Dante had curled up in a corner of the cave. There was enough light from the fire for her to see and write in her journal. She paused for a moment and saw movement close to the mouth of the cave. She looked up and saw Cory standing there, smiling, his hand outstretched.
“No, Lyria, I don’t think so,” Dante said. Cory morphed into Lyria, who walked into the cave to where Dante sat, her journal in her lap.
“Fine,” she said, “I’ll just appear to you like this. I wanted to let you know that the Wumpus are, at this very moment, eliminating the nuisance of your friends for me, and with any luck Addis will be joining you here quite soon.”
Dante didn’t say anything, but just looked down at the journal in her hand.
“What’s that?” Lyria asked, reaching for the journal. Dante put it behind her back so Lyria couldn’t take it.
“I said, what is that?” Lyria growled, and reached behind Dante to grab the journal out of her hand. She began flipping through the pages.
“Isn’t this odd?” she murmured, half to herself. As she was looking through the journal, a page fluttered to the floor. She reached out to pick it up. It was the picture of the monster from Dante’s dreams. She held it out to Dante.
“Is this supposed to be me?” she asked quietly. Dante shrugged, not wanting Lyria to know she was scared. Lyria leaned in so she could look directly into Dante’s face; Dante tried not to cringe.
“This is nothing like me,” Lyria said slowly. “This was just a stupid reflection in the water. A reflection – not even real! I want you to fix this, and to make it look like me!”
She thrust the drawing toward at Dante, who took it and held out her other hand.
“Could I have my journal please? I’ll need it.”
Lyria handed her the book, and Dante opened to a clean page. She looked up at Lyria and said, “You’ll need to sit down or something.”
“So I can draw you.”
“No, no, stupid girl. I don’t want you to make something new, I want you to FIX this!” and she pointed at the drawing next to Dante’s foot.
“But,” Dante began, and Lyria screamed, “Fix it!”
Dante picked up the drawing and put in on the open page of her journal. She looked at the drawing and then at Lyria and realized she would need to erase the whole thing and start over. She looked at her pencil; only a nub of the eraser was left. She sighed and start to slowly erase one of the claws.
Without warning, Lyria screamed. Dante looked up and saw Lyria holding up her arm, looking at it in horror. Her hand was missing. Dante’s mouth dropped open.
“What have you done!” Lyria screamed.
Dante looked down at her drawing. The claw that she had erased was indeed the hand that was missing. As quickly as she could Dante erased the other hand and started up the arm. Lyria screamed again and when Dante looked up she could see it was working! Lyria now had no hands.
She rushed at Dante who jumped up and began running around the fire in the cave. Although it was hard to do while she was running, she kept erasing the drawing. Soon Lyria had no arms, but she continued to run after Dante.
Dante decided to make a break for the mouth of the cave, but as she ran toward it Lyria headed her off and bumped her, hard. The drawing and the pencil fell to the ground and Lyria dropped on top of them. Dante began pushing at Lyria, trying to reach under her, but Lyria was putting up a fight kicking and biting. Using all her weight Dante shoved Lyria aside and grabbed the drawing and her pencil.
Lyria howled in rage but Dante was up and erasing as fast as she could. She began erasing the monster’s head, thinking she could stop Lyria faster that way. When Lyria realized what she was doing she tried to shout “No!” but wasn’t quite able to get the word out before her head was gone.
Dante kept erasing frantically, and Lyria kept disappearing. Dante’s eraser was almost gone, and starting to scratch the paper. She managed to erase the legs just down to the knees before she couldn’t erase any more. All that was left on the page were the monster’s feet and ankles.
Dante looked up to where Lyria had last been standing. Two beautiful feet in beautiful shoes sat by the opening of the cave. Dante sat down heavily on the floor of the cave and stared at them in wonder.
“All this time,” she said slowly, “all I had to do was erase?”
She saw another movement at the mouth of the cave and jumped up in alarm, wondering who could possibly have found her. Addis came rushing in to where she was standing.
“I’m here!” he said looking around wildly.
“Addis!” Dante ran over and hugged him. “How did you get here?”
“Where is she?” he asked looking around. His eyes fell on Lyria’s feet and he stared at them a moment, and then looked wonderingly at Dante.
“How did you do that?” he asked.
Dante shrugged. “I erased her,” she said.
Addis’ eyes widened. “Have you erased anyone else?” he asked in alarm.
“Well, no, of course not,” she said. “I mean, normally, when you erase…. Oh well, never mind. My eraser is gone anyway,” she said, showing him the end of her pencil. Addis looked at it warily, as if it were a terrible weapon.
“Well,” he said, “I guess that’s good.”
“Look!” Dante shouted. While they were talking they hadn’t noticed the feet slowly making their way to the mouth of the cave. They now made a dash for it, and although Dante and Addis rushed after them, they could see the feet disappearing into the woods.
“Well,” Addis said, “I wouldn’t worry about it. They’re just feet.” They watched for a moment and then turned and looked at each other.
“How did you get here?” Dante asked.
Addis smiled at her and took her hand. He led her back into the woods, and she could see they were heading toward the pool.
“I’m part of the Khee,” he said simply.
“What!” Dante couldn’t believe it. “You mean all this time we’ve had the Khee with us! Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I didn’t know. It was the pendant. You see Lyria came to ProGress some time ago, and we tried to help her. She had the power you’ve seen over water, as well as other powers, and wanted to use them to take over Endolye. We tried to stop her, but she got away and used her power over the Wumpus. She was able to convince them to help her.”
“But where are the rest of your tribe?” Dante asked.
“We are here,” said a voice that sounded like many voices.
Dante turned and saw a group behind her that all looked very much like Addis. One of the group stepped forward and put his hands on his tummy.
“You see, Addis is very young, and Lyria was easily able to separate him from us. We had just sent the Council back to their tribes, but we fear that she somehow intercepted them and they never completed their real mission.”
“She put the pendant on my neck,” Addis said, “and it had power over me so I didn’t know who or where I was. Lyria must have realized that the Oralians would be the least likely to ask questions or try to figure out who I was, so she sent me back with the Oralian Council member.”
“Without Addis, our powers were lost,” the leader said. “We are the soul of Endolye, but if even one of our members is not with us, we are not whole and cannot function. By separating Addis from us, Lyria was able to start to control Endolye. The last thing we were able to do was make the portals vanish, so at least Lyria couldn’t start any wars between the tribes. It was only when you arrived Dante that the portals appeared.”
“But how did I get to Endolye?” Dante asked.
There was no answer, and before she could say anything else Addis touched her shoulder.
“Dante, you need to get back to the others. Now that Lyria is gone, the Wumpus should no longer be able to channel her powers.”
She had so many questions, but was anxious to see her friends and make sure they were o.k., so she nodded. Addis led her to a portal on the far side of the pool and she went through. When she was on the other side, she realized Addis hadn’t come with her. She panicked for a moment, and rushed back through the portal. Addis was there, smiling at her.
“Yes,” he said, “it will stay and you can get back through. But I cannot go with you.”
She nodded, and turned and went through the portal again, and found herself near the gazebo where they had first met Lyria. She hurried to where they had made the barricade against the Wumpus.
When she got there, Ori was sitting with Greff’s head in his lap, Seeya next to him. Dante cried out and ran over to her friends.
“Oh Seeya, your wing!” she cried. Seeya looked at her and gave her the smallest lopsided smile.
“It’s o.k.,” he said, “with everything else such a mess, I’m not so sure anyone would notice.”
And sure enough, as Dante looked at him she realized he did look different. His shirt was off and his chest was streaked with dirt, his hair was matted and messy, and his wing was bent at the wrong angle entirely.
“He’s a hero” Ori said softly, still looking down at Greff. “He swam down to the cave to get us, and helped us all escape.” Seeya didn’t say anything, but just laid his head back against the ground.
“What’s wrong with Greff?” Dante asked.
“He got hit on the head very hard,” Ori answered, “and he hasn’t regained consciousness yet. We were all trying so desperately to protect Addis. Lyria wanted him.”
“He’s one of the Khee,” Dante said.
Ori’s head shot up. “What? He can’t be. They never travel.”
“It’s a long story, but Lyria put that pendant around his neck, and he couldn’t remember who he was. She had convinced him never to take it off, and then sent him home with the Oralian Council member. She somehow interfered with the Council, so they didn’t know what they were supposed to do. Anyway, the Khee sent me back to help you.”
“I’m not sure what you can do,” Ori said. At that moment, Greff gave a low moan and shifted.
“Thank goodness,” Ori sighed, “at least he’s alive.”
Dante looked down at the lake. “The Khee said the Wumpus could help. Now that Lyria is gone, they shouldn’t be under her influence.”
Ori looked up, “Lyria’s gone?” he asked.
Dante just nodded and said, “It’s a long story.” She looked back toward the lake. “I need to go for help,” she said. “I’ll be back,” and she headed for the lake.
When she got there, Pirrin and the others were standing on the bank. They seemed confused and dazed, but recognized Dante. When she told them Lyria was gone and she needed help for her friends, they quickly agreed to help. She led them back into the woods where her friends were waiting.
It turned out that the Wumpus had healing skills, which Lyria made sure they didn’t use on anyone but themselves. Now that she was gone, they quickly helped the Non-Council members, treating Greff’s head, and straightening and splinting Seeya’s wing. They assured Dante that everyone would be fine, and that they would take care of her friends until they had completely recovered.
They spent a few days with the Wumpus, which were completely different from any of the previous days they had spent. The Wumpus took wonderful care of them, and in a few days they were all feeling almost completely recovered. Addis hadn’t returned, and Dante thought about what Ori had said about the Khee not traveling. She knew they needed to return to ProGress, and hoped the portal was still there.
When she felt everyone was well enough, she announced, “It’s time to return to the Khee.”
They agreed, and she led her friends back into the woods. The portal was still there. They thanked their hosts for the care they had received. Pirrin and some of the others had accompanied them, and they brushed off Dante’s thanks.
“I can’t tell you how sorry we are we caused all that trouble,” Pirrin said. “Usually our games are harmless. I’d like to come with you and see if I can somehow help the damage I’ve done.”
Dante nodded and stepped through the portal, followed by Greff, Ori and Seeya. When they were all on the other side, they waited, but Pirrin never came through. After a few moments, Mirch emerged. She said simply, “I was the only one that could go through. The others just walked through to the other side.”
Addis had been waiting for them and asked, “Are you ready?”
The group looked at each and nodded their heads. They headed into the woods where Dante had first seen Cory/Lyria. Addis stopped, and then motioned for Seeya to follow him. One by the one the Non-Council members went with Addis toward the pool. When they came back they seemed to be the same, but Dante could tell something was a little different with each one.
Dante was surprised when Addis turned to her with a smile and said, “O.k., Dante, it’s your turn.”
“But I’m not a Council member,” she protested.
Addis didn’t respond, he simply motioned for her to follow him to the pool. She sat down her backpack and followed him. When they got there, he motioned for her to go out onto the walkway. She watched as he walked away from the pool. She stepped out onto the walkway and looked down into the water, expecting to see her reflection. What she saw shocked her.
There was a young, honest, beautiful face looking back at her. The girl in the water wore an expression both kind and wise, the kind of face you want desperately to be your friend.
“This can’t be me,” she whispered.
“But I am you.” The reflection spoke to her and she jumped back. She stepped forward again and looked into the pool. The reflection smiled at her. She stared into the pool, eyes wide.
“I’m really confused.”
“I know. But everyone’s confused. That’s the part you don’t get. You seem to think that everyone else is sure of themselves, and knows what they’re doing. But they aren’t. They’re just not as honest as you are.”
“So why don’t they like me?”
Her reflection changed, and the girl in the pool had an arrogant, aloof look about her. She didn’t look Dante in the eye when she spoke, and her voice was flat and disinterested.
“Most people think you aren’t interested.”
Dante leaned closer, looking at the reflection.
“Is that, I mean, is this how people see me?”
“Um hmm.” The reflection seemed to be disinterested and wanting to go somewhere else.
Dante thought about it for a minute. “Then who was I when I first got here?”
The reflection changed back to the face she had seen when she first looked in the pool.
“This is the reflection of your true self.”
“My true self?”
“Yes. This is who you are on the inside. Not many people see the reflection of their true self, and even fewer are able to show it to the rest of the world.”
“So how do I look like this all the time?”
“First, learn to be true to yourself. Don’t worry about what others are thinking, and don’t get too hung up on what you see in the mirror. That’s the least true reflection of who you are.”
“I think I understand. So what do I do now?”
“Follow your path.” The reflection started to ripple, as if a rock had been thrown into the pool.
“Wait,” Dante said, but when the ripples cleared, she was looking at the reflection she was used to seeing in her mirror at home.
“Are you still there?” The reflection mimicked her movements, and she sighed. She stood up and headed back down the path toward the others.
“Now you see?” Addis asked. Dante smiled at him.
“I think so,” she said. She looked at the others and they were all smiling at her – even Seeya.
“I guess,” she said slowly, “when it all comes right down to it, every one of us is really more alike than we are different, aren’t we?” Addis just smiled.
He then led the entire group back toward the pool, and they all stood at the water’s edge.
“Dante,” Addis said, reaching into his bag – which Dante couldn’t remember seeing since before they had been trapped in the Wumpus’s cave but was now right next to her backpack, “tell them how you conquered Lyria.” And he handed her the picture of the feet.
“Oh!” Dante said, putting her backpack over one shoulder and taking the picture. “I just erased her.”
The others looked at each other questioningly, and Dante laughed. She held up the drawing.
“See, she didn’t think it looked like her, so I started erasing it. It’s kind of hard to explain….” She paused and a gust of wind caught the paper and blew it out of her hand.
“Oh!” she exclaimed.
“I can get it for you,” said Greff.
“Oh no, I’ve got it,” Dante said. The paper had blown into the pool, and she went out on the walkway. She leaned over the water but it was just out of her reach. She tried to reach just a little farther, and at that moment her backpack shifted and dropped in front of her. She lost her balance and fell into the pool. She expected to hear a splash and feel water, but landed with a thump on her back, her backpack hung up on her elbow and the drawing in her hand.
”What the….” she said, sitting up and looking around.
“Oh no,” she whispered, feeling completely bereft. She was back in her special place in the rocks at home, with the pool of water next to her. She quickly stuck her hand in the pool, but the water went up just above her elbow and she could feel the hard, rocky bottom.
“That’s just not fair,” she whispered, trying hard not to cry. “I didn’t even get to say goodbye.”
At that point, she gave in and put her head on her knees and cried as if her heart were breaking.