I started out in my castle, walking down a corridor that led outside. I was wearing my armor. Before exiting to the parapet, I thought to myself that I really ought to finish claiming the castle as mine. A hologram panel, like in science fiction movies, materialized in front of me and I pressed a button on it. I have no idea what that was about.
I moved onto the parapet. The castle and its surrounding forest were snow-covered; the landscape seems to exist in a perpetual winter. How ironic.
I called for Gienah and he flew in, a massive crow, larger than a draft horse. He landed on the parapet in front of me, and I could see the golden eye between his two black ones. I asked him to take me on a healing journey (suggested by Scott), so he told me to climb onto his back. He lowered his wing so I could step on it and haul myself up.
Despite the lack of saddle or reins, I easily clung to Gienah’s back as he flew us over the forest. The wolves (my wolves?) kept pace with us from below.
We landed in a clearing with a low barrow, like the one in this picture. The wolves stood or sat in semicircle behind Gienah and me, as if they were waiting. I entered the barrow, Gienah becoming normal-sized and riding on my shoulder.
The stone hallway led us deep into the earth to a small, underground chamber. I had lost my armor and wore a simple, white dress instead. I don’t know what the chamber’s walls looked like, but in the center of the floor in front of me was a very low dais of smooth, white stone. It was only long and wide enough to fit one adult human. At each of its corners sat a bowl of fire.
Beyond the dais was a pool, natural hot springs. Bowls of fire also illuminated its edge. Gienah flew over and landed on one of the stones bordering the pool, looking at me expectantly. I shed the dress and stepped into the hot spring, finally submerging myself.
Immediately, I was in a white void. My body was white energy, though I could distinguish it from my surroundings. My hair remained black, and the way it floated at the corners of my vision made me feel like I was still underwater, suspended. Patches of black dissolved out of my right forearm, both shoulders, and both feet and legs, streaming like smoke out of my body and into nothing. When that finished, I tried to swim up to the “surface” of the void, but in a flash the white surroundings were gone and I was in the hot spring again. My body was normal-looking. I broke the surface of the hot spring, gasping for air. Gienah was still perched on the stone to my right.
There was another spirit in the chamber, too. The spirit I’d come to call “the Miyazaki deer” stood to my left, waiting. It has a human face with blood red skin and a pale beige, reindeer-like body. The full span of its antlers is as wide as its body’s length, and countless tiny bells hang from them.
I walked out of the hot spring, dripping water, and asked the deer if it was the spirit called Q. It said nothing.
I turned away and lay on my back on the dais. It was so low, it was less than a foot off the floor. The deer and Gienah stood over me, and I asked Gienah this time if the deer is the spirit called Q. Gienah said yes. So my hunch was right.
Q turned away and walked toward a wooden chest I hadn’t seen before; it flanked the entrance on the right side. Q touched the chest’s lid with its nose, and the chest opened. Then Q removed something from the chest with its mouth – a silvery dress similar to the one I had taken off before entering the pool. Q dropped the silvery dress on me, and it fell across me like it was liquid.
Q spoke. Its voice was different than Gienah’s voice; higher pitched, leaning masculine. It told me the dress is made of molten silver and will protect me. I asked Gienah if Q was telling the truth, and he said yes. I arranged the silver dress over me and then it… melted? Fused with? Became consumed by? my steel armor that suddenly reformed around me. I stood and asked Q what the dress will protect me from, but Q only looked at me with an expression that said, “You should know.”
I left the barrow with Gienah on my shoulder to find the wolves still waiting. Q came up after us, somehow; its antlers would have been too wide to fit through any of the entrances, but I suppose those laws don’t apply to the spirit world.
I told the wolves that Q is not a threat and that it helped us. The wolf in the front growled a response in English, but I can’t remember the exact words. But I got the sense the wolves obeyed me, for they turned away and I suddenly had a clear view of my castle in the distance, on its mountain, surrounded by wintry woods. The wolves were retreating back toward the castle at an easy pace, but they were no longer wolves. They were men, warriors. I watched their backs for a second, but then I found myself in the castle again, in front of a wooden door with indiscernible carvings on it.
I opened the door. Beyond was blackness. I stepped inside and came out of trance.