Sunday, 26 February 2017

Mamelon 2 - Chapter Twenty-Four


It had to be the most intimate, intense, and initially terrifying sensation all five had ever experienced. As one, Calum, Irina, Bethan, Heron and an exhausted Michal put their trust in Tol and did as he bade them; emptying mind, body, and spirit of all conscious thought and letting generations of magic coursing their veins stream into the space where they huddled together on one of the rock platforms that had permitted them brief respite now and then from what had seemed an impossible climb from the start.
As if by unspoken agreement, five pairs of eyes focused on whatever had shut out the sky from them and gave it all their concentration, neither consciously nor subconsciously aware of the forces of magic they were unleashing from sources of which they had never dreamed; elven, druid, and such as had coursed the veins of Rulers stretching back to the beginning of time. Even as mere observers, Pers and Peter felt the intensity and importance of what was taking place engulf them where they stood, as if daring them to utter a sound.
Pers felt as though as spell had been cast upon him and vaguely resented it. He resented, too, that Irina had been chosen (by whom, for Ri’s sake?) to participate in an event that he could only suppose was meant to effect the means of their escape. Fear, though, remained the prevailing emotion, cautioning him against any word or act that might conceivably interrupt whatever it was the others were caught up in, seemingly oblivious to all else.
Pete was inclined to feel much the same as Pers until he thought he heard a voice in his ear that sounded very familiar. “Dad…?” the red haired motherworld boy felt as if an electric current was passing through his whole body leaving him stunned, thrilled, scared and faintly reassured  all at the same time.

Back on Ti-gray, Gabriel could scarcely contain an anger and impatience bordering on despair.
“Why is nothing happening? Countless lifetimes of magic being tapped, and nothing is happening. Nothing…!” He stamped his foot like a frustrated child, forgetting for a moment that he had an audience.
“The circle needs to be complete,” said Arissa.
“It is as complete as it needs to be,” Gabriel snapped.
“Even you cannot expect to carry out such a task alone. The dead can help no one, but there is one who can.”
“Such as…?”
The red haired boy, perhaps.  He is the son of a Holy Seer, after all.”
“So is Michal?”
“True, but red hair suggests a fire sign. Long ago, Ri defeated the fire god Xu and Xaruki magic was rendered impotent. If, as you suspect, Ragund has somehow awoken some, at least,  of that magic and is employing it for his own dark purposes, would it not be a spectacle indeed to witness Xu and Ri engage with each other again?”
“You ask questions, but offer no answers,” retorted Gabriel.
“The dead are forbidden to interfere with the ways of the living or impart any knowledge they do not already possess,” responded Arissa, “as well you know,” she added gently.
“I cannot put the boy through such an ordeal. It is asking too much of anyone, let alone a child. He will be so frightened…”
“Oh, but how much and how often we underestimate the resilience of youth,” murmured Arissa, and then, “It is true, you may frighten him, but is there not another who can work through you to accomplish what must be accomplished for all our sakes?”
“All…?” Gabriel was skeptical.
“Oh, yes, indeed, Mage of Mages, Xaruki have no more respect for the dead than any living thing besides their own vile kind.”
“You are suggesting I call upon Timon, ask aid of him who betrayed his Order and Homeland…?”
“I suggest nothing. You but hear what you hear and must do as you will do.”
“If it is the only way…”
“If it is the only way...” echoed Arissa and a tumultuous rustling noise all around them was enough to satisfy Gabriel that the dead were of the same opinion. Besides, he grudgingly conceded, it was the only course left open to him. Instantly, it dawned on him with horror why young Peter had been brought to Mamelon in the first place. It had seemed natural enough to include the boy, but he had gravely underestimated his own stubbornness in feeling inclined to remain blind to the worst home truths.

In leafy Tonbridge Wells, Tim Wright, as Timon, once Holy Seer of Mamelon, had been observing events and was prepared for the summons when it came. He was painfully aware that he dare not return to Mamelon, not for fear of reprisal although that, too, but in the sure knowledge of his role as anchorman, without whom his family would stand little if any chance of returning to the Motherworld. A Time Gate had to be opened from both sides. If his and/ or Galia’s subconscious had been manipulated to that effect in the past, it would certainly not work now with consciousness in full play and vulnerable to dark forces beyond imagination.

 “Dad…?” Peter found himself asking again, engaging in a weird kind of mind-talk rather than the spoken word.
“Yes, Peter, it’s Dad here. Now, listen carefully and do exactly as I tell you, understand?” Much depends on it, more than either you or I shall probably ever know. Okay?”
Pers was unhappy to observe the red haired Motherworlder join the little huddle, linking hands with Michal and Irina to complete the circle. They made no protest, it was almost as if they were expecting his inclusion. The elf was tempted to attempt the same. He cared not for being left out in the cold like some alien intruder. Intruder, though, he had the sense to realize he would be, and remained leaning against a wall of rock, gazing anxiously up now and then as if expecting the sky to return. He sighed.. To secure their escape from this awful place would  take more than the likes of Ricci and the Foss called Fred. He had tried to dissuade Ricci from ascending after the little fellow, but to no avail.
Pers sighed again. He had never felt such alone, abandoned. His thoughts turned to Arissa only find himself being suddenly sucked forward in a blast of cold air from which there was no obvious source. In vain, the elf struggled to resist its savage pull. He opened his mouth to yell for help, but was unable to make a sound. For an instance, he teetered on the very edge of the rock platform; it was as if an invisible hand was forcing his head down, making him to gaze into the yawning void. Images beset him from all directions; dark, terrible images. Is this death or merely the end of the world? But there was no time to consider what may be truth or lie before the same blast of cold air sucked him into the monstrous gloom, and he was spiraling helplessly into its gaping mouth.
Strangely, he did not panic. It did not even occur to him to panic. He was content to simply let himself fall. Suddenly his descent was interrupted, suspending him in space. He experienced an excruciating pain, screamed, but made no sound. It was as if his whole being was caught in a tug-of-war between opposing forces, each vying for possession, neither much caring for his pain. At the very edge of consciousness, he was vaguely aware that he was ascending at which point he gratefully succumbed to The Void if only to stop the terrifying images assaulting mind, body, and spirit.
Meanwhile, Peter was struggling with a Great Unknown way beyond his experience or understanding. Instinctively, though, he followed his father’s voice through all the twists and turns of ancient magic, leading the conscious self a merry dance until only sheer willpower and native instinct remained the driving force, At one point, it felt as if his entire body was soaring upwards. His eyes dimly saw an obstruction, but the rest of his body paid it no attention and sailed right through it to land on a bracken-coloured cloud that whisked him off into some indefinable time and space.

Mick-Michal was the first of the five to emerge from the trance-like state they had been in, for how long they had no idea. He instinctively looked up and gave a ringing cry of delight to find a an aspect of Mamelon sky beaming down at him as if it wore a human face, Immediately, he turned to share both relief and delight with his brother,
Of Peter, though, there was no sign.
“Pete?” Mick called out, first in blank astonishment, and then with growing apprehension? “Pete! Pete, where are you?”
“Pers, too is gone…” Irina began to panic. “…but, where, why, how can they have just vanished? It makes no sense? What do you say, son of Astor? Surely, this reeks of druid magic. Where is my brother? Have you an explanation?” she rounded on Mick with a fury the likes of which he would not have believed the gentle elf girl capable. Before he could even frame a denial, Calum intervened.
“A sixth sense tells me they are safe, but do not ask me how I know this for I can no more begin to understand what is happening here than any of you. Of one thing, however, I am certain. This is neither the time nor the place to speculate. He pointed upwards at the distant sky. We now have the means to escape and we must take it without further delay. Whatever or whomsoever is embroiling us in some unimaginable magic, we must assume it is working for, not against us. It is my belief that all will become clear in good time. For now, we must put all else out of our minds and climb.” He spoke with such authority that no one thought to contradict him.
Mick, supported by Heron, appreciated the other’s reassuring hug while Irina was content, for now, to trust Calum’s instincts that her brother was safe. She and Michal exchanged reassuring looks and drew strength from them.
Bethan kept her own counsel, careful to avoid another of Calum’s adoring glances while aware of them all the same. She dare not let her resolve crumble. I am a Keeper. I cannot leave the mountain. He must know this, surely?  The others having, already resumed the daunting climb, she was content to bring up the rear if only because it forced her to clear her head. I must focus on the Here and Now, and put all else aside. She sighed. Easier said than done…
Meanwhile, at the summit, Ricci’s assessment of their newly found freedom was not encouraging. “We are as trapped here and we were below,” he complained, “Unless this mist clears, any attempt to descend would be tantamount to suicide and if it doesn’t… Well, we will freeze to death, I’ll say.”
“Shut up and listen,” retorted the little Foss with such uncharacteristic  force that Ricci promptly did as he was told.
“What am I supposed to be listening for?” he demanded crossly.
“I don’t know, but there is something out there. Can’t you hear it?  It is faint, and not a sound I have ever heard before, but sound it is, rather like a…”
“Gluck, gluck, gluck!!!”
“There it is again, and getting closer as if…Yes, it is heading straight for us!” Fred could barely contain his growing excitement.
“Glucks…?” Ricci could not believe his ears. “Here, we’re here!” he called out and began waving his arms wildly even though he knew his antics would not be visible in the ever thickening mist.
“What are glucks?” Fred wanted to know, but Ricci’s excitement was infectious and soon he, too, was dancing a little jig and waving his short arms in the knowledge that rescue was at hand.
Rescue, though, was a good while materializing. By the time the others had finally made their way to the mountaintop, there was still no sign of the ostrich-like creatures.
“Where is young Peter?” Ricci wanted to know.
“And Pers, where is the elf? Are they hurt that they are taking so long?” Fred took time off from jigging about to ask.
Both met with a heavy silence that was more than enough to warn them not to probe any further. Fred took the hint. Ricci was less inclined to let the matter drop. “Where are they?” he repeated, “What has happened to them? Are they hurt? We can’t just leave them there, I’ll say!”
“No one knows,” Bethan spoke up since no one else was saying a word, “They just…vanished. And don’t ask how, why or where they may have disappeared to because none of us have the faintest idea. “
“Astor, perhaps, it would be typical of him to…?”Ricci started to say, but was interrupted by a loud ‘gluck, gluck!” close to his left ear. The mist had thinned a little, in time to enable the ungainly creatures to land. He counted only five. Oh, dear, but there are seven of us.  A fine conundrum, and no mistake, I’ll say!
“Iggy, are we glad to see you!” Mick ran up the lead gluck and flung his arms around the pleased if disconcerted creature.
“Ricci, you and Fred are the lightest. You will have to ride together,” Calum was saying, “We need to move fast. I sense this fog is a living thing and who knows what harm it means us?” 
Fog, a living thing indeed! Whatever next? Even so, that their departure was of the greatest urgency Ricci was in no doubt. .
Where is Peter? Iggy wanted to know. Accustomed to mind talk by now, Mick quickly recovered from his initial surprise.
I don’t know, none of us do. He and Pers have just…disappeared. But Calum thinks there is no need to worry and both are safe.
Iggy appeared to accept this and said no more. He was far from reassured however and young Michal’s positive tone had rung hollow. He does not believe that any more than I do. If glucks could frown, Iggy would have done so. He had a peculiar fondness for the red haired Motherworld boy who had been the closest to a friend as any gluck could hope to find among humans.
“I will stay,” Fred announced loudly, startling everyone including the assembled. glucks. “The mountain is my home, it means me no harm, and I need to be with my own people.”
“But how will you find your way back down?” Irina put to him, her voice ringing with genuine concern for she had become fond of the little Foss, as had all they all.
“I will return the way we have come if this mist does not lift,” said Fred with a show of self-confidence he was far from feeling.
Calum, too, was about to protest when he was stopped in his tracks.
“I will stay also,” said Bethan, “I am a Keeper, it is my duty.”
“What, are you mad?” Calum could not believe his ears.
“I am a Keeper. I know my duty, just as you now know yours.”
“Duty…? Duty, be damned! You and I, we belong together, not apart, never apart!” he fumed and stamped his foot.
Bethan could not resist a tight smile as the infuriating Nu-gen in Calum overtook all else. “What must be, must be,” she insisted, “We have known that from the start. I can no more go with you than you can stay with me.” She pressed her body against his until it seemed to her that their hearts beat as one. Choking back tears, she pressed a finger to his lips. “We will not say goodbye, my love, for we will remain in each other’s hearts for all time.” She removed her finger and replaced it with a kiss before he could say another word; a kiss he eagerly, desperately returned.
The mountain shook.
“We must go, and go NOW,” Ricci wailed, already mounting the gluck nearest to him.
“He is right,” Heron agreed and indicated to Irina that they should do the same. Irina nodded, but she was carefully observing Mick-Michal who, in turn was clearly shaken by Bethan’s decision.
“You can’t stay Beth. What will I tell your father?”
“You will need to tell him nothing. He will know all there is to know,” she said, twisting slightly in Calum’s arms. “I belong here, Mick.” For a few moments they were Mick and Beth from leafy Tonbridge Wells, but the moment passed. She started to push Calum away, but so loath was she to leave his fierce embrace that her first half-hearted attempts failed miserably.
It finally dawned on Mick that Beth meant what she said. He knew that look too well to argue. Instead, he went to Fred and gave the little Foss a big hug. “Take care of her,” he whispered.”
“I will,” Fred promised. It was the first time he had experienced a hug and decided that he quite liked it. I will miss them all, but this one especially. They had, after all, endured much together.
“Friends forever,” Michal was saying.
“Friends forever,” Fred agreed, reflecting that he had never had a real friend before.
“Come along everyone, before the mountain changes its mind about letting us go!” Ricci shouted.
Irina and Heron mounted their glucks, and Mick proceeded although Irina noted that he could barely able to take his eyes off Bethan.
Beth pushed Calum away with a force that took him by surprise and sent him sprawling. “Now go, Mulac, GO.”
Her use of his adopted Nu-gen name told him all he needed to know, that she truly loved him, and would not change her mind. He turned from her without another word and mounted the nearest gluck that happened to be Iggy. “Take us wherever, gluck, I care not.” he groaned, falling into mind-speak without even having to think about it.
“Where are we going, and who sent you?” Ricci wanted to know, “Astor, I suppose. Better late than never, I’ll say. Even Ti-Gray has to be better than these accursed mountains.
“We go to Gar.”
Irina pricked up her ears as he caught Iggy’s reply and her heart leapt, dropping like a stone again as she pondered the fate of her dear brother. How would she explain his loss to their parents when his absence was inexplicable, a mystery?
All five glucks took off in unison.
“So, Fred, what now?” a tearful Bethan asked. It was, of course a theoretical question as nether had the faintest idea.