Crystal's StorySite



Janet L. Stickney


Within the cold pages of history lie the secret of the Masters, those people that had conquered the realm of the impossible. With potions and herbs, incantations spoken in lustrous voices, fire, and a bit of showmanship, they conjured the forces of nature, creating possibilities out of what seemed like nothing, and the people, knowing the great power they had, would often call on them to right wrongs, cure the sick and the lame, or grant favorable weather. The world as they knew it was good. Then came the darkening, which cast out across the land, taking life, ruining crops, and caused a great war. In their suffering the people turned to the Masters, who tried everything they knew, failing to right even the smallest wrong, which caused the people to cast aside their beliefs in the Masters, then, as time overran the Masters, eventually there was but one left to hold the truths. The ancient Grezelda, rumored to be three hundred years old, could see that the near future held no hope, so she set aside the most valuable manuscripts, hiding them deep in the last remains of a failing castle before she to fell to old age, her bones falling to dust within moments of her death.

As the men dug in the earth, bits and pieces of the past came alive. Mere shards, bits and pieces of pottery, old bones and a few stone tablets emerged, casting a terrible dilemma for the men. In their haste to recover what they could, they were constrained by the knowledge that careful examination would reveal much more than just simply and quickly digging in the ruins would. Acres of land were dug up to a depth of six feet, the bits and pieces of the past filling many crates of material for later examination, but time ran short, and as the men packed away their things to leave, a sadness filled the air. They had not found what they called the "library", a long rumored cache of books dating to the time of the legendary Arthur, maybe even before that. Immeasurable time had passed, yet the hope remained that the rumored books were still intact. Those same books were living large in the mind of the head of the project, me, Michael Barnes.

The men were driving away, their trucks hauling the precious cargo of the past, headed for a museum where others would study them, trying to work out how the people of the past lived, but the shards would not reveal the terrible darkness that fell within the land, nor the uncommon fate that befell them, only the mundane efforts of a few artisans. I walked alone within the ruins, touching the stones that were the heart of the world so long ago, my senses acutely aware that with each step, I was walking amid a past that still spoke loudly to me, calling out for someone to find the answer. The problem was that I didn't even know the right question.

The icy wind ripped across the highlands, so cold that it threatened to take my breath away, yet I stood there listening to the wind howling, ready to leave yet drawn to the stones with a fierceness I had not felt before. Turning, I began the trek back to my truck, then it happened. The ground suddenly gave way, collapsing inwardly in a rift just wide enough to swallow a man, and as I fell, my hands reached out to grab something, anything to break my fall, but failed, and I landed on the cobblestone flooring of the chamber. I lay there for a few moments, gathering my strength before I tested my limbs for broken bones, then, sore but intact I stood up, grabbed my light and looked around. The etchings on the walls, colored with animal dyes, were as pristine as the day they were first created, a table made of rough oak planks cut with an axe, a mortar and pestle along with a manuscript sat under the murals, covered in dust, yet they looked brand new. In my excitement I forgot my soreness, and began to look around, saving the book until last.

I did not touch the book, merely examining the pages I could see, but the moment my fingers touched the pages, a chill ran down my back even as a voice came out of the darkness.

"You have come."

Shaken to the core, I gathered my wits and slowly answered. I was very lucky, because, from my extensive research, I knew the correct response and gave it. "Yes. I have come."

"You are not the one we expected." Came the voice.

"Many years have passed" I said, "Thousands of years".

"The darkness" asked the voice, "is it still here?"

In the old manuscripts I had read of it. The "darkness" referred to a great war caused by greed and passion, so I answered the voice. "There is much trouble in the land" I told the voice, "war and famine, greed and lust are still with us." I waited, and when no answer came…"But also great giving, kind people and good medicine. We have much to be thankful for." No answer came, so I called out. "Are you there?"

"I am here my son" came the voice. "What are you called?" The voice asked.

"Mike…Michael" I said.

"The name of the greatest ones finest Master! You are surely the one I awaited all these years." Silence descended on me, then…"I am called Grezelda. I am the last of the Masters. It is I that will teach you."

"Teach me?" I asked.

With the whisper of a light breeze, a form emerged from the darkness; She looked young, and quite pretty, with long blond hair and bright green eyes. Her smile made me feel wanted, and I quickly relaxed as she floated towards me. Her finger wiggled and the pages of the ancient manuscript turned, one at a time until the book was open to the pages she wanted. Unable to read the words in the dim light, I waited until the woman Grezelda stood next to me. She said nothing, but as her hand came to touch my shoulder I felt her shudder.

"You have suffered a great loss. A love so strong that I still feel it within you" she said.

"My wife" I answered, "she was killed by a runaway truck. It was a traffic accident."

"Truck?" she asked.

"It's what we call a wagon."

"I will help you read the words my son" she told me, "and together we will rid the world of the darkness, but first, I must see for myself this great world you described to me."

Her hand lay on my shoulder as her form became more and more solid until at last she stood there in front of me. Still shaken, it was all I could do not to stagger back, but taking all of my will power, I led her to the opening I had fallen through. Looking up I could see that we would need a ladder and began to search for something we could use, but she calmly waved her hand, and a stairway appeared! As we stepped out onto the highland grass the wind whipped hard against my face, and seeing her thin dress whipping in the wind I worried for her. It was a bitterly cold wind, yet she stood there smiling at me, mindlessly unaware of the cold. Sensing my worry…

"My son" she said calmly, "I am not of you. I am only with you."

"Can…can anyone else see you?" I asked.

"Of course my child!"

"Then I'll have to get you some other clothing" I told her, "what you have on isn't…proper."

"These are the finest robes! The Great Master himself gave them to me!" She sounded offended.

"That may be true, but here, in this time…"

She touched my head, and in a flash I saw her smile, then simply nod her head yes. I put her in my truck, started the engine, then turned towards the small town nearby where I bought her some clothes. As we drove through the countryside her eyes missed nothing, gathering in each bit of information she could see. The houses, the cars, the traffic that threatened to come to a standstill, each enthralled her. Then she saw the church. Grabbing my hand she told me to stop, and even before the truck stopped moving she was out and running towards the door of the huge cathedral. Following her inside I found her at the foot of the statue.

"This is the Great One" she said softly, "he has great power." She wandered around, looking at the stained glass windows, oaken pews and lighted altar. "You revere him?" I nodded my head yes. "The Great One goes by many names. Many revere him?"

"Yes" I said, "millions".

"That is good. We shall go now." Starting towards the door she pulled herself to a stop, grabbing my shoulder. "Your sorrow is very great my child. You have loved this woman, your wife, strongly." I nodded my head yes, then…"I cannot bring her back to you Michael, only the greatest Master of all can do that. I have not seen it, but I have heard it is true, and do not doubt it. I am sorry my son, but you must bear the pain."

I took her by the hand, walking to the truck, then driving to my flat. On the way she handed me a stone, a small, smooth and shiny rock shaped like an oval, rich black with a red center and a web of spidery yellow streaks in it. As my hand closed around it, she smiled and told me that the stone could make many things happen, but only for those that were good of heart. I slipped it in my pocket just as we pulled into my parking slot. I let her explore my flat as I showered and changed clothes, then urged her to try the shower. After a bit she agreed, then later, I could hear the giggles through the door of the bath. When she appeared, she was naked, so I asked her to get dressed, waiting until she appeared again.

She sat on the couch and I flicked on the television with the remote. The sudden sound startled her, but she watched with close attention as the news of the world was paraded in front of her in living color. Her eyes never left the television screen, then, her mouth became a mere slit while I could visibly see her anger rising.

"It is the Evil One!"

"What? Who? I asked, "Where?"

"There! I saw him! The Great Ones enemy! I saw him, he is here! Come! We must vanquish him!"

When she stood up and headed for the door I had to stop her, telling her that she would have to show me the man, or woman, that she called the "Evil One", then, she would have to convince me that she was right. During the next hour of news, her finger touched the screen, and I knew who she meant. The man headed one of the worlds most despotic regimes in history, yet nobody was willing to kill him since his country sat on the largest single cache of oil in the world. We hated him, but we needed him. Grezelda didn't like it, but she agreed, then sat back and described in great detail all of the horrors this man had cast on the world. He was the darkness she described, but there was no way to get close to the man let alone kill him.

"It must be a woman" Grezelda said "that kills the evil my son, a woman of great love that has lost much, young, not more than 30 years, and pure of heart. She must do it on the third full moon of the year using the crux stone. Placing it on his forehead will banish the evil." Sitting back…"If this woman slays the evil, then the Great One will see into her heart and bring her great joy. It is written in the third stanza of the fifth book given to the second library after it was formed."

I had so many questions to ask her! The first being what she meant by telling me "I am not of you. I am only with you." She told me that she could be with me, people could see her, even touch her, but she could not stay, because she was merely an image she had created to help me understand. It was confusing at first, but she was patient, and explained it to me. The statue of the man she had seen was the man she had told me went by many names. No matter how many times I tried, she would never tell me how she knew that, nor why my name had provoked her like it did. All she would say was that in good time I would understand. Overcome by exhaustion and excitement, I went to bed, leaving Grezelda to watch television alone.

The next morning I left the flat and bought her some clothes, then, after she had changed, we sat and she once again explained the darkness to me.

"The Evil One" she started, "was the favorite of the Great One, then he grew tired of the goodness, and turned his face away, grabbing the evil for his own. He has flourished because man needed the evil to know the true meaning of good, but the evil had grown so strong, taken into the hearts of so many men that the Great One decided to let man suffer until they figured out a way to rid themselves of the evil." As she looked at me…"You are the one my son. You will rid the world of this evil."

"Wait a minute!" I said suddenly, "you told me that "It must be a woman that kills the evil, a woman of great love that has lost much, young, not more than 30 years, and pure of heart. She must do it on the third full moon of the year using the crux stone. Placing it on his forehead is the only way to kill the evil."! As you can see, I am not a woman!"

"That is true my son, you are not a woman, yet it is you that must kill the Evil One."

I was beginning to think I had lost my mind. I was in a dream, maybe a coma, perhaps caused by the fall, yet as I looked around and saw the familiar apartment, I began to think that Grezelda was merely an apparition caused by my intense desire to solve the riddle of the castle. What was happening to me was weird beyond mere description, and I was beginning to doubt my sanity. "Not of me, only with me" she had said, constantly using a riddle within an enigma wrapped in a paradox that only she could untangle. The man she had named as the Evil One was the scourge of the world, a man without one redeeming side to him, yet the ruler of his own country, a man she said that I would kill! Grezelda sat watching me, a slow grimace forming on her face.

"You doubt me" was all she said.

"I am not a woman" I answered, "and I do not kill".

"You are the chosen one my son" she said softly. "Come!" she said suddenly, "I will show you the way!"

In my bedroom she snatched up the onyx colored stone and placed it in my hand, wrapping my fingers around it tightly. The stone began to get warm, yet didn't burn my hand. With my own eyes I saw my fingers getting slimmer, my hand smaller, then my arm began to get smaller and lose muscle tone! Grezelda held me tightly, and as I began to feel myself changing she relaxed a little. I had no idea how much time had passed, but when I awoke, I was no longer myself. Grezelda sat next to me, a smile on her face.

"You have become the woman you could have been." Taking me by the hand, we stood in front of the mirror. "If you were female born, this is how you would look." I was almost half the weight I had been, shorter, with brown hair and blue eyes. I looked kind of like my sister! "The stone has this power for those that are pure of heart and their loss is great. You have those within you my child" Grezelda said to me, "or the stone would not have changed you." Naked I stood there staring at myself, seeing not a hulking male, but a lithe young female! Turning to look at Grezelda, I saw that she had removed her clothes! "You must wear them" she told me, "you must get us more clothing, enough for several days travel. We have a long journey and there is much to learn."

I put the clothes on, the unfamiliar undergarments strangely comforting. When I was dressed, I took my wallet and car keys, then left for the huge mall nearby. I had no idea what to get, or what sizes, only what I had learned from watching my wife so long ago. "Basics" I said to myself, "just get the basics". But my body, then female, was so different! I walked differently, my chest heaved, and my arms seemed so small that I felt like an alien, yet I went on, a new determination to let Grezelda help me solve the riddle. Unused to such a small body I felt awkwardly inept and more than a little ashamed as I had to try on bras for fit, especially when I let a woman help me find the right size. Panties and skirts, jeans and shoes, bras and blouses, all filled the growing number of bags as I went from store to store buying what I thought we would need. By the time I got home I was a little more used to the female body I inhabited, but only just a little.

Grezelda seemed to know instinctively what to do, and quickly put on the clothes I gave her, watching as I managed to change into a skirt and blouse. Then, as we sat at the kitchen table, she twirled her right index finger while speaking softly, and the manuscript appeared on the table!

"This" Grezelda said, "is the great book, and will guide us on our journey." Looking up, then right into my eyes, "There is danger ahead for you; as a woman you lack the strength of a man, so you will have to learn guile, become cunning, and find within yourself the will to slay the Evil One. Already he knows someone is coming, and will be alert." Without warning she put her hands on my breasts and squeezed hard, causing me to flinch with the pain, then…"The body feels pain my child, and that is good, but within you lives the will to overcome the pain you suffer. You must learn the words, then speak them in his presence. The words will remove the pain he will cause you and render him unable to move, just long enough for you to place the stone against his head." With her finger moving to the page, "these are the words."

As Grezelda read the words, she made me repeat them over and over again until she finally came to one passage, pausing, then I saw her eyes going wide. She smiled as she took my hand in hers.

"I have had a vision child. It came to me from the Great One the moment I touched the passage. In your journey you will meet many good people that will help you, but one of them will hold that which will remove the pain of your terrible loss. You must embrace this person as your own and become one with this person. This added strength will help you defeat the Evil One, but you must accept your fate or all will be lost."

Again, Grezelda had wrapped a riddle in an enigma that I was unable to decipher, yet something about what she said me made me feel uneasy. We studied the book for hours, then later that evening, we went out. I wore a skirt and blouse as did Grezelda when I took her to the center city. Lights and traffic, sounds and music, people and the aroma of food filled the night, each drawing a different reaction from Grezelda. Cell phones and computers, cars and buses fascinated her as did all of the lights, but what held her attention the most, was the wide range of restaurants. We tried many places where she eagerly ate everything, telling me that seeing that much food in one place had never happened in her lifetime. With a smaller body I was unable to eat as much as I used to, and having men stare at me made me feel very odd. We were in an Ethiopian place when I saw Grezelda freeze, tracing her eyes to a man sitting just a few tables away.

"His aura is very strong my child" Grezelda said.

He looked to be well over six foot tall, with short brown hair and a very masculine face. "About 30 or so" I thought to myself, "and not bad looking". Then I wondered why I had thought that! I mean, I had never thought of men as attractive before, not like that anyway. He was alone, and other than what I could see, I knew nothing about him, not like Grezelda said she did. When he stood up I heard her gasp quietly then the gentle squeeze of her hand on my wrist.

"He is the one!" she said excitedly, "he is the one you must embrace as your own! Quickly!" she said, "we must follow him, learning as much as we can about him!"

As we walked behind him I could see that he went about his business in a very firm manner, seemed polite to everyone, then it happened. He stopped at a small store, went in, and as I walked up to watch him, he turned and walked out, bumping right into me! He grabbed my arm to keep me from falling over, and as he pulled me closer, I felt the gun in my ribs.

"You've been following me" he said, "why?" When I turned, Grezelda was gone! "Well?" When I said nothing, he sort of dragged me into a small café and shoved me into a chair. "Do you know who I am?" I shook my head no, still amazed at how easily he was able to maneuver me. As a man, I wouldn't have even budged! "Where did that other woman go?"

"I…I don't know" I told lied to him, "she wasn't with me, I'm all alone."

"What's your name?"

"Michelle" I told him without thinking, "Michelle Barnes."

"The archeologist?" He sounded surprised, but I was even more surprised. Had my entire history been changed as well as I? "I've studied all of your work" he said, "you're very talented." Without pausing…"but that doesn't explain why you were following me. I mean," he said with a grin, "I'm not used to having beautiful women following me around! It's usually the other way around!"

The bastard was hitting on me! Then, without thinking I smiled, shook my hair and put my chin in the palms of my hand and just looked at him. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Grezelda as she moved closer, then all at once she put her hand on his shoulder. He started to look up but froze in place as she closed her eyes and began to hum! A few moments later she sat down next to me.

"Kevin" she said softly, "Kevin James, age 31, single after the death of your wife, no children. You work for a secret agency…you…analyze things." Pausing, "You are the chosen mate for Michelle when she does her duty to mankind." Kevin just sat there, to stunned to say anything, and Grezelda went on. "You are drawn to Michelle by her beauty, her voice soothes you, and her touch makes you shiver in delight." All at once Kevin seemed to come alive, looking first at Grezelda then me. "The Evil One must die" Grezelda said, "and as Michelle's chosen mate, you must help her accomplish this. I will leave you now, but use the time well. Know one another well, for your fate demands it."

She got up and disappeared almost at once, leaving Kevin and I alone.

"Does she always talk in riddles?" he asked me.

"Usually" I told him, "and I have yet to figure them out on the first try, but I can usually get at least close."

"Maybe you would like to tell me just what the hell is going on then?"

So I did just that, starting with my finding the "library", right up to that moment. He listened carefully, especially when I named the Evil One. His eyes narrowed and his jaw set as I explained how the Evil One had brought terror and evil with him throughout the ages, the countless millions he had killed or allowed to die, and what lay ahead unless I stopped him. Incredulously, he listened to my entire story without interrupting me, then he grabbed my hand and pulled me outside with him.

"So" he said as we walked along, "Grezelda is the last of the "Great Masters" as you call them, and she has the power to do what? Magic? I'm sorry Michelle, I can't believe in magic, slight of hand, presto and all that, I believe what I can see and touch."

"She knew" I said softly, "all about you didn't she?"

"Yes, well, anyone could…"

"Yes?" I asked.

"Forget it Michelle, just forget it. I'm going home, and I suggest that you do the same."

"Okay" but we'll meet again" I told him with a smile.

When I got home Grezelda was there, watching television. It seemed that she couldn't get enough of the news, and stayed glued to the set whenever she had a chance. I told her what Kevin said, her only response, "he will come to you, be patient my child". I went to bed, and for the first time, let my hands wander over my new body, feeling the silky smoothness of my skin, the swell of my breasts and the tapering of my waist, then I found it. The point of joy that women have. Unable to stop myself, I began to massage the lump until I burst with pleasure and enjoyed what a woman felt during sex. It was so intense and unlike anything I ever experienced that I lay there panting, wondering if Kevin would do that to me. Strangely, the thought of a man in my bed, especially Kevin did not revolt me, and I drifted to sleep with a smile on my face.

The next morning I felt like a new…woman, and simply quit fighting the obvious. I was in my panties and a short thin top making breakfast when she came in. I saw her smile at me as she poured a cup of coffee.

"A week" she said, "it will take him a week to come to you. He is drawn to you, the sound of your voice and your beauty have captured his imagination, but like all men, he will wait, thinking he is making you worry. Do not, for I have seen it. He will come, and you shall embrace him, becoming one, then the two of you shall overcome the Evil One. It is true" she said solemnly.

During that week I became accustomed to my new body, several times experiencing the same overwhelming joy I felt the first time I went exploring my new body, tried on all of my new clothes, and listened to Grezelda as she coached me in the ways of a woman. I learned to be coy and shy, yet firm and sexy all at the same time. How to react around a man, how easily they are led by a woman, and how to make them do things they had not planned on. I also learned how to do makeup and hair, so by the time the end of the week had arrived it was as if I had been born a woman. Kevin called me, we made a date, and later that night, after dinner, he and I talked about the Evil One. He was adamantly opposed to my killing him, yet I had no choice, and in his frustration from trying to get me to change my mind, he finally resorted to the last refuse a man has. He maneuvered me into his bed. As we joined, he took my spirit to new heights, touching me in places that made me feel warm and soft all over, and he the man and myself the woman, became one.

Rapture is a word that does not best describe how I felt. I tingled all over when he merely looked at me. As we lay there he told me about his wife, her terrible and painful disease, how quickly it took her, and how much he missed her. All of his dreams had been dashed the day she died, only to reawaken when we met. Since he only knew me as a woman, and my history had obviously been changed, I told him about my "husband". The facts were real, only the sex was wrong. Together we lay there wrapped tightly with the other, each of us knowing that we had found a new soul mate. I had started life as a man, yet I lay there unable to see any future without Kevin, knowing that I wanted to be his wife. In the morning I told him what we had to do and when, explaining it exactly as Grezelda had told me to, leaving out some things he didn't need to know, things that would cause him anguish if he knew.

Kevin, using all of his connections, discovered what I needed to know, then on the appointed day, he left his job to travel with me, far across the ocean to the only safe place in the area. Adopting a subservient role, I followed him as we traveled first by car, then bus, and finally on foot. Many good people helped us, hiding us from the soldiers, feeding us, then showing us the safest way to travel, always without question. Kevin led the way until I was standing there next to him by the great temple the Evil One had erected. Monuments to his greatness surrounded the place, his vanity on display for all to see. I knew there was only way for a woman to get inside, and in our small room, I changed clothes. The ache in Kevin's eyes almost made me stay, yet I had a duty to mankind, and after a quick hug, I checked everything one last time. The stone was deep within my robes as I waited for the dark night to descend, while Kevin, harsh and mean looking in the sallow light, smiled at me, still trying to hide his deep concern and love. The whisper of a wind caused the curtains to move, then Grezelda appeared, wearing her great robes once again.

"I must go now my children. You have the knowledge and love for one another, yet your affections will be nothing compared to that which awaits you." Turning, then taking my hand in hers…"Be well my daughter, go, slay the Evil One and bring forth the light. Do not be swayed by false claims for your heart will tell you the truth and guide you well. I have given you the knowledge, you have found love, now it is up to you to cast the Evil One aside." She kissed me on the forehead as she stroked my hair, then she was gone as if the wind had thrown aside a puff of smoke.

Kevin held me close, whispering his love for me into my ear, then I had to leave. The temple was huge and foreboding, dark, and reeked of sour foods, yet I climbed the stairway and went inside. Pinpoints of light cast enough of the weak light for me to see, and I made my way across the hall to the stairway, taking one step at a time, walking softly as only a woman can. Laughter, male and female came down the hallway towards me, and as I followed the sound they grew louder until I saw them. She sat upright on his lap naked and smiling as he caressed her breasts, both unaware that I had seen them. I passed them, quietly moving inward until the stench began to grow stronger. I knew I was close, and went deeper into the darkness. At first it was a merely a whisper, a thin miasma that hinted of more. Then as I turned the corner the miasma became deeper, a light fog. The green light cast from the glow of the small night lights flickering through the fog allowed me to see, and I kept moving forward. As I went further down the hallway there was a hint of sulfur in the air, acrid yet tolerable, a hint of what evil lay ahead. In the deeper distance lay the inky blackness of the hallway. Then the sounds began. First a rasping sound, like two files rubbing against each other, then a low growl that was almost a snarl, deep and throaty, as if a wild dog lay ahead. At first it frightened me, then I felt a throbbing goodness run through me, and didn't hesitate as I continued walking slowly towards the evil that I knew lay ahead.

He stepped out in front of me, his swarthy features and piercing eyes held me with rapt attention. He smiled at me, his hands on his hips, unafraid. His beret tilted to one side as if to display his arrogance, his pistol still set in its holster was menacing, yet he made no move to use it. Around him I could see an aura, thin and yellow, it only made him uglier than he already was. His eyes seemed to glow bright in the darkness, and his smile, crooked with menace opened to show his perfectly white teeth.

"So! You have finally come for me! Does the Great One think that I will be fooled so easily?"

""The Great One? You are my Master sire. I have come as a gift from your aides."

"No!" he shouted, His voice grating and rough. "The Great One has sent you to kill me, but you shall fail! None have ever succeeded!" He took a step towards me, "I offer you riches beyond your dreams, great power, and…"

Swallowing my inherent fear I ignored him even as a horrendous, reeking cloud percolated up, quickly filling the air around us, hiding him from my eyes, and through my fear I began to mutter the words I had learned, saying them in the old language, softly, almost a whisper. I heard him roar, then the cloud seemed to fade away as I kept speaking the words, the ancient chant that would save not only me, but the world as well. The Evil One, unable to enchant me with the lure of money and power roared again, louder as he began to shake, as if trying to avoid the words. As I walked closer images of dread surrounded me, demons from my youth that had always scared me. Dragons that roared and belched fire while lunging at me, snakes that slithered on the floor around me threatening to bite. Holding my inner good tightly in a mental grasp I kept saying the words, walking first past the dragons, then the snakes, seeing them disappear as if they knew they did not threaten me. As I drew closer I had to enter the ring of fire that erupted around him, even as I ignored the grotesque gargoyles that appeared at his feet. The snarling gargoyles ran around him, their gray color in contrast to the fierce red in their eyes.

My heart was pounding hard as every fear I ever had gripped me in an embrace that seemed unshakable until I drew once again from the deep well of my goodness. I spoke the chant louder while I moved closer to the very core of evil, driving away the gargoyles, watching them scamper away like small puppies at play. Palming the stone I move closer to him, watching as he recoiled in horror, yet frozen and unable to move. I quickly put myself deeply into his embrace, taking the stone in my hand and placing it hard against his forehead, holding it there. He thrashed and moaned in anger, tried to pry me away, but he did not have the strength, and I remained huddled next to him, my hand with the stone against his head. As Grezelda had assured me, the Evil One was caught up in both his frenzy to get away and the goodness that held him there, leaving him unable to move. The chant from the deep past which I whispered into his ear left him vulnerable for only a moment as his own lust for power and fear of denial overcame him. Shuddering, his eyes became cat like, changing from brown to yellow even as his skin became reptilian. His hands became like claws, his feet the cloven hooves so familiar to any child. Blood ran from his mouth and a lustrous green mucous formed on his skin. I held the stone against his forehead and spoke the words louder and louder until I was almost shouting, then I added the last line as I had been told. In that moment his despair became palpable as he roared and shook, but I held him firmly, watching as he began to shrink. First his form became gelatinous, then watery before he started to fall, changing to what looked like lint. The dust that he became sifted through my fingers until he disappeared into nothingness. I could hear him as he roared in anger from the dismal plain that he had been sent into, the floor shaking in his final anger. When it was over, the only trace that he had ever been there was a small charred ring on the polished hardwood floor and a small bit of ash like dust. Panting hard I gathered my wits then turned and went out the way I came. The same couple, still united in their mutual desire, were unaware that I had even been there.

I made my way back to our rooms, going in to avoid the chilly night and find warmth within Kevin's arms. He rose to meet me, a gun in his hand, pointed at me for only a moment. My only words "it is done" caused him to hide the gun, smile, and take me to his arms. As he held me, I felt the new warmth on my back and turned. A man stood there, dressed as a shepherd, his beard both dark and light, his skin tanned and dark, only his eyes showing great age, and the pain many years had cast upon him.

"You have done well my daughter. The Evil One has been cast aside."

"You are the Great One Grezelda spoke of?"

"I am." He walked over and took our hands in his, the gentle touch belying the rough look of his skin. "You have found great love in each other, love that will grow stronger as you age, and nothing will ever be able to come between you." When he spoke I felt a love like no other. "You will prosper well, have a fine family that you may be proud of, and long life."

"Sir" Kevin said, "Are you…"

"I am many things, different to each, yet the same. You have done well, now go in peace, and love one another as you love yourself."

Then he was gone, disappearing into the darkness. Kevin and I made our way back home, learning that our love was stronger than we thought possible. As we walked inside my apartment, Grezelda appeared, still in her robes.

"I am sorry my daughter, but I must have the stone. Another may need my help." I gave her the stone, and as she hugged me…"I must go my children. The Great One has called me." She vanished, leaving Kevin and I alone.

In time we married and had children, watched them grow tall and strong, start families of their own, then we were delivered first the joy of grand children, then later, great grandchildren. As our time grew short, Kevin went to join the Great One, leaving me alone for the first time in many years. As I lay sick in my bed, Grezelda once again appeared, took my hand in hers, then she waited while I write this account. As my family surrounded me I felt a wonderful joy, then she told me that it was time, and she was there to guide me, letting me know that Kevin was waiting.




© 2001 by Janet Stickney. All Rights Reserved. These documents (including, without limitation, all articles, text, images, logos, compilation design) may printed for personal use only. No portion of these documents may be stored electronically, distributed electronically, or otherwise made available without express written consent of the copyright holder.