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The Seeress and the Stone 14
Angelia stood unnoticed in the corner listening to the outcasts talk. She knew she would receive a severe tongue lashing and more from her father when he discovered her here, but she didn’t care. Her grandfather had a map spread on the parlor table. It was old and yellowed.
“We are going to follow the road to Outpost and then head north. There is a pass through the tip of the Northern Mountains. Once we get through the mountains we continue north. At this point Geoff and his group will split off and travel southeast.” He pointed to several places on the map as he spoke. “Geoff, you will have to find your way to the lake through these mountains. I don’t think there is a trail.”
“We’ll find our way, Celendar, don’t worry.”
“Good. Be careful when you go back through the pass. They may be watching. You might have to travel at night. We are going to continue on north to the Heighe Mountains. I figure those caves must come out somewhere up there. How far in did you get?’
“Maybe a couple of miles. We will be exploring further while we wait.” Geoff looked at the map. “If this map is correct then we should be able to find you or your trail here at the edge of the desert. If we go north we will run into the ocean so we will go south to the desert. Do you think you will go into the desert?”
“I want to stay as close to the mountains as possible. We wouldn’t last long in the desert.” He paused, “I feel like we are following in Celedand’s footsteps. But we will not be crossing the desert. We will do our best to leave signs for you to find.”
Celendar rolled up the map. “All right. We had better gather everyone and head out. The city officials are going to meet us here at ten to escort us out.” He laughed and a few others joined him. “We have an hour to get everything together.”
Angelia slipped out the door when her grandfather laughed. She could hear the sorrow in his voice and it only depressed her more. She made her way up the path toward Le’Mone’s cottage. Behind the cottage was a well-kept garden. Angelia had often found French there whittling away at a piece of wood. When she reached the pool she found him sitting on the small bench staring at the water. His hands were motionless. Angelia looked around at the scene. It all looked so familiar and then she remembered the glimpse she had seen of him that first day when she received her new gift.
“I thought I might find you here,” she said softly.
He was at her side before she could speak again. He took her hand and she automatically grasped her crystal allowing the images to flow into her mind. She wanted to see as much of him as she could. She saw him on horseback riding toward the sunset. Then she saw him in a boat floating down a wide river. She saw him enter a cave and more.
“Angel, come back,” French called.
She opened her eyes. He steadied her.
“Stocking up?” He chuckled.
She blushed. “Yes,” she admitted, then ducked her head into his shoulder.
She didn’t want to cry, but the tears came anyway. French stroked her hair.
After a moment he spoke hesitantly. “There is one memory I would like to keep.”
She looked up into his eyes. He leaned down and kissed her softly on the lips. She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back fiercely. All of the tender emotions she had experienced in the last few months surfaced and she felt as if her heart were breaking over and over again.
“I’m going to miss you so much,” she sobbed.
“I know, Angel. I’m going to miss you too.” He kissed her again holding her close. Her tears mixed with his.
They broke apart breathless when someone behind them coughed. Le’Mone entered the garden.
“Oh, I didn’t know you were here. I just came to say goodbye to my garden,” she said sadly.
Angelia ran to Le’Mone and hugged her. “Aunt Le’,” she cried.
Le’Mone hugged her back. “I wish you were going with us.”
Angelia nodded not trusting herself to speak.
“Well, French, we need to head back. The ‘escort’ will be arriving at ten. Are you coming, Angel?”
“Yes, I want to see Grandfather one more time and—and say goodbye.” She swallowed hard.
They walked together down the path to Celendar’s house. French held her hand and she stockpiled more images of his future. When they reached the road she looked over the tearful gathering. Sparrow and her family were there to say goodbye to her sister Skylark and Jexson.
Everyone was whispering goodbyes and hopes to see each other soon. Many other students came to say goodbye, but Angelia was not paying attention. She scanned the crowd until she finally spotted her grandfather near the front door of his house. Several city officials had arrived and were speaking with him, but he was motioning for them to go away.
Angelia ran to his side. “Oh Grandfather,” she cried as she threw her arms around his neck.
He stroked her hair and said in a gruff voice, “Angel, my Angel. I’m going to miss you too.” He tilted her chin up and smiled. “I love you sweet Angel. Always remember that.”
“I will never forget, Grandfather, I promise.” She hugged him tight.
A horn sounded nearby and the group watched a procession of carriages drive up to the house. Governor Berian struggled out of the first carriage, followed by Geralde. When Geralde saw Angelia his sly grin turned into a scowl. He marched over to her and grabbed her arm.
“What are you doing here?” He demanded sternly.
She held her chin up and retorted defiantly, “I am saying goodbye to MY grandfather.” She pulled her arm from her father’s grasp and stepped closer to Celendar.
“Get in the carriage, this instant!” Geralde commanded.
Angelia stood her ground, but Celendar nudged her tenderly. “It’s all right, Angel, you can go. Remember I love you.” He looked deep into her eyes, “We will be together again, I promise.” He smiled sadly.
Angelia looked first at her father, then her grandfather, and finally at French. Her shoulders drooped as she walked to the carriage and climbed in. Tears streamed down her face. She watched out the window as the Governor addressed the group.
“As of today, you are all officially banished from Viecity and this surrounding valley. Return and you will be imprisoned. The Council has spoken. The officials will escort you as far as Outpost.” He left them and climbed into his carriage.
Celendar looked at this group of Council members and declared loudly, “Remember what I have said. When the time comes you will wish you had not let fools dictate your actions.” He looked directly at Geralde. “Remember, what I have spoken and prepare. Think of your families, they will be the ones to suffer for your foolishness and pride.”
He walked to the front of the group and climbed on his horse. The group of travelers followed suit. Celendar turned back for one last look. He looked at Angelia and smiled and waved goodbye. He spurred his horse forward and led the way through the forest.
It was exactly as Angelia had seen it three weeks earlier. He had been waving goodbye to her. She cried harder as she watched her friends follow her grandfather into the forest.
“Everything is ready, Your Majesty.”
“Good, Commander. How long will it take to cross the desert?” Jarr’oshed asked.
“About six weeks along the river and then at least a month in the desert, maybe more.”
“Once we cross I want you to take a detachment to Oceana. We attack on winter solstice.”
“Yes, Your Majesty. You are certain there will be no warning?”
“The City’s leaders are completely unaware of our coming.”
“And the Seeress?”
Jarr’oshed laughed. “Your candor is refreshing, Commander. The Seeress knows we are coming, but she will not leave the city.”
“Excellent.” The Commander pressed his fist against his chest and left the room.
Jarr’oshed stared out the window at his small army. It wasn’t even his entire force, but it would be enough.