The Seeress and the Stone 40
Angelia stumbled over a rough patch in the passage floor and then jerked her arm away when Jarr’oshed tried to steady her.
“Don’t touch me,” she muttered icily under her breath.
It was not so much the touch of the king that brought her aversion, but the connection he forged in her mind every time he touched her hand. She did not want him to know any of her thoughts and she was tired of seeing images of his past and future. Her connection to Ellinsha grew stronger the further into the caves they traveled and in relation, so did his. Now she no longer had to touch her crystal to hear the things Ellinsha would say to her. It was almost like having Ellinsha’s mind inside her own, yet there was something Ellinsha was not telling her, a place that was blocked from access. Angelia did not want the King to know any of this and so she avoided him as much as she could.
Angelia could feel the Jarr’oshed’s eyes on her as they walked and was relieved when he called a halt. They had been traveling for many hours and she felt tired. She found a section of wall away from the guards and sat down. She propped her head in her hands and rested her elbows on her knees. Jarr’oshed walked over to where she sat.
“Where does this passage lead to, Seeress?” he asked.
“I do not know,” Angelia replied.
“Do not lie to me.”
Angelia raised her head and looked at the King. She could see the anger boiling up in his eyes, but rather than continue the argument she simply replied, “I only explored about a mile into the caves before I left to return to the city. I do not know where the passages lead, I only know to follow the markers.” She placed her head back in her hands. At that Jarr’oshed left to speak with two of his guards. Angelia strained to hear what they were saying but to no avail. Shortly after the conversation the two guards continued hastily up the passage.
He must have sent them ahead, she thought to herself. “Ellinsha, where are we going?” Angelia desperately wanted an answer or any solution to her predicament. Would she ever escape from this evil man?
“Child, you already have the answer to your question. Have faith and remember the things you have seen. Jarr’oshed calls you a Seeress and that is what you are. You see the future. Just remember.” Angelia’s mind spun with the words Ellinsha spoke. “Remember.” She thought. “Remember your dreams.”
It did not take long before she could recall the images of her dreams. She saw herself being captured just as she had seen in her visions and dreams. Then she saw the image of the burning city with smoke rising from every building. Then she remembered the images of Celendar, Le’Mone and French in the beautiful green valley. Finally she recalled her last dream, the smooth, stone walls and soft blue glow of Calle’ Thelelle. French’s hand reaching to help her and then Jarr’oshed’s face twisted in anger. With this last thought she opened her eyes and stumbled backward. She stood in the passage, Jarr’oshed barring the path in front of her.
“You will take me there,” he said angrily. “I will meet this man who graces your every thought and then you will watch as I destroy him.” He grabbed her arm and pulled her close as he spoke low in her ear. “You are mine, Seeress, mine. And when I have Ellinsha no one will stop me.”
Angelia brought her hand up to strike him and he brushed it away laughing.
Angelia pulled away. “I belong to no one, least of all you,” she shouted.
She turned and began walking down the path. Behind her she heard Jarr’oshed call to his soldiers to follow. He roughly grabbed her arms and twisted them behind her back pulling her close to him.
They continued down the path until the two soldiers who had run ahead returned. They whispered to the King and then stood aside as he came to her.
“My guards have found the trail markers ahead. We shall follow your markers to Calle’ Thelelle and there I will take Ellinsha. Do not try to stop me.” Jarr’oshed handed Angelia over to two of the guards who pulled her along the path and he took the lead.
They followed the markers Jord had left in the caves passing many openings and passages. They walked for so long that Angelia lost track of the time. She was so tired by the time they stopped that she simply sank to the ground in silence. One of her guards gave her water and a little food and then forced her to lie down and rest. Too tired to argue she fell into a light sleep.
When she woke she was facing the wall. The room was quiet except for the soft whispers of her guards. Instead of sitting up Angelia continued to stare at the wall. She noticed a slight break in the stone passage. The more she stared, the more she realized that it was another passageway. An outcropping of rock hid the opening from view, unless you stood at a particular angle. Slowly her mind worked backward to her first experience with Ellinsha. The passage and the beautiful cavern with the sentinel stones at the entrance. Angelia realized that this must be the passage to Ellinsha’s cavern.
At this thought she forced herself to clear her mind of the images and then placed mental blocks all around the memory. She would not let Jarr’oshed see that image. She realized there must be a reason why Ellinsha wanted her to take Jarr’oshed to the Calle’ Thelelle. A sense of excitement rushed over her body and she sat up.
One of the guards called to her, “The King has not awakened.”
Stifling a reply Angelia lay back on the blanket. She closed her eyes and tried to sleep. She would need all of her strength to deal with what lay ahead.
Geoff and Scotch sat near the entrance of a side passage talking quietly. They had been moving in the darkness following the dim light of the King’s torches. When Jarr’oshed stopped to rest Geoff motioned the small rescue party into one of the side passages to rest and wait. At this last stop Geoff ordered everyone to rest while he kept watch. An hour later Scotch joined him near the passage entrance.
He sat down near the wall and whispered to Geoff, “What are we going to do? He keeps Angelia surrounded. There is no way we can sneak her away.”
“I know. There are always two guards with her.” Geoff motioned with his head, “They stay awake while everyone sleeps.”
“How many guards are there?”
“Ten. Two more were sent ahead. We are completely outnumbered.”
“We couldn’t fight them, even if we wanted to. They have swords and spears and we have nothing but a hatchet and rope.”
“We have the element of surprise,” Geoff spoke confidently. “I overheard them speaking of a place ahead called Calle’ Thelelle. It is where Angelia is taking them.”
“The Meeting Place?” Scotch asked
Geoff looked at him with surprise. “You know what that means?”
“Sort of. It is a phrase my mother used to say. Sing, actually. It was a lullaby she would sing to me before I fell asleep.” In hushed tones Scotch softly sang:
“The soft wind blows through the whispering trees
The stones of the mountains call
Come meet with me
In the hall of Calle’ Thelelle
There you will find the strength of the mountains
And life of the trees so tall
Come meet with me
In the hall of Calle’ Thelelle
Soon we will meet in the darkness deep
Whether be Spring or Fall
Come meet with me
In the hall of Calle’ Thelelle”
“I asked her what Calle’ Thelelle meant. She said it was the Meeting Place. She would sing that song to me and then she would say ‘I’ll see you in Calle’ Thelelle.’ After she died I would dream of her in a beautiful blue hall and I knew she was in Calle’ Thelelle, the Meeting Place.”
Geoff sat quiet for a moment and then said, “The Meeting Place. I once heard my grandfather speak of a place deep in the mountains, where the heart of the earth lies. He told us of a great battle fought there between good and evil. I thought it was just a story.”
“If this place really does exist, then Angelia is taking this King there, but why?”
Geoff shook his head. “Perhaps there will be others at this meeting place.” He shook his head again. “I wish I could speak with Angelia. She must know something.”
“Others? What do you mean?” Scotch asked.
“It is called the Meeting Place. If we are battling between good and evil then others will be meeting there as well.” He looked at Scotch and smiled. “Every legend and story we have been told since childhood is coming to pass. I believe we will see many amazing things before we leave these mountains.”
“Then we will just have to follow and wait. Hopefully we will find a chance to take her away,” Scotch said.
“Perhaps,” Geoff answered. “We will have to wait and see.”
Christiana walked quietly down the dark passageway behind Jord. His torch flickered as if struggling to stay lit. They only had one torch left and they hoped to save it until the last possible moment. The tunnel continued without any alternate openings or passages. It felt monotonous, like the darkness would never end. She was ready to give up and turn back.
Ahead Christiana saw a light in the passage. At the first sign of light ahead she thought she was imagining things.
“The darkness is finally getting to me,” she mumbled under her breath. Then Sparrow grabbed her arm.
“There is light ahead,” she said excitedly.
The small group broke into a run. The thought of light and fresh air was too much to pass up. Up ahead they approached a slight bend in the tunnel and when they rounded it they came to a sudden stop. All three stared in disbelief at Celendar and Jexson standing before them.
Jord recovered first. “Celendar?” he asked as if he was seeing a ghost.
“Jord,” Celendar replied, “You have no idea how happy I am to see you.” Celendar reached out and embraced him.
“But how?” stammered Jord. “How is this possible? You left, months ago.”
Celendar nodded. “It is a story that will be told later.” He looked at the other three and stopped. “Christiana?”
“Celendar,” she murmured.
He closed the distance between them and embraced her tightly.
“You escaped. I’m so glad. Where is Angelia? And your father, Jord? I must speak with him at once.”
“He stayed behind to rescue Angelia.”
Celendar took a step back. He closed his eyes and Christiana put her hand on his arm.
“What happened?” Celendar’s voice was calm, but Christiana could hear the strain.
“We all made it to the caves before the army entered the city. A few people trickled in after the city had been occupied. Angelia and I came shortly after the last warning bell sounded at City Hall. We planned to leave the next morning and maybe even travel through the pass and follow where you went, but that first night after the attack, Angelia returned to the city.”
“Why would she do such a foolish thing?” Celendar asked. Christiana looked up into his face. She could tell he knew this had happened.
“She went back for her crystal,” she replied.
“By the time we realized she was gone it was too late and much too dangerous to try and follow your path through the mountains. Too many people had come to the caves and the army patrolled the perimeter of the city as well as the foothills, so we turned inward,” Jord explained.
“Why are you here?” Celendar looked at the small group with confusion.
“My father sent me ahead to lead the fugitives through the caves. We had explored about nine miles in and still found no end. The whole group traveled to the last marker and then I brought a small group ahead to continue exploration. We traveled hoping to find an opening on the other side of the mountains. We wanted to get the refugees to safety,” Jord finished.
“Scotch Undreth was on patrol the night Angelia disappeared. Geoff hoped he knew what had happened to her. We left before Scotch returned. I’m sorry, Celendar,” Christiana concluded.
Celendar took a deep breath and sat down on the ground. Christiana could see his mind swimming with the information they had just shared, but his expression was one of understanding. Somehow he knew exactly what had happened to Angelia. After a few minutes Celendar stood.
“I must get to her. Jord can you take us?”
“Yes,” Jord replied quickly.
“How far behind is the main group?” Jexson asked.
“A few days, maybe. We may have gained some ground after the cavern, but I suspect they are not too far behind,” Jord replied.
“The people want to get out of these caves just as badly as we do,” Christiana replied anxiously.
“We are about a day in if you wish to continue on,” Jexson said quietly. “There is a young man named Rory waiting at the entrance. It is a fairly strait line to the opening.”
Christiana looked longingly at the dark passage behind Jexson. As much as she wanted to continue on, she wanted to find her daughter even more.
After a few brief minutes and an exchange of supplies, Sparrow and Naatus continued down the passage.
“Christiana you should go with them,” Celendar suggested.
“I think I will go back with you,” she said firmly.
Celendar looked at her curiously. “You can help with the main group when we meet up with them,” he said with a shrug.
She didn’t want to help the main group she wanted to save her daughter, but for now she would let him think that. They moved back the way they had come. Christiana stayed toward the rear of the small group. They traveled for several hours and then stopped to rest.
“Did you come alone?” Jord asked Celendar.
“No, French and Le’Mone came, but we found an alternative passageway and they took that,” Celendar replied thoughtfully.
“How long were they planning on following it?” Christiana asked.
“We didn’t specify a length of time. I trust they will go as far as they are comfortable and then turn back.”
Christiana leaned against the wall thinking about what Celendar had said. How many other passages were there that they just hadn’t noticed? A short time later they continued on. The urgency to find Angelia pushed them to move faster, but it still seemed like days before they heard the murmur of voices up ahead.
Corran led the main group and a cry of surprise swept through the refugees as they realized Celendar was with Jord and Christiana. Several of the leaders flocked around Celendar sharing news from Viecity and asking where he had come from.
“We are going back into the caves. You can continue on to the valley. It is but a few days journey to the end.” His words comforted to those around them, but Christiana would not accept his answer.
She walked up to Celendar as the group dispersed to spread the news.
“I am coming with you. I am going back for my daughter.” She stood her ground.
Celendar looked at her with surprise. “Christiana I cannot allow you to come with us. There is danger—”
“I don’t care. I can’t just wait anymore. It is agonizing.”
“I cannot ensure your safety and I will not take that chance. Things are already complicated.” Celendar was adamant.
“But…” Christiana began.
“No!” he said with finality. “I will not allow it.”
His statement brought no further argument. Christiana stared as he turned away and began counseling with Jexson and Jord. She turned away angrily and walked toward the back of the crowd of travelers. She found the small group she had been traveling with at the beginning. She felt a light tug on her dress and looked down. A small girl with dirty smudges on her face and hands grasped her skirt.
“Yes dear?” Christiana asked.
“I’m tired. Can we rest?” She did look very tired.
“Yes, you can rest for now.”
“Christiana, I heard we were near the end,” a young mother approached her. Several other women followed.
Christiana had befriended these women as they first began their journey. They were frightened and weary. Most of them had lost their husbands or family in the attack. They clung to Christiana like a child to its mother.
“Yes. It is just a few days more,” Christiana replied.
“I ache to see the sun,” one girl said.
The little girl tugged on her skirt again. “Does it mean we won’t have to walk anymore?” she asked.
Christiana picked her up. “Yes. When you leave the caves in a few days you won’t have to walk for a while. Celendar said there is a pretty bay with a beach and the air is warm and there is a lovely valley with a river and a huge waterfall.”
The women looked surprised. “Celendar? Celendar Galashad? I thought he was banished,” one said. The others nodded.
“He was led to this new valley. We just found out that the new valley connects to Viecity through these caves.”
A murmur swept through the small group and the girls began whispering to each other. Christiana set the child down and sent her to find her mother. She sat down and opened her pack. She still had enough food for a few more days, but her water skin was almost empty. Most of the supplies were gone. Thankfully the company would make it to the valley before anything ran out.
She quietly refilled her water skin and then replaced everything in her pack. Several hours later Celendar, Jexson and Jord bid farewell to the travelers. Corran led the main group down the passage toward the valley. Most of the company wore smiles on their faces.
Christiana stood back in the shadows watching Celendar and his companions leave. She waited quietly while the others filed past her. It took a while before everyone had gone. She left her place in the shadows and followed Celendar.
She could see no sign of him in the passageway and as the light from the company disappeared the darkness enveloped her. Keeping her hand on the smooth wall she stepped forward confidently. After a while she could make out the shape of the passage in the darkness. She blinked and squinted in the darkness.
During their travels in the caves everyone’s eyes had grown accustom to the dim torch-lit passages. Now in the encompassing darkness her eyes adjusted even more and she noticed a strange, dim glow emanating from the walls of the passage. It was not much, but it was enough for her to see where her hand touched the wall. Her steps became sure and the further she went the stronger the glow became. She paid extra close attention to the darkness in front of her. She did not want to make her presence known to Celendar.
Hours passed and her pace slowed. She checked the passage behind and ahead and then stopped to rest. She pulled some dried meat and the water skin from her bag and ate quietly. She rested for a short while and then continued on stopping every few hours to rest. Time was impossible to gauge in the dark tunnels and finally exhaustion forced her to stop and sleep. She unrolled her blanket on the floor of the main passage, close to the wall, and was asleep within a few minutes of lying down.
* * * *