I took the long journey back to the forest yesterday but even the strangeness of my dream could not have prepared me for what I found there. The gridquakes I had heard about, often third or fourth hand from people who knew that despite my distance from the world Cowell & Kahruvel still meant a great deal to me, had wreaked havok through the ancient woodland and nearby village. It broke my heart to see so many familiar old landmarks gone, washed away into the void or desecrated by hateful thugs possessed by desires I would never, ever understand. Still, even though the tower had finally crumbled into the sea and the aqueduct had collapsed over the cliff, the forest itself still felt warm and inviting and I had a warm glow of nostalgia as I walked beneath her boughs. Even passing the spot where I had found the backpack that had transformed me so long ago made me smile a little.
But that smile faded as I came across the ancient landing stones near the border with Noyo. In my last visit Salazar’s archaeological dig had uncovered a circle of stone posts around a central dais and I had detected a weak, blue light rising up the stones and dissipating into the atmosphere. Although the stone circle had always been called a landing point, in truth I had no idea what it was for and the blue light inside it was just as mysterious, but now I found the site in an awful state of disrepair! All but one of the stones had gone, whether by the efforts of looters or the vagaries of grid stability I could not tell, but the rhythms of the blue energy had obviously thrown into discord and instead of a bubble of energy gently rising up the stones, now great arcs ballooned off into the air and crackled all around me.
“Impressive, huh?” came a voice behind me. I spun around with my heart in my mouth only to find my old friend, and follow half-gazelle, Shigeko Tachikawa stood looking at the light show.
“Shig! Wow! So, you see it too, huh?” I said.
“Yeah, I see it. No one else seems to, I’ve been watching and no one stops, just me, and now you. Oh, and hi by the way,” with that she hit me hard on the arm.
“Ow!” I said, “What was that for?”
“How long have you been away? How long?” she replied, emotion strong in her voice.
“Ahh, yeah, that,” I said sheepishly. “Look, I’m sorry, I’ve been busy…” I trailed off and offered her the kind of big toothy grin that often got me out of trouble, and occasionally got me in more.
“Yeah,” she said with semi-mock hurt, “Well just don’t do it again, ok?”
“I’ll try,” I said but knew I couldn’t ever keep such a promise. The lure of other worlds was always going to be too strong to ignore. I turned away from my lie and looked back into the light, a large arc just passing us by and running over some metal equipment Salazar had left out nearby.
“What is it?” she asked.
“I’m not sure but my guess only Sal, or his gran, will know what to do about it. How about we take a wander down to the lighthouse and leave him a note?”
Shig beamed a smile at me and said “Race?”
I laughed, “Yeah, why not but you go easy on an old guy, huh?”
She laughed back, “Never!” and pushed me to the floor. I landed with a thud in the dust of the trail and she shot off like a rocket over the hill. I jumped to my feet and shouted after her “You cheat!” Ha! Who was I kidding, there was no way I’d ever beat her. I set off at a trot down the path but as I passed the pile of Sal’s equipment I turned back for one last look at the energy bleeding and arcing from the old stone. What the hell did it all mean? I must speak to Sal.