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The Seeress and the Stone 27
Angelia opened her eyes. The cave was dark all around except for a pale, silvery light near the entrance. She got up quietly and walked toward the light. Just outside the cave mouth the light fell all around. Angelia looked up at the starlight that bathed the ground around her in its soft light. She knew it was time to leave.
The snowy hillside sparkled in the light. Angelia slipped through the shadows until she found her horse and untied the rope. She led the horse out into the open and looked up at the clear sky. She mounted and made her way as quietly as possible down the path to the city. She knew it would be dangerous going back into the city and her nightmares were fresh in her mind, but she also trusted Ellinsha.
She rode down the trail until the first light of dawn. As she approached the city she dismounted and tied the horse to a tree. By the time the sun rose she was near the North Gate. She could tell the gates were guarded so she kept to the trees and came as close as she dared. The guards wore black armor and held huge spears. They stood as still as stone. Her stomach turned at the sight of them as she remembered the horror from her first vision.
There would be no entrance through the city gates, day or night. She had to find some other way. As she walked away she remembered what Scotch had said about escaping with his father. She walked further into the trees and then turned west, picking a path through the underbrush and eventually making her way back to the city wall. The North Gate was out of sight and the foliage grew right up to the stone barrier masking her approach.
She spent most of the morning scouting the outer wall of the city and dodging patrols. There were houses on the north side of the city and most of them had gardens with trees growing right up against the wall. After a while she found a place where a heavy vine had grown up and over the stones covering the entire section of wall. Most of the leaves were gone from the storm, but the vine remained firmly attached and with a little effort she scaled to the top. Pausing for a brief moment at the top she could see a garden and a house. Trees grew next to the wall so she remained hidden as she climbed down. The house was quiet.
When the sun disappeared, she scanned the western horizon and noticed the dark storm clouds moving quickly toward the city. Thunder rumbled and Angelia hastily climbed down into the garden. She made her way through the garden toward the house as it began to rain. She wasn’t sure where she was in the city and it was imperative that she discover the easiest way back to her house without being seen. She moved through the bushes at the side of the house until she could see the street. The city was deserted, but she could feel unseen eyes watching and waiting. She would have to wait until the cover of dark to move.
She headed back toward the garden until she found an unlocked side door and slipped inside. The house was empty and it looked like the inhabitants had left in a hurry. Angelia sat down, tired from her journey. The day had just begun and she was forced to wait. She knew her mother would be frantically searching for her and Geoff was probably already forming a search party.
Her stomach growled suddenly and she realized that she hadn’t eaten since the previous evening. She walked around the house until she found the kitchen. The cupboards had been ransacked and most of the food taken, but she found some hard bread and old cheese. After eating she found a place to hide and slept. When she woke it was late afternoon. She began searching the house hoping to find some sort of map of the city. She had a general idea of where she was, but no idea how to get to her house without being seen.
Her careful search revealed a large library at the back of the house. There were bookshelves from floor to ceiling on one wall and a painting of the valley hanging on another. A large wooden desk sat in the middle of the room. Angelia spent the greater part of an hour searching through books and papers. She finally found a journal with several maps of the city. She pulled out the newest map and laid it across the desk, scanning it quickly to find the street where her home was.
She knew she was on the north wall of the city. Hoping she was close to where Scotch’s home was, she located his home on the map and plotted her route home. There were many streets that could take her directly there, but the safest one would be through the city park. It would take her a couple of hours and she would have to be very careful. She put the journal away and walked to the window. Darkness was creeping slowly over the city and the shadows had already enveloped the house and garden. It was time.
Angelia left the house through the same door she had entered. Her heart pounded in her chest as she walked and she felt as if she was being watched or followed, but the streets remained empty. Every half hour or so a detachment of soldiers would come along patrolling the main streets. At the sound of any footsteps she would dash behind a tree or into some bushes and hide. The strain of the situation was beginning to wear on her and she was forced to slow down. Finally she made it to the city park undetected. With a sigh of relief she slipped under the cover of the trees and underbrush and headed for home.
The storm had passed leaving the sky clear again and a thin crescent moon began peeking from behind the mountains to the east. Making her way through the park was relatively easy. The garden of her home bordered the park and she would often go walking along the paths. She loved the park because it reminded her of the forest around her grandfather’s cottage. Tonight she followed the paths in darkness, jumping at every sound and wishing her task was already completed.
After a strenuous half hour in the park she finally reached her house. Everything was dark and quiet except for the winking of a torch at the front of the house. Angelia dashed across the patio and into the house.
It was plain someone had been inside searching for something. Chairs were thrown to the floor and the cushions scattered all over. The couches had been shredded and most of the furniture broken. She stared in horror at the damage and then ran upstairs to her bedroom. It too had been torn apart in the search.
The clothes she hadn’t packed were strewn across the floor. All of her desk and bureau drawers were emptied onto the floor and the contents scattered. They must have been searching for some indication of where she had gone. Fear filled her heart as she thought about her crystal. She dove to the floor and began madly searching through her scattered possessions. Without that crystal she could not fulfill the task Ellinsha had given her. She would never be able to lead the people out of the mountains.
Her panic escalated as she searched desperately to find the crystal. The idea of not finding it tore at her heart. Pictures of her people lost in the mountains filled her mind and tears began streaming down her cheeks. Her wild thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the sound of voices.
She froze in terror. It took her a few minutes before she realized they were outside her window and not in the house. She crept to the window and leaned out to listen. Two soldiers were talking roughly with none other than her own father.
“Where is the Seeress fool? You must know something if she is your own daughter,” the first soldier asked harshly.
“I...I looked everywhere...I ...I couldn’t find anything to tell me where she went,” Geralde stammered.
“Liar,” came the reply. The soldier slapped him across the face. “The king will deal with you. You are a fool. Just tell us where the green-eyed witch is and maybe he will let you live.”
“I don’t know where she is,” Geralde replied. His voice was filled with fear and defeat and anger.
Angelia’s heart went out to her father. She knew there was no way to help him without abandoning her quest. He had chosen not to listen and she couldn’t change that. Her heart was full of questions to which she had no answers. She crawled over toward her bed continuing her search through the papers and clothing that had been thrown on the floor. She wanted to give up and run away and yet she knew she was bound to Ellinsha with a tie that had been forged long before she was born.
“What am I to do, Ellinsha?” she called out softly. As she did, her fingertips brushed against a cold hard surface and thoughts streamed into her mind.
“You must do that which you feel is most important. Only you can decide. But you must weigh the choices in the balance. Every choice has its consequences.”
Angelia grasped the crystal and held it to her heart. It had been lying under the bed hidden by objects that had been hastily thrown about the room.
“I know what I must do, Ellinsha. I just don’t know how to do it. Please help me.”
“I will guide you, but you must return quickly. Even now the king is aware of your presence in the city.”
“How can he know?”
“The same way you knew he was coming. Remember he is also a descendant of Celedand. You are tied together by blood. His stone is the brother to yours. It is now a dark stone used for dark purposes, but it bends to his gift just as your stone bends to your gift.”
She was gone. Angelia put the chain around her neck and tucked the stone into the bodice of her shirt. She ran downstairs and out through the kitchen. When she reached the garden gate she looked back at the house. For so long it had been like a prison to her, but now she felt sad because she knew she would never see it again. With a silent goodbye she closed the gate behind her and disappeared into the shadows of the park trees.