The Grotto

     “I want to show you something,” Sitala said to Ruth as they walked towards a rock formation within a tiny lake at the centre of the internal plain of Ellmore, “there’s a special place here and I’m interested to see how you react to it; or indeed how it reacts to you.”
As they got closer Ruth saw that there was an ornate wooden bridge traversing the water and leading to a landing before a rocky structure. From this vantage Ruth could see colourful fish swimming just below the surface and she paused on the bridge to have a better look. The landing was paved with veined marble and a dozen steps curved down through a high arch-way that opened into the rock. There was sufficient light to see that there was more water at the bottom. A large rock had been fashioned into a seat located within the ring of water. Beyond a cavern opened out and a waterfall was apparent in the distance behind another rocky outcrop. Sitala indicated that Ruth should use the three stepping-stones to cross over and sit on the stone seat.
Ruth looked at the scene with some trepidation, as the moment she had entered the grotto, she felt something. Something which reminded her of Caer Euni. Sensations that were similar to those she had felt while walking between the rings of stones grew more strongly as she approached the water within the grotto.  
“What is it Ruth?” asked Sitala, “what do you feel?”
“It’s like something spinning,” she sighed, and frowned in concentration, so that lines furrowed across her brow, “inside my head; or maybe around me. I’m not sure. And I’m not sure if I like it.”
“Just concentrate on the here and now Ruth. Centre yourself and feel the stone beneath your feet, and the spinning will stop.”
Ruth was reluctant to go any further but did as she had been bid, grounding herself, and was pleased that the spinning sensation did cease as Sitala had suggested. After several deep breaths she gingerly placed her feet on the stepping-stones. A pleasant feeling came over her and drew her in towards the rock seat, as if telling her that she was in the right place. Seating herself carefully, Ruth placed her arms on the sculpted rests, took in a deep breath, sighed again, adjusted her ponytail and relaxed, wondering what would happen next.
Without warning, she felt that she snapped out of herself. She found herself above her seated body. Frightened, she automatically snapped back into herself immediately. But realising that she was able to control the sensation, she allowed herself to leave her body again, drifting this time, with a measure of control. She instinctively pulled herself back after several seconds. Understanding that this experience could be regulated she allowed herself after a pause, to become fully immersed in the process.

   
She rose slowly upwards, through the rocks and out, rising above Ellmore. Like a bird on the wing Ruth soared skywards and the panorama expanded below her. She could see how the fertile vale of Ellmore was surrounded by low mountains, broken by the canyon through which she had entered. Beyond Ellmore there were hills to the south and a ravine before a dusty plain. Something in the hills drew her perception in. There was a presence there which she recognised. It was Marek, in an underground fortress. And he saw her. Although she would have loved to be drawn in to see him, the views that expanded in all directions called her again. She saw Romaer Underdown and its lake and fountain to the north, and she perceived a wrongness there; and she continued her journey. Another presence tugged at her awareness – Oz and Richard this time. Feeling that there was nothing amiss she left them and travelled towards the coast, and another presence demanded her attention – Angharad was there, in one of the coastal towns! She later learned it was called Heraklion. Soaring higher and higher Ruth eventually saw the whole continent spreading before her, as if she was a satellite orbiting the planet. Ark she could see, had one major continent, with volcanism and continental drift creating a huge rift valley, inlets and promontories. There were three main islands and many smaller islands ones. It was somewhat similar to Earth’s original supercontinent Pangea; and there was another smaller landmass just discernible on the other side of the planet that was covered by mist. Feeling as if she may be stretching herself too far Ruth realised that she had to return to her body, and just as she thought it she snapped back, finding herself still seated on the stone chair, amazed and exhilarated.