Night Swimming

JtA: Shoreworld Part 1

part of: Journey to Andromeda

by The Archives of Raynah

Kantara, Uhl, and Moira melted into the Black Gate. Immediately all sense of perspective deserted Moira. Visual information was reduced to a tunnel of revolving heats inside her. She could sense the Gate as a void behind her. She could feel a jet-stream of energy passing through her, though her body seemed to be gone. She was a finite streak of energy herself, paused in mid-flight, quivering, hovering. She sensed Kantara hovering beneath her, Uhl above. She felt them as streaks of energy too.

A strange impulse vibrated through and moved her….it was scary! Something in her translated the feeling into words, “Help!”

Kantara gently inserted, “Feel your way through yourself and look out from all points,” into her whole being.

Moira did just that. Immediately she found she could sense the presence of the Gate. To her right and left there was an impenetrable void, but beneath her Kantara was still there, an amazing swirling pattern of different energy signals. Above her was Uhl, swirling in a completely different pattern.

“Watch our patterns, feel them!” Uhl signaled. “We will entwine and ride the wave generated by the Gate out and into Andromeda. Kantara knows the way. Hold onto her pattern. Lock it into your central awareness. Don’t let go now! Just focus on Kantara.”

Moira complied, as much as she was able.

“Here we go!” Uhl laughed, wild with joy.

Suddenly Moira felt a vast surge and push forward, at the same time the feeling of being sucked through a vacuum. She almost lost her concentration on Kantara’s luminescent, throbbing pattern. Somehow she held on.

“Your will is strong!” Kantara noted.

“I guess,” Moira signaled back.

Soft laughter penetrated her, relaxed her.

“Roller coaster,” she thought. “Class V rapids.”

They rushed through massive night oscillating between the walls of a containment field of energy, around, up, shot down long straight slopes. Moira felt rather than saw branches off the main route they travelled…branches off into the encompassing Dark. Sometimes they took one of the branches.

“We skirt the edges of the powers forming space between here and Andromeda!”

Was it Kantara or Uhl who had signaled, Moira wondered.

“Uhl,” the reply came.

“And what of time,” Moira signaled loudly.

“Time is everywhere, and this is Kantara,” came the reply, “there are Time doors everywhere. If we had the strength, we could generate one anywhere we wished. As it is, we have placed doors in Times we find pivotal.”

Moira signaled, “if I were in my body, I’d be gaping.”

Soft laughter was signaled again.

Then she was sucked through a tight space, reassembled, spit out onto the ground. She had a body again. It was dark, or night, she couldn’t tell which. She sensed water behind her, sand beneath her feet, perhaps her eyes hadn’t assembled very well. She couldn’t really see much.

“This is a simulation of the place we will encounter first on the Path,” Uhl said, her silvery body vibrating in front of Moira suddenly. “We call it Shoreworld….after the long voyage through the Dark, this is the first place we land.”

“The inhabitants call it something very different,” Kantara commented. “But, you will find that out when we really get there! Now, let’s go back and try it again. Remember every sensation along the way, but mostly the sensation of me. The Path is sure to have changed since last we walked it. I can find it in the Dark, but you might get lost among possibilities.”

“Find what in the Dark?” Moira asked, confused, feeling a little frightened as well.

“The feel of the Path to Shoreworld…the first life-bearing world at the core of Andromeda!” Kantara answered gently. “It is the feel of Andromeda itself I follow initially, then, once encompassed there, I will follow the feel of Shoreworld and the Gate we have placed there!”

“I see,” Moira said blankly. “I will feel you Kantara.”

“That is a good plan,” Uhl laughed softly! “Kantara is a Master Traveler. Few have her sensitivity or skill!”

In the next few days between sessions in the Crystal Mind and the Black Gate, Moira wandered through the forest of the Hidden Land preparing herself. Her mind knew she was going to Andromeda and it was fascinated, rippled in fact with rash anticipation. Her body, however, was apprehensive, even though it had travelled many times between Earth and the Hidden Land. She felt this fear as dark waves clutching at her chest, her stomach, her hips, her throat.

“Why is this any different than coming here,” she wondered. “I know I will be safe. I know I will get there just fine, come back home…changed yes, but I’ll make it back home!”

She finally realized it wasn’t about going there and coming back. It was about the vast unknown out there, fast becoming real. There were other planets, other worlds, other ways of being as different from human ways as deepsea vent worms were from earthworms. The Hidden Land was just the first step out. She wasn’t sure her body had actually absorbed the reality of this place yet, maybe that was why it was so frightened of continuing on.

Uhl, came upon Moira breathing, deepening, trying to center herself. She sat down behind her, pressed her chest against Moira’s back, hugged her legs to Moira’s, held her, breathed with her, sang softly into her fear. Inexplicibly, Moira began to cry, to sob. Uhl rocked her, crooning wordlessly for a long, long time, until Moira fell into long sighs looping up out of the base of her spine. Finally, silence ensued in the space beneath her heart and her lungs, where once the beast of panic had surged.

“It will be alright my dear,” Uhl commented.

“I know,” Moira sighed. “I know.”

“It is time to try the Path,” Uhl said.

“Yeah, I guess it is,” Moira said, surprised to feel a kernel of calm at her core. Then Uhl’s words hit her. “What do you mean, try?”

“Well, the Path isn’t always clear. Sometimes conflicting energy currents prevent travel, sometimes for days, weeks, years! We’ll try tomorrow…see what there is to see!” Uhl said.

“Right,” Moira said, feeling relieved that they might not actually wash up on Shoreworld in the midst of Andromeda anytime soon.

“We travel at dawn. I will come get you before then. We’ll meet Kantara at the Shoreworld Gate,” Uhl instructed.

“Sure,” Moira said blankly, mentally getting ready for the night-long wait. She didn’t think she would sleep, but when she sank into her futon, the one Maria had slept on so long ago, she immediately fell into dreamless slumber.

Pre-morning came quickly. Uhl shook Moira gently. “Wake adventurer! It’s time to try the Gate! Kantara was already in a little ways at dusk yesterday. She thinks we’ll make it to Shoreworld today!”

“Really?” Moira asked sleepily, too drowsy to feel apprehension.

“That’s right! We will watch the stars from Shoreworld tonight!” Uhl exulted, jumping about like an enthusastic child.

Uhl’s joy infected Moira. Suddenly she felt eager to stand on Shoreworld and see the strange stars of Andromeda in the sky above.

“Can we see the Milky Way from Shoreworld,” she suddenly asked Uhl.

“No, actually, we can’t. We will be right in the white heart of Andromeda. We will see the stars of Andromeda, not much else really,” Uhl replied.

“Wow,” Moira mouthed.

Uhl smiled. “You are so predictably delightful!” she said finally. ‘Now, let’s go!”

Turning swiftly, Uhl lead Moira out of the cave and into the night-dark woods, following what felt like a deer trail to Moira. She couldn’t really see much. “The strange birds of the Hidden Land are following…serenading us,” she thought.

“They are stretching their wings as they serenade the coming of the sun,” Uhl laughed into the cool pre-dawn air. “We will arrive at the Gate before it kisses the horizon!”

Minutes later, scratched by brambles and covered with dew they arrived at the Shoreworld Gate. It looked very much like the Gate to the Hidden Land on Earth – a domed, round, marble building, except this one was much, much bigger, and dark blue, instead of white. Uhl sat down on the grass and waited. Off in the distance Moira heard a crackling sound.

“That will be Kantara!” Uhl said joyfully.

It struck Moira that she had never seen Kantara in her body…only as an image in the Crystal Mind, only as a streak of energy in the Paths within the Black Gate. She was curious what she would see. Kantara stepped from beneath the obsidian shadows among the trees and stepped into the clearing. The sun was mere seconds from the horizon! The sun’s great body appeared as a tiny sliver. Kantara was illuminated from behind. Moira gaped at the slender, vivacious woman who hurried toward Uhl. Her long, silver hair hung below her waist thickly and was artfully streaked with red, blue, and purple. A single yellow splash accentuated her right front temple.

Moira leaned over to Uhl and whispered, “I thought she was 117 years old!”

“And so I am,” said Kantara, hastening up with the buoyancy and vigor of a thirty-something.

Her skin was pure with lines that only showed when she spoke or smiled. Otherwise she shone pure as Luna full on a summer night. Her body was lightly muscled and supple through a transparent, shimmering ultramarine dress. Underneath it she was wearing some kind of shining silver leotard with an elaborate belt accentuating her hips. Complicated silver filgree chains hung on her right ankle. Her feet were bare except for silver rings on the third toe of each foot.

“I see you have dressed for Ozahldrian,” Uhl said, openly admiring Kantara with her eyes, demeanor, mind.

“Of course,” Kantara said, her whole body vibrating playful eroticism.

Moira was taken slightly aback.

“We are well-acquainted with many people from Shoreworld,” Uhl said, her eyes dancing. “You will find Shoreworld very different from Earth or here! I leave you to discover how on your own!” Uhl finished, radiating mystery from every pore of her body.

“Right,” Moira said gingerly. “I think I look forward it!”

“There is nothing to fear,” Kantara said kindly, her radiance expanding out to envelope Moira. “These people are gentle, for the most part, though ruthless if necessary. We love them, they love us. We have shared many things in the twelve million years of our acquaintance!”

“Twelve million years!” Moira gaped, her eyebrows approaching her hairline. “No human societies have known each other for much more than a thousand years at this point!”

“Well, you folk do have the odd habit of exterminating each other, now don’t you!” Kantara pointed out. “Makes getting to know one another something of an insurmountable obstacle!”

Moira just nodded, then stared at the ground.

“Well, I’m sure there are many of you trying to do something about that,” Uhl commented. “You are a young race yet, though it is time to grow up.”

“Let’s go!” Kantara crowed happily.

The sun continued its long, slow climb into the sky.

The three Travelers entered the Gate.

This one was different than the Gate on Earth with which Moira was so familiar. There were multiple spaces for travelers in the center of an immense circle. Forty nine people of the Hidden Land emerged from a door at the back of the building and took their places around Moira, Kantara, and Uhl.

“Look up lovely,” Uhl said, her happiness radiant around her.

Moira looked up. In the crystal ceiling she saw a wide night sky thick with stars and three moons, under which sailed a beach by a shimmering lake.

Shoreworld.

Breathing as she had been trained to breath, she focused herself entirely into the crystal, let herself become aware of Uhl and Kantara as well. The familiar swoosh came, then she sped through the gate, a streak of light entwined with her friends. Up, down, through branches of power they raced. The Path did indeed have a “feel” to it, that much Moira could discern by now. She tried feeling that as she clung to Kantara in tight embrace. After awhile she began to know when Kantara would branch up or down.

“Good,” Uhl signaled into her. “We’ll make a fine Traveler of you!”

After a long long while they emerged, coalesced. She found herself standing on the white sands of the shimmering beach she had seen in the crystal ceiling of the Hidden Land.

Staring up she saw the wide night sky streaked with the light of hundreds of millions of closely packed stars. Looking down her shadow was clear on the ground. In fact, it was so light that it reminded her of summer twilight in Scandinavia. They were standing on an intricately engraved and inlaid crystal platform.

Looking back up Moira reveled in the light of the three moons, the way they danced together in the sky.

“Wow,” she breathed out into the luminescent night.

Uhl was laughing merrily. Kantara was actually singing, well toning, clear notes rising, falling, entwining. Moira looked around. Twelve beings were standing at the edges of the platform. They responded by singing as well.

“The song of greeting,” Uhl thought into her.

Kantara stepped toward one of the beings. “Ozahldrian,” Uhl’s voice vibrated into her mind. Moira had never felt the kind of vibration in Uhl that she felt now, “cinnamon and nutmeg in apple tea, musk and frankincense on the breeze,” she thought.

“Look for yourself and see,” Uhl instructed into Moira. Kantara had moved toward the being Uhl knew as Ozahldrian. Her entire being was humming with dense, opalescent, electric power. It almost knocked Moira to her knees. With an immense effort of will, Moira looked past Kantara and saw Ozahldrian. Against all her long-held notions of good judgment, she fell in love at first sight.