Scrolls of Sorrow

UPON WINGS OF SORROW

I dream of only you.
Loneliness brushing my sorrows,
as dark shadows fall
upon forgotten tomorrows.
With heavy-hooded eyes
I lie back upon this forlorn bed of grass,
brittle, crimson leaves of fall now softly hushed
upon the breeze, sweet sighs
from lips that once were mine to taste.
Kisses now dry and blown away,
they taunt my lonely dreams
with haunting memories.
You held me in your arms, my eyes
asleep within the azure skies
of your strong embrace, awash
in the love you had for me.
Awakening, the echo of your voice
scratching against the edges of my mind ~
so alone, utterly confused,
ghostly, black tendrils of despair
still wrapped about some ever-present fear.
Oh my passion, where have you flown?
Now gone with a wondrous love,
that once upon a time was my own.
A raven dressed in purple darkness
smiles down upon my loneliness.
Ominous wings spread wide, it speaks to only me.

Paaas ~ ~ Paaas ~ ~ Paaas ~ ~

then flies across the sobbing, shattered moon
atop a trail of tears spread o’er the wind.
Oh my paramour, please return to me
and how love used to be.
Pasquale, can you hear me?
Can you feel my aching sense of loss?
This forever-burning desire I have for you?
Then why, while I sail upon my dreams
did you thus part from my life?
Or were you taken by sinister
forces unbeknownst to me?
I can still hear the echo
from the Raven’s call
to convey my love
to only you.

SCROLLS OF SORROW

ONE WICKED WITCH, A BLACK WOLF, AND A WHISPER!

Written by Kerry L. Marzock

SCROLL No. 1

The Time of Knowing

It was the restful period between the Great Wars of Hypocrisy, the one far behind and that which was to come. When those who once ruled with an imperious, tyrannical hand had sent too many loved ones to die in the name of peace and religion. Those blusterous reasons were nothing more than their own lust for power and greed. Like all wars it was inhumane, and once again, heinous crimes were committed against society. Today, they attempted to lead their various realms with compassion and understanding. It’s quite evident by any logically thinking person that it all remains to be seen.

Not long after the cries of our dead and wounded from battle began to fade away was when I first heard the Whisper. At first it felt like nothing more than a tender summer breeze running a comforting hand through my thick auburn hair, or the soft, gentle rustling of my long, scarlet skirt around my ankles. But it was more, so much more. Lying upon the lush green grass with my back against the Ancient Sycamore, six hundred years old if but a day, I closed my yellowish-brown, hazel eyes and drifted off, allowing the wind to caress my pert, trembling lips. A solitary tear broke free and ran crookedly down a reddened cheek for it felt like the kiss of my sweet Pasquale who was now gone nigh a score and four, but nary a second away from my lonely heart.

But the Whisper was more than a gentle wind, or a tender kiss. It graced my ears like a distant voice I had heard too often over the past ten years. Somewhere deep in my dreams from a nether world to which I had never been, yet seemingly so much a part of me, I reached through a soupy blanket of fog so thick that it was like spreading a mass of intricately dense spider webs between my trembling fingertips. Mysterious hoots and snarls and cries assaulted my ears from all directions, fearful of what creatures or beasts those sounds were arising from.

Yet onward I traveled through this haunted landscape, drawn towards a voice that seemed to be but an icy chill. It was clearly a voice, of that I was sure, but from man or woman I could not tell. Through this grayish-white blanket I could make out shadows that seemed to resemble trees, yet in my own beautiful Land of Sorrow the trees did not look remotely like these. They appeared to be almost skeleton-like with multiple arms that swayed and groped forward, moving with either no particular purpose, or at times with thought provoked intensity. Once in awhile one of these limbs scratched at my arms and caused my scattered heartbeat to nearly leap from my chest. Forget about the constant brushing against my legs of something clearly alive beneath the swirling fog. I positively did not wish to know if it was animal or some living foliage for what slim modicum of bravery I once held onto had very nearly slipped away at this point.

Time had also appeared to stand still. Perhaps it was the alien terrain I now found myself stumbling upon, unable to tell how far I had traveled, or what distance I still had to go. Some strange premonition though told me that I was very close to who I was destined to meet, or what outcome awaited me. That something was the Whisper, gaining more clarity and becoming louder, echoing within my mind. For now I could tell that this haunting voice came from a female, but whose? Surely no woman I was akin to and yet I couldn’t be absolutely positive. The voice was low and sultry, sexually mesmerizing, drawing me ahead towards some unraveling truth, or unexpected fate. I wondered if I even desired to know what those answers would be.

Within the denseness of the forest a small, narrow branch like the index finger of a skeleton’s hand reached for my head. I quickly ducked to avoid being struck and fell to my knees, suddenly submerged in this swirling sea of fog. My frazzled breath came in gasps as my legs seemed to become entangled in my skirt, or at least I thought it was my skirt. Crawling forward my hand brushed a large rock to my right and I used it to regain a standing, albeit unsteady, position.

As my head broke the surface of this mysterious morass I was temporarily stunned for now my eyes rested upon a large, sun-drenched field of the strangest white and yellow flowers that I had ever seen. Surprisingly, it was as if I could hear the chatter and laughter of little children, but all I saw was what appeared to be a living, breathing ocean of vibrant colors. Far in the distance was a massive black mountain with several jagged peaks topped by a thick, dark cloud mass. As I gazed up I discovered the sky to be a roiling variation of blues with swirling ribbons of red and green moving like agitated vipers in a snake pit.

Walking slowly to the edge of the field where there was a gently rolling drop off, I paused to let the fragrance of jasmine and honeysuckle wash over me. This peaceful interlude was suddenly broken by the loud cawing of a bird somewhere overhead. A massive black shadow came streaking across the field towards me. It was quickly apparent that it was a raven and yet it was terrifyingly huge. The mammoth wing span seemed to stretch a good four feet and the yellow, beady eyes were as large as my own. A sudden wind draft threw the bird temporarily off from some intended course. After a few seconds of tumbling out of control the huge bird easily righted the flight pattern and then plunged directly towards me, beak open as intense eyes zeroed in upon the target.

Ducking down low to avoid this hurtling torpedo I lost my balance and went sprawling forward, rolling head over heels into the expanse of thick flowers. When I finally came to a stop everything was dark and my heart began pounding wildly. I began to wonder why the sunlight had become blocked before realizing it was nothing more than my long skirt and petticoat wrapped around my head. Embarrassed at this fear I floundered with my arms until the fabric came away and bright sunlight glowed again.

Rising slowly, still dizzy from my maddening fall, I brushed hair away from my eyes and frantically stared towards the sky searching for the winged terror that had given me such a fright. Looking around I didn’t see anything, but as I glanced about I could feel a tickle, or light suckling, sensation on my legs. Lifting up my skirt a little I watched in fascination as several of the flowers were actually touching my ankles in what appeared to be a kissing motion. They resembled sunflowers with large brown faces, for within the dark center was what clearly looked like two eyes and a mouth. It couldn’t be I thought, but then everything about this world I had fallen into was utterly strange.

Then I heard that subtle laughter of children again, very faint but unmistakable and yet there were no other human beings for as far as I could see. I leaned down towards the flowers, extending my slightly trembling fingers. The flowers which had been kissing my ankles quickly pulled back, leaving small red pucker marks all around my feet and lower legs. I stopped moving my hand as the flowers actually lifted their faces towards me. And then I heard that childish chatter again, realizing it was actually coming from these magical plants.

“It seems that they like you,” said a low pitched voice behind me.

Standing, I quickly whirled around towards the hill I had just tumbled down. There was nobody there and I wondered if I was starting to go just a little crazy.

“Up here Lady Karillee, in the tree just above your pretty head,” stated the amazing bird in a very husky, gravely voice.

Very slowly I lifted my gaze and was stunned to see the huge black raven perched upon a thick branch directly above me. It very nearly had a vulture-like appearance, and yet it was clearly a monstrous raven like no bird I had ever seen before.

“Who are you and where have I landed?” I asked with nervous trepidation.

The giant black bird lifted those massive wings, fluttered them wildly in the air, then neatly tucked them safely back against its sides like a cloak of shiny, black satin.

“Alas my Lady, so sorry if I frightened you, but I’m just very tired. The flight here was quite long and exhausting. However, my instructions were to arrive before, or not long after, you did near the Lake of Mist and Fog. If I startled you then I deeply apologize. To answer your questions, my name is Emiliano, and this magical part of our world is known as Oleandra,” spoke the raven.

“I’ve never heard of this place. Is it far from my Land of Sorrow?” I inquired, wondering if all this was but a weird dream since I seemed to remember falling asleep in the grass lying up against the Ancient Sycamore. It was also somewhat strange that the name of this raven sounded so familiar to me.

The great bird issued several loud, sharp squawks that almost sounded like a laugh. Even its open beak nearly resembled a clown-like grimace.

“Nay my Lady, this land of Oleander is very, very far from Sorrow. Please trust me when I say that it is as real as the beautiful place you call home. However, you have been summoned here through your dreams so that we may talk about things to come in the near future,” spoke the raven in that very odd, gravely voice.

Lowering my gaze I stared at the miraculous yellow and white field before me. I was getting dizzy anyway looking up into the tree. Something began tickling my ankles again so I glanced down to see three of the larger flowers once more kissing my lower legs. One of them was at an odd angle and I could’ve sworn one of the eyes winked at me. I didn’t bother moving my right foot because quite frankly it didn’t hurt at all. In fact, it gave me a strange and comforting feeling, almost motherly.

Now that my frantic heartbeat was slowing down and my nervousness began to subside somewhat, I became more aware of my surroundings. I stood quietly in a state of awe. The rainbow-like sky seemed to be filled with a variety of strange looking birds, both small and very large. For the most part they looked somewhat like those from my Land of Sorrow, but the differences were unique. The colors were astounding, some in solid hues of red, green, yellow, blue, black, and white. Others were as colorful as the largest parrots from southern climes. The physical differences were what amazed me the most though. Some had appendages at the end of their wings that appeared to be human-like hands, while others surprisingly seemed to have two heads. However, the difference which stunned me the most was one large bird in particular that looked, even at the great height it was soaring at, to possess a human face. That countenance stared down at me and then smiled. I quickly turned away and shook my head in disbelief.

“Are you okay Lady Karillee?” inquired the bird-like voice once more which now seemed to come from directly behind me.

Turning around slowly I was surprised to see the huge raven now standing about four feet away. Now that Emiliano was upon the ground I could see that he nearly came up to my shoulders. He stood very stoically, beady eyes staring ahead and waiting pensively for me to answer his question.

“Dear Emiliano, to say that I’m not in a state of shock would be an under- statement. Is everything in this land of Oleander so strange looking?” I inquired.

The huge bird moved his head forward and back several times, lifted broad shoulders in a shrug, and opened his large, very sharp beak. I expected to hear a loud series of squawking, cawing noises, ready to quickly cover my ears.

“Strange? My Lady, what may be strange to you is that which is normal in Oleander. If you mean, why is everything so large? Yes, for the most part size here is exaggerated in both animals and plants. The vibrant coloring of the birds is more for protection and at the same time camouflage for as you can easily see, the sky here is quite different. As for the physical abnormalities, Oleander has been under a very deep spell for nearly ten years now and what you’ve seen thus far is just a very small segment of how Oleander differs so much from the home you call Sorrow.”

“You said a spell? Who would cast something so strange and terrible upon this land?” I asked.

Emiliano strutted forward several steps and I quickly reeled backwards, nearly stumbling and falling into the field of flowers. I wondered suddenly what it would feel like to have all of these childish-appearing flowers kissing my entire body. I quickly righted myself, not really anxious to find out.

“Don’t be frightened Lady Karillee. I will nay hurt you, of that you must be sure of by now. However, in order for you to understand just how strange Oleander truly is, can I please demonstrate? Trust me, you are in no danger,” came the gravely voice.

Staring at the large black bird, I lifted my shoulders slightly and smiled.

“I’m not frightened of you Emiliano. Just please don’t make such quick movements,” I said softly. “What type of demonstration would you have me see?”

“Perhaps you’d like to move out of the flowers and sit on the large rock over there near the gentle mist. It shall only take a few moments, but I wouldn’t want you to faint from surprise,” said Emiliano, his beak almost smiling.

Moving quickly towards the large gray rock I turned and stared at him. “If I haven’t fainted yet, I’m sure kind blackbird that I will not. I am not normally ruled by fear and have experienced many surprising and terrifying things in my life.”

Spreading my skirt beneath me I sat down on the rock and then just as quickly jumped back up. Staring down, it seemed that the rock had moved. But no, it could not possibly have done so. It was a rock for God’s sake and was not alive. My mind seemed to be running away from me and yet I did have to secretly surmise that much of Oleander had in fact been a surprise, as much as I hated to admit it. Taking a deep breath I sat on the rock once again and could almost hear a moaning sound. Forget it I thought, just forget it.

Emiliano had moved to the edge of the field and stared at me. There were loud screeches, caws and hooting sounds in the air above. It was obvious that many of the birds were aware of what he was about to demonstrate, even if I had no idea whatsoever.

“My Lady, you may close your eyes if you wish, but what I’m about to do shan’t be unpleasant, just surprising, and will take no longer than but ten heartbeats. Are you ready?” he asked.

Slowly I slid my hands up to cover my nervous eyes, not sure if I was prepared to see any more surprises, but within the same breath more than just a little curious. With fingers slightly skewed, I smiled at the great raven.

“I’m ready Emiliano, for whatever may be in store for me,” I murmured sweetly, my lips slightly trembling. Okay, so maybe I was a tad bit nervous.

As my heart started to beat loudly, the huge bird raised those mammoth wings and then covered its body completely. As it did so, a spray of glittering sparkles spread forth from behind the wings, followed by a cloud of the most vibrant pink color I had ever seen, or at least as much as I could see between spread fingers.

Emiliano was so right, for in no more than a span of ten heartbeats the pinkish cloud slowly started dissipating to reveal a very handsome young man kneeling before the field of yellow and white flowers. He was dressed all in black with shining hair the color of glimmering raven feathers cascading around his shoulders like the wings he proudly possessed only seconds before. To say the least, I was now completely stunned and more than just a little faint.

He slowly stood with a confident grace, uncoiling what appeared to be a very lithe, muscular body that was well over six feet, possessing wide shoulders and an extremely chiseled, handsome face. However, it was the eyes that kept me enthralled because they were a cross between human and those of the raven who had stood before me less than a minute ago.

Crossing the ground between us, he knelt at my feet and took my right hand in his, lifting it to his lips where he gently placed a kiss. With his head bowed, he spoke.

“Lady Karillee, my prayer is that you do not consider me a monster and a freak. Nay, it is not my intention to frighten, or unnerve you. It is simply that I am part of the spell that has long befallen Oleander,” Emiliano said, barely above a whisper.

At first I could not answer him for it seemed that what I had just witnessed was simply magic, or the fabric of which myth and lore are made of. Truth be told, I had listened intensely to stories of such creatures that could alter physical state between man and beast, but had always thought them to be mere tales to do nothing more than frighten or entertain a small child. Now I knew for certain that the stories were not in the least bit that of childish fairy tales. They were true, but my mind wondered to what extent?

Clearing my throat slightly I held Emiliano’s hand and smiled.

“My dear birdman, I would never think of you as either monster or a beast, for the raven that spoke to me but a minute ago was nothing more than courteous and respectful. Now I look upon a man who is not only both of those, but seemingly gallant and quite dashing as well. However, I must admit one thing,” I said, a slight chuckle in my voice. “You have suddenly created many more questions than what I had before.”

Kissing my hand once more Emiliano arose and then helped me to stand up from the rock which strangely enough had never stopped moving beneath me the entire time I sat upon it. Keeping hold of my hand we moved to the edge of the great field of flowers and stood quietly, gazing out at this magical world, perhaps pondering what to say next.

“Sweet Lady Karillee,” he began, no longer in that gravely voice, but now with a very deep, masculine timber to it. “I pray we do not have much time since you will have to return to your Land of Sorrow very shortly. So please, ask what questions you have and I will try to answer as best I can. Then I must convey an extremely important message to you before our time runs out.”

Turning I stared up into his yellowish eyes and wondered what that message would be and from whom. I could only pray it was from Pasquale.

“How is it that you can go from giant bird to a young man so easily? And who, in the name of all that’s good in the world, doomed you to such a strange life?” I inquired.

“The spell was cast upon every person in Oleander after the last war by Shanella, the evil witch who lives within that far off volcanic mountain. She had always been thought of as a witch that healed the sick and provided for those in need. However, when the invading armies came to this land, the people who lived in this valley aided the side that slaughtered many of Shanella’s followers. They were tortured, burned at the stake, and hung high from poles placed along the one main road through the valley. It was a terrifying time for Oleander and it was no wonder that Shanella went completely mad. In revenge she cast a number of spells that changed this valley to what you see, but so much more. Many of the invading soldiers were slaughtered in some of the most inhumane ways and those that survived were made to live as beasts, only to be human for one night in the cycle of the moon. That night, and only that night in the month, when the moon is full and completely visible, can we change back to human form. If the beast cannot bask under the light of the full moon, then their hunger to be human once more will pass them by. I was able to do so today because it’s all part of your dream and the magic of Oleander. As you can see from that mountain, the darkness above tis’ not storm clouds, but rather smoke that rises from the depths of the volcano,” as Emiliano’s voice faded.

At first I was stunned upon hearing this tale. I could only imagine the terror and death that must have run rampant throughout this land. But his brief story of Shanella and the valley only created more questions.

“So why is it that these flowers in this beautiful field appear to have human qualities? I swear I can hear them talking to me and their faces seem to be so alive?” I asked, still in disbelief this was all happening.

Turning slightly, Emiliano looked down and smiled. “Because Lady Karillee, truth be told they are in fact alive. The flowers within this field are the people who once walked upon this valley. The name of this once thriving village was Allieu and in retribution for their discretions against Shanella and her followers, they were turned into these flowers. You may think they are quite beautiful and sweet, which of course they are, but in reality they are assaulted often by giant insects and beasts of all descriptions, as well as torrential storms that arise because of that volcano. It was destined by the great witch for them to live a torturous existence. You are here today in a dream, but if you were to visit this land at another time, then you would behold a more harrowing scene.”

Letting my gaze spread across the colorful field, tears started rolling down my cheeks. Kneeling down upon the plush, green grass I touched several of the flowers and let them brush against my open palm. How in the name of God could this be happening I wondered? And then I realized that the absence of God was most likely the answer.

Wiping away tears from my eyes I asked the inevitable question.

“So Emiliano, why was I brought here? What is so important that I should be summoned within this manner?” I inquired, uneasy about what he might tell me.

Clearing his throat slightly, he walked me back to the rock where I sat and he knelt on one knee. As he did so I looked into his eyes and realized, as odd as it seemed, this handsome stranger reminded me of somebody within my memory.

“Emiliano, I’m not sure of anything anymore, but for some reason I think I’ve met you before, yet how in the world could that be?” I asked somewhat nervously.

“Because dear Lady Karillee, we have indeed met each other in the past. It was quite awhile ago, fourteen years to be exact. I was second in command to your Pasquale when we departed the Land of Sorrow to wage battle halfway across the world. He was not only my commanding officer, but my best friend. I know that you have spent many agonizing nights wondering what happened to your dear Pasquale. That’s why you were called here and the main reason I appeared to meet you,” revealed Emiliano.

Above all the surprises I had been witness to over these past crazy moments since arriving in Oleander, this revelation was perhaps the one that stunned me the most. There was simply only one question left to ask.

“Emiliano, you just said that Pasquale was your commanding officer and best friend,” I asked with most evident concern in my voice. “Does that mean that Pasquale is dead?”

Standing erect, he leaned down to help me rise and then wrapped his strong arms around my shoulders as I began to weep. All of these years, holding onto the slimmest hopes that my valiant warrior still lived, were now suddenly dashed.

Pushing me tenderly away, Emiliano looked down and smiled. “Nay Lady Karillee, your Pasquale is very much alive. However, he is not in this land of Oleander, as I was not, for if you remember me saying that I had flown a great distance. After the battles were waged in this valley and the spell or curse, however one would like to call it, was placed upon us, we who survived were able to escape Shanella’s wrath. However, sad to say, we were not able to free ourselves of the spell she had cast.”

“So Pasquale is alive, thank God. But are you also saying that Pasquale is now a bird the same as you?” I asked, now equally concerned for his welfare.

Emiliano broke into a loud laugh which lasted for close to a minute. I wasn’t sure what was so funny and it was making me rather angry, feeling quite foolish. Finally, when the fit of laughter subsided he wiped his eyes and took my hands in his.

“Yes my Lady, he is not quite the same Pasquale as you once knew and held so tightly. Oh, his heart and bravery are still the same as always, and his love for you has never wavered. But is he a bird like a raven? Nay Lady Karillee, a bird is not for the invincible Pasquale. His beast is that of a magnificent black wolf,” revealed Emiliano.

“Are you with him everyday? Does he talk of me often?” I inquired.

“Without a doubt, there are few times when he does not think of you, and yes, we are as close now as the day we left for battle,” he informed me.

“Then why has it taken so long for you to contact me? Why wasn’t a message sent long ago so that I might travel here in order to help him?” questions tumbling out.

Taking my arm, gently guiding me back past the rock and up to the mist, he said, “Because we were unable to until not long ago. Lady Karillee, have you heard strange whispers in your dreams?” he asked me.

Turning I stared at him very intently. “Yes, for quite awhile now. And lately, they have been getting louder, each one more clear. I could not imagine what they were and was beginning to doubt my sanity.”

“Oh Lady Karillee, it is nay your sanity in question at all. It was the Whisperer who has been keeping in touch with you and finally we were able to transport you here to Oleander where the magic that surrounds this place could make that happen,” he conveyed to me.

Stopping at the edge of the fog where the swirling mist began to encircle our feet he squeezed my hands and gazed down at me very intently. “Who is this Whisperer, does it have a name?” I inquired, curious as to the voice which had haunted my dreams.

“Oh yes, for sure,” declared Emiliano. “The Whisperer is very real. Her name is Selania. When we escaped from the clutches of the wicked witch Shanella we traveled for many trying days and hundreds of dangerous miles. Eventually we arrived in Selania’s realm and came to find that we were drawn there without our being remotely aware. She is the Goddess of Wolves and was whispering in Pasquale’s mind like she was in yours. With her assistance and guidance we have thrived and regained some strength. And just so you know, Shanella and Selania are sisters, but that’s where the family connections end. Shanella could not stand how her younger sister was revered and adored among their followers so she placed a curse on Selania and banished her from Oleander. But that is a very long story in its own right. Just know that Selania, the Whisperer, is a valuable friend and the messages she sends to you are for your benefit and well being so you must trust her.”

“Now you know the truth,” he continued after pausing, “as weird as all that may sound. Pasquale asked me tell you that his deep and abiding love has only grown and that he will tell you so when you both are together again,” said Emiliano reassuringly.

“When we meet again? Are you and Pasquale coming home soon?” I inquired.

Emiliano’s handsome face broke into a wide smile as he shook his head.

“It’s sad to say Lady Karillee, but we shan’t be returning to Sorrow in the near future. However, you will be coming to us and your Pasquale,” he quietly informed me.

Standing back I stared at him. “And how will that be possible when I’ve no idea where you are at, or how to get there? I will cross Hell and back to find Pasquale, but how will I find you? Are you coming back to Sorrow to help me upon this journey?”

“Nay, I will not be returning with you. Remember my Lady, this is but a dream. However, upon your waking again in the Land of Sorrow, you will make contact with someone who will lead you to us. You must know however that it will be a very long and quite dangerous trek. Your comment of Hell and back could very well be true,” he said, almost begging me to realize what dangers were ahead.

“So you’re saying that when I awake from this dream some man will be there to guide me to Pasquale?” I asked, my voice continuing to sound surprised as it had since I arrived in this strange land.

Emiliano chuckled. “Well, let’s just say that it might not be a man. But you will know when you make contact, trust me. Now Lady Karillee, it is time that we must part for I have a long flight ahead of me. You must return and begin to prepare for your arduous trek. Surround yourself with only the bravest and strongest warriors you can find. Trust me and embrace this loyalty from whomever, or whatever, it may arise from, for those strangers may be sent to assist and protect you.”

Leaning forward I hugged this bearer of good news as tightly as I could and then pulled away. My heart was pounding, not only from hearing the most welcome news that Pasquale was alive, but for the dangers the future now held for me.

The handsome young man walked to the edge of the field and knelt, lifting his arms above his head. As before, only in reverse, from his open palms came forth the same pink cloud, followed by a shower of glittering sparkles. When they cleared away in but ten heartbeats Emiliano stood and raised his impressive black wings. With a loud caw he lifted from the ground and soared high into the colorful sky, heading for the distant horizon. He did not look back for he was sure that I would do as requested.

Taking a deep breath I plunged back into the swirling fog and kept walking straight ahead. At some point I realized that both eyelids were getting extremely heavy and my legs began to tremble. I remember falling forward into the mist and yet did not feel striking the ground. Just another very strange occurrence I thought. But then, it was a dream, was it not? Multi-colored skies, tittering little white and yellow flowers, large birds like a raven that talked and who then became a handsome young man. Dreams are but our fantasies that become reality. As I slept until the point of awakening, I realized this dream was in fact real and one that would unfold into many twists and turns.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

The first thing I noticed upon awakening was how warm my skin had become. As my eyes fluttered open I squinted, quickly realizing that the shade of the Ancient Sycamore had now been swallowed up in bright sunlight. The second thing I became aware of was a large, exquisitely blue butterfly flitting around my hair. I remembered the dream and then shook my head. I seemed to recount a dashing young man telling me about meeting a contact that would lead me on a journey, but a butterfly? Surely not!!!

The third thing I noticed upon rising from the grass and straightening out my long scarlet skirt was how quiet it was. It is true that Sorrow is quite a wondrous and beautiful place, but there always seemed to be a fair amount of noise, especially during the day whether it came from wildlife, domesticated animals, or those individuals who worked tirelessly in their fields on the numerous farms surrounding my home. However, the lack of noise was somewhat unnerving and I began to worry if something was amiss.

Moving forward, I stumbled slightly and then heard a loud screeching sound which seemed to come from a fence post to my right. Turning quickly, I was stunned to see a shiny black raven perched and mocking me. I smiled for at least this bird was of normal size, but in point of fact it was just a raven. Not like the giant bird I had just become acquainted with in what appeared to be nothing more than a dream. I became deeply saddened when I realized that my undying desire to be with Pasquale had become so crippling that I was nearly capable of arriving at any unbelievable conclusions. Now I did begin to seriously doubt my fragile sanity.

As I walked away from the tree and the fence towards my home at the bottom of the hill, I heard the raven cawing loudly behind me which was followed by a sudden fluttering of wings over my head. I leaned down to avoid being struck, looking ahead at the same time. The crazy bird landed on the ground about ten feet ahead of me, stopped and stared in my direction. I wondered if the bird was sick and that I should be worried.

“Please scoot little raven. Do not give me any more false hopes that this dream of finding my Pasquale could in fact be true, for I fear that it was not,” I said, chuckling in a nervous voice while attempting to walk a clear path around the strutting bird.

All of a sudden it screeched, lifted off the ground and started flying west for about fifty yards or so. Then it veered sharply and flew straight back at me, landing no more than five paces away from my feet which seemed to be stuck in mud since I couldn’t move an inch. The zany bird began walking back and forth, lifting its wings and making that annoyingly shrill cawing sound over and over again. A few times it lifted off the ground in very short flights heading west again and then returning to stare at me with those beady, yellow eyes. That it was trying to tell me something was quite evident. A very clear thought then came rushing into my head again, “Well, let’s just say that it might not be a man. But you will know when you make contact, trust me.”

Within my befuddled mind, I knew the voice had been from Emiliano who had uttered that statement within my dream. But it had only been a dream, of that I was positive. And yet, standing here before me was this spastic bird, a very raucous raven, extremely intent on telling me something of great importance.

Then the strangest thing happened. At all other times, the Whisper had visited me during my deepest slumber. But now, starting at first like a soft hiss and then gaining clarity, I heard a female’s voice, but who’s? Then I remembered that Selania had been the name mentioned to me by Emiliano and I began to realize that the dream had in fact been more real than my imagination could’ve ever thought possible.

With warm sunlight streaming down upon me and a crazy screeching bird at my feet, it was quite obvious that I was clearly awake in the middle of the afternoon so what was happening was clearly real. Now the Whisper became stronger and I stood completely still, listening intently, fearful if I moved even an inch it would but disappear.

“Lady Karillee,” spoke the mysterious Whisperer, “you know by now after meeting the handsome Emiliano that my name is Selania. Please do not be frightened for I mean you no harm. Before I was only able to reach you in your dreams, but now that you have been to Oleander, the magic there has rubbed off on you, passed on by the kissing flowers. Now it is possible for us to speak when you are awake. This will be extremely important if you are to safely arrive in my country and be reunited with your Pasquale. Even though this journey may be fraught with danger, I will be aiding you as much as possible. For now, you must simply listen to those who will guide you and do not become narrow, or close minded, to others that you shall meet along the way. They will be sent to you and all could possess very special abilities and talents that will become useful. Utilize them well and they will be extremely loyal. The first contact is the raven who is attempting to get your attention and gain your confidence. He will lead you as the crow flies. Do not be distracted and think you know a better way, for if you are to be with Pasquale again, the raven is of great importance. You may answer me by either talking aloud, or thinking clearly within your mind.”

Realizing that I hadn’t been breathing, I let out a gasp and then inhaled loudly. The raven jumped and cawed, beseeching me to understand what it wanted. With my heart beating somewhat normally again, I smiled at the manic bird and held out my arm. Seeing this offered perch, he quickly left the ground and landed on the silky sleeve of my white blouse, the bird being careful not to sink its claws too deeply and draw blood. He was actually much heavier and larger than I expected, his weight quickly dragging my arm down a few inches before I adjusted to the extra poundage.

“So you are my guide it seems,” I spoke to the raven, “and it appears that I am to follow you no matter where you lead me. As frightening as that may seem, I will do so.”

The extremely animated bird teetered up and down my arm, moving its large head back and forth, like he was nodding assent. I must be totally mad I thought, listening to whispers in my mind from a woman I had never met and now talking to a stupid bird.

“Fear not Lady Karillee, you are not mad and be aware that the bird is far from stupid,” stated the Whisperer in a very firm and comforting tone. “In fact, your Pasquale has spoken of your bravery many times and I feel confident you will be able to make this journey. For now however, I ask that you make careful preparations and know that you will face many hardships from extreme weather changes to a number of dangerous situations. Prepare accordingly for those eventualities and be ready to leave in a fortnight. Surround yourself with only the bravest, hand picked warriors that you know will sacrifice their lives for you. Before you depart, several additional and possibly extremely odd acquaintances will cross your path. Allow your mind to accept all the help you need, no matter from who, what, or how they present themselves. Do you clearly understand these requests made of you?”

In a loud voice I responded, “Yes Selania, I understand completely. As I told Emiliano, to be with Pasquale again I would travel to Hell and back. I shall not fail and will be on constant alert for whenever you contact me.”

“To Hell and back may be what it seems at times. My assistance, and the magic you received in Oleander, will benefit you. Take great care of the raven and heed his advice for he is all you will have for the moment. Farewell and we will talk again soon,” whispered Salenia. Then she was gone from my mind as quickly as she had appeared.

Looking down at the raven I scratched his feathers, finding them to be satiny smooth. He let out a caw that sounded like a sigh and I smiled. Oh well I thought, I would’ve followed Emiliano and this crazy bird was just a smaller version. Shaking my head, I realized how much my life was about to change.

Moving my arm slightly, the raven took off and headed towards my home nestled at the foot of this rolling hill. Yes, it was more than just a house for many would call it a mansion. But for me, it had been my childhood playground with many enjoyable memories. It was all I had ever known, never once leaving this beautiful realm. I wondered if I would ever come back to my Land of Sorrow after my departure.

But, it was quite clear that I needed to take care of several things immediately. One would be figuring out how to tell my father, Lord Sorrow, of my impending journey. I was his only daughter, the last of his three children who remained alive, and he would not take kindly to my leaving on something so dangerous. In fact, he would most likely prohibit me from undertaking this trek. I would account for all eventualities, however, and even if he forbade it, I would still secretly make preparations for nothing would stop me short of being locked away.

Walking slowly and carefully down the hill, I was nearly lost with so many conflicting thoughts whirling around in my mind. The raven kept landing and flying, landing and flying, getting me used to the idea of my following and his leading.

Smiling, I spoke to him. “Well Mr. Raven, you’re no Emiliano, of that I’m sure and I certainly don’t expect you to transform yourself into a dashing and handsome young man. Nor do I expect you to talk to me, but I will follow you wherever you may lead, even as crazy a notion as that may seem.”

The spastic raven landed slightly behind me. “Are you sure Lady Karillee that I’m unable to speak?”

Nearly tripping upon the hem of my long skirt, I fought hard to stay erect and not tumble head first down to the bottom of the hill. Spinning quickly around, I stared with unbelieving eyes at the comical black bird standing in the tall green grass behind me.

“Say it isn’t so little bird. I did not just hear you utter those words,” I inquired nervously.

“Well, that would not be possible my Lady Karillee since I can most assuredly speak. Queen Selania granted me that power, but alas, I can converse with only you. Others will not hear me when I speak and at times there will be those who may think you may be a little crazy when they see you talking to a silly bird. However, being a little crazy may not be the worst plan of attack along this journey,” clearly spoke the raven in a very concise, albeit screechy, voice.

Shaking my head in disbelief, I swiveled around and started once more towards the Manse of Sorrow. It was all just overwhelming in such a short period of time. How much craziness could a young woman accept? The dream, the Whisperer, Emiliano, the hope of being reunited with my Pasquale once again, a potentially dangerous journey ahead of me, and now a talking raven which only I could hear speak.

Well, in Sorrow’s name, this journey would be undertaken and I would leave in a fortnight, with or without my father’s blessings. For danger and hardship would be nothing to encounter if it meant I could be within the arms of my Pasquale once more.

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