Tag Archives: Bruce Riansson

The Battle of the Stone Circle Room – Fantastic Travelogue #18

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I found myself in another world. I met a young woman there named Ain-Mai. We eventually got captured, along with her brother Sing-ga, by a sorceress named Hengfel, who took us to her world. We got away from her and hid in the air tunnels of her fortress. Sing-ga died after being attacked by small spider-like creatures. Ain-Mai and I found our way to the outside of the huge fortress where we sheltered in a small hollow. I woke up to find a small winged creature looking at me. He brought us up the mountain and through a portal into a beautiful area where we were taken care of. A woman named Klista explained to us that she was part of the royal family of a race that used to own the tower where Hengfel was now living, but had been driven into exile by the invaders. She agreed, with the help of her assistant, Bruce Riansson, and someone named Chirik, to help us get home. Soon after that, Klista transported us back to Hengfel’s fortress.

18 Battle of the Stone Circle Room

The Battle of the Stone Circle Room

When I could see again, I saw that we were in the huge stone circle room in Hengfel’s fortress. Klista was already striding towards the far wall with Bruce Riansson by her side. Chirik was to one side, his warhammer poised and ready.

Ain-Mai was tugging at my hand. “Come on, we have to keep up with them.”

Klista evidently knew where she was going. She was heading straight for a narrow stairway along the side of the room. We were about halfway there when the first dragon noticed us. It flew up from one of the trenches that bordered the room, just to our left, and was about to keep going when it saw us. It curved in midair, coming at Ain-Mai and me with open jaws. Chirik was fifty feet away on the other side of us.

At that moment, I would never have believed that I had even punched one of these in the face if I hadn’t remembered it, and the experience didn’t make me any less afraid. I was about to run when Chirik leapt in front of us and swung the warhammer up and into the head of the dragon. The dragon seemed to evaporate in front of the hammer and a moment later, the headless body fell twitching to the ground.

Stay near me,” Chirik said and jogged to catch up with Klista and Bruce. We did not need any encouragement.

Up here is where the medallions used to be kept,” Klista said. “Let’s hope that they have not changed things.” She began to climb the long, curving stair and Bruce followed her. Chirik climbed next, so Ain-Mai and I followed him.

Do you remember the pattern on the medallion that Hengfel had?” I asked Ain-Mai.

I have never gotten a good look at it,” she replied. “Do you?”

I think so; at least I remember a snaky pattern on it. I didn’t say anything, since I don’t know how similar they all are.

We reached the top of the stair and entered a room. It seemed small after the huge emptiness of the stone circle room, but it was still as big as a large classroom. The walls were covered with medallions, hundreds of them, and while this was rather distressing, what caught my attention immediately was the large lizard-like creature crouched it in the middle of the room. It was bent over and glowed red and spoke with a hissing, sibilant voice.

What are you doing here?” it asked. “Who are you?

You should know who I am, ghilzhi, or at least whom I represent. This is our fortress and our medallions and I am taking back what is mine.

The creature seemed suddenly nervous. “I see that you have returned, my lady, but it is no good. Hengfel owns this fortress now and there is no resistance against her.

We will see,” Klista said. “Right now, in recognition of the ancient harmony between our races, please do not hinder us in finding what we need.”

She will kill me,” the creature, which was apparently called a ghilzhi, said.

Then come with us,” Klista said. “You can be an ambassador to your people, to join in the resistance.

The ghilzhi did not say anything, but stood aside. Klista moved over to the wall and surveyed the medallions.

“I think I remember a little of what the design looked like,” I said, out loud. “It had a snake-like design on it.”

Klista nodded. “Okay, come stand by me and tell me if you see one that looks familiar.”

Although there were probably a thousand medallions on the walls, not all of them looked recently used. Most of them were covered with dust and only several rows near the door looked clean and bright. We started to go through these one by one.

My lady, I hate to tell you that Hengfel has been alerted of your presence,” the ghilzhi said. “She is on her way to the room below.” Klista only nodded and continued to go through the medallions.

When we had gone through them all, there were only two that Klista had not been to before that looked like the pattern I remembered.

This is going to be interesting,” Chirik said, looking out the door. “There is more than one dragon outside.

Klista walked through the door and onto the stairs. I went through and looked down, bracing myself for the sight of five or ten dragons flying around. I almost gasped out loud when I saw that the room was filled with hundreds of dragons; not flying, but standing on the floor or hanging off the walls. In the middle of the floor was Hengfel, sitting on her huge, red dragon.

Should we flee?” Bruce asked.

Not yet,” Klista said. “I will give Chirik a chance to prove himself.” She started to walk down the stair.

How dare you return here?” Hengfel called out. I first thought she was talking to me, but then I realized she was talking to Klista. “You have lost and now you come back with a handful of nothings, including a few of my slaves? Even with an army you could do nothing but die.

She called us slaves,” I said to Ain-Mai. She was radiating hatred towards Hengfel and did not reply.

I don’t need an army; I have him,” Klista said, gesturing to Chirik.

A dragon launched itself off the wall above and plummeted straight towards us. Just before it reached us, Chirik leapt and grabbed it by the neck. He flipped it like a hammer and used its momentum to propel himself far out into the room. The dragons all leaped to the attack. Soon he had disappeared beneath the bodies, but I saw him kill five of them before he hit the floor.

Klista grabbed my hand and in a flash, Klista, Bruce, Ain-Mai, the ghilzhi and I were all standing in the center of the room, with dragons all around us. Klista held up one of the medallions and I felt a power growing around us. It worked faster than when Hengfel had done it, which was good. A nearby dragon had just started to charge us when we disappeared.


I almost choked as hot air seared my lungs. We were standing on a stone circle on top of a high peak. In the distance, volcanoes erupted constantly and lava rivers flowed in the valley below us. The air was thick with ash.

Klista concluded fairly quickly that this was not the right world and a moment I felt a vibration of energy go through me and the world went black.


We were back in the huge stone circle room, but even though it seemed as only a few seconds had passed, there were much fewer dragons. Then I saw Chirik. The warhammer was spinning so fast I could barely see it. The whole room was a scene of carnage and now most of the dragons that were left alive were up in the air, flying around in confusion or fleeing to the walls. Hengfel’s dragon was high in the air.

Chirik stopped when he saw us and walked over. He was a mess of blood and bits of dragon scales but he was grinning. He barely looked tired. Klista merely nodded and gave him a small smile.

We will go now,” Klista shouted, “but we will return, you can depend on it. In the meantime, here is one world you will never be able to reach again.” Klista held up the medallion to Ain-Mai’s world. The last thing I heard before we disappeared was Hengfel’s scream of rage.

(to be concluded…)

The Invasion Begins – Fantastic Travelogue #17

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I found myself in another world. I met a young woman there named Ain-Mai. We eventually got captured, along with her brother Sing-ga, by a sorceress named Hengfel, who took us to her world. We got away from her and hid in the air tunnels of her fortress. Sing-ga died after being attacked by small spider-like creatures. Ain-Mai and I found our way to the outside of the huge fortress where we sheltered in a small hollow. I woke up to find a small winged creature looking at me. He brought us up the mountain and through a portal into a beautiful area where we were taken care of. A woman named Klista explained to us that she was part of the royal family of a race that used to own the tower where Hengfel was now living, but had been driven into exile by the invaders. She agreed, with the help of her assistant, Bruce Riansson, and someone named Chirik, to help us get home.

17 The Invasion Begins

The Invasion Begins

Ever since I had gotten lost while hiking and found myself in another world, there had been a lot of firsts in my life: the first time I had ever traveled between worlds; the first time I had ever seen a dragon; the first time I had ever punched a dragon; the first time I had ever ridden on a giant silky, white spider; and after meeting Chirik, the first time I had ever seen a giant.

Bruce had left the room and returned a moment later, accompanied by a man at least eight feet tall, with long brown hair that hung down to his waist. It took a moment before I realized that his eyes glowed faintly green as well.

Bruce said that the campaign was beginning at last, my lady,” Chirik said. He spoke out loud in an unknown language, but the meaning came through into my mind as well.

Yes, are you ready?” Klista asked.

Chirik pulled a small hammer out of his belt, which grew into a seven-foot-long warhammer as he held it. “There is nothing else I require.”

Good. Uh, get to know each other,” Klista said. She motioned towards us and walked out, followed by Bruce. Chirik sat down on the floor, cross-legged with the warhammer on his knees.

What do you do?” he asked, looking at me.

I’m a teacher,” I said, not sure what he meant. “I teach . . . language.

Do you know the language of our enemy?


Then why are you here?” he asked. I still wasn’t totally used to the mental communication through the bracelets we were all wearing, but I could tell that he was blunt, but not necessarily trying to be rude.

I got lost,” I said, feeling slightly stupid.

We were captured by the enemy and escaped. He rescued me,” Ain-Mai said. She mentally told him the story, and I saw images of myself through her eyes as I jumped from cage to cage to get her and then fought my way back past attacking dragons. I should have been proud, but from her perspective, I thought I looked rather ridiculous and I started to blush.

Chirik chuckled and nodded in satisfaction. “Brave, but there is a better way.” He patted the warhammer. “You took a lot of hurt as well. How are you going to go with us, if you still cannot walk?

I wasn’t sure about that either but I slid off the floating platform where I was sitting and tentatively tried a step. Most of the pain was gone and although I probably couldn’t have run, I found that I could walk around fairly well.

Ain-Mai and I sat with Chirik in the water-room for several hours. After a while, Chirik seemed to get lost in his own thoughts, none of which he shared with us.

I am sorry again for what happened to Sing-ga,” I said, turning to Ain-Mai.

She just nodded and I could tell she was trying to keep her thoughts from me. Finally, she said, “It’s not your fault. None of the other men that Hengfel has captured have come back either. Sing-ga will not be any different so it is okay.” I thought this was odd logic, but I hoped she found comfort in it.

15 Mansion

Several hours later, Klista returned with Bruce Riansson. She sat down and immediately put her feet in the water. “We are about to begin,” she said. “It will just be the five of us, although these two—” she motioned to Ain-Mai and me “—have no purpose but to go home. This is a quick invasion and a test, so if there is any fighting to be done, I am hoping you can handle it, Chirik.” Chirik indicated wordlessly that he would be overjoyed to do all the fighting himself.

I was thinking that we would have to start at the top of the tower, where we had entered this place, and make our way down the side and back through all the tunnels, retracing the path that Ain-Mai and I had taken. My thoughts must have been more transparent than I imagined, because Klista shook her head at me. “I don’t use doors and stone circles when I travel. We will go directly to the large stone circle room, and we will find which world to send you to. The system there uses medallions: one for each world it goes to. I know I have never been to your world before—” Klista motioned to Ain-Mai “—so I just need to eliminate all the ones I have been to and see what is left.

What if there are a lot you haven’t been to?” I asked.

Then we will be there a while,” Klista said. “I have just spent the last few hours memorizing the medallion symbols for all 814 worlds I have been to. There is a good chance there will not be many more there that I have never been to.

I shouldn’t have asked, but the question slipped out before I could stop it. “How many worlds are there in all?

About 48,000 that I know about,” Klista said, “but there will not be more than a hundred medallions there, I would think. Now, let us go. When we get there, you two, stay near me. We may have to leave in a hurry. Now hold hands.

I took Ain-Mai’s hand and then felt Chirik’s huge hand clamp onto my shoulder. Klista touched Ain-Mai and Bruce. There was a flash and the room around us disappeared.

(to be continued…)

Klista’s Story – Fantastic Travelogue #16

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I found myself in another world. I met a young woman there named Ain-Mai. We eventually got captured, along with her brother Sing-ga, by a sorceress named Hengfel, who took us to her world. We got away from her and hid in the air tunnels of her fortress. Sing-ga died after being attacked by small spider-like creatures. Ain-Mai and I found our way to the outside of the huge fortress where we sheltered in a small hollow. I woke up to find a small winged creature looking at me. He brought us up the mountain and through a portal into a beautiful area where we were taken care of. A woman named Klista came into my room.

16 Klista story

Klista’s Story

“There is a lot that I want to learn from you, and perhaps some that I can tell you as well,” the regal woman calling herself Klista said. “Right now, let us go meet your friend.” She helped me from the bed onto a square platform that immediately started to float and then moved out the doorway and along the corridor.

“Is this magic?” I asked.

“If by magic you mean it works in ways you wouldn’t understand, then yes,” Klista said. She was striding along next to me.

We came out into the room with the falling water. Ain-Mai was there, sitting by the small waterfall. She had changed clothing and despite the scratches on her face and neck, she looked more beautiful than ever.

It is good to see you again, David,” Ain-Mai said mentally, her thoughts coming directly into my mind. I noticed she had a similar bracelet on as me. I blushed, although I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps it was the shock of suddenly being able to talk freely after all our time together.

It’s good to see you too. Are you feeling well?

I think I can say that both of you are not perfect, but are doing much better than when we found you,” Klista broke in. “Now, I need to know how you came to be on the side of the Eithelfeen, the tower where Drovoi found you.

I told her everything I knew, from getting lost in the woods in Korea and meeting Ain-Mai and her brother, to getting captured by Hengfel and brought to the huge fortress with the dragons. Then Ain-Mai told her perspective on all that had happened. Klista just listened and nodded.

I am curious how you got to her world in the first place,” Klista said, gesturing to Ain-Mai.“You didn’t mention it. Was there a stone circle, or did you have a certain item?

Nothing like that,” I said. “At least, I don’t think so. I was walking in the woods and I found myself in the other place, Ain-Mai’s country.

There are unstable areas, where world brush against each other briefly,” Klista said. “Likely there was a stone circle or a similar way of traveling between worlds at that spot, long ago.

Please,” Ain-Mai broke in. “Can you tell me who Hengfel is? She has been coming to our world for many years, taking our men and anything else she wants back with her. Can you stop her?

15 Mansion

Klista sat down on the floor and put her feet in the pool of water. Then she took a breath. “Before I tell you who she is, let me tell you who I am. I am the daughter of the rulers of the Zifliels. We have for a long time been ambassadors and diplomats between many worlds. Wherever we go, we establish trading posts and where there is a lot of trade, we set up the stone circles or some such thing to make movement back and forth easier.

In one world, we set up trade with a small nation, not realizing that it was threatened by an even greater threat, the people that we now refer to as the Invaders. They seized the technology of the stone circles and used it to invade our world with their dragons and other terrible creatures. We defended ourselves as well as possible and although we are adept at traveling between worlds, they were the stronger fighters and eventually we were forced to flee our world to hide in exile in others. We destroyed as many of the circles as we could to limit the spread of the Invaders, but some survived, such as the great one in the Eithelfeen.

“The Invaders used it and others to invade more worlds. Some of them, like your Hengfel, are selfish and greedy and only use it to get more things for themselves. Others, however, use our network to continue the conquest. We fight them whenever we can, but they are almost always stronger.

I found this background information interesting, but there was only one question I was interested in. “Do you know how I can get home?” I asked.

I know where your world is and I do not need to use a stone circle to travel,” Klista said. “However, I do not know where you are from.” She indicated Ain-Mai. “In order for you to get home, you will need to go back to the room you came through and find the right medallion to get back to your own world.

What, alone?” I asked.

Obviously not alone,” Klista said. “If it were possible for a single girl to break into the heart of the fortress and use the machine that is most precious to the owner, we would have no trouble taking it back. No, I will go with her; with you too, if you want to come. And not just us. I think I will use this opportunity as a test and if it works, then this Hengfel will never come back to your world again.

Klista closed her eye. “Bruce, come out here, please.” Although I could hear her, the thought seemed to be projected farther away. A moment later, a man came out into the room. He nodded at us and smiled.

Klista stood up and began drying her feet. “Bruce,” she said. “Go call Chirik. Tell him to get ready for war.”

(to be continued…)

You can read more about Klista, Bruce, and Chirik here.

The Key of Spreading Branches

Read the previous stories about Klista here.



Bruce Riansson hung suspended in an abyss of blackness, a slender rope the only thing keeping him alive. He hated the dark and the oppressive, dead silence that he was forbidden to break. As he valued his life, he could not break it.

He was wearing bulky spectacles over his eyes. They were made to see in the dark but they could do nothing in absolute darkness and he was as blind as if he were not even wearing them. The spectacles were magic, of course. At least that’s what Klista said. Ever since he had joined her and she had whisked him away from Indrake and everything he had known, everything seemed to be magic.

Watch out for the moths, she had said, just before he had descended into the pit. They sense sound. Do not make a sound, or I will have to find another man with your abilities to help me. It was not very comforting.

The shaft had narrowed above and he had been forced to climb through, sweating and praying he would not trip or kick a rock into the chasm. He could hear the rope rubbing on the rock above him now. Scrap, scrap, scrap… It was a tiny sound, but it was magnified in the stillness of the cavern.

What am I doing here? he thought, not for the first time. I used to be an innkeeper. How did I ever get to this point? He remembered every step clearly, but it seemed so unreal—only a few weeks ago he had been a simple innkeeper in Indrake, and now he was breaking into an ultra-secure prison on another world to free a murderous, violent man.

There was a flutter of pale white in the darkness near his head. It was a moth, as big as his hand and faintly luminescent. It was beating its wings slowly, as if time had slowed down. Flap…flap…flap. More appeared around him, coming up from below, until he was surrounded in a cloud of white.

Bruce remained as still as a stone, trying not even to breathe. One of the moths landed on his sleeve and he saw its feet burn tiny holes in the fabric. A small tongue of flame came from its mouth and singed the cloth before it took off.

The moths swirled around him, but most did not seem to notice him. Bruce wondered if they were blind. They continued upwards in a shifting column of white wings until they were lost from sight. What if they were going for the rope?

At that moment, Bruce saw two small lights appear in the darkness in front of him—eyes, glowing brightly green through his spectacles. In their small light, he saw that he was hanging directly in front of a large cage. Inside stood a giant, looking out at him.

The rope shivered slightly. Bruce could imagine those tiny, burning feet walking along his lifeline as the fibers melted and popped. He held out his hand and the giant in the cage reached out towards him. Their outstretched hands were only a few feet apart. Desperately, Bruce swung his body, moving closer and closer until he felt contact and his hand disappeared inside the huge fist of the giant.

As he was being pulled towards the cage, he felt the rope give way above him. There was a jerk on his arm and a second later, he was being forced through the narrow bars of the cage. The giant man put him down and sat back, saying nothing.

Bruce saw now that the man was about eight feet tall, dressed in a dark-grey smock, with long, wild hair. For a moment, the two stood looking at each other until Bruce reached down into his bag and pulled out two circles of metal. He clasped one around his arm and gave the other to the prisoner, motioning for him to do the same. The man took it slowly and then opened it as far as it would go and slipped it onto his wrist.

“Can you hear me?” Bruce said, inside his mind.

“Yes,” came the deep reply, resonating inside Bruce’s mind. “How can I hear you if you not making any sound?”

Magic,” Bruce said with a smile. “Your name is Chirik? I am here to get you out.”

“And who are you?” Chirik asked. “Have the Feyluns sent you here?”

“I do not know who they are,” Bruce said. “I was sent here by a woman named Klista. She wants you to work for her. She said that if you agree, you would be free and would lead an army for her.”

Chirik looked steadily at Bruce and his eyes glowed a little brighter, then dimmed. “I do not know anyone named Klista, and I am a mercenary, not a general. Anyway, there is no way out of here. The bars are unbreakable and the only key to the cell door was destroyed. They pulverized it and blew the dust through the keyhole at me.”

“There is a way,” Bruce said, gingerly pulling out a large, metal key in the shape of a tree with spreading branches. “This key will open any door, Klista said. Put it up to the keyhole and it will do the rest.”

Chirik took the key. It fit inside his palm easily. He put it up to the keyhole and as the key touched the metal of the door, the spreading branches contracted and slipped through the small hole. There was a soft whine and then a loud clunk. Chirik pulled the door open.

“Magic, indeed,” he said through his thoughts. “I have sat here for time uncounted, hungering for a freedom I knew would never come. I would have killed myself if I had had the means, but instead I was left to be tortured in darkness and silence. Is this Klista a sorceress that she could find me here and find a way for me to escape?

“Possibly, but you will have to ask her that,” Bruce said. “She rarely tells me what she is thinking or how she does things, besides saying magic. She also told me to give you this.”

Bruce took out a bundle wrapped in cloth and gave it to Chirik, who unwrapped it. It was a hammer, about a foot long. Chirik held it up and as he did, it grew until it became a huge warhammer, taller than Bruce.

Chirik’s eyes glowed like white fire and Bruce could see the look of intense joy on his face. Suddenly, Chirik roared a battle-cry that echoed and re-echoed off the walls of the cavern.

“Get behind me and out of the way of the hammer,” he cried out loud—the words he spoke were foreign to Bruce, but the meaning came through to his mind. Chirik flung the door open and charged through, Bruce following as close behind as he dared.

They ran through narrow tunnels that got broader as they ascended. Bruce could only faintly see the path ahead of them by the light of Chirik’s eyes. A statue loomed up in the middle of the corridor but Chirik pulverized it with one swing of the warhammer. Another and another appeared in front of them, but all of them turned to dust a moment later. Chirik came to a huge door and started to pound on it with the hammer. After five hits, the door cracked, after twelve, it splintered, and after the sixteenth, Bruce was able to crawl out into the cool night air. A moment later, Chirik joined him.

The sky was dark blue and large red stars burned overhead, just as Bruce had left it less than an hour before. Behind them, a huge tower loomed up in silhouette against the night sky. The land about them was dead—no lights could be seen and only a faint wind sighed through the bare rocks.

“Why are there no guards in the tower?” Bruce asked.

“What guards there are, are usually sufficient,” Chirik said. He said this out loud, but it was still through his mind that Bruce understood the words. “Without your magic key and the warhammer of Clemin, escape would have been impossible.”

“I am glad to see again, Bruce,” another voice said in his head. Bruce turned to see Klista coming towards them, holding a glowing orb in front of her. She was dressed in her customary red cloak and smiling. “Chirik, my name is Klista. Remember it well, since I am your rescuer. Will you work with me?”

“You saved me from that hell,” Chirik said. “Whatever I can do for you, my lady, I will.”

“Good,” Klista said. “We have one more important person to get and then the great campaign begins.”

She touched both of them on the arm. A flash of light enveloped them and they were gone.

The Recruitment of Bruce Riansson

The leaves were what first spoke to Bruce Riansson and told him that maybe there was still some hope in life.

He sat on the damp, pungent leaf mould of the clearing just where the squad of soldiers had left him, with all that he now owned in the world: a satchel with enough food for two meals, a small knife and three copper coins. He had been exiled to the wilderness and they had left him three copper coins. It was a mockery of charity.

He wished they had just killed him. He had been sentenced to death, but the king, with a wicked glint in his eyes, had so graciously, so magnanimously commuted his sentence to exile. Now he would die a longer, more painful death than any executioner’s axe could give.

He had been sitting that way for some time when he heard the leaves rustling and whispering above him as the wind played them back and forth restlessly. There were no words in their message, but as he listened, he felt better. He was still alive and he was free now. There was still hope.

Bruce stood up and with a start, noticed a woman looking at him from across the clearing. She had black hair and was wearing a dark red cloak of a style he had never seen before. She smiled at him. “I was wondering when you would stand up. Those leaves are quite persuasive, I see.”

Bruce looked at her warily. “Was it you who made them shake like that?”

“No, that was only the wind,” she said, walking towards him. “But I had a feeling they would have that effect on you. My name is Klista. Remember it, please. And you are?”

“Bruce Riansson,” he said, with a feeling that she already knew.

“How is it that you are sitting out here alone, Bruce Riansson?” Klista asked, putting a hand on her hip. It was a gesture both familiar and imperious.

“I was exiled from Indrake,” he said. “The traitor and former pirate, Sir Denvé, came through our village as he was fleeing capture. I let him stay at my inn.”

“And you knew that it was him?”

“I have never turned away anyone from my inn. I have always considered hospitality to be a matter of humanity, not politics.”

Klista nodded. “That’s a very mature attitude. Very rare indeed, actually. Now, Bruce Riansson, I have a proposition for you. I knew you would be coming here and I was waiting for you. If you wish, you may work for me, work with me even. The work is not what you are used to, but I’m sure you will be suited to it, nevertheless.”

“Who are you?” Bruce asked, his apprehension rising again. “Why would I want to work for you?”

“I have already told you my name,” Klista said. “I did ask you to remember it, you recall. Besides that, think of me as a type of guide. I show secrets to people who need them and who are worthy. Does that not sound intriguing? As for why you should work for me, you are exiled in the wilderness in late summer with almost no supplies.” She gave him a look as if the choice were obvious.

“What would I have to do?” he asked.

“Ah, we’ll get to that in time. First, I have a test for you. I have to be completely sure about you first.” She took a leather bag off her shoulder and rummaged through it. Bruce caught a glimpse of a jumble of strange objects: a purple conch shell, a white tube with blue stars on it, and a key shaped like a spreading tree. Finally, she pulled out a box with a glass window in it and handed it to him.

“This is a compass,” she said and then saw his blank expression. “It has lodestone in it and always points in the same direction. What you have to do is follow the direction of the needle. Several miles away there is a high pass between two mountains. Reach that pass by sunset and look over the other side and you have passed the test.”

“That is all? It sounds too simple.”

“You have not seen the way yet. Remember, you must follow the needle exactly. There will be an easier way up, but do not take it. Sometimes the journey taken is more important than the destination reached. Sometimes the destination depends on the path taken there. Now go and I will see you at sunset.”

Klista walked off briskly. Bruce picked up his pack and looked at the box. The needle pointed into the trees, away from where Klista had gone. He started walking.

At first, the way was easy. There was little underbrush and the ground was level. After half an hour, the ground got steeper and soon the way was choked with brambles that tore at him with thorny claws.

He had just climbed over a pile of rocks when he saw a well-defined trail off to the right. He ignored it and kept fighting his way through the underbrush. The trail crossed his path and for a moment, he was tempted to follow it for a little ways, until he remembered and re-entered the tangle of bushes.

The mountain trail zigzagged back and forth up the slope and by the time Bruce had crossed and re-crossed it four times, he was torn and bleeding in multiple places and his clothes were shredded to rags. Already the light was decreasing, softening to the peaceful glow of dusk. He pressed on.

He crossed the mountain trail for the last time and it disappeared off to the left, going straight and following the ridge of the mountains. Above him were two steep peaks like horns, their summits tinged with red from the approaching sunset. Between them, he saw the high pass, only several hundred feet above him.

The final climb was the worst. He scrambled recklessly up as the sky darkened above him, ignoring the sharp bite of razor-like granite edges cutting into his hands. Finally, he pulled himself up to the pass and looked over.

The valley below him was a mass of trees, like a vast carpet of greenery. Bruce looked farther and in the orange glow of the day’s end, he saw strange structures rising out of the trees. They were like huge blocks of stone, a hundred feet high or more, but he could see the light glinting off rows of windows. It was a vision of some alien city.


“You pass,” Klista said from behind him. He turned quickly.

“How did you get here?”

“I take my own paths,” she said. “What do you think that is?” She pointed to the distant structures.

“I do not know, but it looks like a city of some sort.”

“It is a city, although not one of this world. This is what I wanted to show you, a tiny taste of what is hidden behind real life. The world you were living in yesterday was infinitely smaller than the world you will be living in tomorrow.”

“Is it really over there or is it only a vision?” Bruce asked.

“It is really where it is,” Klista said. “You will find that a word like ‘there’ has very little meaning. If you mean, could you reach it by walking, then yes. You were able to see it by following the compass and you could follow it to the actual place too. But that is a long, hard road and I travel by quicker ones. Now, do you still want to join me?”

“I do not know what I can do, but yes, I am willing,” Bruce said. He offered her the compass, but she shook her head.

“You keep it. It will be very useful to you in the future, I think. This is the not the end of your journey by far, Bruce Riansson: this is only the beginning.”

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