Saturday, September 09, 2006

Under the Pindweed, Part IV: Eilisha

    Sam didn't answer.  Instead, he flew silently, up and up and up until the world below seemed tiny.  He was flying toward the mountains and the mountains were huge.  Sassy went mountain climbing with her father, but these mountains were nothing like hers.  The mountains she climbed with her father were in Upstate New York's Adirondack Mountains.  They were tree-covered and rounded, like hills, but bigger.  They had rounded rocky peaks, sometimes, or at least rocky ledges where Sassy could look out at the view.  She liked to race up the mountain and beat her brothers and Billy and Frankie and Misty, the neighbor kids who often came along.  They all beat her father.  He was really slow, because he always wanted to stop and look at the views.  Sassy liked to look, too, but it only took her a few seconds to see what she wanted to see, the vast open spaces and the mountains, row upon row, and be off again. Grown-ups were so slow.
    Sassy's mother used to climb too, but she had given it up and stayed behind in the base camp, reading books and making dinner for them.  Sassy's Mom loved the views, but she also liked a chance to rest and have some "peace and quiet".  Papa spent a lot of time at work when Mama had the kids to herself, and it was a treat for the kids to be with Papa for a change.  Mama said it was good for everyone, and it was great to come back to a hot meal, too.  When Mama climbed with them, she'd always be the last one back, so it was a long wait for supper then.
    She turned to Lonnie, "Did you ever go mountain climbing?"
    "There aren't many mountains in the pond I lived in most of my life," Lonnie answered, "but in Mearddth, I've been up a few."  He said it like "mirth," a word for laughter people rarely used any more. It rhymed with earth.
    Sassy leaned out over Sam's wing and peered down.  It made her stomach churn a little to look down so far.  Scary!  But she was sure that Mama and Papa would both the view.
    They would really be impressed with the mountains here.  They were tall, huge, and pointy, made of rock, all cliffs.  There were no trees at all on the tops.  In fact, the mountains behind the first set that Sassy could see had snow on them.  The lowest parts of the mountains had trees, and the trees were different than the trees in Upstate NY.  There were two kinds of trees, some tall, skinny pointy trees, and some trees that were all funny and crooked and grew out of the cracks in the rock and looked like a Chinese painting that Sassy had seen in one of her doctor offices.
    Sam flew toward the cataract, the giant skinny waterfall that plunged from the mountain pass between two huge pointy peaks.  He flew on and on toward the mountains, and finally, gradually, they seemed to be getting closer.  After a while, Sassy could hear the roar of the falling water, a sound something like thunder and something like static on the radio and something else entirely, a loud sound that grew louder and louder.
    Sam flew straight toward the falling water and it was so thick and fast that Sassy was frightened, but at the last moment, he swerved slightly and flew behind the water.  Sassy had read in a book about someone going behind a waterfall, and they said it was like a veil.  A veil, Sassy thought, was sort of like a piece of curtain that a bride wore over her face while getting married.  Hardly anyone did that anymore, but they used to.  Sassy had read about it in a book.  Besides hunting frogs catching tadpoles and salamanders and exploring, reading was one of Sassy's favorite things to do.
    Sassy thought she was lucky.  Misty's parents made her read age-appropriate books, but Sassy's parents let her read anything she wanted.  She could read a baby book one time and a grownup book another time, and she could read the same book over and over if she wanted to. She often did.
    Sassy thought about the bridal veil as the wall of water roared past them.  It did not look like a bridal veil to Sassy, but like something huge and indescribable.  Sometimes, Sassy thought she'd like to be a writer, but how could she be a writer if she couldn't describe that water? 
    She didn't have time to consider it any longer, though, because Sam had turned suddenly and entered a cave.  The cave was wide and Sam could easily fly inside it.  It was dim, lit only by light coming through the wall of falling water.  It was also wet, from water splashing in, but suddenly, Sassy knew that it dry ahead, and that someone was waiting.
    Sure enough, the cave turned and they flew into a tunnel of darkness and then into a cavern lit by candles and a small fire. Sam landed on the floor beside a huge statue of a person that was wrapped in a blanket.  But the huge head turned slowly toward them and spoke in a huge voice.
    "Welcome, my grandchildren, welcome."
    "Greetings, oh great grandmother," Sam said.
    "Greeting, great grandmother," Lonnie repeated.
    "Greeting, great Grandmother," Sassy said, respectfully.  It seemed that that must be the right thing to say.
    The woman stood up.  She towered enormously high above them, and then, she was smaller. She was smaller than her mother, but bigger than Sassy and Lonny, kind of the size of Sassy's own Grandma, only not as fat. 
    "My name is Eilisha."  She pronounced it like AY-lee-sha.)  "You're not in Kansa any more," the woman said, laughing at the stunned look on Sassy's face.  Lonnie and Sam did not seem to be surprised.
    "I've never been to Kansas," Sassy, said, half confused and half indignant.
    "Oh, I was sure you would know what I meant, from The Wizard of Oz."
    "Are we in Oz?"
    "No, We're in Mearddth."  Sassy thought she'd heard that before, but couldn't remember when.   "Mearddth is a little like Oz, and a little different.  You've been here before, but you might not make the connection."
    "I've never been here before" Sassy exclaimed, indignant again.
    "Not exactly here, maybe," Lonnie said.  "But you've been to Mearddth before.  Every night."
    "What I mostly due at night is sleep."  Sassy said.
    "Exactly," Eilisha said.  "Now we have to get down to business.  Since you kissed Lonnie, even though you didn't mean it in the traditional sense, you set the wheels in motion for a huge prophecy.  Changes are happening that will put the world in jeopardy, and I don't just mean Mearddth, but Earth itself, your world."
    "But . . .  "
    "This is serious.  Everyone is in danger, you, your parents, your brothers, your grandmother, Misty, Billy, Frankie, everyone.  Your piano teacher, you school teacher.  Lonnie, me, Sam.  Everyone is in terrible danger."
    "But . .   ."
    "Because it was you, Martina Maria, who kissed Prince Lonnard Longshad, it is you and he and Samuel Gillian who must travel to Ransomhome and bring back the golden scepter."
    "But, I can't go, I have a piano lesson," Sassy said, turning her wrist to look at her watch, "in half an hour.  If I'm not back I'll get in trouble."
    "You'll be in worse trouble, if you don't go."  Sassy was staring at her watch. Something seemed wrong, but she couldn't figure out what it was.  "I can't make you go; it has to be your own choice.  But I can show you a little of what will happen if you don't go."
    She held out her hand, palm down, with a ring that sparkled. Sassy leaned forward. Inside the huge diamond, a scene began to unfold. Buildings were crashing down, and flames spurting up. People were running and screaming; she could hear their tiny voices, and the terror in them. The scene shifted.  It was the street she lived on.  There were soldiers, tanks, guns, flames. The scene faded.
    "Did you need to see more?" Eilisha asked, gently.   
    "No," Sassy said, "if I have to go to stop that, I'll go."
    "Of course."  He spoke quietly, with deep conviction.
    "Yes, Grandmother, I will go."
    "Then it is settled.  There is no guarantee you will succeed; you can only do what you can do.  It is gravely dangerous.  You could die, any of you.  All of you.  Your best chance of survival is to stay together.  To work together.  Do you understand?
    "Yes, Grandmother," they chorused together.
    * * *
    "King George has the scepter. It belongs to the people of Mearddth.  He is not a rightful king. He is not even rightfully elected.  He has used lies and greed and powerful friends to take over the country, and he has declared himself King.  He pretends to be on the side of good, but everything he does is evil.  I have yet to determine if he truly believes he is good and is simply misguided, or if he is truly evil.
    "However, he calls anyone who stands against him a terrorist, and he will eliminate you if you try to cross him.  The scepter gives him power.  Without it he'd be just an ordinary man.  Taking it from him would-be the first step."
    "You mean there are more?" Sassy asked, looking at her watch again.  Half an hour 'til her piano lesson.  She didn't want to get in trouble.
    "Take one thing at a time," Eilisha said. "We won't know what will be needed until we see what happens."
    "But how will we know what to do?"
    "Bring me the scepter and we will go from there.  You may need some aid along the way. 

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