The Followers of Galashad Chapters 2 and 3
Aerikai opened her eyes. She did not recognize the airy sunlit room. The comfortable bed she lay in faced the window and she could see movement in the street. It took her a moment to feel the warmth of a small hand clutching hers and she turned. Celedand leaned against her bed asleep. His hand clutched hers determinedly. She smiled at the small form and looked around the room. Her eyes met her husband’s and her smile brightened.
“LeDande.” She said with relief.
“I’m glad you have awakened, Aerikai. I was beginning to worry.” He replied crossing the room in a few steps. The tension in his face slowly released as he moved. He took her hand in his and kissed it.
“How long have I been asleep?” She whispered.
“Two passings of the sun.” He replied softly.
He nodded his hand cupping her cheek. “You are well?” He asked.
His concern pulled at the strings of her heart and tears sprang to her eyes.
“Yes, my love.” She started to sit up and gasped as sharp pains emanated from her side. “Oh, I forgot.”
“Three broken ribs and a sprained wrist.” He replied shaking his head. He kissed her lightly on the lips. “At least it is not a broken head. You must not do that again, love.”
She smiled at the humor that played around his mouth. Then the memory of her visions came rushing back. Her smile faded.
“I must speak with Sraphine.”
“She came while you slept, the High Priest as well.”
“The High Priest came to see me?”
“You are a heroine, darling. You saved the Stone.”
“Yes, I suppose so.” She replied thoughtfully. “But I really must see Sraphine.”
“I will call for her again.”
“Thank you.” She replied. He left the room to speak with the healers and Celedand stirred.
“Mother, you’re awake?” He threw his arms around her neck. She winced with pain, but then put her good arm around him.
“Yes, darling. I’m so glad you are here.”
“The Priestess came while you were sleeping and so did the High Priest.” He said in awe. “They told us what you did. You were so brave, Mother.”
She laughed which also hurt her side. “I don’t know about that.”
“I am so glad you are my mother.” He showed her the sign of respect.
Aerikai smiled and held her hand out to her son. “Tell me about your ceremony. Did you receive a Moquie vision?”
“It was wonderful, Mother. We went out into the field and the Elders began chanting strange words to the sky and the Gods of the Stone. Then, one brought me a staff. It was twice as tall as me! He told me to listen to the earth, the wind, the water, the fire, and the sun and then do what I felt I should.”
“What did you do?”
“I took the staff and pounded it on the dirt in front of me three times then I asked the five elements to bless me with my Moquie vision.”
“What happened next?”
“I felt the earth tremble so I stepped backward. Then the wind pushed me even further back from the staff. It was so strange, like little butterflies pushing and pulling me backward. That was when the earth shook mightily and moved. I looked to the staff, but it was gone. In its place was a huge crack in the ground, the Elders called it a…a… chasm?” He looked to Aerikai and she nodded. He continued, “When the earth stopped shaking the windswept down from the mountain and an eagle high in the sky cried three times and then flew to the west.”
Aerikai stared at her son. He had also received the sign of an eagle.
“Were you afraid, Celedand?”
“A little during the earth shake, but then I remembered that it was my sign and I stood tall. Father said he was proud of my actions and glad that I was his son. It made me feel good inside.”
Aerikai pulled him closer. “I am glad you received your sign well. Did the Elders tell you the meaning?”
“Yes, but they had to talk about it for a long time. When we finished it was late. Father thought you would be home from the Temple. He worried when he saw that the house was dark, but a messenger from the Priestess was waiting for us. She told us that you were here so we came as fast as we could.”
“I’m glad you did. It was so much nicer to wake up with you holding my hand.” She took his hand again and smiled. “Were you here the whole time I was asleep?”
“No,” He pulled a face. “Father said I had to sleep at Nana’s cottage, but he got to stay here the whole time.” He opened the pouch hanging at his side and pulled out the mountains breath. “Should I give this back, Mother? Were you hurt because I had it?” His little face lined with worry.
She closed his fingers around it. “No, dear. It is yours to keep. Your actions proved that you are worthy to carry it. I am so pleased you received your Moquie vision.”
Celedand beamed from her praise and then his expression changed to one of confusion. “Mother, you look different. What’s wrong with your eyes?”
“My eyes?” Aerikai asked.
“Celedand, come here.” LeDande said from the door. Sraphine stood next to him.
Celedand went to his father and they left the room leaving Aerikai alone with the Priestess.
“How are you feeling, dear one?” Sraphine asked.
“There is some pain, but I am well.”
“Your son is just as I saw him so many years ago.”
“He has completed his Moquie ceremony.” Aerikai replied proudly.
“Yes the Elders told me of his sign. It is very interesting, but I have not come to discuss that.” She looked carefully into Aerikai’s eyes. “You have Seen.”
Aerikai nodded. “I did not mean to touch the Stone, Sraphine. It would have broken if I did not catch it.” She lowered he head.
“Aerikai Galashad there is no need for remorse. To touch the Stone does not always mean to see. The visions come only to those who have the gift. You were meant to see what the Stone wanted you to see.”
“But how? I am not the Priestess or even a handmaiden.”
“Aerikai, you are the daughter of a High Priest. The gift is in you and from what the Elders told me it will be in your son as well. Are you able to share the things you saw?”
Aerikai nodded and then told Sraphine of the images she saw. “There were so many that I could not see all, but the girl… It was like looking in the mirror only her eyes carried the mark of the Seeress. It was not latent but powerful. I have never seen it so clear, even in my father.”
“Hmm.” Sraphine walked to a small cupboard across the room and pulled an object from one of the drawers. She brought it over and handed it to Aerikai. It was a mirror.
Aerikai turned it over to look at her reflection and gasped. Her eyes were a bright, clear, vivid emerald green. Her face now reflected that of the girl she had seen in her vision. The only exception was the girl’s hair. It was much darker than her own reddish locks.
“The mark has not faded from your eyes, nor do I think it ever will.”
Aerikai continued to stare at the unfamiliar eyes in the mirror. She thought about the visions she’d had.
“What did the Elders say to my son?” She finally asked.
Sraphine thought for a moment and then spoke, “I cannot share all, but you should know that many difficult decisions will be put before him throughout his life. Some will be harder than others and his first choice will come soon.”
“No.” Aerikai whispered. Her own Moquie vision loomed in her mind.
“You cannot let the visions of the future cloud the decisions of the present.”
“I do not want to doom him to my fate!”
“Aerikai, you accepted your fate when you took the Symbol of Choice.” Sraphine said with meaning.
Aerikai sighed with tears brimming in her eyes. “I didn’t know it would affect my family. I thought I would be a handmaiden in the Temple all my life.”
“Oh dear one, perhaps this fate you are thinking about is what the Gods have meant for you and your son. Do not despair.”
“I will try to see things that way.” Aerikai replied. Her heart felt like it would burst.
LeDande appeared at the doorway with Celedand and cleared his throat. “The healers want you to stay for a few more days. I am taking Celedand to my mother’s cottage. Then I will return.”
“Tell Naree thank you for me.” Aerikai replied.
Sraphine stood. “I must take my leave, but I will return before you leave.” She left the room and Aerikai watched her retreating back with mixed feelings. A short while later LeDande returned to her bedside. She was grateful for his presence. He always made her feel protected and loved, but she also felt guilty that he was kept from his work.
“You should return to the shop.” She said adamantly.
“I will stay with you until you go back to sleep.” He bent down to kiss her. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” She leaned back against the pillows. He stayed near her for most of the morning. They talked of Celedand’s Moquie vision and their own Moquie visions. Finally her eyes began to droop and her attention waned. Her conversations that morning had worn her out. A healer came into the room with a cup and LeDande kissed her and left promising to return later. She took the tea from the healer and allowed herself to fall asleep once again.
Aerikai stayed with the healers for a week. She watched the sky outside her window turn a startling winter blue. When she returned home the weather had turned brisk and the leaves were beginning to fall. The end of the year was drawing close and the city had begun preparations for the Masq that would occur in three weeks. The people of the City of a Thousand Lights exulted in this beautiful ceremony at the end of each year.
The High Priest and the Priestess of the Temple used the Stone to understand the status of the people in the world around them. They also used it to search the minds of the people of the City for the ones who would replace them when they reached the Age of Variation.
Aerikai knew that Sraphine was rapidly approaching the Age of Variation. Sraphine had shared her hope that Aerikai would take her place as Priestess. Unfortunately the vision Sraphine had seen of her with a child erased that resolution and the Priestess had been searching the minds of the people for ten years with no successful result. Aerikai felt sad for her friend and mentor, but her own fate took precedence in her mind.
Her ribs and arm healed steadily over the next two weeks and one week before the Masq the healers allowed her arm to be free of the sling. She would have to wear the wraps around her ribs for much longer, but with her arm free she could return to her duties at the Temple. She gratefully returned for the remaining six days of her service. She had never served in the Temple during preparations for the Masq and she thoroughly enjoyed the air of celebration the people at the Temple exuded.
On the evening after her fifth day she returned to her home filled with peace. As she approached the house at the edge of the city she paused to look out over the field where Celedand’s Moquie ceremony had taken place. The weather was colder than normal at that time of year and a light dusting of snow gave the scenery a rounded, shadowy cast. As the sun sank closer to the horizon she could see a strange silvery mist swirled around the chasm in the field.
She stared at the mist and then cried out in surprise when a dark, cloaked figure emerged from the swirling haze. The figure surveyed the chasm and then turned toward the city, moving smoothly over the rough, snow-covered ground as if floating.
Aerikai watched the strange person approach. When the figure reached the outlying houses she saw thin, pale, white hands reach up and pull the hood of the cloak back. Silvery blonde hair fell in ripples from the hood reaching almost to the ground. Aerikai could see the woman’s lips move as she took a step forward. She smiled as a breeze fanned out her tresses, billowing her cloak behind her.
Aerikai stared at the scene in confusion. No breeze had touched her or the grasses and trees around the woman. She watched her move with unnatural grace and then realization struck. She gasped. It was a Diviner! She had only heard stories about these mysterious people from the far north who forced the elements to bend to their will. She stood frozen in place. She wanted desperately to run back to the Temple and warn the people, but she knew it was beyond her reach. The woman walked through the darkening streets with an arrogant grace at a pace beyond anything Aerikai had ever seen.
When darkness enveloped the Diviner, Aerikai ran into the house.
“LeDande!” She cried slamming the door behind her. Suddenly Aerikai’s mind called up the image from her vision, the image of a dark figure in the field. “Oh no!”
“What is it?” LeDande came into the room and rushed to her side.
She looked up at her husband. “A Diviner!” She gasped. “Here in the city.” Her ribs protested the heavy breathing and she collapsed into a chair. When she caught her breath she explained what she had seen. Her thoughts were running like a waterfall. “I should have known what it meant.” She murmured.
“A Diviner. We do not have time to deal with this; we are on the doorstep of the Masq.”
As he spoke understanding flooded her mind. Aerikai looked at her husband in shock. “The Masq. This is not chance. She knows. The Diviner knows what we do with the Stone. Oh LeDande, I must warn Sraphine.” She stood but he grabbed her hand.
“The Diviner has reached the Temple by now. You will only put yourself in unnecessary danger.”
“But they must know.”
“I’m sure they already do, Aerikai. Sraphine is the Priestess. She has the gift of sight. You do not need to go.” She could hear the unmasked fear in his voice.
Aerikai sank into her husband’s arms. “Why did she not warn us? Oh, LeDande, I’m afraid.”
He held her tightly. “Don’t be afraid, love. All will be well.”
“I should have realized when I saw the image in my vision.” She berated herself. She stood and paced the room
“You could not have known. You said yourself the images came too quickly to make any sense of them.”
“I should have tried.” She shivered. “This cannot be good for the people of the mountain.” She whispered.
LeDande pulled her into his arms. “The Elders of the Mountain will protect us, love.”
She laid her head against his shoulder and let the feeling of his arms numb the fear. In her mind she could picture the Diviner facing Sraphine and the High Priest and she shuddered.
In the morning Aerikai put on her white robes in the gray light before dawn. She hugged and kissed Celedand and told him to listen to his father. Then she embraced LeDande.
“I wish you wouldn’t go.” He said holding her hand.
“I know, but I must. I feel drawn to the Temple today. I will be all right, I promise.”
He pulled her close, kissed her and the let her go. A sudden feeling of fear gripped her heart as she looked into his eyes.
“Bring Celedand to your mother’s home. It is closer to the mountain. It will be safe there for both of you.” She pled.
“I have already packed a few things and we will leave just after you. I’ll be there and back before you reach the Temple.”
His words sank in. “You must stay at the cottage, LeDande. Stay with Celedand and your mother.” She cried, the fear gripping her again.
He smiled. “I have things I must finish this morning in the shop. I will go up to the cottage after lunch. It is you that I am worried about. You are walking into the lion’s mouth.”
They stared at each other for several moments their eyes begging the other not to leave. Aerikai resigned. She knew he was in charge of his own decisions. She threw her arms around his neck kissing him passionately.
“I love you!” She cried.
“I love you too, Aerikai. Please be safe.” He replied gruffly.
She walked as quickly as she could through the city. Everything seemed normal and quiet, but she knew otherwise. The sun was peaking over the far eastern mountains as she approached the doors of the Temple. The maiden standing there seemed distracted and afraid.
“I’m sorry, Lady, no one is being allowed into the Temple today.”
Aerikai recognized the young girl as one of Sraphine’s own handmaidens.
“Leili, I know who is in the Temple. I must be allowed to enter I have an urgent message for the Priestess. Please.” She said urgently.
The girl looked as if she would faint. Aerikai watched her debate and then step aside. Aerikai slipped through the doors. She had never been in the Temple at dawn and the dim, cold hall seemed to fit perfectly with the desperate feeling of danger she felt. She walked solemnly toward her post as if she were supposed to be there.
At the end of the hall she could hear angry voices, something the Temple had never experienced before. A thin, high voice rose above the rest.
“You pitiful old man. I have given you the night to contemplate my request. Give me what I desire or I will destroy your precious city and take it anyway.” The Diviner demanded.
“It does not work that way, Lady.” Sraphine plead. “The ceremony must be observed.”
“We shall see Priestess. I have waited long enough, now suffer the consequences.” The Diviner’s haughty voice echoed in the halls. Aerikai heard the sound of chairs toppling and then the woman appeared. She was terrifyingly beautiful in the sunrise glow that had begun to bask the halls of the Temple. Aerikai pressed against the wall into the shadows as the Diviner swept past. The woman walked a few feet past her, paused and turned back.
“Who is this?” The Diviner demanded advancing on Aerikai.
Sraphine stepped quickly to Aerikai’s side. “She is one of the handmaidens of the Temple. She cleans the rooms.”
“She has the mark of the Seer.” The woman peered into Aerikai’s eyes her own growing wider. She whispered words under her breath and a light breeze swirled around Aerikai. “She was meant to replace you.” The Diviner said to Sraphine.
“She cannot be chosen. She married eight years ago. This nullified her candidacy.” Sraphine spoke firmly, but with sadness that Aerikai had never heard. Sraphine had always been glad of the vision she’d had of Aerikai with a child. But now she wondered if the Priestess had found a replacement yet.
“Hmm. I don’t trust you, Priestess, but there is truth in your eyes. No matter.” The Diviner whirled around and headed to the door.
She spoke a strange language and a gust of wind burst the doors open. She swept out of the Temple setting her course straight for the chasm. Everyone in the Temple moved to the doors to see what the Diviner was doing.
Aerikai followed Sraphine and the High Priest silently contemplating the words the woman had spoken. When she reached the doors and looked out the Diviner was a small figure flowing through the city. It took her half the time to reach the outer houses of the city than a normal person would spend running the distance. She moved toward the Chasm and pulled her hood over her hair. The mist swirled around her and then swept away from her solitary figure.
Aerikai gasped as she recalled the image from her vision, but even more surprising were the images that came unbidden to her mind.
“Oh no!” She cried stumbling against the doorframe.
“Aerikai, what is it?” Sraphine asked grasping her shoulders.
“Stop her. We must stop her.” The images flowed into her mind pressing upon her body. She sank to the ground. “No! The people! The outer homes.” Another vision came to the forefront. “Oh no. LeDande!” She moaned.
“Priestess, look!” One of the handmaidens cried.
Aerikai knew what was happening. In a blur of images the gift that had always been hers had already shown her. Now she understood completely why Sraphine had never found a replacement. She was the replacement. She was always meant to be the priestess, but fate had required a different path for her than that of the normal priestess. This path would protect her people and her son even as it was now destroying her life.
“Oh Gods of the Stone, no!” Sraphine cried.
Aerikai had already seen the image of the Diviner calling the elements to obey. She looked up to see the fire and smoke sweep through the outer homes of the city and out across the once lush plain. In her mind she could already see the hardened, black, surface that would be left by the liquid fire called to the surface by the Diviner through the chasm opened by her son. It would ravish the land for thousands of years.
In an instant her heart was buried beneath the fire where a small cottage and silversmith’s shop used to be. She wept giving way to the anguish that now filled her entire body.
The people of the Temple watched in horror as a hundred homes were annihilated along with their inhabitants beneath a thick black layer of melted rock. It seemed like hours later, but really only a few minutes, when she felt a hand on her shoulder.
“My child, come with me. Quickly. The Diviner will return shortly and I must speak with you.” It was the High Priest. He helped Aerikai to her feet.
“Holy One, we must give her what she asks or she will destroy all of us!” Sraphine cried out stopping them
“Peace, Sraphine.” He replied sternly.
He turned away leading Aerikai toward the Stone room. Just before entering he turned back.
“We will give her what she asks, but the ceremony must continue.” He paused his eyes became a sparkling green for an instant. “Let her be Lady of the Masq. It is the only way.”
After they entered the room the High Priest closed the door. He walked to the votive and carefully removed the Stone. He turned back to Aerikai speaking the language of the Stone and then placed it in her hands. She automatically flinched, but no images came to her mind. Instead the Stone began to pulsate and glow. She stared at the Stone entranced by the beauty of its many facets.
As she stared she realized each facet held a face, the faces of her people. Some she recognized, but most she did not. Her mind wanted to probe further into each face, but her heart would not allow her to break that precious privacy. Finally she beheld her own face and her heart gave her the freedom to look. She saw herself as if she stood at a crossroads. Down one path she could see herself as the Priestess, alone in the Temple. The other path was an unfamiliar place surrounded by unfamiliar faces with one exception, her son Celedand.
In that instant her choice became clear and the sign from her own Moquie ceremony appeared on the stone filling all of the facets. She clutched the Stone tightly her fingertips turning white.
The High Priest reached out and gently took the Stone from her grasp. “Sraphine is afraid, Priestess.” He said quietly. She stared at him open mouthed.
“She reached the age of variation the day of your vision. The Stone chose you, even though you had been excluded from candidacy. You are now the Priestess of the Stone, but even now as I touch the Stone it is dark. I can see you have made your choice. There will be no Priestess with the power of sight in the Temple, perhaps ever again.” He said thoughtfully.
“How can this be?” She asked confused at the things he said.
“The Gods of the Stone know so much more than we. Even though we are given the brief glimpses that allow us to lead this people, we do not understand everything fate has in store for us. Sraphine never really understood or she would have seen this long ago.”
Aerikai understood all he said and though her mind rejected his words, her heart knew he spoke truth. She looked into his eyes and realization glimmered. “You knew.”
The High Priest nodded sadly. “I have known since the day of your Moquie vision.”
Frustration, anger and hurt flooded her body and she struggled with the emotions, but after a moment she remembered her eighth birthday. Finally she replied, “Fate has chosen a different path for me. I accepted that path years ago when I took my Symbol of Choice and again when Sraphine saw my child. It is confirmed as I chose now.
He gripped the stone, staring into its depths. “Your path will preserve this people and I thank you for that, but are you ready to fulfill all that fate asks?”
“I leave you alone in this room. There are things both you and I must do to preserve this people. May the Gods of the Stone protect you, My Lady.” He bowed and kissed her hand as if she were a queen. “The Diviner has returned and I must deal with her.”
“Holy One, does Sraphine know that I am now the Priestess?”
“Sraphine clings to the traditions of this people. She suspects that One has been chosen for her ‘Sight’ has grown dim, but she does not think it is you.”
“But she knows I have seen.”
“She believes it to be an inherited gift, a fluke of fate. Do not concern yourself with Sraphine.” His voice was laced with sarcasm.
“She is my friend. She has allowed me to serve here every year.” Aerikai defended.
“Sraphine kept you here for her own curious purposes. She will be protected by her innocence, Priestess, but I fear for her soul.”
“I fear she will be angry with the Stone’s choice. From there the choices she makes will be affected.”
“Help her, Holy One. Do not let her be angry.” Aerikai plead.
“I will try. Peace be with you, Priestess. Go with the Gods.” The old man left, walking as if a burden had been lifted from his shoulders.
Aerikai watched him understanding that the burden was now hers. Her heart had already confirmed his words and now that her mind had caught up she knew what she had to do. She took the Stone and placed it in the votive, then, she took a cloth from the closet and polished it till it shone. When she finished she lightly placed her fingertips around its smooth surface and waited.
The images came slowly into her mind as she searched for two faces in the facets of the stone. She found her own quickly, but continued searching for the Diviner. When she found the woman’s beautiful, cruel face she focused her heart and mind.
This time the images came quickly. She could see many of the things that would happen if the Diviner gained the Stone as she desired. Her heart cried for the people that would be affected by this woman’s unchecked power. Many paths lay before the woman, but all hinged on Aerikai.
When she finished viewing the fates of the Diviner she returned to her own hazy future. She knew from her Moquie vision she would leave the mountain, but why she had to do so still haunted her. She searched with confidence begging even willing the Stone to show her what she needed to do to protect her people and the many others that could be affected by the Diviner’s choices.
Finally a brief image flitted across the Stone. She only caught the gist of it, but in that heartbeat she knew what she must do. In an instant the Diviner’s future became much clearer, but the people would be spared. She removed her fingers from the stone, polished away her fingerprints and then slipped out of the Stone room. She had very little time to accomplish all she needed to do before the Masq ceremony that night.
As she left the room she heard voices arguing again. The High Priest spoke in his even soothing tones.
“I know your purposes, Diviner. You will not meet them by simply taking the stone. Its power does not work that way.”
“Do not play with me Old One. The elements do not lie. If you would like I will simply show you again what I can do if my demands are not met.” Aerikai shuddered.
“I know the elements do not lie, but they have been mistaken. The wind and the earth do not always understand the ways of men.” The High Priest said wisely.
“He speaks the truth, powerful one.” Sraphine replied. “If you wish to fulfill your purposes then you must follow the set path.”
“I will make you Lady of the Masq, if you will swear on the elements that you will not harm this people. When you have completed the ceremony then you may use the Stone for your purposes.” The High Priest’s voice held a finality that even the Diviner couldn’t argue with.
“I wish to see the Stone now.” The Diviner demanded.
“As you wish.” Sraphine replied. “But you can not touch it.”
Aerikai hurried to the front of the Temple and out the door before the group left the room of prayer. She had a brief vision of the Diviner standing in the room with the Stone. She held her hands just inches away from the Stone and then smiled. “I swear on the elements I will not harm this people if you make me Lady of the Masq.”
The vision faded and Aerikai continued on her tasks. She had two places to go before she returned to the Temple and it was not quite mid-day. The streets were filled the sounds of fear and grief. Black smoke drifted from the south where the outlying homes used to be.
Voices across the city were raised in mourning for the families and friends who had perished in the Diviner’s fire. On several street corners she saw groups of people clustered together. At the center of each group a flustered Elder stood attempting to pacify and comfort the people. Several looked up as she approached and started to ask for news.
“What news from the Temple, handmaiden.”
“I have no news.” She apologized. “I was sent on an errand by the High Priest.”
She hurried past the groups wishing she could give comfort and peace, but knowing there was no time and that peace would never come if she didn’t’ succeed with her tasks. First she went to the mask shop in the city. A bell tinkled as she entered the shop.
A little, old man came from behind the curtain. He surveyed her white Temple robes and asked, “What news from the High Priest? I heard we have been besieged by a Diviner.”
“You speak truth. She has come with high demands and we have paid a heavy price for attempting to thwart her.”
“Will we all perish at this woman’s hand?” The man asked trembling.
“No, the people will be spared. I have been sent by the High Priest to retrieve his mask for the ceremony.” She replied her voice shaking slightly.
“Is the ceremony to continue then?” The man asked in awe. “The city is in grief, how can we continue?”
“We must continue the ceremony, the Diviner demands it. She will be the Lady of the Masq, but no one will be required to attend who does not wish to leave their families this night. The period of mourning must be observed and there are many who will need our help.” Her heart broke at the words she spoke.
The little man nodded and went back through the curtain muttering to himself. He returned a moment later with the beautiful, feathered and jeweled mask.
“May I also have the replica of the Stone?” She asked.
“I use it every year.” The man replied.
Aerikai looked at the man and then decided on honesty. “My friend, you have been faithful in your task each year. I have been named by the High Priest as Priestess of the Stone. This one thing is all I ask of you. Our very way of life is threatened by the Diviner and I alone know the only way to protect the rest of this people. Please, let me have the replica.”
The man stared into her vivid green eyes and then turned and left the room. He returned with a wrapped bundle. “Here, Priestess, I give the replica and the safety of our people into your hands.” He unwrapped the object. It was a perfect copy of the Stone of the Temple. He wrapped it again and gave it to Aerikai. “Go in peace, Holy One.”
She put the Stone replica into her satchel followed by the mask, then, bowed and left. She hurried through the streets her white Temple robes billowing behind her. After a few minutes she left the shops and markets behind and entered straight, tree lined roads. The homes and cottages that spread out on the streets were simple but elegant. The area was quiet and no one showed their face outside their home.
At last she came to a small cottage near the river. She walked up to the door and before she could knock it opened and a small brown object hurtled itself at her.
“Mother!” The little tear streaked face cried as he threw his arms around her body.
“Celedand, you’re safe.” She cried kneeling to hold her son close. After a moment she looked up to see LeDande’s mother, Naree, watching her. Their eyes met and Naree’s eyes widened.
“Naree, may I come in?” Aerikai asked with tears in her eyes.
Naree nodded and stepped aside to let Aerikai pass.