Thursday, October 24, 2013

Callia and the Quest for Light: Chapter 3

Chapter 3 “Of Family and Farewell”
     The first thing that Callia heard the next morning was their ornery old rooster crowing that the sun was up. She attempted to stifle the urge to pull her pillow back over her head and go back to sleep until she heard Leymi’s excited voice and had the wind knocked out of her as Leymi jumped on top of her stomach.
    “Cali! Cali! Grandfather is here, wake up, come see!”
    Quickly Callia gathered her senses. “Yes Leymi, I will be there just as soon as I get dressed.”
    Leymi bounded cheerfully out of the room. Callia began to dress and groaned to herself wondering how it was that anyone could have such vast amounts of energy so early in the morning.
    She was still tying her hair back in its customary braided knot as she went to go find her grandfather and parents. As usual everyone else was already dressed and in various stages of finishing their breakfast. Callia was perpetually being teased for being the one to always sleep in. She had often reminded them that in many families it was not usual to wake before daylight. Still most everyone in her family seemed to enjoy the early morning and they were all usually well awake by dawn.
    Their small home was bustling with everyone’s anxious preparations. Callia noted with interest that today, unlike so many other days, her parents had not forced the family into sitting down and eating together at their table. Everyone seemed to be wandering around with half eaten biscuits and strips of bacon while they went about attending to chores and other such things that would have to be done.
    The one exception to this was Grandfather Randowl. He was sitting at the head of their table with his plate heaped high and Leymi on his knee. He was contentedly eating his breakfast while she prattled on and on, talking much more than eating her bacon as Naiyer’s dog Mili gazed up at her hungrily hoping for some of the meat to fall her way.
    Her mother was still in the kitchen trying to clean and pack dishes and pots and keep Shining Star out of trouble. Star had recently learned to pull herself up so the sight of all the trunks and bags and chaos had delighted her young sense of curiosity.
    Smiling Callia bent down and picked up her littlest sister and hugged their mother. “Good morning Mother, did you rest well?”
    “Rest, hah! I do think I slept for a few hours but my mind was so occupied with everything that still had to be done that my dreams were filled with packing and unpacking and sorting. I awoke highly disappointed to find out that I had done none of the things that I had thought I had accomplished.”
    Callia laughed, “Would it help if I take Star for a few minutes? She can eat her breakfast with me, right little princess?” She scooped up Star in her arms and ticked her nose.
    Shining Star looked up at her sister and giggled delightedly, “ba ba ga!”
    “See Mother, she agrees.”
    “You could see if she will eat some more biscuit. She already has part of one sitting out on the table.”
    “I think we can take care of that.”
    “Thank you Cali, what would I do without you?”
    “Just remind me of that next time that you and father wonder with sighs of woe what will ever become of your lonely lost daughter that will forever remain with her nose stuck in a book!”
    Zebethial laughed, “You just mind your manners and go fetch your breakfast before it gets cold again.”
    Callia smiled and fixed herself a plate and then went to sit down next to her Grandfather at the table. Since he was now finished and Leymi had darted off again he took Shining Star from her and began humming to her while he tried to see if she would eat any more biscuit.
    “And how are you this morning Callia?”
    “As well as can be I suppose. I still wish that we did not have to be separated for so long.” She hoped that he would understand her desire to still stay here with him.
    “I know. I wish things could be different but with any luck we will all be together soon.”
    Callia could feel her emotions rising quickly to the surface and couldn’t speak for fear that her voice would betray her. Randowl reached over and took her hand. “I will be with you soon. Do not waste your time with worry.”
    The steadiness and surety of his voice made her relax a little.
    “Now,” Randowl said, “we have got some work to do to get you all on the road before its dark again.”
    Her mother laughed. “There is enough work still to do that we could take another month and still might not have it all done.”
    Randowl just grinned innocently at her. “Well, I believe that the twins have made the wagons ready and pulled them around and Naiyer just went to help Serlmach with his last deliveries so they will be ready soon as well. It seems like it would be a shame to put all that work to waste so you might as well go ahead and start on your way today. ”
    At that they all laughed. There was just no use in arguing with Randowl. He handed Shining Star back over to Zebethial to finish her breakfast and then turned and nodded to Callia that it was time to go and finish loading things into the two wagons that would become their home over the next few weeks.
    Grandfather had made good on his promise to help them get ready as quickly as possible. He had ordered more than enough supplies for the journey delivered first thing this morning and the boys had already loaded part of it into the wagons.
     Callia felt that they might as well be moving to Hadfield with the amount of things that they were bringing with them. None of them individually had packed a great deal, but for a family of eight there were clothes, food, pots, pans, tools, food for the animals, blankets and bedding. It all accumulated quickly.
     As she finished putting her bag of clothes in the second wagon Thanan and Jausho worked together to load what looked like an especially heavy trunk. Randowl pulled her aside. “When you have some time on the trip or when you get there, the things in that trunk are for you.”
     “But I already have all of my things.”
     “You will understand when you open it,” he said with a wink.
     “I really will miss you grandfather.” Callia hugged him and slipped the letter she had written the night before inside his coat pocket.
     Randowl raised one eyebrow in a momentary look of puzzlement.
     Callia looked to make certain no one was watching them closely then whispered. “There may not be time to speak with you later but Naiyer had something he wished to tell you.”
     Randowl was thoughtful for a moment and then a look of understanding came into his eyes. “Naiyer knows doesn’t he? He’s a bright boy that one, when you get to Hadfield you can talk to him about the library and the other things that I told you. Just remember, anything you might send by post must be carefully guarded and please do not say anything to your parents that might worry them unnecessarily.”
     “Of course Grandfather, but I think that they are already worried about you and about Walesmena. They know that something is wrong but do not know what yet.”
     “Neither do we really. That is why I have to stay here. I have to figure out what is going on and why and put an end to it. You have to go and help take care of your parents and help them however you can. Remember this always Callia, family is the most important thing that you will ever have. Without love and family, life is worthless.”
     Callia nodded, “I think I am beginning to see that.” Before the tears could come she changed the subject. “Well, I suppose that we should go help if there is going to be any chance of us leaving and reaching the Ivy Inn tonight.”
     The rest of the morning was filled with the chaos of trying to make sure that they had everything done that needed to be accomplished so they could get their journey underway. Mostly a there was lot of running between the house and the wagons and making sure that everything had been packed and carried out and placed properly.
     For their high-noon meal Zebethial called them all in to eat. Despite the chaos of the morning she now insisted that they eat a good meal around the table as a family one last time before they were to leave. Callia thought she saw a tear in her mother’s eye and felt the heaviness of the moment weigh on all of them as they wondered if this would be the last meal that they would eat together here in the home that they had all grown up in and loved so much.
     It was not a fancy meal. Most everything had been packed already so there were only beans and cornbread. Zebethial had however saved out some dried apple slices for everyone to enjoy as well. Despite the pressing work to be done they all ate slowly and said little.
    Soon enough they all unspokenly seemed to agree that the meal was over and they needed to finish their preparations. Within an hour they were ready and the horses had been hitched to the wagons.
     At lunch Randowl said what he would of farewells and true to his nature had slipped away quietly while they were still finishing as to avoid a tearful and prolonged parting.
     With a sharp crack of the whip in the air her father signaled the horses to move forward. As the wagons rolled along the dusty streets of Walesmena Callia sat next to Naiyer in the driver’s seat of the second wagon as he drove. She held Leymi in her lap while the child cried.
     Along the way Callia took note of places that had been special to her, even the ones that were too far to see from the main road that they were on. Just in case they were unable to return or something drastic happened to the city while they were gone she wanted to have clear images in her mind of what it had looked like.
     When they reached the turn to go to her grandfather’s library she wondered if he would be back there already or if he might be watching for them somewhere hidden along the way. Would she ever see him again? A million things could happen in an instant and Callia was not sure that she liked those odds right now.
     Before she had realized how much time had passed, they were at the city gate. Callia stared at it as they drove under. It was made from a special clay that were found only in Walesmena. She knew from her Grandfather’s stories that the gate held a special place in the history of Walesmena.
     Suddenly Callia had a thought, “Leymi, Do you see the sunshine and all those beautiful flowers and trees carved into the gate? This is the North Gate of Walesmena. Maybe when we stop tonight you can draw a picture of it.”
     Leymi looked up and her eyes became as round as saucers. “Oh yes, it’s so big and pretty. Will we see lots of things like this on our trip Cali?”
     “Oh, I’m sure there will be lots of amazing things you could hardly even imagine all along the way.” Callia said.
     Callia watched as Leymi’s face lit up. “I know, I could start a picture journal of all the things we see along the way. Wouldn’t that be great? Then we could always remember it.” She paused thoughtfully, “How long before we stop? I’m getting hungry.”
     Naiyer smiled down at her, “Probably another hour until we reach the Inn Leymi. I think a picture journal would be a wonderful idea.”

     The sun was just beginning to set as they finally arrived at the Ivy Inn. Callia had stopped at the Inn when she was little and they had traveled to Hadfield but since they kept so busy in Walesmena they had not traveled much so she had only stayed here that once and then saw it briefly again as they returned.
     As a young child the Inn had fascinated her. It was a huge old castle that had been built before anyone could remember and someone had decided to turn it into a rest stop for weary travelers.
Leymi had finally fallen asleep and Callia decided to wake her up as they were coming down the entrance drive.
     Callia laughed as Leymi stared in awestruck wonder. “Oh Cali this is beautiful, I feel like a princess going to a royal ball!”
     Even Naiyer whose disposition was naturally subdued and had become even more-so lately smiled at that. “I suppose that makes me the royal coach driver.”
     Leymi stared in amazement at the trees that lined the brick drive up to the mansion. They were early as wide as she was tall and they stretched high up into the air with big broad leaves that created a canopy. “Do you know what kind of trees these are? They are so big. I have never seen any like these before!”
     “I think I remember Mother telling me about them when we came here. You should ask her when we stop.” Callia offered.
     Leymi continued on in her excitement, barely hearing Callia. “and look at the castle, it’s almost as large as the the City Court Castle in Walesmena. It is so big and so beautiful with all those plants growing all over it; it almost makes it seem alive!”
     “Those plants are vines of ivy Leymi, that’s why it this known as the Ivy Inn.”
     “We are here at last your royal highnesses.” Naiyer laughed and jumped down from the wagon seat and gallantly held out his hand to help them in a perfect imitation of a royal coachman.
This made Leymi squeal with delight and Callia decided to play along. “Why thank you royal sir. I do believe that if we hurry we might just be in time for the ball after all.” She took his extended hand and pretended that she was royalty exiting a formal carriage.
     Leymi was beyond herself with giggles now as their father came over. She spun around dizzily and then stopped and did her best impression of a curtsey for him. “Oh Father, do you think the prince will like my gown?”
     Serlmach raised an eyebrow and looked at Callia and Naiyer for an explanation.
     Callia came to his rescue, “Leymi is certain that this place must be an enchanted royal castle and what is a royal castle without a royal ball and a royal prince?”
     Serlmach chuckled, “Well my dear, you certainly are as pretty as any princess that I have ever seen.” He paused thoughtfully and pretended to be contemplating something. “Still, I am not sure that you’ll find any princes here. Maybe you can check the frogs in the garden pond though, just to make sure. You know they say sometimes frogs are princes in disguise.”
     “Really? How can you tell if it is a prince or not?” Leymi asked curiously.
     “Well,” said Naiyer trying to be serious, “You kiss it. If it is a prince it will become a prince again, if it is a frog, it just stays a frog.”
     “But that is icky!” Leymi cried.
     “Father’s right, it’s probably the only hope you have of finding a prince around here.” Naiyer laughed.
     Leymi thought about this for a minute, “I think I would be okay just being a lady in waiting or something like that.”
     Callia nodded her approval, “I think that’s an excellent choice.”
     “Yes Leymi?”
     “What exactly does a lady in waiting do?”
     “They wait, of course!” At Leymi’s look of disgust at being given such an answer Callia laughed again and began to carry their things that they would need inside.
     The Inn was a wonderful place for any child’s imagination to run free and as soon as they had their quarters for the night and had all eaten dinner Leymi was off exploring with Callia. Naiyer, Thanan, and Jausho decided to come along as well. It was older than anyone could say for sure. One idea was that it was actually a fort that the first settlers had built to live in when they first arrived, before they were able to establish the city and then it became Walesmena’s home and the original City Fortress. Another idea was that it was actually a personal retreat of Tarspen's that he had used to hide out in during the revolution. There were even some people that thought the mansion was built here by people that lived in the area long before Walesmena was even founded. Callia just figured some noble person from long ago decided to make a home there but it had become abandoned in the years following because it was too secluded.
     Down one of the hallways Leymi spotted a large cat that was tawny colored along its back, fading to a creamy white on its belly with darker brown spots and stripes that were edged with black. It had large ears that had perked up at the sound of the approaching company and bright wide eyes that were staring at them carefully. It seemed bigger than a usual cat, very trim and muscular, almost as if it would be more at home roaming the mountains instead of inside a building. Jausho proudly informed them that it was an osway. He and Thanan had come across one in the forest once but said that they were rare and usually ran wild.
     They decided that since it was roaming about inside it must be tame so they tried to cautiously approach it. Before they reached where it had been sitting at the end of the hall the cat had disappeared. They looked all around but couldn’t figure out where the cat had gone.
     “That is really odd,” said Naiyer. “It is not like it could just open a door or window, there is absolutely nowhere for it to go.
     “What if it’s some sort of magical creature?” said Leymi, her eyes wide and dancing in excitement.
     “It is kind of hard to see by the torches. The cat probably just has a really good hiding place. Cats are known for that,” Callia said. “Why don’t we go look at the garden before it gets too late.”

     That night when they got back to their room Leymi began sketching furiously in the new picture journal that she was working on. When her mother saw her drawing the picture of the cat he asked her where she had saw it so they all told her the story.
    “It does sound interesting, mostly likely, it is the keeper’s pet,” said Zebethial. “I can't imagine it being here if it was still wild.”
    “Can we have one?” Leymi asked enthusiastically.
    Her father looked at her seriously but with a twinkle to his eye, “We could I suppose, but something tells me that it and Sandstone wouldn’t get along very well. You would have to choose which one you wanted to keep.”
    “Nobody could take Sandstone’s place!” Leymi stated firmly and went back to work on her pictures without another word about wanting the mysterious creature as a pet. Zebethial went to put Star to sleep and Serlmach went out to check the wagons and make sure that everything would go smoothly for an early start in the morning.
    Callia laughed as she saw Thanan lean over to Naiyer and whisper too softly for their mother and Leymi to hear. “Jausho tried to trick the one we found into coming home with us by leaving a trail of meat scraps leading into an empty stall in the barn and then setting a trap to cage it and keep it there.”
    Even Jausho began to laugh, “Yeah, I thought I was so clever and I spent the whole night dreaming about how much fun it would be to have such a wonderful pet. I had even worked out how I was going to explain everything to Mother and Father so they would let me keep it. The next morning as soon as the sun came up I raced out side with some breakfast for it only to find that the meat I had left was gone, the trap was perfectly in place, but there was no osway and three of Mom’s chickens were missing.”
    “I think I remember that,” said Naiyer, “Mother was so upset about the chickens, but she just figured it was some wild animal. I didn’t remember you having anything to do with it.”
    Jausho blushed a bit, “I hid the trap when I realized what had happened and she never found out. I think I am just lucky it didn’t choose to come back again looking for more.”
    As they all began laughing Serlmach returned from checking on the wagon and animals. “I am glad to see that you all are having a good time. We have to get an early start though so to bed with everyone.”
    They all said their goodnights and soon Callia was lying in bed thinking about what an interesting day they had all had. She wondered what the rest of their trip would be like. She had been so young when they had gone last time that she hardly remembered it. She had heard tales of strange things that happened on the highway but she knew that in many cases the truth had probably been stretched for the sake of a good story. Perhaps it would be a good idea to keep a journal of the trip. If even half of the things she had heard were true it would likely be something she would never forget.


  1. Very cool. This is a lot of work. But fun.

  2. Thanks! I really enjoyed writing it.