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Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.
Chapter 28 of the book Quest for the Neckulet
The quest seeks translation
"The Holy Fathers"
The quest is chasing a stolen piece of jewelry around Mageron.
They rose early, ate a quick breakfast, packed their belongings, and prepared to continue their journey.
“Jahm.” Jewelletta stuffed some more provisions in her carisak. “How long will it take to get to the monastery?”
“At least two to three days. That is if we don’t have to fight off any more savages or animals. We’re all exhausted and will be more so once we get into the foothills and begin the climb.” He pulled out his dagger and cleaned his nails.
Radolf fidgeted, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. Vidad and Chrystella paced.
“Jahm, you and Anarra lead,” Jewelletta said. “You two know the way out.”
The sorceress followed the duo, then Radolf, Chrystella, and Vidad. Jahm kicked small pebbles out of the maze of tumbled rock and stone tangled with vines and overgrown brush. They finally left the ruins. The sun shone through the tall cypress trees. They hovered over them like protective hens fearful of sharing the golden rays with anything else alive in the jungle.
With their path free of brush, only waist high grasses and numerous green flora blocked their view on either side. Vines grew like tentacles from several large plants. A small animal wandered into one, and vines closed around it in less time than it takes to blink, capturing it.
“That’s a polypen.” Vidad pointed. “To an animal, the center looks good to eat. It lures them in.”
Chrystella shuddered, and Radolf looked at the green canopy above.
“Let’s get moving.” Jewelletta tapped Jahm on the shoulder.
They walked on.
Chrystella swung her head from side to side as if afraid something might jump out at her.
She screamed. Vidad picked the fragile princess up just in time to elude the dangerous plant. He jumped over it. As he did, she shrieked again, not knowing who or what had her.
Vidad’s hands encircled her waist, suspending her in mid-air. She looked down at the others.
Those in front spun around. Jahm had his sword out as Jewelletta raised her hands. Even Anarra, showing her teeth, growled as Radolf pointed his dagger at them.
“What happened?” Jewelletta put her hands down.
“I wasn’t watching where I was going,” the young woman stammered. She shook, still scared after her experience. “I stepped to the side. Stinging nettles closed about my foot.”
Vidad put her down and embraced her. He explained what happened.
“Are you all right?” He stroked her hair.
Chrystella clung to him as if she had fallen off a cliff, and he was the rope to safety. She took several deep breaths before she could breathe normally.
“I will be.” She took his hand. “I wasn’t watching where I walked. I was so afraid something would leap out at me. I didn’t expect to find anything dangerous on the path.” She smiled. What a dumb thing to do, she thought. You were beginning to prove you could hold your own, and then you pull a stupid stunt like that. The young princess shook her head.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” Jewelletta gazed intently into her eyes.
“Yes. I was scolding myself for being so dumb.” Warmth crept up her face.
“We all make mistakes, Chrys,” Jewelletta said. “Just learn from it. That’s what’s important.” Jewelletta strode to the princess and hugged her.
She returned it. Jewelletta hugged Vidad and Radolf before returning to her position.
Jahm placed his hands on his hips. “Where’s my hug?” His brown eyes locked with Jewelletta’s emerald gaze for a few minutes, and he smiled.
She gave him a big bear hug and pulled away. “Satisfied?”
“No, but that’ll have to do for now.” He turned and led them on.
Two days later, at the edge of the jungle, a salty tang drifted on the ocean breeze. It ruffled the bushes and the trees, flowing through them as it lovingly caressed each and every leaf and branch. The sea pounded the shore as if it was mad at it, but the sand, like a battered wife, welcomed it back, longing for its kiss of white lace before it left again, only to return a short time later.
The ground shook. Miles away Vatara boomed. The sea withdrew, and the waves came closer. Something’s happening, Jewelletta thought. She watched the water, mesmerized by it, frozen like a snow statue. Someone pushed her back into the jungle. An enormous wave crashed down where they had been standing, splashing everyone
Jewelletta came out of her reverie. Jahm had his arms around her. She tried to untangle herself from him, but he held her firmly.
“Let me go,” she demanded.
“As long as you promise to stay away from the ocean,” he said. “You almost got yourself killed.”
“That wave was on top of us before I realized it.” She shivered.
More waves followed the path of the first.
“Better get out of here before another one like that hits. It’s building again.” Jahm let go but tugged her hand. “I don’t like the idea of being trapped between killer waves and those cannibals.”
“Here comes another one,” Vidad shouted.
They dashed into the plains that ran to the foothills of the cliffs. In the distance, Mt. Vatara spewed ash into the sky. They took a moment to dry themselves.
The line about the volcano kept playing in her mind, like a favorite song. An earthquake wasn’t mentioned in the legend, but neither were giant waves. She mulled that over.
Gray residue covered the sky. They spent the night at the mountain’s foothills and started early the next morning.
The next day the terrain changed. The path zigzagged like a maze through large boulders and rocks, blocking their path. They were forced to work their way around the boulders or skirt the whole area.
“This way looks best.” Radolf stopped at a fork in the path and pointed to the right.
“I don’t think so.” Jahm stood with his arms across his chest.
“It isn’t as rough as what we just climbed. See all those stones we’d have to avoid if we took your path. Besides, there’s nothing on the left side except open air and rocks at the bottom.
Mine has a sturdy mountain on one side and trees on the other.”
Not giving the others time to decide, Radolf charged up his chosen path, Anarra barking at his heels.
He looked back to see Jahm running after him, and the others following.
A short time later Radolf’s stepped over larger rocks. He put his hand out to steady himself and found only air. The mountain and trees disappeared. The youngster gasped at the ledge before him. A few inches wide, it looked as if it could barely support a young child.
He blushed when the others arrived.
“I told you so,” Jahm chided. “But you wouldn’t listen.”
“Did you know?” Radolf asked meekly.
“I didn’t know for sure but had heard of it. I knew it was up here somewhere. I didn’t know exactly where.” Jahm eyed the ledge. “We can’t go that way.”
“Vidad, lead the way.” Jewelletta scowled at Radolf as he returned to his place by Chrystella.
They camped in a small clearing at the fork and ate.
“We should reach the monastery tomorrow evening.” Jahm picked up jerky wrappers. “You can see it from here.”
Perched on the tip of the cliff, the monastery clung to it like a climber hugging the side of a peak. The centuries old yellow stone monastery stood in all its decaying majesty. What little they could see was crumbling walls and large boulders, like a giant’s toys awaiting their owner to come and claim them.
The next morning, Jahm led them up the steep path to the stone structure. They dodged dirt and rubble on a path that skated along the left side. One side fell into nothingness while the raging Mavi Ocean pounded jagged rocks below, jutting from the cliffs like sharp, hungry teeth.
Radolf shaded his eyes from the glistening sun. Like the others, he couldn’t close his eyes to the glaring rays, or he would tumble to his death. A sharp wind blew off the ocean, its breath moist and salty.
Chrystella stumbled over a rock, gasping for breath. She reached for Radolf who looked around in time to see Vidad grab her.
“Jewelletta.” He screamed, but the wind carried his voice.
The sorceress tapped Jahm on the shoulder, urging him to stop and turn around.
“She’s exhausted.” Vidad held the princess in his arms. “Is there anywhere we can rest?” Deep concern echoed in his voice.
“Jahm, you and Anarra, check ahead,” Jewelletta ordered. “My stomach’s growling, and I’m getting weary.” Her shoulders slumped.
Radolf, we found a clearing. It’s near the top of the climb. Tell the others to come.
He passed on the news and swung his head around. “Vidad, need any help?”
“No thanks, Radolf. I can carry Chrys.” He smiled.
The ascent got steeper. At one point, Jewelletta paused, gazing back at the others. Radolf held his own, though he panted. Vidad put one foot in front of the other, took a deep breath, and did it again.
Stumbling out of breath and almost crawling, Jewelletta plodded into the clearing. She collapsed next to Radolf. Vidad laid the princess down. He flopped next to her. A pregnant silence hung around the pine circle. Anarra already disappeared. Probably in search of food, Radolf figured.
Jahm moved first, unpacking lunch. “My stomach’s going to disown me if I don’t feed it.”
“Yours isn’t the only one.” Radolf managed to drag himself over to Jahm. He grabbed some dried meat and cheese and scooted his way over to Vidad. “How is she?”
“She’s out of it.” He took the offered food. “I hope she awakes soon. She needs to eat.”
“If she hasn’t come around by the time I finish, I’ll see what I can do.” Jewelletta bit into a hunk of cheese. She washed it down with water.
“Thanks.” Vidad took a deep breath and followed Jewelletta’s example.
Toward the end of their meal, Chrystella opened her eyes. “What happened? Did I do something stupid again?”
Vidad and the others chuckled. “No, dear. Stay quiet.” He related the events.
She sat up and ate.
Anarra sprang into the clearing and ran to Radolf, knocking him over.
“What’s got you so excited? And where did you get all that energy?” He petted her.
We’re almost to the monastery. It’s right through those trees. And the climb isn’t as bad as what we just came up.
Radolf smiled and passed on the news.
“Good. It isn’t far.” Jewelletta brushed cheese from her robe. “I hope the Holy Fathers will let us spend the night. This evening will allow us to decipher the runes. We all need a few hours rest. We should get it now.”
The little group cheered, and they settled down for a nice nap.
Jewelletta’s voice penetrated Radolf’s sleep. “Time to get up.”
Complaining, they rose, gathered their belongings, and fell in line behind Jahm and Anarra.
The walk through the woods kept what was left of the late afternoon sun off them. No boulders blocked their path as pines lined both sides of the trail beside them, bare of needles.
The monastery’s tumbling yellow walls revealed its age and decrepit state. It sprawled for at least a mile or so. The outer walls, which once hid the grounds and the main building, lay in pieces, leaving it vulnerable to attack from anyone who dared the dangerous climb. They located what had once been a wooden gate and entered the courtyard. Flagstones, brightly colored centuries ago now dung yellow, lined the courtyard. Dirt covered the famous Shrine of Khlorae, once the largest and most beautiful in the world. No life giving holy water flowed from her fingertips. Only stunted weeds entwined the goddess in a lover’s embrace.
Tears brimmed Radolf’s eyes. “My grandmother told me people from all over came here for water or to celebrate Khlorae’s birth and the beginning of the universe.”
“It’s sad, isn’t it? Mother came here as a little girl. She always remembered the trip as a highlight of her childhood.” Chrystella wiped her tears.
“Nothing we can do about it now. Maybe someday it can be restored to its former beauty,” Jewelletta said.
“I would command it if I ever sit on the throne.” Chrystella stood up to her full five feet height. It had been a long time since she had referred to her rank.
“Let’s see if we can find the Holy Fathers.” Jewelletta boldly walked to the wooden door and knocked.
After several minutes of waiting, she knocked again.
“Looks like no one’s home.” Radolf tried to lighten their mood.
“They’re probably at the other end and don’t hear us.” Jewelletta tried the door; it opened. “I know where the library is. We’ll look for the Holy Fathers later.” She led the way. Only the clop, clop of the footsteps echoed in the long, dark hallway.
Chunks of wall dotted the hallway. Jewelletta muttered a few words, and a light fluttered in her hand. Rats skittered away as they turned right and left before entering the musty library. Radolf sneezed from all the dust.
“Looks like they never use this place,” Radolf commented after he blew his nose.
“Think you’re right.” Jahm took a rag from his pocket and dusted off a table. “I hope you know what to look for.”
“I do,” she announced and strode toward the stacks at the back of the library.
Returning with scrolls and books, the sorceress laid them gently on the table.
“Chrystella and Vidad can work on half of this when I find what I want. Radolf, can you write clearly?”
“Yes.” He dug through his pack for papers, quills, and ink.
“All right. Here’s what we’ll do.” She laid out the papers they had copied in the jungle. “I’ll search for the runes. When I find some mention of what we’re looking for, I’ll give them to either Chrystella or Radolf. After they copy them, Jahm and Vidad can clear away the books and scrolls, to make room for more. I’ll put them away.” She turned to the dailam. “Anarra, please hunt a way for us to get back down the mountain toward Aderra and Veda.”
Anarra ran out as the others set about their assigned tasks
“Who are you and what are you doing in our library defacing our holy books?” A tall mn, his arms folded across his chest, asked from the door way. His hazel eyes glared at them as he waited for an answer.
Radolf and the others started. They had been so engrossed in what they were doing, they hadn’t heard the monks enter.
Six more stood behind him clad in deep brown-cowled robes.
“I am Jewelletta of the Majutsu tribe.” She stood.
Three Holy Fathers gasped at the gold band on the sleeve of her black robe. The others remained silent, including the one who spoke.
“We knocked at your door. No one answered. Let me introduce them.” After the introductions, she continued, “Radolf seeks an heirloom neckulet stolen when his grandmother was murdered. In our travels, we came across runes. I knew of your extensive library, so we came to decipher the runes.”
While Jewelletta spoke, Radolf quietly grabbed their papers and shoved them in his tunic. Chrystella rolled hers up.
The Holy Fathers marched to her. “We do not care what ragtag you have dragged along on your ridiculous mission. You have invaded our privacy and our inner sanctum without permission. For that, you will pay with your lives. Take their weapons and throw them in the dungeon. We’ll let you think about what you have done for tonight and tomorrow. In accordance with Khlorae’s wishes, you will be executed the next morning. You would be advised to pray for Her forgiveness.” He paused. “Take those papers from her.”
Before the closest Holy Father could snatch them, Chrystella stuffed them inside her pants slender pocket.
Helpless, he looked at his companion with a furrowed brow.
“Let her keep it,” he growled.
While they dealt with Chrystella, the sorceress snatched her papers and concealed them in her robe.
Radolf, Jahm, and Vidad took fighters’ stances, ready to battle. They glanced at Jewelletta. She shook her head, indicating they shouldn’t fight the Holy Fathers. Shrugging, the members let one guide him or her from the library.
The yellow walls remained the same with sconces lighting the way. The Holy Fathers escorted them down four fights of steps to the lowest dungeon. They shoved the members of the quest in a cell, and steel bars clanged closed. The lead one locked them.
Once they left, Radolf said, “At least they let us keep most of our belongings.”
“And keep what we’ve been copying.” Chrystella pulled her papers out, displaying them like prized jewels.
“We do have that.” Jewelletta wrinkled her nose at the odor of rat droppings.
Jahm peeked out of the tiny, barred window of their cell. “Quite a drop off. Why didn’t you let us fight them? We could’ve won even without your help. How are we going to get out of here?” He banged his hand on the wall, squeezed his eyes shut, and turned his mouth downward.
Sorry this is so long.
and 2 member cents.
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