“These people have protected you for many years, Corrinemackenzie,” Tara began as she regarded me with an even gaze. “You have chafed against that protection, and fought for your freedom to make your own choices without full knowledge of the shards of danger that you wish to walk upon.”
She turned slightly and gracefully swept her hand to indicate the water around her. “Before you lies an ancient lake, the depths of which conceal a deadly creature. To leave this place with the power you seek, you must enter the lake without knowing how to defeat the monster. You may take nothing with you but what you carry, and these people cannot help you. Do you agree to embark upon this journey?”
Her initial words annoyed me slightly, but I knew that I would be forever treated like a child by my family unless I did balk at the protection that they forced upon me. Trying to at least appear somewhat browbeaten, I nodded my head and stepped forward. “I am ready,” I replied steadily. The thought of some deadly creature didn’t make me feel real courageous about the situation, but I knew that I had to try.
Tara moved back another step, opening the way for me to come forward into the water that had taken on a dark eeriness I had not noticed before. As I moved forward and waded into the warm substance that lapped at my ankles, the water appeared to darken even further until I couldn’t see my feet.
When I was standing knee deep next to Tara, I looked down into the water again and back up at her to ask, “Will I be able to breathe under there?”
She smiled kindly. “I can tell you nothing of what you will face beneath the water, Corrinemackenzie. I can only say that everything you need to survive is already within you.”
I nodded solemnly, then closed my eyes and focused on a meditation that my Grandmother had taught me to help clear the mind and ready it for magick. I concentrated on remembering and feeling the objects and space around me so I ‘knew’ where I was. It was a simple exercise and one of the first effects that Jared had ever taught me.
It would allow me to use my senses as I attempted to detect the terrain under water. If I did well enough, I would be able to track myself as I went. I used Correspondence for this, but I also added Life in an attempt to perceive even hint of the creature that Tara had spoken of.
I was able to conclude that the cave opened to fifteen feet wide where it met the water. It slowly doubled again at its widest point, and then narrowed until it was about forty feet ahead of me where the cave ended. The ground beneath the water was like a bowl in shape, as the ceiling overhead. My senses told me that the water was about forty feet deep at the deepest point, which was about halfway across the lake. The far wall of the cave went beneath the water about thirty feet, then it fell away, and I perceived only water. I could feel that there were what could have been stone out-croppings here and there on the floor of the lake, and that some of them were quite large, but I could sense no life from where I stood.
I gave Tara one last look before walking further out into the water. I reached into my pouch and pulled a large moonstone from it for protection during the journey. Once I was out far enough, I took a deep breath and dove under, ready to face the creature. The water was very warm, but dark, and I couldn’t see at all, but luckily the robe that I still wore didn’t seem to be holding me up in anyway as I pushed myself further down in the water. There is an effect called Darksight that allows a mage to see in blackness that I tried to invoke, but for some reason I couldn’t make it work. I think my fear of the unknown was holding back my ability to work it for the moment.
Since the water was too dark to see anything, I surfaced and began to swim toward the back wall, hoping to use the time to focus and clear my mind so that I could try the effect again. As I got closer to the back of the cave, I passed through much warmer spots in the water, but I didn’t know where the source of the heat was coming from. When I was about five feet from the back wall, I felt something brush against my leg and I stilled for a moment, unsure what to do.
I glanced over my shoulder and saw that Tara was still standing in the water where I had left her, watching my progress. When another brush wasn’t forthcoming, I continued toward the back wall, still holding the moonstone tightly in my hand as I made my way. I tried to call forth the Darksight again, took a deep breath, and ducked under once more.
This time it worked, but I couldn’t see far in the dark water. I saw something move just out of the range of my sight, but was too fast and I was unable to see what it was. It could have been a tentacle or it could have been a long fish, I didn’t know so I tried not to get creeped out about it.
I had to try to collect my composure again when I touched the back wall and found that it wasn’t stone at all. Whatever it was, it was warm, explaining the temperature variances of the water. I surfaced quickly to see if it moved when I touched it. It didn’t. I watched it closely again, but the wall still appeared stone above the water level, it was only by touch that I could feel the difference.
I knew that I had to find out what this thing was. I took a deep breath and dove under, pushing myself down as far as I could. The Darksight was still working, but the fact that I was wearing a robe and still holding the moonstone in my hand slowed me down a great deal as I worked. Somehow, though, I was able to swim downward quite quickly. About fifteen under the surface, I saw that the tentacle was back again and coming at me from my left side.
I dodged to the right, out of the way, trying to find a head or something that would help me identify what I was dealing with. I didn’t locate one, but it was definitely a tentacle and seemed to be coming from below the creature and to my left.
I continued to push downward, following the tentacle as best as I could, but it disappeared into the darkness. The deeper I went, the warmer the water became and because of the spell I had done earlier to be aware of my surroundings, I was able to feel that the edges of the cave wall fell away until all I felt around me was open water. I was at the edge of the breath I had taken, but I could ‘feel’ life below me in the water, pushing me down further still.
I thought my lungs were going to burst. Just when I was sure I was going to pass out, I called out to Gaia to help me and with the most intense faith I had ever had, I took a big breath. To my amazement, I could breathe through the water, but water wasn’t what it tasted like at all. It was salty, thick, almost like a clear blood. I kept swimming, deeper and deeper, until it felt as if I had swam for miles. I kept pushing myself down until I felt something different enter my senses. Beneath me and to the right, I could ‘feel’ an island of sorts amidst all of this liquid. I turned in the water and headed in that direction, sure that it had to be my final destination.
The closer I got, the more I realized that what I thought was an island was exactly that and I could see it coming up fast as I approached it from the top. The island was about fifteen feet in diameter and there appeared to be a cage on it, and two life forms, one in the cage, one outside of it. They were standing on the surface of the island as if it were not in the ‘water’.
As I continued my approach from above, I found that I couldn’t see who it was, but I could tell that they were both women and dressed very similar in what looked like male versions of medieval clothing. Both had hoods over their heads that obscured their faces so that I couldn’t see their features, but their posture and physical attributes told me they were women.
When I finally was close enough, I saw that the island was in some sort of bubble and that was why I was approaching it from the top. I moved toward the barrier that separated the two places and tried to put my hand through it slowly. I watched as my hand pushed through to the other side with ease, reminding me of what happens when you lift your hand out from water into the air. The pull was similar.
Before pushing through totally, I hesitated and watched to see if I could identify either of the two women, but their faces stayed in the shadow of their hoods. I put my moonstone back in my pouch and moved both of my hands to the barrier to use them to ‘push’ myself through it and into the little bubble where the women and the island were contained.
In the blink of an eye I found myself stepping on the island as if stepping through a doorway. I was completely dry and the woman outside the cage lifted her head and looked at me. I still couldn’t see her face, but through the opening of the hood I saw that her eyes shined like an animal’s that had a headlight flashing into them. She pulled a knife from her belt and took up a fighting stance.
“You may not free the creature,” she said. Her voice was oddly familiar to me, but I couldn’t place it.
I held up one hand so that my palm was toward her in an effort to put her at ease. “I mean you no harm,” I told her calmly. “I have come seeking knowledge. I am CorrineMackenzie. What is your name?”
“I have no name,” the woman answered, obviously not interested in conversation. “This knowledge is beyond your ken. Be gone from this place.”
The woman in the cage behind the first one lifted her hand toward me pleadingly, as if I were her only hope of escape. Maybe I was. I couldn’t see her face to read her expression, but I got the feeling she was being held against her will.
“If I have been sent, then the knowledge is not beyond me,” I told the guard calmly, making sure that my body stayed in a relaxed pose for the moment. “Why is this woman being held?”
“She is bound for your protection,” the woman replied. “To loose her now would cause more harm than good.”
I tried to place why the voice was so familiar and where I had heard it before, but it didn’t seem to remind me of anyone in particular. What it reminded me of was when you talked into a tape recorder and then listened to yourself after.
I started to weigh my options, taking a good look at the layout of my surroundings. The island was roughly fifteen feet in diameter; the cage itself was five feet across and in the center of the island. The guard was standing just outside of reach of the bars of the cage, about ten feet away from me. I moved closer to her in an attempt to win her trust, but not to push her too far just yet.
“And why is she so dangerous?” I asked as I moved my head to the side to look around the guard and into the cage at the woman. “She doesn’t look like much.”
“She is bound for your protection,” she repeated, stiffening the closer I got to her. “You need know no more.”
I continued to inch my way closer, but I also maintained that exterior posture that said I wasn’t a threat.
“That isn’t much of an answer,” I replied with a shrug, maintaining eye contact with the guard. “Is she crazy? Mad?”
I knew when I got too close because she brought her knife up and stopped me dead in my tracks. “That’s close enough, Corrinemackenzie.” I knew that I would have to fight her to get any closer. “She is dangerous, that is all you need know.”
I stood my ground and could feel myself begin to loose my temper at the same time. “This is ridiculous. I’m here seeking knowledge and I’m not about to take any of your vague warnings any longer.” I pointed at the person in the cage. “Now why is she in a cage and why won’t you tell me what’s going on? And no more of this protection crap.”
“I cannot tell you the answers you seek.” She was more than ready for battle and the ball was in my court. “I know only that she is bound for your protection.”
A grunt of frustration slipped past my lips as I punched the air by my side and stared the guard down. She wasn’t going to budge by me simply having a tantrum, but I didn’t want to fight her either. Something in the back of my mind was telling me that whatever I was after had something to do with the woman in the cage and that I had to free her.
I allowed my temper to cool off for a moment before I looked toward the sky and called out in a loud voice. “O Great Mother Gaia, hear your child. I am looking for the way I must go and I need your guidance. What is my true path? Am I being thrown to the side by what is before me or am I to learn from it?”
“Two paths have been laid before you. Both paths are true. You must choose which path you would follow.”
The voice came from one of the two women, but when I looked to see which of them spoke I couldn’t tell. “But what are the two paths?” I asked. “I don’t want anyone to choose for me, but what is the question that will lead to me making it myself?”
As if a light came on in my head, I realized that I thought I finally understood what was going on in front of me. Both of the women were me. Trapped in the cage was the magick that I was seeking and the guard was the part of my subconscious that was afraid of the unknown, afraid of change. If I didn’t take the knowledge, then I would continue to be protected because I wouldn’t advance. If I didn’t advance than I was putting myself in the cage. That wasn’t what I wanted at all.
“I will have her free,” I cried out as I rushed forward, intending to push the guard away. I lunged, but she dodged out of the way and used my own momentum to throw me to the ground before quickly resuming her ready stance.
I got to my feet as quickly as I could in the robe and tried to remember some of the things that Eliza and the others had been teaching me as I went for her again. I didn’t want to hurt her, just get her out of the way so that I could release what was in the cage.
I went after her again, and this time she threw me over her hip. I landed on my back on the ground.
I staggered to my feet again and faced her. “I do not want to harm you, but I must see her free,” I panted, my eyes falling to the sand and seeing a large piece of driftwood near my feet.
It was obvious that she was a better fighter than I, so I decided to use magick in an attempt to find another way to deal with her. I drew on Spirit to sense if she was of the spirit realm. If she was, I remembered something that Jared had told me once that I might be able to use to make her move without hurting her. I had a great turn of luck, she was.
“I cannot allow you to pass,” she replied, still standing between me and the cage.
I rushed her one more time, attempting to grab her by her upper arms to pull her away from the cage. She slipped through my hands and dropped to catch my feet in a leg sweep that dropped me firmly on my back at her feet.
I grabbed a handful of sand and quickly scrambled to my feet, then threw the sand into her face that was still hidden in the folds of the hood. She cried out slightly and I used the opportunity to grab the piece of driftwood and hold it out against her. Since she was of the spirit world, the only thing that I could use to push her away without harming her was to use something of her world that I enchanted with a spell. It was like using two opposing magnets to push one of them away.
I used the spell to push my opponent aside enough to open the door to the cage. She was surprised by my action, but backed off without further fight. It wasn’t my intention to hurt her and this was the best thing I could think of for both of us. I wasn’t the best fighter in the world and I didn’t know if I was only allowed so much time to figure out what to do.
I reached out to grab the door of the cage to pull it open. When it didn’t budge I took a step back and swung the piece of wood at the door with all my strength. I could feel the magick in the air around me as the door broke, shattered and disappeared on contact and the girl inside quickly stepped to the doorway.
“You have chosen to have knowledge despite my efforts to protect you,” the girl who had stood guard said as she reached up and lifted the hood off her head, revealing my own face. “Know now that I can protect you no longer.”
I straightened at her words and faced the identical version of myself. “Thank you for wanting to protect me. But in life change is a constant and I must grow. I appreciate your efforts.” I then turned to the girl who was still in the cage.
She removed her hood as well to reveal a second carbon copy of my face. “You have won here, but with your win comes the knowledge that not all knowledge is good, just as not all power is good. Accept your sister that you would know how to protect yourself from me.” She gestured toward the other girl, who was standing quite close to me now. I turned to look at her and as I did, she took a step even closer, and stepped into my body, disappearing from view.
“Now, Corrinemackenzie, take what you have won.” The remaining girl stepped toward, then into me as the other girl had and I felt a rush of power fill my body.
All of a sudden I found myself floating in the water once more, full of magick, more magick than I had ever felt before. The island was gone, and a light shone from above me like the sun shining down into the ocean.
I turned my face up to the source of light, imagining Gaia smiling down on me with her grace and power as I held my arms out to my sides and smiled back with love and joy in my heart.
I began to float upward, until the light is so bright that I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. I closed them and when I did, I found myself sitting at The Point once more with my family all around me.
I looked around at them and smiled as I stood and went to my Grandfather, wrapping my arms around his waist and hugging him tight. “I did it,” I told him.
“I knew you could darlin’,” he said as he hugged me back and everyone rushed forward to congratulate me. “I knew you could.”
We feasted and partied all day. Jared stayed the night in Ireland, forcing Mac and Eliza to go to Uncle Angus’ for the night. All in all it was a good day. I felt fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends. I still felt guilt about my Mom and Dad not knowing about this part of my life, but like I had been doing for nearly two years, I pushed those feelings away and concentrated on the moment.
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