The Seeress and the Stone 34
A cool breeze drifted over the rescue party as they waited in the trees for darkness to fall. The warmth of the sunshine had melted all the snow, but the clear skies left the evening chilly. Scotch shivered as he leaned against a tall oak. He looked up at the twilight sky and sighed in frustration. Soldiers now patrolled the gates and surrounding area every half hour. Not enough time to get into the city hidden and unseen. He would have to wait until dark.
He looked up when Geoff returned.
“Are we going into the city?” Scotch asked anxiously.
“The patrol just passed.” Geoff’s brow creased. “I don’t know if it will do us any good to go into the city.”
“What?” Scotch exclaimed. “What do you mean? Angelia is in there.”
“I know, Scotch, but we have no chance against those soldiers. We would be killed without so much as a fight.”
“So we just sit here and wait?” He was becoming impatient.
Geoff thought for a moment. “Angelia said the King wanted her. She said it was because she knew how to find Ellinsha.”
“And she thinks Ellinsha is in those caves,” Scotch added. “But our people are in those caves. We cannot risk them being caught. The King would slaughter them.”
“They should be far enough in that they won’t be found.”
“We’ll never find them either,” Scotch mumbled under his breath.
Geoff looked up. “We will if we have Angelia with us, but even if we didn’t we can still find our way through the caves.”
“I had Jord make a copy of the map for us. We know the passages all through here,” he said pointing to the map. “If we watch for Angelia and the King and wait in the passages of the caves, we can ambush them and take Angelia. I don’t think he will take a whole patrol into those caves and we would have the element of surprise.”
Scotch looked at the map then back at the mountain and then down at the city and shook his head doubtfully.
“But what if they never come to the caves? What if he forces everything out of Angelia and leaves her in the city?” he queried.
“I don’t know Scotch. We will have to plan that when we come to it. But I think they will have to bring her and I am certain she will bring him herself. For now let’s prepare a plan under that assumption.”
Scotch looked around at the group and they nodded their heads in agreement.
He sighed. “All right. What do you want to do?”
Geoff looked at the map. “Scotch, how well do you know the caves?”
“Fairly well. I spent quite a bit of time up here with Jord.
“Where are the best places to hide in the caves?”
“Probably in these side passages. They are long enough to discourage any thorough searches and there are a few crevices to hide in.”
Scotch looked at the map. Even with the element of surprise they would be hard pressed to beat any of the King’s armored soldiers in a fight.
* * * *
Jord made his way to the very front of the refugees. Christiana followed closely behind him. Several people held torches as they walked. The caves were cool and dry, but dark and oppressive. No one spoke and the quiet thundered in their ears.
He reached the leaders. “Choran, why have we stopped?” he asked.
“I couldn’t see any other markers,” a large man at the front replied.
Jord examined the wall. “I think it is up a bit more.”
“Jord, maybe we should stop,” Christiana suggested.
“We can stop at the next marker,” Jord replied firmly. He stared at the dark passageway ahead. “I want to take a smaller group ahead when we next stop to rest. We can mark the path for the rest and hopefully you’ll be able to move more quickly.”
The other leaders nodded in agreement.
“I’ll take a party of five ahead with me. For now let’s keep going until we reach the next marker, then we can stop and rest.”
“All right, Jord,” Choran replied.
Jord turned to walk back to his group. Christiana tugged on his sleeve.
“Jord I want to come with you,” she said quietly.
“We will be moving very fast, Madam Galashad.”
“I know, but...I just…Jord, I’m going crazy back here. I will keep up, I promise.”
Jord thought for a moment. “I guess it will be all right.”
Christiana could see the doubt in his eyes. She embraced him lightly.
“Thank you, Jord. I won’t slow you down.”
She could see him blush in the dim torchlight. She laughed and they continued back down the passage to the last group.
“Jord?” a voice called softly from the darkness.
Jord and Christiana stopped. Sparrow approached them timidly.
“Why did we stop?” she asked.
“They couldn’t find the marker. It is just a little bit further and then we will rest for a while. I’m going to take a group ahead to mark the path clearly.”
“How far in did you get?” Christiana asked.
“Quite a ways. I think we will reach the last marker in a few hours.”
“How long have we been traveling?” Sparrow asked.
“About four days, I think. I’m not sure. The company is moving slower than I anticipated.”
“People are afraid. The darkness draws on their fears and makes them worse,” Christiana replied.
“It makes me sick to think about how much mountain is above us,” Sparrow said with a shudder.
“Well hopefully we won’t be here much longer,” Jord said comfortingly. “I’m going to take a small group ahead to search out the main route so it is easier for the rest of you.”
“I hope you’re right, Jord,” Christiana said with a sigh.
“How much longer?” Sparrow asked.
“I wish I knew, Sparrow. We weren’t able to explore all of the passageways.”
“How do you know we are on the main path?” she asked nervously. “We could be wandering into some dead end.” She shuddered again.
“We have explored all of these passages so far. This one is the main thoroughfare through the mountains.” He patted Sparrow’s arm. “We’ll be fine, Sparrow, I promise.”
“Can I go with your advanced group?” she asked suddenly.
“I don’t know…,” he replied uncertainly.
“Please, Jord. I want to be with my friends again. It will help me not think about other things.” Sparrow glanced up at the rock ceiling.
Jord sighed. “We’ll see. We have a few hours before we reach the last marker. If you are feeling up to going on then I guess you can come with us.”
“I’ll be ready,” Sparrow said determinedly.
“We both will,” Christiana said firmly. “We won’t let you down, Jord.”
He sighed. “All right.” He turned to walk away, but stopped. “Angelia will be all right. My father will make sure of that,” he added confidently.
Christiana sighed and turned to the small group of women that had gathered near. She took a whimpering infant from one of the exhausted mothers and started rocking it gently.
“We’re going to keep moving for a while, ladies,” she said to the small group.
A few of the women groaned and one started to cry.
“I’m so tired, Christiana. I can’t go on,” one young girl cried.
“I know, but we have to. A few more hours and then you can rest for a while. I’m going to go on with Jord and a few others. We want to see how much further we have to go,” Christiana said cheerfully.
“How much longer will it be?” another girl asked anxiously. “I feel like we’ll never see the sun again.”
“Now that’s ridiculous. It’s probably not much further, dear.” Christiana replied with confidence she didn’t really feel. She rocked the baby until it fell asleep and then returned it to the mother. The call to move on echoed through the passage. Everyone got to their feet amidst grumbles and sighs.
“Thank you, Christiana,” Jord said softly behind her.
Christiana looked around in surprise. She looked at his young face. She hadn’t noticed him nearby.
“For helping and being strong. I really needed you,” he answered.
She smiled and patted his arm. “I am not always strong, Jord. I am not like Angelia.” She smiled sadly.
“Yes you are,” he said, “well actually, she is like you. She has your determination.”
Christiana smiled again. “Thank you.” His words meant more to her than anything else.
He nodded and left to speak with the other group leaders. Christiana watched him leave. She felt tired just thinking about continuing on when everyone else rested, but she was determined to get through the caves as quickly as she could.
“Do you think Angelia is all right?” Sparrow asked behind her.
“I don’t know, Sparrow. I want to say yes, but if she was why haven’t they caught up to us. If she got her crystal then they could have easily made it through the caves.”
Sparrow came up to her and took her hand. “Do you think she was caught?” Her voice was filled with worry.
Christiana put her arm around the small girl. “I’m trying not to think about it. If we can just make it through the caves then I can go back and find out.”
“You are strong. Angelia is like you,” Sparrow said in awe.
“No, Angelia is much better than me. She may be stubborn like me, but she has her Grandmother’s heart. That makes all the difference.” Christiana looked back. “For good or bad.”