Sunday, 12 February 2017

Mamelon 2 - Chapter Nineteen

CHAPTER NINETEEN




Fred would not be comforted and continued to sob even when Michal put a comforting arm around his shoulders.
“Where there is a keyhole, there has to be a key,” said Mulac with irritating logic.
The little Foss ceased sobbing and even managed a sarcastic, “Huh, so where is it then? I see no key,” he screamed, pulling free of Michal’s arm and confronting the startled Nu-gen with undisguised panic. “Do you see a key?” He swung round and demanded the same of the equally taken-aback motherworlder, “Do you see a key?  No, because there is no key. We are trapped. How can the mountain do this to us, to me? I am of the mountain. The mountain takes care of its own. Well, it did until Motherworlders invaded it, not to mention Krills, druids and Nu-gen…” He rounded on Mulac again. “So what do we do now, Nu-gen? Oh, it is so typical. Trust your kind to get us into this mess…”
“Panicking will help no one,” Mulac pointed out, again with irrefutable logic, but which now had quite the opposite effect on poor Fred who began sobbing again and retreated into the comparative safety of the Motherworlder’s embrace.”
As his arms closed around the tearful Fred, an image came unbidden into Michal’s mind.
“Ricci!” he exclaimed, so loudly that Fred broke away and quailed as the mountain echoed the cry, rumbling fiercely and all but causing all three to lose their footing.
“Ricci…?” Mulac echoed questioningly.
“He had a key around his neck. I saw it. I thought I must be seeing things because no one else did, but I did. I did…,” he repeated as if trying to convince himself it was true. “I’d forgotten, but now…I remember. It has to be the key to the tomb, it has to be…”
“Who is this Ricci?  Where is he now?” Fred wanted to know.
“Good question,” commented Mulac wryly.
“We have to go back,” said Mick, “We have no choice. We can’t just wait here on the off chance that Ricci might turn up. I mean, what are the odds of that happening anyway?”
“Yes, we must go back. The mountain will take care of us,” Fred mumbled.
“I think not,” said Mulac, “Ri has brought us here for a reason, and here we must stay until He chooses to confide in us His purpose.”
“We will die!” Fred began weeping again, not in the least reassured by a tightening of the arms that held him and the Motherworlder’s sharp intake of breath.
“Perhaps,” was all Mulac said, but there was something in his voice that caused Mick to turn his attention away from the Foss and meet the steady gaze of one whom he had come to think of as a friend.
Mulac, though, was only vaguely aware of the Motherworlder’s searching expression. Tol was engaging with his mind. “Do not be afraid, it is not your destiny to remain here. The mountain has other ideas. You have much to do. Mamelon depends on your fulfilling all that Ri asks of you. I will help you, Astor also, and others. We will not fail. We dare not fail,” the voice added, but in barely a whisper so Mulac wondered if the words were meant for him at all. Could it be that even Tol nursed doubts as to their survival…or Mamelon’s? He shivered in spite of the oppressive warmth of the mountain’s near-suffocating grip on body, mind, and spirit.
“Etta…? Mulac asked aloud, but there was no response. Suddenly, he became aware of an uneasy silence and two faces staring at him and wearing expressions so quizzical that he roared with laughter.
Yes, my dear, it is I,” a familiar voice, and his vision zoomed in over the motherworlder’s right shoulder where Etta had appeared as if out of nowhere, accompanied by a dwarfish fellow not much taller than Foss and…
“Beth…!” Mick and Beth darted forward into each other’s instinctive embrace just as another figure emerged from the gloom to fix him with a look of disbelief as someone might who has seen a ghost.
“Mum…?” Mick could only stare in frank incredulity as Gail stumbled into the weird phosphorous light triggered by the curious fungi that had clung like an occasional d├ęcor to the mountain’s inner recesses wherever they went.
Mother and son embraced. “How, why…” he started to ask, but she placed a finger on his lips. “Later, for now we must set about the task for which we are here.”
“But…”
“Later,” she repeated with a look he knew only too well; it said, I will not tell you again.
“Task, yes, I’ll say,” Ricci stammered, gazing awe-struck at the door in the rock and what he saw at once was a keyhole barely visible to the naked eye, fingering the key that hung around his neck as he did so.
“Ricci, dear, the key,” said Etta.
“What…? Oh, yes, I’ll say!” Ricci pulled the ribbon from which the key dangled over his head and approached Mick. “Michal of Mamelon,” he said solemnly, “This key belonged to your father, Michal the Great, and now it passes to you so that the Tomb of the Creator may be visited once more and the Spring of Life flow again.”
In a daze, Mick took the key, went to the door and tried the key. To his horror and disappointment, however, it would not turn. “It doesn’t fit, it’s the wrong bloody key!” he cried out in genuine despair, sensing rather than comprehending the significance of his discovery.  He rounded on his mother as if she were to blame. “Mum, it doesn’t fit!”
“Oh, dear…” murmured Ricci, looking to Etta as if expecting an explanation. In that, at least, he was not disappointed.
Etta stepped forward and took the key from Mick. ‘Be sure you have a purpose here, but this is not it.’ She turned, and offered the key to Galia. “Do as becomes the consort of Michal the Great.” was all she said before retreating into deeper shadows even that encompassed the motley group.
Immersed entirely in her Mamelon persona, Galia, lower lip trembling, approached the mystified Nu-gen. “Here, Calum, my son whom I thought long dead, is the key your father, my husband, would have passed to you had he lived.”
“Calum…? What foolishness is this?”
“She speaks the truth, my dear,” Etta’s voice.
“But that means…”
“You are blood brothers, yes,” said his mother quietly.
“Brothers…!” Beth cried out, and a note of despair in her voice was lost on none of the little company. “But that’s…”
“True,” repeated the Magela
“Beyond imagination,” murmured Calum-Mulac, as shocked as he was incredulous.
“I’ll say!” Ricci echoed, less in wonderment at this revelation than frank disbelief. At the same time, if Etta says it is so, then it must be so…
“You are my son, Calum, and I am your birth mother.” Galia made to embrace him.
Mulac backed away. “If Etta says it is so, it must be so, but you were never a mother to me nor will ever be. Etta is the only mother I have ever known, and one mother is enough for anyone.
It was Galia’s turn to back away, her expression one of despair, yet not devoid of either surprise or understanding.  We are strangers. Dare I hope that we will not always be so?
Mick stepped forward, “I can’t begin to understand this, but at least try the damn key in the lock, my friend, and see if it works.
“Yes,” said Mulac, “we are friends, and I will do as you suggest.” He glared at Galia, “…but I will not answer for the consequences,” he added angrily, snatching the key from the still proffered hand and confronting the rock door as if it were an enemy with whom he was about to do battle.  Slowly, he raised the key to the keyhole.
He is afraid, Mick realized and felt sick. The Nu-gen had displayed many qualities during the time they had known each other, but never fear. He is my brother. It did not occur to him to refute the fact, impossible though it seemed, as if I’ve always known, even while not knowing, yet a bond of sorts… He continued to wrestle with the sheer impossibility of it all, a Mamelon life force coursing his veins as he did so, all but subduing any hint of Motherworld existence.
Mulac stared at the key, the hand that gripped it firm and decisive, and being inexorably drawn to the keyhole as if it had a mind of its own. No! His mind commanded the hand to stop, as stop it did. I am in control here, no one else, I, Mulac, Nu-gen.
Mulac, no more, but Calum of Manelon, true Ruler, and its savior yet to be if Ri’s will be done. Tol’s disembodied voice murmured earnestly in one ear.
Yet, still, the Nu-gen resisted. “No!” he gave an agonized cry, body, mind and spirit stubbornly refusing to insert the key.
It was Bethan who came forward, gently took the hand that held the precious key and guided it into the keyhole before withdrawing, “Now turn the key, my love, and be guided by the truth of whatsoever comes to pass.”
Swallowing hard, Mulac allowed his hand to follow the course for which it had been made, more lifetimes ago than any who stood watching with bated breath could imagine.
The key turned, slowly, but unresisting, as if it were a living thing awakening from an ages-old sleep. Similarly, a door in the solid rock wall groaned as it slid open.
No one moved.
“Enter now, and do what must be done,” Tol’s voice commanded in his ear in a sterner more uncompromising tone than ever before.  Yet, Mulac found this new Tol oddly reassuring. Thus encouraged, he took his first steps through the door with a boldness born of a fierce determination to get to grips with all that was passing before his eyes as. It was as if the dawn of a new understanding was insinuating the mind, body and spirit of Mulac, Nu-gen, and assuming the entire self that was Calum of Mamelon.
One by one, the others passed through the narrow entrance.
No one spoke.
The mountain rumbled ominously, but still no one spoke; it was as if, without knowing, each had expected it.
Everyone froze.
Ricci began to panic.  We have walked into trap. Ragund…! The gentle pressure of a hand on his arm reassured him only slightly. He looked, expecting to find Etta’s kindly face, but it was the little Foss called Fred.
“The mountain means us to be here. We will come to no harm so long as we…”
“Do as it says, I suppose,” snorted Ricci, unconvinced.
“The Foss speaks the truth.” Mulac turned to face them all. Only, it was not Mulac, Nug-gen, but Calum of Mamelon; the difference, plain to see. If Mulac had been an impressive looking character, this was someone quite different. Bethan was the first to see it, and her heart rose and sank in turn.
“You know me now,” said Galia. It was not a question.
“Yes, mother.” They embraced although she detected little warmth in him, only a distance she may or may not yet find a way to close. “You can do this,” she whispered, and his solemn gaze lit up briefly, like a candle flaring in a draught.
“I will try,” he whispered back. Or die in the attempt, he added, but refrained from saying so aloud.
“Listen, everyone. Be quiet, stay perfectly still, and listen,” said Etta in a tone that brooked no argument.
“I hear nothing,” said Ricci after a long pause. “I mean to say, what…?”
“Be quiet, and listen,” Etta snapped, which was so unusual for her that Ricci instantly did as he was told.
“I, too, hear nothing,” Galia sighed.
“So what are we meant to hear?” Mick demanded in so familiar a voice that Galia smiled as Gail Wright might well have done.
“Water,” said Calum, Mulac already a distant memory as if he had been a prisoner for years and suddenly released.
“So where is it, the Spring of Life?” It was the little Foss who asked the question on everyone’s lips.
“This cannot be the Tomb of the Creator then,” said Mick-Michal, wondering at the same time, So where the hell are we…?
“We must press on,” said Bethan, “and all will be revealed.”
Calum took her at her word and began moving forward, Bethan at his side and Etta close behind. It took a jerk of his hand from Fred to cause Ricci to follow them, leaving Mick to ask his mother the obvious question.
“What the devil is happening to us, Mum? Why are we here? Who are we, for Ri’s sake?” invoking the Mamelon deity without thinking.
“We are where we are just as we are who we are, that is all you need to know. One day, perhaps, I will try and explain, but not now. Right now, we all need to stay together because that is the only way we will ever…” She had only taken a few steps, though, when Mick caught her sharply by the arm.
“Where is Pete?” he demanded, “Is he safe? Is he alive?”
Galia nodded, “I think so…”
“You think so?”
“Alright, I know so. I would know if it were otherwise just as I would have known if anything bad had happened to you.”
“It did,”
“Yes, and I saw to it that you survived although you probably have no memory of it. Trust me, Michal, you have to trust me.”
Mick sighed, and without answering or even correcting the use of his name, hurried after the others.
Galia fought back tears. Both my eldest sons, I have them both, but for how long, and can this mad venture possibly succeed. Mad, yes, it is madness…”  She, too, started to run, but something, sounds, caused her to stop in her tracks.  Sounds, yes, but, no, not of running water...  Footsteps, yes…. Someone is coming, more than one person, Three, no four, maybe five…
“Well, well, Galia of Mamelon, so we meet again.”
She knew the voice. “We are well beneath the ground. Trust a worm to find its way here,” she responded without turning her head.
“Oh and why now when someone has so kindly left the way open.”
“What brings you here, Ygor?”
“You know each other?”
Galia turned. “We are foes of old, Ygor and I, and you are Heron, son of Nadya.”
“We have met before?”
“No, but Etta had told me of you, and why should she not. Your mother is my daughter.”
“I think not. My grandmother died long ago.”
“Your mother told you that?”
“She did.”
“She lied. We are of the bloodline, after all. Diplomacy runs in the family. I imagine Nadya would have found it less easy to tell you I had run off to Earth with a Holy Seer pledged to celibacy.”
My, she is a cool one. Heron, to Galia’s surprise, responded with a wide grin that so reminded her of his grandfather that she was close to tears.
“Are you really the legendary Galia returned to us?”
“I am, and you, elf, are called Pers are you not?”
“How is it you know of us but we know not of you?” Heron was both wary of and drawn to this imposing female, but not easily intimidated.
Before Galia could reply, however, she was distracted by a shrill cry.
“Mum! Mum, is that you?”
“Peter!” A boy with striking red hair ran up to her, almost knocking her over. They hugged and remained that way until Ygor reminded them they were not alone.
Irina, with whom Pete had been bringing up the rear smiled knowingly at Heron who returned the look tenfold. It was good to see mother and son reunited although she did not understand how Galia could be of two worlds at the same time.
As if reading the elf-girl’s mind, Galia met her confused expression. “Don’t ask and don’t even try to understand the workings of time and space, my dear, or you will tie yourself in knots that are not easily undone. Simply accept the Here and Now, for the present at least.”
“Wise words, Galia,” commented Ygor without a trace of praise in the gravelly voice. “Now, may I suggest we catch up with your companions? We are all of one mind here, after all, and the Tomb of the Creator awaits us.”
”You have no place here, druid.”
“Oh, and you do?”
The pair confronted each other like the old adversaries they were.
“This is neither time nor place,” Heron declared with insight beyond his years, “Whatever scores the two of you have to settle must wait. Here we all are and here we are plainly meant to be so let there be peace between you, for now at least, and let the fate that brought us here do the rest.”
“Wise words,” Irina’s gently mocking voice helped ease the growing tension.
“Follow me,” Galia told them,. At the same time, she threw the elf girl a grateful look while not surrendering any of the regal poise with which Ricci, for one, had been so smitten all his life.
They walked on, quickening their pace so as to catch up with the others. Galia held her son’s hand so tightly it hurt. Pete, though, for once in his young life, was content to let his mother have her way. At any other time and place, he would have wrenched his hand free, protesting loudly that he was not a child. He sensed his mother’s…anger, confusion, fear?  Whatever, she was worried sick about something; something other than being miles beneath the surface of another planet with no clear idea what lay ahead.
Galia struggled with conflicting feelings and thoughts. In her mind’s eye, she recovered the image of Peter running towards her. Even amidst the thrill and relief of their embrace, she had still found time to wonder what obscure trick of fate had brought her youngest to Mamelon. In the gloom, his red hair had more of a fiery look than she could recall ever noticing before. Her heart had skipped several beats. Now she thought she knew the reason he was here, and was sick with fear for him.