Wednesday, August 31, 2005

~House of Serpents~ - (Almost) Part Two

With each step the cave becomes filled with light. This path surely leads to the outside.

The sound of water running becomes louder as I feel a soft mist on my body. The air is fresh, breathable. I see another entrance in the distance - two petrified trees, east and west compose this opening. The tree's yellow colored branches connect at the top. I find beauty and mystery in the mingling branches that linger high above my head. Mystery in the fact the trees are barren, not one green leaf exists.

I notice a pattern of holes in the middle of each huge trunk. Honey bees must have made it their residence. The continuous pattern is filled with texture. I run my hand over and over the holes.

I see it now beyond the trees, waterfalls also are placed east and west, further back on each side than the trees. They empty into a vast steaming pool, almost the size of a lake. There it is, across the pool the world as I know it, once more! The sun, green trees and the dirt road Gillian and I were traveling before we were accosted.

Swimming across seems my only option. As I approach the water I hear croaking. Hundreds of skinny , tall frogs inhabit the pool. Much taller than myself, the neon frogs jump at me, mouths open. I appear to them in khaki clothes as a cricket with hiking boots on. A most tasty meal, quickly lapped up by their long, dry tongues. I back up slightly and cover my ears as the croaking is piercing my ears.

Tears sting my eyes, crossing that pool is my savior. I feel once again the security of my pouch. It dawns on me the pouch contains a set of wings. I take them out. How could these possible help?
As I examine them I find a small tube and plug. Perhaps if I try blowing them up - it takes one deep breath of air. I now have wings as wide as two yard sticks. A sticky substance covers the wings and I attach them with a slap to each of my shoulders. Immediately I am suspended and lifted into the air.

At first I am off balance and sway side to side, much too close to the frogs. Their leaps are higher - how hungry they must be. My arms reach up and I am high over there heads. I straighten my legs and point my toes as if I had ballet slippers on. I am flying, if I bend slightly right of left I can turn. What a wondrous feeling. Flying is an emotional experience, much like presents under the tree, early Christmas morning and you are the only one awake, the gold lights on the tree welcome you into the room.

Diving down somewhat I fly out of the exit. I am past the pool of woman eating frogs and out of the cave. I drop my arms to my sides and hit the ground with both feet. My glasses fly off. I hunt for them and realize I am no longer in darkness. When I find them I quickly fold them up and place them in the pouch.

As I collect my bearings, I hear the cries of Gillian. I find her entwined in vine and laying on the ground. I rush to her side - the vines have cut her neck. If I just had a knife! Perhaps the Unicorn in my pouch is sharp. I quickly take it out. The medallion is razor sharp and I slice the twisted vine. I hold her head in my lap. I stroke her wounds. She is barely breathing. She musters up her last bit of strength. I try to calm her. She continues to speak.

I am leaving this world to join my husband in a better place. I have lived my life as I should. I have been a part of good times as well as the bad. I have traveled many worlds. I have given birth to many donkeys girls and boys. Now I have grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I want to go and prepare a place for them when they to will depart this world. My time has come and I except it willingly.

She gasps for air and is totally still. Tears stream down my cheeks. I cradle her neck. I knew her for such a short time and yet her stories sounded familiar and she felt like an old friend. Her haggard body is full of light and before my eyes she is new again. A young donkey - strong, stubborn and with great virture. She is up and running, kicking her back legs without a care. She runs down the path, never looking back and quickly disappears before my eyes. I am alone, once again. How will I ever get to the ~House of Serpent~, now?

I can't believe my ears! Once again I hear the pounding of hoofs - I see the hooded riders. From behind me I hear a rattling old car motor. It is the same vintage car that I keep seeing since my journey began. It travels right up to me. It is the elderly gentleman. He barely stops and hollers, 'Jump In'!

I hesitate for a moment. The rider is fast approaching. I jump in the front seat, I don't bother to shut the door. I ask the gentleman if he knows the way to the ~House of Serpent~. His reply, 'Yes, with the map in your purple pouch'.

Ms. Lovelace (Patricia)

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Originally uploaded by FranSb.
Secretary of the Donkey's Union to Bobbi:
Dirk is very elderly and seldom is called upon for long-distance hauls. He has the bag with your necessities with him. I trust you will make use
of the wings provided.(they fasten to any part
of the steed.) I hope the remainder of your
trip is swift and the service satisfactory.

~Journey to the Cave~ Part One

The journey has become long, odious. I feel at a loss for words, and for the first time I am overwhelmed with loneliness. It seems I must depart from Heathcliff. We have become reliable comrades. I lean my head between his vast face. His smell is comforting where once it had been repelling. I kiss the warmness of his skin.

In exchange for Heathcliff I am given a donkey named Gillian Pontine. She nudges me and finally speaks in a shrill voice. She convinces me to join the others and we depart. My long legs drag the ground as I begin begin to feel sorry for Gillian. It occurs to me I have somehow become her burden.

Gillian starts to speak in a calmer voice. She begins the story of her long and laborious life. I say nothing and just listen, as it seems to lighten her burden. The night wind shifts, the path becomes less in width and low lying vines begin to snap at my legs. My hair is ruffled as a thin vine whips across my face. I feel the sting and realize I am bleeding. My legs are burning as the thicker vines tear at my trousers.

Gillian and I decide it might be easier if I walk on the ever shrinking path. We are both shaken as the branches reach out for us, they laugh out loud in an array of tones, mocking our attempts to continue. As far as one can view down the path other members of the party are having similar difficulties.

The velvet pouch I was given still hangs safely from my belt. It seems intact and still full.

The vines hold my feet and I am unable to move. The laughter becomes louder, almost unbearable. I hear the sound of pounding hoofs, and my heat beat is heard in my head.
Could it be Heathcliff? - perhaps he senses the danger and returns with the other horses.

Large black horses approach with great speed - damp clouds of dust travel with hooded giants upon their backs. I want to run, but the vines hold my feet - all I can do is hold the velvet pouch.

I am suddenly scooped up. I am lifted off the ground and find myself on top of a black horse. I feel the hot breathing down my neck, a clammy chill takes over my body. A manly smell penetrates my nose. The horse continues on - he seems to know exactly where he is going. His gallop is thunderous - the dust is thick. Every so often I hear screams and crying. I believe if I am still and quiet I can collect my bearings. I must find my way to ~The House of Serpent~. I cannot miss this celebration and dinner.

We suddenly stop - there are a number of warehouse doors and each has a grunge appearance. The double doors open I am abruptly put inside - the hooded man towers above me. I cannot see his face. He lingers over me, heavy breathing is all I hear. I cannot hide my fear and I begin to tremble. I am angry that my fear is exposed.

Suddenly, he turns, steps outside the doors and closes them quickly. I am in complete darkness. I run in the direction of the doors, closing. My body falls into them and I beat them with my fists. I begin to cry and slide down to the hard cold floor. I can smell damp earth and feel a certain chill in the air.

I remember the pouch and remove it carefully from my belt. I feel the contents. Fearing I will drop the pouch, I pull out the first item my trembling hands touch. They are a pair of eye glasses. A sort of half mask large to the touch. I feel texture of some sort over the hard frames. The glass is thick and heavy. I find I must trust that they will not hurt my eyes, and so I put them on with closed eyes. I take deep breaths and open my eyes.

To my shear delight and amazement the entire dwelling I am in is with light. I am no longer in darkness. I adjust the glasses with my finger. Being in the dark for so long my eyes take time to adjust and burn slightly. As my vision clears I realize I am in some sort of cave. I hear running water. I collect my strength and stand up slowly. I begin to walk towards the sound of the water.

The cave is painted with mysterious hand prints, going in different directions. Each has a unique symbol carved on it. The prints almost seem coded. I am in awe of the beauty on display. I feel humbled and yet intrusive. It occurs to me I have been thrown into a sacred dwelling. What does it all mean?

I remember the pouch and look once again to it's contents. I find a small book, no larger than the fountain pen attached to the spine. I begin to draw the hands and each symbol in the book. I make notes. When I have finished there are 365 hands, each unique and yet containing some sort of order. There is a message here which I know will be revealed if I can decipher the code.

Time is not on my side. I am still due at ~House of Serpent~. I must find the way out of the cave. Going back, towards the doors is out of the question. I choose to follow the sound of water. With the pouch safely on my side once again and glasses still on I begin my walk to find the waters.

Ms. Lovelace ( Patricia )

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Dearest Mother, Part I

Dearest Mother,

How are you? Well enough about you, on to me. You wouldn't believe the night I have had! There I was minding my own business (ok, so I had found a box of chocolates and was making a pig of myself) when I was approached by a small, deshevilled man holding the keys (I think they are called reins) to a rather scruffy and furry a** (ok mother, a donkey). It seems I was to take this animal and follow this self-titled "guide" and a few other travellers towards the cave. The Ferry Woman were on strike, I had no choice. As I considered the best approach to get myself up in the saddle I was handed a brown cloth satchel and was told it contained specktacles and other articles that would assist me on my trip.

I stalled as long as I could, then I swallowed my pride and boarded the hairy creature and we set off on our journey. I spent the next half hour trying to get my bottom to adjust to the unrhythimic motion of the aforementioned herbavour when suddenly a wild band of hoodlums swooped down on our party sending us flying in all directions (yes mother, donkeys can run with sufficient motivation).

I spent the better part of the next two hours searching for my travelling companions to no avail. At last I was forced to give up when my hairy companion "Dirk" (oh sure, in his dreams "Dirk" -- he looked more like a"Dork") wailed and promptly sat down in a stream we just happened to be crossing at the time.

While I sat on the bank, wringing out my soaking wet footware and cussing at my misfortunate circumstances, I spied the brown cloth satchel given to me by my missing guide. As I poured out the contents of the satchel onto the ground I realized I couldn't see a blasted thing. I remembered the specktacles and tried them on in hope they would help me see the rest of the items. The candlestick looked useful (it was getting dark) and of course the map would come in handy, but what in blazes was I suppose to do with with a tiny anchor (well, ok, I knew what I would have done with the anchor if it had been larger... but I digress) a medallion, a set of wing, and another item I couldn't quite make out at the time.........

tomorrow....dear mother, part II


Monday, August 29, 2005

Humblest apologies to Fallada

The Union has sent me a serious warning: As their secretary I have made an error that is giving them a great deal of trouble. I have quite mistakenly listed Fallada, a most noble horse, among the membership. Fallada has threatened to sue and the donkeys demand that I apologize. Please forgive my error O Fallada.

PS: Do I really need this job?


Originally uploaded by FranSb.
Maya the sacred donkey takes her noble rider
back into the dreaming where he receives the
blessing of the desert and the song of the desert people. His gift is the music and the light
forever as his steed becomes Alexandria-the-
servant-of-time. The Secretary

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Lisa and Annabel

Lisa and Annabel
Originally uploaded by FranSb.
Annabel says that she was ever so pleased to be able to help Lisa carry her burden. She says that
she was glad enough to reach the Inn before the evening light faded as they were both tired. The welcome at the Inn was warm inspite of all the ads.
Mother's ashes received proper treatment as a good donkey knows proper procedures. The Secretary

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Christabel and Gail

Christabel and Gail
Originally uploaded by FranSb.
Christabel and Gail just outside Donkey University
where Christabel attended. Gail is about to present her donkey with a copy of Bartletts from a nearby book tree. Christabel says she is planning to start a class in Cryptic Crosswords. She has asked me to congratulate Gail for her intellectual attainments. The Secretary

The Path From Blind Springs to the House

It has taken me quite a while to make my way from Blind Springs to my quarters at the House of the Serpent. I recoil at the mere thought of a snake. Hearing their subtle noises from my resting spot by the spring brought visions of their slithering nature, sending chills down my spine. I often dove into the spring to "wash away" the slimy, scaly feeling and to make enough noise with my splashes to drown out their sounds.

"I'm above all of this," I thought many times. I wouldn't be invited into this House of Serpents if the snakes were not welcoming. I told myself again and again that I had nothing to fear. My ideas of snakes were only illusions based on a lack of education and experience. Yet I still felt fear burn in the pit of my stomach pushing at me to skip this stop on the journey. It's not necessary. What do I have to "prove" and who do I have to prove it to by going into this house of snakes? "Nothing and no one," was always the response. I would still be "me" without this visitation.

Just one thing nagged at me...the offer of a gift of wisdom. The Enchantress said a gift of wisdom may be offered to me by the host at the House of Serpents. My life career is as a collector of wisdom. What if this house holds a piece of wisdom I can gain in no other way?

Wisdom...that reminded me of my visits with Wisdom. She told me that if I ever needed her assistance along the way I could conjure the image of the Wisdom Lounge in my mind and listen for her voice.

With a deep sigh, I settled into a calming float on the surface of Blind Springs. I held tight to the ivory piece I found etched with Wisdom's image. I closed my eyes and visualized Wisdom Lounge with it's glowing, radiant light. I felt myself walking on the cool, cave floor, crossing the bridge to the wisdom circle, and taking the seat I had sat in once before. Wow! It feels like months ago that I was there, but I know it has been just a handful of days. I felt a cool, damp breeze just before I heard Wisdom speak.

"Hello, my daughter. I see you have had an amazing journey and learned many important lessons so far. I sensed you might be paying me a visit before entering the House of Serpents. But you tell me, what is it that is troubling you?"

"It's a battle of illusions, Wisdom."

"Congratulate yourself, dear one. Most would not recognize it as such. They would see it only on the surface as a fear of snakes and a lack of need to conquer that fear. What is your battle?"

"I know that my head has one image of snakes....snakes as dangerous, as untrusting, as evil. I know this image has been formed by metaphor -- the snake in the Garden of Eden -- and of negative portrayal in film. There's no "truth" to this limited vision. My experiences of snakes have been positive. My brothers had snakes as pets. Only one ever bit and that was because she was being handled less than carefully just before she was to give birth.

"My head knows I would not be invited into this House of Serpents if the snakes who live there were not interested in having human guests. I know others have come before me, made their visit, and left unharmed. But the synapse in my brain connects "snake" with "bad." I feel a sudden urge to protect myself and run in the opposite direction. I've been working for days on countering that instinct, but it's still there, burning in the pit of my stomach asking me why I haven't left this location by now."

"You have met up with quite a strong illusion. I have seen you chipping away at it over the past few days. You have the key -- replace negative images with positive ones. There are two roadblocks to your path. First is that you have very few positive images. You didn't get to hold the snakes your brothers had. You could only watch them safely from the other side of the glass. With limited experience, it is very difficult to conquer an illusion as strong as yours. Your other roadblock is simply time. Your traveling companions and the celebration await. You don't have the time it would take to break your brain's connection of "snake" to "bad" and rebuild a positive connection."

"So, what should I do, Wisdom. Should I pass this stop on the journey and revisit it another time?"

"No, I think you will find great benefit in attending the celebration at the House of Serpents. I will help you with this illusion. There is one very powerful, positive image you haven't thought of. Remember the story of Moses? The Israelites were sick in the dessert. Yah told Moses to hold up a stick with a snake at the end of it. Those who looked at the snake and believed were made well. Those who didn't believe or didn't look, died. The image of a snake, something the Israelites, too, would have had negative connotations for, brought healing as long as the people believed. This was a tough illusion to break for the Israelites, but breaking the illusion meant life. Breaking the illusion required faith."

"Thank you, Wisdom. I had forgotten that positive story of snake."

"Do you not have a stick, much like Moses?"


"This is what you will do. Start out on the path from Blind Springs to the House of Serpents. Along the way you will meet one, small snake. He will be waiting for you. He will remind you of the snakes your brothers kept. He's a harmless, garden snake. How does this feel so far?"

"I feel no fear, Wisdom. I can handle one, small snake. It's the visions of multiple snakes and snakes upon snakes that set off my fear."

"This is another reason why your attempts at breaking your illusion didn't work. You kept visioning large colonies of snakes and tried to convert the feeling from positive to negative. You must start small when dealing with a fear of this magnitude. Next time, start with something that doesn't bring fear. Then gradually add to it. You'll begin to see that many are no different from the one you befriended. And that's exactly what you will do, but with a real snake, rather than an image. Befriend the one snake you meet on the path. Talk to it. Pet it. Bond with it. Then ask it to ride on your walking stick. Place the top of your walking stick on the ground about a foot away from the snake. He will climb aboard. Then you, like Moses, can walk into the House of Serpants with a snake on your walking stick. Hold it high in the air so that the other snakes will see it. Upon this sight, the snakes will surely know that you are a friend and will not harm you. Do you think you can do this?"

"I will try. I can see it in my mind's eye. I can feel the illusion breaking down with the idea of befriending one snake. I think I have the faith to believe that once I befriend one snake, the rest will not harm me."

"I know you can do it, dear one! You have what you need. Now, get dried off and start your journey. The celebration awaits!"

I was suddenly aware of my body floating in Blind Springs. It caught me off guard and I sputtered and splashed about. I recovered my balance and walked to shore. I dried myself and gathered my traveling bag. I placed the ivory carving of Wisdom in my pocket. I felt the Wisdom carving on my walking stick and took strength from the image of Mother Nature.

Taking my stick, I started on the path and, as Wisdom foretold, I met a single, small, garden snake. He actually looked kind of cute. He almost glowed a bright green as grass after a heavy rain. I knew he wouldn't hurt me. I bent down and said, "Hello, dear snake." I petted him gently and he wiggled with glee. I couldn't imagine being afraid ofsomething so gentle natured.

I asked the little snake if he would like to ride on my walking stick. He immediately moved towards the stick as I lowered it to the ground. He climbed aboard and wrapped himself around the very top so I had plenty of room to hold the stick in the sweet spot where it fit my hand. I heard the wind whisper, "Jake" to me as I stood eye-to-eye with the little snake. "So, Jake it is! Thank you, Jake, for being here for me and helping me break my illusion. And now I will honor you with a ride to the House of Serpants. I will hold you high above all the other snakes. They will know of my deep respect for you."

Getting into the House of Serpents was a piece of cake with Jake on my walking stick. I didn't fear the piles upon piles of snakes I saw slithering here and there. Their numbers increased the closer I got to the house, but my fear did not return. I kept my eye on Jake, the cute little bugger. I swear I could see him smile and his eyes just gleamed with joy.

I giggled as I made my way up the stairs to the entrance. I couldn't believe how easy this was and how scary I had made it out to be. I was greeted by the Enchantress who congratulated me on winning the battle with my illusion, but, nonetheless, asked me to hurry along for the celebration was almost over and she didn't want me to miss it.

Off I go to the gala party. It will be a celebration on many levels for me. No matter what happens tonight, I will be celebrating my success of breaking my illusion and hardwiring a new synapse of positive energy to snakes. I couldn't have done it without you, Wisdom. I kiss her etched image then make my way to the party with Wisdom in my pocket and Jake still riding high on the top of my walking stick.

Yuji and Maxine

Yuji and Maxine
Originally uploaded by FranSb.
Yuji who reads minds is the speaker here: " She shouldn't have fallen off. Probably wearing those
earrings and a flowered hat didn't help. I might have left her behind if those bushes didn't taste horrible. " Yuji of the swelled head wants to be the boss of the Union too but the Secretary won't permit it. My advice dear Maxine, remember you are the employer.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Agnes and the Troll

Agnes and the Troll
Originally uploaded by FranSb.
Agnes, the frightened one wins the reward for
showing great courage as she tramples the
fearful troll and wins her uni-corn. The donkey
chorus is practicing a new song-saga in her honour. Her rider is invited to attend. The Secretary


Originally uploaded by FranSb.
Neria Megan's beautiful unicorn, wisest of the donkeys and magical floats onward to the end of time after making sure that her rider will arrive safely. She sends her message by air angel
to the secretary.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Geraldine and Karen

Agnes and Karen
Originally uploaded by FranSb.
I am afraid that several employers have laid complaints with the Union with regard to
our Agnes. She has, however, promised to
work much harder and weep less since getting her
lovely horn. Perhaps, dear Karen, you will not
have to walk so much next trip. The Secretary

The mule-donkey

The mule-donkey with#12E6AC
Originally uploaded by FranSb.
This is the mule that Lois rode
who mopes in the stable and is
uncertain whether he can enter
the Union without help, so Dear
Lois can you give him a name
so he can be registered. He has
asked me to tell you that he
enjoyed meeting you. The Secretary

The mule-donkey with#12E6AC

The mule-donkey with#12E6AC
Originally uploaded by FranSb.
Lois if you rode him, give him a name
He doesn't know whether he'll be accepted
in the Union without his papers.
He really isn't bad company when
he isn't moping and has found a
very comfortable saddle if you care
for another ride. The Sympathetic


Originally uploaded by FranSb.
Ariel asks me to tell Traveller that though their time
together was brief she was not offended. As she left traveller she came upon a butterfly with a broken wing to whom she gave a ride back into the sunny field. The Secretary

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Originally uploaded by FranSb.
Message from Augustus to Leonie: I was very frightened when we reached the deep wood and my old heart was weary until we saw the herron who told me you would be quite safe when the riders came. I hope the secretary remembers that I am never called Gus.

Dawn and rider

Dawn and rider
Originally uploaded by FranSb.
Dawn and Ashleashay ride toward
the light to be met by their beautiful
May they be blessed

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Originally uploaded by FranSb.
Moonbeam has gone home but wishes to send her dearest regards to her much loved rider. If you call to her on a moonlit night you will find her spirit and tell her another tale. The donkey's secretary

Mehitable's post

Mehitable's post
Originally uploaded by FranSb.
Mehitabel says " It was lovely to get rid of the saddle but how do I get rid of these ears?

She also reports that she thinks Regina's portrait is very like her.


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Saturday, August 20, 2005

Postcard from the Donkeys

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I'm floating in total darkness. I can't see my hand in front of my face. My ribs ache from being grabbed so violently from my donkey's back. Or maybe it is the greater struggle I'm having to undertake just to breathe. I must be wrapped in the cloak of the hooded creature to stole me away because I can sense a rush of air but can't feel it directly on my skin.

Luckily I had the presence of mind to, just as I bent over to whisper to my donkey one last time, grasp hold of the traveling bag the Enchantress gave me before departing. It is still clutched tightly in my hand as if its contents could give me life. Keeping a good firm grip on the bag with one hand, I carefully open the bag with my free hand and feel around for the spectacles. I'm hoping they will help me see something in this pitch darkness. I close my eyes, place them on my face, then close tight the traveling bag to ensure its contents remain safe before I allow myself to open my eyes.

My view is distorted. I see colorful pinpricks of light. My eyes are focusing and I'm seeing more detail. I realize what the Enchantress said was true. These spectacles allow me to see fairies, so these specks of light are really Light Fairies. I am beginning to see their details -- cherub faces glowing with color, irridescent wings. If I was back home, I would think I was looking at a fiber optic angel. But these Light Fairies are not mechanical -- they are real. I feel less anxious now being aware of their presence. I know that Marika was right. Though the capture was unnerving, I have no need to fear where I will be taken.

They appear to be friendly fairies, so I am holding my hand out, palm up in the hopes that one will land...or, umm...would it be "light" on my finger. I am not disappointed. A purple LIght Fairy just landed on my index finger. She's no bigger than a lady bug but has a radiant energy of calmness that engulfs me. I raise my hand up to my ear because I can tell the fairy is talking but, being so small, I cannot hear her. When she reaches my ear, I hear her say, "You must be a very special human. It is rare for a human to ride in the cloak of Destiny. Fairies are often transported to different worlds this way, but, in my life time, would you believe I'm 258 years old?, I have only seen a few humans in Destiny's cloak."

"In that case, I am very honored to be Destiny's guest. Do you happen to know where we are going?" I whisper.

"Just a second. I'll show you."

My friendly purple fairy flew from my hand. She appears to be gathering a team of Light Fairies. Oh! They are taking places along the edge of the cloak. I think they are going to pull away a flap so that I can see where we are. Yes! That's exactly what they are doing. And....oh my! I am stunned by the amazing, spiral path ahead of us.

The breathtaking path glows in a golden light. I had sensed a spiral movement downward, so I'm not surprised by the direction of the path, but the beauty mesmerizes me. I feel hypnotized as I watch the steps of the spiral pass my view. The fairies must have recognized that I was losing my equilibrium because they quickly dropped the flap they were holding and the view went back to darkness.

The purple fairy lighted on my finger again. I raised her to my ear to hear her say, "I'm sorry. I didn't properly introduce myself before. My name is Lavendar. I am a Star Light Fairy. I carry wishes from human who wish on stars to the home of all wishes."

"Thank you, Lavendar, for showing me such a spectacular view. Does the path I saw lead to the home of wishes? Is that where we are going now?"

"You will pass the home of wishes, a place we call Hope, on your journey. I will be getting off before you reach your destination."

"Where am I going?"

"If it has been as with other humans I've seen here, your journey will end at the very center of the spiral in Destiny's Lair."

"Destiny's Lair?" I gasp. And I am speechless. So may questions, but none I can form into words. So many emotions. First fear, but I remind myself that Marika as been right so far. I'm sure her words were true. There is nothing to fear. Next anxiousness. What will I do there? What will be expected of me? Again I remind myself of Marika's words. I will not endure unnecessary pain. If I experience any pain at all, it will be for good. I am to learn an important life lesson. . . and I've taken the easier route.

"Oh, dear one! I see the color drain from your face. Don't be frightened or concerned. This is not a punishment or a trip to dread. You are special, dear one, or you would not have been chosen for this journey. Do not worry. Just let Destiny lead the way. Follow the spiral path and it will take you to amazing worlds.

"I have to leave you now, but please do not worry. Enjoy the rest of the ride. Talk with the other fairies and take a peek out of the cloak flap every once in a while and enjoy the view. I am used to it now, but I remember when I first road with Destiny, I was astounded by the beauty of the spiral path."

The fairies pulled back the cloak flap to let Lavendar and several other fairies leave, though Destiny had not stopped her flight. The sparkling light of the Light Fairies exiting the cloak made the spiral road even more enchanting. The fairies once again let down the cloak, to my disappointment. A red fairy whizzed by my ear pausing long enough to tell me that the flap would be open several more times as other fairies exited for their own destinations.

Before I knew it, I sensed Destiny slowing her descent. There were only a few Light Fairies left with me. The flap had been opened several times. I never tired of seeing the glow of the spiral road. The remaining fairies pulled the flap aside once more so that I could see the road as we landed. Much more gently than the departure, Destiny came to rest in the center of the spiral -- a large, golden, glowing circle. The Light Fairies wished me good travels
as they exited the cloak.

I realize I'm sitting as a statue and holding my breath. I don't want to move for fear it will be the wrong move and I will be violently knocked about. I wait patiently for Destiny to move or to speak.

It seems forever before Destiny slightly sways. I sway in the same direction and pause, waiting for her next move. Several more minutes pass before she moves again, swaying back in the opposite direction and I sway with her. This continues for what feels like hours. I'm determined to do nothing more than follow Destiny's direction. I certainly don't want to be dropped into the journey the strugglers took. Finally, I hear a faint whisper inside my head. "Welcome to my lair, dear child. And, congratulations. You have passed your first test. You yourself said just the other day that you needed greater patience. You have witnessed that patience today as you waited, patiently, for me. Now you can never say, "I have no patience," for you do, as long as you focus. When you think you don't, remember these moments of waiting. Remember how you simply moved with me, even if the movement was slight, no more, no less. That is patience, my dear one."

I can hear myself breathing and my heart beating. I soak in Destiny's words. I am grateful to have gained patience, though I also realize that Patience was within me from the beginning or I wouldn't have been able to use it today. Now I have no excuse. I have Patience. I just have to use it.

"That's right! Patience has been with you all along. Everything you have ever needed and will ever need is also with you. You only need to access it. And now you know how to access anything you ever need."

"I do?" I ask of myself, not daring to speak aloud yet.

"Yes, you do!" Destiny replies. "Think about it. How do you think you can access anything you will ever need? This time speak it aloud."

Before I can pause to think, words come tumbling from my mouth, "Get quiet. Feel my center. Go with the movement of my center."

"Exactly! And how did you know that?" Destiny inquired of me.

Again, before words could form in my brain they tumbled out of my mouth, "Because I hold all wisdom with me. I only need to access it."

"Perfect, child! Now, please, open the flap of my cloak and come out. You are ready."

I carefully lift Destiny's cloak and am greated with the colors of the dawn. Good ol' Dawn, my trusted donkey, she did bring me to dawn's light. I blinked a bit as the light was bright in comparison to the darkness of Destiny's cloak. I soaked in the colors and the light and then sat at the edge of Destiny's cloak to await my next directive.

"Most people think I bring them here to show them a glimpse of their future. That is not a punishment I care to inflict on anyone. Everyone thinks they need to see their Destiny in order to make it happen. That's not true, dear one. That's the greatest myth humans believe. If I were to show you a glimpse of your destiny, you would either go mad trying to make it happen as perfect as it may appear to you or you would go mad trying to change it to be what YOU wanted. So be grateful that I have no intensions of showing you what your future holds in store.

"However, I do have a gift for you that will lead you to your destiny. Look before you at the water's edge. You will see a long rope of flowers. Right now that rope is a bit tangled. Your job is to untangle the rope, find the beginning, and make a spiral in the sand. As you make the spiral, pause and look in the center of each flower. You will recognize the images as parts of yourself. Take ownership of each part before you place the flower in its position in the spiral on the sand."

Taking a deep breath, I stood and walked to the rope of flowers. It was a bit tangled, but not too bad. The sun rose higher in the sky as I worked. I watch the colors of the sky gradually fade as the light gets brighter.

It must be noon now as I complete my untangling. The sun is straight up in the sky. There's a cool breeze, so I don't mind the bright sunlight. I don't think about it as I take one end. I just know it is the beginning. I look into the first flower's center and see the light of innocence and am certain this is the beginning. All children are born with innocence's spark. I let the image radiate into my hands as I cup the flower gently. Breath in its heady perfume. I memorize the image. I own innocence.

There were many flowers on my rope and many parts of myself to own. It was nightfall before I finished forming the spiral. Some images in the flowers brought tears of joy. Almost as birthday gifts, I was surprised as I looked beneath the delicate petals. I had hoped that I owned at least a portion of meekness. It was with joy that I accepted it as my own.

I knew that open heartedness was part of my being, but seeing it brought a tear to my eye as I remembered the hard road I traveled to earn it.

Other images were hard to accept. I didn't want to own stubbornness, perfectionism, or a judgemental attitude. When I saw these images, I wanted to pluck the petals from their flowers and toss them into the ocean. But my wisdom, speaking louder than I had ever heard it before, told me that there was no shame in owning these parts of myself. These traits come in handy at times and even protect me. I just need to know how and when to use them. So I humbly accepted their gift and promised myself to do my best to use these gifts carefully.

The final flower showed an image of patience, the last of the traits I had discovered in myself. I accepted this truth as all the others and set the flower in the sand. Not knowing what I was to do next, I sat in the middle of the spiral I had formed and waited for Destiny. I was tired after the day's work on the beach and closed my eyes.

I have just opened my eyes after a short doze. I do not see the vast ocean before me that I saw when I was with Destiny. A smaller body of water greets my eyes. I look around and notice that my spiral of flowers are missing. But there appears to be other people here. Are these my traveling companions? Why, yes! There's Vi wearing a pair of wings. I must be at Blind Springs! I must ask Vi about her journey.

Tales of Whoa from the House of Serpents by Anita Marie Moscoso

So this was it, the House of the Serpent... one door and all of the open arched windows were blazing with lights and from them came the sounds of drunken merry making.

In my neighborhood we'd call it getting bombed, but in this world...the term Drunken Merry Making seems more appropriate.

Whatever, I was tired dirty and angry and I had a bunch of questions.

I wanted in.

Well, of course I tried, and of course the door was locked and there was no handle, no bell and I doubted if anyone could hear me yell because of all the noise.

Oh right...the key!

I pulled it out of the bag and looked from the lock to the key in my hand a few times. The lock was a serpent's head and you know I just didn't want to give that greedy sly thing my key. It was just going to eat it, I knew it.

Then my sorry self and those things in my hair would be stuck out here forever. A bug crawled across my face and up near my ear...I had the little ones to think about now.

I tried one more time. I kicked the door hard and yelled, " Open the f&*^! Door! "

Then I heard the sound, the very clear sound of someone coming up behind me and I looked down to my left and saw a black boot and the edge of a black robe. " Have a nice walk? " I asked the Ghoul Rider...well, Ex - Rider because I stole it's horse from outside of Duwamish.

It tried to grab me and I turned around, got it by its hood and pulled it close to my face,

" What the Hell is it with all the hair pulling dude? " Then I yanked back and threw it head first into the door.

It got back up and as it did I jammed the Iron Key it into the soft tissue under it's chin and yanked it back out again. The Ghoul grabbed its face and looked up and was gone.

I looked at the key in my hand, amazed and genuinely impressed. " Damn, it works! "

The door slid open and I could not only hear but also see the gathering in blazing Technicolor.

" Okay, where is she? " I asked as I tramped in but I didn't wait for an answer.

Someone called out " Who? "

" Heather! Where the heck is she? "

" Upstairs in her room. Contemplating..." said a cultured and dignified sounding voice.

I rolled my eyes so far up into the back of my head they almost got stuck there. " Sure. " I said and took the marble steps two at a time. When I got to the top I asked a woman in a purple dress where Heather was and with a sweet little smile she pointed to a set of double doors.

I didn't knock.

Oh, what a nice room Heather! A bed, a fire the sounds of splashing...from an indoor fountain? Fancy rugs on the floor and what....tapestries? Oh PLEASE!

" Anita Dear! You made it! " Heather said. Her breath, laced with distinct odor of apple and cloves and dark heavy wine wrapped itself around me before her arms even got close.

" I sure did! Thanks for the invite And Look I had SO MUCH FUN I brought a few friends with me! " I lowered my head flung my hair forward and shook it with my hands.

" What are those...and look at your face! "

" Yeah! And my ass! You should see that, not only did some dead guy try to kick it it's now full of splinters and pine needles. What a trip. Gosh, I hope I don't have any more fun or I might just drop dead from all the excitement and we wouldn't want
THAT would we now? "

" You need a bath and some food..." she began but the train had left the station and Heather stood there waiting for another one.

" Uh- huh " I looked around her room and there on the table next to the fire was a tall crystal decanter circled by delicate wine goblets. I walked over to the table and grabbed the decanter and made for the door.

" That could be anything " Heather said, very successfully impersonating a sober person " that could have anything in it. "

I went back and got into her face, " and your point is? "

So with as much dignity as a bad smelling woman with dirty clothes and a broken nose, black eyes and cooties could muster I swept from her room.

" I shall see you in the morning Madam " I said trying very hard to sound snooty and dignified.

I heard a thump and called back into the room without turning around, " fine, I'll see you at dinner. "

Two many Moons and other tales of woe - Anita Marie Moscoso

The Riders attacked our camp at sunset.

One Rider tried to actually lift me up onto it's horse by the hair on the back of my head. So as it lifted me up I pulled it's arm down and unseated the ghoul from it's horse.

Then I took it's head between my hands and bashed it's skull into a tree.

It didn't die, but I didn't think it would. I just wanted to hurt it as much as I could before it finished me off.

That was the plan, then I had a better idea.

I stole it's horse and that' s when the real trouble started.

The horse screamed underneath me; it threw it's head back and when it did the back of it's neck caught me in the face and broke my nose and both of my eyes swelled up right away and I was nearly blinded.

Then the horse tore through the trees, the hills and villages. Do you understand?

It tore through them.

The entire time I was sure of one thing; that horse wasn't breathing, I don't even think it was alive, I don't think it was an animal.

It was a storm.

That's what it was...a storm.

Finally I worked up the nerve to turn the reigns loose, I threw my hands up and I let the force of the storm carry me off and away and here I am...

In these dark woods with two moons and no stars in the sky and something is moving in the trees, something with too many eyes.

I wish I were alone, I really do.

Part Two:

I spent my first hours in this place carving one bad word after another into the trees here in the Dark Wood I'm stranded in.

When I ran out of bad words (and I'll brag here, I came from a multi-lingual family I know LOTS of curses) my hands were so cramped I couldn't open them even to drop the knife.

I was exhausted and I wanted to cry but when the Horse broke my nose it did something to my entire face which now felt too big and numb. Hey, maybe I cried an ocean of tears but I couldn't feel them.

All I could feel was that awful numbness.

Finally I was tired, I felt alone.

I leaned against a tree and slid down to the ground and rested my head against my knees.

Now this was real life, and I know that sounded all very dramatic but the truth is I must have got a million splinters stuck to my back, my shoulders and you backside from doing that and then when I learned forward and pressed my face against the ground because I wasn't done feeling sorry by myself something unable to crawl into my mouth tried to crawl up my nose.

I sneezed it out and looked up and there they still were...two moons.

One blood red the other dull blue.

Screw you Two Many Moons.

That's what I thought.

And that's what I ranted at the top of my lungs until my voice was ruined. Still no matter how loud I yelled or cursed it didn't scare THEM off.

They were still there; my symbols of failure, two very unnatural reminders I lost my temper, lost my faith, lost my ways and now I'm in this Place with Dead Black trees and bugs trying to nest in my mouth and if those things in the trees are so damn curious...

" get the hell down here and show yourself, otherwise GET LOST! "

The trees shook and those eyes disappeared into the upper branches.

It was dark and not getting any lighter and I'd been here for hours.

Well, there sure as hell wasn't anything to look at so I opened the bag I'd brought with me from Duwamish and shook everything out of it onto the ground.

OF COURSE there was no food in it...oh hey look here! No water either and surprise!


I rolled over to my side and laughed, really laughed and put them on. They were an ordinary pair of glasses, wireless with black lenses

I let them slide down my nose and I looked at the other things that had slid out of the bag. There was a map...I wonder if I can eat it? And a key. Oh great. Just what I need....

Glasses I can't see out of, a map for a place I'm nowhere near and the key.


I was impressed with myself. This had to be the best case of self sabatoge anywhere in creation. I mean,I deserve an award or a medal for this!

Then ....

I looked back up and the stars were there.

Bright golden stars that looked close enough to touch. The constellations were all wrong but you know that was okay.

It was okay because stars are stars and they were light and they were there when nothing else was.

Then I followed the horizon and miles away I saw something to designed and formal to be a natural part of the landscape.

It was a building.

I pulled something out of my ear, popped it between my fingers then leaned down and picked up my map,key and knife and carefully packed them into my bag.

And then I started walking.

Friday, August 19, 2005

On My Way

The beginning of my trip was uneventful until Marika crossed my path. Then I was carried into the depths of the forest by my donkey, Dawn. Once reaching the darkest point, the very center of the forest, I was taken away by a hooded creature. I still cannot see the creature who has taken me and I have no unearthly idea where we are bound. I have opened the package the Enchantress gave me before departing. Maybe I can find something helpful here.

I left the Hermitage feeling like the rabbit in Alice and Wonderland. "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date!" My donkey and guide were patiently waiting for me at the quay. I don't know how many days they have been waiting. I find the patience of others in this amazing land to be quite astonishing. No one is ever perturbed about me taking as much time as I need, even though I'm running behind schedule. I know my capacity for patience needs to improve, so maybe they are all teaching me a lesson.

I stroked my donkey and climbed aboard, but not before I placed my colorful, fluffy wig on the donkey's back. I could sware the donkey giggled when she saw it. After finding my spot on the donkey's back, I leaned over to her ear and introduced myself and thanked the donkey for carrying me to my next destination. She made the sound that donkey's make, kind of a "Hee-haaaaaa" sound, and within it I heard, "Me-Dawn." Well, it was quite fitting that I be taken into the dawn of the next day by a donkey named Dawn.

Off we traveled for many miles. I enjoyed the quiet and soaked up the beauty around me. After being in the bath house for way too long, I felt like a wet noodle. I knew if I let myself doze, I'd slide right off of Dawn's back. I leaned down for part of the journey and whispered into Dawn's ears all about my adventures. She nodded her head and Hee-haaaaa'd at the appropriate places, so that I knew she understood what I was saying. I showed her my walking stick and a tear came to her eye at the site of Mother Nature's image.

We stopped for a moment at a water's edge for Dawn to get a drink. I had no idea where we were or what body of water we were at, but it didn't matter to me. I love all bodies of water. I slid off Dawn and was about to wade in to cool myself when Dawn grabbed the back of my shirt with her teeth and pulled me back. She nudged my head with her nose so that I looked down at the surface of the water.

There, on the surface of the rippling water, instead of seeing a distorted reflection of myself, I saw the striking face of a woman who told me her name was Marika. She said she was a Water Healer ( I don't know what that is, but I listened to her words for her eyes had me locked in her gaze. She said had planned to meet me along this road to give me a message of healing, but now she also had a message of warning. She said to listen very carefully and memorize her every word.

"AshleyShea, you have learned much and traveled far to make this journey. What you have seen is just the beginning. There's more to come, some not so pleasant, some more pleasant than you've ever experienced. Continue to be like a starfish on a wave. Float where the wave takes you. Do not resist.

"My original message for you was to spend some time here at these waters to reflect upon your reflection. I know that you are haunted by voices that tell you you aren't good enough, not beautiful enough, not young enough, ...not enough, period. Those voices only serve their own purposes. They hold you back. They hide your glory...your strength. They fog the pathway to your inner self. Whenever you hear these voices, dismiss them. Tell them you no longer need their opinions because you have it on much higher authority that they are wrong.

"I am also here to give you a warning. Your traveling companions have entered the woods before you. They were met by hooded figures and taken off to places untold. I have it on good authority that those who struggled and fought their hooded figure were taken to places I would rather not speak of. They are fighting for their lives as we speak. Those who released themselves to the hooded presence were taken to a place where they are learning a life lesson they need to learn. Honestly, both groups of travelers are learning. One group is doing it the hard way. The other group, while it may not be all joy and roses, are learning their lesson with much less pain.

"I believe there is one more hooded creature waiting for you in the deepest darkness of the woods. Do not be afraid. Let the creature take you and, I promise, you will not be harmed."

As Marika's uttered the last words, her face faded into the water. I didn't have time to ask anything more of these hooded creatures and where I might be taken. As her face faded, I saw the reflection of my own face. Just as Marika's gaze held me captive, I noticed, for the first time, my own striking looks. I found it hard to smile, nervous about what destiny was waiting for me, but I did feel a twinge of joy inside as I pushed away the "not enough" thoughts and saw my own radiance.

Dawn brought me back to the present by tugging on my shirt. I climbed on her back and allowed her to carry me into the woods. Nervously I kept watch. At first I jumped or twitched at the slightest sound, but soon I became accustom to the sounds of the woods. I could see the light recede as Dawn carried me deeper into the woods. A distance before me I could see no evidence of light. I took a deep breath and prepared myself for the hooded creature. I relaxed on Dawn's back. I bent over once more and whispered in her ear, "Wish me luck," just as a hooded figure swooped down from the trees and took me to....Who Knows Where.


When I arrived, there were still several donkeys waiting for their tardy riders, the late ones, those who had overslept or dawdled along the trail, like I did. I never could resist smelling every flower and stopping to hug a tree or two.

Most of the animals were donkey dun-like in color. Their brown eyes were soulful and their long ears flicked at passing insects. One in particular though caught my eye. She was light in color, almost cream. The black line across her shoulders and down her back stood out against the lightness of her coat... I could see why they called it a cross … that's exactly what it looked like … the cross that Jesus carried. Now, I'm not religious so I wasn't going to allow that to sway me toward choosing her above the others. She took a couple of steps toward me then, stopped, as if too shy to approach. I wasn't shy though so I walked slowly toward her. When I took hold of her bridle, she looked soulfully into my eyes. She was little, too little, I thought, to bear this burden of a body on a long journey. But, since I liked to stop frequently and walk, I figured we would manage despite her delicacy.

I asked the donkey keeper what I should call her. The woman, a crone, was in fact ageless and looked more donkey than human. "She has no name," she said. "You can call her what you will."

I looked at the small but willing animal. "I shall call you Moonbeam." Did I detect a smile on her funny little face or was my imagination working overtime?

I led Moonbeam to where I had left my rucksack and case and strapped them onto her back. When I mounted her, my feet hung almost to the ground. She was the beast and I was the burden. We headed off into the woods, making for the trail that would take us through the mountains and to our next destination. Moonbeam's hooves trod gently upon the trail, barely making a sound. She seemed to know the way with no direction from me.

We stopped beside a small spring and drank of the fresh, sweet water that issued from it.
Moonbeam waited for me to mount again, but I shook my head. "You lead and I will follow," I said. She seemed to understand, but waited for me to walk beside her.

The journey was uneventful, we walked together, trotted together, and stopped frequently for a bite to eat, and even a nap here and there.

Before we were halfway there our tranquil journey was interrupted by a band of hooded riders who insisted I ride, not walk. I mounted, and despite being scared to death managed to whisper a few words of encouragement to Moonbeam.

I reached back into the case and pulled out a set of wings. I fastened them to Moonbeam's bridle and before I could say giddy-up, I was flying above the treetops while below, the masked riders whirled about in confusion. We continued to fly until the mountains fell behind us. We approached our destination, the House of the Serpent, and when we landed, I dismounted, unloaded my rucksack and case, told Moonbeam to stay, and went to check-in leaving my meager baggage on the ground beside her.

When I returned, my baggage was where I had left it but Moonbeam was nowhere to be seen. I asked the donkey keeper, an old man with a long, white beard if he had seen Moonbeam. "No donkey by that name 'round 'ere," he said.

I explained that Moonbeam was different in color, almost white with a distinctive cross.
"No, ma'am, we ain't got any white donkeys hereabouts."

I was sad because I wanted to say goodbye to Moonbeam, thank her, and give her a hug.

That night, as I lay in my sleeping bag and the moonbeams filtered downward through the ceiling of white, fluffy clouds, I thought I heard a distant braying, not the normal donkey sound, but the gentle voice of Moonbeam. I slept peacefully through the night until I awoke refreshed, and strangely joyful.

©August 19, 2005

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Unknown Rider

My goodness, I wonder what interesting experiences I am going to have today. Up to date, there have been some surprises along the way. There has been anxiety, excitement and at times sorrow, and I am certainly feeling the benefits of this experience.

Now, I am seated on this beautiful little donkey whose name is Augustus. He is old and clumsily treads along the way at his own pace. Luckily I am relaxed so I am very patient. He says that he knows where he is going and not to worry. So I sit pat. Before long we are into the forest. The gnarly old branches are hanging down, but Augustus seems to be able to tread a path past them without me being harmed in any way. My other friends are around me on their donkeys, so we seem to be all together.

Next thing, all hell breaks loose, the donkeys are braying and distressed. Before I know what is happening, I am whisked away from my faithful friend. A hooded rider takes hold of me and hoists me onto his horse. The horse feels enormous after travelling on my little donkey. My heart is pounding with excitement. I have never experienced the feeling of such power, riding on this great animal through the forest. I am holding on tight to my rider who seems to totally in control.

It is not until we come to a clearing in the forest that we begin to slow down. Coming to a standstill, I find myself being lifted down to the ground. My head is spinning, I feel so light headed and I hardly know what I am doing. I now have a chance to see the face of the hooded rider. It is a man, his face is handsome, but it is his eyes that are so deep and full of kindness. He is preparing a fire and soon the leaves and branches are crackling and the warmth entices me towards it. My rider sits on the ground and invites me to sit with him. I feel safe with him, so I ask who he is. He says that he is my spirit guide and will be there for me whenever I need him. I am surprised that he is going to be there for me, and part of me is having difficulty in believing this. He tells me he is Blue Heron, and that we will rest here for tonight and continue the journey tomorrow.

Comforted by his presence, I drift off to sleep. I am woken by the birds clickety, clacking around the trees and find that I am alone. Where is my guide? What am I going to do now? He did reassure me that he would always be there when I needed him. Keeping this in my heart, I picked up my bag, put on my special glasses and set off through the forest.

I can now see where I am going and know that I shall soon be arriving at The House of the Serpent. I come out of the forest to this beautifully tranquil water hole. This must be Blind Springs. There is such an atmosphere of peace here that I must rest here on the rocks. As I sit there, I hear a flutter of wings, and see a bird rising from the water and gliding off with such grace. It is the blue heron.I know that I am not alone.

Arrival and abrupt departure

Oh my goodnesss, whatever am I to do, I groaned inwardly. I had just arrived at the inn in Duwamish only to be told that my group has already departed, and on donkey back. The innkeeper handed me a tattered piece of parchment with the following inscription:
To Traveller – urgent – forced march on donkey required to reach House of the Serpent asap. Ariel waiting at the gibbet. Love. Enchantress.
He also handed me a small leather bag. I decided I would investigate its lumpy contents out of the sight of prying eyes.

The innkeeper looked at me with some suspicion when I asked where the gibbet was. “Follow this dog leg until you get to a fork. You can’t miss it and if you do, the ravens will guide you”.

Swallowing my misgivings I headed out in the way he had directed. The road wound on and on. I decided I had better investigate what was in the bag as it had obviously been given to me for a reason. There was a clump of rowan trees at the side of the road so I stepped into their russet dappling and, crouching down, tipped the contents on to a large flat stone. Imagine my surprise when I found a pair of spectacles – how did the enchantress know I’m shortsighted? But perhaps these are no ordinary spectacles. There was a candlestick, a tiny silver anchor charm – somebody must have lost that off a cherished charm bracelet, I thought. There was a little medallion with the imprint of a unicorn on it and a set of wings. The last items were a map and a small book whose inscription on the outer cover bore the curious legend “dictionary of runes ancient and modern”. I opened the book but all I saw were masses of indecipherable characters – 1234567890asdfghjklyxcvbnm

I carefully packed everything away and tied the bag securely to my belt. This was obviousy going to be a pretty extraordinary journey. I peeped cautiously out of the rowan grove before continuing on my way but there was no sight of anyone or anything. I hummed Ruthie Henshall’s pilgrim song as I walked and wrapping my swansdown cape closer round me, turned up the speed of my Mercury winged shoes to get to the gibbet faster. I could see ravens circling overhead in the distance and knew I must be approaching my goal.

Pilgrim how you journey
On the road you choose
To find out where the winds die
And where the stories go

All days come from one day
That much you must know
You cannot change what's over
But only where you go

One way leads to diamonds
One way leads to gold
Another leads you only
To everything you're told

In your heart you wonder
Which of these is true
The road that leads to nowhere
The road that leads to you

Will you find the answer
In all you say and do?
Will you find the answer
In you?

Each heart is a pilgrim
Each one wants to know
The reason that the winds die
And where the stories go

Pilgrim in your journey
You may travel far
But pilgrim it's a long way
To find out who you are

Pilgrim it's a long way
To find out who you are

Before I had gone much further there was a loud bray and a shaggy, honey coloured donkey blocked my path. The donkey opened its mouth and brayed. I looked at it blankly. It brayed again. I continued to look at it blankly. I didn’t know how we were going to be able to communicate until I thought of the spectacles – maybe they were magic and I would in some fashion be able to see clearer. I put them on and this time the donkey’s braying revealed that HER name was Ariel. I was to mount her and she would take me to catch up with the rest of the group. Ah, I thought, these spectacles are a sort of translation device as well.

Since I didn’t have any choice I mounted her back. It was just as uncomfortable as I had feared and remembered from childhood rides on the beach at Western-super-Mare. Ariel ambled off. We passed the gibbet – mercifully there were no grizzly remains – and the ravens merely cawed at our passing.

We soon entered an old wood. Swathes of moss hung from the branches overhanging the pebbled track. Lichen and fantastic orchids covered the trunks and lush ferns grew on the forest floor. I could hear the occasional twitter of birds high in the foliage above me and once, I caught sight of a bird about the size of a jay, with a brilliant flash of turquoise wings – not any bird I had ever seen before. A slight breeze made the leaves brush against each other in sweet susurration.
I had no idea how long our journey would last so I set about making a mental inventory of the objects the enchantress had given me and touched the bag, wonderingly, to reassure myself it was still there. Apart from the birdsong and the ripple of water somewhere nearby there was no other sound. The sun’s rays dappled the path before us and I was beginning to relax and enjoy the soft clopping of the donkey on the path. Evidently it led somewhere as the pebbles were worn smooth with passage and few weeds grew between.

I was deep in my reverie when Ariel suddenly brayed again. I looked up but could see nothing. She brayed again and I hurriedly put the spectacles back on but this time I couldn’t understand a thing, only sense that something was terribly amiss. Before I could ask her what was wrong a huge shadow fell on our path. I looked up and wished I hadn’t. Blocking our way was a huge winged horse with a hooded rider astride it. All of a sudden the rider appeared at my side. How did that happen? I didn’t see it dismount. By now, I was beginning to know better than to ask the obvious. The rider towered above me but I could see nothing of its face. It stretched out a sleeve towards me and somehow managed to mount me on the horse and set me in front of it. “Wings” a voice said. “I beg your pardon.” “Hurry up, we haven’t got all day. Put on your wings. I know my horse has wings but humans weigh too much and we have a long way to go. I don’t want to tire my horse so be a good girl and put on your wings”. I felt in my leather bag and my fingers touched the feathers. I withdrew the feathers and looked at them in disbelief. The wings had the same turquoise colours that I had seen on the bird in the woods. They looked ridiculously small and I seriously doubted they would be able to support me. However, my guide was beginning to get impatient and almost snatched them from me in its haste to fasten them to my back. “You will need to hold the anchor at all times as it will keep you on the horse” it added, touched its horse’s flank with a trailing sleeve and we were off. At breakneck speed we rose through the forest canopy and popped out into blue sky with fluffy clouds high above us. We sped higher and higher until the land lay like a map below us. I looked down but the landscape was meaningless and I had no idea where we were.

I began to feel dizzy as we flew higher and shut my eyes against the rush of wind in my face. Eventually I think I must have dozed off for a while, leaning comfortably against my rider. When I woke again, it was to see the land rushing up to meet us. I closed my eyes, waiting for the bone-jarring thud of landing but none came. Instead there was a slight sound of something brushing through foliage and I opened my eyes again. I looked round at the rider with a question in my eyes but it said nothing, only placed me gently on the ground. As it turned to go, its hood slipped off and I saw that the rider was a cherubim. I almost burst into laughter at this incongruous sight but restrained myself just in time. It might not help matters so I pretended to sneeze instead. The cherubim said “go to the pool in the grove and your way will be revealed” and disappeared.
I looked around and saw that I was in a small clearing with a very old stone building with a weather-worn stone plaque affixed to the wall but it was difficult to read what was written on it. Close by a natural spring bubbled ebulliently out of the rocks. I was glad to wash off some of the dust that now covered those bits of my skin not covered by the swansdown cape. It was completely silent there. I sat down to think. This was where I needed my wits, I thought. I had packed them, hadn’t I. Hadn’t I? Oh, yes, I had. Thank goodness for that. I carefully took out my wits from their little cobweb bag and dusted them off. But what does one do with wits? Put them on one’s head so that they are nearer the brain or wear them round one’s neck so that they are nearer the heart? In the end I put them back in their bag and hug it from by belt and hoped that would do the trick.
I sat on a bit longer and then decided to explore my surroundings. First I went into to the chapel for that is what it was. It was very dark inside so I took out the candlestick but then realised I had nothing to light the candle with. I went back outside and laid the remaining objects from the bag on the ground and inspected them carefully. As I turned the medallion over in my hands the sun glinted off it, casting reflections on my cape. If I could use the sun’s rays to start a fire then maybe I could light the candle but what to use for kindling? Necessity is the mother of invention – I would use a page from the dictionary of runes. I only hoped I wasn’t going to need that page. I tore the last sheet out of the dictionary, which didn’t seem to have anything written on it and carefully took aim with the medallion. I hoped this was going to work as well as using a piece of glass. I twisted and turned the medallion for ages until at last a tiny brown dot appeared in the middle of the page. It grew rapidly as the fire took so I quickly lit my candle. I stood up carefully so as not to extinguish the bright flame and carried it inside the chapel. As my eyes grew used to the dimness I could see a wooden screen in front of me with pieces of cloth hanging over it. I set the candlestick down and carefully picked up the corner of one of the fabric curtains and pulled it aside. Underneath was revealed the most beautiful painting. No wonder it had been covered up, it needed to be protected. As I looked at it my heart sung, for it was a picture of the archangel Michael. Then I knew I would find my way. I moved to the next picture but it wasn’t a picture. It was just a piece of wood on which someone had burned some curious symbols. I couldn’t make any sense of this and my candle had nearly burnt out. I carefully lifted the piece of wood off its hook and carried it to the entrance. I sat down on a convenient block of stone and closed my eyes allowing my finger tips to trace the slight indentations of the burned symbols and allowed my mind to wander.
Heiroglyphs? No. Runes.

Follow the fish

This was where I was going to need my battered copy of “runes ancient and modern”. I started to thumb through the pages in search of enlightenment. Unfortunately, runic is not one of the languages I speak so it was going to be a laborious job, trying to match up the characters and find the meaning of the script. Then I thought of my translation spectacles. They had helped me understand what Ariel, the donkey was saying to me. Maybe they could help me decipher this. The spectacles were the plainest pair I’d ever seen but perhaps their plainness belied their innate qualities. I put them on and realised I could now read the symbols. In no time at all I had the words: Follow. The. Fish.

“Follow the fish” what on earth could that mean. It appeared to be an instruction of some sort. I took out the map and unfolded it, I hadn’t looked at when I had first inspected the enchantress’ gifts to me.

It didn’t look much like a map to me. It looked like a childish depiction of a fish but on closer inspection I realised that the eye was a cartographic symbol for a church. Maybe this drawing of the fish was, in fact, a map. Could the scales be rocks and the feathery bits on the tail fins be trees?

I walked over to the spring and sure enough the water gurgled happily away between rocks and I could now discern a worn path disappearing out of the clearing.

Since I didn’t seem to have any other choice I returned the wooden plaque to its hook in the chapel, made sure I had left nothing behind and set off between the rocks. The path twisted and turned but it was a lovely warm day so I was quite content to follow it. The path took me through a rocky gorge with yellow gorse flowers in full bloom, their coconutty perfume wafting through the air. Brightly coloured birds flitted from stone to stone or foraged for seeds among the thistle heads. At length the walls of the gorge got lower and I found myself crossing a grassy plain. In the distance I could see a wood and in the further hazy distance could see a chain of mountains, purple in the now late afternoon. I stopped for a drink in the brook, using my scallop shell to scoop up the water and then, as I scooped up more water to wash my face I saw that my face had changed. There was the light of adventure in my eyes and a broad smile told me I had got this far safely.
With renewed vigour and a spring in my step I approached the wood and soon came to some ruins, which rampant undergrowth was doing its best to claim. I had better tread carefully here, I thought, for there might be snakes ……

H of S, Finally!

After walking for two hours in the woods, my foot had blistered and swollen to quite an enormous size, so I was in a bit of a temper by the time I drew near. I knew that I was getting close, as tiny green jewel-like snakes kept crossing my path. I was tired, hungry, and thirsty--I hadn't thought to take a drink at Blind Springs, much to my chagrin. I finally reached a structure, covered in shingles that looked like scales, that wound a serpentine path through a clearing. All odd angles and curves, it had an organic feel to it. The arched doorway had a handle that I could swear writhed beneath my hand as I pulled it. I stepped inside and allowed my eyes to adjust to the light, and limped painfully up and down the halls looking for the nurse of the house. I felt a bit feverish, and so wondered if my eyes were deceiving me when I found a large lizard administering some sort of concoction to a very drunken Heather, who was lolling about on the divan in her room. She covered Heather, who was singing a rather rude song about showing one's bloomers to the crowd, with a blanket, patted her head and turned to me.
"She'll have a bit of a headache tomorrow, I'm afraid." Her voice was whispering, with sibilant consonants, very lizard-like, I'm afraid, but she was kind and cleaned and dressed my wounds with some sort of magical unguent. She wrapped my foot in a large portion of spider's web and whispered some incantation over it. I began to feel better directly.
"Where is everyone?" I asked.
"Oh, they are gathered at Deadwood Hall, sharing tales and libations," the nurse lizard said. The Mistress was gone when most of them arrived, but she has just returned."
"I look forward to meeting her," I said.
"Well, let's just hope she's in a good mood," said the nurse. "That's the last person who was looking forward to meeting her, over there." She pointed with her tail, and I looked over at a bundle in the corner, wrapped in a shroud and clearly dead. I swallowed, hard. "There you go, mistress. Now go on over to Deadwood and see the others. Take two of these leaves at supper and call me if your fever rises."
"I thanked her and went on my way.

My Journey to Blind Springs

After what seemed like hours of riding through the woods, my poor donkey, Agnes, complaining bitterly at the pace the entire time, the riders stopped, looked to one another, and then simply vanished, leaving me and Agnes by ourselves in the wood.
“Well, this is a pretty turn of events,” Agnes remarked. “And me with my aching hooves. Those riders were merciless, mistress, merciless!”
“I am sorry about that, Agnes,” I said, patting her neck and trying to soothe her. “You were very fast, though. I had no idea donkeys could run so quickly. You’re a very brave girl.”
She straightened up a bit then, with pride, but immediately sagged at the middle.
“Er, mistress,” she said, “my back is a bit sore-like, from all of that riding. Do you think..”
“Oh, of course!” I slid to the ground, not a far trip as my long legs hung only inches above the forest floor on either side of poor Agnes’s belly.
“Ah!” She sighed. “That’s better. Now, mistress, do you know where we are? Which way shall WE walk next?” She looked at me, rather pointedly.
“Oh, Agnes, you don’t know? I’m not from around here; in fact this is my first time in the whole region. What shall we do?” Agnes began to bray, loudly, in distress, and large tears ran from her big brown eyes. “Here, here,” I said, “please don’t take on so. You’re supposed to be helping me out—silly goose.” I dabbed at her tears with the corner of my shawl, and the braying started to subside. “Just let me think for a moment.” I walked round the clearing and then sorted through my bags. “I remember, yes—there it is—that the Enchantress gave us a bag, filled with things that might be helpful on our journey.” Agnes stuck her nose in the bag.
“Is there any food in there? I’m very hungry.”
“Can’t you just eat grass or something, Agnes? I mean, you are a donkey, after all.”
“Well, I can… but it gives me the wind something awful. But I guess—“
“No, that’s all right,” I said, hastily. “We’ll see if there is food in here.” I shook the bag, and out fell a set of spectacles, a candlestick, a tiny anchor, a medallion with the imprint of the Unicorn and a set of wings. A bag of apples also fell to the ground, and Agnes stuck her nose in it and started munching away. “Agnes! Slow down! We don’t know how long that food might have to last us.” Agnes slowed her pace, finishing the apple in her mouth, her second, rather sheepishly. “Look, here’s a map.” I lit the candlestick, as it was getting rather dark. “Here—Blind Springs, near the House of the Serpent. That’s where we’re headed. But where are we now….” I suddenly noticed Agnes, who had stopped chewing and was visibly trembling. “Agnes? What’s wrong?”
“House of the S-Serpents?” She shook her head wildly. “You can’t make me, mistress, no, I won’t do it! I have whatsit---herpetophobia. Snakes, aaaughhh, noooo!”
“Agnes! I’m sure it’s just a name, you know, like um, Canyon of the Giants.”
“Giants? You didn’t say anything about giants? My mother was eaten by a giant. That’s it. I’m leaving you. I’m sorry mistress, but I simply can’t go on any further.”
“Agnes.” I said, sternly. “We are not going to see any giants. It was merely an example. Honestly, I had no idea that donkeys were such hysterical creatures. I thought your type was rather sensible.”
“That’s horses, mistress. We donkeys are a sensitive lot. So, if I could just have one of your apples, I’ll be on my way.”
“Nonsense, Agnes. Now, sit down with me here and let’s have a think. Here, you may have another apple. I promise I will allow to come to no harm.” My vision was a bit dim, with the fading light, so I thought to put on the spectacles.
“A bit schoolmarmish, if you ask me,” sniffed Agnes. “Rather hoity-toity.”
“Hush.” I picked up the map and suddenly, a large arrow appeared. “YOU ARE HERE.”
It pointed to a small glade, quite a distance from the House of Serpents. The wood adjacent, between us and the H of S, as I had to refer to it now to keep Agnes from blubbering, was also newly marked. “DANGER—SEVERE TROLL IMFESTATION.” Imfestation? Hmmm. Some spellers these cartographers were. I wondered at the accuracy of the map. Suddenly, I had an idea.
“Agnes, what’s the bravest horse-type creature you can think of?”
“Well, let’s see, there was that Shetland pony that rescued the little boy that washed out to sea, and a llama reportedly stood down a lion...but on the whole, I would have to say…(“unicorns” I whispered) oh, yes: unicorns.”
“Well, we are in luck, then, Agnes, because I happen to have with me a Seal of the Order of the Unicorn, which, when bestowed upon a creature, endows said creature with all the powers, privileges, and bravery of the unicorn. Come here.” Agnes turned toward me and I stamped the seal right between her limpid brown eyes. I held it there for a moment, and she visibly brightened.
“I feel it, mistress,” she said, in wonder. “D’you think I’ll grow a horn?”
“I don’t know, Agnes, but let’s get moving while you’re feeling brave.” Tucking the map beneath my arm, carefully hiding the notation about trolls—didn’t know if Agnes could read, you see--we set off. Agnes walked, head held high, munching the remains of her apple. We progressed into a deeper forest, with taller trees, and darker shadows. We hadn’t been there more than a few minutes when we heard a great noise in the brush. I quickly ascertained the situation—a horrible smell was coming our way, along with a clomping noise and some growling type vocalization.

“Quick, Agnes, up here!” I had spied a stairway in the trees and instinctively made for higher ground. We ran up the stairs, Agnes clip-clopping behind, breathing heavily, and reached a sort of stone plateau. It was empty except for a fire ring, over which hung a spit, on which was skewered the remains of a decidedly horse-type creature. I struggled back to block Agnes’s vision, but she had already seen the worst. She began the loud, hysterical braying I had become acquainted with in the glade. “Hush!” I hissed, clamping my hands around her jaws—the troll will hear us!” Too late, I realized my error.
“TROLL?” she shrieked, through clamped jaw. Her eyes rolled, and I feared she would faint.
“Unicorn power, Agnes, Unicorn power!” She braced herself while I dumped the contents of the bag on the stony ground. We heard heavy steps ascending the stairs, gnashing of teeth and loud bursts of breath which increased the foul odor. I grabbed the first thing my hand fell on, a set of wings, and they began to flutter. Thinking fast, I hooked them to Agnes’s bridle and scooped up the rest of the items, tossing them in the bag. I threw myself across Agnes’s back and felt a slight lift. Agnes brayed all the louder, and I bit her ear to quiet her.
“Unicorn power, Agnes! I think I see a slight horn growing from your forehead. Come on, Agnes, think light thoughts—fairy dust, angel food cake, billowy clouds, cotton candy—oops, there we go!” And suddenly we were airborne, but just barely. My feet still brushed the stone plateau, and as I looked down I saw an enormous troll, rushing about the surface. Fortunately, trolls have poor vision, so it didn’t see us immediately. Soon, though, it smelled our fear and raced in our direction. It swung an enormous club over its great shaggy head, and with a vicious growl grabbed my ankle. “Light thoughts, Agnes, light thoughts!” I kicked at it, and managed to free my foot, leaving behind only my shoe, as Agnes screamed “Alfalfa meringue pie!” and we were aloft, flying high above the angry creature. We heard its shouts for many minutes, while I consulted the map and tried to rudder Agnes toward Blind Springs. I felt troll drool dripping off my foot and looked down to see it blistering just a bit. I shivered at our near escape.

I pulled an apple from the bag and fed it to Agnes while we were in the air, stroking her neck and her ego.
“What a brave donkey! If it wasn’t for you, Agnes, our goose would be cooked! I knew you had it in you.”
“Oh, well,” Agnes said, blushing, “it was only ONE troll, after all, I mean, really, hardly a threat, is it?”
“Look, there’s the H of S below. We’re almost there!” Agnes started quaking once again.
I made a quick decision. In honor of her courage and wise use of unicorn power, we would bypass the H of S. “Just go on by, Agnes. We’ll go directly to Blind Springs. I spied it below, a rushing waterfall tumbling toward a pool that bubbled from within, visible one moment, gone the next in a mist. “Hmmm, perhaps that is why it is called Blind Springs,” I said, as I dropped the little anchor. We began to descend slowly, circling round and round until Agnes’s hooves touched down on a grassy knoll above the springs. “We’re here!”
“Glory be,” Agnes shouted, braying a bit with joy. I laughed and slid from her side, and then I noticed something. I looked, looked again, and then took off the magic spectacles. It was still there.
“Why Agnes,” I said, “You really do have a horn growing from your forehead. You will be the world’s first uni-donkey. You were magnificent, really you were.”
“Thank you mistress. Now if you don’t mind, I’ll be off.” And with a dignified nod, she turned to go.
“Agnes, wait!” I took one apple from the bag for myself and tied the rest to her bridle, under her chin so she could reach them. I kissed her on her new horn-bud and patted her neck.
“Good-bye, dear Agnes.” She trotted off. I lay upon the grass for a bit, consulted my map, and then turned to head toward the H of S. I saw a raven overhead, and hoped it would bring word of my pending arrival to the Enchantress. I reckoned another two hours walk should bring me to my destination.