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Followers of Galashad Chapter 8
It took the company four more days to reach the valley from Aerikai’s dream. As they looked down at the lake Aerikai’s eyes were drawn to the southern end. She could see the ruins amidst the bushes and trees at the base of the mountain.
Ashier followed her gaze and a look of surprise crossed his face. He turned to her raising one eyebrow quizzically.
“Did you know about that?” He asked pointing to the ruins.
“Yes. I dreamt about it a few nights ago.” She replied without hesitation.
“Is this the valley?” He asked hopefully.
Celedand marched up to Aerikai’s side. “No, it is too cold here and there aren’t enough trees.” He stated matter-of-factly.
Aerikai smiled at her son’s precocity. “I think we should explore those ruins.” She suggested.
Ashier nodded in agreement. He called the travelers together and assigned different groups to search as much of the valley as they could to replenish their dwindling supplies. He took Aerikai, Seyln, and Zurinsk over to the ruins.
Zurinsk paused as they neared the fallen stones. “There is power in this place. I don’t like it.”
Seyln nodded in agreement. “I feel like I did when I first saw the Diviner.”
“We must explore it.” Aerikai said firmly. “There is power here, but it is well beyond that of the Diviner’s.”
Ashier strode forward and Aerikai followed calmly. The main part of the building had collapsed inward and all that remained was part of the northern facing wall and an arched doorway into the mountain. Aerikai stepped tentatively forward.
The door had long since rotted away leaving a dark hole into the mountain. She reached up to touch the stone arch and her mind was flooded with images. She could see the ancient inhabitants of the valley as they built the archway. As her mind entered the caves she could see an extensive mix of passages and caverns that had existed since the world was formed. The ancients had traversed the caves many times.
With a sharp intake of air she pulled her hand away. She had never seen the past before, always the future. There was power in these mountains, but what it was she couldn’t tell.
“What did you see?” Ashier asked anxiously.
“Caves. There are passages and caverns in these mountains.” She replied carefully.
“Did you see us in these caves? Was there danger?” His voice rose with concern.
“No.” She reached out again to touch the crumbling stone.
Again her mind transported her away, but this time she was in the City of a Thousand Lights. She could see the Diviner pacing the stone room, a look of hatred marring her face.
“How could she have survived?” The Diviner screeched.
The woman spoke softly under her breath and a breeze blew around her. She extended her arms and felt the breeze with her fingers.
“Giadre’.” She murmured. She closed her eyes concentrating on the report of the wind.
Her eyes snapped open. “Priestess!” She shouted.
Sraphine melted from a dark shadow in the corner. “Yes, Great One?” Sraphine’s face was dark and her beauty faded and bleak.
“Make ready a boat at the harbor, we leave in the morning.” The Diviner commanded.
“A boat? But where are we traveling to.” Sraphine looked concerned.
“South, now do as I say.” The Diviner glared.
The images faded from her mind and Aerikai opened her eyes. Three pairs of eyes questioned her.
“The Diviner has not given up. She sails from the harbor soon.” Aerikai answered.
“But surely we are beyond her reach. We traveled by foot for almost two turns of the moon.” Zurinsk sputtered.
“But if she sails the coast she will bring horses and supplies. They will cross the distance in half the time.” Ashier replied solemnly. “How does she know we survived?”
“She uses her power to command the wind. The wind knows all that happens upon the earth and her powers are much greater than I had ever imagined. She will move very quickly.” Aerikai shuddered.
“How can we possibly escape this woman?” Ashier asked hopelessly.
Aerikai looked at the dark opening to the caves. She knew the answer, but instinctively she kept quiet.
“The caves.” Seyln said suddenly. He turned to Aerikai. “You said there were passages and caverns, but are there other entrances? Could we travel through them?”
Aerikai took a deep breath and stepped through the archway. The darkness quickly enveloped her and she reached out a hand for the wall. The stone was smooth to her touch and again images filled her mind. She could see people traversing the passages reverently. They held an attitude of respect for something hidden deep in the mountains.
Pushing her mind out she searched for any other openings. Her mind was drawn to three other places where daylight broke through the dark openings.
She took her hand from the wall and turned to the bright opening. “Yes, there are other entrances.”
Ashier took her hand and drew her out of the darkness. He reached out to touch the stone arch, but shook his head. Aerikai looked across the valley to the company’s small camp. She could see the children playing near the lake.
“If there are other entrances we could travel through the caves.” Seyln suggested hesitantly.
“But how would we know where to go and what would we use to light our path?” Zurinsk demanded. “You would be hard pressed to convince these people to wander aimlessly in the darkness without knowing where they were going?” He stated hotly.
Ashier moved to Aerikai’s side. He followed her gaze to the children and sighed.
“Celedand.” He stated simply.
“What?” Seyln and Zurinsk asked.
Ashier turned to face the two men. “Celedand will lead us.” He glanced at Aerikai. “You knew he would didn’t you?”
She nodded again. “I saw LeDande again in my dream. He told me to trust Celedand.” She gazed at the mountain. “We are meant to enter these caves…The Diviner will not be permitted to enter here, this place is sacred, protected. Her powers will not penetrate the opening.”
The men stared at her in awe and confusion.
“How do you know that?” Zurinsk asked suspiciously.
Aerikai shook her head. “I just…know. This place is very old and very powerful. It will not stand much longer.”
“Then we’d best get the company together and explain our errand.” Ashier replied.
“Is there no other way?” Zurinsk asked glancing at the dark opening.
Ashier put his hand on the older man’s shoulder. “Not for us, my friend. Aerikai is right. We were meant to take this path.”
Aerikai smiled gratefully at Ashier.
The foursome returned to the camp and Ashier called the travelers together to explain what they had found and what they intended to do. A cry of dismay swept the group and several people began arguing. Ashier calmly refuted their arguments and explained why it was too dangerous to continue through the mountains.
“Surely you realize how it would be for this group if the Diviner found us. She would kill us all. If we enter those caves she will not be able to follow.” He stated firmly.
“But how?” One man cried. “If we can walk in there, she will be able to as well.”
Aerikai stood and the crowd hushed. “The Diviner will not enter those caves.” She paused. She didn’t wish to frighten the travelers with talk of power. “There is protection in there that she can’t breech. Please, you must trust me.” Her voice faltered.
“I trust you, Mother.” Celedand stood and took her hand.
“Thank you, Celedand.” She replied affectionately.
“I trust Aerikai as well. She is the Priestess and we should be willing to follow her.” Ashier said confidently.
“Sraphine was the Priestess and look where that got us.” Someone in the crowd murmured. A few others nodded their heads.
Aerikai didn’t know what to say to help assuage their fears. She looked helplessly at Ashier and he shrugged.
“In two days time we will enter the caves. Those who wish to follow the Priestess may come with us. Those who decide to stay here can meet their own fate. I petition each of you to think about the choice and follow what you think is best.” His voice remained level and calm and when he finished speaking he turned away from the group.
Members of the company quickly surrounded Aerikai asking what she had seen. She found that she couldn’t focus on any individual future and she explained the best she could about what she had been allowed to discern. Several turned away even more frustrated, but a few pledged their support and desire to follow her.
When everyone had left her alone she took Celedand and used the remainder of the day to gather roots and herbs to take with them. The boy remained unconcerned about the day’s events.
By evening the company had divided into two camps, those who would follow Aerikai into the caves and those who refused. Aerikai slept poorly and was plagued by confusing dreams and fears. She spent following two days preparing supplies and trying to convince the people to come with her.
Many went to the arched opening and felt the stones and entered carefully walking as far as they dared in the darkness. Ashier tried to make torches to light their way, but Aerikai knew they wouldn’t last long. They would have to trust Celedand like LeDande had said.
The morning of the third day they went to the cave. All but ten of the company had decided to follow them. Ashier led the travelers through the opening and lit his torch. Aerikai watched as the group entered the passageway and disappeared in the darkness. She looked back at those who remained. Many of them wore looks of contempt and disbelief.
A young girl stepped toward her wanting to follow, but her father pulled her harshly back. Tears streamed down the girl’s face and Aerikai could feel her own eyes welling with moisture.
“Father, please, Jeron is going with them.” The girl cried.
“That’s his choice.” He replied curtly. “He wasn’t good enough for you anyway.”
Aerikai shook her head. “Please, I beg you to come with us.” She pled.
“I will not follow a Priestess of the Mountain anymore.” The man said angrily.
He turned away pulling the girl around and headed back to camp. The girl stopped and looked back. Aerikai noticed the young man, Jeron, watching from the mouth of the cave. He extended his hand towards her. She looked back at her family and with a cry of anguish ran towards the cave opening.
“Serinilly, come back her.” Her father shouted turning to follow her.
Aerikai stepped aside and let the young couple embrace. The man stormed towards them, but stopped suddenly almost as if he couldn’t go any further. His face was red with anger. He glared at his daughter and her beloved and then at Aerikai.
“Curse you, Priestess. You would take away my daughter from me?” He spat.
“Did she not accept her symbol of choice when she was a child?” Aerikai asked.
The man’s face confirmed that the girl had.
“She made her own choice.” Aerikai stated.
She looked at Serinilly in Jeron’s arms. “What was her Moquie Vision?”
The man gaped at her unwilling to speak. Serinilly looked back at her family and then stepped forward to face Aerikai.
In a confident voice she began. “I was faced with two paths. Down one path I could see my family and friends. A sparrow soared down the path, but stopped suddenly in flight and dropped to the ground. On the other path there was another family that I didn’t recognize. The sparrow soared down that path continued on into the sunset.” She said thoughtfully.
She looked over to her father. “I have made my choice, Father. I chose the path that leads to the sunset and my own family.” She stood tall and put her arm around Jeron’s waist. “I love you, but I love Jeron too.”
With her final words she turned away and walked hand in hand with Jeron into the dark opening. Aerikai watched them happily. She could hear Serinilly’s mother and sister weeping. The father spat on the ground and gave the sign of displeasure to his daughter’s retreating back.
“She is no child of mine. Come, Seri, we have only one daughter.” He stormed away.
Aerikai watched him leave and took a deep breath. Two others paused in their retreat and then left the dissenters to come toward the entrance of the cave. One bowed to Aerikai as he passed and confidently stepped into the darkness. The other paused to face her. She did not know him, but she knew he was close to her age.
“My Moquie Vision was similar to Serinilly’s. I have made my choice and I choose to follow you.”
Aerikai placed her hand on his arm with relief. Images blurred through her mind and then faded away. Looking back once more she stepped through the opening allowing the darkness to envelope. Of the original seventy-five who had left the City of a Thousand lights, only forty-one remained.
Aerikai lifted her chin and peered ahead where she could see Ashier’s torch. The quiet murmurings of the company echoed in the passage. Celedand took her hand and they walked deeper into the cave.
They were not ten steps from the entrance when the ground groaned beneath them. The earth trembled like it was unable to maintain the weight of something heavy. Frightened screams echoed in the darkness. Aerikai turned to the cave opening and watched in horror as the archway crumbled and fell. The light from the opening vanished like a candle being snuffed out.
“We’re trapped!” Several people cried.
“What do we do?” “We’re going to die.” “I knew this was a mistake.”
The cries all echoed around Aerikai as she stared at the blocked opening. She reached out and touched the wall of the passage and again her mind filled with visions of the future. She could see the Diviner commanding the wind to search the hills and she knew that wind would never be able to penetrate the solid rock that now blocked the opening.
“We are safe now.” She said calmly.
Her voice silenced the group as efficiently as a shout.
“What did you say, Priestess?” Jeron asked.
“We are safe now. The Diviner will never find us. Her search will end in that valley.” She left it at that not wanting to explain the terrible consequences the dissenters would suffer.
“But what do we do?” A woman cried.
“We continue on through the caves as planned.” Ashier replied. “There was never any plan to return to that valley, so we move forward.”
He turned away from the blocked opening and walked confidently into the passage. Aerikai smiled and followed him. She felt a sense of peace sweep over her as she realized that the Diviner would never trouble her again.
One by one the company turned to follow Aerikai and Ashier. After a while most conversation ceased and the only the sound she heard was the scuffing of feet in the dirt. It seemed like hours before Ashier called a halt.
Aerikai sat on the ground and pulled her water skin and some food from her pack. She handed the skin to Celedand.
“Take only a small sip.” She instructed.
She followed suit and handed him a small piece of dried meat. After eating she closed her eyes. She was tired of peering into the darkness to see the dim torch ahead. They rested for about half and hour and then Ashier called them to start again.
The darkness pressed upon them as they walked and Aerikai strained her eyes for any light to dispel the heaviness. They had traveled for most of a day when Ashier’s torch suddenly went out. A cry of dismay swept through the company and all movement halted.
Aerikai reached out till she touched the wall and then carefully made her way toward the front of the company.
“Ashier, is everything all right?” She called.
“Yes. I’m trying to light the next torch.” He grunted with effort and a spark briefly lit the air.
“How many do you have?” She had to work to keep her voice calm.
She felt Celedand come up next to her. “Why do we need torches, Mother? You can see without them.” He said simply.
“What?” She looked down at where her son’s voice had come from.
“Look at the walls, they glow blue.” He replied. His voice was filled with excitement.
“I can see it too, Aerikai.” Julili piped.
A few others murmured their agreement. Many grumbled that they couldn’t see anything. Aerikai closed her eyes and focused on the walls. As she did so she remembered LeDande’s counsel to follow Celedand.
When she opened her eyes she could clearly see the outline of her son. A faint blue glow emanated from the walls of the passage. As she stared the light strengthened until she could see Ashier and her son clearly.
“By the Stone, you’re right.” She cried.
“I can’t see any light.” Zurinsk said behind her.
“You have to close your eyes…and believe. The light is there, but you must trust it.” She encouraged.
Slowly cries of amazement and wonder filled the passage. After a few moments most of the company could see the blue glow enough to continue on. Those who couldn’t firmly grasped their family or friends who could. Ashier looked around frustrated.
“Why can’t I see it, Aerikai?” He wondered.
“Drop the torch.” Aerikai suggested.
She took the torch from his hand and was instantly plunged into darkness. She dropped it on the ground and the light returned slowly. Taking Ashier’s arm she led him forward following her son. After several minutes Ashier could see the light as well.
“Bless the Stone.” He cried in disbelief.
They continued on for several more hours before Ashier called a halt and rest. Aerikai gratefully dropped to the ground. Her eyes no longer ached from the strain of darkness. The light that was so obvious now filled the entire passageway. Only three of the company were still unable to see the light and she realized they probably never would.
She closed her eyes and lay down on her thin blanket. She put her arms around Celedand and pulled him next to her. With a sigh he quickly fell asleep. The sounds of sleeping filled the cave around her. Aerikai tried to sleep, but felt strangely restless instead.
She listened to the soft noises around her and heard someone call her name. Sitting up she listened harder.
“Aerikai.” It was like a whisper on the wind.
“Ashier, is that you?” She whispered. No one answered.
Concerned she stood and placed her hand on the wall. Images flooded her mind. She passed swiftly through the passages and caverns, following twists and turns that she could never remember. Finally her mind entered a huge cavern. Massive balconies, hollowed from the solid rock, looked down into an open room. Small crystalline objects grew from the walls beneath each balcony lighting the cavern with a constant blue glow.
Across the way she could see three other openings. She knew each opening faced to the North, South, East, and she stood at the Western entrance. She could feel the power of the place and a feeling of energy and strength filled her mind, but the room wasn’t the source of that power.
She looked around and her eyes were drawn to a smaller passage to her right. She had an overwhelming desire to follow the passage, but was held back by a deeper concern. With a sigh she pulled her mind back and opened her eyes.
She was back in the passageway sitting next to her sleeping son. The mysterious room was many lengths ahead of them, but she knew they would eventually reach it and then perhaps she would be allowed to follow the little passage that called to her.
With a contented sigh she laid back down next to Celedand and fell asleep.