Crystalline Aura – Chapter 6

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

Chapter 6

Franklin waited cautiously for his eyes to adjust to the darkness that engulfed him. But there didn’t seem to be any perceivable light for his eyes to adjust to. Not wanting to reveal his unexpected arrival to whatever may be lurking in this unknown darkness, Franklin didn’t move or make a sound. He was still on his bed. Wherever he was, the bed was with him. He could hear water gurgling softly not far away, and considered climbing down in the dark to investigate, but the fear of dropping into a void held him back. After considerable time, during which nothing had stirred, Franklin reached into his pocket and pulled out the orb.


The orb floated up out of his hand, brightening as it ascended up, and up, lighting the stone walls and great emptiness of a grand cavern. His enormous bed was dwarfed by the massive natural stone dais on which it rested. At the other end of the chamber the floor dropped down in rough steps to a trickling underground creek that flowed through the cavern’s lower end. The little stream entered the cavern through a narrow gap in the moist dripping stone wall, and flowed out through another.

Only in pictures had Franklin seen anything like this before. Rocks and boulders generally weren’t found in the Mississippi River delta. He teleported himself off the bed and stood there in the immense cave gazing about in amazement. The bed looked small in the vast space, the four corner posts reached for but didn’t come anywhere close to touching the high curve of the vaulted stone ceiling overhead. The sound of the flowing water begged for his attention, and he made his way down to the level of the stream.

Clear water, so clear the rocks of the streambed could be seen through it, flowed continuously into the cavern and quickly left again through openings in the stone. Franklin looked around. There was no sign of anything living, neither plant nor animal. He stooped, putting his fingers in the water, and drew them out quickly. The water was cold to the touch. In fact, his whole body was becoming chilled and he started to shiver as the cold, damp air sucked away at his body heat.

Warmth, Franklin commanded. And the orb emitted an aura of warmth around him. Then, directed by an inner voice, Franklin focused mentally, drawing energy from around him and within, concentrating that energy on a focal point on the wall of the cavern. A spot on the stone started to glow, growing increasingly larger and hotter and brighter. Pivoting a quarter turn in each direction, Franklin invoked more areas of heat and light, until the stones’ warmth and eerie orange glow filled the cavern, taking the chill and dampness out of the air.

Franklin summoned the orb back to his hand, and directed his attention once again to the stream. The mysterious stream that flowed so secretly through its dark, rocky world was especially fascinating to Franklin. He stooped to peer into the low, dark crevice to see where the water was coming from, but the serpentine tunnel, lost in darkness, did not reveal its secrets. Franklin opened his hand releasing the orb and commanded telepathically, Show me the path the water is taking.

The orb dived down into the opening, lighting the way as it sped upstream, projecting images back to Franklin as it ducked and swerved around the protrusions and irregularities of the narrow, low, snaking rock tunnel just inches above the flowing water. From time to time the passage through stone opened up into small caves and connecting tunnels, only to quickly narrow down again. In places, the opening became so small, the orb had to dip into the water to squeeze through. Mile after mile, the orb cruised through the stone labyrinth, until finally Franklin conjured it back to his hand.

Then Franklin made his way over and around rocks and boulders to the other end of the stream’s flow where it disappeared through another hole in the rock. After a thoughtful pause, Franklin commanded the orb again.

Slower this time…show me the path the water is taking out.

The glowing orb floated down and into the broad thin crevice in the rock, sending back images as it drifted over the stream that nearly filled the low passageway. It was some time before the course finally widened out into a small, low cave with a narrow rock shelf just inches above the level on the water.

Halt! Franklin commanded the orb, and it came to a stop. Franklin sat on the floor of the cavern by the stream with quiet concentration. He ducked his head down as a precaution, and conjured himself to the stone ledge in the little cave where the orb glowed and hovered in place. Gingerly, Franklin lifted his head feeling for the ceiling with his hand. The cave proved to be just barely big enough for him sit up.

Continue, he directed the orb, and the orb slipped through the opening in the stone, following the flow of the water, leaving him in darkness. Franklin sat in the cramped, chilly cave as the lighted images of the orb’s passage unrolled in his mind. The course curved steeply downward, the water cascading over rock as it hurried along its way. Then the little stream plunged into a larger one, also hurrying along. The opening in the stone became greater as the volume of water increased, the rushing water careening madly about the passageway shifting direction frequently in its downward spiral. Then suddenly it broke forth into emptiness, the orb hovering in an enormous cavern over a waterfall that dropped into a large underground lake. Franklin gasped in awe as the orb flew out over the lake, its distant shore lost in darkness.

Find the shore, he instructed filled with excitement.

The lake proved to be immense as the orb attempted to cross it. When it discovered a narrow strip of rocky beach sandwiched against the water’s edge and the stone wall of the cavern Franklin ordered it to halt.

Focusing on the strip of beach, Franklin teleported himself to it, appearing suddenly on the shore of the lake with the low roar of the waterfall in his ear. Who could have ever imagined such a place? He looked up, but the high ceiling of the cavern was lost in darkness. The surface of the water, undisturbed by tempestuous storms and changing tides, lay smooth and inky black before him.

Gingerly, Franklin hiked the narrow rocky shore, guided by the light of the orb. The sound of the waterfall diminished over time with distance. Sometimes he had to climb over boulders or teleport around obstacles to make progress. But it was the grumble of Franklin’s stomach that finally brought the expedition to a halt. Since the prospect of finding food here seemed unlikely, he summoned the orb to his hand and teleported himself back to his cavern with its welcoming warmth and orangey glow, his home, furnished with his own great bed. But there was nothing to eat here either. He still needed to find food.

Take me to the surface, he commanded the orb.

Almost instantly, Franklin was in freezing cold and blinding sunlight, floundering in deep snow on a steeply sloping mountainside. His frantic movements shuddered through the snow shelf, breaking it loose. The severed snow pack began to move, sending Franklin tumbling amongst chunks of snow, down the mountainside.

“Ahhhh……” he screamed as he went into free fall over the edge. Franklin strained with all his might to teleport himself to safety before being crushed on the snow and protruding pinnacles of rock far below. He was screaming still when he landed in the cavern on his warm soft bed.

Franklin didn’t move for a while, but just lay there trying to catch his breath, assuring himself he was still alive, as the snow he brought with him turned to water. He would teleport himself back to the city to graze he decided. But as recent experience showed, it was necessary to be cautious when suddenly placing oneself somewhere without knowing what is about. Recovering sufficiently from his ordeal, Franklin pondered over a location he could safely focus on as a portal, and ended up concentrating on the ramshackle shed he remembered behind his grandmother’s house. He hadn’t been there in years, but surely no one would be there. It did not occur to Franklin that things may have changed since his grandmother’s death, and the onslaught of hurricane Katrina.

Franklin concentrated on the dilapidated little shed, drawing it from his memory, and teleported himself to the location. Warm, humid, free-flowing air with the smell of the river a short distance away touched his face as he suddenly appeared on a vacant lot in the lower ninth ward. The shed, as well as the house, and all the other houses on the block, had been bulldozed and cleared away, grass and weeds already growing again in the muddy soil. It was dusk here, which struck Franklin as strange. It had been bright daylight up on the mountain. Fortunately there was no one around to notice his sudden appearance out of nowhere.

His stomach still growling, Franklin went in search of food, teleporting short distances when the coast looked clear to speed up his progress. The first source of food he came to was a hot dog vendor on a street corner sitting in a lawn chair next to her cart. The vendor, gray and plump, viewed Franklin suspiciously as he approached. Franklin met the woman’s gaze head on, mentally taking control. A pained expression contorted her features, then the vendor went into automated action. Without saying a word, Franklin directed the woman in the construction of a chili cheese dog with everything on it. Unfalteringly, the vendor executed the task. When it was complete, she handed the creation over to him. Taking it, Franklin gave the woman a mental nudge, pushing her back into her chair. Her heart came to a stop as he walked off indulging in his first bite.

His hunger satiated, for a while, Franklin located a Winn-Dixie supermarket. Now that he had a place of his own, it was time to do some serious grocery shopping. Pushing a shopping cart, Franklin toured the aisles filling the cart with anything and everything he wanted. The cart was already overflowing when he came to a bin of watermelons in the produce section. Cautiously, he surveyed his surroundings, patiently waiting for a mother and her young daughter to turn the corner before teleporting two thumping-ripe watermelons to his bed in the cavern.

A soft gasp drew his attention. Turning around, Franklin spied the young girl who had taken another peek at the strange boy with the overfull cart, just as the watermelons had vanished into thin air.

Franklin stared at her forebodingly, and she stared back, mesmerized, paralyzed by mounting fear. He relished the horrifying fear the child projected back, her terror exciting him. Then suddenly the girl turned and fled, running to catch up with her mother. Immediately, Franklin teleported himself and the full shopping cart to the security of his cavern, where no one would ever be able to find him.


After her excursion to town, Rahlys fell back into her daily routine. She did chores and sketched subjects for paintings during the short daylight hours, getting fresh air and exercise in the bargain, and pondered over the Oracle’s magic and the threat of Droclum as she painted late into the night. Then she slept hard in undisturbed sleep until the late morning sunrise.

Rahlys stepped out under dull gray clouds. Somewhat aimlessly, she walked over to the combination shed/workshop, looking around. Since ownership, she spent little time browsing through its contents. Basic hand tools hung on the wall or rested on a work bench; a plane, a hammer, a couple of saws, some rope, a cable come-a-long, a chainsaw, and an old pair of snowshoes. Garden tools stood in one corner. Rahlys looked at the chainsaw with uncertainty. Although she had watched her father handle a chainsaw growing up, she had never used one herself, and her supply of firewood would not last forever. Eventually she would have to think of cutting firewood for next winter. Maybe Vince would give her a lesson on the use and maintenance of a chainsaw. Finding nothing of interest for the moment, she went back outside, latching the shed door.

This was the day for local freight; her full fuel drum may already be down by the railroad tracks. How could she find out without actually going down to look? Clearing her mind, she tried summoning the raven. Rahlys had no way of knowing if the raven was anywhere nearby. So far there had been seemingly no limitations on distance, but if he was too far away, he wouldn’t be of help.

She called silently. Where are you, Raven?

Then Rahlys saw a view of the river from a perch high in a cottonwood tree. To communicate her need, she sent a mental image to the raven of the foot of her trail near the railroad tracks.

Raven, receiving the summons, took off from his perch flying south. As he approached, she saw the cliffs come in close to the tracks, then back away again as the river meandered in and out of view. Then the railroad tracks crossed a creek. There were more hills, and finally the terrain flattened out a bit, and Rahlys saw her own trail and a blue, fifty-five-gallon drum sitting there…with no one in sight. Her fuel drum had arrived. Rahlys conjured an apple from the root cellar, and teleported herself down to the tracks to join the raven waiting for her, perched on the drum.

“Ka ka-kaw!”

“And ka ka-kaw to you too!” Rahlys held the apple in the palm of her hand and severed it into four perfectly formed wedges. “What do you think of that?” she asked, placing one wedge in the raven’s beak. The raven devoured it quickly.

Rahlys needed to move the drum away from the tracks, but if she pushed it over and rolled it into the woods, surely she would be unable to stand it up again, and she didn’t want to leave a full drum on its side. But wasn’t her magical strength far greater than her physical strength? Rahlys fed the raven the rest of the apple while building up her confidence. She was becoming increasingly aware of the invisible molecular energy around her and slowly learning how to draw on it. Could she really teleport this much weight? It was time to find out. She focused her thoughts on the drum, concentrating on its density and structure. Then with some uncertainty, pinpointing in her mind a spot in the yard not far from the generator shed, she placed her arms around the drum, drawing heavily on the energy around her. She felt a wrenching sensation, and the burden of weight, followed by a thump, and she was there, standing in unpacked snow beside the generator shed, her arms still embracing the drum with the raven still perched on top.

“Aaaaaark!” Raven cried in mild protest, and flew off into the woods. Rahlys smiled with pleasant satisfaction as she watched him go.

Maggie was coming up for the weekend, and Rahlys was resolved to confide in her about the crystal. She needed someone to talk to. The enormity of her powers and Droclum’s looming threat were becoming more than she could bear alone. Anthya had implied that Maggie was one of her warriors, and Rahlys intended on making it so.

Sunlight gleamed through the trees erasing the memory of cloudy, gloomy days, as Rahlys hiked down to the tracks to meet the train. Just a few puffy, white clouds drifted lazily across the bright, blue sky. The trail was packed down now, making for easy walking. Numerous small tracks made by squirrels, shrews, and voles could be seen crossing the snow in various directions.

As she neared the foot of her trail, she could hear a snowmachine approaching from the north through the woods. Then she saw its light as it wove through the trees toward her. Vince pulled up and cut the engine just as the distant train whistle from the south caught their attention.

“It’s going to be almost on time,” Vince said looking at his watch. Rahlys realized that Vince was also excited over Maggie’s weekend visit. But as Maggie got off the train, it was obvious that she was the most excited of all.

“Oh, it is beautiful! Look at all the snow!” She hugged Rahlys and Vince exuberantly.

“I can take one box, the pack, and one of you on the first trip.” It was just like Vince to get right to business.

Rahlys knew Maggie was eager to ride the snowmachine. “You go up on the first trip,” she offered. “The cabin is warm. I’ll be there before too long.” Vince placed a box in the luggage rack behind the seat of the snowmachine, and then the pack on top of it, strapping them down.

“A snowmachine ride! This is so exciting! Are you sure you want me to go first?” Maggie asked, barely able to contain her desire.

“Yes, I’m sure.” Rahlys smiled, enjoying Maggie’s excitement.

Vince started up the snowmachine and got on, scooting forward some so Maggie could sit behind him. “Go ahead and start walking. I’ll pick you up when I come back for the other box,” he told Rahlys. And off they went, Maggie holding on to Vince for dear life. Gradually the sound of the snowmachine faded in the distance, as she followed its track toward the cabin. She had already climbed the first rise and was in sight of the second, when she heard the snowmachine approaching again. Then there it was, coming at her. Rahlys stepped off the trail into the unpacked snow and Vince came to a halt beside her, engine running.

“You want to ride?” Vince asked over the engine noise.

“On the way back.”

He nodded and continued down the trail to pick up the last box. She thought of teleporting herself the rest of the way so he would marvel at her progress, but decided not to draw that kind of attention. By the time Vince pulled up to her again with the last box strapped on, she had made it up the second rise, and was on the home stretch. He scooted forward so she could get on while the machine purred contentedly.

“Ready?” he called back to her once she was settled.

“Yes!” They took off and Rahlys threw her arms around Vince’s waist to hold on. She read his amusement and relaxing some, held on to the sides of his coat instead. When they reached the last rise, Vince leaned forward off his seat gunning the machine up the hill. Rahlys leaned forward as best she could, and soon they were level again and in the yard.

“Alright!” Maggie greeted from the porch and Vince killed the engine. After they dismounted, Vince undid the strap and lifted the box onto the porch.

“Thanks,” Rahlys smiled warmly. “Do you want to come in for a cup of coffee?”

Vince wanted to stay, but knew he shouldn’t. He needed to do some work on a novel that had a pressing deadline and Maggie had already invited him over for dinner later.

“I’ll give you girls a chance to catch up. What time is dinner tonight?”

“Six o’clock?” Maggie threw out, and everyone agreed.

“Then I’ll see you ladies at six.” He started up the snowmachine, and took off down the trail.

Rahlys reached for one of the boxes. “Oh, everything in that box is already frozen,” Maggie explained, “except the chicken for dinner tonight, so it can stay outside.” Rahlys opened the box; there was chicken, frozen meat, frozen vegetables, fruit juices, even ice cream. It was a good thing that colder temperatures had settled in.

“And this is fresh stuff.” Maggie moved toward the other box, but before she could reach it Rahlys teleported it inside.

Maggie stared at the vacant spot where the box had been in disbelief. “What happened to it? It was right there!” She looked for it all around her.

“I took it inside. It’s on the counter in the kitchen.”

“You couldn’t have…it was right here…” Maggie mumbled under her breath in confusion as she marched into the cabin. There sat the box of produce on the counter. “But…how?” she finally got out.

“I teleported the box from the porch to the counter using magic.”

Maggie looked at Rahlys with concern. She had to explain before Maggie believed she had gone insane. “Remember the painting of the raven with the crystal that Vince took up to his cabin?”

“Yes, The Crystalline Raven. It’s a great painting.”

“Well, the crystal in the painting is real.”


“I mean the crystal is…really magic.”

Confused as to what response Rahlys expected, Maggie laughed a little, politely. Rahlys took a deep breath; it was obvious Maggie didn’t believe her, but she had to convince her, so she forged on.

“When I moved here in September, the very day I moved in, the raven brought me a crystal. It is like no crystal I have ever seen before; it glows from its own light! When I picked it up, I felt a surge of energy rush through me. Then one thing happened after another. I received a mysterious message in my head, followed by a bear in my cabin. The bear exited the cabin through that window.” Rahlys pointed to the window, whole and intact, offering a view of the mountain glowing in the light, with dark blue shadows. “The window shattered into a thousand pieces. Distraught, I ran outside hollering and screaming, waving my arms and crying. Then before my eyes, thousands of shards of broken glass coalesced back into place as a window. I couldn’t believe it! I was terrified! I thought I had lost my mind.”

Maggie looked at her as though she had indeed. To Maggie, Rahlys was not making a lot of sense. Rahlys was near tears, her heart pounding, as she relived the experience.

“Where is this magic crystal you’re talking about?”

Rahlys stretched out her hand and conjured the crystal from its pouch. Immediately it appeared hovering above her open hand. She moved her hand away, and the crystal remained suspended in air revolving ever so slowly.

“Oh, my gosh!” Maggie gasped. Maggie looked incredulously from the hovering crystal to her friend begging to be believed. “Why, it’s beautiful!” She stepped closer, inspecting the crystal without touching it, feeling the air around it, looking for suspension wires, or something. Then without warning, Maggie reached for it with her hand. The crystal brightened to Maggie’s touch. Rahlys froze in anticipation of what might happen, her heart racing as she watched. If the raven had been affected by the crystal, would Maggie be too?

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Maggie said turning the crystal around, looking at it from all angles. “This is incredible. It glows and changes color, I can see why you say it’s magic.”

“I don’t think you do.” Rahlys said, conjuring the crystal to her. The crystal disappeared from Maggie’s hand, and reappeared hovering between Rahlys’ thumb and index finger, then she released it again. “The crystal is from another world across the galaxy. It was brought to Earth many years ago, and now I possess its magic.”

“What magic?” Maggie still feared Rahlys was becoming delusional from living alone in the woods.

Calmly, Rahlys picked up a glass from the table and hurled it hard against the floor. The glass shattered into numerous pieces that scattered across the room. Maggie was shocked by Rahlys’ behavior. Then with intense concentration, Rahlys snapped her fingers and the glass coalesced back whole in her hand again. Now Maggie was speechless. She placed the glass down on the table and waited, giving Maggie time to absorb the inconceivable…giving her time to process the unbelievable.

“So that is how you knew there was a moose on the road when we were coming back from town?” To her relief, Rahlys knew she now had Maggie’s confidence on her side.

“I had received a message from the Oracle saying a collision was imminent.” The crystal continued to hover near her. “Not only can I teleport objects, but I can also teleport myself.” But Maggie just shook her head in disbelief. Of course she could not expect Maggie to just accept such a claim, and she didn’t blame her. “I’m going to the back porch to get an armload of firewood,” she told Maggie, and then placing herself on the back porch in her mind she was there. The crystal disappeared with her. As she loaded her arms with kindling to start a fire in the cook stove, Maggie dashed out onto the porch, flinging the door wide.

“Rahlys!” she cried, relief surging into her face upon seeing her. “How did you do that? It’s like you just disappeared!”

“Basically, I place myself somewhere in my mind and will myself there, and then I’m there.” She walked through the door Maggie held open and dropped the armload of kindling on the floor near the wood cook stove. Maggie continued to stare in amazement as the crystal followed her around.

“There’s more. We can talk while we make a pie for dinner,” she said softly, and handed Maggie apples, a bowl, and a knife. Maggie peeled and sliced apples while Rahlys built a fire in the cook stove and related the details of Anthya’s visit. Maggie was a captive audience and for quite a while very little peeling and slicing actually got done.

“And you’ve felt this Droclum searching for you in your dreams?”

“Yes, and I’m afraid. Anthya said the day would come when I would have to face him.” Rahlys reloaded the firebox, and adjusted the baffle to direct the heat to the oven.

“What are you going to do if Droclum shows up?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why would someone with a life span of thousands of years need immortality?” Maggie wondered. And then on a different track, “Do you think the crystal might actually be evil?”

“I’ve wondered that myself.”

“Has it tried to make you to do things you don’t want to? Something you know is wrong?” Rahlys thought carefully, but couldn’t think of anything. “No, in fact Anthya offered a dire warning, ‘If you use your power for evil intent, you will surely die.’”

“Now, that’s scary!”

After constructing a prize-winning apple pie, they sipped coffee while waiting for the oven to reach temperature. Operating a wood stove was a mastered art for Rahlys. All the years of her youth she had cooked and baked alongside her mother, tending the firebox. Once the desired temperature was reached, Rahlys dampened the draft to hold it. Then she put the pie in the oven.

“Does Vince know about the crystal?”

“No, and he doesn’t need to know. At least not yet. You are the only one who knows…you and the raven.”

“The raven? You mean the raven that brought you the crystal?”

“Yes. I think the raven has powers too.”


“One day when I wondered where the raven was, it came as though I had summoned it. And as he flew toward me, I could see the hills and the creek from high above the trees as though I was seeing them through his eyes.” She could read Maggie’s doubt, but there was no magic trick she could perform to convince her…or was there? “Let’s go outside for a while,” Rahlys suggested, and conjured the crystal back to its pouch as they put on coats, boots, and hats against the cold. Then Rahlys grabbed the bowl of apple cores she had saved.

“What’s that for?”

“The raven,” she said, and led Maggie out the cabin. Cold air hit them as they walked out the front door. The sun, already low on the horizon, offered no warmth. All was still and quiet as they walked out onto the circular drive Vince had packed around the cabin with the snowmachine. Even the few wispy white clouds that dotted the iridescent sky seemed suspended in time.

Rahlys sought the raven in her mind, while Maggie stood quietly, expectantly still. There was no sound or movement, until the rat-tat-tat of a woodpecker boring a hole in a nearby tree broke the silence.

Not far away, the raven felt an irresistible urge tug at his brain. He took off from his perch atop a dead tree with a broken top near the bears’ favorite fishing hole. The salmon run was long over…the urge to spawn spent…and the death and decay after sexual relief had been carefully cleaned up by scavengers, the sacrificial site buried now under snow. The raven was hungry, and the summons promised food. But as he approached the clearing, it was clear she was not alone. Taking precautions, he landed on top of the woodshed where he could survey the situation from a safe distance.

“You did it,” Maggie cried in amazement. “You summoned a raven!”


Rahlys dropped the apple cores down on the trail. “It’s okay, you can come down. No one is going to hurt you,” she said telepathing a sense of reassurance to the raven. Rahlys and Maggie walked further along the circular path, giving the raven some space, and after some deliberation, he flew down to the offering.

As the women completed the circuit to the front porch, the distant sound of an approaching snowmachine caught their ears. It was probably Vince. The crystal was already safely tucked away in its pouch. They stood in front of the cabin, their bodies now comfortably acclimated to outdoors, and listened to the sound grow nearer. Then they spotted the light blinking through breaks between the trees. As the snowmachine approached, they noticed he was dragging something behind it. With the apple cores consumed, the raven took off as Vince crested the rise into the clearing and the last glimmer of sun slipped below the horizon.

Vince made a wide circle around the cabin, and stopped in the front yard, shutting off the engine. Rahlys walked up to greet him.

“Hi, neighbor!”

“Hi, there! I thought since I was coming anyway, I would drag your trail for you.”

“So, this is a trail groomer?” Rahlys inspected it closely. “Looks like an antique bed spring to me.”

“That’s what it is. Best trail groomer there is.” Vince’s face was red from snowmachining.

“Come in and warm up. I have coffee made,” and without debate, Vince followed them into the house. The aroma of apple pie baking filled the room.

“How’s your book coming?” she asked once they were seated over steaming cups. “Can you tell us anything about it, or is it a secret?”

“I can tell you about it at least as far as I’ve gotten. It’s a spy story that takes place in the 1990s after Czechoslovakia divided into The Czech Republic and Slovakia. There are top secret files that belonged to the former Czechoslovakian government and are wanted by the new Czech government. But the documents ended up in the hands of the Slovakians who don’t even realize they have them. My spy is after those files. I have about a third of the novel written, and I’ve been proofing another novel that is about to go into print.”

“Have you been to the Czech Republic?” Maggie asked.

“No, I’ve been to the former Czechoslovakia.” Vince described a country of cobblestone streets, ancient buildings, and tiny villages with few luxuries. Rahlys picked up even more detail from his memories as he told of his travels. Soon apple pie came out the oven, chicken and vegetables were roasting, and coffee was replaced with wine. Rahlys couldn’t remember the last time she had had so much fun. Solitude was wonderful, but everyone needs a little socialization once in a while. It was delightful having company.

The next morning, Maggie and Rahlys huddled over steaming cups of coffee staring out the cabin windows mesmerized by thick, fluffy snowflakes falling in the dawning light. They reflected over moments of last night’s dinner party, the refuse of which was still around them. All the food had been excellent. Vince had brought a loaf of his knock-out bread and had supplied a second bottle of wine. The cabin had filled with laughter as the three of them relaxed and released in comfortable friendship. Rahlys noticed that Vince put a twinkle in Maggie’s eye that hadn’t been there before, and her impact on him was equally obvious.

“Let’s have another look at that crystal,” Maggie said bouncing alive after just one cup. Rahlys conjured the crystal from its pouch and it hovered around them, glowing softly. When it came close to Maggie, it stopped. She reached up and grasped it, and the crystal brightened. “Oh, it just sends tingles down your spine.”

Did Maggie now have magical powers, Rahlys wondered. “Let’s try something,” she said, and Maggie released the crystal.

“Try what?”

“Give me your coffee cup.” Rahlys placed Maggie’s cup a short distance away from her on the table. “I want you to place your hand on the table and beckon your cup to it. Like this.” Putting her own cup down, she focused on it. The cup disappeared from its former position on the table, and reappeared instantly in her hand.

“You think I can do that?” Maggie exclaimed. “But how?”

“Just relax and focus. Place the cup in your hand in your mind, and it will follow through.”

Not thoroughly convinced, Maggie readied her hand on the table a short distance from her cup, and concentrated as Rahlys had done. At first, nothing seemed to happen, but then, to Maggie’s amazement, the cup began to wobble slightly.

“Wow! Did you see that?”

“Yes. Try again.” Maggie obliged and concentrated with all her might, but again the cup only jiggled hesitantly in place. Repeated attempts yielded the same result. “I don’t seem to have your talent.”

“But moving the cup at all means you have somehow been affected by the crystal.”

Maggie pondered that, then got up and refilled her cup with coffee. She looked out the window, then sat back down. “Vince is supposed to come by today to take me snowmachining. Do you think he will still come, if it’s snowing?”

“I don’t think he would miss it for the world. Besides, snow and snowmachining go together.”

When Vince arrived, they had already cleared away brunch and Maggie was pacing the floor. She had purchased all new winter gear on their shopping trip, fluorescent green, from snow pants to mitts. Quickly she was suitably attired for the excursion and rushed out to meet him. The sky had lightened up a bit, but it was still snowing.

“I brought an extra pair of goggles for you to use,” Vince said handing her a pair of bright red goggles. “Without them the snow would sting your eyes on impact. They protect your eyes from branches, too.”

“How much longer before train time?” she asked, adjusting the goggles to rest comfortably on her face.

“We have four hours left. Plenty enough time to make it to my place and back.” Vince started up the snowmachine, and Maggie waved and whooped with glee as they headed down the hill. Rahlys was glad to see them off. It gave her some time to do chores and putter around the cabin. Rahlys loved Maggie’s company, but she also enjoyed her solitude.

The snowfall continued to subside as the snowmachine seemingly floated down the trail, cushioned with fresh snow. Maggie threw her arms around Vince as they leaned into the curves. Soon they were at the intersection to Vince’s trail. They could see the railroad tracks a couple hundred feet away as they made a hard right heading north. Then Vince came to a stop, engine still running, and turned around to check on her. “Are you okay?”

“Yes, this is great!”

“Alright then.” He squeezed the throttle, and they were off again. The trail paralleled the tracks for about a mile and then turned east and climbed into the hills again. Maggie was loving the ride, and the scenery was magnificent.

Then Vince took what looked like a detour off the main trail weaving through a stand of stunted black spruce, entering into a large expanse of white. The snow started coming down harder. With all obstacles out the way, Vince really let it rip. They zoomed full bore across the level field of snow, forming figure eights an ice skater would have been proud of. Maggie felt like they were flying it was so fast and smooth. The heavily laden ceiling pressed down and the snowfall thickened around them. Vince came to a stop in the middle of the expanse of white.

“You want to drive?”

“Me, drive? Are you sure?”

“Sure! There’s nothing to hit out here.” They switched places, and Vince gave her a couple of quick instructions. Maggie made a hesitating start. “You need to keep some speed up to stay afloat…but not too fast.” Maggie pressed her thumb harder on the throttle and the machine surged forward. Quickly she got the feel of it, and they were sailing across the snow with ease. When she came to a stop, Vince reached over and hit the kill switch.

The heavy snowfall curtained them off from the rest of the world. Not even the closest trees could be seen through the all-encompassing white, the only sounds their breathing and the soft whispering of falling snow. They took off their goggles and soaked in the beauty and magic of the snowfall…and the magic of being alone together, in a lingering kiss.

When the train was nearly due and Vince and Maggie still hadn’t returned, Rahlys became concerned. She reached out telepathically. Maggie where are you? Are you alright?

Maggie and Vince were just about to leave for the train stop when Maggie grabbed her head as she walked from Vince’s back porch to the snowmachine. “Are you alright?” Vince asked seeing the pained, confused look on her face.

“Yes,” she said, dismissing the thought and smiled. Vince started the snowmobile, and she took her place behind him on the seat. Then it happened again. Maggie was sure she was hearing Rahlys calling her in her head? It made her brain itch.

We are leaving Vince’s cabin now, headed for the train stop, she tried to telepath to Rahlys, and laughed at herself for trying.

Good! I was worried about you. I will meet you there. Maggie jolted with shock at the reply. Feeling her sudden movement, Vince slowed down enough to glance back at her.

“Okay!” she reassured him smiling again. He turned around and resumed speed. They glided easily down the trail. It had stopped snowing, and pale blue shadows crossed the trail as the setting sun peeked through the forest. The snowmachine twisted and glided up and down the contours of the trail, and in short time they arrived at the train stop where Rahlys greeted them warmly.

“How was the snowmachine ride?” She could read the excitement in both of them, the interest they had in each other, as well as the friendship they felt toward her.

“It was great! I drove, too!” Maggie described being at the throttle with great enthusiasm. When Vince wasn’t looking, they exchanged confirming nods with one another. “I got your message,” Maggie whispered.

“I know.” She had communicated telepathically with Maggie! It was similar to the connection she had with the raven. Maggie and the raven did have something in common. They had both been in contact with the crystal.

The train was late as usual, and they paced around packing the snow down to help relieve boredom and fatigue from standing in one place. To pass the time, they talked about what they planned to do that evening and rehashed memories of things they did long ago. Then a train whistle blew in the distance. It was about time; they were getting cold standing around, and it was starting to get dark. Finally, the light on the locomotive came into view around the curve and the engineer blew the whistle to acknowledge their stop.

Things happened rather quickly after that. Maggie gave them both hugs and stole a hasty kiss from Vince. Then all too swiftly she boarded the train and it carried her away.

Vince offered Rahlys a ride back to her cabin, but she insisted on walking instead, and after friendly goodbyes, they went their separate ways. Starting up the trail, Rahlys listened to the hum of the snowmachine fade in the distance. Then placing herself mentally in her warm, cozy cabin, she was there.

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.