The Seeress and the Stone 3
Panic swept through her body as the cold water closed over her head. She didn’t understand what was happening. She gasped inhaling water. She started coughing and inhaled more water. Her lungs strained for air.
She flailed under the surface trying to find her footing. She couldn’t tell which way was up because the water was cloudy from her backward movement. Something long and stringy entwined around her arm as she searched for solid footing. She pulled back in fear and sank further.
She felt weak as her body labored for air. She knew she couldn’t fight much longer. Her lungs were about to burst. With one final cry the air left her lungs and the cold water filled in. Angelia reached out her hand as darkness washed over her.
She felt a tug on her arm as she drifted deeper into darkness. It was peaceful in the dark. She floated weightlessly enjoying the sensation. Ahead she could see something glowing, but then it disappeared. She felt another tug on her arm, harder this time, then pressure on her body. It was uncomfortable and she wanted it to go away.
“Angelia don’t you dare die!” French shouted.
He never shouted at her. The peaceful feeling left and chills ran down her body. Something pounded against her back and the pressure returned. She tried to open her eyes, but they seemed glued shut.
“She’s not breathing, Celendar,” French cried.
“Come on, Angel. Open your eyes,” her grandfather demanded. “I can’t lose you too. Try it again, French.”
The pounding began again.
Angelia opened her mouth to tell them to stop the pounding, but water came gushing out. She gasped and started coughing. More water came out and she remembered why. Her eyes flew open and she looked at the faces around her. Someone gasped.
“Soldiers,” Angelia croaked. She coughed and more water came out.
“How much water did she inhale?” Jord mumbled, somewhere in the background.
Angelia struggled to sit up. “Where are the soldiers?” she asked hoarsely.
“There aren’t any soldiers, Angelia,” her grandfather said, as he put a gentle hand on her shoulder.
“But I saw them,” Angelia replied shivering.
“Angelia, we aren’t in the city. We’re at the lake, for the Awakening Ceremony. Don’t you remember?” French’s voice was filled with concern.
“I don’t think the ceremony is necessary now,” Le’Mone said dryly.
Angelia sat up and looked around. They were on the shore of the lake surrounded by a circle of concerned faces. There were no soldiers.
“But I saw them.” She looked around half expecting the enemies to appear. She turned to her Grandfather. “I don’t understand.”
“I know, Angel. I will explain it,” he replied gently.
Shivers went down her back and the hairs on her arms prickled. Her teeth started chattering.
“Oh for heaven’s sake, get her in some dry clothes first. She’s going into shock,” Le’Mone ordered in an exasperated tone. “French, bring her to my tent.”
“Yes, Aunt Le’.”
“Sparrow, go and get some dry clothes. Celendar, you need to explain why we aren’t having the ceremony. You are planning on foregoing the formalities, aren’t you?”
Angelia looked at her grandfather. He nodded with a disgruntled sigh.
“I suppose there is no longer a need, but—” He looked at her and shook his head.
Angelia saw pain in his eyes and she wondered what she had done to cause it. Another series of chills shook her body.
“Well I guess you will do what you think is best,” Le’Mone replied testily.
Angelia tried to get up, but she felt so weak. French reached down and scooped her into his arms. He held her dripping body tightly. She leaned her head against his chest and realized he was wet too.
“W…what happened after I…I fell in?” she asked.
“You started shouting. Most everyone heard you scream, but we thought you were just having fun. Then Sparrow and Kya yelled for help. You went under and didn’t come back up. They couldn’t see you because of the silt that had been stirred up.”
“I couldn’t f..f..find the g..g..ground.”
“The shore goes out evenly for about twenty feet and then drops. You must have gone off the edge. I went down and pulled you up. You weren’t breathing, so Celendar told me to pound on your back to force the water out.”
“I w..wondered what that w..was.”
“I thought we had lost you,” he murmured holding her a little bit tighter.
Angelia didn’t reply. Instead she reveled for just a few moments in his firm embrace. Every hug or squeeze he had given her for the last two years had been precious to her. Now he carried her in his arms, holding her against his chest. When they reached Le’Mone’s tent, he set her down on her feet. She wavered a bit and he put his arm around her waist. Sparrow came with Angelia’s dry clothes followed by Le’Mone holding a hot cup of tea. French squeezed her hand and left so she could get out of the wet clothes.
Sparrow and Le’Mone helped her change and then Le’Mone placed a blanket around her shoulders. She was still shaking.
“Drink the tea, honey, it will help,” Le’Mone instructed.
Angelia took a drink and let the hot liquid burn down her throat. It felt good and warmed her quickly. The shaking didn’t stop until she had finished the entire cup.
“Thanks Aunt Le’,” Angelia said. She often used the familiar address for Le’Mone, even though they weren’t related.
Le’Mone took her hand. “Let’s go back out in the sun and see if we can get your hair dry.”
Angelia felt exhausted and wanted to lie down instead. That wouldn’t be a wise move though, so she nodded meekly and followed Le’Mone out of the tent. Her chest and lungs ached from the cold water and lack of air. She looked around the camp hoping to avoid the attention she was certain would come. A small group of people were gathered around her grandfather. They all looked at her when she emerged from the tent and she felt the heat rising in her cheeks.
Her friends were at her side as soon as they saw her.
“Angel are you all right?” Sparrow asked.
“I’m fine, just a little shaken.”
“What happened?” “What did you see?” Jord and Kya asked together. They were twins and often spoke together, though not always saying the same thing.
“Well…I…” Angelia stammered.
“Take it easy guys,” French interrupted. “Let’s wait for a bit, then she only has to tell it once.” He put his arm around her, like an older brother protecting a sister, and led her towards a sunny spot on the shore.
She threw him a grateful glance, though she wished his casual stance was more than just a protective gesture.
“Aunt Le’ are they going to cancel the ceremony?” Sparrow asked.
“I don’t think there is really any need now,” Le’Mone replied.
“Why would we cancel the Awakening Ceremony? I’m all right,” Angelia said in confusion.
“Well, it’s not about whether you’re all right or not.” Le’Mone began.
“What then? We’ve heard about the Ceremony all our lives, but no one has ever explained it. What is the purpose of coming all the way up here if we are just going to skip it now?” Angelia asked.
Everyone looked to Le’Mone.
“Le’Mone I think we should go through the process,” Celendar said joining the small group. “She needs to understand. They all do.”
“But Celendar, it is so long,” Le’Mone replied with a pout.
“We don’t have to do the whole thing, just the relevant parts.” He placed his hands on Angelia’s shoulders. “I’m glad you are all right, Angel.”
“Thank you, grandfather.”
“Now, let’s have some lunch and then we can walk around the lake.”
Everyone agreed, making their way to where the food had been laid out. Angelia grabbed her lunch and headed for a large rock that jutted out into the lake. The rock was warm and the setting calmed her. She settled onto the rock and turned to let the sun warm her skin. After a few minutes she took a bite of the sandwich and sipped the nasty concoction Le’Mone had given her to guard against illness. Her friends joined her quietly, and thankfully no one seemed inclined to talk.
It took a few minutes before Angelia realized her headache had disappeared, and the overwhelming sense of foreboding was gone. She took a deep breath of relief making her chest hurt. Her mind was spinning with questions. She stared at the lake thinking about what had just happened and again felt a desire to touch the water. She warily reached out her hand to dip her fingers in the the crystal clear water.
As soon as her fingers broke the surface her mind was filled with blurry images. She pulled her hand back like she had been shocked. She scrambled backward, frightened of what was happening to her, and yet curious at the same time.
“What’s wrong?” French asked.
She looked up at her friends. “Um… nothing,” she replied hesitantly. She could feel their fixed gazes, and she tried to ignore them. She sat down again and leaned over the edge of the rock. The water reflected the blue sky and trees perfectly. She could see her own reflection in the water, almost as clear as a mirror. It looked different.
She blinked and looked up to see if someone else had joined her, but no one had. She looked again. It was her face, her wet hair, even her hand reaching out to the water, but her eyes were different. Bright green orbs stared from the glassy surface where her hazel eyes used to be. She blinked, and the reflection didn’t change.
“My eyes,” she murmured to herself.
“It’s the mark of a seer. Or Seeress in your case.” Her grandfather sat down next to her on the rock.
“What do you mean?” she asked confused. She let her fingers trail in the water and the blurry images immediately filled her mind. It was an uncomfortable sensation and the more she tried to focus on the images, the blurrier they became.
“Come, let’s walk and I will explain the Ceremony of the Awakening to all of you.”
He held out his hand to Angelia and she took it, leaving one hand still in the water. She gasped as crisp, clear images of her grandfather passed before her eyes. She dropped his hand and shrank back.
“What’s wrong, Angel?” He looked at her curiously.
“I don’t know.” She stood staring uneasily at her grandfather.
He offered his arm and she took it warily. Nothing happened.
“How many of you remember the prophecies we read about in school?” Celendar asked as they walked eastward along the banks of the lake.
Murmurs of assent rippled through the group.
“You read from Celedand Galashad’s journals, a prophecy that a great seer will come again to the land and all will be reconciled,” Kya added.
“That is correct, Kya. Sparrow, can you tell me why we would need to be reconciled and with whom?”
“Well, in our history it talks about how two of Celedand’s posterity argued and split. Some of the people stayed where they were and others left to return to Ellinsha, the great Seer Stone,” Sparrow answered.
“Exactly, Sparrow. Thank you,” Celendar agreed. “We have believed for a thousand years that a great seer would come and help to reconcile us with our brothers and sisters. So every five years, as tradition dictates, we make a pilgrimage to this lake and perform the Ceremony of Awakening. Do you know why we come to this lake, French?”
“The lake is fed by an underground reservoir. It is believed that the waters come from Ellinsha and whoever has the gift will be granted ‘sight’ when they touch the water,” he quoted the scrolls.
Angelia began to understand what her grandfather was telling them; what he was inferring. He thought she was now the Seeress. She shook her head.
“Grandfather, there have been many Seers or Seeresses since Celedand’s time. You are one of them,” she argued.
“Yes there have been many and each has had their own visions and prophecies. Some have retained their gift until the day they die. Others are given just one vision at the time of the ceremony. That is why we keep performing the ceremony. Can you tell me the other parameters of the ceremony?”
“Each candidate must have reached the age of sixteen, but no older than nineteen and each candidate must come and enter the water willingly,” she replied.
By this time they had gone halfway around the lake. They reached the smooth sandy beach on the north shore. Celendar stopped and turned around to face the group.
“Usually when we reach this place we dress each candidate in a simple linen robe and then one by one they take five steps into the water.”
“Has there ever been more than one Seer in a group of candidates?” Angelia interrupted her grandfather.
He looked at her sadly. “No.”
“Well, we are here, Celendar. We might as well complete the ceremony. Make it official,” Le’Mone said. “I brought the robes.”
Angelia backed away from her grandfather and Le’Mone. She didn’t want to touch the water again, not if it meant she would be branded as a Seeress. She didn’t want this.
French, Jord, Kya, Sparrow and two others that had come took their robes from Le’Mone and stepped behind blankets to change. Le’Mone approached Angelia holding the last robe.
Angelia took the robe. “Do I have to?” she asked quietly.
“Not if you don’t want to. There really is no need for this, but your grandfather likes to keep with the formalities of the tradition,” she said with a half a smile.
“So whether I walk into the water or not, I am a Seeress.” She looked at her Grandfather and he nodded.
“I’m afraid so, Angelia. I know it is difficult to understand, but what you see could be very important to all of us.”
“We haven’t asked what you saw, because it was such a shock. I know your grandfather is anxious to know, to see if it confirms what he saw sixteen years ago,” Le’Mone murmured.
Angelia reluctantly took the robe. Then a thought occurred to her, “Has it always been my family?”
“No not always. There have been some outside Celendar’s line, but not many.”
“So he knew this would probably happen,” Angelia replied bluntly.
“I think he hoped more than he actually knew. He knows what kind of a person you are, Angel, and he knows you have a good heart. Those qualities are so important for a person with the gift of sight, but it is a difficult responsibility. I think a part of him also hoped it wouldn’t be you.”
Angelia tied the sash and stepped out from behind the blanket. “I’m ready then. I wish I could have known all of this earlier.”
“Would it have made that much of a difference?”
Angelia thought for a moment. “I guess not.” She sighed and joined her friends on the beach.
Celendar stood and invoked the blessings of Ellinsha on each of the candidates. First French, because he was the oldest, took his five steps into the water followed by the other two seventeen-year olds. Next Kya and Jord and then Sparrow followed them in. Each stood in a semi-circle in the water.
Angelia took one tentative step. The icy cold water on her bare foot sent chills down her spine, but nothing happened. She brought her other foot into the water and still nothing. Hoping the visions would pass her by she took the remaining steps. The water reached mid-thigh, but nothing happened.
With a sigh of relief she dropped her hands. As soon as her fingertips touched the surface, the lake disappeared from her sight. She stood instead next to a vast lake she had never seen before.
A man standing on the shore just a few paces away, turned to face her with a mock bow. “Hail, Seeress, we meet at last.”
His voice was cold, calculating. He spoke in a language she did not recognize, and yet understood perfectly.
“Will you not even speak to me? Is your tongue tied to your own land?”
“No,” she replied in the same language he had spoken. “Who are you?”
“I am the King and soon,” he stepped toward her, “you will be my Queen.”
Her eyes widened. “What?” She stepped away from him.
He bowed again and then advanced toward her. “I come Seeress and you will be my Queen.” He reached out to touch her hand.
“No,” she whispered pulling back.
He laughed and she fainted.