They ran. They were weary and tired, but they didn’t stop. No one was sure whether it was fear or courage that drove them forward, but they kept running.
Despite the size of his axe, Broderick easily kept up with Jay, which concerned him. She may have been able to level cities with her strength and single handedly lay to waste an entire army, but a wound was a wound and Jay had a lost a lot of blood. He kept an eye on her in case the worst should happen. Fortunately, they made it to their destination without incident.
After finally getting a moment to catch their breath, the group looked at where Jay had taken them. Amidst the deserted wasteland lay a small oasis. An ancient willow sat in the middle of the still water.
“We’re almost there,” Jay said. “Follow my steps carefully or you’ll fall in.” To anyone else, she sounded normal, but her friends could hear the discomfort in her voice. They followed along without complaint.
Jay walked a deliberate path as she approached the water. With little hesitation, she stepped onto the surface of the pool, and to the trio’s surprise, did not sink in. Following her advice, they stepped precisely where she stepped and found that they too could stand upon the water’s surface. A path had been built under the pool in such a way that it could not be seen. Only a person who was familiar with the path could successfully navigate through the winding maze. It wasn’t long before the group reached the willow and entered the curtain formed by its branches. Etched onto the willow’s gnarled truck was a doorway.
“This was one of fifteen doorways to Gaia,” Broderick explained to the awestruck trio. “Five were destroyed in the Ancient War and five were sealed before the rise of Gwydion. Now this is one of five, and we’re lucky it’s still standing. No human has seen one of these doors in over a century. We are the first.”
A moment of anticipation passed and Jay pushed away the wooden door. The five walked into a new area encompassed by white mist. An intangible breeze kept the mist swirling about them and the space around them was blindingly white. The floor was coated with water, much like the path they walked upon seconds before. However, the reflection of the liquid was not what one would expect.
“For those who fear what lay hidden in the deepest parts of their souls,” Jay said, “I only have one warning: don’t look down.”
Broderick saw the curiosity in the eyes of the three young girls and smiled; he was the same way when he first exited one of Gaia’s doors. “This area we are in is known as the Twilight Plain. The doors of every world feed to his place and to travel from one world to another requires travelling through the Plain. It is a strange and wondrous place, but be careful. Many souls have tried to explore it and never returned.”
“That’s comforting,” Kaelin muttered in response.
“Take a good look around. This won’t be the last time you’ll be seeing this place.”
Roselyn looked at the swirling mist and vast space surrounding her. Soft lights beamed from unseen sources, shedding pale and subtle colors on the white space. “It’s beautiful,” she whispered loud enough for all of them to hear.
Unlike her two companions, Azura had said nothing since the end of the battle. Although everyone else avoided the liquid beneath their feet, she found herself drawn to it. What she saw horrified her, but she continued to stare at the reflection with a morbid fascination. She was reluctant to keep her insecurities a secret from her friends, but she was even more unwilling to concern them with her own troubles. ‘I’ll talk to them about it later,’ she told herself.
Broderick was the only one that seemed to notice the girl’s odd behavior and made note to do something about it later. For now, however, he had to prepare the girls for their descent into another world. “Elzia’s door is the closest one to Gaia’s, which is why we consider ourselves sister worlds. However, they’re a world you don’t want to get too involved with. All races are arrogant, but few can match the egos of the Elzians. Most races from Gaian to Polaran to the Elzians themselves believe that Elzia is flawless. However, get involved in their relations and you’ll see that they’re strict policies do little more than complicate things.”
“Sometimes you have to stretch the rules to do what’s right,” Jay added. “No society teaches you this better than Elzia’s. Be careful when dealing with them.” Within a few minutes, she was able to lead them to another door standing on the Plain. Unlike Gaia’s simple wooden gate, Elzia’s was an intricate carved marble door. Dizzying patterns were engraved into the light grey marble, laced with fine, milky white veins. “This is it,” she said grimly.
“You guys better be ready. I know this is all very strange to you and its coming at you rather quickly, but we need you guys now more than ever. Things will be happening very fast and there’s no turning back; there never was. We’ve been given a second chance to stop Gwydion and now is our chance to do it right. All I can say is stay strong, stay yourself, and for the sake of all humankind, stay alive.”
Roselyn, Kaelin, and Azura had little time to contemplate Broderick’s words as Jay pushed open the door.