The Followers of Galashad
The month that the eagle cries from a broken field,a Diviner shall come to the Chosen of the North whose powers shall lay waste to the land and the people in fear will offer up the prized Stone of Power and Sight.
Aerikai looked down at her sleeping son cherishing the last moments of dreamland before she woke him. His burnished hair fell in casual waves around his face and his hand clenched in a fist at his side. She sighed.
“Celedand, wake up.” She called softly.
The boy moaned in his sleep and then rolled over. She reached out and shook him gently. The hazel eyes opened wide and then a smile spread across his face.
“Is it time?” He sat up barely containing the excitement.
She nodded. “Your father is outside with the horses. Dress quickly the ceremony waits for no one.”
The boy pulled on his tunic and leather boots. “What is the ceremony like?” He asked.
Aerikai shrugged her shoulders. “Everyone’s ceremony is different. It is sacred and personal, something you should write down when you return.” She handed him a small leather pouch.
“Today you turn seven, Celedand. This day begins the year of accountability and your Moquie vision determines what life has in store for you. In one years time you will be offered the Symbol of Choice and if you decide to take it, forever after you will be responsible for your decisions.”
“What happened at your ceremony, Mother?”
“A great rushing of wind swept down from the mountain and an eagle left her nest.” She replied thoughtfully.
“But what does it mean?” He asked anxiously.
“The meaning is between you and the Elders of the City. You should only share it if you feel impressed to do so.” She replied mysteriously. “Do you have everything?”
“Yes. I have my knife, my flint, and my pouch from father.” He showed her the items proudly.
“I have one more thing for you.” She pulled a shiny object from her pocket.
His eyes widened as she placed the object in his outstretched palm. It was a round black stone with symbols that sparkled in the sunlight. “Your mountain’s breath.” He said in awe.
“It is yours now. It will protect you as it has protected me. As long as it remains with you it will lead you back to the mountain and the City of a Thousand Lights.” She closed his hand around the metallic stone holding his hand in her own for a moment.
A bird sang the approaching dawn and Aerikai shooed Celedand out the door. He would be gone most of the day with his father and she must begin her weeklong duties for the Priestess at the Temple of the Stone. She made Celedand’s bed, swept the kitchen, tidied the cottage and then changed into her white robes.
The birds were in full song and the sun shone above the horizon as she made her way up the path to the Temple. She loved serving the Priestess, for it was always a peaceful week. Her father was once the High Priest of the Temple and the Lord of the Masq. During his service he pledged Aerikai’s service for he wanted her to be a handmaiden and perhaps even Priestess someday.
She did not begrudge the pledge, but gave her service gladly. Then one bright morning ten years ago the Priestess Sraphine saw a vision of Aerikai with a child. The Priestess released her from her service, but asked that she return for one week out of each year. If she did so her family would be blessed. The day after she was released from the pledge, she met LeDande in the Market and they were married a short time later.
Aerikai eagerly returned each year to her duties at the Temple. Because of her faithfulness she became the keeper of the Stone. She kept the Stone polished and shining and the room where it sat free from dust and dirt. Never, in her twenty-five years of service, had she touched the Stone with her bare hands.
When she reached the Temple she knocked at the main door and gave the appropriate responses to the questions asked. She entered the stone structure and paused at the beauty that always struck her. Large, glass windows inlaid with precious stones filtered the light into thousands of rainbows. The hall was bright with the early morning sunshine that penetrated the open rooms lining the hall. Marble floors reflected the light from the gemstones in the windows.
Aerikai walked reverently to a set of closed doors at the end of the hallway. One maiden stood in front of the doors. She spoke in a whisper. Aerikai knelt and replied with head bowed. The maiden curtsied and stepped aside so Aerikai could enter the room.
She always paused at the door to send a prayer of thankfulness to the Gods of the Stone and then with a smile of contentment she beheld the Stone. It sat on a pedestal in the center of the room cradled in a tall, silver, three-pronged votive. Sunlight from the windows at the top of the room caused the stone to sparkle sending a thousand blue reflections onto the white marble walls.
Aerikai closed the door and walked to the back of the room. A thin white curtain hid a small closet where she retrieved a cloth and broom. Though the room already looked spotless she swept the errant particles of dust into oblivion and began polishing the silver votive. She loved to make the silver shine and sparkle as much as the stone.
When she finished she paused looking up to gauge the time. It was approximately mid-day. Celedand should be receiving his Moquie vision. She hoped it would be a good sign, one of prosperity and peace. She sighed and retrieved a fresh cloth and began polishing the Stone.
The Stone was beautiful. Its many facets reflected a different part of the room. It was deep blue, the color of the purest sapphire, and twice as big as her hands though oval in shape. As she polished she could see her reflection.
Today her reflection blurred and other images flashed past. She blinked and looked again, but only saw her face in the polished surface.
“Strange.” She murmured out loud.
Suddenly the room around her started to heave and shake like a drunken man. She fell to the ground and in panic looked up as the votive tipped over. The stone, released from its casing, fell to the ground. Aerikai watched as if in slow motion and then threw her body beneath the votive and caught the stone with her bare hands.
Immediately she found herself caught up in a vision. Images crowded into her mind running over each other. First, she saw her son in the field with his father and the Elders. They were lying on the ground facing a deep chasm. The chasm spread in an arch around the mountain far to the north and west to the river. Overhead she saw a large eagle take flight and cry across the broken plain. Then the small group disappeared and instead she saw a dark robed figure walk out into the plain and speak a language she did not understand. She could see the earth heaving again, but the next images overrode the figure. She briefly saw herself holding the Stone over her head and then she was flying over a great desert. She saw a beautiful valley full of trees and surrounded by mountains and then a man who looked vaguely familiar, but his face was soon replaced by other faces finally ending in the face of a young girl. The girl had long, auburn hair that hid her eyes.
The girl held a stone in her hands just like the one Aerikai now held, but this one was much larger and heart shaped. The girl looked up and her eyes met with Aerikai’s. Aerikai was stunned by the girl’s vivid green eyes, but even more shocked to see a face so similar to her own. She gasped and dropped the stone. It rolled across her body and arm onto the floor unharmed.
She had not felt anything when the heavy silver stand struck her body, but now that she no longer clutched the Stone she cried out in pain. She desperately tried to move the heavy votive off her body. Beyond her own cries for help she could hear the sound of movement and cries of alarm within the Temple.
Finally the door opened and several maidens rushed in. It took four of them to lift the votive off her body and set it upright. One other carefully put the stone back in place. The door maiden called for help from the priests. Two men dressed in servant’s robes came in and carefully lifted Aerikai onto a carrier and took her out of the room.
“Please, I must see Sraphine.” She kept murmuring. They carried her down a narrow stairway to the healer’s rooms beneath the Temple.
“Please…I must see Sraphine.” She repeated through clenched teeth.
“We will send for her shortly, Lady.” The healer replied gently as the servants set her down on a soft bed.
Aerikai nodded. The healer began examining her body and the bruises that had already formed. She flinched from his touch when his skilled hands felt along her left side.
“What happened to cause you such pain, Lady?” He asked after a few moments of examination.
“The Stone votive fell in the earth shake. I slid under the holder to catch the stone before it could shatter.” Aerikai replied breathlessly. “What is wrong?”
“I will have to do a more thorough examination, but it appears you have hurt your wrist and perhaps some ribs. You did a grand thing saving the Stone, Lady. We will have to wait a bit before the Priestess can come. I believe you have much to tell her.”
His voice was mysteriously smug and Aerikai did not understand why. The healer gave her a bitter drink and she fell asleep almost before she finished it.