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The Seeress and the Stone 41
Angelia was roughly shaken awake and then almost dragged to her feet. “Get up! The King wants to move on.”
Angelia wondered how long they would be traveling in the caves. She knew it had taken Jord and the others months to map out the rough layout and they had only gone a few miles in. There were so many alternate passageways and rooms that they could have easily gotten lost. But Jord’s efficiency clearly marked the main passage.
To the Meeting Place, she thought.
They walked for several hours before stopping to rest and each rest was short. Angelia considered how long they had been walking and her mind wandered to pass the time. She thought of her grandfather and Le’Mone and the cottage in the woods. She thought of Le’Mone’s garden and the beautiful flowers. She remembered how it had felt when French kissed her for the first time. She was dwelling on this thought when a hand grasped her arm. She turned in alarm and came face to face with Jarr’oshed.
His eyes gleamed. “I have enjoyed your thoughts little Witch,” he said, “until you spoiled them with that little boy. Why do you waste so much time on a memory when reality stands before you?” Jarr’oshed paced around Angelia like a taunting bully. “I could give you everything you want or desire.”
“You know nothing of what I want or who I am,” Angelia retorted, her eyes shimmering in a sea of green defiance.
Anger filled Jarr’oshed’s eyes, “That boy will never be what I can be. I can make you a queen! You would be the most powerful woman in the land! Your power would stretch across the desert and through these cursed mountains. All would bow to your whims from the lands north to the jungles of the sough!” His declaration echoed along the passageway.
Angelia stopped in her tracks. She had never desired to be a queen or rule a people. She had never wished for power and authority, only to be left alone with those she loved. The power she gained had not been sought nor even desired. How could he possibly think she wanted these things? Confusion crossed her face as she processed what he’d said. Suddenly in a quiet corner of her mind she heard Ellinsha’s voice. It was so soft that she almost did not hear it.
“Those who are evil will take the purest desires and twist them into their own designs. Do not let his words cause doubt in your mind. You know who you are and he will never understand that.”
Angelia looked up her eyes meeting the King’s and replied, “There is only one man who could make my dreams and desires come true.” She paused and then with determination finished, “You. Will. Never. Be. That. Man!” She emphasized every word. Silence filled the passage.
Jarr’oshed’s eyes filled with anger. He grabbed her arm roughly and forced his mouth onto hers then shoved her aside. “Then I will have you as my slave. Soon enough you will beg to be my queen.”
His declaration echoed against the cold, stone walls. He turned and stormed away fury marking each step. The guards followed silently, pushing Angelia after the King. Her thoughts twisted upon his words. Her declaration just destroyed the one advantage she had. Jarr’oshed would not seek her favor again. Still she knew she must continue on, regardless of what the consequences might be. She raised her chin with determination.
My faith in Ellinsha will never waver, she thought.
* * * *
French and Le’Mone tread quietly along the passage. They had been walking for about two days now and had encountered no alternate passages. French became more and more impatient with each passing hour.
Finally Le’Mone called out. “Stop, I must rest again.”
“All right,” he replied. “Do you need water?”
“No. I just need to sit for a few minutes.”
French helped her to the ground and then sat down next to her.
“How far do you think we have gone?” she asked.
“Two, maybe three days,” he answered absent-mindedly. “Maybe we should turn back?”
Le’Mone took his hand, “Be patient, dear. We will find what we are looking for. And we will get there when we need to.”
He looked at her pale face. “You look tired, Aunt Le’. We can rest for a while.”
“Thank you, French. I shall be well enough in a few moments.” She smiled lightly. “I am getting older and I am not as spry as I once used to be.”
French shook his head. “You can’t fool me, Aunt Le’. You could never be old. I have seen you walk distances three times as far without so much as a falter in your step.”
“Yes, my boy, but there I had my trees to sustain me.” She looked around the dim passageway. “Here it is only cold rock with a faint blue light. I need the sun, the trees, and the sky to survive. I feel like a withering plant in these dark caves.”
“I feel the same way. We rushed to reach these mountains and now my heart screams for the open sky,” French sighed.
Le’Mone lifted her hand to his face and replied, “You are just like your mother in so many ways. Then you grasp a bit of wood and I can see your father in those clear, blue eyes.” She smiled. A few moments later she took a deep breath and stood. “I am much better now. Let’s continue on.”
“Are you sure?” French replied.
“Yes, we have a journey to complete.” She took his hand and pulled him to his feet. “Come, my boy.”
“Aunt Le?” he asked. “Will you tell me about my parents? Tell me how they met?”
A smiled crossed Le’Mone’s face and she replied, “I would love to.” She paused, “Your father and I lived in an old cabin near the river. James worked in a woodshop at the edge of the city. He was just a few years older than me and he was apprenticed to the wood carver, but your father’s skill far surpassed the woodcarver’s. James was a humble man and would never admit to it, so he continued to work with the old carver.
“Ja’Nil and I were very good friends. She lived with her family in a small cottage a little ways into the forest. Ja’Nil and I attended school in the city and she would meet me at the wood shop every day…”
Angelia could sense a difference in the air around her as they walked in the semi-darkness. It seemed to dance around her like a playful breeze, yet there was no sign of movement. She took a deep breath and sighed. The guard walking next to her turned to her with questioning eyes.
Behind them Jarr’oshed spoke. “What is it?” he asked sternly.
“There is a change in the air,” Angelia replied calmly. Then, as if to accentuate her statement a sudden gust of wind rushed down the passage extinguishing the torches. Angelia felt the wind swirl around her again. It spoke to her heart and whispered strength and comfort. The guards cried out in surprise and the one nearest Angelia quickly seized her right arm.
“What sorcery is this?” Jarr’oshed muttered under his breath.
Angelia looked ahead in the darkness and as her eyes adjusted she saw the faint blue light from the passage ahead.
“Shhh,” she whispered. The cave grew silent. “Look.”
All around her she could see the blue glow strengthening. It was as if their torches had been suppressing the light and now that they were dark, the walls resumed their normal glow. Angelia felt relieved. She attempted to step forward, but the guard held her back. Jarr’oshed stepped to her left side, grasped her elbow and pushed her ahead.
“Lead the way slave,” he cried triumphantly. “Take me to Ellinsha.”
Angelia stepped toward the inviting blue glow. She felt a deep happiness begin to fill her body, despite her oppressive company. Suppressing the desire to break into a run, she continued walking. This was where she was supposed to be. What this place held, she did not know, but she knew she needed to be there.
The pale blue light grew stronger and stronger as they walked. A bend in the passage ahead dimmed the light, but when they rounded the corner Angelia gasped. They stood under an archway that led into a magnificent cavern. She stepped into the light of the room and began taking in the scene around her. The walls of the cavern rose twenty feet into the air and then curved even higher towards the center of the room. All along the walls were crystalline figures in the shape of torches. It was from these figures that the blue light emanated.
Around the room seven large balconies protruded into the cavern, their rounded bases curving gracefully upward from the smooth walls. As Angelia stepped into the cavern the solid stone floor erupted into a pattern- work of silver-blue lines. The lines spread out quickly from each foot making it appear as if she were glowing. Directly across from the opening was another arched opening.
She slowly turned around as she walked. The guards watched her with fear and wonder. She stopped in the center of the cavern and her eyes met with Jarr’oshed’s. Greed and desire filled his face as he watched her, but she wasn’t afraid of him. Finally he strode over to where she stood.
“Where is Ellinsha?” he demanded
She looked at his face and then her mind snapped back to the present. A wave of panic washed through her body. “I..I don’t know.”
His hand released her arm and a look of faint surprise glimmered on his face. She knew Ellinsha would not be here, but she had not thought what would happen when they arrived. In her heart she had been hoping someone would be there to rescue her.
She watched as the anger began building in Jarr’oshed’s eyes and she backed away from the burning fury. All of the peace and strength she had felt earlier were now gone, replaced by fear that quickly turned into terror. The room around her darkened slightly as the King advanced toward her. She felt the smooth rock of the wall behind her. She was trapped.
“Witch!” Jarr’oshed cried. “How dare you lie to me! You will pay for this treachery, with your life,” he shouted. He drew his sword.
Angelia flattened her back against the wall and tears streamed down her cheeks. She did not know what to do. Jarr’oshed raised his sword to strike her when suddenly a loud crack echoed throughout the cavern. It was like lightening striking the walls. The room shuddered as the sounded echoed deafeningly around them. Jarr’oshed lowered his sword and Angelia clapped her hands to her ears.
He whipped around to where his soldiers stood. Angelia could see their confused expressions as the King shouted, “Search the passages, now!” His words joined the loud echoes and the soldiers quickly disappeared into the two entrances to the cavern.
Jarr’oshed turned back to Angelia. She had slid against the wall towards the opposite passage, but froze when he turned back to her. “Where is Ellinsha!” he demanded again. “Tell me or I will force it out of you.” He took another step towards her.
Angelia did not know what to do. She had no way of protecting herself. Her mind seized upon Ellinsha and in fear she cried out loud, “Ellinsha, help me!”
Suddenly the earth began to shake and groan. The walls seemed to stretch as the cavern shook and then just as quickly the shaking stopped.
Angelia starred into Jarr’oshed’s face. Now the fear glimmered in his eyes. Then a slight movement caught her eye. She focused her eyes upon the largest balcony and gasped in disbelief.