December 2021 Online Exclusive – Amy Landisman

Numina: A Prologue

by Amy Landisman

           Numina moved through the night air, a shadow weaving up to the edge of the forest. She emerged from the shelter of the pines into the wind, where the granite rock reached out, a jagged edge above the sea. She crossed the rocks, lithe over the fresh snow, her blue robes trailing, whipping in the wind as she approached the Nara Stone. Her hand brushed the edge in reverence as she passed. At the looming cliff she paused, strong against the gusts that caught in her hair, lifting it from her face, leaving an icy mist on her skin. She searched the sea beyond, her hands pale at her side, a smoky gray stone cold against her palm. She raised her face to the sky and began to chant, sah oma yonos kaa, sah oma yonos kaa, haunting the sky with her voice, arms lifted in a plea to the stars.

          The sea replied in a burst, crashing into the cliff and submerging the path below. The ancient passage led from the cove across the base of the cliff to the entrance of the cave. Deep within the cave lay a maze of tunnels: to the Sacred City, the Temple, another realm. It was here she entered this life, and here she believed she would exit.

          It was not to be.

         Her voice rang through the night and the waves crashed higher, harder as the sea rushed through the cave, filled the tunnels deep within the island. Behind her, blue eyes flashed near the trees. A white wolf emerged, and another set of eyes appeared, then another, until five wolves lingered on the rock. They joined in a fierce howl and she was quiet, a statue, arms raised to the sky. The wolves launched themselves toward her at an anxious trot, circled, and settled in a crescent around her, facing the sea. She dropped her arms, considered her guards, and stepped closer to the edge of the cliff.

        “The Cave of Illusions has been flooded,” she said, a scream into the night, aware of her failure, her sealed fate. Her wolves stepped closer, sensing her dismay. Without access to the Cave, she can neither leave this realm nor move ahead in time to the next age. Countless incarnations stretched before her, trapped in the cycle of life, death and rebirth. 

         Apparitions of light and form appeared, floating high above, and perhaps she alone saw The Ancient Ones, heard their voices, for the wolves sat alert but silent. A voice came to her on the wind, unified, compassionate, “The end is upon you. The end of the Age of Unity.”  

        The dark stone rested in her palm, and she held it out to the Ancient Ones. She surrendered it, though with it went her memories, her wisdom from the ages. Shrunken by forgetfulness, she will wander, powerless.

        “The stone will return to you when the archer and the vine collide, and balance will be restored.” The Ancient Ones said. “The fog of confusion will envelope you, but we will be with you in every breath, dear one. You will hear us in the darkest hours.” They fell silent, and a message emerged as light in the darkness, loops, angles, swirls across the sky, as the Ancient Ones dissolved in a gust of wind.

         We are one.

        The words that defined her civilization hung like stars over the sea. Tears froze on her cheeks. She lowered her head and brought her empty hands to rest below the silken sash at her waist. In gratitude, she bowed to the wolves, honoring them for their loyalty, bravery, friendship. The ground shifted beneath her. It lifted and dropped, earth flowing inland like a wave, and she stumbled, unnerved by the shriek of cracking rock, excruciating and louder than the sea itself. Her last refuge, the Temple of the Five, lay in its path.

        She pulled a dagger from her robe and stepped to the Nara Stone, a monument of her people, raised a thousand years before as a symbol of unity with the Great Artist. She carved a tiny symbol into the stone, light and shallow beneath the original inscription. It would mark this sacred place, her beloved world, and her true-self. May this remind me in the next age. May it remind me to choose with caution. 

       The wolves howled and circled her on the trembling earth. They moved aside as she stepped to the cliff’s edge, then turned her back to the sea and faced them, her eyes warm and watery. Her gaze landed long on the white wolf, the blue eyes shining through the night, and her jaw trembled as she spoke. “You are so loved, my friend. We will meet again.”

       Numina lifted her arms to the sky once more, and the turbulent sea rose high to meet her, to collect her for its own, and she stepped back in the silence and sank. The white wolf raised a final, anguished howl as the ground rumbled. The pack fled, but she remained beside the Nara Stone. Her blue eyes lingered, set on the rise and fall of the sea until the soft glow of dawn pressed through the darkness.


Amy Landisman is a writer, teacher, and pensive Pisces based in Connecticut on the traditional homeland of the Paugussett. A former journalist and lifestyle columnist, Amy has forsaken nonfiction to conjure written hope from the flora and fauna around her.