The Seeress and the Stone 45
Angelia heard her grandfather’s shout as she stepped out of the cave into the light of the setting sun. She ran to his side and he enveloped her in his arms. A few moments later he stepped back to look her over making sure all was well. She watched his face as he turned to French. His eyes opened wide and the color drained from his face.
“Meria,” he gasped. He closed his eyes in disbelief then opened them again.
Meria stepped forward. “Celendar.” She took his hand and Angelia’s hand. “There is much we need to discuss.” She quietly led them from the cave entrance into the deepening twilight.
Angelia watched her grandfather. His face was full of pain as he stared in disbelief at Meria. Just outside the caves a small group of people sat waiting near a crackling campfire.
“French will you please bring Le’Mone?” Meria asked.
French pulled Angelia over to the fire where his aunt sat. He grasped her hands.
“Aunt ‘Le, can you come with me?” he asked gently.
“French? Is that you? Oh I was so worried.” She embraced him fiercely. “Is Angelia here?”
“Yes. I’m here Aunt Le’,” Angelia replied. Her heart saddened as she looked at the blindfolded woman.
“Are you all right?” Le’Mone asked.
“I’m fine and mother is here and… someone else.”
“Someone else?” She questioned. “Who?”
Meria left Celendar’s side and stepped to where Le’Mone sat. “Le’Mone,” she said softly.
Le’Mone gasped. “Meria? It can’t be.”
“It is, dear. I need to speak with all of you. My time is very short now and there are things I must tell you.”
She walked toward a small pile of rocks about twenty yards from the campfire. Angelia watched while her grandfather and French helped Le’Mone to her feet and led her to the rocks. Then she and her mother followed. They all sat down facing her grandmother.
Meria turned to Celendar first. His face was pinched and white.
“My dearest,” Meria said, “I am not a ghost or vision, but I must leave you and this time I will not return. I must return to my people in the sky.”
“The sky, Grandmother?” Angelia asked. She didn’t understand how any people could live in the sky.
Meria pointed up to the stars that had begun twinkling in the sky. “My people. People of the earth call us stars, but we are Watchers and Keepers.”
Angelia stared open-mouthed. “You’re a star?” she gasped. She felt the stone pulse in her hand and Ellinsha’s soft voice confirmed the truth of Meria’s words.
Meria continued, “I was sent here long ago to act as Keeper for Ellinsha Stone of the East. My work is finished and I return to my people.” She turned to Angelia, “You are the Keeper now. This is the task laid to you and your family. You must protect Ellinsha and the gift of sight. Each Keeper will bear the mark of the Seer.”
She bent to touch Angelia’s face. “I wish I could stay with you, child. You are so special. Remember the stars are a part of you. They will always guide you in whatever task is laid at your feet.”
Angelia nodded. She did not know what to say. She felt the heavy burden settle on her shoulders. How could she possibly fulfill this task? Again the stone pulsed in her hands.
“I will be with you, Seeress. I chose you and I will guide you. You will not be alone.”
Angelia turned to French and grasped his hand.
“Christiana, you have done well. Forget the past, it is no longer a part of who you are. You have a long and difficult path ahead, but you are more than strong enough to face it.”
“Thank you, Meria,” Christiana said gracefully.
Meria stood and turned again to Celendar. “Celendar, I need to speak with you and Le’Mone alone.”
Celendar nodded. Angelia, French and Christiana stood and left the small group. Angelia paused taking a soft, piece of cloth and wrapped the heart-shaped stone. She carefully placed the stone in her pack. It was much heavier with the stone’s weight.
French reached over and gently took the pack from her hands. She smiled as he intertwined his fingers in hers and led her toward the trees.
He leaned down and whispered, “So, I am courting a star.” His eyes danced.
Angelia looked at his face and smiled back. “I am only part star,” she said with a smile, but a part of her was still in awe.
“Angelia,” Christiana interrupted.
Angelia turned. Her mother was standing behind them, an awkward expression on her face. Angelia threw her arms around her mother’s neck.
“Mother. I’m so sorry I left. I had to,” she cried.
“Oh darling, I know. I understand so much now.” Christiana wiped the tears from Angelia’s cheeks and stepped back. “Perhaps you should introduce me to this gentleman who seems to think he is courting you.”
“Oh, Mother.” She blushed. “This is French Alasture. He is Le’Mone’s nephew.” French bowed to Christiana.
“You are Ja’Nil’s son,” Christiana said suddenly. “She was once one of my close friends. We used to go out to the woods together and talk to the trees. I had forgotten until I saw you.”
“Mother?” Angelia looked at Christiana with a perplexed expression. “You spoke with the trees.”
“The blood of the tree people flows through my veins, although I must say it is very diluted. The trees almost never listened to what I said. They were too busy fawning over Ja’Nil.” She grasped French’s hand. “I would be pleased if you would join us for dinner.” She stopped and looked around her, “that is when we have a home for you to call at.” They all laughed.
Behind them the moon rose over the mountain peaks. Angelia turned and realized that Celendar and Le’Mone were standing alone. Up in the night sky a light flashed across the sky. Angelia watched as a new star took its place in the north sky.
“Goodbye, Grandmother. Thank you. I love you.”
French leaned over and whispered in her ear, “Make a wish on a shooting star, Angel. This one will come true for sure.” He grasped her hand and squeezed it.
Celendar and Le’Mone joined Angelia, French and Christiana. The blindfold was now gone from Le’Mone’s eyes. She looked at the happy faces of Angelia and French and sighed.
“Is everything all right Aunt Le’?” French asked.
“Yes, dear. Everything is fine.” She looked up at the star lit sky. “She healed my eyes just before she left.”
“Grandfather?” Angelia asked.
Celendar’s eyes had a slightly haunted look. He glanced up at the sky and then at Angelia. “Yes, child,” he responded. “I will be fine. It will take some time.” He sighed.
Le’Mone slipped her hand into his and pulled him toward the campfire. “I need to tend to Geoff.” She looked at French’s blood stained shoulder and the ragged bandages on his arm. “And you. Then we should go to bed. We have a long day ahead of us,” she said.
“What happened to Geoff?” French asked.
“Geoff and the others were caught in the passage during the earth shakes. Part of the tunnel collapsed on top of him. His legs were broken and he was half buried. It took them several hours to dig him out. They were lucky they were not trapped on the inside he would not have survived the long trip out. We made it to the entrance at least a day before they did. It was lucky those soldiers came with them or Jord never would have gotten him out of those rocks. What caused the earth shakes?”
Angelia listened in wonder as French described their experiences in Ellinsha’s cave. She remembered the feeling of sinking into Ellinsha’s crystal casing and she shivered.
When French finished his narrative he asked, “How many people are here?”
“There were almost two hundred people from the city. Jord led us through the caves,” Christiana replied. “Celendar and Jexson met us about a day’s journey from this valley.”
“Rory sent them down into the valley. They may be camped on the beach or some may have gone up the river,” Celendar added.
“There is a beach here and a river?” Angelia asked. “All I saw were mountains and hills.”
French’s eyes sparkled. “Just wait. You will love it. It will take us a few days to reach the outlook and then you will understand.”
They reached the fire and Jexson and the others greeted Angelia warmly. Le’Mone disappeared into a large tent. They ate dinner and then one by one they all turned to their beds. When they awoke in the morning they broke camp and French and Jexson built a litter to transport Geoff. When it was finished he went into the tent and shortly reappeared with Jord, both carrying Geoff. Angelia noted how pale and drawn Geoff’s face was and the long wooden braces Le’Mone had attached to both legs to keep them immobile.
“We will have to go very slowly,” Le’Mone said to Celendar and Jord. He can’t be jostled too much or we could do more harm than good.”
Angelia went to the litter and knelt down at Geoff’s side. She took his hand. His eyes opened and he smiled. “Angelia, you are safe,” he said, then grimaced with pain.
“Yes,” she replied, “I am fine, but you do not look so good.” She tried to lighten her tone, but could not conceal her worry.
“Don’t worry about me. Le’Mone will work her magic and I will be better soon. I’m just glad you are safe.” His face paled again and he closed his eyes.
Angelia set his hand back on the litter and walked toward her pack. She looked up just as she was about to run into Jord. “Oh, Jord!” she said startled.
“Angelia,” he cried, pulling her into a hug. “Everyone will be happy to see you.”
“I will be happy too. Are you going to help carry your father?” she asked hesitantly.
His eyes clouded slightly. “Yes, I want to make sure it is smooth for him. His legs are broken. Le’Mone says there is a chance he will never walk again.”
Angelia stood awkwardly, “He will be all right, Jord, I’m sure of it.”
“Thank you, Angelia,” Jord said. He put his hand on her arm. “I’m glad you are safe.”
She watched him walk to his father’s side and hand him the water skin. Her heart broke at the scene. She knew that the accident would not have happened if she had not pulled Ellinsha out of that cave. She walked to where her pack rested and opened it. Wrapped inside the piece of soft tunic was the heart shaped crystal. She could barely see the soft blue light pulsing. She reached out to touch the tunic, but then drew her hand back. She was meant to protect the stone, not use it. She closed her pack and then strapped it onto her back.
French came up to her and took her hand. “Come, love. We have a bit of a walk ahead of us.” He smiled at her. She returned his smile and followed him onto the small trail. The remainder of the group fell in behind them with Jord and two of Jarr’oshed’s former guards carrying Geoff.
The trek from the cave entrance to the outlook point took the better part of a week. Le’Mone would not allow them to go any faster. The men all took turns carrying Geoff’s litter so they did not tire as quickly. The sun was beginning to set when they finally came to the large rocks jutting out from the hillside. French removed his and Angelia’s pack and then, grabbing her hand, pulled her towards the rocks.
“Come Angel, it is amazing,” he said as they walked. When they reached the rocks he climbed up helping her along.
She stood at the top and gasped. “Oh French, it is beautiful.”
She stared at the valley before them. Tall trees covered most of the valley floor, green meadows dotted the north, the bay to the east and the river snaking its way through the valley. “What is that?” she asked pointing to the rise of cliffs that sliced through the valley.
“It is an escarpment, cliffs that cut the valley in half,” he replied.
She continued to take in the view before her. “Is that a waterfall?” She cried excitedly.
He laughed. “Yes. It’s huge. The river flows into a lake at the top of the cliffs and the water cascades to the valley floor and from there the river continues on to the bay.”
“What are the mountains at the far end? They look like castle turrets.”
“Perhaps that is what we should call them the Castle Mountains. They pile right up against the massive cliffs that surround the entire valley.” He smiled again.
“What shall we call the river?” she asked eagerly.
“I believe Aunt Le’ has beat you to that. She wanted to name it the Azure River. Your Grandfather let her as long as she didn’t name anything after himself.”
Angelia laughed. “Oh French it is so beautiful. What did Grandfather name the valley?”
“It is perfect. Our new home.” She turned and threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. “I am so glad I am here, with you.” He nodded his head in agreement and then kissed her back.