“It is new, indeed, for I made it last night
in a dream of strange cities;
and dreams are older than brooding Tyre,
or the contemplative Sphinx,
or garden-girdled Babylon.”
- H. P. Lovecraft
Hibbs and Little Brother have flown in the fiery chariot that is Surt
through a Sidhe Mound to arrive in fabled Avalon.
Their only guide, the unreliable mystic blade, Naruda, sheated atop Hibb's enchanted staff:
With a deep, ordering bellow, the lead Cwn Annwn cried out to her pack and led the flaming chariot form of Surt through the growing twilight around towards a clearing in the dense grove of oaks.
The wind of their passage flattened the fur on Hibbs’ face. He laughed with joy.
Soon he would see Leandra again.
He could almost smell the perfume of her lightning hair. Then, he would somehow rescue her from the Valkyries, snatching her back to her mother. He burned to be back beside GrandMother’s side and to wipe the sadness from her ivory face.
He grunted as the breath was jolted from his body as the Cwn Annwn landed the fiery chariot body of Surt with a jarring thump.
Little Brother fluffed out his feathers, flying from Hibbs’ shoulder. The hawk hovered in the air like a humming bird, glaring at the happy, tongue-lolling hounds.
“Flying lessons they need!”
Hibbs slowly stepped from the flickering chariot, his brown eyes round with wonder and awe as he quoted from one of his scrolls back in Eire.
“Each blade of grass stirs with old magic. Each branch sways to the breath of eternity. And each path leads to dream citadels whose misty towers murmur echoes of ancient glories never to be reclaimed, yet never to be forgotten.”
Looking about himself, the hawk rasped, “What you said.”
The very air seemed to shimmer with tiny flecks of stardust as arrows of moonlight shot through the dark, hollow cathedral of centuries old oaks.
The thick branches swayed to a breeze Hibbs could not feel. It was as if the towering trees were alive and startled at the sudden appearance of this strange group of time-tossed heroes.
The low splashing of bubbling water came to the bear. He turned. It came from the shattered remains of a black marble fountain. One lone, haunted-eyed marble nymph stared back at the bear as if in silent warning.
Hibbs could almost hear the echoes of Pan’s pipes, lamenting the intrusion of a mere bear into this realm of faerie.
Then Hibbs heard more than the refrains of ghost music. It was faint, almost not there, and then it came stronger. The sound was like unto a forest of icicles weeping at their melting under the rising sun.
And with the music, Hibbs’ mind pulsed warm, filling with whispered words, throbbing with the feel of a bubbling brook brought to mystic life. Hibbs shivered. It was the very sound that Leandra’s voice made when it caressed his ears.
Then images filled the bear’s mind. He stiffened. An unearthly isle rising out of a convulsing, crystal blue sea. A sparkling glass palace filled with beings not at all human. His scalp tingled. They were Sidhe, like the very ones he met in his vision quest.
Surt grumbled in tones of erupting magma,
“Close your mouth, bear. We are in Avalon, cursed, dread Avalon, where life is illusory and deceptive, as are its inhabitants. In Faerie nothing is as it seems. And even the simple act of uttering a name can be fraught with danger and with death.”
Little Brother flew light to the bear’s right shoulder. “Then, home can we go?”
Hibbs smiled dry. “First we rescue Leandra. Then, we’ll go home.”
Surt gestured all about them. “And just how will we accomplish that? A Sidhe Mound takes those who walk through to a place without a return portal.”
Hibbs spun around, looking desperately for evidence that Surt was wrong. He was not. His shoulders slumped as Surt grunted to the bear.
“In Faerie nothing is simple nor without danger -- especially the act of returning home.”
The hawk stuck out his tongue at his fiery brother. “Thank you for sharing.”
“There was no pleasure in it, birdbrain. But I had to make Hibbs aware of just how dire our situation is.”
From the top of the Staff of Sacrifice, Naruda snorted, her metal face looking even more hard than it usually did. “As if you knew, Destroyer. Hibbs, here in Avalon you are surrounded by Sidhe, embittered by long ages of civil war.”
Naurda locked eyes of black steel on the bear. “To the Sidhe, mortals are but toys and pawns in their power games. They love to make the epitaph small and the death large. And pray that we do not run into the feral Wyldaelfen.”
Hibbs tried to swallow and found he could not as the living blade kept on,
“We walk in the midst of enemies here in Broceliande Forest where we must take care to skirt the Shadows of the Erinnyes and their dark queen Dinselle of the Golden Skin.”