Crystalline Aura – Chapter 2

Crystalline Aura
Oracle of Light
By Cil Gregoire
Alaska Sci-Fi Queen

Chapter 2

Rahlys slept late into the next morning, waking up groggy from oversleeping. To her pleasant surprise, the cabin was still warm. She sat up in bed, the events of the day before flashing through her mind. The raven. The crystal. The bear. And a new life in a new home. For years Rahlys had thrived on pressure, schedules, and deadlines. But today she would establish a new routine of simple living.

Upon coming downstairs, she checked the wood stove first, opening the damper to let in more air, then easing open the door. Inside, the last charred chunk of wood coal glowed from the additional oxygen. The airtight stove did a great job holding a fire overnight. Rahlys stirred the coals and fed the stove split rounds of birch. She would have to replenish her firewood supply on the porch, she noted. Fortunately, Trapper Bean believed in stocking up on firewood. The wood shed was full. Rahlys put on a pot of coffee, then stepped out to greet the day, grabbing her jacket as she went out the door.

A layer of sun-glittering frost covered the ground. The clear, cool, fall day that greeted her made her shiver. She remembered the crystal was in her pocket as she hugged the jacket to her on her way to the outhouse. “Magic crystal, keep me warm.” And then—was it her imagination, or was she suddenly warmer?

“Araaak! Araaak!”

The raven. Rahlys stepped out of the outhouse. The wind had picked up, and the sun was barely peeking through the clouds. Golden leaves poured down all around her carpeting the ground. The trees looked bare compared to the day before. She felt the contour of the crystal through her jacket pocket with her fingers as she searched the edge of the forest for the raven. Where are you?

“Araaak!” the raven called again as he glided down into the sunny clearing and landed several feet away from her in another drizzle of golden birch leaves.

“Good morning, Raven! What mischief are you up to today?”

“Araaak!” An image of a muffin, like the one she had fed him the day before, flittered across her mind.

Rahlys smiled over the pictorial message. “I’m all out of muffins, but I have an apple in the root cellar if you like…,” but before she could finish her sentence, the raven flew off. “I can’t help it if you’re so impatient.”

The aroma of coffee perking assailed her senses as she entered the cabin. She hung up her jacket and gratefully poured herself a cup sipping on it immediately. Then setting the cup on the table, she sat in front of the unfinished, bear-trampled painting of the raven, reliving the event in her mind.

Thus occupied, Rahlys reached blindly for her coffee cup a short distance away. The cup met her half way. Sooner than she had expected the cup was in her hand. She looked at the cup curiously. It must have been closer to me than I thought. But in light of recent events, she decided to experiment. Setting the cup back down, a little further away this time, she placed her hand in readiness on the table and willed the cup to her. Instantly, the cup appeared in her hand.

Rahlys rushed to her jacket hanging on the wall and unzipped the pocket containing the crystal. The crystal floated out and spiraled around slowly, glowing softly in ever-changing colors. Examining the crystal in the light of a new day, she stared at it with wonder…and fear. “What are you?” she asked mystified.

The crystal did not respond.

Plucking the crystal out of the air she held it up, staring into it. The crystal brightened in her hand. There were so many questions she needed answered. Was it possible to communicate with the crystal somehow? Concentrating, Rahlys focused her thoughts on it.

“Where did you come from? How did you get here? What do you want from me?”

The glow intensified, but the crystal did not speak. When she ceased at her effort, easing her hold, it flew out her hand.

Had the crystal warned her about the bear? It felt like someone or something had spoken in her mind. And had she really received visual messages from the raven? Those images had been accompanied by tingling flexing sensations in her brain. She could still feel a faint soreness in her head, like the ache of a muscle that has been forced into strenuous activity it is not conditioned for.

Rahlys laid out a fresh sheet of watercolor paper on the table with her sketches of the raven all around her, along with her paints. The crystal hovered above, adding light to the area. “Brighter,” she requested lightly, and to her surprise, the crystal brightened, providing more light. She was set, but before starting, she conjured an apple from the root cellar for breakfast, and despite the soreness in her head, sliced it into wedges with intense mental concentration.

Holding an apple slice in one hand and a paint brush in the other, Rahlys turned to her work, sketching freely. Quickly the raven took form in overlapping motion, fragmented, and strutting around on the page with the crystal, emitting its strange, colorful, hexagonal light in his beak.

Letting the first layer of pigment dry, Rahlys stood up and stretched. The crystal dimmed and followed her as she paced about the room. She knew she needed to find a safer place to keep the crystal than in her jacket pocket. Where should she keep it? Then suddenly Rahlys noticed, hanging on a peg on the wall, a small leather pouch that blended in so well with the log wall, it had gone unnoticed until now. She took down the pouch, caressing the supple leather, and examined the excellent workmanship.

“It looks like one of those little talisman pouches that early humans wore around their necks,” she said out loud, then turned to the crystal. “Here is you new home.” Directing her thoughts, she conjured the crystal into the pouch, and pulled the little leather drawstrings, closing it tightly. A long leather thong, woven into the sides of the pouch, formed a loop large enough to go over her head. Putting it on, she tucked the pouch inside her shirt where it settled between her breasts.

Then her eyes fell on the severed pantry door. Could it be repaired in the same manner as the window? Pointing from the severed cabinet door to the open pantry, she imagined it fixed, willing it back together. To her astonishment still, the pantry door flew up and landed in place. Rahlys examined it, opening the door and closing it again. It was perfect in every way.

What else might she be capable of doing? The thought was as exciting as it was frightening. Across the room Rahlys spotted a book she found on the floor behind the daybed. She conjured it to her. Instantly it appeared in her hand. Then she sent it back to the daybed.

Since she could teleport objects, could she teleport herself? Rahlys closed her eyes and concentrated, breathing deeply as she mentally placed herself outside in front of the cabin. And then she was there. She felt the cool, fresh air on her face even before she opened her eyes wide! There, just a few feet in front of her stood an angry bull moose with ears raised in alarm over Rahlys’ sudden close appearance. Oops! I should have looked out the window and checked the clearing before teleporting out into it.

Back in the cabin! Back in the cabin…she willed with all her might, and then, to her immense relief, she was back inside. Rahlys ran to the window, her heart pumping hard in her breast as she watched the moose charge the spot where she had stood only moments before. It had been a close call. She would have to learn to use caution.

Struggling to regain calmness, Rahlys grabbed her sketchpad and quickly sketched the confused animal in several poses as it puzzled over her sudden disappearance. After a while, the moose ambled over to some brush at the edge of the clearing, the incident apparently already forgotten, and munched briefly on leafless alder branches. Then it moved on disappearing into the forest.

Rahlys set down her sketchpad. It was time to do some chores, and there were still boxes of supplies to haul in. With pack and gun in hand, she stepped out ready to head down to the tracks for the first load when the idea struck her. Perhaps she could just conjure the boxes to her. Right here on the porch would be fine. It was a long distance, but it certainly was worth a try.

Rahlys could picture the last three boxes of clothing and household items wrapped in a blue tarp, wedged between two birch trees. She visualized the boxes and blue tarp on the porch beside her, willing them there. And then there they were. Rahlys nearly collapsed with exhaustion beside them. The crystal’s magic had saved her a lot of time, but the effort had taken a toll.

She quickly recovered though and joyfully unpacked the last boxes, putting the items away. The time she had captured, she used to add another layer of pigment to the raven painting, giving it more depth and detail. Pleased with the results of her work she stepped back. It would have to dry before she could do more.

Rahlys headed for the woodshed to replenish her kindling supply. She had become skilled with an axe as a young woman and remembered the important principles. Bring the axe blade straight down perpendicular to the wood, not in a swinging arc that brings the axe blade toward your legs. Men take short, hard swings with an axe because they have strong shoulder muscles. But a woman has stronger back muscles than shoulder muscles.

Choosing a dry spruce round from the stack, Rahlys placed it on end on the chopping block and whacked it hard in the center with the splitting maul. She lifted the maul over her head, putting her back into it to obtain sufficient force. The wood cracked loudly, but remained whole. She swung at it hard a couple of more times before it split into. Putting the maul aside and picking up the axe, Rahlys split each half-round into several thin wedges, then sliced up the wedges into a pile of kindling.

With a quick mental thought, she tried transporting the loose pile of kindling at her feet to the back porch. But instead of the pile appearing in the box by the back door as anticipated, it fantailed out in an arch, landing strewn across the ground from the wood shed to the porch, the leading piece falling far short of its destination. A lack of cohesion in the bundle had defeated her effort. As she walked to the porch, Rahlys mentally lifted each stick of kindling into her arm, marched up the steps with the bundle, and deposited the kindling in the wooden box by the door.

She needed to replenish her firewood supply too. Giving her fledgling mental powers a rest, Rahlys grabbed the orange plastic sled Trapper Bean had left behind, and returned to the woodshed. Even without snow, it was easier pulling the sled over the frosty grass than carrying the heavy chunks of wood across the yard in her arms. Several trips later, her convenient firewood stack on the porch was replenished.

With the chores done, Rahlys was ready to return to her painting. But by now the sun had come out in full force and a warm, sunny autumn day beckoned. Instead of settling down to work, Rahlys lingered outdoors to enjoy perhaps the last warm day of the season. She wandered over to the edge of the forest and walked a short distance beneath the nearly bare trees. Turning to look back in the direction of the cabin, she saw it still in sight through the thinning foliage. At her feet, golden leaves filled the slight depression of a game trail, creating a denser golden ribbon through the mottled gold-leaf strewn forest floor. She followed the trail deeper into the woods. Unexpectedly, a ground squirrel suddenly dashed up a nearby spruce tree, chattering angrily over being disturbed.

The sudden explosion of sound in such immense quiet startled her, causing her to jump, but the narrow rut of a trail could not accommodate the move and she landed on a cushiony throne of lichen covering a decaying log. Her seat was so comfortable and the forest setting so charming, she remained seated despite the seeping dampness on her bottom.

The squirrel, deciding to ignore her, resumed its task of running along the spruce branches, detaching an abundant crop of spruce cones by gnawing the cones loose with it teeth, then letting them drop to the ground. Later he would certainly collect the harvest and store it for the winter. Wishing she had her sketch pad with her, she made some mental sketches nevertheless.

Over the next few days, the warm days of autumn turned cold and drizzly. When the clouds finally parted, temperatures dropped well below freezing overnight. Rahlys stared out the window as she sipped her morning coffee. Most of the trees were already bare of leaves, but some still sported a thin golden crown. The last remaining leaves continued to drop, a few at a time. The ground’s golden carpet was slowly turning brown.

Nibbling on an apple wedge, Rahlys studied the unfinished painting on the table of the squirrel in the frenzy of harvest. Vividly displayed on the easel was the finished painting of the raven with the crystal.

“Araaak! Araaak!” The raven’s cries pierced the walls of the cabin.

Grabbing a hand full of apple wedges, Rahlys rushed out the door as aerial views of her cabin and yard flittered across her mind. The images had to be coming from the raven! The raven spiraled down for a landing just a few feet away from her.

Rahlys tossed him an apple wedge. Seemingly without fear, the raven took the necessary step up to it and started eating. She was pleased that he seemed to trust her now and didn’t back away with the treat before digging in. She watched smiling as he consumed the apple with obvious relish. There was something special about the raven. The crystal must have enhanced him with magic too. She threw him another slice of apple as the sun warmed the cold earth and melted the frost.

A visitor is approaching.

What? She looked around warily. Was the bear returning? Rahlys eyed the cabin longingly as a source of relative safety.

“Hello! Anyone home?” A human voice called out, not from the trail as one would expect, but from the woods. Rahlys turned toward the direction of the call, throwing down the last couple of pieces of apple. The raven scooped up one of the slices in his beak and flew off toward the creek as Vince entered the clearing wearing a small pack and carrying a rifle. “Hello,” he said again as he spotted her near the cabin. He approached removing his cap to wipe sweat from his forehead.

“Hi! You came through the woods?”

“Yes, there’s a game trail that runs along the ridge overlooking the big swamp. It’s a fairly nice hike in the spring and fall, and half the distance of taking the people trails via the railroad tracks. I often visited Bean this way when the season was right.”

To Rahlys’ surprise, thoughts and images of Bean brushed her mind. “Would you like some water?” she offered

“I have some in my pack. Thanks. The place hasn’t changed much.” His eyes roamed around, then settled back on her. “I brought you a house-warming present.” Propping his rifle up against the cabin, Vince took off his pack and set it on the porch. “I’m not much of a cook, but I bake a mean loaf of bread. From his pack, he handed her a bag containing the most perfect loaf of bread she had ever seen.

“Why, thank you!” She could not help but be impressed. “Won’t you come in?”

Vince followed her inside. There was little to see in the nearly bare cabin. His eyes landed on the painting of the raven boldly displaced on the easel. “Nice painting.”


“The cabin looks a bit empty.”

“Empty, what do you mean?”

“Well, Jack spent most of his spare time making leather goods for the local tourist trade, pouches and bags, some vests and moccasins, things like that. There were always piles of stuff stacked on the floor and hanging from pegs on the wall.”

Rahlys picked up drifting threads of thought and fleeting images of the cabin as it had looked when Bean lived here. She had to admit the walls were bare. Eventually she hoped to cover them with her work, but it would take time, and most of her matting and framing supplies were in town.

Vince examined the painting in progress of the squirrel clinging to a spruce branch, chewing off spruce cones that fell to a pile on the ground below. “Interesting point of view. So you are an artist.” It was as much a question as it was a statement.

“I worked as a commercial artist for a company in Seattle for many years. Now I’m working freelance. Have a seat.”

Vince sat at the familiar table, remembering his visits with Jack. Rahlys cleared the table, moving her work to the daybed.

“What brought you to Alaska?” he asked.

“I was born here actually, grew up in a remote log cabin in the Matanuska Valley.” Rahlys was pleased by the surprised look on Vince’s face. It was not the answer he had expected. She sensed he had come over to check on her, expecting to find an inexperienced woman in distress in the woods. “My parents passed away several years ago, and the cabin is long gone. Now there’s a subdivision where the old homestead used to be.”

Avoiding his gaze she stooped down, opened the root cellar door, and from the suspended shelf within, brought up a pitcher of tea, and a jar of home-made blueberry jam to go with the bread. She placed the items on the table. “How long have you lived up here?”

“Seven years. After retiring from the Marines, I wanted to be as far away from humanity as possible.”

“Wife? Children?”

“No, unfortunately. I’ve probably missed out on an important part of life.”

“And what do you do with all your time so far from humanity?”

“I write action/adventure novels.”

“About your life?”

“No, well, yes…but not directly.”

“So how many novels have you written?”

“I’ve published two, and I’m working on a third.”

Rahlys sliced the bread and poured tea, and they ate quietly for a moment just enjoying each other’s company. Then Vince broke the silence.

“I’m going into town on the train tomorrow and coming back Saturday if you need anything,” he offered.

“Actually, my friend Maggie is coming up for the week-end on Saturday’s train and she’s bringing some things up. But there is something you could do for me.”

“Oh, what’s that?”

“I need a lesson on handling and maintaining a generator,” she said as they ate.

“Sure. Bean’s generator won’t start for you?”

“I haven’t tried to start it yet, I wanted to know more about it first. It’s getting dark earlier every day, and the oil lamps really aren’t bright enough to paint by.” There were light fixtures, switches, and receptacles wired in throughout the cabin. “By the way, your bread is excellent. I could use a lesson in baking bread, too.”

“And the blueberry jam is superb. Did you make it?”

“No, Maggie did. She came up with me from Seattle and thinks picking berries and making jam is mandatory if you live in Alaska.”

After lunch they walked out to the generator shed together. Rahlys carried a notebook with her.

“You’re going to take notes?”

“Yes.” She smiled up at him.

Vince instructed Rahlys on how to check the oil, and had her add some from the stockpile Bean had left behind. Then they checked the fuel tank. Rahlys took note of her fuel supply. Eventually she would have to have a drum freighted up by rail. He showed her how to choke the engine; then he flipped the start button to ‘On’ and pulled the rope. The generator sputtered and died.

Vince pulled the rope again, and the generator spitted angrily until he turned off the choke. The engine picked up speed, smoothing out into a steady noise. Once the engine was running smoothly, Rahlys flipped on the breaker to the house.

Back at the cabin with the doors shut, the generator was barely audible. Rahlys went about turning on switches, delighted with the prospect of cheerful, bright light for the upcoming long, dark nights. Vince enjoyed her delight glad to be of help.

“I usually leave one light on when I go to turn the power off,” he said, “so that when I turn it on again, I can see right away if the electricity is on in the house. When shutting down, it’s all in reverse. Turn the breaker off first to take the load off, then shut off the motor. Always check the oil. That’s the most important thing. If you don’t let it run out of oil, you will be alright.”

Leaving a light on, they went back to the generator shed and Rahlys shut off the power. “Thank you so much.”

“It was my pleasure.” His smile was reassuring. “Well, I better get moving. I still have chores to do before nightfall.” He picked up his pack from the porch, and his rifle leaning against the house, and headed off into the forest. Rahlys watched him go. It was a bit reassuring to have a neighbor close by, only a mile away, in case she ever needed help.

As soon as Vince disappeared from sight, the raven swooped down out of nowhere, picked up the last apple wedge off the ground, and took off again, continuing on his way. She was alone.

Rahlys went back into the cabin and conjured the book she had found behind the daybed to her hand. She read the cover. Cold Fire and Hot Ice by Vince Bradley. There was an inscription inside, To Jack, my friend and mentor, thanks for all your help. It was signed simply, Vince. With curious interest, Rahlys sat down and began to read.

When darkness approached she started the generator and flooded the cabin with light. In jubilant celebration she cooked a dinner for one of brown rice and sautéed vegetables on the wood stove and opened a bottle of wine she had been saving for a special occasion. Then she painted into the night.

Much later, when she made her way to the generator shed, the northern lights shimmered in wavering bands of green, red, and white across the cold night sky. She shut off the generator and gazed with wonder at the brilliant display of swirling light. Here was magic on a grander canvas than she could ever paint.


Across the galaxy, Anthya and Zayla walked barefooted across golden sands under a sparkling yellow sky. Their footprints disappeared behind them as they walked. The blue-green and orange foliage of the jungle covered the hills that rose from the sandy plain and looked out toward the golden sea. Beautifully colored shells, all shapes and sizes, and several crystals, reflecting light, defined the high tide mark. A warm sea breeze blew their light sleeveless dresses against their legs. “I chose this isolated beach for our walk for its beauty as well as its remoteness,” Zayla said, obviously enjoying the warm sand between her toes, for a smile graced her aged, worry-worn face. Her long black hair was streaked with gray, but her deep, dark eyes sparkled, reflecting infinite wisdom.

Anthya was as light in feature as Zayla was dark, her long, straight hair, the palest yellow, her complexion creamy white, her eyes the lightest shade of bluish gray. “It is also a favorite spot of mine,” Anthya said…for it was true. She and Zayla had conferred here often, and it was from an outcrop in the cliff straight ahead that she had collected the crystal that had become the Oracle of Light.

“So, you have news for me?” Zayla asked looking deeply into Anthya’s eyes, to the depths of her soul.

“Yes, the Oracle of Light has found a Guardian.” She paused. “But I have been unsuccessful in finding the Dark Orb…and destroying it.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Anthya, it was not meant to be. And anyway, it is too late now. The Orb of Darkness has also found a Guardian. Fate is now in their hands. All we can do is try and help the Guardian of Light in any way that we can.”

I was born in New Orleans, grew up in the Louisiana swamp, and then settled in Alaska as a young woman. After decades of living the Alaska dream, teaching school in the bush, commercial fishing in Bristol Bay and Norton Sound, and building a log cabin in the woods, life had provided me with plenty to write about. The years of immersion in the mystique and wonder, and challenges and struggles, of living in remote Alaska molded my heart and soul. It is that deep connection I share with my readers.