The Seeress and the Stone 2
Angelia awakened with a groan. The pounding ache behind her eyes made everything seem fuzzy with a bluish tint. With a groan she closed her eyes again hoping the lack of light would ease the pain, but to no avail. With a sigh she rolled out of bed and reached for the clothes she had laid out the night before.
From the corner of her room the early morning light reflected on the five tiny jewels embedded in the wooden nymph statue. A smile crossed her face at the reminder of her late night outing. Sounds from the guest room pulled her from her reverie and she finished changing into her trousers and blouse. It was going to be a clear, hot day and part of her wished she could just stay in bed.
“Angelia, time to get up.” Grandfather Celendar called from the bottom of the stairs.
“Coming,” she called back.
She tucked in her shirt and grabbed her already packed bag and headed out into the hall, nearly running into her two closest friends Kya and Sparrow. With excited grins the three girls headed down to the kitchen chatting about the coming journey that day. Angelia’s grandfather, Celendar, greeted them cheerfully and handed them each a bowl of oatmeal.
“You three were up late,” he chided gently.
Angelia blushed, knowing they had stayed up because of her. “A pre-birthday meeting,” she explained, blushing again.
“Well just don’t fall behind on the trail,” Celendar replied with a knowing grin.
After breakfast Celendar loaded their bags onto the pack horse while Angelia locked up the cottage and then they all headed up the trail to meet with the other families. A group of about twenty people waited at Le’Mone Alasteur’s cottage. Le’Mone, standing near the front, looked like a goddess with her waist length, silver-white hair flowing around her in a cloud.
Angelia scanned the crowd until she saw a different head of silver hair and striking, blue eyes. French Alasteur, Le’Mone’s nephew, met her stare and grinned mischievously. The blood rushed to Angelia’s cheeks and she immediately dropped her gaze.
Celendar took the lead of the party as soon as they reached the larger group and began the long hike up forest trail. Everyone followed in small groups of three or four. Angelia watched carefully as French and Jord took charge of the pack horses. With a sigh she followed her friends onto the path that led to the lake.
Despite the overhanging trees, the temperature rose quickly. An hour after they left Angelia was wishing for an ice pack and her bed as the ache behind her eyes intensified. Keeping her discomfort to herself, she plugged along, listening to Sparrow and Kya discuss the previous evening’s events. It wasn’t until midday when Angelia finally caught a glimpse of brilliant blue water of the lake.
“You look tired, Angel,” French spoke from behind her, startling her from her thoughts.
She turned to him in surprise. “Well we did stay up rather late,” she answered shyly.
French smiled and whispered in her ear. “But it sure was fun.”
She blushed deeply and he laughed then moved ahead with LeMone’s pack horse. Angelia shivered with delight at his comment. For him to make it a point to tell her that made her feel all warm and prickly inside. The ache behind her eyes lessened and she sighed. Sparrow hooked her arm through Angelia’s and winked. Angelia blushed again and the ache returned.
They pressed on through the trees, everyone ready to enjoy the cooler temperatures of the lake and the shore. When the path broke through the trees, Angelia stopped and stared at the unbroken surface of the water. She took a deep breath, feeling some relief, and an almost overwhelming desire to touch the water washed over her. The thought of sinking her body into the cold water permeated every pore and she had to work to keep from running toward the water.
Grandfather Celendar directed the company to set up camp in a pretty clearing at the edge of the trees. He began unloading tents and giving directions. Angelia quickly untied her pack from the pack horse’s saddle and walked toward the water. The sun reflected off the surface sending sharp pricks of pain through her eyes like little daggers. Her head pounded mercilessly and the closer to the water she got, the more uneasy she felt. There was too much mental confusion. She dropped her pack on the ground next to a large fir tree and sat down leaning her head against the trunk. With her eyes closed she tried to tune out the noises around her and hopefully lessen the pain.
Celendar touched her shoulder, breaking through her concentration. “Angel, maybe you should go soak your feet in the lake. Kya and Sparrow are already over there. The cool water will do you some good.”
Angelia nodded and got to her feet, trudging to the edge of the lake. She could feel her grandfather’s eyes on her, watching protectively. With each step a sense of foreboding wrapped tighter and tighter around her. Where before she was dying to touch the water, now she wanted to run away from it. What was wrong with her?
Her friends saw her coming and beckoned her to join them. “The water feels great. Careful, though, it’s really cold. It’s a bit of a shock at first,” Kya said splashing Sparrow.
Sparrow splashed back laughing. Angelia slowly removed her shoes and stockings and rolled up her trousers.
“Are you all right, Angel?” Sparrow asked suddenly.
Angelia grimaced. “My head hurts. It started this morning, but it’s getting worse.” She wasn’t going to go into details about her crazy mental battle about the water.
With a sigh, she determined to get in and be done with it. She tested the temperature with a toe and then waded into the water up to her calves. She bent down to scoop some water to her face. As soon as her fingers broke the surface her body stiffened and her vision became fuzzy with a blue haze on the edges. She could hear Sparrow laugh, but it sounded far away and hollow.
“Doesn’t it feel good? Especially after that hike—” Sparrow’s words faded into the distance.
The lake blurred and then disappeared completely until Angelia found herself in the middle of the Viecity square. All around she could see soldiers, armored in black, marching ominously towards her. Behind them thick smoke rose above the trees. Blood stained their drawn swords mixing with the dust they stirred as they marched toward her.
She looked around and saw people from Viecity running away trying to escape. Their shouts and screams filled the air. It was chaos. Angelia watched a family run toward City Hall. Instinctively she knew this was a mistake.
“No! Go the other way!” She shouted at the people. “Get out of the city!” No one listened or even looked at her.
She watched in horror as a group of soldiers on horseback rounded up several terrified children. A boy, not more than twelve or thirteen, turned to defend the younger girls and the lead soldier ran his sword through his small body. The boy crumpled to the ground in a heap.
“No!” she screamed, moving towards the small group. “They’re just children.”
The soldiers ignored her.
Angelia felt someone grab her hand and she turned and saw Sparrow next to her.
“Sparrow, you’ve got to get away. Go to the North gate. Tell the people to leave. Go warn your family.” She pushed Sparrow away.
She turned back to the children and her blood ran cold. A group of soldiers had finally noticed her and began riding toward her.
“Run!” she screamed. “They are coming!”
She turned to run, but she had backed into the lake up to her waist. She looked down at her legs to try and discover what was impeding her movement, and could see nothing. She looked up towards the soldiers on horseback and then she saw the man leading the group.
He wore armor just like the other soldiers, but he was different. He looked right at her and urged his horse faster. He reached out to sweep her up onto his saddle and just before he could take her arm she twisted away. The ground beneath her fell away and with a scream she slipped beneath the surface of the lake.