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The Seeress and the Stone 35
“How does this look French?” Rory asked holding up the makeshift sling for the boat.
French examined the sling. The branches were expertly woven together.
“Very good. I couldn’t have done it better.”
A shout from the top of the cliff commanded his attention. Jexson and Geran were waving down to them. They looked hot and tired.
Rory waved back and then wrapped the sling around his body. He climbed up the rocks to where the end of the rope dangled and Jexson and Geran helped pull him up the cliff.
French watched as they fastened the sling around the boat and began the strenuous process of lowering it down the cliff. He guided the process from below the best he could, but they still ended up sliding the craft down the last fifteen feet of the slope. Jexson and the others quickly climbed down to finish the job. The three young men hoisted the boat onto their shoulders and carried it to the tree. French examined the craft while the others rested.
“How bad is it?” Jexson asked.
“Minor damage. It’ll patch easily. You did good.
“This will definitely speed up exploration,” Jexson said with a smile.
French offered some water and they all drank. “We will camp here tonight,” French said.
“Geran, I would like you to climb back up tomorrow and wait for Celendar at the lake. Let them know what has happened so far,” Jexson instructed. “We’ve been here for two days, so they should only be a few days out.”
“Try not to worry my aunt,” French added with a sigh.
“Rory and I can carry the boat back to the river tomorrow. It will probably take us the whole day,” Jexson stated.
“Once we reach the river let’s map our progress then continue on,” French said.
“Are you sure you’re feeling up to it?” Jexson asked.
“I won’t be doing much for a while,” French replied, with a grin.
“You get to cook,” Jexson said slyly.
“All right, but I still think I’m getting the better end of the deal.”
Everyone laughed. After a brief rest Jexson and Rory started setting up camp while Geran built a fire. After dinner they all fell asleep quickly. In the morning Geran climbed back up to the top of the cliff. He untied the rope and tossed two of the coils down to French.
The three young men loaded the supplies into the boat and they set out for the river. Jexson and Rory carried the boat while French scouted out the easiest route. They had to stop and rest several times during the day, but the terrain smoothed out as they approached the river. Just before sunset, French scouted ahead to the river to set up camp. By the time Jexson and Rory arrived with the boat, the stars had begun to appear in the darkening sky.
French had a crackling fire and dinner ready. Jexson and Rory lay exhausted on their blankets.
“When your arm heals, you get to row for an entire day,” Rory said, with a moan as he massaged his tired muscles.
“Deal,” French replied.
They ate quickly and then went to sleep.
“How much further till we reach the bay?” French asked Jexson.
“I’m not sure. I think the river moves a bit slower down here, so maybe five more days.”
“What do we do when we reach the bay?” Rory asked with a yawn.
“We wait,” Jexson said firmly.
French looked over at his friend. Jexson stared up at the stars not looking at French. They were all tired and he didn’t want to start an argument, but there was no way he was going to sit and wait for Celendar to reach the bay.
Scotch watched and waited each day hoping, with growing impatience, for some sign of Angelia. During the past week he had scouted out the city and the mountain trails. Geoff kept busy figuring out how to ambush the guards if they brought Angelia up into the caves. Scotch had doubts about the idea and doubts that the King would even bring Angelia into the mountains. He asked Geoff for permission to scout the city at night and Geoff gave it, though unwillingly.
He followed the same path that Angelia had taken when she had returned to the city. He memorized short cuts all around the city and each time he went he learned more about the soldiers and the prisoners. As far as he could tell, only about five or six hundred people remained in the city. Most of the city folk had either fled the city or been killed during the attack. The city that had been home to thousands of people had never before looked or felt so desolate and quiet.
There were not as many soldiers as he was first led to believe. It was a detachment of about two hundred trained warriors. No one walked the streets during the day unless escorted by the soldiers. Three patrols scouted after dark, searching and looting the houses of the city. Scotch learned and memorized their patterns.
In the middle of the week he discovered a possible way to contact Angelia. By chance he found himself trapped in the woods near city hall at daybreak. He hid in the trees and watched, not daring to move lest he be seen. Not too long after the first light of dawn, a young woman came out of the hall to tend a nearby garden. A small tool shed sat just inside the garden fence and the girl entered the shed to retrieve her gardening tools. After an hour she replaced the tools, gathered some vegetables and returned to the hall. Each day a soldier accompanied the girl to the garden, found a nearby tree and appeared to fall asleep. To Scotch’s dismay the slightest sound brought him instantly to his feet, sword in hand. The girl remained calm and continued with her work, never flustered by any sound or action the soldier made.
Scotch watched this same scene play out each day for three days. When he was certain of the schedule he set his plan into action. Geoff agreed to let him try and contact Angelia and at the end of the week he snuck into the city just after dark and made his way to his own home.
Moonlight filtered in through the large windows. Scotch moved silently through the ransacked rooms to the library. On a scrap of paper, he hastily scribbled a message for Angelia. Whether or not she actually got the message and could answer he wasn’t certain, but he knew he had to try. He tucked the message into his pocket grabbed what food he could from the cupboard and left.
He moved from shadow to shadow making his way to the center of the city. The sky to the east began to show signs of grey when he approached the garden. Scotch watched for a few minutes and then slipped into the garden shed and waited. He monitored the door through a crack in the wall of the shed.
He wasn’t disappointed. The soldier opened the door and followed her toward the gardens on the east side of the hall near the river. When she reached the gardens he held the gate for her and she made her way to the shed. Scotch stood back against the wall so he wouldn’t be seen.
The girl opened the shed door and stepped inside. She reached toward the spade on the wall and saw Scotch standing in the corner.
“Oh!” she cried with a quiet gasp.
“Shh, they must not know I am here,” he admonished softly.
She examined him for a moment before nodding her head in agreement.
“What is it?” the soldier asked, coming up toward the shed.
The girl backed to the door, her hands shaking.
“I saw a mouse and it startled me. I’m sorry,” she said quickly.
“Do you want me to kill it?” he asked.
“No,” she answered quickly, “It ran out the back of the shed.”
“All right. You can get your tools.” He returned to his tree and sat down.
The girl came back into the shed and began rummaging for her tools.
“I do not have much time,” she whispered. “Who are you?” She looked frightened and yet calm.
“My name is Scotch. I am friend of Angelia Galashad. I need your help. I have a message for her.”
“The prisoner in the tower?”
“They say she is a Seeress. At least that is what Jarr’oshed calls her.”
“The King.” She picked up a spade and a jar of seeds.
“Would you be able to give Angelia a message?”
She looked carefully at him and he knew his fate lay in her decision. She bit her lower lip as she retrieved a weeding tool.
“Please. You are the only one who can help me.” He looked into her deep brown eyes, silently begging her to agree.
Finally she nodded. “I will help you. What do you want me to do?”
“I need this message put into Angelia’s hands,” Scotch replied.
“She is guarded very carefully,” the girl countered.
“Do the best you can—” Scotch began.
From outside the soldier called, “What are you doing in there?”
“I must go,” she whispered as she took the message and stuffed it in her pocket. She looked at him once more with a hopeful expression. “My name is Larea,” she said and then hurried out the door and replied to the soldier, “I was looking for some seeds.” She held up her jar.
Scotch watched the soldier while Larea worked. Today he did not close his eyes but watched her every move. When she finished planting the seeds she picked some herbs and spices for the cook. Then she went back into the shed to put away her tools.
“If Angelia is able to give you a message just leave it in here the next time you come to work in the garden,” Scotch whispered.
Larea nodded her head and turned to leave.
Suddenly she whipped around her eyes full of pleading, “Take me with you.”
Scotch started to answer when the guard called her. She hastily closed the door and walked to the fence. Scotch watched the soldier open the gate and follow her all the way to the outer kitchen door. He slipped out of the shed and into the bushes at the edge of the garden.
He lay still not daring to move until the soldier left for his other duties. The soldier stopped Larea before she went into the hall.
“I will search the shed for the mouse so it does not frighten you again,” he said kindly.
Scotch held his breath as the soldier made his way to the shed. He went inside and Scotch could hear him moving the tools around. A few minutes later he returned to where Larea stood waiting.
Scotch got up quickly and ran to a nearby clump of trees and brush. He collapsed to the ground breathless. If he had waited in the shed he would have been caught. He pulled the branches of the bushes down around him and pulled his cap over his hair. He would have to wait in that spot until dark.
Angelia sat in the overstuffed chair staring listlessly at the fire in the fireplace. She didn’t even jump when someone knocked on her door.
“Come in,” she called half-heartedly.
The door opened. It was one of the kitchen girls that she recognized. Her name was Larea. She entered the room with a tray of food.
“I have your breakfast, Lady,” she said as she set the tray on a small table.
“Thank you,” Angelia replied.
“Lady,” Larea whispered. “I was asked to give this to you, it’s from Scotch.” She held out a piece of paper.
“Scotch?” Angelia sat up surprised.
Angelia looked at the girl suspiciously. She had hoped someone would try to rescue her, but as each day passed by her hopes had dwindled until she finally realized that it would be impossible for anyone to break into the hall and rescue her. Now she had a message from Scotch. It was too good to be true. She took the paper and the girl turned to leave.
“What did he look like?” Angelia asked watching the girl carefully.
“He was about my height with freckles and the reddest hair I have ever seen,” Larea replied with a tiny smile.
Angelia sighed. That was definitely Scotch. She quickly unfolded the paper and read.
Waiting near the caves.
Send word of departure, if possible.
It had been just over a week since her interview with Jarr’oshed. She shuddered at the thought of that conversation. Any day now she knew Jarr’oshed would demand to be taken to Ellinsha. She had stalled as long as she could and now she had an opportunity to escape.
She quickly scribbled her plans to go up to the caves in the next day or so and handed the note back to Larea.
“Can you give this to him today?” she asked hopefully.
“I won’t be in the garden until tomorrow morning, Lady,” Larea replied. “I don’t think I could get down there without drawing suspicion. I’m sorry.”
“No, it’s all right. Just take it down tomorrow morning,” Angelia instructed. There wouldn’t be much time for him to prepare for her departure. She had to trust that they would be ready.
“What is going to happen to us, Lady?” Larea asked suddenly.
Angelia looked up into the girl’s eyes. “I don’t know, Larea. I think if I give the King what he wants he might let everyone go.”
Larea shook her head vehemently. “No, Lady, he won’t. Don’t do it,” she pleaded fiercely.
“I might not have a choice,” Angelia replied thoughtfully.
Larea nodded and left with Angelia’s message tucked in her pocket. Angelia took a bite of her toast. Her breakfast was tasteless this morning. When she finished eating she dressed and then opened the door. The guards escorted her to the small storage room where they were preparing supplies for their journey into the mountains.
She insisted on reviewing the supplies each morning to make sure there would be enough for their journey. The room was stuffy and uncomfortable, but Angelia endured it stoically just to be away from Jarr’oshed and her prison rooms. She sat on a sack of corn meal and reached her hand into her pocket.
As her fingers brushed against the cold, smooth surface of her crystal, her mind was instantly swept into a vision. Darkness surrounded her except for a soft blue glow ahead. She knew where she was.
This time her vision allowed her to enter the cavern. She walked steadily into the center of the gigantic cavern. Before her she saw the faces of her friends and her Grandfather. They all looked at her with fear. She did not understand and then she realized someone stood behind her.
As she started to turn around the earth began to shake. She fell to her hands and knees and a hand reached out for her. She looked up and saw French and then everything turned black as she rolled to the floor of the storage room unconscious.
Jarr’oshed opened his eyes and looked around the room. In his mind he had seen Angelia’s vision. He saw the cavern and the faces of his enemies. But most important he saw the face of the man he must destroy, the man who could take the Seeress away from him. He jumped to his feet, hatred burning in his eyes.
“Guards!” he shouted.
Two men rushed into the room.
“Tell the Seeress that we leave in the morning. She has stalled long enough,” he ordered.