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The quest for hope, p.8
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       The Quest for Hope, p.8

           A. S. King
 
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  You cannot fight them, at least not successfully or directly, and certainly not in your own strength. The High King will protect you and fight for you, for it is His power and authority that can save you. The way you can fight is by standing firm—by choosing the light and the truth over the darkness and by placing your trust in the High King.

  There was silence as Aliatta took some time to absorb and process this new information. It went against everything she had learned in weapons training. But then again, those weapons were for physical beings. This brought another thought to the forefront of her mind. “Melhem, why have I never seen the Erelas or Chashaks before?”

  After the Dark One’s deception of King Lev and Queen Malka, the High King placed a barrier between the physical and spiritual world—a barrier which had never been there before. He placed a veil over the spiritual eyes of those on earth, causing the spiritual to become invisible and intangible for the purpose of lessening the influence the Dark One might be able to have. Now, only those who seek the spiritual can see it, for better or for worse. Although the Dark One has indeed found many other ways to cause chaos and pain, he is no longer able to cause physical harm with his spiritual body. He is no longer able to deceive people with his beautiful and powerful appearance.

  “I can see you. Will I now be able to see these servants of the Dark One?” Aliatta felt her previous proclamation of bravado sliding away at the prospect of actually seeing these creatures.

  Throughout all of Aliatta’s fluctuating emotions, the calm, clear voice of the Erela had remained unchanged. For one purpose you will now see them—so that you may be fully aware of the choice which is before you. The High King is in need of someone to complete a very specific task. It is a job which you will be able to do. The choice is yours. Will you take on the position from the High King, or will you take the path on which the Dark One would have you go? There is no middle ground.

  The girl’s eyes furrowed in doubt. “What about Elsie, the lost Princess of Novus?” she asked. “I thought she serves neither the High King nor the Dark One.”

  Although she likes to believe that, and the Dark One allows her to think that she serves no one, it is not true, for in serving herself, Elsie does indeed serve the purposes of the Dark One. Now, are you ready to see the paths before you?

  Aliatta was silent, and the Erela said no more as she sat contemplating her choice. Finally, she gave a timid nod. In contrast to the timidity of the nod, her eyes blazed with decision.

  17

  Choice

  At first, there was only a faint dimming or sharpening of the colors around her. There were places where the colors brightened—becoming more clear and vivid than ever before. Then there were other places where the colors took on a sickly-looking shade. Aliatta focused in on these areas of color change and soon began to see vague outlines emerging. After a while, the outlines of distinct forms were visible. The outlines filled in, revealing the full essence of two different types of spiritual beings. One form was large and strong and stood upright, calm, confident. This kind exuded an air of peaceful waiting. There were only two of them—one other besides Melhem (who had returned to his full brilliance). Together they shone forth a light which made everything it touched appear brighter and more vibrant than ever before.

  The full essence of an Erela thought Aliatta. Her body shook in breathless awe as she gazed upon them.

  Then she turned reluctantly but curiously to look at the others. As she did, she let forth an involuntary gasp of dismay. Though not as terrifying as the creature in her dream, these forms were also large and imposing. Their figures, however, were not upright but were hunched and crumpled, as though someone had taken a beautiful statue when the clay was still soft and had scrunched it down so that the features were bent and distorted. There was an anxious, desperate vibration radiating through them (there was at least half a dozen present). Some sneered and reached out hands with sharpened nails. Others twitched anxiously, causing her to involuntarily twitch and tense up in response. One of them whined pitifully.

  She didn’t need to be told that these pathetic and menacing creatures were the Chashaks.

  One of them began to speak. Don’t listen to those bright ones, it whined. They will only lead you to peril and death. Much better to look out for yourself and take the path which will lead to the least amount of trouble.

  Yes, chimed in another. You don’t want to cause more trouble for yourself and your friends. Just stay as you are and things will work themselves out.

  You could rule over all Novus, coaxed one in a sickly sweet voice.

  And if you go, you will die! Threatened the one who seemed to be the leader. He made a menacing move towards her, reaching out his hand as though to secure his claim.

  Into the commotion and confusion, another voice spoke clear, loud and with authority. Enough! It thundered through the room piercing the hearts of those present. The Chashaks silenced instantly and cowered in trembling fear, for the voice had not come from the Erela, who continued to stand unmoved. This same powerful voice, in a more loving and cherishing tone, then spoke to Aliatta. The time has come to make a choice. You must either look towards my messengers the Erela and decide to follow me in the ways I will show you, or set your eyes upon the darkness and follow them in the ways of the Dark One.

  “Will I be safe with you?” she asked hesitantly.

  There will be dangers, but as long as you seek after my ways, I will fight your battles.

  The girl nodded. The cacophony of Chashak noises began again and quickly escalated to a deafening din. Resolutely, though not without fear, Aliatta—the heir to the throne of Novus, the granddaughter of the Writer, one chosen by the High King—turned her eyes to the Erela. She focused on the light and peace which was being reflected out through their being. Then she got up from her bed and took a step in their direction. The clamor of the Chashaks faded slightly. She took another step, never removing her gaze from the Erela, who stood before her. The dark noise lessened even more. With each step, she became more and more deaf to the darkness and her senses awakened more and more to the light.

  Behind her, the Chashaks roared and raged. They advanced upon her and reached out to take hold of her in an effort to force her to the path of the Dark One. Their claws, however, found no hold and moved harmlessly through her.

  Aliatta arrived at the locked door and grasped hold of the handle. It swung open without protest, and she stepped into the hall, her eyes still fixed upon the two shimmering beings. As they walked down the corridor, three more Erela appeared and stationed themselves around her. Though she looked neither to the right nor the left and saw nothing other than what was directly in front of her, Aliatta somehow knew without a doubt exactly where they were going.

  Behind her, the Chashaks sprang into action. Immediately upon discovering that they held no power over her, they dispersed to seek help from those they were able to influence. Two went to alert the Duke and Duchess, others went to alert the guards, and anyone else in the castle who might understand the gravity of the situation, and one unlucky Chashak fearfully made his way to inform the Dark One himself of their failure to contain, confine, and control the one whom they had intended to be the Queen of darkness. While this latter unfortunate figure wondered and worried about how the Dark One would respond once he received this news, the other Chashaks were facing their own frustrations. They had succeeded in waking the castle. Regrettably for them, most of those they had awakened were not sufficiently attuned to the spiritual to be able to understand what the Chashaks were trying to communicate. This resulted in a whole bunch of people running wildly about without knowing exactly what it was they were chasing.

  The moment Aliatta arrived at Sir Raz’s chambers, the door opened, and her brother stepped out with a gathered-together, packed-full bedsheet hoisted over his shoulders. Chaos raged all around; creatures bustled here and there, their eyes and mannerisms suggesting that they were frantically searching for something. W
hen the castle guards came upon Sir Raz and Aliatta, they moved conveniently out of the way, their unchanged manner suggesting they were unaware of what they had done. In this way, Sir Raz and Aliatta, in keeping their eyes fully trained on the Erela, were able to flawlessly navigate through the swarm of people who were searching for what was right under their very noses. The escapees soon turned off the main hallway, passed through a scarcely visible side door, and found themselves maneuvering through little-used servants’ passageways. Before they knew it, the Erela were leading them through another side door. This door led outside and happened to be where all the castle garbage was tossed to be burned. The Erela carefully directed them through the compost to the far side.

  Here they stopped. Sir Raz fumbled through his make-shift bag and produced a set of boy’s clothing. These he handed to Aliatta, along with a gray cloak which would serve as her travel disguise. Once she made the change, Raz carefully placed her royal dress into the bag.

  “You never know when we might need it,” he explained.

  Sir Raz and Aliatta made their way north through the city to the thick forests beyond, continuing to follow the shimmering messengers of the High King.

  As they approached the woods, Sir Raz caught sight of another group to the east who was cautiously making their way towards them. By force of habit, he thrust Aliatta behind him and drew his sword.

  Peace, my children.

  Sir Raz and Aliatta simultaneously heard the calm, beautiful voice echoing through their minds. They gasped in unbelief when they realized the voice belonged to their grandmother, Raziela. Levi walked alongside her and behind them was a group of other Adamas from the city.

  The Erela beckoned the refugees onward and into the forest where there was greater cover. Once these messengers received notice that it was safe, the caravan stopped, and the unspoken covering of silence was lifted. Hugs were exchanged, introductions were made, and explanations were rapidly given:

  The tunnel Raziela and Levi followed had come up in the middle of Ian’s kitchen, giving the family quite a fright.

  After being quickly appraised of the situation, Ian had gone about the business of gathering others in the city who were also of the light. A few had chosen to accompany him and his family from the city while others had felt the need to stay and shine a light in Earlington for those who might benefit from it.

  Aliatta found herself struggling to pay attention, though she did manage to make the appropriate responses when needed. Her mind, however, was drifting to the north.

  It was Levi who, noticing the yawns and sleep-filled eyes of the children, suggested they find a place to bed down for a few hours of sleep.

  They followed the Erela to a hidden cave, spread out the blankets Sir Raz and Rosemary had brought, and laid down.

  As he began to drift off into a welcome sleep, Sir Raz heard a clear voice beside him say, “How far is it to Zion from here?”

  In a sleep-fogged frame of mind, he gave his sister a confused look and then answered her in the tone that people may occasionally use on young children when they just want them to stop talking. “About 150 miles as the eagle flies. Why?”

  “I want to go get mother and father and bring them with us.” Her voice, unlike her brother’s, held no trace of grogginess.

  Sir Raz immediately dismissed the idea as impractical and, in his exhausted state, assumed Aliatta would realize the impossibility of it as well. Therefore, he answered her with a “Good one, Aliatta. Very funny,” and returned promptly to sleep.

  When he awoke the next morning, she was gone.

  18

  The Change in Plans

  “So what do we do now?”

  The eleven Adamas, who had accompanied Ian and Rosemary in their exodus from the city, had huddled up to discuss this new situation. They weren’t entirely sure who it was they should look to for leadership: Sir Raz—the trained fighter, Levi—the transmogrif who had journeyed from the camp of the Loyal Ones, Raziela—the Writer and one who had been a part of life on Novus from the beginning, or Ian and Rosemary—the elders whom they had followed from Earlington.

  In case you are wondering who these other people are, I will take a moment to tell you just a little about them. First, there is Faran and his wife, Kamila. Faran is Ian and Rosemary’s son. He and Kamila have three children—two boys and a little girl. Giron is ten, Henry is eight, and little Marnie is six. Then there is Reut and Maya—twins in their late teenage years who have been taking care of each other since their parents died less than a year ago. The last family consists of Benicio and Livna with their young teenage sons, Sean, and Zavier. Benicio and Livna had heard whispers of a settlement to the south where the Loyal Ones lived in peace, and they felt it was time for them to go there. Sean and Zavier are of course looking forward to some adventures and are hoping for the opportunity to take part in some fighting down the road. We shall see whether or not this last promise is realized.

  While the above-mentioned people had been jabbering and worrying amongst themselves, Sir Raz had been sitting dejectedly in a corner, berating himself for yet another failure (or perceived failure anyway); Levi had been having a silent conversation with the Erelas; Raziela had been listening and trying to connect spiritually to wherever Aliatta was; and Ian and Rosemary had been engaged in a private conversation with each other while they sat sketching something in the dirt of the cave.

  Finally, Levi spoke up in a calm, matter-of-fact manner. “The purpose of this journey,” he said, “had originally been for all of us to go south together to the settlement of the Loyal Ones. Aliatta’s departure has obviously altered that plan but has not entirely disrupted it. There is for Aliatta an unexpected benefit in the direction she has chosen to go—” He paused and looked expectantly to Sir Raz.

  It took Sir Raz a moment to pick up on what Levi was alluding to—after all, his confidence was still shaky after having lost his little sister twice in a single day. Then, it clicked. “The strategic benefit,” he said slowly, “is that the Dark One will have left Zion by now, and no one would even think to look for her north of Earlington.”

  Levi nodded, casting an encouraging smile in the direction of Sir Raz. Then he continued speaking. “Aliatta has acted on her own, without consulting or trusting to the counsel of the High King or anyone else. I have been speaking to the High King on her behalf, and though she acted foolishly, her desire for her parents was at least a pure-hearted one—one that the High King will honor. The altered plan then is this: we will split up, at least for the time being. The rest of you will journey south as expected and—”

  “I will go after my sister,” interjected Sir Raz, rising to his feet.

  Though Levi’s heart was sympathetic toward the man, his voice was firm. “No, Sir Raz. You will travel with the others. This group will need the skills you possess—skills that I do not have. They will need the protection and training you can provide, as well as the quick analytic assessment you can give of the situations. Raziela will help you hear and understand the directions from the High King. Ian and Rosemary know where to find the safe contacts you’ll need for the journey. I will go after Aliatta and, under the guidance and protection of the High King, bring both her and your parents safely out of Zion. We will then do our best to meet up with you in the village south of Redford Palace.”

  Sir Raz was obviously less than pleased with this arrangement, but after an inward battle, his analytical mind kicked in, and he realized it was indeed the best option. “It would be safer for us to lay low here for a few days,” he said. “—give the Dark One and his forces the chance to search out the areas to the south.”

  Levi nodded in agreement, relieved to see Raz regaining his confidence. Then he turned to Raziela. “Were you able to get a read on where Aliatta is?” he asked.

  Raziela nodded, and the two of them stepped aside to discuss her whereabouts. Shortly after, Levi gathered a couple of bread rolls from the food supply, checked to make sure his water skin was fille
d, collected Aliatta’s water skin from Raz, said his goodbye’s, and left.

  “He’s going alone?” asked the teenager, Zavier. The question came not out of fear for Levi’s safety but rather from regret that he had not been invited to go along.

  “He’s never alone,” said Raziela with a cheerful smile, fully comprehending the young man’s real concern. “But since we are going to be here for a few days, what do you say to a few lessons in fighting and swordplay, given by our very own Sir Raz the Calculating.”

  Giron and Henry cheered audibly while the other teenagers merely grinned (they were much too dignified to cheer like such little children).

  Sir Raz cast his grandmother a shocked ‘are-you-serious’ look. Raziela grinned. He shook his head at her antics, shrugged, then moved to begin the lessons. Probably for the best, he thought. The more fighters we have in the group, the better.

  Unseen by most of the others, the Erela, Baldar, was standing guard at the cave entrance. He watched Levi depart with a vigilant eye. Another Erela, Seok, stood amongst the group, reflecting onto them the peace and calm of the High King. Melhem had departed earlier with Aliatta, for the High King does not wait to be asked before he offers his protection.

  Soon after leaving the cave, Levi transmogrified into a wolf for better speed and tracking capability. With those helpful traits, along with the information Raziela had given him as to the approximate location of Aliatta, it wasn’t long before he found the girl. She had already made its several miles through the forest and had just sat down next to a tree to rest when he came upon her.

  Careful not to make any alarming noises, Levi changed back into his Adama form and nonchalantly walked into view.

 
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