must first sing.”
And Sings-With-Eagles sang. It was a ceremony Taylor knew, but the old man knew it better, he blended with his music, and his music blended with the patterns of the universe in such a way as to achieve complete harmony, a perfect weaving of spirit, such that he was the knowledge he sought.
Taylor stared deeply into the fire as the chant mixed with the smoke and flame. Sparks swirled there again, creating patterns and shapes of dark color, occult meaning. Taylor let himself merge further into the spirit of the fire.
The smoke began to curl upward like a serpent, then twist and hover directly above Taylor, as if it would strike him.
Sings-With-Eagles spoke. “It is frightening, but do not fear.” He motioned Taylor to rise.
Taylor rose into the smoke. It billowed over him, snaking around his body like a second skin. Taylor inhaled, his arms upraised. The smoke entered his mouth and nostrils as if it were a living thing, fleeing into the warmth of his great chest.
Sings-With-Eagles chanted. “Smoke . . . make him one with power and knowledge.” The fire burned brighter. The old man nodded, responding to the spirits that guided him. “Taylor, you are to enter this Lower World through your dreams . . .”
Taylor’s eyes closed. Trance engulfed him.
The old man continued: “Taylor, you are to die . . .”
Taylor’s spirit flew into the fire, into the smoke . . .
“Taylor, you are to pass first through a Canyon of Shadows . . .”
Carol Anne floated through a canyon of shadows. This part of her dream was recurrent, and it was the only part she ever remembered—because it was the part she liked. And she liked it even though she knew it was supposed to be scary . . . because this was the place where Sceädu lived.
He was the shadow-creature. He couldn’t be distinguished from the background—the bottomless pits, the congealed gray boulders, the darkling bends of space—except by his movement, which was furtive, full of mean stealth. His intent was grim: to engulf any passing spirit, to feed on its life force; and once a spirit was engulfed, there was no escape. Eternal darkness—life within Sceädu—was the fate.
There was but one defense, and that was to jump through his shadow form in the moment before he was to consume your spirit. Most froze in fear at that moment and this succumbed to his darkness.
Carol Anne thought it was a game, though. She tracked Sceädu around his own shadowy domain, surprising him from behind and leaping through him before he was even aware of her presence.
Once through him, Carol Anne entered another plane. On this plane Sceädu still existed, but his nature was different: here he was a shadow-sprite who didn’t stalk but ran, elusive as shadow in a sunny fog. When she wanted to return to the original Shadow Land—to get home—it would be necessary to chase this elfen Sceädu, to find him, and to jump through him again. Much harder to do in this dimension—a place of mists and wandering souls and that bright, bright light that hurt Carol Anne’s eyes and made it hard to see.
This was the place that scared Carol Anne. The place she never remembered in the morning.
Once here, she could never understand why she’d come, which scared her even more. Tonight she huddled in the chill vapors, watching the pitiable faces of the wretched spirits that floated all around her. If she stayed long enough, they would come closer and closer, never quite touching her, but desperately wanting to. She backed away—away from the light, away from the weeping forms that gravitated toward her, away to someplace she hoped she could corner Sceädu so she could dive back through him to the other side and home again—and she backed into Henry Kane.
She jumped and spun around and stood shivering, watching him. As before, he wore a black, wide-brimmed hat, a loose black preacher’s coat, a black string tie over a frayed cotton shirt. He hummed his sorrowful melody, smiling