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  1. Central Puerto Rico, the northern side of El Yunque('the Anvil'), July 25th 2013 Subito had ended up going to Puerto Rico alone with his family. Cerys was busy, Serge doubly so, and the rest had either graduated or were hard at work preparing for it. That had turned out to be a considerable blessing for the muscular teen, as the sudden explosion of familial visits and reunions with laughing cousins was something he felt would have been hurt if he'd dragged someone else along for it. He, Galanta and Rodrigo had finally been allowed a day to wander the island before the celebratory meal, and the trio had quickly taken advantage of it and their maternal grandparent's closeness to the mountain to trek up its slopes. Subito was in his usual white shirt and jean shorts, and had found an excellent seat in a rock shelf partway up the northern face. He looked out at the island from that vantage point, quietly watching the slow sway of the trees stretching to the horizon, the movements of birds, the stealthy creeping of grounded animals and the distant glimmer of the sea. He felt a sudden, powerful connection to everything he sensed, and all the myriad of things built by humanity just out of sight. Here at last he could learn the truth. Steeling himself, he whispered 'Dama, I ask leave to enter your dominion and hear from your mouth what this knight means, and why you refused to explain. I will surpass any obstacles you place before me, and defeat any foe who stands against my quest My permission is granted, Herald. And you shall hear it and understand. Since you have already seen the bridge, the pool and the rest I will only say this: do not retreat. Be strong, I must not guide you once you enter.' Closing his eyes he willed the beating of his heart to a slower, stronger rythm, gradually attuning himself to the island. The books lent to the young paragon by the mages of Parkhurst had been amazingly helpful and complete, describing meditation techniques for mental and spiritual travel that could take you almost anywhere imaginable. Of course, he reflected, cracking an eye open and smiling, the books would have been useless without Mali's help teaching him how to meditate properly. Settling back into stillness and silence, arms laid on his crossed legs and hands turned upwards, he opened the inner eye and walked out of is body for the first time, drawing back an invisible curtain on the universe and passing through to the other side with a rush like being flung backwards by a deluge. Recovering himself, he stood up and looked around. The change was immediate. The world was watercolors now, the rock around him had gone from the uneven brown patterns of unending erosion to a solid mass of light gray stone, the air was abruptly motionless and filled with the smell of perseverance and hardihood, and the forests before him were transformed into an immense tangle of vivid greens and browns that perfectly hid what his senses told him was a riot of barking, shrilling and baying animals. The sky was overcast with golden clouds shaped like mighty birds of prey under a blazing sun. Below him on the green pastures stood two he knew at a glance depsite their filmy appearance: Galanta looked like a statue of steel, resembling an Athena he had seen pictures of; the other was a towering stereotypical Spanish knight in armor that glistened blue, the helmet shaped like a fishes' skull though Subito knew his cousin Rodrigo was inside. The reminder of his strange curse suddenly made the patriotic paragon's visit just a little more eerie, and Subito grappled with a momentary surge of guilt at just letting Claremont's veterans take care of him, and not finding a way to cure him in the months before. Around the ghostly pair ranged hundreds of sheep in armor of their own, grazing on the grass. They looked like if someone had heard that armor was supposed to be practical defensive wear, and decided that they were better than that. Every inch was intricately carved and sculpted in a different way, and the gold and silver used to make the figures gave the herds the impression of a large field covered by wandering metal barrels. Climbing down from his perch, Subito glanced up at the now literal iron anvil crowning the mountain and grinned despite himself. Sauntering northwards through the mysterious herd at the mountain's foot, he nodded politely to the massive ram with blood-dripping horns who seemed to be in charge, surveying the rest from a boulder. <"Don't suppose you can tell me anything"> he said aloud, scratching the sheep behind the ears fondly and starting when the ram butted his hand aside as it answered flatly <"I can. The caretaker of this island excepts you. Follow the path and do not stray"> without a backward glance he jumped down and vanished into the clanging mob. Staring after the animal, Subito turned away with a muttered <"Ooookay then, guess that's all I can expect from these weirdos"> glancing around he caught sight of a small dirt track leading away to the north through the forest. At the mouth of the woods yellow eyes glittered at him. Meeting the stares grimly, placed a hand over his heart and said crisply <"Dama, I ask that you not grant me your power while I am here. You pro'lly weren't gonna anyway, but still. I'll be with ya soon."> With a shake of his curly hair, he set his jaw, squared his shoulders and marched into the gloom, the forest blocking the light almost utterly as he was swallowed up.
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