head. But the Moon-elf himself turned to her and said, "You, also, be careful. This is no ordinary matter."
It seemed we walked for an incredibly long time through this tunnel, when suddenly we saw a "strangeness" filling the space before us. It was a type of energy field, that much I could ascertain.
The Moon-elf spoke,"This tunnel is a Path from Faery to Human lands. The energy portal protects both worlds from intrusion. It disintegrates those who attempt to traverse it anyway."
At that, the young Elf turned an even paler hue. And I can't say as I blamed him. However, I merely looked at the Moon-elf and asked, "Then how is it that we will be able to do so?"
"Your stone, my Lady."
"And how are we to return?"
"Only Merlin knows that answer."
Well, that part was a bit unsettling, but I focused myself back on the present, knowing that trying to ponder what isn't yet, was a waste of time and energy. "So," I ventured, "we all take hands and rush through together, protected by the Stone?"
"That's my best guess, Lady."
Well, and that was good enough for me. I could feel the young one gritting his teeth, tensing up for an act of bravery not echoed in his heart. Admittedly, I had my reservations as well, and silently hoped that maybe the Moon-elf did too.
Holding hands, then, we took a running start and rushed through into the energy field.
And, tumbling, we all fell onto the other side.
We were in a cave still, but so much hotter and drier than where we had been. Dust clouds rose over us at our landing, and we tried hard to keep from coughing or making noise. Where in the world were we? Cautiously, I stepped over to where the other entrance was, in order to look out. Far below and beyond was a desert with little life upon it. Apparently, this cave's entrance was high up on a cliff. Here, in this place, it was early night with a few stars beginning to show their light. There was some movement below, and I noticed some men, dressed in Bedoin garb, gathering in a camp nearby. There were also some camels and donkeys, and a few noisy dogs. Inside me, I felt that somehow our arrival had been noticed -- not visually, for sure -- but if this Stone were as powerful as it seemed, then someone sensitive to that would know, and might not have our best interests at heart.
I drew back from the entrance and re-adjusted my eyes to the cave's dimness. The two Elves were exploring the ancient remains left here. Several clay jars, broken pottery, one oil lamp, and - hidden in an enclave - the armor itself. Here it was! The Breastplate of Aaron! A biblical artifact... I joined them in its presence, reaching out to touch it, reverently. I noticed that one of the gems was missing. Upper right, just like Merlin had said. I knew I held its gem. I knew the ruby would bring it back to life... so did it.
"Hurry, my Lady, the time is almost gone."
Yes, I could feel a sense of impending 'something'. A sense that this had to be done quickly and now. I gathered my own thoughts, organizing my movements for what was surely to occur. I turned to the Moon-elf and Oberon's son. "Once I open the pouch and set this in, there must be no doubt of our actions. I do not know precisely what will occur,but I know that we must run as if our lives depended on it. They will."
Both Elves solemnly nodded.
I heard voices outside the cave, and was momentarily distracted.
"Hurry, my Lady, please." The tone of the Moon-elf's voice drew me sharply back to my task. I pulled the silken pouch out and opened it. The ruby was pulsing even more powerfully now, as if it were, indeed, alive. Ever so cautiously, I reached in and picked it up.
Such singing in my ears! Such glorious visions! All creation filled all my senses! I was One with the Spirit - manifest and unmanifest - in a way I have never been! It was enthralling! And I was caught in its Spell...
Suddenly, I felt his hand upon my shoulder. Not the Moon-elf, not the son, but Merlin himself. Whispering through the exploding, cascading wonders that threatened to inundate my very being. Merlin called my Inworld name...
"Now, Lady, now. Put it in the Shield."
And I did, although I felt such distance between myself and this action. Gently, I felt him pull my fingers from the Stone. As abruptly, the awesome interaction stopped, but the Shield itself was now singing with that Power.
"Come, Lady, run!" I heard both Elves yell, and I turned with them as we raced down the tunnel.
Such noise and chaos erupted behind us! No one looked back. We ran as fast as we were able, and truth to tell, it was more adrenaline than me running. Physically, I was about spent. But there was no slowing down. Even as the energy field appeared, we never slowed.
At the very last moment, I caught a glimpse of Merlin's staff touching the energy field, and then we were through. I had thoughts to rest a bit, but that was not to be.
"No, Lady, run. Come, grab my arm."
Ah, my cynical Moon-elf, allowing for my Human touch.
"Shaman-touch, my Lady, and Oberon's charge. Please, we must continue to hurry."
My head felt full of sticky mist, full of shouting and screams, full of the sound of rending. I knew that, at some level, this wasn't me but that which had responded to the ruby being re-set into its place. But it was hard to shield myself from such overwhelming intensity and sensory overload. Still, I ran.
We managed to get to the ferry, yelling at the Dwarven guards to secure their village. Once, looking back, I could see an enormous wave of light overtaking us, as we poled across the river. It must have been a mile high, and I knew that this was just the beginning. I knew - I could 'vision' - this vast and awesome ripple spreading across all Creation, all realms, all dimensions -- nothing, no one left untouched. A shock wave of transformative Light that would rush over us in a few more minutes time. I saw the land and air, and all that existed within them, heave and toss, momentarily held in the throes of tsunamic Light. I had no idea what it might be like on the other side of that wave - what it would look like, feel like. All I knew at that moment was that there were many more waves to come before I would get that answer.
We finally touched on Elven land, with mere seconds to spare. I called the Moon-elf by name: "The Elcryss tree, right there, grab on to it. Hold hands and hold around her trunk. It's our only hope."
Without question, he grabbed the young prince, as I did, and we encircled the Tree, holding on for dear life.
No sooner had we done this, than the Wave hit.
I had no conscious memory through the waves that drove through us, the Tree, and our village. I only knew that I gripped their hands tightly, as visions cascaded through my mind - so fast, so intense, so much information that raced beyond my awareness. The closest description I can give is like an electrical shock, but not so primitive, not so disruptive and harmful. No, this was so exquisitely refined and yet so completely transformative that I would never be able to describe it. It is simply an experience beyond my ability to communicate.
Finally, it stopped. I let go their hands and dropped to the ground beneath the Tree. I don't know if I passed out or slept, but - no matter - we all did. It was early afternoon when I awoke. The young prince was smiling at his successful rite of passage, although I detected some hard won wisdom behind the smile. The Moon-elf just solemnly looked at me and said, "Lady, I sure do hope ALL your Journeys won't be this exciting."
And, then, he smiled, extending his hand to help me up.