We glided beneath iron trees, their grey-white leaves motionless in the passing breeze. Reflections fell from them like a sheen on a crystal surface and flowed with us so that the chill of their foreboding beauty kissed my soul and left my body as frore breadths. We drifted along the moonbeam path through the iron forest of pale pleated trees to the stairs of the lychgate.
Four stairs there were: the first upheld by shadows, the second by demons, the third by man and the forth by angels all sculpted in the strain and effort of holding the weight of each stair. The hewn figures of each mural were so large they were as giants such that the stairs and gate themselves were of dismaying proportions, only to be reached but by great sorcery or other power. The two pillars that held the gate rose like luminous mountains before us, the obelisks of Terrorem on one side and Reverentia on the other. When we stopped before the gate my skin began to crawl with questions most daunting: what deity lay behind this?, what judgement must be faced?, what's inside my soul?
"Lus tertaie per clavem...the Lich king's voice rolled up to the upper arch like thunder...haec porta aperi"
The inscriptions began to glow as the magic was awoken followed by a great booming sound as the gate wardens tore themselves from the door's carven designs and set their gargantuan feet upon the stair of angels. Had I stood upon my own two feet, their strength then, would have failed me. "Claim your right soul bearer", he or they said and touched me. "Aperi!". Immediately my body was filled with a light as bright as a star and I rose between the door wardens to the gate's center, they reached towards me with god like fingers took my light and when the decree was aglow in their eyes they pushed upon the gates sundering the seal of its two halves, so did we come to the Rings of Eden...
I descended back to the path having provided the third key of mortal light. We glided over and along the path of the first ring stirring its dust of crystalline verdure as if it was made entirely of green apatite. It was wide enough to allow an army of soldiers to march in ranks of six without tumbling over its massive edge. Before long we passed under the arch of the first circular garden into a boscage of woodland and mega statues. For the effigies were mountains amongst the trees such that at one point our path took us up a flight of stairs etched into the hems and folds of an angel's robe. It must have been an angel for when we had risen above the trees at the cubital fossa of its outstretched hand and were moving to the forearm we beheld its face and though it bore the countenance of a man my heart loved it and envied it as it was unlike any other ever seen. His handsomeness haunted me until we reached the upturned palm and there came upon the Grove of golden minstrels. Whether their names were for their aureate plumes or their seraphic voices I could not tell nor could I truly describe the soul-shattering beauty of those magnificent birds. Ever the way wove under trees and above canopies, besides the feet of kings and across the carven coronets of queens, around the rings of ladies and the over the amulets of jinns...
This was the largest of the Edenia rings and not all of it was as aesthetic. If what we had first traversed was an angel then the other was an afreet. It was herculean, its gigantic form forcing our path to rove along the roped muscles of its feet, unto its chest, up the sinews of its neck, across its right shoulder and down its humped back. I wish I had never looked upon its face, grotesqueness should never be so magnified nor evil ever made so comprehensive to human eyes, it is sacrilege! Its shadows tormented mine until the path's egress from its accursed form. Even in the lesser effigies emotion was hewn into their very contours and crevices. Sorrow cloaked me as we passed under the falls of the weeping maiden beneath her doleful moon eye, had I not been held against the powers of my own will I would have thrown my self from the precipice to end it. For a mere mortal, it was enthralling and overwhelming, griping and euphoric, madness!
My pulse regained normalcy when our pathway again became straight only now its was an alien grey-blue hue, the labrodite crossing I deemed it, with a girth for five ranks it led us to the second garden, the ring of vales and waterfalls. Here too the path never faltered even when there was no mountainside to hold it, then it took to the form of huge floating step stones descending like a stair as if giants once walked upon, or impossible bridges across precipices, or stairs precariously encircling the faces of outcrops. There were the mirror pools that became solid when you stepped on them, the valley of mists that reflected the sky such that it was as if you were amongst clouds and floating stars and the valley of glass flowers that took the color of your soul should you pick one. Last was the Empyrean vale where all its flora were alight with a pure smokeless flame of schiller radiance that perpetually changed its pale shades like lunar light floating upon water. I could not leave, I could not look away, I tried to understand the mesmeric patterns and my heart bled and my tears rained when I was wretchedly wrenched from it.
Onward we glided across the amethyst crossing measuring four ranks, to the third ring shrouded in endless twilight. Scattered through out it were levitating crystal shards lucent like lamps and the spirits in mantles of golden brown with a silky sheen and glimmering diadems of colorless chrysoberyls woven about their heads mirroring the crystals' radiance like moonlight. It was serenity and for a moment I entertained the notion that we had truly reached paradise for there could not be more solace or tranquility anywhere else that were as uplifting or beatific as this. We were endlessly invited to places of rest and comforts such that my soul longed to stop and listen to the spirits soothing musical whispers, meditatively stare at the soft shimmers of their crowns and passed into the cradles of slumber who so now tantalizingly caressed me. I wanted to end this arduous trek when lightening cracked in my soul murdering my heart with agony and blinding my senses. A warning, that scattered the spirits and extirpated any notion of repose:"You may rest when you are departed, soul bearer", they said, thus ended the magic of the third paradise.
The way became straight again and transparent except where the golden emblems lay with silver runes about them but narrower so that only three ranks may pass at any time. This one led us to the triad rings, the first and foremost before us was entirely of crystal glass with a separate circle of silver afloat to its right and that of pure gold flanking its left. From the distance we saw the glister of the twin bridges that connected them on either sides of the central garden such that they had a crown like appearance, wondrous and portentous.
The air trembled and fear again set forth its preternatural hand as the encircling gardens began to turn. I felt inquietude and haste rose in me and our speed quicken into a flash:" We must reach the arch portal before it closes!", the king thundered to me and his six commanders, "They are trying to cut us off!"