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      Everywhere Jadra went he could feel hostile eyes upon him. He knew why of course; he knew they were jealous because he had been favoured by the Gods. So he kept his hand safely hidden, wrapped in his shirt

      Jadra had a plan. He put his shirt back on and pulled the sleeve on the left arm down as far as it would go, till his left hand could no longer be seen. He modelled a new hand roughly out of twigs and plants and walked to the river. On the way he shouted at the top of his voice CURSED HAND, YOU HAVE GIVEN ME NOTHING BUT GRIEF. I WOULD RATHER NOT HAVE A HAND THAN HAVE SUCH A WICKED, EVIL APPENDAGE ATTACHED TO MY BODY.

      After shouting such sentiments till his voice was hoarse and he knew he had drawn sufficient attention he threw the hand in the river. He had cunningly weighted the hand with pebbles he had found in a cave so it would sink to the bottom of the river.


      HA! He thought, tremendously pleased with himself for executing such a perfectly clever plan. That should throw the evil hounds off the scent of Jadra Iamamad.

      He felt he was not far from the cave now.


        Arona stood up, rather to Mandrake’s annoyance, and took off her heavy cape. Wondering for a moment what to do with it, for she really did not want it anymore, she noticed a coatstand.

        well how handy is that she thought, hanging it up and giving it a last fond stroke.

        There were three tunnels out of the cavern she was in and without hesitation she took the one on the left, but she knew she could have taken any of them and everything would be perfectly fine, because that was the beauty of magic.

        so easy really she thought.


          Never speechless for long, Dory wondered out loud if she should just hurry along into the cave and hope to catch up with some other expeditioners, or explore the area around the cave first.

          Have a look around, a voice in her head said. Ever the wanderer, always curious to just see what’s around that next corner, and the next….Dory wandered through the strange tall rock shapes. In a sort of natural passageway between vertical rock faces she came upon a group of people squatting next to a large oblong hole in the ground. The womans shawls and headscarves were flapping madly in the wind as she conversed with a boy of about 13, and it seemed to Dory as though they were discussing moving something so that it wouldn’t be found. Dory stood perfectly still just watching, and somewhat strangely they didn’t seem to notice her standing there.

          An older man with curly grey hair and a long maroon djelaba and a tall narrow brimless black hat started to hurry away, as if a decision had been made.

          Dory watched him until he disappeared from view. When she looked back towards the hole in the ground, it had vanished, and so had the woman and the boy.

          PPFFFT! Dory had been deserted again. She turned and headed back towards the cave. Suddenly she felt hungry, and an image of a plate of cool crunchy coleslaw popped into her head.

          I hope they’ve laid food on in the cave, she said.


            After Arona said she was hungry, the energy of Malvina disappeared, and once again Arona found herself alone in the cave.

            She found this quite irritating. They are really bit rude around here, she muttered.

            Arona sat down on the floor of the cave and considered her options. She was tired of the cave and could barely remember what had drawn her here in the first place.

            It had been the music of course. She had wanted to find the source of the music. However for the most part she decided her experience had been rather disappointing.

            (Arona was never at her best when hungry and this was causing her to quickly forget some of the wonderful experiences with the music and the paintings, and take a rather negative view of events.)

            All I have done is wander around dark passageways really.

            And now, to top it all off, apparently things are shifting. In the name of heaven what does that mean?

            AND if one more person tells me to use my magic I will probably scream or something!

            Perish the thought, came a grumpy voice from a particularly dark corner. Your moaning is quite sufficiently bad enough.

            And Mandrake the cat emerged from the shadows and made himself comfortable on Arona’s lap. This is great, much more comfortable than the ground he purred.

            Oh cute, said Arona, a talking cat.

            Cute yourself, responded Mandrake, love your cape by the way.

            (Mandrake was prone to sarcasm, considering it a perfectly valid form of humour.)

            Arona stroked Mandrake’s soft black coat and tried her hardest to work out what to do. It was all feeling a bit bleak at the moment, the ever changing cave, the half light, the heat and humidity… and especially her hunger.

            Mandrake sighed in an impatiently eggsagerated sort of a way.

            Heavens to murgatroyd¹, how can I relax with your incessant thinking? Okay so here’s an easy one for you: what’s the most important thing about magic?

            All of a sudden Arona felt a flash of lightness and a sense of new energy moving within her.

            of course! She exclaimed delightedly, hugging the less than enthusiastic Mandrake, you have to believe in it!

            [¹] Note from the editor: Mandrake being a very educate cat from noble ancestors, some of its speech may be difficult to grasp for the average reader, which was certainly not the case for the astute Arona.
            Anyway, here is some complement on that ‘Murgatroyd’ .


              Arona eventually woke from her sleep, still tangled in the images from her dreams. Unable to remember these images she was left feeling as though she were adrift in a boat on the ocean, not caring where the wind and waves may take her.

              She had no feeling that morning. It was as though a door had closed in her mind, shutting out the part that could feel. She did not know, nor care, whether she was shutting out joy or sorrow, only that some part of her wanted to be alone.

              She remembered the words of the older woman who had sat with her and soothed her to sleep. Or was she already asleep? Was the woman a dream?

              Use your magic, she had said.

              When she was young, in the Village, magic had come easily to Arona. When did it end?. She screwed up her eyes trying to concentrate. It hadn’t ended all at once. Did it start to end with the cloak her parents had given her?

              Arona shook her head briskly and thoughts, like leaves in the wind, lifted and fell back to earth again in new formations.

              :fleuron: :fleuron: :fleuron:

              The candle still burned brightly and her attention was drawn to the heavy wooden door, knowing she could not put it off any longer. In her bag of treasures was a key. It had been given to her at the beginning of her 21 st year, as was custom in the Village. It was no surprise to her that it fitted the lock perfectly.

              Thank you for having me room, she said as she left.

              No, thank YOU, replied the sleepy glukenitch.

              :fleuron: :fleuron: :fleuron:

              The door led directly into another space, larger, brighter. She could sense someone there, but not in solid form. It was a beautiful woman who Arona felt an immediate affinity with, and then a strange sadness came unbidden.

              Why sad?

              I have no clue answered Arona briskly, quickly shutting the door back on these pesky emotions.

              You always know, just feel it

              So Arona closed her eyes tightly and allowed herself to feel the answer.

              Because you know who you are, and it made me realise I have no idea who I am.

              Mmmmmmm, said the woman, maybe you would care to look at my new paintings. Actually they are some of yours.

              Intrigued, Arona felt this would be a suitable distraction and she looked with much interest.

              The first painting was of a child, in a beautiful meadow of flowers. The child appeared to be completely absorbed, concentrating on a small blue butterfly which had lighted on her finger.
              The picture itself moved and changed shape as though it were a portal to another living, breathing world. In the corner of the picture were some other children who seemed to be playing happily together.

              Arona, who had felt immediately connected with the young child frowned.

              Doesn’t the little girl feel left out?

              Go in, said the woman, Go inside the picture and feel the answer.

              Oh, and you might want to leave your cloak behind.

              So Arona did, and she became the child, but also stayed herself, observing the scene. She felt the child’s happy fascination in her connection with the butterfly. Not just the butterfly. She could feel her connected with the earth, and the gentle breezes and the beautiful flowers … The child was deeply contented, absorbed in the moment, moving happily with the flow of her interest.
              I remember feeling like that, thought Arona, before the magic went.
              She gently drew the child’s attention to the other children and felt the flow of energy between them. The child was so sure of who she was and where she wanted to be, and Arona could feel the loving acceptance of her playmates.
              As the child’s attention went to the others, one of the children looked up and came running over. They sat together and laughed at some funny rabbits which had appeared in the meadow.

              :fleuron: :fleuron: :fleuron:

              Arona returned to the cave.

              You look troubled

              Well, Arona felt a little perplexed. It’s all very well playing with butterflies and rabbits in a meadow, but it is not terribly practical.

              On the contrary, perhaps it is very practical. Would you like to see another of your paintings?

              Suspended gracefully between two posts was a beautiful, glistening spider web. Little drops of rain hung like jewels on a chain. An enormous spider waited patiently in the shadows. As Arona watched a small insect happened at that moment to be caught, and the spider began to creep along the delicate lines.

              Arona shuddered a little. I might not jump into that one .

              The woman laughed, Use your magic Arona. Weave your magic web and let it all come to you.

              Oh you are the second person to tell me to use my magic. An old lady came to me in my dreams, I think.

              Well I gave her the same advice, years ago.

              More damn riddles, Arona thought to herself, and the woman laughed.

              One final painting of yours I would like to show you. It is beautiful is it not?

              Arona stared mesmerised for a moment, and then leapt right in.

              She sat among an audience, captivated by the dancers on the stage ahead. Beautiful music played and it reminded Arona of the music she had heard earlier. The dancers leapt and twirled and Arona was enraptured.

              Dance Arona, she heard the woman’s voice

              I can’t dance like that, I’m not good enough.

              It doesn’t matter

              And Arona could not hold back any longer and entered the body of one of the dancers. She did not know the dance so she made up her own steps, and strangely this seemed to fit perfectly with the other dancers.

              :fleuron: :fleuron: :fleuron:

              Back in the cave the woman seemed to be listening to something Arona did not think she could hear.

              Things are shifting she said

              Oh lordy, are they said Arona, What should I do now?

              Feel the answer

              Arona felt. I am very hungry, eggceptionally so.


                As the voice was becoming louder, Írtak felt also the presence of Leörmn. He was feeling this liquid vibration that was his signal for the shapeshifting of the tunnels. He knew that Leörmn was aware of his presence and wouldn’t change the tunnel he was in, but he could possibly forget to leave him an exit.

                He felt the presence of Malvina reassuring, she was also supervising the progression of the girl. He knew it was not for him to intervene and help the girl, she was to find her own way. And if her choice was to find him she would, otherwise he had still to find that missing egg.

                Since he’d found Malvina and Leörmn he’d unraveled many of his own abilities. They were quite different from those of Malvina, nonetheless she told him that they were perfectly fitting his own exploration. He could feel the eggs and the only difficulty was to follow a path that would lead him to any lost egg before it was too cold.

                And for now, the egg was in another direction than the one from which the voice was coming. He just added his own encouragement and trust to the girl, and he continued his little quest.


                  Fiona could feel herself on the verge of doing something radical. In fact she had decided. She was not sure what exactly she had decided, but definitely a decision had been made. She had noticed how often she had been deleting her posts lately on an online blog she kept.

                  It was clearly a sign.

                  Fiona enjoyed deleting. Quintin and Dory were rather odd about her deleting. Quintin especially, who apparently never deleted anything. She wondered if this was reflected in other aspects of his life. Maybe he was a hoarder, barely able to move for all the things surrounding him. Dory tended to be a bit of hoarder, she often confessed to this trait. Nothing wrong with hoarding of course, thought Fiona. It is perfectly fine.

                  Fiona resisted a sudden impulse to go and delete her whole blog, for now anyway.

                  She was not quite sure what form her decision would take, but realised she felt distinctly peaceful.

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