Thursday, 2 March 2017

Mamelon 2 - Chapter Twenty-Five


In leafy Tonbridge Wells, Tim Wright, albeit in his persona as Timon, erstwhile Holy Seer of Mamelon, had kept a close eye on his family since Gail and the boys had been transported to that Otherworld. His concern for their safety reached a new intensity as the seer bowl revealed they were trapped within the mountain, close to the Tomb of the Creator. He was only too well aware of the various forces for good and evil alike posing a threat to their deliverance, not least the power of Xaruki magic into which Ragund appeared to have tapped. He was expecting Astor, and was agreeably surprised when Gabriel materialised in the Wright’s suburban lounge.
“I was expecting Astor,” Timon admitted, “But you are welcome, of course, more than welcome. Indeed, I am honored by your presence in my home.”
“You know who I am?” It was Gabriel’s turn to express surprise.
“I know who you are not, Gabriel Martin,” responded Timon with a wry smile that was sufficient to put Gabriel as ease. He had not changed, this Holy Seer, always something of a rogue at heart and never quite suited to his position. At the same time, Gabriel also recognized something of a kindred spirit; both were inclined to go their own way whether or not it should fall in with general opinion. He is a good man, for all his faults. I should have known better than to nurse misgivings. Even so, he kept his tone neutral and took pains not to appear conciliatory. “You know why I am here.”
“I do. You want to know if I can beat Ragund at his own game.”
“Can you?”
Timon shrugged. “I can try. Ri has been kinder to me than any in Mamelon. Whether or not He will aid me in thwarting Xakuri magic, who knows…?”
“But you will try?”
“Of course, and with such as your good self backing me up, how can I fail?” He smiled, but neither mockingly nor lightly.
“Ri knows Xu of old and Xu is Xaruki,” said Gabriel mustering an impressive show of self-confidence.
“The elf and my son, they must be in Gar and know what they must do before Ragund has time to launch a counter offensive.”
“I could not have put it better myself.”
“My son, Peter, can he survive this?”
“I hope so. If he has inherited his father’s bloody-mindedness, as his red hair would suggest, I would say it is very likely.” He managed a wan, impassive smile.
“But no guarantees…” It was not a question.
“No guarantees,” Gabriel agreed, “I will support you in any way I can, of course. But no, there are no guarantees.”
“In other words, you would have me gamble with my son’s life,” a tight-lipped Timon observed with a hint of venom.
“Do we have a choice, either of us?” responded Gabriel coolly.
Timon shook his head, and proceeded to prepare himself mentally and physically for the task ahead.
Gabriel did likewise if requiring minimal preparation, mind and spirit no better  prepared than the other’s to venture forth from the body but having had considerably more practice over more lifetimes than Earth folk were inclined to measure in centuries. There, he had to concede, lay the greater flaw in his calculations. Timon had chosen the Motherworld over Mamelon. Earth folk, as he’d often had cause to despair, were far too easily led by their passions. Or misled, as well the case may be…
Not unaware of his visitor’s reservations, Tim concentrated all the harder on reviving and reliving old practices, confident in the knowledge that Gabriel could and would provide back-up if and when required. Consequently, Timon, erstwhile Holy Seer of Mamelon, was soon engaging in mind-speak with his Motherworld son.
“Dad, is that you?”
“It is, and you have nothing to be afraid of if you just do as I say, okay?” A bemused Peter nodded. “Good. Now, I want you to close your eyes, empty your mind and be led by me through the gamut your subconscious needs must run. Can you do that?”
“I’ll try, but…”
“Do you recall the crab apple tree in out garden at home?”
“Yes, and…?”
“Picture it in your mind, focus on a single branch and imagine you are a bird alighting upon it. You must do more than picture the bird, you must become the bird. “Can you do that?”
“I’ll try. Any bird…? A magpie…?
“A magpie will do nicely, yes. Oh, and you must do more than try, son, for much is at stake.”
Peter did as he was told and was surprised to discover how easy it was to recall the old apple tree and imagine he was a magpie alighting on one of its leafy branches.
 “Now, spread your wings and fly away…”
“Good, now Ri in His wisdom will guide you and keep you safe as far as to the Forest of Gar. The bird knows its destination so just relax, fly and enjoy…”
Suddenly, Timon was aware of danger, near, demanding attention. Yet, he dare not take his inner eye off Peter just yet or the boy would probably sense his absence and panic.
“Leave the boy to me,” said Gabriel, the other’s mind-speak as urgent as it was reassuring.
Pers…! How he sensed the elf was in danger, he could not be sure at first but it was not long before his worst suspicions were confirmed.  Xaruki…
Pers was plummeting into the heart of Xaruki underworld. It took all the skill, power and resolve of Timon, Holy Seer, to reverse the elf’s fall and set him on a course for Gar.
By the time he had accomplished the task, he was exhausted and barely had energy left to check on Peter’s progress. No worries there. The boy lay fast asleep on a bed of leaves within a short distance from the Fire Tree, close enough to be discovered by elves that would shortly be dispatched by their queen, La, to that very end.
Tim-Timon’s last thoughts before losing consciousness focused, albeit through a thickening mist, upon whether his youngest son might yet be saved from the clutches of the Xu. And where does the elf figure in the ultimate end-game? How far was he, as either Holy Seer or father, prepared to go to save Mamelon from Ragund? Thankfully, he sank into a deep sleep before he could begin to frame an answer to the question so tormenting him.
And well it might torment you, Gabriel mused, as he prepared to make his departure for Nul-y-Gray where he barely dared hope to make allies of the Dead if only for the briefest moment in time; no more or less would be required, but it would mean openly defying every principle of magic and mortality upon which not only Mamelon but the entire universe had tuned since the beginning of time. Can even the Dead be bought for a price, a sacrifice willingly made…? He sighed. Would Pers be willing to surrender his life even upon a solemn promise of rescue at the eleventh hour?  He sighed again, all but certain the elf was not up to it and doubtful, in any case, if any such rescue were possible, which left him with only one alternative…
He would have to lie.

For Astor to visit the elven city of Gar was a rare enough event to be noted in the archives kept in its Great Library. Ka-Ri and La-Ri who ruled in Gar, Ka and La as they were generally known, received him in the comfort of their private chambers. Ka was curious while La maintained a dignified silence throughout the interview, only betraying any emotion at the mention of her children.
Astor explained as much as he had been given to understand by Gabriel that Pers had returned to Gar along with the red haired motherworld boy, Peter; their task, to return natural light to Mamelon which, together with the flow of water once again, would restore Mamelon to its former glory.
“But what roles are they expected to play, our Pers and the Motherworld boy?” Ka was as anxious for his son as he was excited about saving his people.
“The boy is a fire sign,” Astor pointed out. “As such, he has an affinity with the Fire Tree through which light will once again brighten our gloomy skies. He will become as one with the Fire Tree, give it life, and restore its spirit before…” His voice trailed away.
“Before what…?” La prompted
“Before Ragund can put some vile purpose of his own into practice,” Astor responded with uncharacteristic eagerness after a fractional pause that Ka appeared not to notice but which did not escape La.
“Ragund!” the elven ruler exclaimed, “What is that devil up to now?”
“Somehow he has managed to tap into Xaruki magic and use it to his own foul ends. The boy’s natural affinity with the Fire Tree has the capacity to set itself against the likes of any dark magic, Xaruki or otherwise.”
“I see,” said Ka who was not at all sure that he did “…and what of our Pers? How does he fit in with the way of things?”
“Would you have had the Motherworld boy carry out such a task alone?”  Astor was plainly uncomfortable, but if his hosts noticed, neither gave any outward sign. “Pers is an elf on elven soil, a child of Ri as are all elves. He will know instinctively what needs to be done. Having already established a relationship with the boy, he is in a unique position to offer support and guide him through the gamut that needs must be run.”
“So why Pers and not Irina…?” La asked with a directness that left Astor even more uneasy. He had asked the same question of Gabriel, only to feel less than reassured by the response. Swallowing hard, he contrived an enigmatic smile and repeated Gabriel’s own words as he had done, more or less, from the start, “The masculine force in magic is always greater than the feminine, as we all know. No little is at stake here. Every precaution must be taken. Ragund must be thwarted at all costs. Failure is not an option. The alternative is unthinkable.” He managed to inject a certain authority into his voice despite feeling less self-assured with every word he spoke.
Ka nodded, “It makes sense. It would not do to fall at the last hurdle. Be sure that elves do not underestimate the Dark Mage. I am pleased that Pers has been chosen for this task, the responsibility with do much for his self-esteem.  He is a good son, but less aware of his flaws than is perhaps…”
“Safe…?” La suggested, the irony in her voice not lost upon Astor who took care to avoid her eye and continued addressing Ka.
“None of us are flawless,” the White Mage commented, “but, yes, the experience will be a valuable learning curve for Pers.”
Ka nodded thoughtfully while La bristled at what she saw as Astor’s patronizing tone. The elf king suddenly looked Astor in the eye, “Can we see him, his mother and I?”
Astor shook his head. He had been well briefed by Gabriel on a question that was only, after all, to be expected, “Per must do this alone, no distractions. Trust me. He will find it within himself to do what must be done and see to it that the Motherworld boy also plays his part. There is much at stake,” he added unnecessarily.
Ka nodded.
Trust you, druid? La was incredulous but said nothing.
The attention of all three was suddenly distracted by the arrival of a very shabbily dressed elderly elf who, despite his attire, instantly commanded notice and respect. “I humbly beg your highnesses pardon,” murmured the elf about whom Astor judged there was nothing in the least humble, “…but I need my king’s advice on a gardening matter.”
“My husband is a keen gardener,” La murmured to Astor who was already well aware of the fact.
“A king’s best friend is his gardener,” Ka told Astor,” apart from his wife, that is,” he added with a chuckle. Suddenly, the dour king seemed more animated than he had been throughout and anxious to accede to the newcomer’s request. He glanced at La as if seeking her approval.
Or is it her permission he seeks …?  Astor wondered, never an admirer of the elf king.
 La nodded, her face lighting up with a radiant smile, one that caused Astor to reflect how he had once, long ago, felt inspired by her beauty to bring all his charm to bear on the elf queen, and in turn, been charmed also.
“You will forgive me, Astor?” Ka was anxious to leave while equally anxious not to offend their surprise guest who had kindly brought such astonishing if welcome news.
“There is nothing to forgive,” Astor assured him, “A garden that is about to be restored fully to life requires immediate attention.”
Inclined to think Astor was mocking him but resolved to give him the benefit of doubt, Ka took his leave.
A long, uncomfortable silence ensured between mage and elf queen.
“I must take my leave also…” Astor began only to be interrupted by a La-Ri in no mood to be trifled with.
“So masculine magic is more powerful than feminine, is it? Whoever has filled your head with such nonsense is a fool indeed.  Yet, you are no fool, Astor, and know better than anyone not to underestimate elves. We both know why my son was chosen for this task. He is pure elven while Irina…”
“She is well and grown as beautiful as her mother.”
“And what else does your inner eye tell, you, mage? Does it tell you she is also as strong-minded and intuitive as her mother? Thankfully, she takes far less after her father although more so than I would wish.”
“What can I say…?”
“You can say what is in your heart, mage, and tell me the truth. My son has his flaws, yes, as we all do, but he is not one to be trifled with. Elves are not mere tools to be used for the purposes of magic, light or dark. I tell you again, Astor, do not underestimate elves.”
“I…” Astor fumbled for words.
“Lost for words, druid? That has to be a first. The truth must be worse than I even feared…” her voice trailed away in the face of an expression she never thought to see him wear, one of immense compassion. For an instant, she froze. My son, my son, what terrible fate awaits you? She quickly recovered her composure while scarcely recognizing the sound of her own voice. “Everything you have said since your arrival here has been a lie. Now, either you tell me the truth about my son and the Motherworld boy or I will seek them out myself and bring them back here, away from the Fire Tree, where they will be safe.”
“You cannot, you dare not!” Astor protested.
If she needed to be convinced further of Astor’s deceit, the genuine fear in his eyes was more than enough. “You truly believe I would not?”
Astor shook his head miserably. He had warned Gabriel that the elf queen would not be easily convinced.
“Ragund…” he began
“There is more to this than I dare say even Ragund himself is aware. He may well, as you say, have tapped into Xaruki magic but if he thinks he has the faintest idea how to use it, well, he is in for a rude awakening. We both know better. Xu will make a tool of him for his own dastardly ends. So I think you had better start from the beginning.”
Astor sighed. Never underestimate elves. He had tried to tell Gabriel, but the other had chosen to turn a deaf ear.  “I fear no one is in possession of the whole truth,” he began lamely, “so much of what I say will be speculation…”
“I am listening, druid. Go ahead, speculate…”