Travelers in the String World
Taking control of the Eidolon’s body, the Magus climbed from the bed and, ignoring the golem, stepped into the snow. It was cold. Treacherously cold, and she immediately insulated the Eidolon’s feet from danger and warmed her body. “Snow? How could it be snowing?” the Magus thought, looking through the eyes of Lester’s Eidolon.
How could this be? The string of the dragon could not possibly lead here. They should be in the Shadow Lands. What was this place? Where were they?
The Magus, using the body of Lester’s Eidolon, walked round the bed only to discover that their location was a snow covered ledge on the side of a very large mountain. She could not see the mountain’s top, for dark, scudding cloud, falling snow, and steel, grey mist obscured it and the sky above. Below, far below, she saw scree, rock, sheer drops, and gravel sweeping downward into splayed fingered forests with bushy tops and lush pastures of new green grass. Beneath all that, she saw a confluence of rivers, streams, and shining creeks. Impossible! she thought, they should be in the Shadow Lands!
Suddenly startled, the Magus looked to her feet, for from out of nowhere, there was a panting sound coming to the Eidolon’s ears and, looking down, she saw a large, shaggy, unkempt, black dog beside her. The animal went immediately to Lester’s Eidolon and began to sniff at her legs and feet. The dog seemed confused, and spun quickly about several times before settling its eyes on the golem. And suddenly sitting, it stared intently at the boy. The Magus saw that the animal knew him!
At first, the golem did not move. Mia knew that its dead soul was collating and remembering the animal. It took almost a minute for it to do this but when at last it recognized the animal, it threw itself at the dog in a clasping, kneeling embrace.
“Lincoln, you’re alive. You’re alive,” shouted the golem.
The golem smothered the dog in kisses and caressed its head and ears; the dog did not respond. It remained stiff and guarded. It did not sniff. It did not bark. It did not stand. It was not excited in any way by the golem’s touch; it did not act is it should in the embrace of its lost owner. Instead, the animal’s gums began to recede and two rows of very large, yellowed canines appeared. From the dog’s belly, a low motoring purr of a growl began to grow–and it grew louder the more the golem held and fondled its head and neck, and rubbed at its shaggy flanks.
The soul buried inside the golem heard the growl and felt the dog’s stiffness. It stopped smothering the dog. The golem pulled back from the growing danger. “Lincoln?” it said, frightened.
The dog rose up from the snow like Lazarus from the grave: surprised as Hell and as big as the news he was bringing to the world. The animal’s hackles unfurled like a clipper’s sail in a full wind; the dog was enormous, and at close quarters, with jaw open and teeth dripping saliva, terrifying.
The golem backed away. In a pitifully, frightened voice, it said again, “Lincoln? It’s me. It’s Billy. Really, it is.”
The Magus saw the danger, but at the same time she was satisfied that wherever they were, they were in the right place. The string had not led her false. But this dog… it seemed no ordinary dog… but regardless, it was ready to attack…
The Magus quickly conjured a spell. She drew from myth the fastest creature she knew. She took a pillow from the bed and, incanting the special words from the Animalia Rex, tossed it into the snow before the dog. The pillow rolled about for a few seconds and then suddenly stood upright, its whiskered nose twitched once and, on seeing the dog and staring into its eyes, twitched for a second time. The dog was so surprised it stopped its growl with a yelp. It scooted backwards in the snow in a tangle of legs and tail, almost tripping. The pillow was no longer a pillow but a longhaired rabbit-like thing. Its face was catlike. It had hairy, floppy ears with a stubby, whiskered snout. Its body was muscular and firm; powerful kangaroo-like legs gave it the look a large Hare. Its tail was a thick, bushy-brush of a thing that waved wildly behind its back like that of a fox. And seeing the dog before it, the weird creature gave a startled screech like that of a Barn Owl. It jumped into the air, going easily over the dog’s back, taking flight across the snow-packed ridge like a knob of greased butter in a hot pan. Its heavy tail thumped and churned at the snow like a speeding snowmobile, a storm of eddies and snowy whirlwinds flew up behind it as it went.
The Magus watched the creature run round the bend of a giant rocky prominence that hung from off the mountainside like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. She was pleased for her conjuring it, for it was the right creature to conjure. The dog, as mad as any dog could be, barked only once in surprise, before shooting off in pursuit of that oh so enticing thing.
The face of the golem dropped, seeing the dog depart in such a mad dash. He turned to Lester’s Eidolon and said, “Lincoln will kill that poor rabbit.”
The Eidolon looked at him, and the Magus using the Eidolon’s mouth said, “No. Your dog will never catch it. It is a Cabbit. It is much too fast. But your dog will die trying. He will die before he catches it and then he will cease to be a danger to us.”
“Lincoln’s not dangerous. He was just surprised to see me. He thinks I’m dead.”
“You are dead,” replied the Magus cruelly. “Now shut up and let me think.”
The spirit in the face of the golem faded to pale and its waxy lips trembled, but as soon as the emotion came, it passed, for that is how it is with golems. Dead things can only remember emotions. Actual emotions, deep and real emotions belong only to the living and, within a few seconds, the golem was calm again. Its boyish face, serene and as fixed to it as a mask, had already forgotten its encounter with Lincoln. The Magus took its hand. She had it sit upon the bed beside the Eidolon.
The Magus whispered a single word into the Eidolon’s catatonic brain and, waking it, left her body and returned to the hospital room to think. Everything was wrong and there was danger in this strange String World, too.
Lester’s Eidolon started into consciousness, and now awake upon the bed, she saw she was now sitting beside the boy. A single word seemed to be rattling about her brain. To get it out, she said the word aloud.
“I said, we should explore; explore this place and see what there is to see of it.” The Eidolon said this with real force and noticing this, suddenly stopped speaking to take stock of herself. She felt strange. Something was missing. Her skin, it did not hurt. She pulled up her sleeves and saw no bruising where bruises had made their home for many years now. And gone was the lead weight that always seemed to be holding her down. Years ago, a doctor had explained to her that there was a war going on inside her body. He said the war was in her bones and blood. There were no bad guys in this war, just an imbalance on the battlefield. Her body, he said, was the battlefield. He had her imagine her blood as two types of soldiers: White Soldiers and Red Soldiers. And when the White Soldiers outnumbered the Red Soldiers, that’s when she would plunge toward collapse and require medicine and bed rest to regain a balance and a fairness across battlefield lines. He had said the right medicine would make the war fairer, but not forever. Oddly, neither side was allowed to win but only they must populate the battlefield evenly, as all good countrymen should.
None of it was true, Lester knew, or at least it was not a good medical description of her condition, but she loved the idea of it all the same.
And she imagined them now: all her little soldiers facing each other in long, neat lines; all of them standing to attention, pristine in their red and white uniforms; each side passive and neither side desiring any war. Good little soldiers! They must be behaving themselves, for she felt fantastic!
The Eidolon turned to face the boy who was a golem and waited for him to reply.
“Sure. Let’s explore,” it replied. The strange girl’s enthusiasm was infectious and, despite the weird feeling it was dreaming, it jumped into the snow and grinned at the girl.
“What’s your name? Mine’s Billy.”
“Lester,” she said suddenly shy. She had not always been shy but after years of constant bed rest, doctor’s visits, and hospital stays, she had missed so much school, she was not exactly sure how she was supposed to behave around boys. Though, he was not ugly and despite his strange emergence into life upon tabletop, he seemed nice.
“You like pirates?” she asked.
For a few seconds the boy was confused and then looked down at his T-Shirt. “Oh, yeah. Yeah sure, they’re the best. Who’s your team?”
Lester didn’t really have a team and, with many years of not having a father at home, she had no idea exactly which team was which, but nevertheless, to overcome her shyness, she blurted out, “Basketball.”
The boy frowned and said, “Basketball’s not a team? The pirates play baseball.”
“Oh.” And for a moment there was an awkward silence between the two. Lester broke it by shouting, “Oh my gosh, look at that.” She pointed down the mountainside to the biggest of the rivers below.
“There’s a boat.”
Billy looked. The girl was right. He saw a white fluff of a sail moving at an angle across the water.
“Cool. Do you think they’re pirates?”
“It’s way too far for us to go, so let’s look about here and see what else we can find.”
“K,” said the golem with a smile that reminded Lester of cake.
* * *
The Magus sat. She was breathing hard; her face and hands were covered in sweat. She leaned forward, her elbows hurt because of the pressure she had placed on the coffee table. She held her wet face in her wet hands and whispered happy spells to help revive.
Something was wrong. It shouldn’t be. That place… that dog. The world the string should have taken them to was supposed to be somewhere in Shadow Lands–that mirror world that hung between the world of life and the world of death. But the snowy mountainside and the valley of rivers below was a physical place–and that just couldn’t be! The Magus knew only one world and that was Earth; God’s Earth, and it was the center of the universe round which the heavens of stars and rocks revolve. It was the only world, there were no others… and yet…
“Something is very wrong,” she whispered to no one. For in the back of her mind lurked a real horror–the Shadow Lands had allowed the boy’s soul to travel to this string world. The implications were huge. What it meant, she had no idea.
She sat back on the couch and closed her eyes, feeling out Lester’s Eidolon and the golem’s movements. They seemed jumbled and all run together, but otherwise they were doing her biding and looking about. She would give the two a little time to reconnoiter and then join with them again to see what they had found.
She opened her eyes and saw the mess she had made of the hospital room.
The body of the living Lester, pale, weak, and almost dead upon the bed, already looked like a corpse. Her skin was practically translucent because of the taking of the Eidolon. Lester barely breathed, and when she did, it was with great difficulty.
Lester’s bed covers, thrown across the bed end were tumbled beside the bed in a heap upon the floor. Smeared cake and the litter from the weaving of the golem made for an ugly mess. With little else to do but wait, the Magus rose from the couch and began to tidy up.
The Magus began by lifting Lester from the bed and laying her gently on the couch and, finding clean linen in cupboard, began changing her bed sheets, for the girl had soiled herself in all the excitement the dark magic had made.
With the bed remade, she removed Lester’s blue dress from her frail, little shape and cleaned her with a damp cloth. She slipped a fresh hospital gown over Lester and returned her to the bed. She reinserted her IV drips and, checking her watch, reset the cock to ON, allowing her painkillers to flow once more.
With some paper towels, she scrubbed coffee table clean, and then the floor about it.
She went into the tiny bathroom and rinsed her face and hands and, glad to see the golden halos still marking her face, straightened her uniform. It would do no good, she decided, that Lester’s mother find the blue dress soiled, so she scrubbed the mess off it best she could in warm, soapy water and hung it back in the wardrobe.
The Magus returned to the couch and sat. She felt suddenly ill, something urgent pushed at her, whatever it was she could not allow in, for to let it in would break her hold on Lester and the golem, so she let the sickening, urgent feeling slide away. Nothing was more important than the String World now.
She cast her mind back into Lester’s Eidolon to see what she and the golem had found.
* * *
I didn’t remember killing Ben, or if I killed him at all. My assault was much like the murder of my family: I blanked it out. In fact, I wasn’t even sure Ben was dead, for I remember him striking me in the face and also, I remembered Jerry’s massive body pinning me to the floor, and that was about all. With my breath pushed from out of my lungs by Jerry’s weight, I felt suffocated. When I came to, the air I gasped was the clean, fresh air of Wormwood.
I sat up and looked about. Things were as I had left them. My left hand hurt and I saw blood leaking from my index finger where the splinter had been. I saw no splinter nor any sign of injury, and because of it I knew I was back in executionerofthewill’s body. I was home. And Lilith was there beside me, nude upon the mossy outcrop of rock and trees, just as I had left her.
“Are you done?” was all she asked of me.
“I… I don’t know. Am I?”
She looked at me. Her eyes were wide and beautiful. “Come. We must go. Let us find the mother of your child.”
I stood, feeling weak. She ignored me and walked up the side of the mossy outcrop. I dragged my hand through my hair and rubbed at my face to clear the phantom memories of the killing. At an easy pace, I followed Lilith’s perfectly, naked backside up the hill and then onto the ebony road that made a bridge between the mountain and the treed ridge beyond.
“Lilith,” I asked as we went, “what happened?”
“You were there,” she said without turning. “Do you not remember?”
“I think I killed a man.”
“And now that it is done we can get on with our task. Though, I must caution you, exnzpat. I am very angry with you, for you kept your secret hidden well from me. Why did you do this?”
“I’m sorry. I did not mean to. It’s just that we would need to leave Wormwood and find a computer to discover exactly what it was I copied into the software I made.”
“Do you not want to leave this place?”
“No,” I said truthfully. “I never want to go back there.”
“That is not possible nor is it practical thinking. I cannot keep you here forever.”
She stopped and looked at me. We stood atop the precipice of the road and its joining of the mountainside. The road looked terribly narrow as a bridge and the chasm beneath was very dark and very deep. To fall here would mean my death, and I wasn’t ready for that either. Not here. Not now.
She came towards me. “You are selfish, I think. She took my left hand and caressed it.
“Poor sweet, exnzpat, this place is for no one, least of all you.”
My heart fell. “But… surely there is a way. A Thin place, maybe…” I trailed off, not knowing what else to say.
Lilith smiled and said sadly, “Even if you find your way, you can never escape from being who you really are or from the things you have done. The universe will never allow it.
“Now come. Let us meet the giants and retrieve your woman.”
* * *
When the Magus returned to the Eidolon and the golem, she was shocked to discover that many hours had passed in the few minutes she had let the two roam. The two had scrambled about the snowy mountainside, playing. They had even built a snowman and Lester’s Eidolon was dripping with sweat and snow water from a snowball fight. The golem could not sweat but like the Eidolon, it dripped with ice melt.
The golem was wearing a Disney watch and the Magus snatched at its arm and held the watch to the Eidolon’s face. Seven hours! How could this be?
Confused by the difference in time, the Magus reacted by scolding Lester’s unconscious mind for her games. “Foolish child. You are here to explore, not to play!”
Lester’s Eidolon did not respond. It, she, the thing from the Shadow Lands was everything that the real Lester was. Her existence, the mirror image of the living Lester, had cried, crawled, suffered, and walked alongside the living Lester all her short lifetime. She was, for all intents, Lester, knowing and being all the things that Lester was and, her brain, scolded by the Magus was as frozen as Lester’s real brain was comatose in the hospital bed back on Earth. The two, joined by the film of Life and Death, were as stuck to each other as if by superglue: both knew everything the other knew and both were as interlocked in mind and body as conjoined twins were. Lester and her Eidolon were one but for their location in the universe–for this is but one nature of being human, and so, like the living Lester in the hospital bed, the Eidolon had nothing to say to the Magus.
The Magus, using the Eidolon’s eyes, looked into the sky. The heavy snow that had been falling when they had arrived had now departed leaving only flurries and blowing snow from the mountain’s top. The wind was stronger but the sky was still a gray clad overcast and, looking to the horizon, the Magus saw something she had not seen earlier: the world’s small, pale sun, its light was as weak as it was pale. It’s rays came to her in long shadowy tendrils, crawling across the landscape as if it were a spider. The Magus watched it and, after a moment, decided most definitely, that this was not her Earth nor was that pathetic thing her sun.
The Magus turned inward. She explored the Eidolon’s mind. In it, she noted the passage of time, which confirmed the watch hands on the golem’s wrist. The Magus took a deep breath using the Eidolon’s lungs to calm herself. No point in getting excited, she decided, there was little to be done about it. She took stock of the children’s last seven hours. Of the ship upon the river, it was too far away, and so was of little interest, other than the fact that this world did contain people.
Along a narrow, icy trail that hugged the mountainside, the children had discovered a small forest of pines. And beneath these trees they had found hundreds of piles of stacked deadwood. Making forts of these woodpiles, and using pinecones as projectiles, the two fought a vigorous game of war for a good hour until finally tiring. They built a crude shelter from the wood and they sat and talked until the golem fell asleep while the Eidolon drew patterns in the snow with a stick. Afterward, after the boy woke, the two ventured back out of the forest and went back to find the hospital bed. They searched the area thoroughly, but found nothing but their own footprints in the snow. The bed had disappeared! The Magus snorted at their ignorance. Of course it had disappeared. It had never been there to begin with. It was a simple illusion the Magus had used to establish a familiar starting point for the two.
Not finding the bed, the two had then supposed it had slipped from the side of the mountain into the rocks below. Incredibly, they had eked their way over a cliff edge in search of the thing. And not finding it, they clambered back up to the plateau of snow and ice and decided to make a snowman. The Magus, despite being the great Magus of the Earth, was horrified at the risk the two had taken in looking for the bed. The Eidolon’s memory of the ice and rock and the sheer drop into what looked like a bottomless pit, brought a maternal fear to the Magus. Back on Earth, back in the hospital room, the Magus rose from the couch to check on the living Lester. It was an unconscious and unexpected reaction. The Magus caught herself, sitting quickly and quelling that base, maternal emotion. Foolish, foolish child! she chastised once again. Eidolon or not, the nature of the living Lester was strong in it, and like all children, it knew no fear.
The Magus grasped at the golem’s hand and pulled him away from the cliff edge, leading him toward the safety of the rock face towering above.
After a little searching, the Magus found a small alcove in the rock. It provided some shelter from the wind and blowing snow and, once in its embrace, the Magus took stock of the situation. It would do no good, she decided, to let these two roam without supervision, but she could not remain in the Eidolon’s body the whole time. And the strange time delay between worlds was of real concern. She could not allow it to trick her again. The Magus decided to leave the children and return to the hospital to test the anomaly.
The Magus told the Eidolon to stay put and not to leave the alcove when, with the Eidolon’s ears, she heard a woman scream. At first, the Magus imagined it to be simply the wind whistling through the rocks, but no, for it came again, and it was a scream of both terror and pain.
The Magus pulled the boy close and pulled him hard against the rock. “Hey…” the boy began, but immediately stopped short when the scream came a second time.
From out behind the leaning rock, walking toward them, came something so shocking, it sent the mind of the Magus reeling: three long necked creatures, all with spindly, bony bodies came striding through the snow dragging a dark haired woman with a pale, frightened face. She hung between the two at the rear. The Magus studied the woman closely, not wanting to forget her, for there was something familiar about her. The woman seemed to be in her late twenties or early thirties. She wore a short summer dress with ornate patterning printed upon it. It was a nice dress and she wore no shoes.
The woman was a prisoner, of that there was no doubt. Her extraordinary captors had clasped her wrists with long sticklike fingers that dug into her skin. Their hands and fingers were all barbs and points. These protrusions ran up their arms to the point where they joined smooth, skeletal shoulder bones. Their bodies were no more than brown sticks and they walked upon barbed, wiry legs. Each stood at least ten foot tall and each walked with long loping gaits, their feet, webbed like a toad’s, gave them easy passage across the snowy landscape. And with their heads down and their bodies hunched forward and into the wind, the woman hung between them, head down with her bare feet dragging in the snow. She was bleeding profusely from her wrists, where they held her. Also, the Magus saw cuts and scratches all across the woman’s arms and legs. Blood ran freely down to her feet leaving little red spots in the white snow behind her.
Abreast of the little alcove, where the two children and the spirit of the Magus hid, the creature leading the little procession of jailers and their charge, suddenly stopped and quickly turned its face toward the rock face. It sniffed at the air. The Magus stifled a gasp. The face of the creature was human, and with its big fleshy nose, it drew in deep droughts of air, hunting for the strange smell of the travelers. Methodically, its wide, round eyes searched the rock wall. It looked toward the children, but it looked high, missing them completely. It did not see them, but it did not move on. It remained motionless, waiting for whatever it was it suspected to be hiding there to emerge and reveal itself. The Magus stopped the Eidolon’s breathing. She held the Eidolon’s hand tightly over the golem’s mouth to stop it from screaming in fright.
After a few very long minutes and satisfied there was nothing to be found amongst the rocks, the trio of monsters and their prisoner moved on. The prisoner lifted her head and cried out in pain at the movement, but she soon dropped it again in abject resignation, seeing no respite.
The trio walked a few paces toward the cliff edge and then, with a crack that sounded like that of a horsewhip, pear shaped, diaphanous wings flicked up behind each of the monsters, and suddenly they were airborne. And with the woman dangling beneath them, they went off the cliff and into the abyss, disappearing into the wild wind and scudding snow.
The Magus waited for almost fifteen minutes before deciding the danger had passed. She took the Eidolon’s hand from the golem’s mouth who whispered in awe, “Did you see that? Human Insects, cool…”
The Magus reiterated her point to the Eidolon, telling her to stay put and not to leave the alcove.
She returned to the hospital room.
And one Earth minute later, she returned to the alcove.
Dismayed, the Magus discovered that three hours had passed during her absence.
* * *
I managed only five feet across the bridge before I turned back to the safety of the mountain.
“Where are you going? The Hive is this way.”
“Lilith, this thing is nothing more than a damn tightrope,” I called to her, exasperated. “I’ll fall.”
“It is more than wide enough for two abreast. Come again and I will hold your hand.” She had turned on one foot to face me and, putting her other foot to rest against the side of her left knee, she stood on one leg. With one hand she beckoned me forward with a smile.
“Ah, as tempting as you make it seem, I’m in no hurry to die.”
She raised her eyebrows at that. “Surely, you are a liar, exnzpat. With your mind, you bemoan your existence because of your crimes. You are a murderer and a monster, if anyone deserves to die, then it is you!”
Shocked by her words and tone, I took a step back.
“That was there and then, back on Earth. Wormwood is different. This body… things are different here!”
Lilith only laughed. “You remain here as long as I want you here and not one moment more.”
“I can find my way back. The Thin Place in my attic, it’s fixed and you can’t change it.”
“Perhaps,” she replied sweetly, setting her right foot down upon the road again. She put her arms up in the pretense of walking a tightrope. “Nevertheless, this new found selfishness within you will kill you faster than a fall from this road.
“Come now,” she said turning her back to me. “If we are to confront Scudamour, this bridge is but one more step upon that road.”
I watched her walk the gulf and, reaching the ridge beyond, I saw her perfect white body disappear into the trees.
Behind the trees, in a pleasant glade, upon a grey rock she sat, waiting for me to come. All the while, she was in my mind. I felt her there, nudging and cajoling me onward. She was neither unkind nor hurtful, for the truth is, I’ve always been afraid of heights and she knew this.
Finally, I got to my feet, swallowed my fear, and made my way across the bridge to my love who waited there.
* * *
Time was a problem now, a surprisingly unexpected problem. The String World of the Dragon was bizarre and, as with all bizarre things, made little sense. But what sense the Magus did make of the strange world, she knew she had little choice but to act quickly. She had expected to have most of the wee hours of the morning with Lester, the Eidolon, and the golem, but the weird nature of time between worlds was against her now. Expecting to be in the Shadow Lands and walking between the two familiar curtains of Life and Death, she had expected to have plenty of time for rest. It was not possible for a living soul, Magus or not, to travel in that place without succumbing to its desolation, and though the String World was not that dark, grey place, it was dreary enough to sap her strength all the same. Short bursts, she decided. Pop in, pop out, giving directions and instruction as needed; it was the only way forward now.
In the Shadow Lands, the Magus had hoped to use the soul of the boy to attract its like-kinds: essences that belonged particularly to it and no other. And it did seem to be working. The dog had come. And she remembered from the newspaper articles, that there had been a dog. The police had searched for it, but never did find it–could that be the same dog? The Magus decided it was and, where there was one like-kind, there must to be others.
As the Magus thought on these things, the sickening feeling that something terrible had just happened returned and filled her gut with fear. She bent double at the emotion and, holding her stomach with her hands, managed to muster her strength and push the awful feeling aside. It would wait. It must wait! Time, the Eidolon, and the golem were all that mattered now.
She went quickly to the sink and drank some water from the tap. The pain in her stomach had made her thirsty. She looked at the child on the bed and knew the girl would not survive the night. When she died so too would the Eidolon, though that was not entirely true. The Magus knew that, when the time came, Lester and her Eidolon would finally meet. The Eidolon would take Lester’s hand in comfort and lead her beyond the Shadow Lands and on into true death–to wherever or whatever that place really was. Mia knew nothing of that place, only that it was a true place.
She went to the bed and knelt. Putting her magic aside for a few seconds, she prayed to God on behalf of the dying child.
* * *
When I came off the road and into the trees, Lilith was waiting. She kissed me and took my hand and, saying nothing, led me deeper into the woods.
We walked through a planting of oaks and beech trees. The trees were widely spaced and seemed deliberately planted that way. It reminded me of the manmade Pine forests I played in as a boy, growing up in New Zealand.
I said not a word, for it seemed to be a place as Holy as a Cathedral. The wood had a similar affect on Lilith, for she too did not speak.
As we walked we came upon a small stream, it bubbled merrily as it bounced and danced away towards some fall in the distance we could hear but not see.
There was no path only grass. The grass, I noted, was as soft and as trim as the finest of golf greens I had ever seen.
Using my mind, I said to Lilith, “What is this place?”
“Quiet,” she answered. “Even this manner of communication is heard. Say nothing and be still, let me greet our new friends in the way they expect.
Without warning, an enormous spindly creature the shape of an Praying Mantis came out from behind a tree. Terrified, and I’m ashamed to say it, I immediately stepped behind Lilith for protection.
Lilith stopped and I bumped into her and, catching her by her naked shoulders, I whispered into her ear, “My God, what is that thing.”
Lilith ignored me, pushing my hands away. She stepped forward. She neither spoke nor used her mind to communicate, instead, she bowed, her eyes never leaving the creature. And, for a moment, nothing happened, then slowly, very slowly, the creature turned. From out of its long, thin waist a single wing flicked out. The gesture was unmistakable.
* * *
The Magus, in the body of the Eidolon, took the hand of the golem and led them round the bend, round the leaning rock, in the direction the three creatures and the woman had come. She stopped dead in her tracks seeing Lilith, Lincoln, and me standing in the snow.