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Ancestral history of Erfins

A landscape similar to Eol with Mateote in the background.

In fantasy there is no real history, of course, but in order to give things some background to how they came to be the way they are, it is important to create some history. This was important, especially for my second book, as all of Mirrortac’s other lives were as individuals from ancestral races, going back to the original tribal ancestor that he meets in Three Stones of Destiny — the Roznogh. The planet in which all of the first book takes place is Mareos, which has nine orbits of its moon, Mogog, in a single Mareos year. Let us now explore the ancestral history that finally leads to the erfins living in their valley of Eol, effectively isolating them from all their remaining ancestors.

The ROZNOGH we already know in Three Stones of Destiny, live in clans in the tundra lands of Yidrogh in the far north of Mareos. The clans consist of clan elders, maja-taks, who are sacred spell makers, and the hefty hyfnuks who are responsible for collecting the hyfnu weed and killing animals for food. There are also the regular roznogh people.

In the 9000th moon of their history, there is an extremely cold period when the Great Viyu (numbness) brings heavy snow falls. The roznogh survive by living near an area of hot springs.

The Stone Wall of Viyu (Glacier) comes in the 9010th moon, dividing the land of Yidrogh. Some tribes are caught on the southern side of Yidrogh, fleeing to warmer lands to the south.

The glacier retreats on the 11,800th moon, but by this time the southern tribes have formed into the UZDREE.

12,007th moon: The maja-tak seek more freedom to exercise their spellcraft, challenging clan elders. The maja-tak seize power from the clan elders who are exiled along with a group of loyal followers. The power play continues between the maja-tak spell casters, forcing the division into two factions — the URDAN and the MADREE clans. Skirmishes break out between the Urdin and Madree but the Madree gain control, forming a powerful ruling clan that reigns for many moons.

13,851st moon: The Monsters-of-the-Deep-Earth (earthquakes) create great destruction in the land, swallowing villages and spitting fire out of the volcanic mountains. The Madree flee the great under-gods of fire, and escape south across a narrow neck of land which is swallowed up by the angry gods of the Great Waters. Plumer-Ra and the other Islands of the Meretees are formed at this time.

13,860th moon: The Madree have been scattered into groups all over the southern lands and each settles to form new clans — RADREE, HUGHWA, URTAK, MADIN and ERFIN.

13,900th moon: Under the maja-tak spell casters, the clans thrive and expand their territories, exploring lands until clans encounter each other.

14,000th moon: Border skirmishes erupt as the power game begins anew between the five clans. Warriors are trained and their short swords bound by various spells to enhance their power over their enemies. Wooden swords give way to ones of metal with hilts adorned in precious stones.

14,005—16,154th moon: Battles rage between the five clans as each pits its might against each other. Finally, only two clans remain — the Madin and Erfins. The Madin are forced into the mountains where they maintain guerrilla style raids on outlying erfin villages.

16,155—17,000th moon: The Erfin empire reigns with battles continuing against the Madin mountain clans.

17,008: The hero warrior Merftac is born to the erfins of Fot. He grows up to lead a major offensive in the 17,146th moon against Madin mountain clans, forcing them to flee to the end of the earth where they are slaughtered on a precipitous mountain ridge and cast below into oblivion. The valley below the Mountain at the End of the Earth (Mateote) is so beautiful and richly endowed with nif-grass and fote fowl that Merftac convinces his maja-tak ruler to shift the people there in the place they name Eol. Merftac is dubbed Thane of Fotwood at the 17,164th moon for his service as a great warrior chief.

17,170: The erfin warriors grow restless, and many brawls break out. They start to challenge the authority of the maja-tak. Merftac realises that he must find a solution to their idleness.

17,180: Nite-wolves, attracted by the potential prey in the previously empty valley of Eol, grow in numbers in the woods east of Eol. Lorcs predate in the stream and lake to the west and south, resulting in the deaths of erfins. Merftac sets his warriors to work hunting nite-wolves and protecting villagers.

17,188: Alien demi-gods appear from beyond Mateote. They work powerful magic and tell of the wondrous worlds beyond the mountains thought to be the end of the earth. Nite-wolves retreat to deep within the woods while the demi-gods convince Merftac of the benefit of exploring these new worlds. Under their charm, Merftac and his warriors follow them over the mountain, promising to return once these new worlds are scouted. These same aliens also visit the Meretees people during this time period.

17,200: The maja-tak, realising their warriors would never return, seize the opportunity to assume supreme power without fear of challenge by restless warriors and their ‘charmed’ swords. They announce that Mateote is their god and warn erfins never to scale the great peak as oblivion awaits them on the other side. They brand the demi-gods as deceivers from the Netherworld who robbed them of their warriors.

17,210: The maja-tak form the priesthood of Mateote. The spell language of Maja is declared sacred and forbidden among the common erfin folk. In the ensuing years, the High Priests of Mateote establish firm control of Eol which becomes their prison as there are no warriors to kill the nite-wolves and slimy lorcs. The erfins settle into a subsistence lifestyle of harvesting nif-grass and herbs as well as raising the fote fowl for eggs and meat.



New art for The Wizard’s Sword

Irish artist Michael Lenehan has surprised me with a gratis re-interpretation of the image for The Wizard’s Sword originally done by Mackay artist Heidi Counsel. His take is very different to Heidi’s and will be on his deviantart site as well as the cover image for Three Stones of Destiny. I’ll reproduce it here for your appraisal. If you like Michael’s work, then you can check more of his art at and his blog at

Humour is infectious … a teaser – THREE STONES OF DESTINY

English: View of Matterhorn and Dent d'Hérens ...

English: View of Matterhorn and Dent d’Hérens from Tête Blanche, Switzerland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mirrortac warmed to his role as the wonderful adventurer. He told him as much as he could about the world of his birth. He told of the fields of nif-grass where the poultry bird, fote, bobbed up their heads while searching among the roots for worms. He told of the trees of the woodlands and the snowcapped heights of the mountains that towered high above all the villages. With the ability of mind contact, he was able to transmit images of all these just as though the child was there in Eol himself. Fervik beamed with delight and awe at all these fantastic visions which he relayed to all his young friends. Soon there was a small crowd of younglings seated around the erfin, who was careful not to transmit anything to do with spirits, demons and alien magic.

After the feasting was over, Swarg, the clan-master and elders led them all out into the air. All thoughts of the stranger among them were forgotten as they were greeted with the shining visage of Luma hanging above the far horizon. A brisk cold breeze greeted the party as they shrugged off the old season. Their feet sunk into the wet snow as thin streaks of cloud fanned out in the sky above them, forming a fine veil to remind them of the many days of darkness and snow just passed. Mirrortac took a deep breath, sucking in the cool crisp air until his lungs expanded, then he exhaled with a forceful gush that Fervik mimicked, grinning back with a cheeky gleam in his eyes. This made Mirrortac laugh and soon they were both laughing. The hyfnuks also laughed, but the sound of them only served to add to their amusement. The hyfnuk with the scar made such a peculiar sound when he laughed that this brought the two into hysterics until tears were streaming down their cheeks. Swarg, seeing the comical sight of all this hysterical laughter, could not withhold her own mirth, adding her own strange cackling to the throng. This dominoed onto the clan-master and even the stern-faced elders who all broke into their own unconventional chuckling and cackling. ‘Why are we all laughing,’ one elder thought out. ‘What more joyful way to greet the great Luma!’ Swarg replied.

Meeting the first Roznogh (The Three Stones of Destiny)

Edge of the danger area on Murton Fell Even in...

Edge of the danger area on Murton Fell Even in summer this is a bleak and inhospitable area but in this weather it can be like Arctic tundra. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was not long after that Mirrortac found himself back in the physical world in a freezing wasteland of bogs and strange moving lights in the sky. He was searching one such bog for any semblance of food when he met the first of this land’s inhabitants. It emerged out of the centre of the bog like some slimy monster, carrying on its back a heap of stinking weed. As the creature materialised out of the pond, Mirrortac was struck by its likeness to the tall seeker-erfins of Eol. The male being was large and covered in a thick coarse black fur, with shorter ears than an erfin. A tuft of dark beard fell down over his face and his large eyes protruded under a bushy brow. He was particularly muscular and thickset. The two stood facing each other for several moments as the being adjusted the weight of the column of weed upon his back, which was half bent over to accommodate it. What happened next was even more startling ― the being spoke in his head!

‘The noise of your thinking is confusing, strange one. Who are you and from what clan do you drag yourself here?’ came the gruff remark.

‘Wha … did you speak in my head? How …? Mirrortac said aloud.

The being grimaced at him as though the question was plain silliness. Then with a sigh he spoke. ‘You must hail from an ancient clan. I have nought seen such as you in all my seasons of the veil.’

He speaks the tongue of Eol!’ The erfin observed with surprise.

‘Eol … is that your clan, strange one?’

Another surprise. ‘I said nought yet you knew what I thought. Only the spirits do such things!’

The being shrugged. ‘Why should it be otherwise? All have the same tongue here. You vex me with your talk of spirits. Go back to your clan. I must return to Erga before the White Veil has claimed Yidrogh.’ At that he turned and began to move away.

‘Wait!’ Mirrortac shouted. ‘My clan is too far from here. I wish to meet your clan. My name is Mirrortac. And yours?’

I am a hyfnuk and all our people are roznoghs. Follow if you will, but expect no welcome in Erga.

‘Perhaps I can help you carry some of that weed. You are bent over with the weight of it,’ the erfin suggested.

The hyfnuk halted and swung around, his face suddenly contorted with near rage. ‘Help ME carry the hyfnu!’ boomed the voice in the erfin’s head. ‘You will nought take any of my hyfnu. I will nought be deceived into giving up my task. I would carry more hyfnu for Yidu if there were need. I would crawl upon my belly with the heaviness of it.’

You can have your task then, and I mine,’ Mirrortac thought back.

The roznogh snorted and sent his thoughts as he started to walk ahead, rolling under the weight of the hyfnu weed. ‘It is my task under Yidu to collect the hyfnu. This is every hyfnuk’s task. You are not a hyfnuk. What is your task, short one?’

‘My task is sacred. I can say nothing more about it.’

‘Sacred. You are a holy one? I don’t know of such a holy one.’


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Discovery of the Well of Lost Memories

Sword of Stalingrad: one of three copies made ...

Sword of Stalingrad: one of three copies made by Wilkinson Sword in 1943 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They reappeared beside the hut and sat down in the soft grass. Mirrortac was feeling thirsty and went to the old well to fetch himself some water. He looked into it and saw the water level was about half an erfin-length from the top. He leant over the side and cupped his hand into the cool water below. The water was stale and bitter to the taste but it would quench his thirst. He wiggled over the ground until he was comfortable. His belt scraped against the rim and, as he reached in to gather some of the water, the sword dislodged from its sheath and slipped out, splashing into the well. He snatched at the submerging blade but had to let go as the blade cut into his fingers. Mirrortac muttered an erfin curse at it as all of Moongleam dunked out of sight.

As he stared after the sword, he could see the metal dissolve away in a flurry of bubbles and the water boil an ugly yellow. He jumped back out of the well and hit his head on the timber support above. Through dazed eyesight, he could see symbols written upon the timber but could not decipher them.

‘Beth!’ he called, holding his sore head with bleeding fingers.

The woman ran to him, gasping with concern when she saw the blood. ‘Mirrortac! Thou hath wounded thyself.’

‘What are these symbols? Can you read this?’ he asked, dismissing her attention to his wounds.

Beth wet a lump of earth and placed it upon the erfin’s head and fingers. ‘T’is a nasty lomp thee hath, sir. Ye morst take more care. Thou wouldst nowt wont to lose thy body here.’

‘The soreness will heal,’ he said with annoyance. ‘Now, tell me what these symbols represent. I have lost my sword in that damned well and the water has eaten it by the means of some sorcery.’

‘Sorcery? Thy sword?’ She gave him a questioning look and laughed. ‘T’is best rid of, thy sword. T’is but an instrument of death.’

Mirrortac pouted at her with irritation. ‘The symbols? What do they mean?’ he insisted.

Beth turned her attention to the wood and its faded symbols. She peered at it for a few moments then spoke. ‘The symbols say “Well of Lost Memories”,‘ she said, then added with a cheeky grin. ‘Well sir, methinks thy sword be but a Lost Memory now!’ she howled, and then glancing down into the well, her interest was caught by something floating on the water.

‘Thy sword ist a memory but there ist some rod or a stick floating in it. Hath thee lost anything else?’

Mirrortac leant over the well and looked in. As Beth had said, upon the surface of the water floated a long rod of silver metal. There were ornamental knobs on either end and at the centre of it and he could see familiar symbols etched upon its polished cylindrical sides. He reached down and fumbled with the smooth metal until he had a firm grasp of one end. Then he plucked it out of the water and lifted it to the light. Whatever the rod may have been, it was well crafted and provoked a strange air of familiarity to the erfin. He examined it closely, rolling the near erfin-length of rod between his thick fingers. As though it was his own, Mirrortac enfolded his hand around the central knob, locking his fingers neatly into the form. He swirled it and handled it with a deftness that surprised Beth. Beth’s eyes widened as she stared at the erfin and the rod, exchanging knowing glances with Roderick and beaming at Mirrortac with awe.

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Sorcerer and and sorceress of Hopocus

Sorcerer (role-playing game)

Sorcerer (role-playing game) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The castle of Hopocus consisted of many stairways and halls and passages that led into various rooms all lit by the dim yellow glow of torches that burned with a flame that could not be extinguished. Mirrortac was taken into a medium-sized room – perhaps six or seven erfin-lengths square – under one of the turrets. There he was surprised to see a five-pointed inverted star drawn into the centre of the stone floor. A circle was drawn around the star and many strange symbols inscribed about it. Tapestries depicting the likenesses of monsters draped most of the walls. At the far end of the room was a thick pile of half-decayed animal hide on which reclined the stumpy form of a half naked demi-god, exposing a pale hairless belly above earth-coloured oversized trousers, which were tied at the ankles. The sorcerer had the same wraith-like eyes as the sorceress and a thin covering of white hair on his head. He smiled at the erfin between chipped and broken teeth, patting the head of a creature that rested at his elbow. The creature moaned and its eyes flashed open as it sniffed the presence of a stranger. It snarled at Mirrortac between a jawful of tusks, regarding him with tiny yellow eyes.

‘Em-BAH! Ye shalt nowt feast on this one, ye hear!’ scolded the sorcerer.

The shaggy boar-like creature quieted and grunted a mild protest before going back to sleep. The sorcerer glanced briefly up at the sorceress standing near him then grinned thickly at the erfin.

‘Helok, this ist our erfin then?’ he said.

‘Yea, that ist he. Quite the emotional one, thee ist,’ Helok said, her face contorted into a scowling half-smile.

The sorcerer passed his eyes over the erfin and burped.

‘Hmmf! Emotional! Whence hath they nowt being emotional?’

‘Thou ist right, Krak. They art all emotional!’ she spluttered.

Both of them broke into hysterical laughter and the creature snorted, raising one eye before replacing its head upon its forepaws. Mirrortac felt revulsion. There was a distinct odour of rotten meat and fruit in the room.

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A magical place is not all as it seems

Circe Offering the Cup to Odysseus. Oldham Art...

Circe Offering the Cup to Odysseus. Oldham Art Gallery, Oldham, U.K. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mirrortac felt as though he was in some magnificent dream that was not a dream. He strolled alongside his she-erfin through the faint green lit glades of the Enchanted Blue Forest. Animals gathered around them and danced into the air, defying the force of the air and logic. Water appeared from out of the earth, forming into droplets that slipped up like rain in reverse, pouring up into a clear green sky; stones crawled up the yellow trunks of trees. Yenic smiled warmly.

‘We should give praise for this moment, you and I,’ she said. ‘With a cup of Merma-mead!’ She swept her fingers through the air, revealing a brown-gold chalice filled with  the sweet whitish liquid. She took a few sips and passed the chalice to Mirrortac who drank some and passed it back to her. Yenic looked deeply into his eyes and gave a half-smile. Then she threw the cup into the air, saying – ‘Fly away pretty one!’ and the cup was magically transformed into a Cooit that flew up high into the tree tops.

Mirrortac could only marvel at these tricks, leaning his head on her shoulder and stroking her. She winked at him with a cheeky grin and danced off into the forest ahead of him. The erfin laughed and went after her as she jumped from tree to tree and swung suspended in the air. She giggled and grunted with delight, creating obstacles to slow him with her magical powers. Muddy puddles appeared under his feet and large boulders materialised in front of him.

The chase led them far into the forest where Yenic finally allowed herself to be captured. The erfin threw her down to the ground, panting and laughing. She giggled and blinked her eyes at him and, in an instant, he found himself perched high up on a branch. She appeared alongside him and took his hand.

‘Look! the forest ends,’ she said. ‘We must be away to the Castle of Hopocus. It is upon Fog Peak there.’ She pointed over a dark valley that was blanketed in a thick grey mist. The craggy peaks of several mountains poked up their heads above the mist and upon one of these rested the turrets and spires of a blue castle.

Mirrortac shivered. There was a sinister feel to the valley and its bleak mountains, quite different to the Enchanted Blue Forest, and the name Hopocus sounded vaguely familiar though he had never been to such a place.

‘Must we go to that place? It appears to be of darkness. I feel a strangeness lurks there.’ Mirrortac focussed pleading eyes upon her.

‘T’would seem darkness, my princeling but the castle is filled with wonders. And you must meet the Hopocus. Yea, you must meet the Hopocus. If you do not care to stay we will come back here to the forest. Is that not fairness?’ Yenic took his hand, stood up and smiled.

‘Yea, you would know this world better than I, sweetness,’ he said.

But Mirrortac was alarmed when she prepared to launch them both into the sky. ‘Yenic, be in memory that we cannot fly,’ he said, almost with apology.

She giggled. ‘Mirrortac of my heart. This is the Real World. If you decide to fly, you fly. Now take my hand and do not doubt.’

She jumped out into the sky, leaving Mirrortac gasping as he left the security of the branch. In moments they were already far into the air and only a tentative grip of her hand held him aloft. He flew alongside, magically and without the need of wings. Swiftly they glided upwards and over the mist clad valley. Peaks and stark silhouettes of trees passed beneath them and in the near distance, the blue castle of Hopocus speared the sky with its rows of turrets and spires. Stairways led up to the battlements and down into the courtyard where there was a fountain. Another pathway of stone stairs led down from the peak into the misty valley below. Mirrortac caught Yenic’s eyes and she looked back at him with a glint of strangeness in her stare.

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The Mistness comes …

A rocky peak rises from a sea of fog in an Ari...

A rocky peak rises from a sea of fog in an Arizona valley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Mirrortac had long lost count of the days, they sailed into a becalmed sea. Luma had assumed a similar path to that over Eol and the seasons were distinguishable. The air was cool and its freshness reminded the erfin of his old homeland. He thought of the gentle glades between the firs, the lush fields of nif-grass and the resolute snow-covered peaks of Elfa, Ohmga and Mateote. They had exchanged the tumu-Ra for refreshed residents of the sea that now rippled and swelled in gentle motion about them. But despite this peace there was a foreboding sense in the atmosphere. Mirrortac felt tightness in his stomach and a growing uneasiness. The serenetees felt it too and were concerned enough to bark new orders to the eeeps to sail eastering where they hoped to elude whatever unknown hazard loomed over this sea. The serenetees’ leader was agitated and barked at the eeeps several times without result. The others joined him in ordering the eeeps to obey but they were ignored. Mirrortac climbed onto the bow and peered at the five creatures. He barked at them with promises of fish but the creatures ignored him also and continued to drag the flut into the ominous calm waters. It seemed to him that the creatures were under some spell, focussing ahead as they did, fully concentrated on the distance, their beaks wearing false smiles and a shadow of darkness dwelling in their sad eyes. Mirrortac tried to meet their minds but was greeted instead with a dread that lifted up the hairs on his neck and sent cold shivers up his spine. As the Serenetees looked up, their faces visibly paled. A cloud of grey mist hung over the water ahead of them and Mirrortac shook his shaggy head in recognition.

‘The Mistness comes,’ he whispered to himself.

We be nearing the place now. Our mission will soon begin!

The flut continued to sail toward the mist, taking the unwilling crew with it and an erfin who could not guess at what horrors he would soon face. And as the mist closed in around them, grey wisps curled up from the water like steam accompanied by an intense brooding silence. One of the serenetees yelped, jumping aside as some unseen spectre brushed by him. Mirrortac glanced nervously from side to side, expecting the worst. He squinted as a patch of mist swished past him. Green shapes flitted out of spaces in the grey and as the mist cleared, there was revealed a pebbly gold beach and a forest of tall firs climbing up and over a series of rolling hills and mountains. The serenetees sighed their relief. They all laughed and leapt clear of the flut, wading through the waist deep water until they stood upon the beach, grinning at each other and pleased with their discovery. However, the feeling of unease seemed to persist as though they had been tricked into feeling comfortable while some trap was being set for them. Perhaps they had all become too wary, Mirrortac thought, and started off on his own so he could be alone for the first time in countless days.

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Escaping the spectres …

This image was selected as a picture of the we...

This image was selected as a picture of the week on the Malay Wikipedia for the 29th week, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The erfin and his companion pleaded for sense but the keepers all joined in one voice, casting the two out of the valley forever.

These things have been looking up at the sky too long? They are possessed! Take up the sword, now!’

Mirrortac’s hand slipped around the handle of Moongleam and before he could think, he drew out the blade with a clean violent action.

Twx stared at him in horror. ‘You must not! Mirrortac!’

The erfin came to his senses but his eyes were bright with indignance.

‘Let us go! We have no place here.’

In the near dawning sky, the clouds drifted into the opening and shut the valley in under a grey shadow of mist. Mirrortac and twx fled, pacing over the tiled courtyard and into the arcade of menacing pillars. They stopped at the head of the arcade and stared at the rows of statues. A thin film of greyish light had enveloped them, animating them with shimmering spectres. The erfin stepped out into the arcade, keeping eyes fixed ahead.

‘Stay with me, twx. Do not look at the likenesses but keep walking,’ he instructed.

Twx did as he was instructed, keeping close to the erfin as they negotiated the long arcade. Shivers of fear bristled Twx’s fur as they walked. They dared not glance up at the statues. The arcade seemed much longer than they had remembered and, try as they might, neither could shield their eyes from the shimmering half-light nor the burning stares of the statues’ gem eyes as they passed between them. Twx was frightened and grasped the erfin’s arm, sobbing softly. Mirrortac swallowed hard and forced his feet forward. The columns converged in front of them and the shimmering light moved around on their pedestals.

‘Oh Mirrortac. I am thinking these are spirits returned from Nerthule. What are they wanting with us?’ Twx sniffed.

‘I am not so certain, brother twx. There is a coldness about these.’

As he finished talking, all doubt was removed as the shimmering spectres separated from the statues and floated out into a group above the arcade, barring the way to the gateway. The spectres were formless except for shining red eyes and colourless lips that were able to take any shape. The erfin and the Ra-finelle shuddered as the spectres called out in rasping whispers.

‘Come!’ said one.

‘Come!’ voiced another.

‘Come! Come! Come!’ the spectres chorused.

Mirrortac turned to flee back up to the palace but there were more spectres behind them, hovering over the tiles with glowing eyes and misty forms. Twx was near panic.

‘What below Ra are these?’ he gasped.

‘I do not know. My sword will be useless upon these. They are spirits and I fear they mean to bring us ill.’ Mirrortac spoke abstractly, searching his mind for a solution.

The spectres hovered near, whispering in voices that carried through the mist like echoes. The whispering merged into a haunting jumble of sound that was words yet not words at all.

‘We will be dying now,’ twx cringed, hiding his face into the erfin’s chest.

‘Nay, that will not be so, twx. Be at ease.’ Mirrortac embraced his quaking friend. Despite the threat, he was smiling. And addressing the wraiths in a clear voice, he said: ‘Ra loves you my dearness poor spirits. May Ra’s blessings be upon you!’

Twx grumbled into Mirrortac’s chest. ‘What are you doing?’

The erfin did not answer. The wraiths stopped whispering as though listening.

‘Ra be with you wretched spirits. Be of peace and allow us passage,’ he told them.

The wraiths floated together as if considering a bargain. None moved.

‘Come twx, we must go now!’ Mirrortac dislodged twx and urged him to move on but the Ra-finelle clung to him like a desperate and frightened child, burying his face in his hands and bowing low to the ground. The two of them edged their way towards the silent wraiths that still floated motionless as though stunned.


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The astronomers of Plumer-Ra

Planets and dwarf planets of the solar system,...

Planets and dwarf planets of the solar system, sizes to scale. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The pair followed the Astellites up the stairway and past the interconnecting domes where all was in the shadow of night. Mirrortac was taken to one of the Pool Stone amphitheatres where 12 bizarre figures had gathered, arranging themselves around the oval of the crystal reflector. In the dim light of moon-drops, he could see the dark hue of their robes but could not make out the colour. Occasionally one of the figures raised its head to speculate quietly on the strange visitor. Polished silver metal headdresses in the shape of an irregular six-pointed star encircled their faces. The Astellites were shorter than all other Meretees but in the silent green moons of their eyes, the erfin sensed an almost sinister presence, which sent a shiver up his spine. They were all concentrating on the convex crystal bowl, manipulating levers placed around the rim. The night sky was ablaze with a myriad moon-drops, emphasised by the funnel formed by the surrounding wall of high cloud.

On the altar the crystal astellite was filling up with an inner blue glow that deepened in hue until it seemed as though the cluster burned in a soft violet flame. And as the erfin watched, the violet flame darkened into a barely visible shining blackness that radiated out in an invisible beam to the crystal embedded in the pillar beside him. Twx stared out blindly alongside. The Astellites manipulated the levers some more, no doubt adjusting the bowl for the arrival of some demi-god, Mirrortac thought.

Suddenly, Mirrortac leapt up, startled at the vision of a huge ball of fire that sailed onto the bowl. On the surface of the fireball, brilliant white flares shot up in plumes and fell again in a burst of sparks and fire. More balls of fire danced onto the bowl, traversing it before disappearing off the opposite side. The erfin felt uneasy at the sight and stared at the menacing apparitions, unable to comprehend what they represented. Fused fireballs made the odd appearance while he could discern many hues, from magnesium white to orange and gold. Some were large and luminous while others floated across as small and distant.

‘What be these?’ Mirrortac spurted, grasping twx’s arm tightly.

Twx looked back at him quizzically and with smiling indifference. ‘Why these be asterees, Mirrortac. Only a night ago, you were pointening out the place of Nerthule among them. What is your concern?’

‘They are like Luma, blazing fire of the sky. Are there so many? What spell is upon this stone?’ The erfin shook with agitation.

‘Be calming. Be calming, erfin. Did you not know of this? There are as many fire-orbs as there are worlds. The Pool Stone makes big all of these so we can be expandening. You will see worlds soon. Be watchening and do not fear. The visions are of no harm.’

Mirrortac tried to relax as he watched the fiery parade of suns march across the bowl. There seemed no end to them. Then his eyes brightened as a sphere emerged into view, its mottled surface covered in craters and mountains, which showed as pits and peaks on a tiny ball that was partly in light, partly in shadow. The erfin’s fascination grew as another world rolled into sight, commanding a series of miniscule moons that strung out behind it like children. World after world followed in an assortment of sizes and hues of colour. The erfin could not determine whether life existed upon the worlds for even this magical magnification could not show this. Another sun chased the worlds off the bowl followed by a void of darkness and a stream of very distant asterees. The Astellites had assembled at one end of the bowl and were whispering and mumbling to each other.

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