|"The Crane" by Steven Kenny|
Uther and Merlinus gaze up at the long pine valleys that float like islands among blue fields of glaciers. Moonglow draws mentholated incense from the firs, and a warm breeze descends softly, carrying the busy labor of bees and a tinkling and braying of distant sheep. The elk-king leads them upward, and the sky pales to opal hues and soon streaks with raspberry smudges and lemon rinds of dawn clouds.
By then, they have attained a height that affords a vista of sprawling meadowlands and bluesmoke forests. Below, they behold the magnificent unicorn grazing, light playing iridescently across its white coat.
Once again, giddy laughter chimes from out of the brightening dusk, and Merlinus senses happy, unseen presences nearby that somehow remind him, not of the Celts, but of the mythic Greek order of centaurs, satyrs, and Titans who ranged before Zeus.
The wizard swings his staff about, and the giggling grows louder. A motley gang of startled figures laughing appears around them, not unlike the elk-king in form, only half-human—furry snouted, paw-limbed people with mossy hair and eyes green as sea pools.
"These are the first people," the elk-king announces. "They attend me when I visit here."
"Where is 'here'?" Uther inquires.
"Here is the frontier of the Greater World, King Uther," the beast-lord answers. "Here, forms merge. In wild, discordant, humorous, and maddening ways, they merge—and delight in the merging. Here, forms fall away and souls stand alone, as radiant light awaiting the spirit laws, to shape them into ever new forms."
"God's grace," Uther quietly murmurs, clearly awed by the unnatural beauty of these Elysian fields. His body unconsciously sways to the shrill, faint piping of the oldest music, a rhythm of wind and water—
"Look more closely," King Someone Knows the Truth entreats. He points below to the luxuriant, fruitful valley, where foam of laughter and song rise from a tumultuous forest. Barely visible through the slanted apertures of the woods prance human shapes composed of no more than luminous mist, an entire assemblage of them frolicking and cavorting like fauns.
This mysterious spectacle inspires within the two human witnesses the strange yet familiar sweetness of indecipherable magic—a feeling of peace and loveliness that they recall dimly, from far back in their fetal dreamings.
From The Dragon and the Unicorn