The Followers of Galashad Chapter 9
Aerikai stifled a yawn and shook her head. She felt bone weary and ready to collapse. She glanced over at the figure of her son. He never seemed to tire as they walked in the semi-darkness of the passageways. He now conferred with Ashier testing the air with his fingers and closing his eyes to try and remember what he had seen in dreams.
They had passed several openings to alternate passages and Celedand had confidently moved forward until now. He faced a conjunction of passages and did not seem to know what to do.
“I don’t remember this one.” He said, his brow wrinkling in confusion.
“Could we have missed something?” Ashier asked.
Celedand shook his head emphatically. “No, I just don’t remember this one.”
Aerikai had gratefully allowed her son to lead the group through the caves. His self-assurance lent confidence to the remainder of the company and gave her a rest from the barrage of images that filled her mind when she touched the walls. Celedand’s lack of knowledge at this junction made the travelers nervous.
With a resigned sigh she reached out a hand to touch the wall and closed her eyes. Images filled her mind in an overwhelming flood. She tried to make sense of them, but it was too much. The further in they had traveled, the more ‘information’ she received at each touch. The overload gave her a headache.
She stared down the passage to the left. Her instincts told her it went north. The passage on her right went straight south and then curved to the east after ten or so lengths. Maintaining her focus she touched the wall again.
She ignored as many of the images as she could and tried to force her mind to only take in what would help them reach the magnificent room and the curious passage. Finally, after several minutes, she caught a glimpse of the caves where they stood.
“Right.” She called over to her son. “We take the right hand passage.”
“Are you sure?” Ashier questioned.
She nodded. Celedand looked at her curiously and then shrugged his shoulders. He came over and took her hand while Ashier called the company to their feet to continue on.
“Have you seen what’s ahead, Mother?” Celedand asked quietly.
“Yes.” Aerikai whispered. “You will like it.”
He returned her smile and pulled her down the right hand passage. They walked for several hours before Ashier called a halt. They rested a bit and then continued on. Despite her fatigue Aerikai could feel a sense of urgency pulling her on. Her pace increased with those around her.
They stopped three more times to rest and after the third time Aerikai knew they were close to the cavern. The light that emanated from the walls around them strengthened and everyone in the company felt strangely refreshed.
They walked another hundred paces and a breeze swept down the passage shocking everyone into stillness. Aerikai took a deep breath and closed her eyes happily. The breeze lent life to her legs and feet. She pulled Celedand forward around a bend and gasped in delight as she beheld the room from her dream.
She reverently entered the carved balcony and beheld the giant cavern. The company surged up around her with cries of surprise, fear and joy. Aerikai lifted Celedand up so he could see the cavern.
“What is this place?” Several travelers asked.
“Calle’ Thelelle.” Aerikai replied without realizing what she had said.
“What did you say?” Ashier gaped at her.
“Calle` Thelelle. The Meeting Place.” She replied simply.
She looked around at the group. Many of the people were staring at her in disbelief.
“How did you know that?” Zurinsk asked.
“I…I don’t know, I just knew.” She stammered.
“Of course she knows. She is the Priestess.” Jeron replied. “Why should we be surprised; it is part of her gift.”
“Is there a way onto the floor of the cavern?” Ashier asked.
“There are two openings over there.” Celedand pointed down the passage on the right of the balcony.
Ashier asked for volunteers to try the passages and see if they came out at the openings below. Five young men including Jeron left immediately. The remainder of the company found places to rest and eat. They waited for almost three quarters of an hour.
Aerikai began looking for the side tunnel she had seen in her dream, but she hadn’t searched for long when shouts from below echoed deafeningly in the cavern. Ashier motioned for the young men who now stood below to speak normally.
“What did you find?” Aerikai called.
Her voice echoed loudly across the cavern and the boys put their hands over their ears. She smiled and moderated her voice to its normal level.
“This place was made for easy hearing.” She laughed and the sound bounced pleasantly off the walls.
“Each of these passages meet about five hundred lengths down. There is a third tunnel between them which leads back here.” Jeron replied. “I think you will find the same thing on the other side.”
He pointed to the large opening on the other side of the cavern. Aerikai felt the same way she had when they faced the conjunction of the tunnels earlier.
“We should follow the main passage to the right.” She stated.
“Yes, I think you’re right, but first I want to get down to the floor of the cavern.” Ashier said.
Most of the company nodded in agreement.
He led the travelers toward the two passages that the five young men had taken earlier. Aerikai waited until everyone had gone and then resumed her search. She closed her eyes to remember where she had seen the other passage. She walked back to the opening where the company had come from.
Facing the cavern, she looked to the right. The passage was tucked away, hidden by the tunnel leading to the ice lake. It was wide enough to admit her slender figure. She slipped into the rock opening.
The walls here were much darker than the other passageways and she stumbled on the slightly uneven floor. She reached out to catch herself and as her hand contacted the wall her mind filled with images. This time they were very clear. The passage led to another cavern that was half the size of Calle` Thellele. Two enormous crystals stood as sentries to the opening and the walls were peppered with crystals and blue stones of every shape and size.
Inside the cave the walls were smooth like polished glass. In the center of the cave was a crystal stone three times the size of the sentry stones. The air in the cave was thick with the power of that stone.
With a gasp Aerikai opened her eyes and stepped back from the wall. She left the passage as quickly as she had entered it. When she reached the balcony opening she leaned back against the wall trying to fathom what she had seen.
She knew, down that mysterious passage, stood a stone of power and sight, but this one was vastly more powerful than the stone she had destroyed. It remained in its purest, untouched form, probably since its creation. She shook her head in dismay. If any breath of this knowledge were to reach the Diviner she would sweep down and destroy everything in her path to reach that stone.
Aerikai looked back at the opening and noticed another passage leading to the north. It too had been hidden by the tunnel from the lake. All three came into one as they met with the hall around Calle` Thellele. In a moment she knew what she had to do.
She touched the wall on her right. With her mind she reached out to the powerful stone and called upon her gift as a seeress of the stone. The words came unbidden to her mind and she spoke them in a whisper.
“Csercyllth vele’ eritath bretche. Ancylliath xeriote verigo netath.”
As she spoke she could feel the energy of the walls come to a point beneath her fingertips. She repeated the words three times and felt the strength leave her body. She slumped to the ground and lay still.
Several minutes later she felt some of her strength return and she noticed a change in the surface of the rock. She sat up and stared in surprise as tiny crystals began protruding from the wall, growing out into the open space of the entrance. She looked across and saw the same thing happening on the other side of the wall. She touched the wall again and repeated the phrase one more time, then stepped back and noted the progress of the crystals increase.
As they grew outward the crystals left clear smooth rock behind. It took several minutes for the crystals to grow and fill the arched opening. Aerikai stared sadly down the passage that led to the Stone. She would never see it in person.
After half an hour the opening filled completely. With a reverberating note the opening rippled and smoothed. Aerikai reached out and touched the smooth crystal. It was hard as stone, but smooth as glass. She could clearly see where the company had come from, but now no one would ever be able to return to or come from the ice lake.
With a sigh she got to her feet and followed the tunnel that led to the cavern. She met her son halfway down the passage.
“Mother, I was worried about you.” He said in his best grown-up voice.
She smiled at his precocity. “There was something I had to do before coming down. Is everyone resting?”
“Most are, but there are a few who are drawing pictures of the cavern.” He took her hand and pulled her along.
She felt completely worn out and it was all she could do to keep up with her son’s pace. When they finally reached the cavern she took a deep breath and let the power of Calle` Thellele rejuvenate her body and mind.
Celedand wanted to show her everything in the cavern and she followed him gladly. She heard the astonished whispers of the company as they pointed at her feet. She looked down and noticed silver lines and cracks stretched out along the floor of the cavern. She took a step forward and a new set of silver lines spread out from beneath her feet.
She didn’t understand how she could be causing such a phenomenon, but she figured it must have something to do with what she had done to the passage opening above. She ignored the whispers and walked to where Ashier stood. He spoke with Zurinsk, Seyln and Jeron.
“Aerikai, I was just going to go look for you.” He noticed the fading silver streaks that marked her path toward him and chuckled. “Even the floor recognizes who you are.”
She smiled apologetically. “All I did was walk.” She held her hands up in defeat.
“We were just deciding which direction to go.”
“The valley is that direction.” She said pointing to the opening behind her.
“Yes, that is what we had decided. Are you feeling rested enough to continue?” He peered at her face. “You look exhausted.”
“I would like to rest a bit longer, by then I will be ready to move on. I am anxious to see our new home though I fear it will be many days before we reach it.”
“I think you are probably right. Jeron and Seyln have volunteered to take a small group ahead to scout our path. If it is anything like the one we just left then there will be many other passages breaking off. I figured if we sent a group ahead then we would be able to move through more quickly.”
Aerikai nodded. “That is very wise, but I am sure Celedand will also be able to help us.”
“He said he would help, but he is not as certain as he was before.” Ashier replied. “Go rest, Priestess, and then we will move on.”
Aerikai gratefully left and after a brief search, found where Celedand had left the pack. She curled up on her blanket and fell asleep. When she woke she felt more refreshed than she had since they left the City of a Thousand Lights.
Ashier called the company together and they set off down the passage. As Aerikai walked under the arched opening she glanced up and could see the smooth crystal that now blocked the path to the lake. Content she continued on.
The passage they now entered was much darker than the cavern and a few people complained, but no one suggested lighting a torch. They traveled for several days halting occasionally to confer with the advanced party. There were many more alternate passages and caverns that opened off the main tunnel.
“These caves could house the entire city.” Serinilly commented to Aerikai.
Aerikai stopped at the opening of a cavern. “I think people lived here long ago. Maybe even before the ancients.” She shuddered. “I wouldn’t want to live inside a mountain.”
“Me either.” Serinilly replied.
They walked in companionable silence for sometime before Aerikai remembered something that had bothered her when they reached Calle` Thellele.
“Serinilly, why was everyone surprised when I knew the name Calle` Thellele?”
“I don’t know.”
Ashier looked over his shoulder at the two women.
“They were shocked. When I received my Moquie Vision there was one thing I never told anyone. In my mind I saw that place and I heard the name Calle` Thellele. I never told anyone because I knew that it was only for me to know. When you blurted out that name and what it meant it took me by surprise, because I had never spoken it out loud. I’m sure the others were experiencing similar feelings.” He reached back and took Aerikai’s hand. “It is just another confirmation of who you are and the gift you possess, Priestess.”
She smiled, but the smile faded quickly. “I am no longer the Priestess, Ashier.”
“What do you mean?” He said concerned.
“We have broken from the traditions of our people and must form our own. You can call me Seeress, if you must, but I would prefer the people just call me Aerikai.”
Serinilly nodded in agreement. “It is a good thing you suggest, Aerikai. There will be equality among the people.
Ashier hesitated. “I suppose you are right Pr…Aerikai, but it will be difficult for some of us.” He smiled ruefully.
Aerikai laughed. “It will be a good change.”
They had traveled for almost seven days when Aerikai saw a change in the light around them. The blue glow had faded, but was replaced by a stronger, more consistent light. The passage opened to a larger cavern and the company beheld the bright opening.
Shielding her eyes Aerikai stepped out of the cave into late afternoon sunlight. The air around her was warm and inviting. A stand of young trees grew around the opening and she made her way through them searching for open space.
She could hear the cries of joy as the travelers left the cave and spilled out into the trees and surrounding brush. The children shouted with ecstasy when they found a bush loaded with berries. Aerikai ignored the chaos and continued down the hillside. She reached an opening in the trees where a boulder stuck out of the hill creating a raised outcrop.
She climbed on the boulder and gained her first view of the valley. On the left the mountains and hills descended to the sea and on the right the valley, thickly forested, spread out toward the desert and a smaller set of mountains to the south. A river wound its way through the valley like a blue snake.
Aerikai smiled and breathed a sigh of relief. She heard a grunting noise behind her and found her son climbing up the rock to join her. She reached out to help him. He dusted his hands on his trousers and gazed out at the valley.
“This is the place, Mother! This is where father would bring me.” He exclaimed happily.
“Yes, Celedand. This is it. We are finally home.”
She helped him down from the rock and they made their way back to where Ashier stood. Aerikai beckoned him and several others over and led them to the boulder. The group was pleased with the prospect below. They all knew the valley would make a splendid home.
That night Aerikai found herself walking, in her dreams, back to the boulder. The familiar figure of her husband looked out over the valley. This time she did not hesitate, but reached out to take his hand. It felt real and solid even though she knew it was not.
“I won’t see you again, will I?” She murmured sadly leaning her head against his shoulder
“No, love. But I will be watching over you and Celedand.” He replied confidently.
“Will you walk with Celedand?”
She waited, but he didn’t continue. Finally, unable to restrain her pain, she spoke.
“Why did you have to leave me?” Her voice betrayed the grief and desolation she had felt when she first saw the Diviner’s fire consume the houses near the plain.
LeDande shook his head sadly. “I had other tasks to complete. Some that would bring you safely here and others for future generations.”
Aerikai thought about the people she had seen the first time she touched the Stone.
“Who was that girl I saw? She held a stone of power and sight. She looked just like me.”
“She is a great-granddaughter, many times removed. She will have many gifts and like you she will lead her people to safety. She is a Chosen One, just like you, love.”
He leaned over and kissed her softly on the forehead. “I must go, Aerikai.”
“Please don’t go yet.” She begged.
He looked at her with a chastening smile. “I must, love, but I will always be watching over you.”
He squeezed her hand and then released it. A sigh escaped her lips.
“I love you, LeDande.” She murmured.
He paused and then took her in his arms and kissed her. It felt just like when he had kissed her goodbye for the last time.
“I love you too. Please be safe.” He said brusquely, trying to contain his emotions.
When she opened her eyes he was gone and she stood alone on the boulder. It took her a few minutes to realize that she was awake and really standing on the boulder. She touched her lips cherishing the gift she had been given.
Across the valley she could see the first touches of dawn blushing against the tops of the mountains. She took in the scene for just a moment before returning to camp. Surprisingly, she met her son as he too entered camp. They looked at each other and then Celedand ran and threw his arms around her. She held him tightly, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“Don’t cry, Mother.” He said wiping the errant moisture from her cheeks. “We’re home now.”
“Yes, Celedand, we’re home.”