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The Seeress and the Stone 36
Part Three: The Valley
Angelia opened her eyes and the room slowly came into focus. She lay on her bed in the tower room. She could hear the wind blowing through the trees and the tap tap of rain on the window. As she sat up images from her vision flashed through her mind.
What was that place? she thought to herself. It was not Ellinsha’s cave. She looked around the dark room wondering how long she had been unconscious. She pushed the blankets aside and got out of bed. The cold floor sent a shiver down her spine. She found the dress she had been wearing earlier and rummaged through the pockets until her fingers clasped the smooth shape of the crystal. She focused her mind on the crystal.
“Ellinsha? Are you there?”
“I am always here child. What do you need?” The crystal glowed warmly.
“My dream. I saw my Grandfather and French? Where was that?”
“When the time comes I will take you there.” Angelia’s mind relaxed. She looked through her window at the mountains swathed in fog and rain. The day was coming quickly and it was tome to go to the place she saw in her dream.
Calle` Thalelle. The ancient words popped into her mind.
“The Meeting Place,” she said aloud then stopped in her tracks. She gripped the crystal tighter.
“How did I know what that place was called?” she asked.
“Because it is a part of who you are. You have always known about the Meeting Place in your mind. You used to dream about it when you were a child.”
“What is this language and how do I understand it?”
“It is the ancient language, used only by those who can commune with the earth and the trees and rocks. The language comes naturally to those who can ‘see’. It was dormant in your mind until the birth of your gift.”
Angelia pondered what she had just learned until a knock at the door pulled her from her thoughts. She hastily pulled on her dressing gown.
“Yes?” she called.
A maid opened the door and bowed. “His majesty wishes to speak with you.”
Jarr’oshed strode into the room and the maid hastily moved out of his way. His face filled with silent contempt and burning anger.
“I see that you are awake. Good. The supplies are packed and we leave within the hour whether you are ready or not.”
He turned and left the room before she could reply. The maid closed the door quickly and Angelia exhaled explosively. She changed into the simple skirt and tunic laid out for her and tied her hair back. It would be a cold, wet ride into the mountains, but she finally felt ready. She put her crystal around her neck and tucked it into her shirt. With one last look out the window she marched to her bedroom door and opened it.
“Take me to the king. I’m ready,” she declared.
French laughed as Jexson splashed him with his oar. The breeze and an occasional splash from an oar kept them cool during the warm day. They had been on the river for almost a week. The lower part of the valley was lush and green with wide meadows and giant trees. The scenery invigorated them, but their journey had been uneventful. The river wound along the floor of the valley, first flowing south, then curving and flowing north, and then turning south again. Now their course lay to the east. In the distance the three young men could see the snow-capped peaks of the mountains. Every time French caught a glimpse of those mountains he longed to explore them. Another splash brought his thoughts back to the river.
“The river has gotten wider in the last few hours. We may want to steer to the south bank,” Jexson said.
“Aye. Let’s stop for lunch,” Rory piped in.
“I can see a clearing up ahead,” French replied, “We can stop there and rest.”
The three travelers paddled harder. On both shores the trees thinned out into a rolling meadow with tall grass waving in the breeze. Before them the mouth of the river widened into a delta flowing right into the sparkling bay. The current slowed as the river fed into the bay. They steered the boat to the south shore and beached it in the soft, white sand. The air was cool and salty. French dipped his hand in the water and brought it to his lips.
“Salt!” he exclaimed, spitting the water out. “It’s sea water.”
Jexson walked down the sandy banks of the river until he reached the water. Small waves rolled quietly onto the shore.
“Look. You can see the cliffs on the other side. It must be miles out.”
“How can the water be salty if it is enclosed by the cliffs?” Rory asked.
“There must be an inlet or opening somewhere in the rock that allows the water in,” Jexson answered. “The water rises with the tide. You can see the level it reaches at high tide.”
While Jexson explained the tides and possibilities to Rory, French made his way back up the riverbank. The bay was interesting, but he was drawn to the mountains more than anything else. He knew exploration could take months. He felt or rather hoped there would be an entrance to the caves in those mountains. Logic interrupted his thoughts telling him it just wasn’t plausible. But he knew his Aunt had felt it too and French trusted her opinion more than anyone else.
Jexson and Rory called to French and he turned back. “After lunch let’s row back up to the tree line and camp there.”
They nodded their heads in agreement. Jexson dragged the boat far up onto the beach and Rory pulled out their meager supplies.
“Maybe we can catch some fish later today,” he said eyeing the hard bread.
French broke the bread into three pieces while Rory started a small fire.
“Don’t tell me you’re tired of bread and small game?” French asked cheerfully.
Rory laughed. “Just as tired as you. I’m glad we are going to rest and wait for Celendar.
French ducked his head, not willing to answer.
Jexson joined them. “It is much warmer down here. This is a good place to stop.”
“Tomorrow I want to head into the mountains,” French said quietly. “It will probably take us a few days to reach the foothills.”
“I knew that was what you were thinking,” Jexson mumbled shaking his head. “I think we should wait.”
Rory looked to the mountains and then up the river. “How far back do you suppose the main group is?”
“I don’t know, Rory. They may have stopped at the waterfall.” Jexson patted Rory’s shoulder.
“Celendar will keep going. My Aunt too,” French said, motioning toward the mountains. “They feel the same way about those mountains as I do.”
The beautiful lowlands with their grassy hills, did not speak rest to his mind. To the east the hills deepened into sand dunes and then eventually melted into the bay. Towards the west and south tall, majestic trees lined the view. French could sense the spirit in the trees. They beckoned to him, inviting him to come within their shade and talk.
Beyond the trees were the mountains; sharp, snow-capped peaks lining the southern sky. One mountain in particular caught French’s attention. It seemed to stand apart from the other peaks, surrounded by the trees. Though not the tallest its sides rose up sharply from the trees and it stood alone, like a watch tower. He made his way back to the boat.
After lunch the boys pushed the boat into the shallow water and began rowing up stream. The current was not strong in the mouth of the river, but the further up they rowed the stronger it became. By the time they had reached the tree line Jexson and Rory were tired from rowing. They found a small cove where the water swirled passively in circles and beached the boat. Part way into the trees they found a clearing and set up camp for the night.
“It shouldn’t take more than four days to reach the Watchtower,” French said as they unrolled their blankets.
“The Watchtower?” Rory asked confused.
“You mean that lone mountain just south of here, don’t you,” Jexson interjected.
“Yes.” French smiled. “I suppose I named it in my head.”
“Well the name fits. That is exactly what I thought when I saw it,” Jexson replied.
“I think we should head straight for that mountain and then we can plan our course from there. I just have a feeling that we will be led to our path once we reach that mountain,” French spoke with passion.
Jexson shook his head, his eyes wary. “French we’re exhausted. Your arm is nowhere near healed. I think we should wait for Celendar? I want to explore those mountains just as much as you do, but I think we should wait.”
“I am tired of waiting!” French cried angrily. “We are so close. I can feel it! I am not waiting any longer.” He turned and walked out into the darkness.
He stalked to a large tree and put his palm against the bark. The connection he had with the trees usually calmed him, but this time it didn’t help. Jexson came up behind him. He stared up at the lone mountain for a few minutes.
“I know how you feel, French,” he began.
“No, I don’t think you do,” French retorted.
“Yes, I do. I have a father and a brother that I care about very much. For all I know they could be trapped in those mountains or even dead. The only way I will know is if we find an entrance to the caves, an entrance that may not even exist,” Jexson snapped.
French looked at his friend in surprise.
“We’ve all thought it French. The shape and length of this valley, the location of the caves. It all makes sense that there is another entrance from this side. I wouldn’t be surprised if Celendar and Le’Mone knew it too.”
“I didn’t think anyone would believe me if I mentioned it,” French replied quietly.
“We’ve all known it, French. Those mountains are the northern most peaks of the Heighe Mountains. They have to be.”
“Then why are you fighting me on this. We have a chance to find the path and help our friends,” French retorted.
“It could take months to find a path that would lead to where they are, if there even is such a path. By then they would surely be dead.”
“All the more reason to start searching now,” French replied vehemently.
“All we know is that we feel good about those mountains, French. We are basing our actions on feelings and nothing else.”
“You trusted Celendar and his feelings, why not me?” French threw back. “You don’t know what it is like, Jexson, knowing the ones you love are in danger. Knowing you could help them if you just went far enough.” His voice broke. “You didn’t see the look on Celendar’s face when he cried for Angelia. She’s in danger and I have to help her. You can’t possibly understand that.”
“I do know and I do trust you. I’m here, away from my wife, hoping and praying that by some miracle I will find my father and brother. Yes, French, I know exactly how you feel.” Jexson’s words cut through the air like a knife leaving a thick bleeding silence.
French watched his friend for a few moments emotion boiling in his eyes. An angry retort came to his lips, but slowly he realized that Jexson was right. He swallowed hard.
Jexson placed his hand on French’s shoulder. “I know you want to explore those mountains, so do I. But we need Celendar’s help. They have more manpower and resources. Besides, they may not be that far behind us.”
“I want to at least search the foothills,” French pleaded. “You and I could continue to the Watchtower and Rory could stay here and wait for Celendar. I just don’t want to wait and do nothing. I will go crazy.”
“You need rest. Your arm has only just started to heal. If you start traipsing around the hills you could fall and hurt it worse.”
“My arm will be fine. I heal quickly,” French grumbled.
“Let’s talk with Rory and we will decide in the morning.”
“Jexson, I’m not waiting. I have to get to those mountains. There is an entrance to the caves up there. I know it.”
“How do you know? And what good will it do to run around those hills searching madly until you can’t search anymore? How can you help anyone with a broken arm and exhausted body? Think about it French. Celendar’s gift will help us.”
“I know I’m right.”
Jexson sighed. “I can’t stop you, but you need to rest for at least one day. If you will wait one day I will go with you.”
French nodded in triumph. “One day, then we search.”