Crystal Lens



Trinzi and her two best friends stood at the base of the eighty-foot rock wall looking up in terror at what they had to do. Up until that point, the journey to the Trandst ruins, high in the northern mountains of Darland, had failed to intimidate them. But when their Darlandian guide, VonBaren, pointed to the final obstacle, even the most daring of the girls was shaking her head in disbelief.

“There’s no way I’m doing that,” Kenya said, not removing her gaze from the mountain. The steady breeze was blowing her dark brown hair into her face, so she held it in place with both hands. “You never said we had to do serious rock climbing!”

“It’s easier than it looks,” VonBaren said with a smile. “I’ll take Paul up first and you’ll see. You can do about half of it without any ropes and all of the anchors are already set.”

Trinzi was expecting Kenya to say something sarcastic about her brother Paul, perhaps about how he would be the first to fall to his death. Kenya always had a snide remark just waiting to escape her lips, especially for her brother. But instead of teasing him, she grabbed his shoulder in a surprising display of affection.

After a few silent seconds, Paul took a deep breath and sighed.

“Let’s get this over with,” he said. “Lead the way, VonBaren.”

Twenty minutes later, the two men had almost reached the top. VonBaren was only a few meters from the top of the rock wall with Paul a few meters below him.

Trinzi was watching them through binoculars while her two friends stood at her side. Even without the binoculars, she could easily distinguish the two men. VonBaren, characteristically Darlandian, with nearly-white hair and a pale complexion, contrasted sharply with Paul who looked like his sister Kenya, dark hair and olive skin.

“I guess it’s not so bad,” Elise said, brushing blond hair away from her dark eyes. She was the smallest of three girls. “The easy parts were well hidden.”

“Hey, pass me the binoculars,” Kenya said deviously. “It’s the last time I get to see VonBaren from this angle.”

“I’m just making sure they’re okay,” Trinzi said, suddenly afraid of appearing to enjoy the same scene.

“We’re almost there,” Paul said through his two-way radio.

In the following silence, Kenya handed the radio to Elise and took the binoculars away from Trinzi. She peered through them eagerly.

Paul, be quiet,” VonBaren whispered loud enough to carry through the radio. “Someone’s up there.”

Trinzi heard a faint voice, a loud thud, then a scraping noise as though someone was being dragged across the ground. After the scraping sound stopped, Trinzi saw VonBaren begin climbing again.

“There’s some kind of struggle going on,” Paul whispered.

“I’m not going back. Get away from me,” a man’s voice yelled loud enough for the girls to hear without the radio. The next moment, a man tumbled over the ledge above VonBaren. The man’s screaming intensified as he fell.

Trinzi closed her eyes when the man’s head hit the rock wall half way down. After that point, the screaming stopped. Having her eyes closed did not spare her from the horrible sound of the impact, like the breaking of a wet stick. No one spoke for several seconds.

“What was that?” yelled Paul, breaking the silence. “What happened? Did someone push him?”

“I, I don’t know,” VonBaren said. “He was talking to someone, but I didn’t hear anyone else. I’m going up to see.”

Trinzi gaped at the body near the wall. She held the radio to her mouth but kept her eyes on the body. “VonBaren, are you crazy? Don’t go up there.”

He gave no reply as he slipped over the top, out of sight.

“Are you girls okay?” Paul yelled, not using the radio.

“We’re fine,” Kenya yelled back. “But not that guy.”

“There’s no one up here,” said VonBaren a few minutes later. “I’ll secure the rope, then come down.”

None of the three girls bothered to look for any sign of life. The blood and complete stillness of the body made further inspection pointless.

While they waited for the men to climb down, Kenya went through the man’s pockets trying to find some kind of identification. Trinzi was surprised to see how casually Kenya searched through the man’s belongings. She kept wiping the blood from her hands on his clothes.

When Kenya stood up, she was holding a wallet.

“So who is he? What’s his name?” asked the third girl Elise. She stood farthest away from the body, and looked afraid to get closer

Kenya took out his driver’s license. “His name is Frank Jolin. He’s from Vermont.”

“What’s that?” asked Elise, pointing to an object in the man’s hands. It was a thirty centimeter wide oval glass surrounded by an ornate wooden frame. It was still clutched to his chest.

Kenya had to pry the man’s lifeless fingers from the glass.

Trinzi stepped forward for a closer look. “We shouldn’t be going through his stuff.”

Kenya ignored her. When she got the object free, Kenya put her thumb and index finger through two holes in the frame. She held it up to the sky. Oddly enough, there was no blood on it, and it sparkled in the sun like a crystal.

“That’s strange,” Elise said as she looked through the glass to the sky. “It’s clear, but the sky looks different, almost brighter!”

“Hmm,” Trinzi said, forgetting her amazement that Kenya would take something from the dead man.

Kenya glanced up at the cliff to make sure the guys weren’t looking, then she put the glass into her backpack.

“Don’t worry, Trinzi,” Kenya said offhandedly. “We’ll make sure it gets back to his relatives. Let’s not let VonBaren know about it just yet.”

Her eyes challenged Trinzi or Elise to protest. Trinzi didn’t want to start an argument. A few minutes later, the men arrived at the bottom of the cliff.

“Well, there was no sign that anyone else had been up there with him.” VonBaren looked with pity at the dead man.

“What are we going to do?” asked Elise.

“I say we call the authorities and continue on our climb,” Paul said. “I don’t see why we have to be delayed by this.”

VonBaren made the call. The authorities would send a helicopter to their location. They had to wait about thirty minutes for it to arrive.

As young kids, Trinzi and VonBaren had been neighbors. They had not been friends really, but as families they had spent a lot of time together. And then when she was sixteen, his family had moved back to Darland. She hadn’t seen him since, but their mothers kept in touch through email. Her mother would always inform Trinzi of everything VonBaren’s family was doing. Then a few weeks earlier, VonBaren had sent Trinzi an email telling her of the opportunity to come visit the ruins. She had convinced her two best friends, Kenya and Elise, to go on the trip with her. And Kenya’s brother had wanted to come along too.

After so many years, Trinzi had thought she would feel awkward to see him again. To her reliev, it was actually fun, like revisiting the best parts of her childhood. And VonBaren had grown tall and muscular. That didn’t hurt the situation either.

They heard the helicopter a long time before they actually saw it. Eventually, the helicopter appeared suddenly over some trees and then landed in a nearby clearing. In the cold wind from the rotors, Trinzi and Elise hugged each other for warmth.

Trinzi had never been this close to a helicopter. After the wind subsided, a male ranger and two male police officers walked over to them and started talking to VonBaren in Darlandan. Trinzi instantly noticed the similarity of VonBaren to the ranger and the police, white hair and blond eyebrows. While the ranger and one of the police officers talked with him, the other officer took pictures of the scene.

For several minutes, the girls and Paul just watched. The loud noise and excitement of it all had caused Trinzi to forget about the glass Kenya had taken from the dead man.

“I think you should show them the glass,” Trinzi whispered to Kenya.

“Don’t say anything to them. They’ll probably just steal it for themselves.”

“Aren’t you stealing it?”

“When we get back,” Kenya said. “I’ll take it to his family, okay? I really don’t trust the police, especially those from Darland.”

Although they were friends, Trinzi did not like provoking her. Kenya could be highly confrontational.

The authorities took the body and flew in their helicopter to the top of the cliff. Before leaving, they had been arguing with VonBaren about something.

“What were you arguing about?” Trinzi asked.

“They didn’t want us to go to the Trandst ruins. This is the second man who’s died up here this year.”

“How did the other man die?” asked Kenya.

“They didn’t say.”

Trinzi thought Kenya looked excited about the whole affair, like it was an adventure story. Trinzi couldn’t shut out the horrible image of the man hitting his head. She knew it would haunt her for years.

“You and Paul will keep us safe, won’t you?” Kenya said, breaking Trinzi out of her thoughts. Kenya moved in close to VonBaren like he was her protector. He didn’t move away, but Trinzi thought he looked uncomfortable. She hoped so.

“The only thing we have to worry about is falling from a cliff.” Paul said, laughing. No one else laughed. “Come on everyone. Let’s do this last climb before you all get any gloomier.”

After everyone arrived on top of the cliff, they walked for another twenty minutes then made camp. Trinzi started feeling better once they left the scene of the man’s death. Eventually, they would have to climb back down the cliff again. Trinzi hoped she would not have to see all the dried blood on the ground.

That night, no one talked about the man’s death or the rescue team. The only topic of conversation was a good night’s sleep and arriving at the ruins. Their large fire kept all of the bad memories away, along with the cold. When they exited their tents the next morning, they found wet dew all over everything.

“Okay, VonBaren,” Paul said after they started hiking again. “So if Trandst was the capital of the northern kingdom, what was it doing way up here in the mountains, without any roads?”

VonBaren was in the front of the group. He answered without looking back. “Over five hundred years ago there was a powerful earthquake. A large portion of Trandst was destroyed that day, along with the road that led to it. A bloody civil war followed and the few who survived left the mountains.”

“The Emperor of Southern Darland said it was the wrath of God,” Trinzi said. “What do you think?”

VonBaren looked back at her in surprise, and she couldn’t help but smile. “Old Sewahatchi didn’t help them out that day. That’s for sure.”

“Who was Sewahatchi?” Elise asked laughing. “What kind of mother would name her child Sewahatchi?”

VonBaren stopped and turned to face Elise. “I’ll take you to his temple and you can meet him for yourself. Whenever the high priest would say his name, the people would respond, ‘Peruli Sewahatchito Kopliyoo’ which roughly translated means, ‘Death by Sewahatchi brings life.”

“They used to sacrifice people,” Paul said to Kenya. “At least, that’s what I remember from the tourist book.”

“This temple you were talking about, they actually killed people in there?” asked Kenya. She seemed to have awoken to this statement.

VonBaren resumed his walking. “Yes, for hundreds of years. The people considered it a great honor. It was supposed to put the people in favor with the gods.”

Paul laughed out loud. “What an honor!”

While walking through tall pine trees, they nearly walked into an old stone wall. The wall stood about five meters high. Several places were damaged by the roots of the trees that grew underneath, and other places had fallen away, probably due to the earthquake. Trinzi went up to the wall and put her hand on the cold stone. Its touch made her feel somehow connected with the past. It made her sad. The people who had once called this place their home were now long gone. Maybe some of VonBaren’s ancestors came from Trandst.

VonBaren led them to a large break in the wall where they walked through. Trinzi was not mentally prepare for what she saw. There were ancient buildings as far as she could see. Many of the buildings had been made of wood, and they had mostly crumbled to the earth with trees and bushes growing around them. Other buildings were made of stone and cement. Several of these remained standing and were in remarkably well condition. Almost every building that stood had a cone-shaped ceramic roof, which must have been the style back then.

“I can’t believe we’re here?” Paul said. “This is amazing!”

“Wow,” said Kenya and Elise together.

VonBaren went off on his own but told them all to meet back at the break in the wall for lunch. Then Paul and Elise walked off together unexpectedly, leaving Trinzi and Kenya alone.

“I thought he was going to show us the Temple of Sewahatchi?” Kenya asked as they watched the others walk away. “That sounded interesting.”

“He didn’t seem very excited to go there,” Trinzi said. “Since that’s where they used to kill people.”

They spent the rest of the morning exploring. At one point Trinzi asked if she could see the glass. Kenya brought it out of her backpack and handed it to her. She remembered it sparkling in the sunlight the day before, but now dark clouds covered the sky. As she was looking through it, she saw movement behind a building near them. It was only a fleeting glance, but she was sure it had been a person. It startled her.

“What is it?” asked Kenya.

Someone went behind that building.” Trinzi walked forward. “Hey, who’s over there?”

“Are you sure?” asked Kenya as they made their way around the building. “I didn’t see anything.”

“I saw it through the glass.”

On the other side of the building they found only more bushes. Trinzi ran her hand through her blond hair.

“Hmm, no one’s here. Maybe it was a deer or something.”

“Or maybe a mountain lion,” Kenya said, and they looked at each other. “Or maybe whoever pushed that guy over the cliff!”

“Let’s go back and wait for the others. Maybe we shouldn’t be out this far on our own.”

They found VonBaren sitting on an old fallen tree, back where they had entered the ruins of Trandst. Kenya had forgotten to put away the glass. When he saw them, he stood up and walked over to Kenya.

“Where did you get that?”

Kenya stared directly into his eyes, not knowing what to say. She looked to Trinzi to help her out, but Trinzi wasn’t about to accept any of the blame.

“The man who died, he was holding it, and uh, I thought it was a better idea to let me deliver it to his family, rather than the, uh police.”

“Give it to me,” he said, and Trinzi thought she detected some anger.

“Hey, VonBaren,” Kenya pulled the glass closer to her body. Her temper flared. “I’m holding onto it and I said that I would deliver it.”

“That definitely does not belong to the man who fell yesterday.” VonBaren reached out and took it away from Kenya, who let him have it without protest. She narrowed her eyes, but he ignored her and began inspecting the glass. When he spoke again, it was half to himself.

“He stole it from somewhere in Trandst. These writings, they’re from the nomads who used to live in northern Darland.” He turned to Kenya again. “You know. Taking anything out of Trandst can put you in jail. It’s a good thing the police didn’t find this on you.”

VonBaren looked to Trinzi and was about to say something else when they heard movement behind one of the buildings. Trinzi wondered if he was disappointed that she didn’t tell him about the glass. Paul and Elise appeared after a moment and then walked over to them. Their eyes immediately fell on the glass.

“What’s that?” asked Paul.

VonBaren and Trinzi looked to Kenya.

“I found it,” she said simply.

VonBaren put it in his backpack and said he was going to give it to the authorities. He planned to say they found it after the rescue team left.

Trinzi forgot to mention what she saw through the glass and soon forgot about it.

VonBaren led the way to the temple of Sewahatchi and Trinzi did her best to stay up with him. The path wound through what once was a densely populated area. The narrow streets wound through many closely packed buildings. Several times on the way, they had to climb over rubble. The feeling of being watched remained. VonBaren kept his eyes fixed in the direction he wanted to go, but Trinzi couldn’t keep from looking around every corner.

“Is anything wrong?”

VonBaren’s voice made her jump and she started laughing to cover up her embarrassment.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I was just wondering if there were possibly any other people in the city with us.”

“It’s possible,” he said while moving around some bushes that had grown out of the cobblestone street. “Before lunch I went to the check-in station. That’s where you record the visitor information. There’s always a ranger posted here, but I didn’t see him. No one else has written in it for a couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean no one else is here. If there are, I’m sure we’ll run into them.”

“Hmm,” she said.

The buildings became farther apart until they were walking among trees again in a forest. The only remaining sign that they were in a once-inhabited place was a cobble stone street, but many trees had broken through the stones. The surrounding trees formed somewhat of a tunnel through the forest.

When she saw the giant body laying in the street, Trinzi shrieked and jumped behind VonBaren, holding his arm in a death grip. The others ran forward to see what had caused her fright. When her heart rate dropped back to normal she let go of VonBaren and walked forward, slightly embarrassed. A giant statue lay across the path with a pair of demonic eyes, staring at them. Kenya couldn’t suppress a laugh.

Not far from the statue stood a rock wall that shot up a hundred feet above them. It was straight and smooth as if it had been formed by cutting a slice of the mountain with a knife. The entrance was shaped into a perfect triangle with the tip about four meters from the ground. Above the entrance, a woman’s face was carved into the rock. The face wasn’t anything demonic like the statue, but the lips were curved into a unnaturally wide smile. Trinzi didn’t like how her wide eyes seemed to be staring directly at her.

VonBaren looked solemnly up at the stone face and said, “Peruli Sewahatchito Kopliyoo”. After nodding slighly, he turned to face the group again. “The temple of Sewahatchi.”

No one said anything, but Kenya clapped as though VonBaren had made a grand performance. While waiting for VonBaren to lead them into the temple, Kenya squeezed Trinzi’s shoulder in excitement. Despite the warmth of her hand, Trinzi shivered.

Trinzi followed closely behind VonBaren through the entrance. Several flash light beams darted all over the walls and ground of the dark corridors. Trinzi shined her own flashlight on the smooth and dusty floor. There were no cracks.

Several side passageways led off in different directions, but they only took a couple turns. VonBaren lit a candle and placed it on a candle holder on the wall. Trinzi could see several of them in the hallway.

“It’s easy to get lost in here,” VonBaren told them. “I’ll take you to a couple key places, but if you want to see more, you’ll have to come back some other time. Just light a candle like this to mark the way.”

They came to a large set of double doors, made of iron. Ancient craftsman had carved a different scene into each side. On the left door was a whirlpool of mutilated bodies. Flying angels with wicked faces flew in the sky above it, with an ornate carving of a crescent moon near the top.

The other door showed ornate dragons circling in the air. Beautiful people lounged below them with cats and serpents. Trinzi had to admit that it was one of the most beautiful things she had ever seen.

VonBaren put his hand on the left door and pulled. Trinzi stepped back, fearing to look inside. She didn’t like this place and would have felt a lot better if they left without seeing beyond the doors.

“Wow,” Paul said once the doors had been opened. “That’s got to be old Sewahatchi.”

Paul’s flashlight illuminated a large statue of a man, which stood against the wall ahead of them. He had the body of a man but with a woman’s facial features, smooth and almost feline.

“It’s like a horrible church chapel,” Trinzi said as she stared into the large room. The statue of Sewahatchi stood on the far wall, behind a large altar, big enough for a grown man. It was supported by small statues of dragons and other strange animals.

As they walked forward, they came to a shallow oval hole in the floor almost like a fire pit. Rune-like carvings covered its stone surface. Four stone benches stood between the pit and the entrance. If anyone were to sit on a bench, they would be facing the statue and altar.

Paul walked up to the statue of Sewahatchi. His head came up to the statue’s waste. He put his hand on the sword in the statue’s right hand.

“Hey, this is a real sword. It’s not stone.” He looked up at the statue then back to his sister with a smile. “Kenya, take a picture of me with my pal Hatchi.”

Kenya walked closer and stood on the other side of the altar to take the picture. Trinzi watched as she put her hand on the altar to steady herself.

“What the…” Kenya said as she inspected her hand. “VonBaren, Paul, come take a look at this. I think there’s dried blood on the altar.”

Everyone came to the altar and inspected the surface. Five flashlights illuminated it.

“Look!” Elise said excitedly. “There’s fur from some kind of animal.”

VonBaren ran his finger across the surface. “Yes! This is blood, and it’s not five hundred years old.”

“This is crazy,” Paul said after touching the surface.

“How old do you think it is?” asked Kenya.

“Less than a week, I’d say.” VonBaren shined his flashlight all over the room.

Trinzi felt like something was going to jump out at them, but nothing did. “We should get out of here,” she said backing away from the alter toward the pit in the floor. No one else followed her so she stopped.

“Oh Trinzi, don’t be so paranoid,” Kenya said. “Your imagination is getting the best of you. This is from an animal, not a human.”

“I’ll bet another group had their own little sacrifice in Hatchi’s honor.” Paul said smiling. “It’s been five hundred years since he’s had anything to eat. Just look at him. He’s famished.” He walked up to the statue and Kenya took a picture. The bright flash blinded Trinzi for a second.

“Hey, maybe we can have dinner in here some night. We can bring music and have a fire in the pit. Maybe we can catch something to eat.” Kenya had excitement in her voice.

Trinzi looked from Kenya to VonBaren. He had a frown on his face, but he didn’t say anything.

“Well, I’m not coming back in here,” Trinzi said. “It’s dark and evil.”

“Just because they did evil things in here before, doesn’t mean it’s a bad place.”

“Well I don’t think we should be in here. Can’t you feel that?”

“Not really,” Kenya replied.

Trinzi decided not to say anything else, because she sensed it was going the wrong direction. She still couldn’t believe what she was hearing. It sounded like they wanted to make a sacrifice to Sewahatchi. What surprised her most was that VonBaren wasn’t objecting. Maybe he didn’t want to cause more contention. The sooner she got out of there the better. She would have gone out alone, but she was afraid. She decided to stay close to VonBaren, next to the altar.

“Hey, VonBaren,” Kenya said sweetly. “Can I see that glass for a moment? I want to compare the markings on it with those on the base of the altar here. These little creatures have markings all over them. Maybe that guy stole it from the Temple. What do you think?”

“Hmmm… It’s possible,” he said while rubbing his chin.

He removed the glass and handed it to her. She crouched down next to the altar. Together, she and VonBaren inspected some markings on a boar-like creature that stood erect and supported the altar with two human-looking hands. Trinzi came around the altar to watch them.

“They are the same kind of markings, which could mean that they are from the same general time period.” VonBaren said, sounding scholarly.

“I can’t find any identical symbols,” Kenya said.

“Well, there are people who can interpreted the inscriptions. I know a few but none of these ones. They’re probably just the statue’s name with some praises to Sewahatchi.”

After another minute of studying them, they stood and Kenya held up the glass to look at Trinzi through it. She smiled and waved sheepishly back. Suddenly, Kenya’s smile melted away. Her jaw had dropped. Kenya seemed to be looking through her.

“Kenya,” Trinzi said. “What’s the matter?”

She held the glass with her left hand and pointed with her right hand above Trinzi’s head. “There’s a woman standing right behind you.”

Trinzi’s heart felt as though it had frozen mid-beat. She could almost imagine feeling a cold hand rest on her shoulder.

Paul and Elise had come to join them. VonBaren stepped closer to Trinzi. “There’s no one there. What are you talking about Kenya?”

Trinzi’s heart started beating again and she had to catch her breath. Trinzi quickly looked back and saw only flashlight beams on the opposite wall. Then she noticed that Kenya was still holding the glass up, but she was facing another direction. She moved the glass up and down several times.

“Okay, Kenya, jokes over. You scared Trinzi.” Paul stepped closer to his sister.

“No,” she replied. “I’m serious. There was a woman in here with us, but I could only see her through the glass. Here look.” With a shaking hand, she shoved the glass into Paul’s hand.

He held the glass momentarily before looking, then pointed to one of the doorways beside the statue. “Something over there,” he said to himself. He ran to the door and cautiously peered inside with his flashlight. “It’s empty,” he said. “I thought I saw something.” He searched the rest of the room through the glass, but admitted that he didn’t see anything else. After joining the rest of them at the altar, he gave the glass to VonBaren.

“I don’t see anyone,” VonBaren said somewhat impatiently. “Except us.”

“I swear it,” Kenya said. “There was a woman over by the statue.” She snatched the glass away from VonBaren and looked through it again. After scanning the room, she lowered the glass and appeared to be disappointed. “I’m not lying. Paul, you saw someone too. Tell them.”

Paul was aiming his flashlight at one of the doors.

“I saw something,” he said, “but I don’t know. I don’t know what I saw.”

“Well, I didn’t think it was very funny.” Trinzi felt angry at being the victim of a cruel joke. She felt relieved for an emotion besides fear. “VonBaren, let’s get out of here. This place is having an ill effect on all of us.”

Her eyes silently pleaded for him to take her out, but her voice was resolute. Her anger gave her some strength against her fear but not enough to exit alone through the darkened hallways of this ancient temple of death. She was beginning to associate the place with evil. She kept averting her eyes to avoid seeing the statue of Sewahatchi.

Kenya handed the glass back to VonBaren. Without looking at anyone, she said in a low voice. “I’m not lying.”

Paul looked as if he wanted to defend her, but he remained silent.

“I’m more than ready to leave,” VonBaren said.

No one responded.

When the group returned to the outside world again, they were met by more than just the same cloudy day. Three men sat outside the entrance. They appeared ready to enter the temple. Each of them carried a lantern and a camera. Trinzi easily recognized them as Darlandan. They had blonde, almost white hair like VonBaren.


Trinzi stopped and let VonBaren get between them. One of the men who had short cropped hair rose from a rock and started talking in Darlandan. He and VonBaren seemed to know each other.

VonBaren and the men talked for a few seconds. Then the man came over to them and held out his hand. He shook Trinzi’s hand vigorously followed by the others. He introduced himself as Morli. Trinzi instantly forgot the other two men’s names. Morli spoke perfect English without a trace of an accent. At the sound of their names, the other two men nodded their heads and said, “Karlyat.”

VonBaren said Morli was an old friend of his, and also a well-known historian.

“So how do you all like our fine city of Trandst? I see that VonBaren smartly introduced you to the center of ancient Trandst society, the Temple of Sewahatchi.”

Trinzi waited for someone else to respond, but after a few seconds she said, “It’s, it is amazing actually. We’re really excited to be here.”

“Good. You should feel lucky to be here. Not many foreigners get to come.” In a more serious tone, he looked to VonBaren and said, “Have you seen the ranger yet. We wanted his help to find another member of my team. He ran off a couple days ago and we don’t know where he is. Have you seen anyone?”

VonBaren briefly looked up to the sky, appearing awkward.

“We haven’t seen the ranger yet, but we might have um, run into the man you’re talking about.”

“Where is he? Is he ok?” Morli asked, his voice rising hopefully. He said something to the other men in Darlandan and they came closer to the group.

VonBaren and the men spoke for a few minutes. Trinzi knew when he told them what had happened, because Morli closed his eyes and had to sit down on a rock. The two men became silent.

VonBaren took off his backpack and pulled out the glass object. “He was carrying this. Do you know what it is? I was going to give it to the ranger, because I thought he took it from somewhere in Trandst.”

Morli stood on his feet again. VonBaren handed him the glass. “Yes, he did take it from here from inside the temple, although he wouldn’t say where. I can’t believe it survived his fall.” Morli showed it to the other men.

“What is it?” asked Kenya from behind them. She had remained silent until now.

“I’m not sure what it is,” he said turning to her. “The inscription on the wood frame talks about revealing your true surroundings.”

“What exactly does it say.”

Morli looked at her curiously and then held up the glass and started reading the frame.

“Here’s the direct translation. That not revealed, glass to penetrate. Darkness of eye made light. These inscriptions are related to ancient Darland. It could have been in the temple as a trophy from a war. We’ve been looking for where he might have gotten it.”

“Can we come too?” asked Paul stepping forward. “Some of us wanted to stay a little longer, and explore more.”

“We can help,” Kenya said, turning to Elise. “You want to come too?”

Elise paused and glanced to VonBaren then Paul. “Sure,” she said.

Trinzi thought that Kenya gave her an angry look, but she looked away when their eyes met.

“That would be great,” said Morli with a smile. He then turned to VonBaren and asked, “Baren TuVon, sankli duv vilarma?”

“Anui duv vilarma, pi plarka gumbarki,” VonBaren answered.

Trinzi had no idea what they were talking about, but she noticed that the two men silently laughed at VonBaren’s comments. Morli smiled and started giving directions to Kenya, Paul, and Elise. Soon they were gone inside the temple leaving Trinzi and VonBaren alone at the entrance. When they were alone, Trinzi felt the tension slip away.

“Come on,” VonBaren said. “I want to show you something, and I think you’d like this much better than the temple of Sewahatchi.”

“What is it?” she asked.

“You’ll see.”

They started walking down an old side road that led farther away from the city. For several minutes, neither of them spoke. During this time, Trinzi’s thoughts jumped from her mom, to being alone with VonBaren, then to what Kenya said about the glass. She was swimming in a soup of depression, anxiety, and fear.

After walking for more than twenty minutes, they took a trail off the road that led up the side of a mountain. After a sharp turn in the trail, Trinzi saw an old building with thick granite walls rising from the mountain side. It was long and narrow, probably ten by thirty meters with two levels. Oval shaped holes were cut out of the stone high up the walls.

“What is this place?” Trinzi asked looking up.

“I think it was a fortress of some sort.” He pointed to the entrance, which must have had wooden doors at one point. Now it was just a square opening. “See those words above the doorway?”

“Yes, what does it say?”

“Leave it outside.”

Trinzi looked at him in confusion.

What does that mean?”

“I’m just the translator, not the interpreter,” VonBaren said and shrugged.

“That’s all it says? Leave what outside?”

“I don’t know,” VonBaren said, seeming amused. “It must be different for each person.”

Trinzi could only stare at the inscription.

“Huh,” she said quietly.

The first thing she saw inside took her breath away but not in fear. A pair of large marble statues greeted them. A three meter tall woman stood on the right with a man on their left. They looked toward the entrance and wore flowing robes. Each of them extended an arm as if in greeting.

“Are these their names?” she asked pointing to the inscriptions at their base.

“No, they’re just saying welcome.”

Trinzi walked over to a statue and ran her fingers over the woman’s outstretched hand. “You were right. I like this place already.”

Every room they entered was filled with light from the outside. There were carvings in many of the walls of landscapes and animals and people. There was nothing to indicate death or hell. She could only describe the whole place as serene.

They ended up in the top floor of the building. It was one giant room with the largest windows. Great stone cubes covered the floor, which she guessed were meant for sitting. She sat on one and stared at the sky through one of the windows. VonBaren came in front of her.

“Hungry?” he asked. “It’s six o’clock.”

“Wow, already?” She looked at her watch and sighed. She could care less about eating at that moment. She did not want to leave, finally feeling at peace. “Yeah, you must be hungry. We can go.”

“We can stay a little longer.” He put his hand on her shoulder to stop her as she prepared to stand. When she looked up at him, he quickly moved his hand away and pulled a bread roll out of his backpack. “Here, take this. I’ve got drinks too.”

His hand left a warm sensation on her shoulder.

“Thanks, VonBaren.”

He sat opposite her and pulled another roll out of his backpack, and drinks. She wanted to suggest that they set up camp here in this building, but somehow it didn’t seem fitting that they should. While eating her bread, she watched the clouds meander through the windows. It would be dark in a few hours.

“Sorry if this is too personal, but is everything going okay with you?” he asked tentatively. “All you said when you called was that you needed to get away.”

“There’s a lot of tension going on in my family,” she answered without hiding her bitterness. Saying it out loud reminded her of the situation. “You know, as usual.”

VonBaren’s eyes widened in surprise.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to pry.”

“No, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap like that.” She stared at the ground, but she could feel his eyes on her. “I’m sorry, it’s not that I don’t want to talk about it, but I just want to forget about it while I’m here.”

“I don’t blame you,” he said bluntly.

“There’s something about this place,” she said, changing the subject. “It’s the total opposite from that evil Temple. I feel good in here. It feels like, like what home should be.”

“I quite agree,” he replied. “Maybe this was a temple of a different sort.” He finished off his drink and put it away. “I knew you’d feel better here.”

“Thanks,” she answered. “I want to spend some more time here, for the remaining two days we have left. I definitely don’t want to go back to see Sewahatchi. I don’t know how the others can stand it there. And what was Kenya doing? I’ve never seen her act like that before. Do you think she actually saw something.”

“I don’t know, but I believe she thinks that she saw something.” VonBaren stood and walked to the window. “There’s something strange about that glass. I’m glad that we met Morli and he took it off my hands.”

Trinzi didn’t want to mention it before, but now she thought she owed it to VonBaren to tell him. “Earlier today, when you went off by yourself, I thought that I saw someone through the glass. Kenya didn’t see anyone, but I did only when I was holding the glass.”

“So you think that the glass can show you people that aren’t there?”

After thinking about it for a few seconds, Trinzi said “You know, I really don’t want to think anymore. Maybe we can just forget everything about it. Let’s just enjoy the rest of the trip. Thanks again for arranging this.”

“I’m really glad that you called, but I’m sorry for the reason.” He looked directly into her eyes. “I have a lot of good memories with you and your family. It’s been a long five years since I moved back to Darland. I’m glad our mothers kept in touch, otherwise I’d have lost contact with you forever.”

“I’m glad too,” she replied.

Was he trying to tell her something? She felt unsure of how to respond, or what he wanted to hear, or what she wanted to tell him. Maybe she needed someone or something so bad that she was willing to take hold of the first or any opportunity that presented itself. At the moment, it was too confusing to think about, but she had to admit that what she wanted more than anything was to stay longer with him. Maybe it was more the location. She did not know.

“I think we’d better get back to camp. We don’t want to wander around this city in the dark. Something might jump out at you.” VonBaren smiled.

She kicked him.

“Just kidding,” he said, backing away. “Like old times, eh?”

As they walked out of the building, she looked back and felt as if someone were watching them leave. It wasn’t frightening but comforting. She felt excited to visit this place again.

When they got back to camp they found the others huddled around a fire, talking and laughing. Trinzi felt uncomfortable, almost as if she was approaching strangers. When Trinzi and VonBaren came within the group’s sight, the laughing and talking stopped, leaving only the crackle of the fire.

“How long have you been back?” VonBaren asked.

“Just long enough to get a fire started,” Paul said. He turned to look at them with a smile.

Kenya looked up as well.

“Where have you two been off to, huh?” she asked sarcastically.

Trinzi tried sounding casual, as if she hadn’t immensely enjoy herself. “VonBaren showed me this amazing place. It was beautiful. We’ll show you tomorrow.”

“Yeah maybe,” Kenya said. “Maybe after we visit the temple again. Professor Morli said we’ve found some things that no one’s ever seen. You should come and see for yourself, if you dare, that is.”

“We’re going to help them again tomorrow,” Elise said. “We’ve opened up some secret passages that even he didn’t know about. And then there were the…”

She swallowed and paused. A look from Kenya stopped her from continuing.

“The what?” VonBaren asked, stepping forward and sitting by the fire with the rest of them.

“Like I said, come and see for yourself,” Kenya answered. Her lips curved into a wicked smile.

Trinzi didn’t like the tone of Kenya’s voice. It was patronizing, reminding Trinzi of her mother. This was the last thing she needed on her vacation. Had their relationship deteriorated since the visit to the Temple of Sewahatchi? Or was their mood simply damaged by the memory of that man falling to his death? She couldn’t quite eliminate that from her thoughts. The memory was too fresh. But the problem between Trinzi and Kenya definitely began at the temple of Sewahatchi, more reason for her to hate the place, to never visit there again.

They slept in an old brick fort near the outer wall of the city. Before falling asleep, Trinzi heard wolves howling in the distance.

Trinzi was sitting on a stone bench in front of the statue of Sewahatchi, between Kenya and Elise. Opposite from them sat Morli and the two other Darlandan men. They were talking to Morli in Darlandan, but Trinzi couldn’t understand what they were saying. She heard VonBaren’s name and wondered where he was. She remembered him leaving camp early in the morning, before the rest of them had left for the temple.

Trinzi was trying to figure out why she had ever agreed to return to the Temple of Sewahatchi. Some of the morning’s events were blurry. She had been feeling light-headed after having breakfast with Morli and his two friends. The drink they had offered her had tasted so strange, but she loved it. She couldn’t get enough of it. While drinking the warm liquid, they talked about coming back to the temple, and she had agreed without any trepidation.

They wouldn’t have slipped her a drug, would they? She turned to Kenya and then Elise. They wore vacant expressions.

A large fire burned in the pit, with smoke that disappeared through a hole in the ceiling. Behind the altar at Sewahatchi’s feet, lay a portable stereo. Some rock song that Trinzi didn’t recognize was playing. It filled the room with a heavy drum beat.

“I don’t think I want to be in here?” Trinzi began, turning to Elise. Elise kept looking straight at the fire.

“Then leave,” Kenya said. “I won’t stop you.”

From across the fire Morli asked, “Kenya, where’s your brother? They’ll only show us the way after the sacrifice.” He stood now and looked through the crystal to his right as if talking to someone. Trinzi saw no one.

“Give him some time. She said that they would help him get it.”

“Get what?” Trinzi asked, confused. What were they talking about? Her senses were beginning to return, as though a nightmare was fading.

“You’ll see.”

Morli turned to one of the men on his right and said something in Darlandan. The man stood and walked out of the room. Seeing her opportunity, Trinzi stood from her seat and walked quickly after him. Standing so fast made her head swim. The other Darlandan man jumped out of his seat and grabbed her hand to steady her. She was about to thank him for the help, but then realized that he wouldn’t let go of her. He said something that she did not understand.

“Let go of me.” Trinzi said, struggling to free herself.

“Miss Trinzi,” Morli interrupted. “We didn’t go to all the trouble to get you here, just for you to leave just before it starts. They specifically wanted you here, otherwise the arrangement’s canceled. Please just stay a little while longer.”

“Do I have a choice?”

He got up from his seat and stood between her and the exit. He said something to the man holding her arm. He released her hand then motioned for her to return to the fire.

“This is simply unprecedented,” Morli said as though talking to himself. “We’re part of a major discovery.”

Trinzi walked back to the fire, anger taking control. “I don’t want any part of this, and I don’t care what treasure you find.”

Anger gave her strength, but she knew it wouldn’t be enough to overpower Morli and the other man. Then they heard movement from the hallways. Everyone turned toward the entrance. Paul walked into the room followed by the other Darlandan man. Paul was carrying something big, furry, and limp. Trinzi squinted in the low light of the fire and realized what he was carrying. A wolf. She could see its eyes, fully aware and staring lazily, at her.

“Thanks for the help, every one,” Paul said sarcastically. He laid the animal on the altar. All four of its paws were tied. “The tranquilizer should last for about another half hour.”

“Was it hard?” asked Kenya. “Did it happen the way they showed you?”

“It was the strangest thing. I was sitting there behind this large rock and the stupid animal came around the corner and stood as if waiting for me. I looked at it, straight in the eyes before I shot it with the tranquilizer. It tried running, but collapsed instead.”

Even with the loud music playing, Trinzi could hear the wolf’s slow, rhythmic breathing. She watched its chest rise and fall and could hear it moan every few seconds. She couldn’t bear to watch or even think about what they were going to do next.

She was so intent on watching the wolf, she didn’t notice Kenya walking over to her with the crystal lens held high in her hand. Suddenly Paul was on the other side of her with one hand on her shoulder and the other on the back of her head. Kenya held up the crystal in front of her eyes. She gave a little jerk away from it, but Paul held her head fast.

“What do you see, Trinzi?” he asked in a low voice. “Don’t be afraid. Just look into the glass.”

The drum beat of the song pounded in her ears. She tried to look away but couldn’t when she saw a new woman in front of her.

The person before her was more beautiful than any woman Trinzi had ever seen. She had long white hair, whiter than snow and shining like a silver mirror in the sun. Her eyes blazed a brilliant blue. She wore a long flowing robe that hung loosely at her feet. Her eyes surveyed the animal on the altar who was still looking at Trinzi. When she looked up, their eyes met, and Trinzi’s heart froze.

Paul placed a knife in Trinzi’s hand. She knew exactly what they wanted her to do with it, what the woman wanted her to do with it. As if watching a movie in slow motion, she moved the knife over the wolf’s throat. She felt powerless to control it. Slowly, the knife became heavier and heavier. She had to hold it with both hands to keep it from plunging into the wolf’s neck.

As she stared into the wolf’s eyes she felt its fear and anger. All she had to do was just let go and it would sink into his neck and it would be over. She felt tears falling down her cheeks and the heat from the fire on her back. While she struggled to keep the dagger from falling, she felt a quiet voice. It said, “Just let go of the knife.”

She didn’t know what to do. If she dropped the knife it would fall into the wolf’s neck and kill it. She could never forgive herself if that happened. If she killed the wolf, something worse would come next.

“God, please help me,” she silently pleaded, closing her eyes. At that moment, she heard the footsteps. She opened her eyes just in time to see a light growing brighter from the entrance. VonBaren entered, bringing with him a hope Trinzi thought had died. She dropped the knife and ran to him, holding tightly to his arm.


“What is going on here?” he asked wildly.

No one spoke for a few seconds, then Morli rose from his seat. “We’re just having a small sacrifice, like old times. There are other, um, people here. They will make it worth our effort.” He held up a gold coin that glimmered in the firelight.

VonBaren looked from Morli to the altar and the wolf lying on it. His eyes widened in anger.

“What do you mean? Who are you talking about?”

“You’ll see them, just look through the glass.” Morli brought the glass to VonBaren and handed it to him. “There’s one over by the altar.”

“Don’t do it, VonBaren.” Trinzi said as she looked around the room at everyone. The music seemed louder. “Don’t look. They’re demons or ghosts or… I don’t know what, but they want us to do horrible things. She wanted me to, to kill the wolf.”

She pulled on VonBaren’s arm, but he didn’t move. Instead, he held up the crystal lens and scanned the room through it. When his eyes met the altar he stopped moving and stood motionless. She pulled on his arm, but he shook her hand away.

“Snap out of it, VonBaren,” Trinzi pleaded, trying to step in front of him. Don’t leave me alone in here.”

She suddenly felt like a lamb in a den of lions. The fire blazed behind her and she felt the heat on her back. Morli took a step forward and so did another of the Darlandan men.

“Get out of his way,” Morli said forcefully.

VonBaren held the glass at his side now and started stepping around the fire pit. Without thinking, Trinzi grabbed it and backed away towards the exit.

“Give us that glass.”

One of the two men stepped forward. Trinzi held the glass high above her head. “I’ll break it. I swear I will.” Her hand shook as she yelled.

“Stop!” Morli yelled, and the man stopped his advance. Trinzi kept stepping towards the exit. She felt as if something was watching her from the shadows, but she kept moving anyway.

“Let her go,” said a voice in the background. Paul stood up from the bench as if waking from a dream. Trinzi’s heart skipped with relief.

A new voice appeared, but she knew that she was the only one to hear it.

“Leave this place.”

Suddenly, she remembered the other temple. The mere thought of it filled her with hope, and courage to run into the dark corridors. She ran.

After the darkness completely enveloped her, the courage she had gained shrank like a waterdrop in the burning sun. She could still hear the low thumping drum beat, so she kept moving away from the noise.

With every step, it felt like the ancient walls closed in a centimeter closer. She held the glass in front of her towards the ground. The lens seemed to allow sight without light. She could see the floor clearly.

“Please don’t let me see anything but the floor,” she pleaded silently. As she walked she sang a verse from a lullaby.

Flutter and soar my baby bee

Don’t you listen to the trees

They may shake and they may fall

Don’t you think of them at all

She didn’t stop until she saw a light from the temple entrance, then she ran. When finally she entered the world of light, she breathed in the cold air as though breaking through the surface of water. She looked up into the dusky sky and noticed the last rays of the sun on the clouds. Soon it would be dark. She had to hurry to the Temple of Light. VonBaren needed help. They all needed help. The anger of being drugged and coerced into the temple by the others was replaced by a desire to help them.

It took about fifteen minutes to reach the place. When she got to the entrance, she placed both hands on the doorway and rested until her heart rate dropped to a normal level.

The crystal lens in her right hand felt heavy. She didn’t want to look through it at first. Her conscience said that looking through the glass was what she needed to do, but she was afraid of what she would see. She walked to the two statues, the woman and the man who looked like they were there to welcome visitors. She gazed up into the ancient, intricate faces.

“Hi, remember me?” she asked in a whisper.

Trinzi’s voice absorbed into the walls leaving the room quiet again. She wished for a response and then laughed at the thought. Without warning, her eyes filled with tears as the memory of the earlier events rushed through her again. She sat down at the base of the statue and cried for what seemed an eternity.

“What is wrong with me?” she asked, wiping her eyes dry.

Suddenly, she didn’t feel alone anymore. And when the skin on her neck started tingling, she stood. Slowly she brought the crystal to eye level and looked through it, first at the statue of the man opposite her and then slowly around the room.

“Hello,” she called out. “Is anyone,…” her voice trailed off when she saw a man and woman farther down the hallway.

They were motionless, as if another pair of statues, but Trinzi knew it was not possible. No artist could carve their perfect forms. She remembered the beauty of the woman she saw in the Temple of Sewahatchi. These two beings made the other seem to be their reflection in a murky pool. For several seconds, all Trinzi could do was stare and feel the rapid beating of her heart.

The man’s dazzling white hair was short and mottled. His hair and whole person seemed to be generating a light of its own. She couldn’t describe the brilliance, and yet she didn’t have to squint when she looked at them. Their dark eyes seemed to be holding back an ocean of light peeking around the iris. The woman looked similar except her hair was longer, just past the shoulders. Trinzi’s fear was overpowered by her admiration. People had always told her that she was very pretty, but she was not a drop against their radiance.

After an eternity of waiting, the woman turned to look at the man. She spoke to him, but Trinzi could only hear the faint wind outside. The great hallway was getting darker. Trinzi lowered the glass and the two disappeared. She brought it back again just to make sure that she wasn’t going crazy. She wasn’t.

Trinzi stepped back involuntarily when she saw the woman take a couple steps forward, holding up her hand.

“Who are you?” Trinzi asked with a shaking voice. Neither person spoke, but the woman kept walking forward.

“I came for help,” Trinzi began timidly. “I have some friends who are in trouble. I’m afraid they’ll do something horrible. Can you help me?”

The woman stopped about three meters away and the man stood slightly behind her. Trinzi had to hold the glass closer to see them both. They wore a kind smile, but the woman seemed to be looking, rather intently and directly into Trinzi’s eyes, and she couldn’t help but focus on them. It felt like looking into the sun, but she couldn’t look away. The light grew brighter and brighter until her vision was completely smothered and all she could see was white.

She forgot about her body. Her pain, her fear melted away. She felt detached from her senses. No, she corrected herself, she could still feel warmth. It felt like warm water surrounded her. In this state, she forgot about herself, her own desires. All she wanted to do was to stay in this condition forever.

She heard a sound, something rhythmic and increasing in volume. It was the sound of hard soled shoes on a stone floor. In perfect tranquility she waited for the owner of that sound to appear. Time seemed to slip away while she listened.

Suddenly the tapping stopped.

“Trinzi?” a haltering voice whispered. “Wake up honey.”

She blinked her eyes and when she opened them again she noticed that her mother stood above her bed looking down at her. She looked happier than she had been in a long time.

“Mom, is that you?”

“Yes, it’s me,” she answered wiping Trinzi’s hair away from her forehead. Her hand felt warm and smooth.

There was something she desperately wanted to say, but couldn’t remember what exactly and it didn’t seem that important anymore. All that was important was that she was home.

“You were having a dream?” her mother asked.

“Yes.” Random images of her nightmare flashed through her memory. A pair of angry eyes. A dagger. “It was a nightmare, but it’s over.” She breathed a sigh of relief and thought it was odd that all she could see was her mother. She was surrounded by a soft, white light.

“You’ll feel better if you tell me about it,” she said, looking sincerely interested.

“I’d rather forget it.”

“Dreams are important, especially nightmares. We shouldn’t forget them.”

Trinzi looked off to the side, into the dazzling white light. “Do you remember VonBaren?”

“Of course I do. Was he in your dream?”

“We were in a horrible place. It was dark and evil. There were others there as well. They wanted us to do kill, a dog or something. I ran away and left him there.”

“Go on, it’s ok,” her mother said as she took Trinzi’s hand. “What did the place look like.”

“There was a fire, and an altar and a, a statue.” Trinzi focused back on her mother as the statue’s image resurfaced. “Sewahatchi,” she said rather loudly. “The temple of Sewahatchi. Kenya and her brother and Elise were there too. People you can only see through a strange glass had some sort of hold on everyone.”

At the mention of Sewahatchi, her mother’s smile vanished. “Why did you go there?” she asked, with some accusation in her voice.

Trinzi studied the woman standing over her.

“You’re not my mother.” She scooted farther back in bed. “It was real wasn’t it? Who are you?”

Her red lips spread into a warm smile. “You’re safe now. That’s all that matters. Everything’s going to be fine.” She put her other hand over Trinzi’s. “I see it all clearly now.”

“What about VonBaren, and the others? They’re in trouble.”

Reality poured back into the white light, and Trinzi felt panic begin to take hold again. She wished the moment of complete bliss would have remained longer, but at least the white light still enveloped her and she felt safe. She wondered about the woman’s identity again.

“If they sacrifice the wolf,” Trinzi continued, “I know something worse will come next. It’s probably too late. I need to find help.” Trinzi sat up in bed. “You were the one in the Temple of light. Who are you?”

The woman caressed her hand. “Just someone who wants to help you.” She brushed Trinzi’s next words aside with a wave of her hand. “Enough talking. Close your eyes then go back to your friends.” The light began to intensify. “Try to remain calm. You’re never alone.”

The white light gently swallowed the vision of Trinzi’s mother until she was gone, then Trinzi closed her eyes. When her vision returned, she found herself alone in the darkened hallway of the Temple of light. She held the glass to her eyes and scanned the room. There was no sign of the two beings. She was alone. The wind was cold, but it didn’t bother her.

As she set off down the hill, she felt a new surge of courage and hope. The woman said that she needed to go back. That was Trinzi’s only plan.

When she arrived at the entrance something caught her attention. It was a flashlight, and it was set in just a position that she couldn’t have missed it, as if someone placed it there for her. Holding the flashlight in one hand and the glass in the other she entered the black hold of Sewahatchi. As soon as she entered, the feeling of peace departed, although enough courage remained for her to keep going. One step at a time, she thought.

When the light of the entrance was gone, she saw an empty bench in one of the hallways. She didn’t remember seeing the bench on her previous visits. “Have I taken a wrong turn,” she whispered in panic. An overpowering curiosity brought the glass to her eyes. She saw an old man with white hair sitting on the bench. He was looking down to the ground and motionless as a statue.

Her instinct told her to stop looking through the glass, but she felt suddenly paralyzed. It seemed like a long while that she stared at the man. Slowly, he turned to look down the hallway in Trinzi’s direction. Every neuron signaled her eyes to look away, but she couldn’t. Their eyes met. It was for the briefest of moments and then she brought the glass down to her side and closed her eyes. After swallowing hard, she opened them again. She brought the flashlight up and saw the same bench but with no one on it, or nearby. She hurried passed the bench with her eyes on the ground.

A few minutes later, she heard footsteps ahead of her, getting louder. Trinzi stopped and shined the flashlight ahead of her. The hallway ended about ten meters away, empty.

“Who’s there?”

The footsteps stopped and for a few horrible seconds, there was silence. Then, a soft voice answered, the sound coming from around the corner.

“Trinzi, is that you?” the familiar voice asked. “It’s Kenya?”

“Kenya?” Trinzi said hesitantly, taking a step closer. “Where’s everyone else? Where’s VonBaren.” Trinzi looked closely to where the hall turned from the same place where Kenya’s voice originated.

“Follow me and I will take you there. Come on!” The sound of Kenya’s footsteps filled the hallway again, retreating.

“Wait. Let me catch up to you.”

“There’s no time. Hurry!”

Kenya’s footsteps moved farther down the hallway, and Trinzi ran after her, but when she turned the corner, she did not see Kenya. She definitely heard the sound of footsteps ahead, and her flashlight revealed the end of the new hallway.

“VonBaren’s just around this corner. He’s hurt.”

Trinzi started walking more slowly in Kenya’s direction. She turned the next corner and saw Kenya standing just a few meters away. Trinzi let out a long sigh of relief.

“Kenya, we’ve got to get out,” she said. “There are demons or something in this place. They want us to do horrible things.”

“Follow me,” Kenya said and extended her hand to Trinzi.

She was about to move, but a voice in her mind told her to stop.

“Where’s VonBaren?” she asked hesitantly.

“That’s where we’re going dear.”

Trinzi squinted her eyes. Dear? Kenya had never called her that before. She took a step backward.

“We don’t have much time.” Kenya extended her hand even farther. “It’ll take both of us to lift him.”

“Did he fall?” Trinzi asked.

“Yes, down some steps.” Kenya pointed her flashlight down the hallway, indicating where VonBaren was. “After you left, he started running down the corridors. I ran after him and found him with his head cut open. When I finally left him to come find someone, I found you. I agree about this place. We need to get him out of here.”

Relief swept over Trinzi to hear that Kenya finally shared the same opinion of the temple. Forgetting the warning voice in her head, she stepped toward Kenya.

The next instant shattered into a million pieces as Trinzi stepped forward. Kenya’s mouth curved into a wide smile, and her eyes expanded larger than humanly possible. Instead of touching the ground, Trinzi’s foot sank into the floor. As she fell, she held out her hands to catch herself, but they sank into the floor as well. She watched it all in slow motion, as if in a movie. The floor opened into a dark pit. VonBaren’s lifeless eyes stared up at her as she descended into it.

Pain filled Trinzi’s head. It erased all of her other thoughts, all of her memories. She suddenly imagined herself still falling, and the farther she fell, the greater the pain. Most of the pain was in her head, but it was also in her hands.

Slowly, the memory of the most recent events began to surface and she started to feel other sensations in her body, cold and dizziness. She wondered if this is what one felt while dying. Part of her wanted to simply lay there and allow herself to fall into nothingness. Her consciousness snapped to attention when she finally remembered seeing the unconscious form of VonBaren.

“He’s not dead,” she whispered in relief. “He’s not dead!”

She repeated the words in her head until she believed it. She would come back for him, from wherever she was. Then she heard his breathing, and she opened her eyes and reached out to the sound. She found his head and could feel wet blood. She wiped his hair away from his forehead. He was still warm.

“VonBaren, wake up. Can you hear me?” Trinzi listened for a response but found none. She put her hand under his head and pressed it into her shoulder. “Please wake up,” she begged. A small grunt escaped his lips, but he did not wake.

She sat up, trying her best to fight the dizziness threatening to erase her awareness. After Trinzi gently placed his head in her lap, she felt around with her hand and found a ledge at the edge of her reach. She found a pebble, pushed it over the ledge and waited for the sound of it hitting something. She counted five seconds before any sound, but it kept bouncing until it was too faint to hear anymore.

“The glass?” Trinzi asked in panic. “Where’s the glass?”

She felt all around her. It wasn’t anywhere near. Not knowing why, she felt panic at possibly losing the object. She stood on her feet and found that her head came up to a ledge from where she fell. The glass must be up there. She could probably get herself out, but not an unconscious man.

All of the sudden, she could hear footsteps approaching. She peered over the ledge in fear. After a moment she saw a faint glow. This time she didn’t call out, but just waited.

Kenya appeared in a doorway on the far side of the large room. She was alone. Her flashlight beam snaked across the floor as she walked forward. Trinzi wanted to shout out to her, but she put her head down instead, out of sight. Kenya finally stopped about two meters away from the hole where Trinzi and VonBaren had fallen. She heard Kenya bend down and pick up an object from the ground, the glass.

“What was that?” Kenya asked as if in response to someone. “Murdered him?”

Four footsteps later, Trinzi found a flashlight beam in her face, blinding her. She didn’t know what to say. Instead, she stood there motionless. Was this a dream or reality? The flashlight beam moved from her face to shine on VonBaren. The only thing Trinzi could still see was the blast of light.

“Kenya,” she finally managed to say. “Is it you? Can you help us?”

“You did push him over the ledge,” Kenya said in astonishment. “They were right.”

“What?” Trinzi asked. “I did not…who are you talking about?”

“You brought him to this pit, to kill him.”

“That’s crazy, Kenya. I would never kill anyone, especially not VonBaren. You know that.”

“For once, I like someone and you want to steal him away.” Anger filled her voice. “Once he found out what type of person you are, he rejected you. And you couldn’t take it.”

Trinzi backed away from the ledge and looked down into the dark pit. She could see nothing, just empty space.

“You couldn’t have him, so no one could. Don’t try and deny it. They showed me what happened.” Kenya held up the glass with her other hand and looked at Trinzi through it.

Trinzi could see Kenya through the glass, but there were many others directly behind her. The sight made Trinzi gasp in horror. They were surrounded by demons, furious faces. Trinzi had to turn away.

“Don’t listen to them, Kenya. Everything they show are lies. They want to fill you with anger and hate. They put us in some kind of trance when we looked at them. They led us into this pit.”

Trinzi looked away from the glass and then down to VonBaren. In the light she could see glistening blood covering VonBaren’s forehead. His skin looked pale, as if the life was draining away.

“Don’t lie, Trinzi,” Kenya said as her eyes welled up with tears, but there was anger there still. “You’ve been lying to me this whole time, going off by yourself with him, not wanting to be with the rest of us. You turned him against me. I thought we were friends.”

“I am your friend Kenya, please just trust me.”

“Just shut up,” Kenya yelled. “In your heart, you’re a murderer.” Kenya pointed to the black of the pit, still looking through the glass. “It’s coming now.”


“What’s coming?” Trinzi looked down into the black hole and felt a chill wind begin to sweep out of it. It was cold and leached into her bones. She pulled VonBaren away from the edge as close to the wall as possible. “Please Kenya, help us out of here.”

Kenya didn’t answer. She held out the glass and looked into the pit through it. Trinzi followed her gaze and heard faint whisperings rising with the wind. She could not recognize any words yet, but they sent a chill through her entire body. She looked up to Kenya. Her eyes were wide with terror. Through the glass, Trinzi saw dark creatures flying above her. They seemed to be flying from the pit behind her. Maybe they were the wind.

Trinzi crouched down and held both of VonBaren’s hands in hers. They were cold at the finger tips, but there definitely was warmth nearer his wrists. “Wake up VonBaren, please wake up.” Even in the wind, she could hear his breathing. “He’s alive, Kenya. You’ve got to believe me. Look, he’s breathing.”

Kenya didn’t respond. Her gaze was fixated on the glass between her eyes and the black hole. The whisperings were getting louder. They whispered only one name, nefarious and horribly articulate. When she understood it, she let go of VonBaren’s hands and pressed with her back up against the wall.

“Trinzi,” the voice said. “Trinzi, Trinzi, Trinzi, Trinzi!”

She put both hands up to her ears, attempting to shut out the sound. When that failed, she shut her eyes tightly. Trinzi remembered holding her face to the sun once with her eyes closed. She had felt the sun disappear when a cloud passed in front of it. This moment reminded her of that experience. Whatever light had accompanied her was now gone. She heard movement from the blackness below her. Something was emerging from the hole.

When the sound of movement stopped, Trinzi knew that some horrible creature hovered in the air before her. The being felt cold as though Trinzi stood before a frozen fire of ice. The cold was coming from directly in front of her. Curiosity tempted her to open her eyes, but she did not dare see what it was. This was something she would never be able to unsee.

Just then Kenya screamed and the sound of her footsteps retreated. She began yelling something, but her words were drowned by the wind.

“Don’t open your eyes,” a calm voice whispered in her mind. She pressed her back hard against the cold wall, imagining that any moment, something was going to touch her.

“Where am I?” VonBaren’s said weakly in front of her. “Is that you Trinzi?”

She was tempted to open her eyes and look down at the ground, but stopped herself.

“Trinzi,” VonBaren said in a panicked voice. “Something’s pulling me. Please, give me your hand. Trinzi, please hold out your hand.”

Somehow, Trinzi knew that VonBaren was still unconscious. Instead of reaching outward, Trinzi extended her trembling right hand to the ground to touch VonBaren, to physically connect with him. She quickly found a hand, but it was not a human hand. It was cold like ice and it clenched around hers, and then the hand began pulling her forward.

When her back disconnected from the safety of the wall, she began crying. With her left hand, she clasped the hand holding onto hers, and then pulled with all of her strength but to no avail. She was slowly moving forward, and her hand seemed to be turning into ice. The cold hurt, reminding Trinzi of when she had smashed her fingers with a hammer.

Noooo,” she screamed until all the air had escaped her lungs, until her voice hurt from the strain. After inhaling more air, she screamed again, louder than she ever had in her whole life. “Let go of me!”

Unexpectedly, the hand stopped pulling her forward.

Its grip relaxed a bit, giving her extra strength to continue pulling. She pulled hard against it now, but was holding her steady. Minutes seemed to pass with nothing happening, but then it let go of her.

After the frozen hand released its grip, Trinzi heard a strange swooshing sound followed by a loud click on the floor above her, like the sound of shoes hitting the floor. The sounds brought her back to attention. She found the strength to open her eyes and found a white light beginning to illuminate her surroundings.

“Stop,” Kenya said in panic from across the room, out of Trinzi’s sight.

Trinzi stood to her feet and peered over the ledge. Someone tall and very thin was walking toward Kenya. Trinzi could see right through him so that he did not look real, but she clearly heard his footsteps.

“I said stop,” Kenya yelled this time, but the being only slowed. It was holding one hand in front of its face to block the light coming from Kenya’s outstretched hand. Once her eyes adjusted, Trinzi saw that Kenya was holding the glass in front of her toward the creature. A bright white light was emanating from the glass, not like a flashlight beam but rather like the sun, emanating in all directions. Kenya was holding her ground like a statue with her eyes averted.

“Give that to me,” the being hissed at Kenya. Its voice shook the walls of the chamber. “Or I will rip it away with the skin of your fingers.”

“Go back to your cradle, Sewahatchi,” an unfamiliar female voice answered calmly, not Kenya’s. “I’m taking these people away.”

Kenya was averting her eyes, not looking at the creature.

The light from the glass intensified and finally the being stopped his advance. He was only two meters away from Kenya now. He reached out his hand to shield the light coming from the glass, but the light shot through his fingers. In desperation it hissed at her again. The ground shook harder, and this time Trinzi heard a horrible crack, as if the walls were about to shatter.

As the light intensified, the being started backing away from the crystal toward Trinzi, but with each step he became dimmer until he disappeared altogether. With one last roar, Trinzi felt a rush of air pass her, and then all was quiet. The room now was entirely illuminated, like her previous vision of being in bed surrounded by white, dazzling light.

Kenya walked to the edge of the pit and looked down at Trinzi. She held the glass out over them, but she didn’t look angry anymore. She looked tired. Trinzi knelt down beside VonBaren and picked up his hand.

“I think that I can lift him,” she said, preparing to get a good grip on him, but then she stopped.

The light from the crystal suddenly intensified around him and Trinzi thought she felt heat from it.

After a few seconds, he moved his head from side to side and then finally opened his eyes. He used his hand to shield his eyes from the light.

“Who’s there?” he asked weakly.

“It’s me and Kenya,” Trinzi said as relief flooded over her. “Everything’s all right now.”

“I was following you. But it wasn’t really you.” VonBaren shook his head as he sat up. “I was so angry, so angry at her for deceiving me. I don’t know what came over me. I wanted to kill her. And then you laughed, I mean she laughed at me, and then I fell into the floor. I had nightmares of being locked in a dungeon with a madman. Then I was the madman.”

He took a moment to catch his breath, but Trinzi cut him off.

“It’s okay, everything’s okay,” she said, relief continuing to crash through her. “Don’t think about what’s happened. It’s over now.”

“I feel all right, otherwise.”

“The woman said we need to get out of here,” Kenya interrupted.

“Do you have the strength to stand?” Trinzi asked, looking at VonBaren.

“Yes.” he said while standing. “It’s strange, but I feel light.”

Kenya helped pull Trinzi from the hole first. And then with help from both girls, VonBaren made an easy escape.

“What happened?” he asked, staring at the glass. “And what’s that light?”

Trinzi ignored him and looked around the room. The hole was the center of a large chamber. What she had seen earlier about the area being a hallway had all been an illusion. When she looked up, she saw a tall vaulted ceiling with pictures of horrible creatures gliding through the air.

“Let’s talk about this later,” Kenya said and turned to exit the room. “I just want to get the hell out of here.”

She seemed to be avoiding eye contact with both of them, so Trinzi and VonBaren just followed her, followed the light. They left the room in a cold, dark silence and neither of them looked back.

Silence and light totally enveloped them as they walked through the ancient hallways. After recalling that she had been walking through these hallways alone and following a demon, Trinzi shuddered. While walking, Trinzi kept rubbing her hands together, unconsciously attempting to erase the memory of her hand in an icy grip.

On a more conscious level, Trinzi was thinking about Kenya. She had no idea that Kenya was jealous of her. Or was that part of an illusion? It was probably a little of both. Suddenly she felt very sorry for Kenya. She knew what it felt like to be jealous of someone else, although not as intensely maybe, but she knew the feeling. Just by the way that Kenya averted her eyes when talking to them, Trinzi knew that things were different between them now.

“Who’s that?” someone yelled out from around a corner. “Who’s coming?”

It was Paul.

“It’s me” Kenya said, relief in her voice. “Trinzi and VonBaren are with me.”

Paul and Elise turned the corner and held out their hands to shield the light.

“What is that?” he asked.

“Our guide,” Kenya replied flatly. “We’re getting out of here.”

“Where’s Morli and his friends?”

“I left them. I don’t know where they are. They can find their own way out.”

“What happened to you two,” Paul asked, looking specifically at the blood on VonBaren’s head and the cuts on Trinzi’s hands and face.

“We, uh, fell in a hole,” Trinzi said. “Kenya found us and helped us out.” The last thing Trinzi wanted to do was explain what had happened.

Kenya looked at Trinzi with narrowed eyes but didn’t say anything.

“Are you okay?” Elise asked.

“We’re alright,” VonBaren said. “But a good night’s rest will do the trick I think, and some fresh air.”

“I hear you.” Paul agreed. “Let’s just get out of here and forget about this place, and uh, what’s happened.” He shook his head and laughed uncomfortably. “This place is weird.”

“You have no idea,” Trinzi finished. She smiled at VonBaren and Kenya. He smiled back, but Kenya looked away as though ashamed.

When they entered the world again, Trinzi felt like she had a rebirth. The cold mountain air felt wonderful. The wind sent its icy fingers to her skin. Instead of causing a shiver, the cold air seemed to wash away the evil grime of Sewahatchi’s temple. She held out her arms and breathed it all in.

Kenya came up to Trinzi, and held out the glass, which was dark again. “She told me to give this to you. You’d know what to do with it.” She immediately turned and started walking down the trail, alone. Paul walked after her, accompanied by a noticeable limp.

That night they all went straight to bed. No one felt the need to talk more than a few words. Maybe they all felt like Trinzi. She hoped that the night would isolate the past from the present, and they could all start afresh in the morning. In the back of her mind, Trinzi knew where she had to take the glass.

When she awoke the next morning, it was around six and slightly dark. Everyone was still asleep, so she hurried and got dressed and hiked to the temple of light with the glass.

During the brisk walk in the cold morning air, she felt better. In the back of her mind, she knew that hungry wolves lived out in the woods, but she her mind was focused on the destination. Somehow, she felt protected.

Yesterday’s memory seemed long gone. After about fifteen minutes, she stood between the two statues and then wondered what to do next. More than anything, she wanted to talk with that woman again. She held up the glass to her eyes and slowly scanned the room. When Trinzi saw the woman near the entrance where she had been, she wasn’t surprised.

The woman extended her hand and indicated for Trinzi to follow. They walked to the upper room where she and VonBaren had visited previously. The woman raised her hand to her eyes, suggesting for Trinzi to close hers. When her eyes were closed, she could feel a great white light on the other side of her eyelids. Suddenly, Trinzi had the sensation of falling backwards. She embraced the feeling and suddenly felt as though she had sunk deeper than the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. The sensation never entirely left her, but the light had diminished so that she felt safe to open her eyes.

Standing before her was the woman in an entirely new magnificence. Her long white hair burned like flames. Her skin sparkled as though composed of fine white crystals reflecting sunlight. Her deep blue eyes instantly captured Trinzi’s entire attention and she could look nowhere else for several seconds. When she could turn from the woman’s eyes, Trinzi noticed her surroundings. They were in the same room, but everything looked more detailed and new. And Trinzi wasn’t looking through the glass anymore.

“Thank you, Trinzi,” the woman said with a deep and feminine voice, a voice which rang as a crystal bell.

Trinzi didn’t want to ruin the moment by talking, but she felt the need to respond.

“For what?”

“For helping your friends, for bringing the glass here, and for coming to see me again. It’s not very often that I get the opportunity to justify direct communication.”

Trinzi did not know how to respond. She was staring into the woman’s eyes and almost forgot what the woman had said.

“What do you want me to do?” she asked finally.

“Just put the glass on this stone.”

Trinzi placed the glass where the woman indicated.

“Are we safe now?” she asked. “I mean from him, from them.”

The woman laughed silently before responding. “Yes, you’re safe now. Just stay away from dangerous places. Stay in the light.”

The woman placed her hand on the stone and slid her fingers across the smooth surface. She looked at her fingers as though amused. When the woman looked at Trinzi again, she smiled wide and Trinzi imagined how much a heterosexual male would want to kiss those perfectly pink lips.

“How are your friends?” she asked after a moment, as though giving Trinzi time to recover.

“They seem to be okay,” Trinzi said and sighed, suddenly feeling disappointed. “They’re not the same people I thought they were.”

“You mean there’s some darkness in them?”

“I guess so.” Trinzi said then had to look away. The woman’s gaze suddenly felt too intense.

“You all do, to some degree. Do not be disappointed in them. You are stronger. That’s why they need you.”

“What is this place and who are you?”

“You could call this a temple and I’m just a creature here.”

Trinzi looked up to the ceiling and noticed the bright lights pouring through every opening to the outside. It was so bright that she couldn’t see the sky. She could feel the woman looking at her.

“Thank you for showing me all this.”

“I’m glad you are here,” the woman said. “I know that you don’t want to, but it’s time to go. The longer you stay here, the harder it will be to go back.”

The woman extended her hand to Trinzi’s forehead. When those beautiful fingers made contact, heat filled Trinzi’s whole body. An overwhelming desire for sleep shut her eyes.

After a long while, she opened her eyes and found herself in the top chamber of the Temple of light in front of the altar. The glass was gone. Trinzi felt as though people were watching her in the empty room. Reluctantly and with one last glance around, she left the temple.

For their last day in Trandst, VonBaren showed some more ruins to everyone. No one saw Morli or his two friends. No one mentioned anything about the previous events at the Temple of Sewahatchi. No one even mentioned his name. Kenya still avoided eye contact with Trinzi.

As they hiked away from Trandst the next day, Kenya was lagging behind the rest of the group. Trinzi had been looking for an opportunity to talk to her in private so she dropped back as well. They hiked for a few seconds while Trinzi thought of a tactful way to start the conversation. She felt awkward, but she had to bridge the gap that had formed between them.

“How’s the hike?”

“Relaxing,” she replied. “I guess.”

More silence followed and still Kenya just stared at the ground.

“I’m sorry about everything that’s happened.” Trinzi said, needing to keep the conversation going. If it stopped, she might never get it started again.

“You’re sorry?” Kenya replied sarcastically. “I’m the one who left you for dead, with that thing.”

“It was all just a deception, Kenya. They were playing with our minds. You shouldn’t be so hard on yourself.”

“Hard on myself, huh,” Kenya smirked. “The problem is that I did mean what I said, well most of it, and I don’t have the guts to…”

“To what?” Trinzi asked. She wasn’t shocked by this statement. She knew Kenya was jealous, but she just figured that everyone’s got something for others to envy. Trinzi was always jealous of Kenya’s confidence.

“Not that it matters anyway, but I’m sorry. I’m sorry I believed those things about you.” Kenya turned away and closed her eyes. “I guess that I wanted to. It made it easier to, hate you.”

“But you don’t hate me, do you?”

“No, but I’m just not a strong person like you.”

Trinzi walked ahead and made eye contact.

“Listen, can we just be friends again and try to forget all of this. Sewahatchi can be the scapegoat.” The mere mention of his name brought a chill out of the crisp air.

“How can you say that?” Kenya asked. She seemed to be getting angry now. “It was me, not Sewahatchi or anyone else. A good person wouldn’t do what I did, wouldn’t want what I wanted.”

“But, you came back didn’t you?”

“I only came back, because of the woman in the glass. She made the anger go away. She only helped us because of you. That’s what she told me. I’ll never forget seeing her though.” Kenya’s eyes softened but only momentarily.

“Don’t you see?” Trinzi asked, smiling. “This is the kind of thing those creatures wanted us to believe. They hate us, and anything they can get us to believe that will hurt us, they will get pleasure from it. We don’t have to believe them. We can choose to believe that we’re good, and that we can do better and overcome our flaws.”

Trinzi could see a struggle behind Kenya’s eyes. They weren’t angry anymore.

“You didn’t have to listen to the woman in white,” Trinzi said as the realization presented itself to her. “You chose to come back. She never would force you to do something you didn’t want to do. And that’s why you can stop blaming yourself, because underneath your anger, you’re a kind person. That’s why I’ve always liked you. You’re a leader and confident, something that I’m not.”

They came to a sharp turn in the path that wound through a group of conifers. Kenya was in front and then stopped. She turned and smiled for the first time.

“It’s too bad that I’ve also got all the looks.”

Trinzi laughed.


Comments are closed.