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

Nothing grows within the Vale of Reflections. There are no flowers, trees, nor shrubs. It is just a flat stretch of solid mirror. Occasionally, WooFZee thinks he sees something darting about under his feet. When he looks, the streak of shadow is gone.

“Those are travelers who went down this path and failed to pass the test of the heart,” explains Pao. “They were too greedy, and they weren’t willing to sacrifice for their friends, or for the star that they were trying to save. This was their punishment.”

“Those are souls?” WooFZee’s tail lowers. Another black streak ghosts out of the side of his vision.

Pao shakes his head. “Those are their darkest parts. They were stripped away from the original soul and sentenced to remain here, as a judge and jury for all who travel across this field. If you come seeking the Elder Star for your own gain, they’ll be able to tell, and they will pull you down to live among them for all eternity.”

“That’s awful,” mutters WooFZee. “Does the Vale stretch out very far? I don’t like being here. It gives me the creeps.”

“Not very far,” says Pao.

Not very far ends up being just until the next night. As the moon rises up into the sky, the mirrors fade back into grass. The field is not very large; the eastern and northern sides are bordered by a twisted up forest, with trees that no longer bare leaves. To the west, there’s a stream that’s impossibly wide. And there, to the north, the very ground seems to give way to a blackened hollow.

“That’s it,” says Pao, curling his fingers into WooFZee’s ruff. “That’s where the Elder Star must stay. The crater is his home. To enter it, we must solve a riddle. We must guess his name.”

WooFZee snorts. As he draws closer to the crater, the grass dies away. It crackles beneath his paws, these blackened husks of foliage. The crater greatly resembles a meteor crash site. “Don’t you already know it?”

“He was banished long before I came into being.” Pao sounds almost wistful when he talks. “No one in my stretch of the sky can tell me much about him. I tried asking, once, when I was younger. Everyone just stared at me, like they were afraid.”

“Afraid of what?”

“Of being over heard. They couldn’t tell me his story, for it was forbidden. Many things are forbidden to the stars,” explains Pao.

The crater curves down, like a scoop has been carved out of the ground and set ablaze. A few steps away from the edge, the stone turns perfectly smooth. WooFZee slides down the pit on his haunches – and he can almost hear MeaZea laughing as they go, wind in her hair, fingers in his fur – but the fallen star is silent and mournful looking as they approach the impact zone.

A silver egg shaped rock protrudes from the ground, half buried beneath the stones and earth. There’s something carved into the ground just a few feet away from stone.

Pao says, “that’s it. That’s the riddle.”

 

Katelynn E Koontz – Author