The Seeress and the Stone 43
Suddenly, the stone felt warm in his hand and began to glow softly. The earth started shaking and groaning and French was forced to crouch to the ground to keep his balance. A few moments later the room became still again. French cautiously stood up and looked down. To his amazement a narrow ledge had pushed out from the side of the cavern wall. Without thinking French leapt over the balcony wall. He heard Angelia’s gasp, but ignored it and ran along the ledge spiraling downward around the room. A few feet from the ground he jumped landing on the floor of the cavern just as the King turned to face him. They stared at each other for a moment and then an evil grin spread across Jarr’oshed’s face as he slowly drew his sword. The black steel glinted coldly in the dim light and several dark blue sapphires sparkled on the hilt.
Jarr’oshed advanced. French stepped backward and tripped and fell to the ground. Jarr’oshed laughed. “Watch my little witch as I slay your foolish hero.” He looked at French again, pure hatred burning in his eyes. “I will not have anyone take my place.”
French stared at the King and then to where Angelia stood riveted to the ground. He had nothing to defend himself and he knew he would die here under blade of the dark sword. He scrambled backward and stood against the wall. Then a voice filled his mind. It sounded like a familiar voice, deep and resonant.
“Press the stone against the wall.”
“What?” he asked in confusion. The King bore down on him.
“Trust the stone, French,” the voice said, then commanded, “Press the stone against the wall. Now!”
French slammed the stone against the wall of the cavern. As he did, he felt his hand and then wrist sink into the wall. In confusion he turned to pull his hand out of the wall. To his surprise as he pulled his hand out it gripped a large, shining, white sword. He turned it over and found the clear crystal embedded in the hilt. The pattern work around the stone was just like the casing that had held it before.
As he stared at the sword the deep voice returned, “Raise your sword!”
Without hesitation French raised the sword just as it met the Kings dark blade. A sound like waves crashing on the rocks swept throughout the room and sparks exploded on contact. The weight and strength of the King’s blow should have crushed him, but he stood strong.
Jarr’oshed lunged forward and French twisted away stepping back towards the wall. Flicking his wrist he parried the King’s strike. His movements were involuntary and wooden as he listened to the instructions in his mind. The more he listened the easier the movements became. His actions flowed like the wind through the branches of a tree. It seemed like his body remembered what to do yet he had never learned swordplay before. The white crystal sword felt light and comfortable in his hand as he turned the blade to meet another attack.
He did not know enough to look for openings to strike, so he continued defending himself. Blow after blow French deflected Jarr’oshed’s sword. He moved quickly, uninhibited by armor. With each meeting of the swords came the sound of waves and an explosion of sparks.
The two enemies circled each other sweat trickling down their faces. They were equally matched Jarr’oshed’s knowledge and skill against the power in French’s sword. It seemed as though neither could win. They just continued to swing blow after blow with no sign of either weakening. French was not a trained soldier and he knew eventually he would tire under the strain of the fight.
They broke apart each panting for breath. French eyed the King warily watching for any movement. Without any warning Jarr’oshed jumped toward him slicing sideways. French dodged, but not before the dark sword cut into his left shoulder. He fell backward and rolled to his feet just missing another strike from the King. Blood flowed from the open wound and pain streaked down his arm.
“Beg for mercy, boy, and I will make your death quick,” Jarr’oshed called.
“Never!” French replied thought clenched teeth.
Jarr’oshed laughed and the two began circling each other again. The King continued to jab and slice while French dodged and blocked. Several times Jarr’oshed caught French and drew blood.
French’s inexperience started to wear on him. His left arm had not completely healed from the break and the slash wound on his shoulder rendered it completely useless. His hope dwindled. He stepped back. He now stood in the center of the cavern facing the ledge. He saw Angelia looking at the ledge and the balcony above.
Jarr’oshed taunted him, “She is a beauty. She will be my queen and will bow down to me, but only after watching you die.”
French knew he had no chance to survive, but he would not let Angelia become a slave to this man.
“Run, Angel!” he shouted.
She turned back to face the fighters then nodded and climbed onto the narrow path. Jarr’oshed turned away from French to look at Angelia. The voice in French’s head shouted instructions and he obeyed instantly. He swung the sword striking the King across the face with the flat of the blade. The sword struck Jarr’oshed like a club. A streak of crimson beaded on his cheek and forehead and the force of the blow dropped him. His head hit the ground with a thud and he lay still. The sound of the blow echoed in the room until it faded to silence.
Panting French stared at the King’s still form. When he looked up Angelia was staring at him. She had stopped in her tracks on the narrow ledge. In three steps he crossed to the ledge and dropped the sword.
“Angel, are you alright?” he asked anxiously.
She stared at him wide eyed and then slid off the ledge into his arms. He held her tightly not wanting to let go. When they broke apart she stared into his eyes for a moment and then he pulled her close and kissed her fiercely.
Her arms wrapped around his neck and her fingers entwined in his hair. He felt a thrill rush through his body as her lips met his. He had waited for so long to see her again. It felt like the world could collapse around him and he wouldn’t notice as long as he could keep her there in his arms.
Their moment was harshly interrupted as shouts echoed from the cave entrances. French picked up his sword and moved to where Jarr’oshed lay unconscious, keeping himself between any danger and Angelia. The King’s guards entered the cavern pushing and dragging prisoners. Geoff had several nasty cuts on his arms and face and the red-haired young man named Scotch had a purple bruise forming over one eye. Jexson and Jord looked roughed up. Celendar was the only one walking unscathed into the room.
“Grandfather!” Angelia shouted stepping towards them. French pulled her back and pushed her behind him.
The guards stopped short at the scene before them. Jarr’oshed lay on the ground at French and Angelia’s feet. French stood over him, still armed with the white sword. The guard holding Geoff released him and stepped back toward the entrance where he had just come.
“Stop,” French commanded. The soldier stopped. Then looking at the other guards French continued, “Release them and we will grant your lives.”
Two of the soldiers moved to fight and French raised his sword to meet them. Geoff swung around and slammed his shoulder into the guard who had released him, knocking him to the ground. Jexson and Scotch each struggled with their captor. The soldier holding Celendar pulled a dagger from his boot and held it to Celendar’s neck.
“Come close and he dies,” the man called out.
French froze in place. One man lay bleeding at his feet and the other backed away from him slowly. Angelia started toward Celendar.
“Please, let him go,” she cried.
Celendar whispered, but his words were heard clearly by all. “It is Ellinsha’s will that this contest end without further bloodshed.” His word held the authority of a Seer.
“We will not harm you. Please,” Angelia pleaded.
The man stared at her and French and then dropped his knife. Celendar stepped away from the man and Angelia ran to his waiting arms.
“Oh, Grandfather,” she sobbed.
The other soldiers moved uneasily eying French and his sword. They made no move to attack or escape. Finally, an older man, who looked like a leader, approached Celendar and French.
“Ellinsha has blessed you. We will not fight, but surrender as your prisoners,” the man said kneeling on one knee.
Celendar pulled the man to his feet. “We are a peaceful people and wish you no harm. I want no prisoners in our valley. You may return to your people or come with us. We give you the choice, but if you choose to come with us you must swear an oath that you will not seek to harm my people.”
The captain knelt at Celendar’s feet, his hand clenched to his chest. “I wish to be a free man. I swear I will not seek any harm to you or your people, but join you in peace.”
Celendar nodded. “Then join us and be free.” He looked at the other guards. Three other guards also knelt and swore an oath. The remaining soldiers gathered near the arched entrance of the cavern and then departed quickly. Jexson and Jord watched them carefully as they disappeared down the dark passageway.
“I don’t think we expected to see you two so soon,” Geoff said to Celendar and French after the soldiers had left.
“Yes, I was quite surprised to meet Jord in the caves,” Celendar replied. He turned to Angelia and embraced her. “I have missed you, child.”
“Oh Grandfather,” she said wrapping her arms around him. “I missed you too.”
Geoff looked around the room with wonder in his eyes. “What is this place?” he asked.
“This is Calle’ Thelelle.” Scotch’s voice echoed slightly in the cavernous room. “It is just as I pictured it when my mother sang to me.” His voice drifted off into silence.
The small group stood in silence until a soft moan echoed down from the balcony. French’s head snapped up.
“Aunt Le’!” he cried.
Handing the crystal sword to Geoff he jumped onto the ledge and ran swiftly up to the balcony. As he reached Le’Mone’s side her eyes fluttered open.
“French?” she asked weakly. “Where are you?” She reached out searching the air.
He took her hand and knelt next to her. “I am right here.”
“Where is Angelia? Is she…?”
“She is fine,” he whispered. He helped her sit up.
“What is that light?” she asked. “It is so bright I can’t see anything.”
French looked at her dazed face. “Aunt Le’ there is no light in here, just the glow from the cavern.”
Le’Mone turned her face toward his voice. “But it’s everywhere, all around me.” Her voice began to shake. She sank back to the ground, closed her eyes and covered them with her hands. “I can’t see. I can’t see,” she kept whispering. Tears fell down her cheeks.
“Celendar,” French called toward the balcony. His voice echoed in the room.
“What is it, French?” Celendar answered from below.
“Come please, Aunt Le’ needs you.” French held Le’Mone’s hand rubbing it between his own.
When Celendar reached the top he climbed over the balcony edge and walked to where Le’Mone lay. French repeated what she had said. Celendar knelt next to Le’Mone and gently removed her hands from her face.
“Celendar?” she asked.
“Yes, Le’Mone. I am here.”
“I can’t see, Celendar. I can’t see beyond the light.” Her blank eyes stared up into his face.
“Close your eyes Le’Mone.” She did so and he again helped her to her feet. “What do you see now?”
“Nothing. There is nothing but darkness.” She held Celendar’s hand tightly.
“Grandfather?” Angelia’s voice called from the archway. “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know, Angelia,” he replied.
Angelia stepped directly in front of Le’Mone and took her hands. “Open your eyes,” She requested gently. Le’Mone did as she asked and gasped.
Angelia locked her eyes with Le’Mone’s and placed her hands on Le’Mone’s temples. She murmured a few words that French couldn’t understand and then waited. After a few moments she began explaining what she saw, the journey from the city to the valley and from the valley through the caves. Then she saw the crystal wall and the blue glow when Le’Mone placed her hands on the glass. She stopped.
“You saw her. She was here,” she whispered. Le’Mone closed her eyes and pulled Angelia’s hands away.
Angelia placed a hand upon Le’Mone’s shoulder. “Did you see anything?”
“No,” she replied. “All I saw was you standing in front of me, surrounded by the light.” Tears streamed down her face again.
Celendar stepped to Le’Mone’s side. “We are finished here. I am taking you both back to the valley. French, tell Geoff and the others to take the lower passage out. We will meet them where the tunnels diverge.” He pulled a soft clean handkerchief out of his pack, folded it at an angle and then placed it gently around Le’Mone’s eyes.
“What are you doing?” Le’Mone asked.
“If you are blindfolded you will keep your eyes closed. The light will not hurt you.” He finished tying the handkerchief then turned toward the dark passageway. “It is time we leave.”
Angelia stood rooted to the floor. She watched her grandfather begin leading Le’Mone down the passage. French took her hand and pulled slightly, but she did not move.
“I can’t leave, yet,” she spoke softly.
Celendar froze and French looked at her in surprise. “What do you mean?” Celendar asked.
“I can’t leave yet. I must finish my task,” she hesitated.
“What task?” French asked in disbelief.
“Ellinsha.” Her voice was a tiny whisper.
“I am not leaving you here,” French cried.
Celendar looked at her face his own filling with despair. “Angelia, please come.”
“Grandfather, I promised. She chose me. It’s my purpose.” Her eyes begged them to understand.
They stared at each other for several minutes and then Celendar gave way. “French, tell Jexson to come up here and help me. I am taking Le’Mone back to the valley.” French started to protest, but Celendar waved him silent. “Go with Angelia. Do not leave her side.” He pulled Angelia into a crushing hug. “Be quick, my child, and meet us in the valley.”
As soon as Jexson reached the balcony, Celendar began leading Le’Mone down the dark hallway. Jexson fitted Angelia with Le’Mone’s pack and then waved to Geoff as they disappeared through the passageway that led to the valley. The Captain and three of the king’s guards who chose to stay followed Geoff and Jord.
The cavern became quiet as the sounds of footsteps faded away. Angelia walked to the edge of the balcony to view the beautiful cavern once again. French came to her side. He held the white crystal sword in one hand.
“Who was the woman Aunt Le’ and I saw?” he asked.
Angelia stood silent, then she answered with a question of her own, “You heard her voice, didn’t you?” Angelia asked.
“Whose voice?” he asked.
“The voice in the cavern. The voice instructing you during the fight.”
“Yes,” he answered somberly. He stared at the sword silently.
Angelia searched his face. “Thank you for staying with me,” she said softly.
He grasped her hand and pulled her into his arms. “I won’t leave you again,” he said fiercely. “Come, let’s go find Ellinsha and leave these wretched caves.”
Angelia grasped her crystal and closed her eyes. After a moment she turned to the passage opposite of where Celendar had led Le’Mone. “It is not far,” she said. They walked quickly past the archway and into the dark passage.