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The Seeress and the Stone 25
Lightening flashed across the sky and the wind began howling again. Rain pelted them as they rode through the streets. They galloped towards the North city gate. Throngs of people crowded the streets all heading to City Hall. Angelia tried to tell the people to leave the city, but the wind whipped her shouts into oblivion.
They rode out of the city and into the trees surrounding the city. Behind them they heard the ominous clank of the city gates being shut. Not looking back, they pushed their horses harder into the foothills never stopping to rest. Thunder crashed and the clouds opened. The rain came down heavily obscuring their view and making travel up the mountain treacherous.
They rode for nearly an hour when another warning sounded twice and then a tremendous crash resounded throughout the valley.
“The attackers must have overtaken the West Gate.” Christiana shouted.
Angelia nodded and they continued riding. After another hour they slowed their pace and then stopped to rest the horses. Lightening flashed across the sky and the thunder was deafening. The rain had let up a little, but the wind still ripped through their clothes. Tiri huddled against Angelia, crying.
The temperature had dropped as they rode up into the foothills, with a promise of snow by nightfall. Angelia opened her pack and pulled out a sweater to put under her jacket. She gave another to Tiri and Christiana followed suit. They ate some bread and Angelia reached her hand absently into her pocket. She was used to grabbing her crystal especially when she was feeling anxious or nervous. There was nothing in her pocket. She checked the other pocket. Empty.
“Where is it?” she muttered, opening her pack and searching through the items in it.
“What are you looking for?” Christiana asked
“My crystal. I can’t find it.” She searched through the saddle bags and her jacket pockets.
“Didn’t you put it on this morning? You were holding it when you saw the army was coming,” Christiana replied.
Angelia’s face turned white. “Oh no,” she moaned. “It must have fallen on the floor. I have to go back.” She started to mount.
“No!” Christiana cried. “You can’t.”
“I must have that crystal,” Angelia said in desperation. “I can’t talk to Ellinsha without it and we need her help in the caves. I must have it.”
“You can’t go back, Angelia,” Christiana cried. “They want you. They’ll find you. He will find you, and you know it.” She spoke firmly, but her voice softened as she added, “Besides, we need your help finding the caves.”
Angelia hesitated. She was torn between going back for the precious crystal and helping her mother. “Yes. I suppose you’re right.”
Christiana pulled her away from the horse. “Don’t worry we will figure it out.”
They rested for a while longer and then continued up the trail. By early evening they reached the caves. The rain had turned to snow and the wind had stopped. The tiny flakes fell gently to the ground, wiping out any tracks they might have left. The entrance to the caves remained well hidden, but as they entered the trees, several men armed with bow and arrow immediately surrounded them.
“What is your business?” one of the men asked.
“I need to see Geoff, he is waiting for me,” Angelia replied.
“Who are you?”
Jord stepped out of the trees, “Angelia, where have you been?” He stopped short at the sight of Angelia’s mother. Then after a few moments he bowed, “Madam Galashad.”
Turning uncertainly back to Angelia he continued, “My father is preparing a group to go into the city to search for you.”
The women dismounted and some of the men took their horses to a shelter made of tree branches. Jord led them to the cave’s entrance. “I’m glad you’re here.”
“I had to warn Sparrow and Scotch first, are they here?”
“No, but I’m sure they will be soon.”
“I heard the gates shut behind us. Will they be able to get out?”
“They will find a way,” Jord answered calmly.
They entered the cave and Geoff walked over to meet them, “I have been so worried. Why didn’t you send a message?” He also stopped when he recognized Christiana. “Christiana! I was not expecting you.” He bowed slightly and Christiana nodded.
Angelia jumped in. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize what was happening until I arrived at Scotch’s house. I didn’t see the storm until then. I didn’t understand until then.” She shook her head. “They have been using the storms to cross the desert. There was no way to bring an army across the desert without water, so they came with the storms. I have been so blind.”
“Don’t worry. You’re safe now.” Geoff replied, sounding relieved. He walked over to Angelia’s mother and took her hand and shook it warmly. “Welcome, Christiana. I’m glad you’re here.”
“Thank you, Geoff.” Christiana looked hesitantly at the entrance of the cave. There were bags of supplies and food being moved deeper into the caves. “How many people are here?”
“I would say about sixty-five. Not many people have believed our warnings, except for the few that have made their way up here after the first warning. They are settling in now. I wish I could have done more. I want to take a small group into the city to bring as many as possible up here,” Geoff said sadly.
The cave was dimly lit, but they could still see the faces of the people inside. Everyone had a grim, frightened expression.
Christiana shook her head. “I don’t know if it will do any good. There were a few following us out of the city. Some may come up this way, but I’m afraid many were heading toward the sea. I hope they find a place to hide. Most of the people in the city were going to City Hall.” Christiana looked around at the people in the cave. They were camped in small caves that connected to the large cavern. “You said Judge Undreth and his son would be here?”
“They haven’t arrived yet, neither has the Soaraint family.” One of the men brought in their packs and Geoff motioned to the unoccupied caves, “Please chose a cave and make yourselves at home. I need to go back outside and organize the men. We still might have to send out a search party to catch any stragglers.”
Christiana pulled their saddlebags into a small cave and began organizing their blankets into beds. Angelia went outside to hunt for firewood. Geoff was talking to a group nearby. Angelia wandered near the group and began picking up sticks. She stopped in her tracks when the tower bell at City Hall sounded. It rang in sets of three for a quarter hour and then stopped abruptly. A hush fell over the group.
“They’ve taken City Hall,” Geoff said grimly.
“Geoff, what if the others don’t make it?” Angelia asked fearfully.
“Then we go after them.” He looked at Angelia’s face. “Don’t worry, Angelia, I’m sure they are on their way. They had a few more people to bring than you. But they will come.” He paused and then quietly added, “Thank you for bringing Tiri.”
“I never would have left her. Did her family make it?”
Geoff shook his head. “We thought the attack might come from the west, but we weren’t sure. I told them when the attack comes to head to the lake and then take the trail east to the caves. If they escaped it will be a few days before they make it here.”
Angelia’s heart dropped. They would have to wait days to find out who had escaped and who didn’t. She shuddered and returned to her task trying to keep her mind occupied. During the next few hours many more people arrived at the caves, including Sparrow and her family. Angelia was relieved. She embraced her her friend tearfully and then they went in search of Jord. He was helping his father organize the refugees into groups and assigning leaders over the supplies.
“Has Scotch come yet?” Sparrow asked anxiously.
“I haven’t seen him, but I have been in here most of the time,” Jord replied.
Angelia looked into the caves. “How far have you explored?”
“We’ve gotten pretty far. There seems to be no end. We did find what seems to be a main trail through the caverns and galleries. But there are several passages that are too long to explore effectively.” Turning to his father, “I think it would be a good idea to move the people in further. If the King starts searching the hills, we will have a good head start,” Jord said.
Geoff nodded his head and replied, “I just hope these caves go somewhere. It will be too dangerous to move a group this size through the shallow valley. We don’t know if this king will have the passes watched or not.” He glanced over at Angelia. “Good thing you have your ‘sight’ to help us.”
Angelia’s heart sank at his words. She had no contact with Ellinsha without her crystal which was somewhere on the floor of her bedroom. Silently she helped move the supplies and people further into the caves. Her thoughts continued to return to the absent stone. She knew it would nag her until she found a way to return to the city. Unbidden, her nightmares popped to the forefront of her mind. She shuddered and pushed the thoughts away.
By nightfall, the people had stopped coming up the hill toward the caves. Angelia counted almost two hundred people that had made their way up to the caves. That was more than had left the city four months ago. She was grateful that so many had listened, but she was happiest because her mother and friends were among them. The only worry was that Scotch still hadn’t arrived. She and Sparrow hovered near the cave entrance watching. Close to midnight the snow stopped and the clouds cleared. The stars shone brightly in the absence of the moon. Angelia was ready to go to sleep, but before she could move Sparrow squeaked next to her.
“What is it?” Angelia whispered.
“There is something moving out there,” Sparrow replied.
They both strained their eyes to see in the darkness. A few moments later three figures walked towards them. Scotch and his father were being escorted by one of the guards from the forest.
Sparrow and Angelia ran to Scotch’s side, happy for his safe arrival.
“What took you so long?” Angelia asked. “I thought you left before I did.”
“I went to get my father at City Hall. He tried to convince the others to come with us, but most of them were determined to stay, so we left. Chaos erupted when the army took the West Gate. We herded a few people to the north and convinced several others to head up here. They closed the North Gate before we could leave, so we had to find another way out.”
“What did you do?” Sparrow asked.
“We went back to our house. We had convinced several people to come with us, so it took a while. The north wall of the city is at the back of our property. We climbed over and headed up here.”
“But that was hours ago.” Sparrow interrupted.
“Well by the time we reached the foothills it was snowing. We had to abandon our horses in the city, so we were on foot. I realized we would be leaving tracks in the snow as we traveled, which was like sending up a signal fire, and even if it kept snowing there would still be enough of a trail for them to follow, so we covered the tracks.”
“You covered all the tracks?” Angelia asked. She felt a heightened sense of respect and appreciation for Scotch and his father.
“Yea. We thought it would be best. We sent the others up and then used tree branches to brush the tracks away. My father headed south west to help create false trails and I did some more up the other way.”
“Thank you, Scotch. Hopefully it will keep any scouts off our trail for a while. As much as I dislike the snow, I hope we get more. It will help.”
“I don’t think we will get much more. The sky is pretty clear.” He shivered.
“You’re soaking wet, let’s get you in and warmed. They have a few fires inside.”
The girls followed Scotch into the caves. Judge Undreth was telling Geoff what Scotch had just told them. The main entrance was cold and smoky. Angelia made her way to the small cave her mother had chosen. Christiana had propped a blanket over the opening to give privacy and retain as much warmth as they could.
Angelia was exhausted. She lay listening to the quiet hum of voices in the cave. She thought about everything that had happened that day and then finally drifted off to sleep. In her dreams she began walking through the caves. She recognized the path and knew she was going to Ellinsha’s cavern. After a while she realized that she wasn’t just dreaming, but that she was really walking. She opened her eyes.
In front of her she could see a soft blue light. It was just enough ahead of her to light the path as she walked. It did not take her long to find the opening in the wall that led to Ellinsha’s caves. She walked slowly taking in the beauty of the caves. They were not exactly like the caves where the refugees were sleeping. The floor had a thin covering of bluish colored, crystalline sand and the walls were completely smooth and rounded.
She followed the light until she came to the entrance of the cavern. When she walked inside she gasped at the beauty of the room. She had forgotten about the stones that were embedded in the walls of the cavern. Each gave off a unique blue light creating a rainbow of blues all around.
She turned to Ellinsha and stopped.
There standing in front of Ellinsha was another woman. She was tall and had the same color of hair as Angelia, but her skin sparkled in the soft blue light. The woman turned to Angelia and smiled. Her eyes were a brilliant green. She had on a white robe and around her neck hung a crystal like her own, except it was clear. The woman beckoned to her. Angelia walked over and stood next to her. The woman smiled again and Angelia felt like she knew her somehow.
“Thank you, Ellinsha. What is it you seek?”
“The time for your task has come.”
“I am here to serve you, Ellinsha.”
“You are much stronger. I am glad. I have brought someone to help you.”
“Thank you. I accept any help you would offer. May I be introduced?”
“But you already know her.”
I do?” Angelia turned to the strange woman. She looked so familiar.
“She has been a faithful servant sent to prepare for the Chosen One. To you she is known as . .”
“Meria!” Angelia said out loud. “You are my grandmother.”
The woman smiled sadly as she put her arms around Angelia. “Yes Angelia. How I have longed to see you.”
“Ellinsha, how is this done?” Angelia asked. She looked at Meria and said, “You died.”
“Her death was for the sake of those she must leave behind. Everything has happened for a reason, Angelia. Meria has been helping me.”
“I understand. . . So, she is not dead?”
“Death has many definitions. To some it is an end, to others is it a beginning and to a select few it is but a separation.”
“I do not completely understand, but I trust you Ellinsha.” Angelia smiled at her grandmother.
“It is time for me to leave this home and seek another. There is a valley that is young and ready for growth. It is time for me to join my people and live among them. There are few paths that lead to the valley. Each one is a long journey. Are you willing to accept this task?”
“Yes, Ellinsha. I am willing. What must I do?”
“First you must return to the city.”
“The city? But why?”
“You must have the crystal, given to you by your grandfather. Without it, we cannot succeed. You must return to the city tonight. Meria will go with you, unseen. Do not be afraid of what happens. Listen through the crystal and I will guide you. Meria will strengthen you. Now go, my child.”
Angelia looked over to where Meria was standing, but she was no longer there. She turned and silently left the magnificent cavern, anxiousness marking every step.