SECRETS WITHIN THE CLOUDS
Every night at midnight, the purple clouds came out to dance with the blushing sky over a hidden grove of trees, celebrating the seers, who found this secret place ages long ago. Amidst the ancient forest they sensed a powerful source of energy within, and dwelled there ever since. The nature keepers blended seamlessly into the forest, with leaves and vines woven into their hair and cloaks. They could move about without making a sound, disappearing into the shadows with ease, able to hide amongst the wise and ancient trees. This forest was their home, which they protected as guardians of its secrets, and believed that every living thing within was alive with spirit. It became their solemn mission, to ensure that balance was maintained.
They were able to communicate with the animals, and the trees whispered secrets to them in the night, carried by gentle breezes beneath the starry skies. The seers were not just guardians of the forest; they were also healers. They brewed potions made from rare herbs and roots, and their knowledge of magic was deeply wise. They could heal even the gravest of wounds, and many villagers came to them seeking healing, hoping for a cure. Some of the elixirs they created produced enchanting visions, these became quite popular and often were requested.
But despite their great power, the seers were a humble people. They lived in harmony with nature, and their lives were simple. They would spend their days tending to the forest, and their evenings sitting around the fire, telling stories and singing songs passed down to them through ancestral generations. They came to be called Gnomons, named after the part of a sundial which casts the shadow. They had an uncanny sense of time, with abilities to alter it in strangely different ways.
One day nearly ten years ago, a young girl wandered into the Gnomon’s village. Emma had been lost in the forest having spent many nights alone, and was weak and greatly famished. She had left a larger town with her parents when their home was lost to fire. That town life no longer suited them and so they set out for the countryside, with only a few belongings they had saved and carried on their backs.
During their difficult journey they were caught in heavy rain, and both her parents had slipped off a log while trying to cross a chasm. They were swept away by the raging river far below and vanished in the current. The seers took her in, and cared for her, making her feel most welcome. Emma had no home to return to and soon became a part of their clan. She learned their ways and their magic. In time, she too would become a great seer, and was given a new name, they called her Zolara. The twin sisters Luna and Lotus had taken her in to live with them in their little cottage, where she slept up in a loft on a bed of straw.
When the purple clouds appeared at the appointed hour, many creatures of the forest joined the celebration in the saturated sky. The earthly bonds of gravity are released for them, but only for an hour. This brief time offers freedom allowing them to fly. High above a sacred grove of trees they soar among the clouds, along with agile birds, true masters of the air. On the Earth below, the old keepers of the forest watch the spectacle above, while gathered around their fire, singing songs and telling ancient tales of tribal lore and love. When the hour’s nearly ended, gravity takes hold and the many wingless creatures descend gently back to Earth, returning to their burrows, beneath the wise old trees.
Zolara sat amongst the seven Gnomon, They gathered around the midnight fire nearly every night, before their time of dreams. At times they would join the forest creatures in the sky above and fly around above the trees enjoying a birds-eye view.
The seer Chronos spoke, “You are adapting well to your new way of life here with us Zolara, yet there is much more you will learn as you further develop your vibrational senses. So, I will arrange to have another session for us soon.”
“Thank you Chronos for your kindness. I’m looking forward to telling you of my experience with the memory stone. The dreams I had the past few days were quite surprising. I can only wonder what you’ll think about them. I feel like I am just beginning to discover many more amazing things,” Zolara excitedly replied.
In the surrounding countryside, villagers began to speak of wizards, telling tales of magical beings who lived in the forest. Some were afraid of their uncanny powers, but others sought them out, hoping to learn their secrets. And the so called wizards became known far and wide, as great seers of the forest and guardians of the natural world.
Within the forest, hidden by the sages from a distant past, are portals to other times and dimensions. The secret keys to the portals lie within an ancient book of spells and magic. Written on its time-worn pages are phrases in coded script as incantations, and when the magic words are spoken, they open the portals to other dimensions. The treasured book, embossed with golden letters simply reads: Magic, Spells and Incantations. It was bound in leather, its silver hinges and clasp secured it. Found in the hollow of an ancient oak wrapped in oilcloth, the book was guarded by the wise old owl Emerald, named for his deep green, all-seeing eyes.
As time passed, the Gnomons continued to protect the old forest, and the forest protected them. And so, the cycle of life and magic went on, as it always had, until one day when suddenly, almost everything changed.
“Zolara!” Chronos was alerted telepathically, “Raven, just told me we are being invaded by swarms of mantids, and reported seeing some coming out of a hole near the top of an old tree not far from here, west of the village. We must hurry.” They set off at a jog, heading west, each with their hickory staff in hand, illuminating the way along the forest trail in the darkness.
Zolara had been given her own staff on her 16th birthday; she was 20 now, and was strangely excited about this new event, as very little ever happened around here. Life was simple, there was magic and life was balanced. Nature provided, and people were happy, for the most part. Now their tranquility was disrupted.
Evil demons had come through one of the forbidden portals from the other side. They were hunters, their quarry human of a particular nature, and hungered for brains, as they were actually quite stupid, thinking that eating brains would give them more intelligence. Although clever in many ways, they ate small creatures raw, bones and all. The horrid demons appeared more like insects, than any other creature. Mantis like in form, the giant insects had strong grasping pincers, snapping jaws, and razor-sharp teeth. Their eyes, like flies were multi-cellular, enhancing their night vision, and they were very quick.
The Gnomon always walked with their six-foot wooden staff of polished hickory. A powerful crystal mounted in a bezel at the top could produce a blinding light, if so called upon. It could also emit bolts of lightning with great accuracy, subduing most all aggressors.
Each of the Gnomon also carried a leather pouch, hidden within their cloaks. Within it, a set of three crystal lenses, were kept, one with a silver rim around the edge, another had a rim of gold, and the third was of black iron. Each had magic powers of enhancement, for vision, hearing, strength, swiftness, transmutation, and memory. The crystals were most often used in creative, healing and insightful ways, but also for defensive or offensive measures, if necessary.
An ancient legend tells the story of a dark time when the Mantids invaded the forest from a place beyond, having found a way through a portal. They came from a dreadful place where they left behind a mountain of skulls and bones. They attacked fiercely, and there were many of them, leaving behind lots of casualties. The villagers were unable to defend themselves, so they called upon the seers, who were already taking measures, while snaring the horrid bugs between the trees. The Gnomon had given the forest spiders greater size and abilities to weave larger, stronger webs to catch the nasty mantids. The spiders actually liked this, because they found them rather tasty.
Now again, the mantids had returned in greater numbers. And the spiders went to work weaving webs as before. The portals were all located in ancient hollow trees, invisible to most. But the seers, with their gift of vision, knew where they were, as they watched, waiting.
Chronos and Zolara caught up with another Gnomon, who had been alerted of the invasion. Eko exchanged greetings telepathically, as they kept pace on the trail. It was amazing how well the three blended into the forest, their capes with twigs and leaves just merged into the trees, making them nearly invisible, even in the glowing light of their staffs.
The small village was in a state of panic; the people had armed themselves with tools, axes, picks and shovels. The mantids jumped from rooftops onto those below, grasping with their pincers, preparing to sever heads. Their superior strength was to their advantage.
A villager who was about to loose his head, was struggling with a vicious mantid. Chronos then shot a bolt of lightning from his staff, stunning the attacker.
Zolara saw another creature leaping off a rooftop. She hit it in mid-air with a bolt of lightning and the mantid fell still upon the ground. She ran over to the giant insect, touched it with her staff as it disintegrated into a cloud of dust. Other mantids met their end this way, but it seemed the numbers were increasing. Zolara hit three more, but Chronos told her to hurry.
They continued on past the village, to where the mantids were coming through. The giant spiders had woven webs and some of them were already feasting on their catch. Once they had their fill, the spiders would wrap up the bugs they caught, storing them away.
The ravens perched high above were keeping count, as best they could, of the swarms of mantids sneaking through the hollow tree, way up near its top. Beyond the watchful eyes of forest creatures on the ground, the nightmarish insects kept on coming through, and many had been snatched and eaten before they had a chance to warn the others of the horrid menace, now threatening their peace.
The seven Gnomon met together, beneath the ancient oak. Enos and Mendus had just arrived and they all were puzzled as to how the deadly insects were getting through a portal, which they had secured. They gnawed their way up through the trunk, slipping past the sealed portal at the base, and came through at a quickening pace.
Zolara, was greeted by the others telepathically, as it was safer to communicate this way, since the mantids’ hearing was very good. “The spiders are setting a perimeter up top, but that is only going to stop them for a while. They are cutting their way out of the webs and the slime they exude lets them slip away.” Eko stated, as he fired a bolt up into the tree, and knocked a mantid down. It landed with a thud, and turned to dust upon the ground. Chronos and Zolara continued to fire at the bugs, hitting many but found them becoming more evasive, and began to feel they were loosing this hopeless fight.
As they looked up beyond the trees, and saw a changing sky, the purple clouds began reappearing. It was past midnight, the purple clouds had never come out this late before, when a strange phenomena occurred.
All the roving mantids were being drawn up into the air. It was one of the strangest things they’d ever seen. The green mantids thrashed around, unable to grasp on to anything but each other, and seemed so desperately helpless. Change was taking place within the clouds, the color slowly shifted from purple into green. The mantids began dissolving, and they disappeared.
The green clouds ushered in a new era. The year is 949 and the forest home of the Gnomon was once again at peace. Zolara and Chronos, were surprised as were the others, and thankful for this miracle, a gift from above.
Balance had been restored, and yet some of the villagers would need healing from wounds caused by the mantids.
They and the other Gnomon went back to the village and found the injured helping each other back into their small houses. Once inside, by the warmth and light of the fire, they could tend their wounds. There was a kettle of water heating over the hearth, as usual. Healing tea would be made, the wounds cleaned and dressed with ointments.
Chronos found Stellan, his arm badly lacerated, trying to open the door of his house. It was bolted from inside as he told his wife not to open it. Chronos pointed his staff at the door and they heard the sound of the bolt moving. They opened the door and went in, and heard a quite voice from the loft above. “Stellan, is that you?” Mira, his wife said with some surprise, then two small voices spoke together, “Dada, are you o.k. did the bad bugs go away?” “They are gone now boys, and I’ll be o.k. Chronos is here to help.”
Sitting at a table near the fire, Stellan’s arm was bleeding and Chronos took a lens from the bag within his cloak, as Zolara prepared some healing herbal tea. She saw Chronos slowly move the lens with the golden rim over the wound on Stellan’s arm, and miraculously it began to heal, and soon there was no trace or scar. Zolara placed a steaming cup of tea on the table, and Stellan drank with appreciation.
Chronos and the other Gnomon made their rounds as they healed the wounded throughout the village. A new day was dawning and it was time to return to their homes to rest and recover from such a traumatic night of terror.
Zolara was reminded, that she would learn more about the crystal lenses she now possessed, after she had rested. He offered her a place to sleep near the hearth at his home.
She accepted, as their plans for the coming day had been delayed by the horrible invasion.
The log and stone cottage Chronos lived in, nearby the grove where the Gnomon often gathered, was situated on the southern side of a steep granite cliff, sheltered from the cold north winds. The heavy oaken door opened with a spoken word.
Inside, a fire was kindled. Tea was brewed, and enjoyed along with dried fruits and nuts, before both of them fell into a deep restful sleep.
Zolara’s dream revealed the secret of the clouds. She saw how they changed to green while consuming the horrid mantids, and wondered how they had become purple, and when that happened. Her dream took her back to a time years before her birth. Great numbers of birds had migrated into the region that came from far away. The seeds they had dropped started sprouting and growing into strangler vines that began to choke the trees. The dark purple berries they produced were poisonous to humans and the creatures would not eat them. The vines grew rapidly and sprouted everywhere, people tried burning them, but the smoke was toxic too. The vines spread through fields and gardens, and on their houses. It seemed hopeless, and no one was sure of what to do.
Late one night in autumn, the sky grew dark and rain fell in torrents, washing out some trails and flooding fertile fields.
When the storm had passed, the welcomed sun dried the land, and flowers bloomed, but the vines with the purple berries had completely vanished. Later on, at midnight the purple clouds first appeared in the sky, moving gracefully as if dancing. They came back every night as a reminder ever since, that the spirit in the sky was always watching.
Zolara, had placed her memory crystal near the bed, and upon awaking she picked it up and spoke to it telepathically. “Show me my dream again please, I wish to see it.” As she held her lens of crystal with the iron rim, it would then conjure up a vision, spherical above it. When her astral body ventured through the space of dreams, everything she had seen was captured through her magic crystal. Each small detail could be looked at closely if desired, it only took a voice command to freeze the image hovering before her.
When she saw the purple berries she said, “stop! Please identify these berries.” She heard a telepathic reply saying, “Caution, be aware the Purple Creeper berries are toxic to humans and to dogs.” “Thank you, please stop replay,” and the image dissolved.
Chronos saw Zolara from the loft above, pleased to see her exploring dream space through her crystal.
When Chronos had come down from the loft, she excitedly told him the story of the purple clouds. He had known this for a long time but didn’t let on. He encouraged her to continue learning from her dreams.
Then he asked if she was hungry. Her eyes opened wide and was about to speak, when he said, “I’m going to make some porridge and biscuits, and you may get some tea for us.” He indicated a row of jars upon a shelf. They enjoyed the warm breakfast by the fire and sipped their herbal tea, as they made plans for the day.
Zolara, was presented with her set of crystals upon the last solstice. She was still discovering their secrets, which could actually go on forever. The crystals were specially made for her with approval from all seven Gnomon, and created by the guild of Alchemists.
The alchemists grew the living crystal lenses in a quantum matrix incubator, imbedded with her unique bio-signature, extracted from the akashic record. The polished metal rims of silver, gold or iron, engraved with her name, are quite elegant. No one else is able to use their powers. To the local population, science appears as magic, and they accept it as part of their everyday life.
The leather pouch has four pockets within, one for each crystal, another for a notebook. The notebook is not any ordinary one, although it looks and functions as one might expect. But working in conjunction with the silver-rimmed lens, it invites a world of possibilities. Open the book to a blank page and hold the lens over it. Telepathically ask the crystal to show you an image of, say, a bird. It will ask you to specify color, type, etcetera. Then when you have the image you desire within the lens, you can transfer it to the page, with another thought command. Notes can also be written by mental commands, appearing as if by magic on a page in the owner’s hand.
The alchemists are most secretive and although they live close by, only the Gnomon are able to contact them. They live within the granite peaks in many vaulted chambers, hollowed out of solid stone. The central space has a dome 90-feet in diameter and functions as an observatory and planetarium. Their library is filled with books from the past and distant future. Within their laboratory, amazing things are created, appearing as magic to the uninitiated. No one outside their circle, would ever expect to find such beings living there inside the mountain.
The portals take the traveler to many other places in the past or future times. Those who have explored both, have gained true wisdom.
“Zolara, we are all impressed with how quickly you have learned so many things. Today, I’d hoped we would take a journey into the past or future. It depends on your interest of how you hope to navigate through this incarnation. You are an old soul, having lived many lives before. You have only had glimpses of your past experiences through recent dreams. But there is so much more for you to see of your lineage and accomplishments of your ancient ancestors.”
“Chronos, I have been waiting for this day, and yet I am not sure if I want to see what the future holds. However, I am curious of what lies ahead. The unknown is so frightening,” Zolara said with trepidation.
“That is a natural instinct imbedded in your psyche,” said Chronos with concern. “Most everyone finds comfort in the past through their memories, and that is history. But you know that you can see into the past through your crystal, but it’s not the same as being there.”
“Zolara, when we travel into the past or future, we remain visible to each other, but not to others as we’re slightly out of phase in the refracted light of alternate dimensions. We are there only as observers, unable to change anything that could result in disastrous outcomes.” Chronos continued, “As this will be your first venture through one of our nine portals, we will not stay long. We’ll return before we gather by our midnight fire, under the new green-hued clouds. I’ll bring some food and tea. You may bathe in the hot spring before we go, if you wish, while I get our meal prepared.”
“Thank you Chronos, I hoped to wash before I slept, but was way too tired.” Zolara went out to the bubbling hot spring nearby the cliff, surrounded by smooth time-worn stones. She hung her clothes on a branch and submerged into the water, the soothing warmth penetrated her being, and she felt all her tensions melt away.
Her thoughts drifted and she wondered what she would find right here, a thousand years from now. Perhaps a voyage far across the sea, where grand castles stood protected by knights in armor, would be most interesting. Just then, Chronos appeared and opened a chest offering a towel to Zolara, who modestly covered her breasts with her arms as he averted his eyes. “It’s time to go, and I’ll get our cloaks and pack, don’t forget your staff,” he said and walked back toward the cottage.
Zolara wished to enjoy more soaking, but a new adventure lay ahead. She quickly dried and dressed, met Chronos by the door and donned her cloak, and with staff in hand they set off for the glen.
Soon they reached the ancient oak, where the book of spells was safely kept under watchful eyes. Chronos waved his staff and the illusion of bark concealing the portal dissolved away, they stepped through into a space much larger than expected, as the portal closed behind them. Steps projected from the smooth inner wall of the tree spiraled up to a room above, where the magic book of spells was stored.
The look of surprise on Zolara’s face was amusing. Chronos said, “I can see you were not expecting this.” And she said, “No, I thought, I don’t know what I thought, but not this. I was expecting to travel to a different place or time.”
“You must first choose your destination, before the portal is activated, we only went through the door concealing it. Now have you decided where you wish to go?” Chronos added.
“I have only heard legends of castles, knights and dragons. So, can we go to Europe, and see if they are true?” Zolara asked with growing anticipation.
Chronos nodded to her as he spoke the words, “Iledreth cartref” telepathically.
A strange sensation, Zolara had never felt before, began in her solar plexus, growing rapidly into a gossamer sphere surrounding her, and she saw Chronos, as a similar sphere engulfed him too, and suddenly they vanished.
In the next instant they were descending to Earth, where they could see a great castle in the distance. When their spheres touched the ground they dissolved into millions of sparkling particles.
The expression on Zolara’s face this time was indescribable. She took a deep breath and said, “Do you do this kind of thing often? I can’t imaging getting used to this, that was an amazing experience! Where in the world are we?”
Chronos winked to her and replied, “We’re in Wales, the home of dragons. This road leads to the castle we just saw.”
A cart was coming toward them pulled by a pair of oxen with a mound of hay upon it. The two stepped aside letting it pass, when they saw two children peeking out from within the hayloft. Pots and pans hung from hooks, clanging in cadence with the plodding hooves.
Chronos said, “Hay for the horses at the castle, I’m certain, you may even see the king’s knights.” They passed a few peddlers along the way, and were thankful for their cloak of invisibility.
Atop the castle’s highest tower was the flag of Wales, with a red dragon emblazoned on it fluttering in the gentle breeze. Around the moat, the villagers had a fair, buzzing with activity, selling food and drink along with all kinds of wares.
Zolara walked among the peasants, who were unaware of her. A sweet scent of baking bread, cakes, and pies drifted in the air. Chronos walked behind her, keeping watch for any signs of mischief, as they headed towards the bridge across the moat, leading through the castle gate.
Two knights on horseback came riding through the arch. Zolara was most thankful she had the chance to see them. In the courtyard knights were training with their swords and shields, while others practiced with their crossbows, putting on a show for the locals who cheered them on.
Chronos and Zolara climbed the steps up to the top of the fortress walls. They found a quiet place to sit and enjoy the view along with their meal. Chronos said they would stay until midnight to see if any clouds appeared and what color they might be. While the waited they enjoyed their tea.
Chronos was glad they came here, in this time, for her first journey, rather than voyaging to the distant future. He was not looking forward to telling her that the planet was heading into chaos as never seen before.
Music could be heard, as melodies carried through the air. The peasants would celebrate late into the night with dance and merriment. Games of skill and chance are played along with imbibing plentiful libations under a blue moon.
Zolara realized the enormous possibilities that lay before her. The world was now her oyster, the doors of discovery had been opened, literally. Zolara turned to Chronos and with tears in her eyes, she thanked him for this day.
Chronos spoke, “ You are just beginning to experience how deep the stream of life truly is. I know your tears are not those of sadness, but of wonder and appreciation.
Zolara smiled saying, “Oh Chronos, I will always remember this special day and maybe we can come back again. I would not feel comfortable going anywhere on my own, yet.”
Chronos thoughtfully replied, “Tomorrow we will explore some important things we have learned. Soon, you will be one of us, sharing responsibility of caring for our Earth.”
Voices from the throng grew louder, faces turned skyward, something was happening high over the castle’s towers.
Clouds were forming in a vivid sky, their red hue grew more intense as little red dragons began to appear circling above. Cheers rose up from below. Dozens of them were flying and chasing one another in a game of capture the streamer. The golden cloth, now in the mouth of one daring creature who flew close to the tower’s peak, within the bounds of the red ovaloid cloud formation. He was trying to avoid loosing his prize in an aerobatic show of skill and strategy.
The dragon who is first to loop the golden streamer around the flagpole is declared the winner. During the intense half-hour match the streamer was snatched four times. Some of the dragons were tiring and with only seconds left in play the dragon who first had the streamer made a dive with wings folded close to its body and moved like a rocket, snatching back the prize. It flared its wings suddenly, looping back towards the pole. Circling close around it, the dragon secured the streamer tightly. Cheers broke out wildly, the people’s favorite had won!
With stunned expressions Zolara and Chronos looked at each other laughing. Chronos said, “It was a thrill and who knows, we may come again someday. Now it’s time for us to return, you need to ground yourself by touching your crystal with the iron rim, and I’ll do the rest.”
Zolara reached in and made contact with the iron rim of her crystal, and stood waiting. She felt a sensation within her solar plexus, a gossamer sphere expanded engulfing her. Chronos was in his own sphere as they both disappeared. Seconds later, their surrounding spheres dissolved into millions of sparkling fragments. Chronos and Zolara were again within the old oak tree, their home portal, in the forest of memories.
As midnight drew closer the Gnomon had gathered around their fire and Zolara told of her adventure with Chronos at the castle of dragons. Sparks from the fire rose into the sky and overhead clouds began to appear, their green hue was a reminder the spirits were watching over them in their forest home.
About the Creator
Jon H. Davis
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jon H. Davis, is a digital alchemist, and explorer, who documents the natural world and cultures with words, photos, and videos. View more of his work with partner Iris Brooks at their NLS website, www.NLScreativemedia.com
Always love a good dragon story. Love the characters.