Nolavia’s Shadow Chapter Fourteen

 

The dishes had cleaned and packed themselves away and we both stared obsessively at the fire. My head ached from the overload of new information. My childhood memories were not real and were only perceptions. Nothing I remembered was true. Could it really be that my father had always loved me and his distant ways were to protect me? Had sinister faceless corporations killed my mother and was Anaira innocent?

“What was Anaira’s role in all of this?” I said.

“We allowed the world to believe she killed Siralie because she believed she had. It deflected attention from the real killers but it was safer. They had always been mortal enemies but Anaira was no match for your mother. She could have rebounded Anaira’s magic in her sleep. Siralie was attacked from many vantage points and by massive strikes. She had been caught unawares because Anaira appeared to be alone. A secret investigation showed us that they were hiding on the fifth dimension. Many of them! It was unbearably ironic you see, they used her own work against her. If she had not been distracted she would have picked it up, she was the most intuitive…” My father’s voice cracked and I gazed in disbelief at him. I had never seen him emotional. Ever.

“Did Anaira distract her? I keep going over what I remember but nothing makes sense.” I said.

“She was worried about you Esereht. She wanted to protect you.” His voice trembled and he gripped his hands together so hard he looked as though he were praying. Had I caused my mother’s death? If she weren’t so intent on protecting me would she have noticed the forces hiding in the shadows? I needed to push those thoughts away for now. It was too much to handle on top of everything else.

“What did you mean the fifth dimension? It’s cited in Mum’s notebooks too.” I said. I needed time to relate differently to my father and comforting him was still inconceivable. He cleared his throat and rubbed his eyes as though he were weary rather than sad.

“Our life’s work has been to prove that the world exists on multiple dimensions and anyone can access these at any time. Your mother discovered a grid that connects these dimensions. It is rather like the streets of New York. They cross or run parallel in a type of grid.” He said in answer to my frown. “But instead of taking you to another street it takes you into the past or the future or… and this is when it gets complicated, other worlds entirely where life is very different.” He said.

“It all sounds like a science fiction movie to be honest.” I said with a shrug.

“Yes, I know it does. The Organisation has been discrediting our work for many years and because it’s difficult to understand it is very easy to do. But they know it exists. They use it all the time for their own profit. They are determined to keep the rest of the world in ignorance. They have no compunction Esereht. They will kill to keep their secrets and have done so on numerous occasions.” He leant his head back against the chair and closed his eyes. I stared at his pale face trying to understand my conflicting emotions and thoughts.

“Ruatnac said I was the only one who could change things. What did he mean? I don’t even understand these grids. Surely you would be the person they need.” I said. He opened his eyes and they seemed to glow with the same intensity as the fire. I shivered with apprehension.

“No, Esereht it has to be you.” He said and his voice sounded so sad I felt tears prick the corner of my eyes. “You see this grid is imprinted in your DNA. It is as much a part of you as your body. Actually it is more so because on the sixth dimension your body is no longer important and is left behind when you enter it. You can take up it again if you so desire. They are engaging with more espionage on the sixth level now…”

“Stop! This is all too much. I don’t know what you are talking about? I’ve worked hard on this body and am quite partial to it. I have no intention of letting it go!” I shouted.

“I’m sorry darling.” He said.

“Why is it imprinted on my DNA? Is it only me?” I watched my father’s discomfort imploring him with my eyes to deny it. He shifted in his chair crossing and uncrossing his legs until finally he stood and walked over to the window.

“When you were born your mother attached her knowledge onto your chromosomes. It was her gift to you my darling. She was giving you her life’s work. You may not understand the work but it is innate in you. You don’t have to understand it to find your way into the grid. You will feel your way in. Your challenge will be to allow yourself to do so.” He said. I was quiet for a moment.

“But won’t they want to kill me to prevent that?” I said.

“Yes.” He said so softly I thought I imagined it.

“Did Mum know she was giving me a death sentence?” He shook his head vigorously walking back to face me.

“No, no she would never have done it if she knew. She intended only good…” His voice faded. It was my turn now to lean back against the chair and close my eyes.

 

 

 

 

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Nolavia’s Shadow Chapter Thirteen

 

I stood at a clearing in a forest overlooking a dilapidated log cabin on stilts. A strange humming started up as though angry bees surrounded me but I could see none.

“You remembered.” Said my father. I swung around to face him. He looked tired and thinner but my heart leapt momentarily in recognition. He did not come closer so I remained where I was too.

“What is the humming sound?” I said.

“It throws off the frequency so nobody can eavesdrop or teleport to this location. I had to wait until you got here but you were quick, thank you.” I nodded and followed him inside. It was surprisingly comfortable. A fire burned in the grate and he had candles flickering all about. The aroma of lamb curry wafted from a pot in the kitchen. There was no stove, which is often the case in magical homes.

“Smells delicious.” I said. “I haven’t had a good curry in years.”

“Let’s hope it’s good. It’s your mother’s recipe.” He said sitting in a comfortable looking armchair and gesturing for me to sit in the other. I did. He crossed one lanky leg over the other and cleared his throat. “Esereht you must wonder why I’ve been so silent for so many years?”

“Fifty. It’s been fifty years Dad but you really left years before that.” He looked away briefly, shook his head and turned back to me. His brown eyes looked steadily into mine.

“Fifty years. I am sorry Esereht but it was for your safety that I stayed out of your life.”

“My safety?” I spluttered.

“Yes the people who killed your mother were intent on killing you too.” He said clasping his hands tightly around his knees.

“That’s ridiculous! Anaira killed my mother. I saw her do it and she knows exactly where I am!” I said as though spitting sparks.

“It was not Anaira who killed your mother although we let her take the blame. It was safer that way. The people who assassinated your mother are infinitely more dangerous and powerful. We had to make it seem like you had limited magic and were no threat to their ends. I pretended to be an academic hopelessly ill equipped to be a father let alone capable of overthrowing them. I left for the Mainland when your magic started to surface properly. I didn’t want the spotlight to focus on you and I was still under surveillance. If they thought you had your mother’s power they would have murdered you too.” I listened dumb-founded. Everything I had believed my whole life was a lie.

“You stayed away to protect me?” I said my voice breaking.

“Oh darling there would have been nothing else that would have kept me away.” He stood and took an uncertain step towards me.

“I thought you didn’t like me.” I said tears starting to slip down my cheeks. He knelt in front of me and took my hands in his. I threw my arms around him and wept wetly into his neck.

When I was sufficiently back in control we ate bowls of lamb curry, which was even more scrumptious than the aroma. I placed the empty bowl down on the coffee table and picked up my glass of red wine. I sipped slowly allowing the subtle flavours of blackcurrant and dark chocolate to coat the inside of my mouth.

“Is Mundanim one of these people?” I said. My father nodded gravely.

“Mundanim has long been part of the organisation. He has guessed at your power. Many of us have been trying to muddy the waters but I fear he has seen through our attempts. If you had not contacted me I would have initiated contact. I had to be sure he did not intercept our communications though. Ruatnac told me of your conversation so I was prepared.” My father flicked his wrist and the curry bowls disappeared to be replaced by an extravagant dessert of Pavlova and a medley of raspberries, blueberries and passion fruit.

I groaned and patted my full stomach. This was the most I’d eaten in weeks. I tasted the meringue and cream. It was delicious and I had a few more mouthfuls before I put down my spoon.

“Enough no more. I think I shall pop. Are these people responsible for the recent discord under the sea?” I said. He nodded putting his bowl down and wiping cream from his mouth with his handkerchief.

“They want war and discord. It keeps their coffers overflowing. The more distrust between peoples and creatures the more their power is cemented. Nolavia is just a small Island. It has strategic importance but their power spans the Universe not just Earth. That is why I left you there. Esereht the scope of their evil is beyond your imaginings. They have permeated my nightmares long before your mother died. I tried to protect her but we both knew our purpose here on Earth was to mitigate them. We could not stop in spite of the sacrifices. I could not bear the thought that it would include you so I left.” We sat in silence watching the flames in the fireplace. I felt such turmoil of emotions. On the one hand I was happier than I had been in years but on the other I felt about to enter a battle of immense proportions.

 

Nolavia’s Shadow Chapter Twelve

 

Davalast found me clutching the piece of paper a few minutes afterwards. He sat beside me on the floor and cradled me to him.

“I am sorry I’m such a baby.” I said. He laughed.

“I like that you are not always in control. You are a powerful witch my love and I worried that you wouldn’t need me. I get to feel strong and powerful when you occasionally let go.” I handed him the note from my mother. He read it to himself but the words were indelibly printed on my heart.

 

My dearest little one, Esereht

 

If you are reading this then I am no longer with you. I had prayed for a long life to impart all you mean to me but it was not to be. When I found out that you were to come forth as my own little daughter in this life I was so honoured, so joyful and so blessed. You are my shining legacy to the world. Nothing that I have ever done is as magnificent as you. You will face many hardships and challenges and I fear some before you may feel ready. But you are ready my darling. You see you were born ready to lead the world into a whole new way. Where there is hatred, you will demonstrate love, and where there is discord you will show peace.

 

My dearest child, do not fear that you will be overwhelmed by the world around you. Daddy and I have seen the Goddess code within you and it is all-powerful. Trust yourself and don’t forget to ask for help. I have left you my body of work, which I hope will make it easier for you. The creatures both large and small await your bidding. They too know of your great wisdom and power.

 

I remain always Your Loving Mother

Siralie.

 

“It is a beautiful letter.” Davalast said handing it back to me. I folded it and placed it next to my heart.

“I hope you had nothing planned for the day because we have much to do. I will explain everything but first I need to speak to my father.” Davalast frowned. “I know it is the last thing I ever expected myself to say it either.” I said with a mirthless laugh. “Please could you organise Assennav to make food for us and to make sure we are not disturbed. Anaira must under no circumstances know what we are doing.” Davalast patted me on the leg, nodded and walked up the stairs. I got up from the floor, touched the letter at my breast and reached for the notebooks.

I placed them on my lap as I sat in my leather chair at my desk. I closed my eyes and tried to push away my anger and hurt. I thought of my father. I visualised his narrow face and the grey streaks in his dark hair. I remembered a time I had long forgotten when I had called him daddy and he had thrown me chortling into the air. He would catch me in his arms and swing me round and round until we would both fall into a heap on the floor. He would blow kisses on my tummy and I would laugh and laugh as though this time would never end. It feels as distant as another lifetime. I had tried to make excuses for him for years but he stopped playing and loving me ages before my mother died so that wasn’t the reason.

“Dad?” I said tentatively. I heard static like a radio being tuned then nothing. I tried again. The connection fizzed and hissed for moments before I heard his voice over the static.

“Esereht?”

“Yes Dad it’s me.” I said.

“How are you?” He said formally and I felt my gall rise immediately.

“Aren’t you happy to hear from me?” I snapped. The fizzing intensified. “What is that infernal noise?” I yelled.

“It is to protect this conversation from prying ears.” He said.

“I thought telepathy was naturally private?”

“No and many would be very anxious to hear what we have to say. It would be best to meet. Lets say your third birthday destination.” He disconnected abruptly. I sat numb for a few minutes. I thought over the times we had gone away as a family and it started to filter back. We had spent my third birthday at a cottage in a thick forest. It was the year he had given me a broomstick and a wand and he and my mother had had a huge row. I left Davalast a note and prepared to teleport.

“To the cottage of my third birthday!” I said disappearing from the laboratory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nolavia’s Shadow Chapter Eleven

 

 

Somebody was calling out to me, a voice both urgent and timeless but I was wrestling with a swirling maelstrom of kelp that trapped me underwater. The ocean was turquoise and so clear I could see the bubbles escaping from my gaping mouth. I gasped for breath and sat up. I was in bed surrounded by the ubiquitous darkness once more. Davalast was still sleeping his breathing rhythmical and comforting. The voice called again. It was Ruatnac and he sounded out of breath.

 

“Esereht!”

 

“I’m here. I’m sorry I was fast asleep.”

 

“I apologise but I didn’t know where else to turn.”

 

“What is it?” My heart started to thrum. Ruatnac was slow and ponderous and this restrained panic did not bode well.

 

“The situation here is deteriorating fast. War is inevitable. Esereht you are the only one who can help us.” I squawked with disbelief and Davalast grunted, turning over. I crept out of bed and into the bathroom closing the door.
“Me? What can I do? I don’t even swim very well.” I said.

 

“Your mother saved countless lives during the last war. You need to find her documents. She wrote it all down. She and your father changed the course of history.”

 

“My father? What are you talking about?” My father never left his laboratory. He was the most selfish self-absorbed person alive. Probably still is. Not that I would know. He couldn’t even be bothered to spend a minute with me let alone talk to me.

 

“Esereht find your mother’s papers, please! You will understand more once you have read them. We will speak again in the morning.” He disconnected and I sat on the edge of the bath trying to make sense of everything. I knew sleep was out of the question and tip toed down to my laboratory.

 

When my mother died my father packed most of her effects away into a large steel safe and put it into the attic. When he left he gave me the key but I only opened it a few weeks ago to look for the scrolls. I never forgot it was up there but it had been unthinkable to rifle through her belongings. As long as they were undisturbed some part of me believed she would return. It was the only thing of my mothers that survived the fire. I now keep it in a locked cupboard I conjured specially for it in my new laboratory. There were hundreds of papers inside. Did Ruatnac expect me to read everything tonight? I reached for the keys, which I kept taped to the underside of my desk drawer and opened the safe.

 

Ruatnac’s voice woke me again but this time I lifted my head from my desk and peeled wrinkled parchment from my cheek.

 

“Good morning Ruatnac.” I said groggily.

 

“I cannot in good conscience call this a good morning, Esereht. Have you news for me?”

 

“I have been up half the night. My mother has thousands of papers. It would help if I knew what I was looking for? I did find some leather bound notebooks talking of grids and portals. Most of it is diagrams and equations but I don’t know what they mean.” I yawned.

 

“Your parents developed a network of grids which transcended the worlds’ restrictions of time and space. Those concepts are relatively recent anyway, only about ten thousand years really. We have unfortunately forgotten far more than we remember.” He said. I stretched and yawned again. I needed a shower to wake me up because this conversation succeeded only in confusing me further.

 

“Maybe I’m not the person for this mission Ruatnac. I’ve never been an intellectual. Perhaps Tolenal…”

 

“No! You are the only person. We trust you and perhaps that fellow of yours, Davalost…?”

 

“Davalast.” I said with a smile.

 

“Davalast yes, but only the two of you and of course your father. Study those grids Esereht they contain all the information needed for reactivation of knowledge that is within you. You were born knowing this but life on Nolavia with its history of forgetting has confused you. Those grids are a blueprint that will enable you to be many places at one time, to transcend dimensions and time restraints…but it is not for me to tell you. You need to find the connection yourself. Do you understand?” Ruatnac said.

 

“Not really but I promise to try. You need to give me some time to understand.”

 

“We have no time, besides it is in letting go of thought and allowing the grids to rearrange themselves that will unlock the secrets of your soul and its cosmic understanding. Speak to your father Esereht. He will help you understand the mission you were born to undertake. Don’t let us down we need you?” He disconnected.

 

Speak to my father? Is he crazy? I haven’t spoken to him for over fifty years. I looked down at the notebook lying open on my desk. My mother’s expressive but neat handwriting made the ache of loss throb once more. I picked up the book and a folded piece of paper fell to the floor. I picked it up, unfolded it and read the first line. I dropped to the floor and burst into tears.

 

 

Nolavia’s Shadow Chapter Ten

 

 

I removed Anaira’s washing from the basket. A reclusive Silky had moved into the new house about two months ago. I thought she may live behind the washing machine although I have only seen her fleetingly from the corner of my eye. She happily picks up after us all and takes any dirty washing that makes it into the basket next to the stairs. At dawn she puts it, clean and ironed, back into the basket. I leave little treats like dates and cranberries for her on top of the washing machine for you cannot employ a Silky. They have to come of their own accord and never stay out of duty. I am exceedingly grateful she chose to join us.

 

Noticing Anaira’s bedroom door ajar I pushed it with my foot and peered into the room. She was sitting on her bed leaning against the headboard her eyes closed. She was talking telepathically to someone. I knew instinctively it was Mundanim. I backed away my heart hammering in my chest. They were working together again. Had they planned it from the beginning? Was I a pawn in their elaborate game for power and had the lionesses and the voice been only a figment of my imagination? I felt hollow and close to tears dropping the clothes back into the basket. The last few months felt like a sham now as I realised how eager I had been to believe that the new way of doing things was effective.

 

Assennav and the sceptical members of the community had never trusted Anaira but she had fooled me completely. I stumbled downstairs to my laboratory. Assennav was still in her room and the lab was dark and empty. I bumped my shin against a chair that jutted from the table and cursed. I sat in the dark and allowed the tears of frustration and betrayal to fall briefly. Then I wiped my face and lit a candle. It would not do to be discovered like this and Assennav could arrive at any moment. I closed my eyes and focused on Davalast.

 

“Esereht what is it?” He sounded perturbed. We did not usually speak telepathically.

 

“We need to talk. Meet me down at the river in twenty minutes.” I disconnected before he could say anything more and conjured a thin beam of light from my hands. I walked rapidly out of town trying unsuccessfully to subdue the growing dread in me. Another voice was trying to break through my clamouring thoughts. It was Ruatnac. “What is it friend?”

 

“We have a problem Esereht. Mundanim has been recruiting the seas. He has Octrovarios the giant octopus asking awkward questions. You know we have been mortal enemies since the Battle of The Seven Sea’s? Zuthermariner has never confided in her. Nevertheless she has some powerful allies this side of the reef although she dare not come herself. The Razorbacks are skittish and notoriously difficult to control. I fear another war beneath the waves.” He said ominously. “I need to go now. We will speak again soon.” He disconnected.

 

The Battle of the Seven Seas took place long before I was born but it was still spoken of in awed tones. Many sea creatures lost their lives and countless ships were tossed to the bottom of the Ocean never to be heard of again. It was suspected that great cities were swallowed as well but those that know refuse to speak of it. They leave those that do not know, to speculate.

 

Davalast was pacing the banks of the river. I hurried over to him and we sat hidden by the reeds and spoke.

 

“Do you really think Mundanim and Anaira planned it all along?” He said running his finger repeatedly along the inside of my arm. I pulled away irritated at first nodding and then shaking my head.

 

“I don’t know but whether she did or not they are definitely working together again. Mundanim has caused a stir with the ocean creatures and Ruatnac fears a war.” Davalast gawked slack-jawed.

 

“A war?” He said in disbelief. I nodded. He put his arm around my shoulders and pulled me against him. “We need to stop them without them knowing that we are aware of her treachery.” Said Davalast. He helped me up and we walked together back into town. The common was already bustling with people and the smell of breakfast made me realise how hungry I was. Anaira was sitting alone and Davalast squeezed my hand. I understood and we plonked down next to her.

 

“Wow, I’m hungry.” I said grinning at her. I hoped it didn’t look like the grimace on Davalast’s face.

Nolavia’s Shadow Chapter Nine

 

 

I remained on the beach looking out at the ocean long after Ruatnac had disappeared under the water. My mind was once again reeling from his words. The maxim from the ancient scroll in my laboratory circled around in my mind.

 

‘‘Under azure fields lies the Tablet of Truth wherein all names recorded shalt release the Song of Solomon and Colossus shalt rise from the depths.’

 

I had interpreted this sentence as something beautiful not the unimaginable horrors of which Ruatnac spoke. What did it mean by ‘The song of Solomon’? Perhaps someone back home would have an idea but I was not sure how much I could share with anyone besides for Davalast. Anaira was a loose cannon as far as I could see and until I knew what was happening I did not want her to know anything more about the Tablet of Truth.

 

I teleported back to my bedroom in Nolavia with some trepidation and found Davalast fast asleep. The house was quiet except for my grumbling stomach. I took off my shoes and tiptoed down the stairs to the kitchen. My head ached and everything I conjured seemed too much trouble to eat. Pastrami on ciabatta and Lasagna and salad lay reproachfully on the table. Eventually I flicked my wrist and a vanilla milk shake landed in front of me.

 

“Is this a party of one?” Said Davalast yawning. “You should have woken me.” He kissed my cheek.

 

“It looks like I did but I didn’t intend to disturb you.” I said jumping up and curling my hand around his neck. I kissed him on the mouth. We sat at the table and he surveyed the heaped plates.

 

“Yum, can anyone tuck in? Looks like you struggled to make up your mind.” He said. I laughed pushing the dishes towards him.

 

“Help yourself but the milkshake is mine.” Davalast punched me playfully on the arm and flicked his other wrist. A double thick chocolate milkshake settled on the table resplendent with mini marshmallows. “Show off.” I said and we jostled like children. We froze when a door opened and Anaira appeared on the top step.

 

“What’s happening? Why are you making so much noise? You woke me.” She said reproachfully.

 

“Sorry.” Davalast and I said in unison. She walked down the stairs in a flowing white nightgown. It clung to her thin form and she looked almost ethereal.

 

“Where did you disappear to?” She said her eyes gleaming in the soft candlelight.

 

“I was tired.” I said vaguely.

 

“You are hiding something, Esereht. You no longer trust me. First you take me away from everything I know and now you shut me out. You are a manipulative witch, I should never have trusted you.” She said and I gasped.

 

“Now wait a minute…” Said Davalast but I held up my hand to silence him. I stood and walked without comment up the staircase. I was too tired and distracted to talk to Anaira tonight. I stepped out of my clothes leaving them in a heap on the floor and crept under the duvet. Sometime later Davalast snuck in behind me. Even my exhaustion could not banish the swirling thoughts and I lay awake for hours listening to his deep breathing.

 

When I awoke Davalast was gone, the house sounded empty and I had a splitting headache. I showered until the water ran cold. I was still too drained to use more than a modicum of magic to keep myself from shivering. The days of no sun had cooled Nolavia substantially and the bathroom tiles were icy under my feet. I lit a lavender perfumed candle and padded naked to the bedroom. The candle flickered illuminating the unmistakable form of Anaira sitting on my bed. I gritted my teeth with annoyance but pretended to ignore her as I picked out a midnight blue dress from the wardrobe. I drizzled it over my head and sat at my dressing table. I could see her in the mirror staring at my back. She was still in her white nightdress, which glowed paper thin in the candlelight emphasising the outline of her breasts.

 

“To what do I owe the pleasure of this early visit, Anaira?” I kept my voice even and unemotional.

 

“I’m not a good enemy to have, Esereht.” She said equally unemotionally. I swivelled around on the stool to face her.

 

“I know this well. We were enemies for many years. I thought we had put that behind us.”

 

“I did too but then you have betrayed me.”

 

“I don’t know what you are talking about Anaira? I have treated you with respect and even invited you to stay in my house for the past three months. I have done everything in my power to make the citizens of Nolavia accept you as our ally. In what way have I betrayed you?” I was angry and it was glaringly obvious by my clipped voice.

 

“You went to see that Nirabus friend of yours didn’t you?” She said and I stiffened. “Esereht you cannot hide anything from me.” I tried to mask my anxiety by showing irritation instead.

 

“Is it not my right to see whomever I will whenever I choose?” I snarled.

 

“Not when it’s an issue of national security. I thought I was your friend. Why did you sneak away to see him? What were you talking about?” She said with a pout like a petulant child. I grasped at the hope that she had not heard our conversation.

 

“Some friend! Did you spy at me with a Snooper spell? That is a pretty low trick and rather juvenile, don’t you think?” She had the grace to look discomfited briefly.

 

“Well you snuck off and I needed to know you were okay. So I snooped? You lied.” She said standing up and walking to the window. The flickering candle reflected in the glass. She was on the defensive and I was almost convinced she had heard nothing of Ruatnac and my conversation.

 

“I went to speak to him about locating Mundanim.” I said sticking to the truth. It would make it easier to conceal the more sensitive parts of our discussion.

 

“What did he say?”

 

“Only that he would find him but getting him to Nolavia would be a more difficult task.” I sighed. “We are on the same side Anaira. Why would you believe I have betrayed you? I tried to speak to you about finding him, don’t you remember? I am tired of living in the dark.” I said in frustration.

 

“What did the Nirabus say would get Mundanim to Nolavia?” She said doggedly.

 

“He didn’t know and frankly neither do I.” She seemed satisfied at that for now and glided from the room without another word.Nolavia’s Shadow Chapter nine

Nolavia’s Shadow Chapter Eight

 

The air was soupy and the waves crashed with force spraying salt water far up the beach. My hands and forehead gave off the only light for miles around and it ricocheted eerily off the mist. The conch shell glowed red in my hands and cold wind whipped my cloak about my legs. I closed my eyes and steadied my mind and brought Ruatnac into my thoughts. Before I could bring the shell to my lips his booming voice entered my consciousness.

“Esereht? You called?”

“Ruatnac you take me by surprise! I was about to blow the shell.”

“No need. We are so connected we only have to think of each other to communicate. It will take me some time to come up to the surface though. Things are much changed under the ocean.”

I paced up and down the beach waiting for my friend but it was at least ten minutes before the Nirabus surfaced in a huge wave that drenched me. I directed some heat into the light in my hands and my cloak sizzled like sausages in a fire. I turned down the intensity and steam merged with the mist to make seeing Ruatnac even more challenging.

“Esereht the water is very choppy so I shall join you on the beach. Stand back or I fear you will get very wet.” I did not tell him I was already soaked but walked further away watching his extraordinary appearance out of the depths and onto the beach in the murky glow. His outline was indistinct as if out of focus but I was gratified to see his fin-like ears and his sturdy legs stride closer to me. He bowed regally and I rushed to hug his leg, wide as a tree trunk and almost as high. He clacked with laughter and I smiled.

“Ruatnac, my friend. I have missed you.”

“And I you Esereht. We have much to talk about but first what is the reason you came all this way in the dark?” His voice was muffled by the mist and did not echo in the bay as before.

“I need to find Mundanim and put a stop to this endless darkness. I wondered whether you and your friends could help?” I said and the wind swirled my words about until they were reedy whispers.

“So it is Mundanim who has swallowed the moon and extinguished the great central sun. He is a dark wizard indeed. I did not know he possessed such power. We will find him Esereht but stopping him will be another thing entirely.” He said soberly.

“Once we know where he is we can find out what his motivations are for doing what he does. Perhaps we can tempt him with something he wants.” I said.

“I fear that sometimes the human does destructive things just to prove he can. Perhaps Mundanim is such a man?” I had a sinking feeling that Ruatnac may be correct.

“That brings me to the next thing I wanted to ask you. Anaira mentioned that Mundanim had shown much interest in an artefact from under the sea. I think it is called the Tablet of Truth…?” Ruatnac bellowed in a timeless and ferocious voice.

“No! What you ask is impossible!” I stepped back and my hands shook from fright. Their beam of light swung like a storm lantern in the wind. “The tablet of truth belongs to the Ocean. No human may ever touch it, for the power it wields will lead to the obliteration of all we know and manifest unimaginable horrors. Esereht we will speak no more of this.” Ruatnac said definitively. I took a deep breath and steeled myself from his displeasure.

“Ruatnac, Mundanim knows about the Tablet of Truth and he will do everything in his power to get his hands on it. We need to give him something that he thinks is what he covets while protecting the tablet itself.” Ruatnac said nothing and I stayed silent. After a few minutes he gave a rumbling sigh.

“You are wise Esereht but I need to confer with Zuthermariner, the keeper of all sacred records. He will be most perturbed by the news of Mundanim’s interest. Zuthermariner’s wisdom and the immeasurable depths of the Ocean have protected these consecrated items for millennia. We will not allow them to be threatened – not even to save Nolavia. Do you understand Esereht?” I nodded. It was not what I wanted to hear but I understood.