Gramp’s Journal – Chapter 18 Excerpt
Using the staff to get into a kneeling position I knew this was as good as it was going to get. With my left foot planted out in front and my right leg on the ground behind me I pushed off. At first I slid sideways but using the staff as a rudder I quickly corrected myself. Within minutes I was sliding along with some control of where I was going. The problem was I wasn’t sure of where I was supposed to be going. Oble Tere was right though, this was fun.
Sliding along I heard a whisper echoing softly through the forest. “Walk on,” it said repeating a few times. Stopping to listen I noticed a bright orange glow reflecting from somewhere ahead. Being brighter than the amber stone, it seemed to reflect upward to the moonmist itself. Pushing off gently I slid in the direction of it and where I thought the whisper was coming from. Getting closer I saw the orange glow on the ground ahead of me. The whisper fell silent and I stopped to stare in disbelief. Here in the middle of the frozen forest was a river of red-hot coals flowing along in front of me. Steam rose as it flowed out in both directions as far as I could see. About six feet across the ground was frozen to the edge on both sides. Then the whisper returned.
“Walk on,” it repeated. Echoing back into silence, I thought of how to get across safely. First, I slid alongside it for a ways in one direction but seeing no end in sight I quickly slid a ways in the other and ended up with the same result. I realized it didn’t matter where I crossed over as long as I crossed over.
Seeing an odd shape lying on the ground across from me I came to a sudden stop. It looked like someone had been caught in the moonmist and was as iced up as everything else. Straining to get a better look my eyes opened wide. It looked like Genny. It couldn’t be I thought. Someone here would have seen her and helped her for sure. Unless, I thought, she had arrived during the moonmist and hadn’t made it to safety in time.
“No!” I yelled. It wasn’t Genny. It couldn’t be. The first tear broke free and ran downward. It shattered as it left my face and hit the ground frozen. I told myself it wasn’t true. This was no more than an illusion. I refused to believe it was her and went back to figuring out how to get across. I knew I couldn’t help whoever it was from this side. I had to get across and put the wahm stone around their neck. Even if it meant being frozen solid myself.
Touching the tip of the staff to the hot coals, it instantly caught fire. Pulling it back out the cold air cooled it off in seconds. The hot coals were real enough so how was I to get across without being burned in the process? Then I got an idea. Pushing off lightly I slid back about ten feet. Breaking off a piece of frozen fern, I slid it towards the river of coals. I watched it slide swiftly across but half way over it thawed out and disappeared in a wisp of smoke. Sliding another even harder it went further across before being burned up as well. This was the only way I thought. Breaking off a very large leaf, I kneeled down on top of it. Testing it I slid back a long ways before stopping to get my courage up. I was a good fifty feet from the river of hot coals now. I figured if it was going to work at all, it was going to work from here.
Staking the staff into the icy ground, I pushed off as hard as I could. Sliding quickly towards the river I kept pushing off. Racing along at an incredible speed, I hit the edge and began sliding across. Steam shot upwards as the leaf began to thaw. Warmth reached up into my legs as beads of sweat formed across my forehead. Reaching the other side the fully thawed leaf suddenly stopped and I flew forward. Landing face down my breath shot out of me as I slid to a stop. Looking back I stared in disbelief. The river of hot coals was gone. Only the leaf I had slid on remained. Wiping real sweat from my forehead, I looked for the frozen shape on the ground but it too had disappeared. In surprise and confusion I sat up and thought about what had just happened. Looking at the staff’s tip I saw it had never been burnt either. This had all been an illusion to test me. Even the staff catching fire had been a part of it. Yet I had felt the heat enough to sweat. Now I wondered if I could have just walked over it to begin with. Then I heard the soft whisper once again.
“Walk on,” it said. Coming from somewhere ahead of me, I began sliding towards it again. Each time I heard it I changed direction to find its source. After sliding for a short time I noticed a brown glow ahead of me. It reflected dimly throughout the frozen forest all around me. Sliding up to it, I saw the river of mur. It lay before me running in both directions as far as I could see. This is just another illusion I thought. Taking a piece of frozen fern, I slid it across and instantly the mur took hold and pulled it under. Looking at it, I saw the air escaping and heard its awful puckering sound. Bubbles floated gently upward before being frozen and falling to shatter back into the mur. It just had to be an illusion I thought, but what if I were wrong? If it was real then why wasn’t it frozen like everything else? I sat there trying to decide whether to chance crossing it or not.
Suddenly I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and saw an odd looking rabbit hop to the edge of the mur. Its brown fur seemed to glow and swirl softly along its body. It had no ears or tail and the largest feet I had ever seen on a rabbit. Being almost the same shade of brown as my necklace and glowing softly I wondered if it had to do with not freezing like the mur.
The rabbit hopped back and forth in a frustrated attempt to find a way across. Stopping and backing up it looked at me with what seemed a curious smile before hopping quickly towards the mur. Reaching the edge it pushed off with both feet and leapt high into the air. At first I was sure it was going to make it all the way across but I soon realized it hadn’t. Its hind feet touched the mur as it landed. The mur quickly began spreading over its hind legs and pulling it in. It struggled frantically in a useless attempt to free itself. Minutes later it disappeared underneath forever. I was pretty sure walking across wasn’t going to work now. This had to be real and I knew touching it would end my search for Genny.