The sun cast its first golden rays across the heathland. Sinead and Moonsprite had been walking all night. They’d pursued the path in the starlight, pushing aside all thoughts of what lurked in the darkness beyond. Sinead had drawn the Sword of Elshain several times, but no creature had dared approach.
Both were tired now.
The path led to a stand of pine trees beckoning safety. They settled down on the soft-scented forest floor, guarding Moonsprite’s saddle bag and its precious contents between them. Sinead gathered her cloak around her, the Sword of Elshain under her hand.
Awaking to find the sun high in the sky, Sinead shared out the last of the stale oatcakes. She opened the Prophesy Book and continued reading. Raising her eyes she now saw a towering castle wall beyond the trees.
Foretold in the Prophesy Book, the first of the four last challenges lay within.
Sinead held the Blue Orb aloft. Moonsprite, her snow-white unicorn, pawed the ground while her Mistress uttered the sacred words from the final chapter of the Prophesy book.
The orb glowed more brightly, its indigo light shining across the wild heathland. A path appeared before them: the way to the Far Side, where the Edge of the World began. Sinead must commit the way to memory. The Blue Orb would not shine here again.
Night creatures skittered and slithered around their feet. Sinead gripped the Orb more tightly, willing her mind to absorb the knowledge.
The Orb ceased to glow, but the stars shone overhead. Sinead returned the Orb to Moonsprite’s saddle bag and took out the Sword of Elshain, strapping it around her waist. There were four last challenges to complete.
Moonsprite tossed her silver mane. The journey would be long, but together they would finish the final chapter.
Sinead stood defiant as last of the Oppressors tumbled into the cloud-cloaked abyss. She’d underestimated the power of the fabled Blue Orb, and thought the Prophesy must be flawed, but the magic she’d unleashed when she spoke the sacred words had felled them all.
That last one had laughed scornfully. How could a mere woman destroy the Patriarchy? But he was wrong. He sank, like the rest of them, crumbling to dust.
Sinead plucked the Book of Prophesy from Moonsprite’s saddle bag. The snow-white unicorn whinnied softly as her mistress turned to the final chapter.
The words glowed red.
At last Sinead realised what the Fourth Sacred Artifact must be. Slowly she led Moonsprite back down the Sunset Path. Once more their journey would be long, but she must gather the remains of the Sisterhood.
Together they would forge the Freedom Key which would unshackle the chains of Mother Earth.
Mickey, the young mantis, poked his head out of the bougainvillea bush. There she was, the lovely Marula, sunning herself on the trellis by the stoep. He watched her in admiration as she stretched out her plump olive-skinned limbs. His ardour was rising. She was a gorgeous creature. If only he could get her to notice him.
He crawled down to the windowsill where Gerald the Gecko was snapping at flies. Gerald followed Mickey’s gaze. ‘That mantis-lady’s a tough cookie, Mickey. You should steer clear of her.’
‘She’s too old for you, Mickey.’
Charlie the Chameleon slowly made his way up the lavender bush, his colour changing from a dusty grey to jade green. ‘I couldn’t help overhearing you two,’ Charlie said, rolling his eyes so that one fell on Marula and the other fixed on Mickey. ‘Don’t grow up too fast, Mickey, she’ll eat you for breakfast.’
Alys balled her fists, digging her nails into the palms of her hands. She stepped into the stone circle. Moonlight shone on the cromlechs and lit up the faces of the members of the coven who stood in eager silence. This was the final test. Unless she could prove her mastery of the fourth element, she’d be banished from the sisterhood forever.
She raised her head and closed her eyes, centering herself. Palms back to back, she laced her fingers and took a deep breath. Muttering an incantation she opened her hands. A tongue of fire issued forth. She held her open palm aloft for all to see.
She had conjured fire.
Another word, and the fire was extinguished. Alys slowly folded her hands and clasped them gently to her chest before descending from the stone circle. ‘Thanks Sparky,’ she whispered, as the miniature dragon scurried back up her sleeve.
Modern art glares at her from the gallery walls. Does it demand her praise or merely crave her understanding? She pauses before a blood-red canvas, a slash of blue and two blobs of green, created by a modern Scottish artist of whom she’s never heard. Should she have done?
She feels the assistant’s snooty gaze rest on her as she crosses the room, her footsteps echoing on the stark white floor. The centre-piece sculpture rears up menacingly; a hooded man, a gaping maw. Does his expression reflect the artist’s angst?
She’s seen enough.
Out on the street she meanders past a few shops but none can tempt her within. She crosses the road. The city’s unfamiliar and she’s just killing time before her train leaves.
Then she sees it.
The display beckons. She quickens her step.
Soon she’s inside perusing the shelves and bathing in the gladdening glow of beautiful books.