Thursday, August 8, 2013

Callia and the Quest for Light: Chapter 1

Chapter 1 “Of Wishes and Worries”
Callia closed the large book. Unsuccessfully, she attempted to stifle a sneeze as a cloud of dust billowed from its pages. She sat there in quiet contemplative silence for a few minutes longer. Her finger unconsciously traced the grains in the old wooden table, while her thoughts wandered to faraway places full of magic and adventure. With a touch of melancholy she wondered why her life wasn’t more like a book. She wished for the days when the great heroes battled ferocious monsters and rescued beautiful damsels. Their stories however, had been confined long ago to parchment, paper, and the imaginations of day dreamers like herself. With a wistful sigh she stood and went to go put the book away.
She heard soft footsteps as her Grandfather Randowl came shuffling up behind her and placed his old wrinkled hand on her shoulder. “And what have you learned today young one?”
She turned and looked up into his ancient face. She remembered that he had once told her that while some people looked at growing older and getting wrinkles as something worse than undesirable, he was proud of each and every one of his. He stated emphatically that they had all been well earned – the ones around his mouth from smiling often, around his eyes from seeing and reading all that he could, and the ones on his forehead from often being deep in thought.
         His eyes were still an enchanted hazel that changed along with his emotions. Most of the time they looked like they were a mottled dark brown, Callia had learned years ago however, that the more excited he got, or the angrier he was about something, the green would become more bright and predominant. Sometimes she would imagine that his eyes were windows to some great emerald fire that was burning inside him.
She was glad that she had for the most part inherited his eyes. The only difference between the two was that where his were green, Callia’s had the blue of her father’s eyes instead. With light brown hair, fair skin, and features that were often described as somewhat elfish or pixie-like, Randowl said she was a mirror image of her late-grandmother. That, combined with being the eldest of his grandchildren, had resulted in special relationship between the two of them.
As she searched her grandfather’s face she saw that Randowl’s eyes were glowing a startling bright emerald and she knew that something was wrong. “What happened in the meeting today Grandfather? Is the news bad?”
        “First things first my dear granddaughter. I believe I have already asked you a question.”
        “Very well, I learned that the books are in need of a good dusting. Now it’s your turn.” Callia smiled impishly.
Randowl shook his head and chuckled softly to himself. “As always, you have your grandmother’s gift of insight. You are of nineteen winters now Callia and I trust that you are mature enough to hear an honest answer, and to keep it to yourself. No, things do not look good.” He sighed heavy and long. Callia thought that he must have aged another ten years in that brief moment as he prepared himself to continue. “The library will be closing soon. I also fear that other changes will be following swiftly that will be just as devastating for our city and our family.”
Callia felt the words as keenly as though an enormous dragon had suddenly landed on her chest, scraped her skin raw, and forced the air from her lungs. “Why are they doing this Grandfather? Don’t they understand that the changes they are making are destroying the town instead of helping it?”
Without a word he walked over to the door that led from the library to his private home. As Callia followed him inside, he shut and locked the door. He then crossed the room and collapsed into his favorite rocking chair before continuing. “I am not sure they do Callia, the men of this new council are young and foolish.”
Callia’s mind was still reeling from the shock. “But you have always said that right is right and wrong is wrong no matter who you are.”
“Yes, and I still believe that. Unfortunately they are rich young fools that have grown up hiding behind their money and they enjoy the power that seems to have come to them with it.”
    “Can’t we can do something to stop them? They can’t just close the library without a reason. This library is part of the city. It has been here nearly since the city was founded.”
    “They claim that the new library that they built at the city court is much better and more efficient, and that this one is outdated and a drain on the resources of the people and so on.”
    “But we have never collected so much as one waype from the city! Does anyone actually believe them?”
    Randowl removed his glasses and began to rub at the bridge of his nose. “I am not sure that most people know who or what to believe anymore.”
     “But this is wrong Grandfather! The only thing all their edicts have done is line their pockets, destroy our culture and heritage, and force good people to leave the city.”
    At her last words, Randowl shifted nervously in his chair and began to look uncomfortable, “Callia, I think it may be time that you and your parents take a family trip over to Hadfield. You could stay with your father’s family there, at least until things here improve somewhat.”
    Callia stood there momentarily frozen with shock at the twist in their conversation. After she was sure that she hadn’t imagined what he had said she took a good long look at her grandfather. “For you to even be considering sending us away something much bigger than the library closing is happening. I would almost think that they have threatened our family. Oh Grandfather, has it really gone that far?”
    For a few moments they stood there staring each other in the eye, neither wanting to back down. Callia knew that Randowl was trying to hide something from her and she had to know what it was. At last Randowl’s eyes admitted defeat and he drummed his fingertips together as he thought about how he could put his thoughts into words. When he finally looked at her again Callia could see the pain in his expression and began to wish that she had not asked.
    “First of all, you can not tell your parents what I am about to tell you. They will have enough on their minds already without adding to their concerns. To be honest though, to say that I got the impression that they want me, well, all of us out of Walesmena permanently would be an understatement. I think closing down the library is just the beginning of trying to force us out. I do not know yet exactly what they are willing to do to make that happen. All I know is that they seem very determined and I am not willing to take a chance that something might happen to any of you.”
    “And what about you? What if something happened to you? I do not think I could bear it Grandfather. I can not believe that anyone would be so cruel.” She wanted to run to him, hug him tightly and cry on his shoulder but she was so full of fear and anger that tears would not come.
    “I know this will not be much consolation, but I do not believe they will dare do anything to me outright, at least not quite yet. Fortunately, I have two things in my favor - people do not like others that would treat an old man unkindly and our family has a legacy in this town that will not soon be forgotten.”
    “But you said yourself, the way things are going people might not dare to stand up to them too much longer.”
    “I promise you I will do my best to be careful. That is why I want you all to leave as soon as possible. It will be much easier to do what I need to do without having to worry about them using any of you to bait me.”
    “Do what you need to do? What are you talking about? What is left for you to do with us gone and the library closed?”
    “Actually the decision to close the library might turn out to be quite helpful to us.”
    Callia was puzzled. “But how Grandfather?”
    “Well, I can not tell you too much. I’m still not sure about all the details myself. I do believe however that there is information here that they want to keep us from finding out about. Closing the library is part of trying to chase us away, I don’t doubt that. However, some of the questions they asked today lead me to believe that they have some deeper motives.”
    “If that is true, then it will go quicker if I stay and help you search through the books. I can help you much more here than I can half way around the world.”
    Randowl took her hands in his and looked into her eyes. “Callia, please listen to me carefully. Right now I need you to go and help your family get away from here to where they will be safe and protected. You know that they won’t go without you and that they will need your help along the way.”
    “Fine, I will help them reach Hadfield. But then I am coming back to help you.”
    “No, you would not be safe traveling by yourself. Besides that, your parents would never allow it.”
    Callia knew that he was right of course, but that didn’t make it an easier for her. “Oh I wish this was like one of the old stories and I had some magic power that could make everything right again.”
    Randowl laughed gently and gazed at her with thoughtful intensity. “But my dear, you do have magic within you that is more than capable of weathering this storm and defeating whatever foe may dare to cross your path. You just have not yet discovered it.”
    Now Callia huffed with exasperation, “Oh don’t tease me so Grandfather. I just meant to say that I wish it didn’t have to be like this. I feel so helpless to think of having to leave you when things here are so grim.”
    “I am not teasing you Callia. We all have special gifts hidden inside of us just waiting to be discovered. I believe with all my heart that there is a magic within you that could conquer any obstacle. Don’t be so quick to dismiss those old fairy tales and legends. Remember even the most blatant lie must contain at least one grain of truth to be believed.”
    Callia squirmed a bit under Randowl’s penetrating gaze as she realized that he was serious. He really believed she could perform magic somehow. That was ridiculous though, in all her daydreams and fanciful wishing she never once had believed such things might ever be a reality for herself or anyone else for that matter.
    Uncomfortable with the uncertainty of what his words meant, she decided to switch back to the pressing topic at hand. “But, how am I going to tell Mother and Father that we need to leave without alerting them to what has happened? A sudden trip to Hadfield might seem kind of unusual.”
    Randowl nodded and it was as if his last words had never been spoken. “I have already started making preparations that will help you be on your way quickly. All I need you to do is explain to them that I have made arrangements for the trip and that I hope to be following you all soon.”
    “I will not lie to them Grandfather.”
    “I am not asking you to. It is not a lie. As soon as I get everything taken care of here,I will come for you all. By then we should know if it will be stay there with you or bring you home again.”
    “I still do not like leaving you all by yourself.”
    “I know my dear, I will miss you all as well. Just remember that your grandmother will be watching over all of us. I would hate to be the one that tries to hurt any of our family if the spirits that have passed on can still have power in this world.”
    Callia laughed despite herself. “Well Grandfather, we may find out just exactly what she is capable of if things do not go well.”
    “True, though you know me, I always prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Perhaps my worries are only the rantings of an old man and nothing serious will come of this. I sincerely hope that everything will be resolved before Winter Solstice and we will be together again soon. And who knows, maybe there is a young man over in Hadfield that will take a fancy to you and tame some of that stubborn streak.” Randowl’s eyes twinkled mischievously.
    Callia smiled with the comfortable familiarity of their old joke. “The question is not if he should take a fancy to me, but if I should ever be tempted to return such fancy. Besides – you never tamed Grandmother did you?”
    Randowl smiled and suddenly seemed very far away. “You would be surprised what love will do to the right hearts.”
    Callia reached out and took his great hands in her slender ones. “Oh Grandfather, I doubt that I would have any time for silly romance when I will be sick with worry about you.”
    “Come now, I will be fine, but you had better be getting back home. The time passes quickly and I want you all ready to leave by tomorrow’s afternoon. Remember, only worry about your personal necessities. I will look after everything else.”
    Callia leaned up and gave Randowl a kiss on his leathered cheek. “Very well, then I will see you again tomorrow.”

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