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The Seeress and the Stone 20
French halted in his tracks gazing at the scene before him. The first streaks of dawn crossed the sky lightening the ocean waves with tints of pink and purple. He dismounted and walked slowly to the beach.
“At last,” he muttered. They had made it to the ocean.
Instead of fine white sands and warm breezes of Oceana the beach here was a deep red with dark black spots and briny kelp growing on the rocks at the base of the cliffs. A brisk, salty wind blew from the northeast carrying the smell of fish and marine plants. He had been smelling the salty air all day. The cliffs extended far out into the sea, but a large expanse of open beach lay before them. About a league to the north he could see black rocks protruding into the water interrupting the red sand.
The water sparkled invitingly, and he turned away sadly he knowing he had to report. The rest of the company was an hour behind him. He scanned the landscape. The desert stretched out all around them and the only mountains were the spiky peaks far to the north. There was very little vegetation that could support their livestock. He mounted his horse and turned back to meet the main camp.
He rode directly to Celendar.
“Well?” The older man said hopefully.
“It’s the sea all right, but there’s not much but water and sand. We won’t be able to stay for long,” French reported.
Celendar’s face fell. French knew he had been hoping they would find their new home at the end of the cliffs.
“We will just have to keep going, then. Is there enough vegetation to rest for a few days?”
“Yes, but we will have to boil water to drink.”
“I keep hoping we will have more rain. I thought those wind storms would bring more than just sand.” Celendar shook his head. “Good work, French.”
“The shore is just around that bend ahead.”
When the main company reached the beach everyone was delighted to drop their loads and bathe their weary feet in the cool sea water. They set up sun shelters quickly and by late morning were resting peacefully. Later that evening Celendar called a meeting.
French stood off to the side and listened skeptically.
Celendar cleared his throat. “My friends, we have come to a turning point in our journey. But from here I do not know where we are to go.”
French watched as their faces fell. He felt just as disappointed and frustrated as many of the people showed.
Celendar continued. “I have not given up hope. I know that we will be guided to our new home. I propose we begin a thorough search of the surrounding area before we move on. I think it would be good to search the cliffs as well.” He nodded to French
The crowd murmured. Some heads nodded in agreement and others turned to the wall of stone with dismay.
French stepped forward. “We will begin the search tomorrow, Celendar. If there is a way through these cliffs, we won’t stop until we find it.”
Cheers rose from the crowd.
Celendar stared at French for a moment. He looked as though he wanted to reprimand him, but then thought better of it.
“Thank you, French. That is all for tonight. We need to rest well. I also need a group to search along the beach for any vegetation. Our supplies are low and what we have will not last much longer.”
A handful of people volunteered. Celendar stepped away from the campfire and walked slowly to his tent.
Le’Mone approached French. “Are you trying to undermine Celendar’s leadership?” she asked angrily.
“What do you mean?” French asked surprised. “I thought that is what he wanted to hear.”
“And what if you don’t find anything? What if Celendar receives a vision to leave this place and go somewhere else?”
“He won’t,” French replied confidently. Something deep inside told him that this was where they were going to stop.
“How do you know?” Le’Mone asked skeptically.
“Aunt Le’ you asked me to trust him. Well I have. He knows there is something here. He has been guiding us steadily since we reached the desert. He knew to come here. He just doesn’t know what we are looking for. Neither do I, but we will search until we find it.”
“I hope you’re right,” she replied snippily.
A gust of wind whipped around them and French looked to the west.
“Looks like we might actually get some rain. I’d better see to the rain barrels.” He started off and then turned back to Le’Mone. “I am right, Aunt Le’, you’ll see.”
French left his aunt and walked to where they had set the barrels. Thunder rumbled in the distance. He enlisted the help of a few other young men. They dragged the barrels away from the cliffs into the open. After steadying them in the sand, French attached the thick leather funnels to the brim of each barrel. The funnels spread out a foot in diameter from each barrel to increase the amount of water caught.
It was dark when he returned to his tent. His aunt was already under her blankets asleep. The lightning flashed outside and a rumble of thunder followed a few seconds later. The first sound of rain pattered on the tent lulling him quickly to sleep.
A crash of thunder brought him instantly awake. The rain was coming down in torrents. He listened to the rushing sound for a while before he realized that it was much lighter outside than he had originally thought. He opened the flap a crack and could see the gray light of morning touching the eastern sky.
“Aunt Le’ it rained all night. Still raining,” he said quietly.
Le’Mone remained silent.
He crawled over to where she slept. Her blanket was empty. Fear gripped his heart as he scrambled out of the tent. The rain was only a misting drizzle now. He looked around the camp, but there was no sign of his aunt. He started towards the water barrels thinking she might be checking them. Finally he headed towards the beach, worried and dismayed. As he walked he could see two figures coming toward him from the cliffs. He recognized the dancing steps of his aunt and with a sigh of relief he headed them off.
When he reached the pair he took one look at them and exclaimed, “I was worried about you and here you are playing in the rain. I would have gotten a spanking for that.”
Le’Mone replied, “We think there is a way through the cliffs.” She poked him in the ribs, “Last night’s storm may have just made your job easier.”
French examined the soaked pair. “Or harder,” he said with a grin.
“Come take a look,” Celendar urged.
They made their way back to the cliff walls. Ahead French could see the reflection of light on the water falling from the cliffs. No opening was apparent in the smooth rock. When they reached the waterfall he scanned the face.
“It looks like there is a ledge of sorts up there, but I can’t see any break in the rock,” French said.
They walked along the cliffs till they reached the water’s edge, searching for the opening, but did not see anything until they headed back towards the camp.
Celendar pointed to the opening that had been hidden by a small outcropping of rock. “No wonder we couldn’t see it!” He exclaimed.
French whistled. “That’s about seventy feet up. I wasn’t looking that far up. How are we going to reach it?”
“I think the ledge runs all the way up to the opening,” Le’Mone cried pointing to the uneven surface on the cliff wall. “Yes, you can see the lip running down along the rock face all the way to our little waterfall.”
Celendar scanned the rock and then asked. “French, do you think you could climb up to the ledge to where the water is coming off?”
French looked carefully at the rock surface. There were small divots and pockets in the face.
“I think so. It will take a while. I’d have to deepen some of the holds and I’ll have to wait until the water stopped. It’ll be too slippery while it is wet.”
“How soon before you can climb up?” Celendar questioned.
“I would give it at least a day or two after the water stops. The heat during the day should dry it out fairly quickly.”
“All right. Let’s head back and tell the others. If that ledge runs all the way to the break in the wall, then we may have discovered something important,” Celendar said excited.
As the trio headed for camp Le’Mone laid her hand on French’s arm. “You were right French. I should have trusted you the way you trusted Celendar,” she admitted humbly.
French put his arm around her wet shoulders. “We all have our moments,” he said with a grin. She returned his smile.