August 22, 2016 | Posted in The Mermaid & The WolF Adventures

The cliffs stretch out in all directions, these white and gray things that were carved long before WooFZee’s kind had ever been thought of. There are shells embedded in the stones and, on occasion, fossils that can be seen in them, too. A single path winds through them, but it’s a thin and crumbling thing, barely large enough for WooFZee to walk on.

He has to be careful, placing each paw in front of the other, for there is no room to stand normally. “I don’t see how this is safer than taking the beach.”

A seagull has made its nest in one of the crags. It screams at the duo when they walk past. Pao shakes his head. “I already told you. There are things on the beach and in the tide pools that would take unkindly to us. Beasts that you would never be able to defeat, certainly not on your own.”

“Wouldn’t you fight beside me?”

“I’m not meant to be a fighter,” says Pao. “To raise my hand against another living creature would result in a fate worse than banishment. It would be my death.”

WooFZee is silent for a moment. A few bright red ferns grow out of the crevices. They curl upwards, seeking out the sun. Finally, he asks, “have you already been banished?”

“Stars are meant to live by a strict code,” says Pao. “We are expected to follow a regime that is older than time itself. Our laws are outdated, but no one is brave enough to ask the Queen Star to change them. She has a horrid temper on her, you know. I just wanted a friend – that was it. I wanted to become friends with another star.”

A few bits of stone crumble beneath WooFZee’s paws. He darts forward, nearly losing his balance in an attempt to keep from hitting the ground. The path takes a sudden sharp curve to the right, where it runs between two narrow sheets of stone; a path within a path, almost.

WooFZee asks, “are you not allowed to have friends?”

“We aren’t allowed to have friends,” says Pao. “Or lovers, or family. We aren’t allowed to feel pain or joy. If someone wishes on us, we must grant it. Whether it is a foul thing, or a cruel desire, doesn’t matter. That’s why so many people wish on falling stars – you think that your wish comes first, but really it’s the other way around. Really, it’s a star refusing to grant that wish and being exiled into this mirror world because of it.”

The path finally flattens out into a table mountain – a flat stretch of stone and boulders that overlooks the ocean. The air still reeks of salt and the earth is too sandy to support much plant life. By now, the sun has reached its highest point. There are many questions that WooFZee wants to ask, but only one that he dares voice.

“Where do we go now?” Even before Pao answers, WooFZee starts walking forward. The sun is so bright that it obscures his vision. He can’t see anything that lays in the distance from here. “Pao, how long before I find my friend?”

“Not long,” promises the fallen star. “Not long at all.”

On they walk, with no end in sight. Near dusk, the land finally changes. The earth levels out and the sand turns, not to packed earth, but to something solid and smooth. It feels almost like he’s stepping on ice, but the land isn’t chilled.

It’s only once the sun has set completely that it doesn’t hurt WooFZee’s eyes to look down. His reflection stares back up at him. He gasps. “I’m walking on a mirror!”

Pao nods. “We are in the Vale of Reflections. It isn’t going to be much longer until we reach the crater. Then, the Elder Star will tell us how to find your friend.”

 

Katelynn E Koontz – Author