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On her way to Sanctuary

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 This picture only used one black, one grey, one red, one brown, and one yellow pencil along with the usual black ballpoint pen. Orange was done by combining red and yellow; it was fun using limited colors.



The ghostly beings hovered or walked, sometimes only half-seen, around her. One seemed to be inside the dark crystal stone lining the path, for that was what they could be used for.
Floating around as the incorporeal entities that they were, some strange instinct attracting them to her, they followed her down the path she now knew so well.
Then, around her, seen by them, the energy field all living creatures have changed, she could not help it, the terrible memories were still too strong- they backed away but did not leave.
The day she had arrived on that strange plane of existence...


"TELL US," came the mechanically-neutral voice, of a frequency meant to pierce deep inside one's head, the blazing light directed at her eyes, the current and voltage in the steel chair she had been bound in shocking her, its sharp-edged shackles biting into her, the genetically-altered spider so large on her chest, hissing and pulsing, chill terror filling her.
Again the blow, her smashed right eye useless, blood dripping out of her mouth, the flash of blue with each strike.
But she didn't know. She did not know any details about the uprising, yet another out of pure desperation in an endless cycle in that nightmare era, but the Security Enforcers either did not believe her or did but did not care, and so the interrogation went on.
A gleaming metal sleeve was put on her right arm, rods slowly moving in from opposing points, pushing, straining against bone, but bone was no match for steel, she screamed, the snapping as that limb was broken in two places, crushed in another.
As she tried to draw in breath a plastic mask put over her face, darkness, suffocation, at the last second removed, sobbing.
"TELL US AND IT WILL STOP!"
She did not even know if they were male or female. Such distinctions had not mattered for some time in the world that was once that of her own small folk.
On it went, she didn't know what they wanted to know if she had she would have told them in that unequal contest it was not would or wouldn't but only when only when stop no more I don't know why won't you believe me any arrested are guilty never seen again the spider bit micro-thin lasers piercing agony deep inside and outside the burning the horrid smoke...
Death was welcome.


"You must stand up, you must follow me yourself- it must be."
She did not want to. She lay on the cool stone, eyes closed, still in pain but there was no more added, leave me alone she thought, I will be content here.
"You cannot stay like this. I cannot help you right now, it must be your own effort- but you have not long to go now," said the soft, gentle voice.
She opened her good eye.
The blacksteel room, the interrogators, the sadistic instruments of their purpose- all gone. She was on a cool grey stone, a flagstone. The colors, was it- was it not once called "autumn" before the aliens' satellite weapons had burned away most of the forests and meadows? Ruby, gold, orange, the air wonderfully clear in that pellucid land, the light warm and soothing even now.
She slowly lifted her head, blood dripping from a broken jaw, and with her one good eye saw the one before her- part fox, part serpent-dragon with long hair of gold and red streaming as if in an unfelt breeze, fur sometimes gold or maybe red, forearms splitting in two so she had four paws, clad in a garment of red, gold, and black, standing or floating upright around her, easily several times her size. Yet she felt no fear of that alien creature, for while the rulers of her world were cruel and treacherous the one now with her radiated only compassion and concern.
She felt a bit self-conscious in her grey sleeveless knee-length outfit: torn, dirty, and bloody.
"You must."
"Auuunhhguhhhh..." as the visitor to that weird yet wonderful place tried to reply but only coughed up blood.
"You can do it. Please believe me, dear one."
How long did it take for her to struggle up, with that broken body, to a standing position, from that bloody spot? She saw golden fields, a light golden sky with ruby horizons, and a hint of distant blue and green, but those colors distant, there were orange and red trees with pretty ruby, white, and golden flowers all around, what was this place?
The sun- oh, sunshine, how long had it been, even if alien- even in her agony it felt so good. Just for those seconds, if nothing else.
She took a step, staggering.
Then another.
Then another.
Then another...
Crushed foot, broken arm, broken ribs, smashed eye, internal bleeding, the weird alien creature always with her in that journey nightmarish yet strangely beautiful, encouraging, large eyes, all four- four?- yes, two more small ones appeared on her forehead, one over the other, all four eyes filled with pity yet some unknown law kept her from helping, as the distance slowly passed by, slowly, concentrate on one foot in front of the other, as on the slave marches for progress and glory to the next smoggy industrial fortress, but no barbed electro-whips or blazing searchlights here...
Blood dripped. Her arm hung limp, every move slashing pain. Ahead the woodland, soft, autumny, a breeze from behind carrying the delightful scent of those flowers and meadows, as if that almost-dreamland was encouraging her.
Quiet. No screaming loudspeakers, screaming propaganda, yes food abundant even as we starve; yes the poison bombs fall on us but the enemy- whoever they are today- are almost defeated, yes, yes, we will agree, they watch for those who don't, the first to stop cheering taken as traitors...
The strange dark stones lining the paved path. Limping, sometimes falling, patiently waiting no don't want to continue but again slowly staggering up bloody imprint expecting punishment but none came why?
Into the woods. Trees, real trees, unlike...finally. Was it minutes, hours, how many? Just up ahead, in a yard of light yellow-somewhat greenish grass, surrounded by a low stone wall with ruby or golden glass as paving stones leading to a white stone chapel. Peaked brown roof, a narrow steeple, on top a small globe of gold crystal glittering, so beautiful. Windows, round. Large wooden door with black hinges and tinted glass. Quaint, how many decades on her world since...a tear streamed down her face from her good eye, stories had been whispered in secret among her people about how her world once was, had it been anything like this long ago?
Getting up those two steps. How long did it take? Yet never did her guide abandon her, never did she grow impatient, finally inside.
On an impulse she slowly turned. The bloody trail was gone.
?
She went inside. 
Wooden bookshelf, windows, stained glass with images of strange but noble alien figures, rugs with red and gold patterns, inviting, comforting, yet she nearly collapsed as she sobbed, the agony and exhaustion were just too much.
She tried to stop. It hurt her ruined body, and in that nightmare tyranny she came from such emotions would earn agonizer light rays. But- it was astonishing- not there.
"It's all right now. Come, step into the bath."
In a side room in the floor was a large smooth black granite bath filled with warm water. Not understanding why yet conditioned to obey, she dropped the bloodstained rags she wore and slowly, painfully, lowered herself into the water while that strange creature stood or hovered nearby with a silver bowl, the soft sound of wind chimes nearby.
Just the sensation of a warm bath was a luxury almost unheard of by her race, enslaved for generations since that horrible day so long ago when the ships from a dark murdered planet dancing around a distant star, a star secretly cursed by her race for nurturing such a terrible species, had appeared in the skies; their masters destroying, capturing, ravaging, killing for sport, sweeping aside any efforts at defense, from that day the undisputed rulers of her world. 
Wait...what was this? She felt...her ruined body, what...her guide poured the clear water over her blood-matted hair and then gently pushed her head underwater, she did not feel as though she was drowning even though she was completely submerged for long moments...
Her head above water- her smashed eye...she could see with it again, it was...it was...healed. Her jaw, teeth...all regenerated. Her arm, she could move it again, it was no longer broken, her ribs no longer pained her.
What was happening? Flames danced on the water, but it was not petroleum fire as she had seen in the "arenas" of the masters, nor thermite used to chase frantic swimmers tossed into the water by laughing alien masters especially adept at torment and fear; she thought of how in spite of her protests her brother had willingly taken her place and so had burned while surrounded by water even as the spectators howled with glee...the flames here, dark ugly red, gathered at the edge where that alien fox-dragon-serpent immersed her arms, her head went up and she gasped in wracking pain as they burned and healed, burned and healed, what was happening?

Finally the flames died down, the water clear, the strange benefactor sighed, tired but content- truly contented looking.
"Relax, dearest one...let the warm water soothe you...it is over now..."
"Wha- what happened- thank you, thank you for your kindness, but- ohhh, I'm sorry milady, I am Unit 61C8B45..."
"No- you are no longer of that horrible world, you are no longer a slave. Your Astral-spirit name is 'Tywilla,' that is your name now."
"I- I don't understand?"
"Think of what happened before I found you lying there in the meadow."
"I was being...'questioned'...they thought I knew something about the uprising, but I'm not sure there was any at that time, they didn't believe me, they kept...hitting me and...and...until..."
Her eyes widened in shock.
"Yes- you died. They tormented you to death."
"Is this- but..?"
Here her hostess and benefactor sighed again, then said "different souls go to different places upon death. This is a quiet crossroads in the lower Astral Plane, not too far above the Physical Plane from whence you came. Your spirit was so badly hurt you were drawn here, where you could be healed. The flames you saw...I took the pain you had, it was...a sort of debt, experience. It has been dealt with so nothing else need ever suffer from it, I do not merely shift the burden to another creature. It is not easy."
Tywilla, as we will now call her, was silent. It was difficult to accept what was happening, the idea of someone- especially an alien creature- being so very, well, kind. Not since her brother had died for her had she ever known such behavior towards her, although her race still tried to help each other whenever possible.
And such a beautiful, peaceful land- never. It was so unlike the poisoned planet that was itself once so beautiful, before the invaders had arrived and conquered.
Her hostess, and now I can say she was priestess in that place, continued.
"I am Tir-Esisanji, caretaker and priestess of this chapel at this crossroads. I understand, on that dark world that was once yours one does not dare ask for a master's name. But you are free of that place once and for all. Now just relax, right now just be at peace, for you are safe here."
Safe...that itself had been a dream...
And Tywilla did. She floated, for the first time not afraid, for the first time not afraid after a life of constant fear. The light streaming in through the windows and skylight, soft gold and warm red, the very feel of autumn, soft steam gently rising towards the open skylight, glittering light, how must it have once been on her world?
Finally...
"Time to come out, dear one."
Tywilla stepped out of the bath and stared- there was a mirror, beveled, oval, somehow not fogged up, with a smooth ruby on top, and in it she saw herself- it was her, yet not her- she was somehow different, her fur a different shade, her hair no longer close-cropped...and her paws, instead of four digits there were now three. Other differences subtle but there. She looked down at the strangely-patterned tile floor, golds and reds and browns and oranges, so beautiful.
"Wait there a moment, please," said the priestess, as she whirled a clawed paw round and round, from depressions at the edge of the bath three golden crystal orbs floated up, and around and around Tywilla they flew, flaming with translucent golden fire, quickly drying her off, the feeling indescribably delightful.
Finally the alien priestess gave her a white robe, made of some wonderfully warm, thick material, then led her to another side room, one with a round window and a colorfully tiled floor with a checkerboard pattern of red, orange, yellow, brown, and black. On it was a large yellow cushion and a red pillow, along with an orange blanket. The golden light of that magical land poured in through another window, a window edged with gold and ruby marbled glass.
"Sleep now," commanded Tir-Esisanji; hardly daring to disobey yet still nervous about obeying, the smaller creature curled under the blanket, feeling oddly comforted under the thick, soft fabric, in that semi-darkness. The comfortable softness was another luxury she'd never experienced, along with the feeling of safety and...goodness of the entire place.
In spite of herself she quickly fell asleep.
Tir-Esisanji, priestess of that small chapel, watched for a moment at the doorway, a tear in one of her eyes. The vixen-dragonish female sighed, and in her paws she held a globe of crystal. In it were scenes from a nightmare: cruelty, conquest, murder, torment...the world her guest had come from.
"Your physical body is dead, Tywilla. Your consciousness now is mostly in your Astral form, for that is where you are now- what some name the first of the heavens. Here I help souls, or spirits as some call it, that are damaged in some way, although soul can never be destroyed. Despair, fear, anguish...that damage, as you were..."


She had seen the next heaven.
After several days Tir-Esisanji had guided her along the paths in that strange ruby and golden land to a place where huge light-silver trees arched high overhead like a splendid glowing cathedral, trees with sunlight-illuminated orange and red leaves, until in a rainbow-hued meadow that seemed to go on for an eternity was the outermost edge of a realm so vast and magnificent tears streamed down her face, a realm beyond her imagination.

A wide road paved with gigantic glittering gems led away to a distant city that seemed to float above a sea of pure bright azure.

"That is the heaven above the Astral. That can be your home and destiny if you choose, for there you will be welcome."
For long hours they sat under the large arching trees, in the outer reaches of a light so beautiful, just watching and listening and sensing that heavenly realm, a realm so glorious, so unspeakably splendid in colors of what seemed to be the purest light. Yet there were heavens above even that one?
Finally...
"I want to help you. If it's allowed, if I'm not being foolish, I would stay with you. If I may?"
There was a long pause.
"Tywilla, is that your free choice? Think carefully; there is no selfishness if you choose to journey on to that grand realm, for that would be your destiny."
Tywilla sat there as Tir-Esisanji made appear golden crystal teacups with a sort of peppermint tea. They waited, for the most significant thing was not even the incredible realm the former slave could freely enter, but the fact that for the first time she was free to choose for herself. Yet her perceptions were now beyond what she had possessed in physical form, and she knew that the beautiful alien creature that served in that little chapel led a lonely life. In the world she had come from everyone of her race were forced to be lonely individualists since any sort of friendship or even casual conversation could cause one to be arrested, and one never knew from day to day where one might be- so alone, so alone...
For the first time she had a free choice.
She had been almost entirely unable to help anyone in her former world while she had lived there- but in the one she was in now...
It was with a look of gratitude in Tir-Esisanji's eyes that she and Tywilla returned to that little chapel in that warm part of the Astral Plane. In the back yard, under a tree much like an evergreen but with orange and gold needles, they had tea and on the table of ruby and diamond glass would soon play a game much like mahjong with beautiful glass tiles, something the priestess had so wanted to do.


The soothing memory and thoughts of her new life affected her aura, comforting the ghostly beings around her. She would lead them to that little place in the woodland, where Tir-Esisanji, the priestess of that part of that quiet little corner of the Astral Plane, would kindly tend to them. Unlike Tywilla they did not have true Astral forms and were on that plane "ghosts," their senses unable to properly detect where they were, lost; but in her presence they could for a short distance around see and feel and hear, and would follow her to sanctuary.
Once helped, they could travel to where they were to be at last. No longer stuck between lives, but able to live once more. Even now the warmth of that land comforted them, and something she had regained they too were regaining...
Hope.
"We are almost there," she said, and in the yard waited patiently Tir-Esisanji, watching with all four eyes, all four forepaws on the gate to that welcoming place of healing and guidance, serving grand creation.
 

 

 

 

 

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© 2017 - 2022 GriswaldTerrastone
Comments8
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shyguy280's avatar
The written story has great things with it, and you have a good way of telling little details that happen to the character herself, not just saying what happened. Small details help show what is happening to someone and you did great with the little details in the story =)

The drawing itself is great to me :D I enjoy your characters, and I like how her face design looks. The eyes and nose are sweet, and the hairstyle and ears fit her design really well :)

The outfit is well drawn, and I like how you did the background details a lot!
GriswaldTerrastone's avatar
Thank you- I enjoyed this one too, especially at this time.
shyguy280's avatar
You are very welcome! :)
TannerSwiftfox's avatar
This is amazing. I can't wait to see it when it's done.
Spaghetti-Mayhem's avatar
Even your work in progresses sketches are still so good and clean. If I look really hard, I can find a few areas of erasing (like near whatever little fellow is peeping out between the bushes and the rocks) but so much of your line work carries a feel of confident purpose. Or more simply put, you know what you're doing. :lol: When I do my monthly doodle, even the most simplest sketch is rife with eraser marks. 

If I was her, I would be a lot more than just a little nervous with all those damaged spirits about. The floating one-eyed ones don't look the most docile but that's probably why they need some help and tending to. Those little details on her like the side-stitching of her dress and the base-of-the-ear bracelet-like piece of jewelry are really endearing. Even if you don't get to coloring this one, I still enjoy seeing these sketches and I always look forward to them in my inbox.
GriswaldTerrastone's avatar
Thanks!

This one was rather nice, even therapeutic, to do. Right now I even have another, later part of her story along with Tir-Esisanji's; we also learn a bit more about her brother's fate and his future.

 
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