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The quest for hope, p.7
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       The Quest for Hope, p.7

           A. S. King
 
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  “But I don’t know this High King! How do I know he’ll come through?”

  “Then trust me!” Teague sought with all his spiritual strength to get Aliatta to look him in the eye, but she steadfastly refused.

  “I can’t!” She sobbed. Then she shoved herself away and sprinted off down the hallway.

  Teague’s head dropped down into his branchy hands. He was losing the battle with anxiety, and it was now mounting into frustration. What was he supposed to do? Why hadn’t he received any further word from the High King?

  Continuing in his attempt to fight both the anxiety and the frustration, Teague made his way to the room of Sir Raz. Standing just outside the door, his spirit spoke to the man inside. Sir Raz, get up. I know you’re awake, I know you had a dream, and I know you don’t fully trust me yet, but you need to listen to me. I think your sister is in trouble. She’s gone to the dungeon—

  The door flung open, and a fully-armed Sir Raz barreled out.

  “Where are you going?” cried Teague.

  “After her of course!” Sir Raz yelled back.

  “But we haven’t yet heard—” Teague’s voice trailed off as he inwardly finished, from the High King. At this point, he wanted to bang his wooden head against a stone wall. How was he supposed to lead a group of people if these two wouldn’t even listen to him? Now, what was he meant to do? The last word he had received was to wait, but he had to look after his charges. Teague heaved a great sigh and moved swiftly after Sir Raz, his fear and frustration mounting, halfway contemplating transmogrifying himself into something faster than a Livid.

  The Erela, who had been attending him, called out, Wait, Levi! Wait! Don’t go! Come back!

  For the first time since he had begun his training, Levi was deaf to the call.

  The Erela were not the only spiritual beings interested in the movements of the Adamas. Unseen by those agents of light, a skulking dark form had witnessed streaks of light racing by. He quickly and silently summoned several other dark forms. One followed the lights, one went to alert the Duke, and another went to the castle gate where an irritated Livid was stalking toward the towering walls.

  Sir Raz finally caught up with Aliatta at the cell of their grandmother, Raziela. The girl was desperately pulling on the bars of the cell. Tears streamed down her face. A large ring of keys lay discarded on the passageway.

  “They don’t work!” she sobbed hysterically. “None of them work! Why?” She turned and buried her head into Raz while their grandmother murmured soothing words from inside her cell.

  A few moments later, Teague arrived breathing heavily, for his Livid body was not accustomed to such swift movements. “We must leave this place,” he panted. “Now …” pant, pant, “We shouldn’t be here.”

  For a while, they were all quiet. The magnitude of the situation was fell heavily upon them.

  “I’m scared,” Aliatta whimpered, her face still buried into her brother’s chest.

  “What are you scared of Little One?” asked her grandmother gently.

  “Of knowing what the dreams meant—of seeing in life what I saw in my dreams.”

  Teague nodded sympathetically. “I understand,” he said. “But Aliatta, the spirit realm isn’t to be feared any more than are the physical things you see. It is simply a part of this life. There are forces of light at work in this world, just as there are forces of darkness. And although the darkness may seem stronger—”

  He was interrupted by the sound of heavy footsteps pounding down the dark stone passageway. They scarcely had time to draw breath before a dozen Hellions came into view and surrounded them—sneering, and hissing, eager to attack at any moment. The cavern dungeon seemed darker than ever as if a thick black fog was swirling around them quenching all sources of light. At a shout from someone in the back, the fearsome guards parted into two lines. Jixgaink Groundcash was the first to appear. He held two large torches and was trembling from head to toe. Following directly behind him was the Duke, the Duchess, and a very smug Torin Spring.

  15

  The Escape

  “Oh my, what have we here?” asked the Duke in a mockingly jovial voice. “A jailbreak? And twins! Torin, you never told me you had a twin—and an identical twin at that—so identical in fact, that all this time, I thought he was you! Now isn’t that funny! Torin, would you do me the honor of introducing me to this brother of yours?”

  “He’s no brother of mine,” droned Torin in all seriousness. His monotone voice carried as much anger and annoyance as it is possible for a monotone to carry. “This thing here is an imposter.”

  The Duke gave a mock gasp of surprise. “You don’t say! Well then, I suppose there is only one thing to do.” The lighthearted facade disappeared with his next words. “Guards! Throw this lying Livid in the dungeon! Disarm the knight and escort him to his quarters. Make sure he stays there—for now at least. Unfortunately, as it was King Lev who appointed him to his current position, so it is King Lev to whom this dubious knight must answer. As for you,” his fiery eyes turned upon Aliatta. “You will be confined to your bedchamber until the Dark One arrives. He will deal with you directly!”

  “Father?” Aliatta threw in a desperate plea, hoping—rather than expecting—that it might do some good.

  “I’m not your father, Aliatta,” replied the Duke in a cold, harsh tone, “a fact of which I suspect you are already well aware.”

  There was lots of hustle and bustle as the guards carried out their duties of securing Aliatta, Raz, and Teague in their assigned locations.

  Teague was carelessly tossed into the nearest available cell and then promptly forgotten about.

  After that, there was nothing for him to do but to prop himself up as best as he could in his small space and stew over the events which had led to his current situation. His already awkward tree-form made confinement in the musty cell that much more uncomfortable. In a burst of frustration, and convinced it wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway, he attempted to transmogrify back into his Adama form. It didn’t work. With a cry of anger and frustration, he threw himself against the back wall and groaned. Then, foreseeing no other course of action, he lapsed into a deep brooding silence.

  Levi’s mind, however, was far from quiet. Anger with himself, annoyance with the circumstances, the shame of his failure, desperation for the future, despair for the present—all this and more raced through his mind in a turbulently darkening downward spiral.

  Into this darkness, a voice spoke—breaking, or at least interrupting the accusations and condemnations. “Servant of the High King,” whispered a soft but fervent voice, “do not give heed to the enemy’s vices. You are so much more than your performance in these events and the High King is greater even than your perceived failures.”

  “Oh Raziela,” he groaned desperately. “What should I do?” Deep inside he knew the source of his tormented thoughts but felt powerless to curtail them.

  “The High King desires to speak to you. Simply listen for his voice. Quiet your mind; don’t give heed to those other thoughts. Be ready to listen.”

  Leaning his wooden head back against the cold rock wall, Levi sighed in resignation. Okay, my King. Well, here I am. I don’t know why you chose me for this mission, but I do know you know. Although, with the way I messed things up here tonight, I certainly understand if you want to work with someone else now.

  Levi, my child, a firm voice spoke into Levi’s spirit. It was not angry, but neither was it a voice to be ignored. Do you still desire to follow me?

  Of course, my King, but I don’t see what I can do now.

  Do you still desire to follow me?

  Levi buried his head into branchy hands, still ashamed of his failings, too embarrassed to show his face to the High King. With all the strength I have left, he murmured into his hands, all the while wondering how much that was.

  Then follow me now.

  But tonight, I—

  There is nothing you can change about what has
already happened, and you cannot know what the future holds. The present, however, is upon you. What will you do with the present?

  All traces of resistance and excuses left the broken young man, and as they did, he discovered a new resolve. I will serve you, my King. With these words, he lifted his face. The first thing he took note of was that his hands were once again those of an Adama. His eyes traveled up from his hands and settled on a beam of light which was shining down upon him, bathing his human face in warmth, filling him with peace, joy, and a new strength.

  Receive these gifts I give to you. As long as you follow me, they will never leave you. The peace will keep you steady when the situation looks desperate, knowing that I have gone before you and am fighting on your behalf. Joy will give your eyes to see the beauty and goodness beyond the circumstances. My strength, also, I give you. Know that as my servant, I do not ask you to complete these tasks in your own strength, but in the strength, I have given you. Now, stand to your feet and look to the left.

  Levi did, regardless of the fact that the command didn’t make any sense to him. I see a light— Levi’s brows furrowed in confusion.

  Look closer.

  Levi looked. The light was shining down onto the back left corner of the cell, the corner adjacent to Raziela’s cell. It illuminated a special engraving on the stone floor.

  The way out is down and under, the High King explained.

  “Raziela?” Levi asked, now speaking aloud. “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”

  “Indeed, I am, young man, and I’m already on it,” came a cheerful reply.

  The two prisoners knelt on the ground in their respective cells. Following the path of the light, they moved their fingers in intricate patterns around the design. At key points on the engraving, the clank of underground latches could be heard. Finally, their fingers arrived at the center of the design and released the final lock. The engraved tiles sloped downward, revealing a subterranean passageway. Without another word, the prisoners disappeared into the tunnel. At their departure, the ground above them closed back up, immersing them in total darkness. With physical sight now impossible, they held each other’s hands and used their spiritual sight to proceed—one step at a time, trusting in the guidance of the High King.

  16

  Believing

  Raz, son of Elior, paced back and forth across his room. His steps were heavy, and his arms were restless. The walls fell victim more than once to an outburst of rage.

  While there was certainly plenty to be upset about, most of his anger was directed at himself. He should have listened. He should have known better. All these years—all this time spent pretending to be one of them in order to look after and protect the one he truly cared about—had he somewhere down the line actually turned into one of them? Was he still able to be in the service of the High King or was he more of a liability than an asset? What if he no longer knew how to communicate with the High King? What if he lost his sister forever? Was there even any hope?

  His mind went through scenario after scenario—planning, working through possibility after possibility. Finally, he collapsed on his bed in total exhaustion.

  I give up. I have nothing left. I don’t know what to do—

  Well, that’s a start, a voice said.

  Sir Raz jumped to his feet and instinctively reached for his sword. His empty scabbard reminded him that he had earlier been disarmed. He surveyed the room but saw nobody. “Who’s there?” he demanded in a voice which would have made the blood of his enemies run cold. “Where are you?”

  The voice answered calmly, completely unaffected by Sir Raz’s threatening tone. I am the One whom you are seeking. I have never left. You have been given much and have learned to work and thrive in matters regarding the kingdom of the Dark One. Now it is time for you to learn how to operate in my kingdom. The skills you have learned will help you—later. But first, you must learn how to operate in a different fashion. Close your eyes. Do not rely on your physical sight. Look around and tell me what you see.

  Scarcely aware of what he was doing, Sir Raz did as he was instructed. A single shimmering figure loomed largely and imposing before the door. There was something startlingly familiar about it. A childhood memory rose up, and he knew then what it was.

  “I see one of your messengers,” he said.

  Yes. He will speak for me and be your guide. Listen to him and obey. And though he will now be the voice you hear, I will always be watching and directing.

  “Are there none of the other kind in this room?” he asked.

  Not at this time. They do not yet know what you are, and so they think you are harmless. Therefore, they have stationed and occupied themselves elsewhere.

  “Aliatta!” His eyes flew open in alarm as he became instantly aware of just where that ‘elsewhere’ was. Much to his surprise, he could still see the sparkling presence.

  The messenger nodded. His sister was indeed experiencing the presence of “the other kind.”

  Sir Raz bounded for the door, but the Erela blocked his path and shook his head. With a resigned sigh, Raz reluctantly plopped back down on the bed.

  You have long relied on your own strength, it said. Now it is time for you to learn how to trust and depend on the High King. Your sister has a decision to make. The decision must be hers, and the action must come from her alone, but do not worry, for she will have help. Gather everything you need for the four of you to take on a long journey, but wait here. If all goes well, your sister will come to you.

  “And if it doesn’t?”

  Then we will wait for further instructions from the High King and do as he directs.

  Sir Raz was not exactly satisfied with this answer, but he realized that if he wanted to serve the High King, there was nothing else to be done but to follow the instructions and wait. But he didn’t have to wait and do nothing. The Erela had given him another task. Sir Raz jumped out of bed, removed his bedsheet, and began setting everything he perceived they would need on it. His final act was to strap on all the stashed weapons he kept carefully hidden. Then he sat on the bed and waited. And while he waited, he wondered how his sister was doing.

  Unfortunately, his sister wasn’t doing much better than he or Levi had been doing at the beginning. She was, at the moment, lying on her bed sobbing, too distraught to think about anything. Everything felt hopeless. Despair lay heavily upon her.

  Gradually, exhaustion—and something else—came over her, and her frenzied tears stopped. She felt a sudden warmth and peace—a feeling that was somewhat familiar. She lay still with her eyes closed for several minutes—savoring the comfort which enveloped her like a warm, cozy blanket.

  When she finally opened her eyes, she was startled to see a man standing before her bed. He was covered in the smoothest armor she had ever seen, marked with a signet she didn’t recognize. A long red cloak fell from the center of his back. His skin and clothing seemed to glow, though not in an overwhelming manner. Strange as it seemed, there was again, something familiar about the situation. In a flash, Aliatta remembered her dream from over a month ago.

  “Who are you?” she asked, as one who is awakening from a dream. “Am I dreaming?”

  My name is Melhem, it answered. I am a messenger of light in the service of the High King. I am an Erela, and no, you are not dreaming. But you have seen me in your dreams before, though I was shown to you there in my full brilliance and have now lessened the effect so as not to unduly alarm you.

  “But if you were in my dreams, and you’re here now, then that other creature—”

  Is also real.

  “What is it? Where did it come from? Is it here, too?” Worry and fear began to creep again into the heart and mind of the girl.

  It was once an Erela like myself—a strong, beautiful creature of light, created by the High King at the beginning of the world. Out from the heart of the High King, His hands, His words, He gathered the light of the stars, mixing it with His own indescribable brightness. Wisdom
poured forth as He fashioned the light into beautiful, crystalline beings—the Erela. We were made to be the reflection of His own brilliance and goodness. One of us was made to stand supreme above all the rest. He was stronger, more beautiful, more brilliant—the epitome of splendor and radiance. He was appointed Chief Commander of the Erela. His heart, however, was not long with the High King. You see, he had hoped from the beginning of being made king over the land of Novus. When he discovered the High King had appointed the Adamas to that position, he was infuriated. Jealousy, arrogance, and anger raged through him, and it wasn’t long before the form which was meant to radiate light, emitted darkness instead. Through smooth, deceptive, persuasive words, he convinced many of the other Erela to join him. As each one turned against the will and purpose of the High King, they too became darkened, and their once beautiful forms became twisted and warped. These darkened Erela are now known as Chashaks. They have placed themselves under the charge of their commander—the Dark One—and seek nothing less than to keep the Adamas and all others in creation from serving the High King. In the same way, their own forms were distorted and weakened, they also seek to prevent all others from becoming the beautiful and powerful creatures they were meant to be.

  “Are these Chashaks … are they strong?”

  They have as much power as they are given by the physical beings of this world, but in general, they are continually trying to be something other than what they were made to be, and that itself weakens them.

  “Tell me how I can fight them! I know how to fight. I’m not afraid!” Aliatta’s previous feeling of fear towards these creatures had momentarily left her memory so that she was now convinced of her own superiority and ability to defeat such unworthy opponents. Her puffed up arrogance, however, was quickly deflated by Melhem’s next words.

 
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