Thursday, October 10, 2013

Callia and the Quest for Light Chapter 2: Of Plans and Preparations

Chapter 2 “Of Plans and Preparations”
     On the way home Callia attempted to sort through the thing things her grandfather had told her. Everyone in her family had known that something was wrong in Walesmena for some time now. The Walesmena City Council, or the Sons of the City as they were now calling themselves, had recently been changing a lot of things.
     First it had been the complete renovation of the main fortress that was also the Council Hall and the private residences for many of the council members. Then there were the changes to the Academy that prevented many young men from being able to attend classes there. After that it was the increase in taxes that were making it almost impossible for anyone to continue farming, and so on. They claimed that their edicts were all for the good of Walesmena. Callia knew better. They were selfish and greedy and had only their own interests at heart.
     Never since the reign of Tarspen, the last king of Walesmena, had anyone held such power over the citizens. Tarspen had been such a terrible monarch that after he was overthrown the people of the city decided that they would never again allow someone to have that kind of unchecked power. The council was formed so that leaders would be chosen by and responsible to the people. Somehow though, something had gone wrong. Callia wasn’t sure when it happened, or how it had happened but it seemed like the people of the city no longer mattered.
     For just a moment Callia allowed herself to contemplate what Randowl had said about magic. If only it was true. Then Callia wouldn’t have to think about leaving or what the council was going to do next. She could just wave a wand or say an incantation and all her problems would be solved. She laughed at herself. The idea was impossible and she knew it, the more she thought about it she decided that he must have been teasing her after all or at least trying to distract her from the gloomy reality. Magic simply didn’t exist anymore, even if it once had during the time of those old legends.
     Callia focused her mind back on the journey at hand. The thought of leaving Walesmena made Callia unexplainably sad. Her ancestors had been with the first group that left Yloban and came to settle the area. She felt as though her life was inseparably connected with the mountains, lakes, forests and soil that were Walesmena. Without them she could not imagine feeling whole.
     As Callia thought about this more and more she came to a decision. She would do as her grandfather had asked and help get her family to safety. When that was done however, she would not just wait there patiently and hope that somehow a miracle would happen. She wasn’t sure exactly yet what she was going to do, but there would be plenty of time to think through that part later.
     For the rest of the walk home Callia was almost cheerful again. It felt good to have a plan, even if she still had some pieces to work out. At last she reached the little street that her family lived on and turned down the familiar path to their home.
     Callia lived with her her parents and five siblings in a little stone cottage that had been in her family for many generations. As she unlatched their front gate and walked down the cobbled pathway she sighed to herself and wondered what would happen to their home after they left. The council had been trying to buy it from her parents and with the house sitting empty Randowl might not be able to keep the council from taking it.
    There had never been a lot of people that lived out this far from the main area of the city, but as part of their “City Improvement Plan”, the council had worked on buying the few homes that were here. If a person refused to sell they were either evicted under their new guidelines or chased out of town like was being done with her family. Now her family was one of the last.
    She wondered what the council could possibly want with these homes. Surly there was some reasoning behind all of the council’s new policies. What were they trying to accomplish with all of this? She knew part of it was that they were trying to remove people like her family that they saw as possible threats for one reason or another. There were others however that had been affected that did not fall into this category.
    Well, it was something else for her to think about on the way to Hadfield. She would certainly keep busy. If they could discover the motive and reasoning behind the council’s decisions it would help them know where to start looking for a solution to their problems. Otherwise it would be like shooting arrows into the darkness, they might get fortunate and succeed but more than likely they would miss completely. Unfortunately most of the information her Grandfather had given her just raised more questions instead of really answering any of them. Her mind felt as if it was spinning in circles, always running but never actually getting anywhere. It was starting to make her head hurt.
    Now it was time to face her family and tell them about needing to leave. She had to be careful not to tell them anything more than was necessary. Grandfather was right, they were likely to get worried and make a big fuss about everything. Doing so would not accomplish anything except to postpone their leaving and that would not be good for anyone.
    As she was trying to figure out how much they really needed to know she was practically knocked off her feet as a little bundle of energy with fire bright hair came rushing out of the trees by the house to meet her.
    Callia was already of thirteen winters when Leymi was born and their mother had relied a great deal on Callia’s help to look after her. That combined with being the only girls of their family until Shining Star was born a few months ago had made them very close to each other. At six winters now Leymi was growing up quickly and Callia often thought of her as more of a friend than a little sister.
    “Momma thought you was going to miss dinner.”
    “I am a little late today, aren’t I?”
    “Yep yep, everyone else is already inside. I knew you would be here soon though so I came outside to wait for you.” Leymi’s bright blue eyes danced in excitement.
    “You came outside to climb trees a few more minutes.” Callia laughed and swung her around.
    Leymi gave her biggest grin, “Well, I had to do something while I waited.”
    “Okay my little imp, are you ready to go inside?”
    Leymi nodded quickly, “Momma made some stew. It looks really good, and smells good too.”
    “Then we should go and get some dinner before those boys eat it all.”
    Sure enough as she opened the door Callia smelled the wonderful aromas of her mother’s stew and some freshly baked bread. The rest of the family was already sitting at the table, but it looked like they had only just begun eating so fortunately Callia wasn’t as late as she worried she might have been.
    Serlmach, Callia’s father, was taking with her mother Zebethial about work that day and things that needed to be done. Zebethial was trying to listen to him as she kept pulling Shining Star down from the table and get her to eat some bits of potato and carrots.
    Serlmach was a good honest, hardworking man. He was a skilled carpenter and his hands showed the customary nicks and cuts from his days of apprenticeship. His eyes were a bright sapphire blue. His hair was a dark, sandy blond that was just now beginning to show touches of gray. He still seemed quite young and strong for his forty-three winters.
    Zebethial, even at forty winters was still a natural beauty. She had inherited Randowl’s hazel green eyes although hers seemed not change quite as often or as deeply. She was a very petite woman although she would not likely be considered weak or fragile looking. Callia wasn’t sure what it was but Zebethial just seemed to radiate love and strength.
    Happy and mischievous little Shining Star was the newest addition to their family. She had been born only nine moons ago so according to tradition had not been given her proper name yet. Because so many children died very young it was the custom not to officially name a child until they reached their third winter. Callia's mother had once told her that it was also done because there was no way to know what kind of person they might be until they were at least that old.   
    There were also the three boys. Naiyer was sixteen now and much like their father. He had the same sapphire eyes, sandy-blond hair, and slightly muscular build that came from helping their father with all of the work that they did with carpentry and farming. His real love though was for numbers. He was one of those rare people that mathematics and figures just came naturally to. He had always loved watching all of the adults when they would do inventories or balance their financial books. Grandfather Randowl had recently let him take over all the accounting books for the library.
    Thanan and Jausho were the twins. Now fourteen winters old, they were already taller than Naiyer. Both had red hair. It had never been quite as bright red as Leymi’s was now, but even still had darkened quite a bit as they had gotten older, and was almost reaching the rich auburn of their mother’s.
    Despite their work alongside their father and Naiyer and the many hours they had spent out doors exploring nature they both were still quite thin and wiry, much like Randowl. Others would often comment that it made them appear a little older than they actually were. For the most part they just kept to themselves and their family. They had actually spoken in their own language just between the two of them until they were four winters old, and still sometimes reverted to it if they were alone or trying to be secretive.
    Callia knew how fortunate she was, she loved her family and they were all very close. That would be why telling them about Randowl’s plan for them to leave while he remained behind would be so difficult. He was the only parent that Zebethial and Serlmach had left between the two of them and the only grandparent that any of the children had ever known. Callia was still trying to cope with his decision herself even though she understood it was really the only thing that he could do.
    As Leymi closed the door behind them her father looked up from his conversation. “Well, good to see you home at last Callia. Is everything alright at the library with your grandfather? You are a little late getting home tonight.”
    “Yes, he is well. He just had some things he wanted to discuss.” She paused nervously, “actually, after dinner I would like to call a family meeting if that’s all right with you.”
    Callia felt the tension immediately change the feeling of the room. Some reacted by eating more quickly so they could get to it and find out what was happening. Others ate more slowly as to have more time to ponder what it could be or perhaps they already had a good idea and wanted time to think through their thoughts before the time came. For her own part, only the fact that she was starving and the rich aroma of the stew and bread being so tempting allowed her to think about eating even a small portion of the meal.   
    Finally everyone was finished and the table was cleared. Everyone sat down again around the table except for her father who stood at his chair facing everyone.
After taking a silent turn acknowledging everyone’s attention, his eyes focused on Callia and he began. “Callia, since you called for this meeting, you have the first opportunity to speak.”
    Callia stood up slowly. She usually never was nervous around her family. Tonight however she had a difficult time keeping her voice from shaking and her knees from trembling and collapsing beneath her.
    Callia attempted to be brave and began. “Well, to keep this as short and simple as possible Grandfather told me today that he thought it might be a good idea if we had a chance to get away from home for a while. That’s why I was a little late tonight. He wanted me to discuss it with you since he’s occupied with other things tonight and can not be here himself.”
    Thanan and Jausho gave each other looks and began to communicate silently whatever it was their thoughts at the moment were. Leymi’s face was puzzled up in deep concentration trying to understand what Callia had said and what it meant for her. Zebethial and Serlmach both looked at each other knowingly as if they had already had a good idea of what this was going to be about. Naiyer just stared down at his hands and feet, looking at them but seeing nothing. Even Shining Star was quiet; seeming to sense the tension like it was something tangible.
    After a minute or two of everyone lost in their own thoughts her mother finally broke the silence. “There isn’t really much to say to that. I trust if your grandfather feels that strongly about it that he probably has his reasons. What does everyone else think?”
    “When would we have to leave?” Thanan asked hesitantly.
“And where would we go?” Jausho added.
“Well, that is where Grandfather is now. He went to go finish some arrangements for us to be able to leave for Hadfield tomorrow afternoon. He figured it would be a good opportunity for us to visit Father’s family.”
    “Tomorrow!” Leymi looked shocked and panicked.
    “Yes, that was what he said would be best,” Callia tried to sound cheerful. “You know Grandfather, he never likes waiting around once he gets an idea in his head. He did say we would only have to worry about getting the basic things we might need to get ready and that he would be taking care of everything else.”
    Serlmach stood again and began to pace, “There would still be a lot to take care of and get ready in less than a day.”
    “Can I bring Sandstone?” Callia couldn’t help but smile at Leymi’s sweet innocence.
    “Yes, of course you could bring Sandstone. I don’t think he would want to be separated from you and he is a good traveler.” Zebethial also was smiling at Leymi.
“Oh, alright then,” said Leymi quietly then she went back into her own thoughts again.
    Zebethial looked thoughtful as she began mentally sorting through all that would need to be done. “We could do it if we all pitch in and work together, get a start on it now and then wake up first thing in the morning. With the nine of us we’ll have just enough room with the two wagons I think.”
    Callia tried not to cringe as she struggled to find a voice that would be calm to express the part of this that would be hardest for them all. “Actually, it will only be the eight of us. Grandfather said that he cannot leave the library quite yet.”
    Silence hung in the air as they all looked at her with disbelief. When no one said anything Callia continued. “He did say that he would try and come along as quickly as possible though so hopefully he won’t be too far behind us.” It wasn’t a lie Callia thought, it was what he had said, she just worried about the accuracy of his definition of quickly.
    Serlmach tried to ease the strain of the moment. “Well, we will hope that he finishes with things there soon. You’re right Zebe. For now at least we could store some things away and then we could send for them later if we needed to stay longer.” Her father’s voice and expression let Callia know that he knew there was more to this then she was saying. He then turned to Naiyer, “You have yet to say what you think.”
    Naiyer, who until specifically addressed had remained intently concentrating on his feet slowly looked up, “If you really want to know, I don’t understand why we need to leave. I think that we should be working on fixing things instead of running away like cowards.”
    Serlmach’s face hardened slightly. “I know it may seem like that to you now son, but your mother and I, as heads of this family, have a responsibility to make sure that all of you are safe and protected. I do not believe that doing so is cowardly.” So softly Callia could barely hear he added, “In some ways it will be much harder for us to leave.”
    Callia had to admire Naiyer. She just wished she could tell him that she agreed about wanting to stay and help, but she knew that she could not risk discussing it until she was ready to put her plans into action, whatever they wound up being.
    Her father looked around at everyone again, “Well, does anyone else have anything that they would like to add?” After a minute where everyone was silent he said, “I guess that settles it then. Let’s all get to work, but try to get some rest tonight. Tomorrow is going to be a very long day. Remember what your Grandfather Randowl said, you should pack only the clothes and things you will need the most.”

     Quietly everyone went to their rooms and began to prepare for the journey. Callia had been to Hadfield once when she and Naiyer were young. She had been a little younger than Leymi was now. She did not remember much except that it was a long trip and she had enjoyed playing with her cousins and the horses there. She was fairly certain that Naiyer did not remember any of it. At the time of their journey he had not even been old enough to be named.
    Leymi was already busy packing when Callia walked into their room.
    “So Cali, do you think we’ll be there very long?”
    “I don’t know Leymi. It will take us about six weeks just to get there so we may not make it home before Winter Solstice, and remember that the seasons are reversed there, we probably need to be prepared for all types of weather.”
    “But if I have to pack sweaters and my coat it will take up a lot of space and I want to be able to bring some of my pictures and art supplies.”
    “Well I could probably take some of your things and maybe you could ask Mother and Father about anything else you might want.”
    “Thanks Cali, you are the best big sister ever.” Leymi threw her arms around Callia’s neck then added softly, “I am glad that you will be with me. I’m a little scared.”
    “Now really!” Callia held her so she could look into her face, “I can not imagine that you would be scared of anything.”
    “I know,” she said. “But I really don’t wanna leave.”
    Callia tried to be cheerful. “I don’t think any of us do Leymi. I promise you though that Father’s brothers have lots of children and I am sure some of them are about your age and would love to play with you. Aunt Dilseyna has lots of horses and ponies and I am sure she would love to teach you to ride. You know she was the one to give me Kinsey. You will have so much fun once we get there that you won’t want to come home!”
    “You really think so? What if none of them like me? Aren’t they different over there? Gia told me that the people there eat bugs.”
    Callia pretended to look thoughtful. “I don’t remember anyone eating bugs. But you never know, sometimes it’s good to try new things! Besides of course they will like you, they won’t be able not to!”
    Leymi smiled her first real smile since diner. “Thanks Cali. I think I am gonna go ask Momma about my things.”
    Bouncing cheerfully out the door, Leymi went to go find Zebethial. Callia just smiled after her. How wonderful it would be to be young and mostly unconcerned again. She wished there was a way to make sure that Leymi could stay that way always.
    Just then there was a soft knock at the door and Naiyer peeked in. “May I speak with you for a moment?”
    Callia looked at her still empty trunk and thought that this would indeed be a long night. Still she smiled and motioned him in. “Of course, what is on your mind little brother?”
    Naiyer groaned with exasperation. “I might be younger but I have been taller than you for the past two years.”
    “True enough.” Callia laughed. “I suppose I should stop calling you that. You really are almost a man after all.”
    “So what do you really think about all of this?”
    Callia decided to try and pretend ignorance. “Well, there is a lot going on, you’ll have to be a bit more specific.”
    “The trip, our family, Grandfather, Walesmena, all of it I guess. It is all connected right?”
    Callia nodded and tried not to show how close to the truth he was, “In some ways probably.”
    “Do you really think this is a good idea, to just leave when so much is going on here?”
    Callia sighed with weariness and sunk down on her bed. “Right now I am not sure if there are any other options for our family. All I know is that I trust that Grandfather knows what he is doing.”
    “Oh, I know that you are right, but I can’t help but, well," Naiyer hesitated a moment and then rushed on, "Oh promise that you will not tell Mother or Father, but we have been talking about some of what is happening in the city at The Academy. There is a small group of us that are trying to join together like the Freedom Fighters did during the reformation when Tarspen was overthrown and do something about what is happening.”
    Callia stood there gaping at the brother she thought she knew. “You are doing what?”
    Naiyer was blushing now, “It is still a pretty small group only about seven or eight of us. We are working on getting more people involved though.”
    “I don’t know what to say Naiyer. I had no idea.”
    “Well, we have all been trying really hard to not get noticed or bring any attention to ourselves. That has been the biggest challenge to trying to recruit actually. If I leave now I’m not sure what will happen.”
    “Well, that does change a few things. But you are going to have to believe me when I say that we need to leave for a short time. Is there someone in the group that you can trust, really trust?”
    “Yes, my friend Quinn. He and I have been friends for a while and I know that he feels strongly about this and he also knows when to keep his mouth shut.”
    “Good. Tomorrow morning hopefully we will have an opportunity to talk with Grandfather, he should know about this. We should write him a letter as well, just to be certain.”
    Callia asked Naiyer a few more questions about his group of friends and exactly what they had done or planned on doing. Then she told Naiyer to go and finish his packing while she quickly wrote the letter to Grandfather, trying to hurry before Leymi might come back and start asking questions. Sometimes there were definitely disadvantages of sharing a room with an extremely inquisitive child.

    Packing her things did not take Callia very long. There was not much that she owned that was of any value. In fact the only valuable thing she owned was her grandmother’s necklace and she kept that around her neck.
    When her mother had passed it to her from her grandmother she told Callia that it was a very special necklace that had been passed along the women of their family for many generations. When the one who had it got older in years and decided the time was right she would pass it to her youngest female descendant. It was made in the shape of a star with a beautiful round opal in the center and ribbons of twisted white gold that formed the outer beams.
    The only thing besides the necklace that she might have worried about was deciding which books to bring along. Since she had always had full access to the books in the library she had very few that were actually her own and they were soon stacked neatly in a corner of the trunk.
    By that time Leymi had come back upstairs and was trying to make her own decisions about what things she should bring. Callia helped her and as promised she put some of the things that Leymi did not have room for along with her own things.
    When Leymi was satisfied with her packing Callia took her to go find their parents. Her mother was in the kitchen going through her herbs for what Callia guessed was not the first time that night trying to figure out which ones would be the most needed on their journey. After telling her goodnight they went and found their father in his wood shop finishing up a project for one of his customers so that it could be delivered in the morning before they left.
    Then Callia took Leymi up and tucked her into their bed, singing a lullaby that her mother had often sung to each of her children when they were young.
            “Little one, little one, it’s time for bed;
             time to sleep and rest your head.
            The sun has fallen deep into the sky;
            Hidden now till morning’s rise.
            Little one, little one, sweet dreams now come.
            Another day full of wonder is done.
            The pale moon rises with silver glow;
            A friendly smile to those below.

            Little one, little one, peacefully rest.
            Safe in your enchanted nest.
            The twinkling stars dance way up on high
            And sing their silent lullaby.

            Little one, little one, sleep through the night.
            Let nothing sweet child give you fright.
            For I am here and always shall be;
            By your side through eternity.”
    Callia gently hugged her and kissed her forehead then wished her goodnight. Resting beside her Callia drifted off to sleep thinking of how much she didn’t want the morning to come.

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