Brey- Part 10
Part Ten: A Safe Place
It was near a week later when the four outlaws- and one ferret- stumbled wearily into the camp in Phoenix Forest. They had had no trouble with the King’s Men; apparently the bizarre "show" Brey had put on at Caer Yddwyn had discouraged anyone from going after them- or made them so afraid that they refused, one or the other.
It was Kayelli who first met them. Her jaw gaped, and she dropped the basket she had been carrying. She ran to embrace Landon, then Brey. "Thank goodness you’re all back! Mam and Da have been so worried! Come quickly, and we’ll get you food and water and rest-"
"There’s no time for that," said Brey. The decisiveness in her voice caught Kayelli off-guard. More gently, Brey added, "I’m sorry, Kay. We need to see Chliara."
Chliara lay in the bed, shivering violently, tossing restlessly. Her downy red hair was damp with perspiration, tangled, and splayed all around. Her eyes were too bright, but they stared unseeingly out of her flushed, sweat-drenched face. Cwyn was at her side with a bowl of cool water and a cloth, continually bathing her face.
Brey threw her cloak aside and knelt by the bed. "How bad is it?" she whispered.
"Be as loud as you like," said Cwyn. Her voice was flat with hopelessness and exhaustion. "She stopped hearing anyone three days ago."
Brey bit her lip until it bled.
"How much longer can she last?" Rhys asked. He had just entered, and he stood leaning against the door frame, casting a long shadow in the room.
"I’m not sure," said Cwyn wearily. "It’s a miracle she’s not dead yet. I gave her five days, but that was a week ago." She stood and pulled a small vial out of a drawer. "I even tried her cure. It doesn’t work."
Rhys stepped in and took the vial gently. "It’s unfinished," he said after a moment. "If it were complete, I’m sure she could pull through."
"Sometimes it almost seems as though she will," Cwyn said. "But then she falls back. What we need is something to give her a jump start."
"Something to give her a jump start," echoed Brey, until then silent, holding Chliara’s hand. She suddenly shot straight into the air. "That’s it!" she exclaimed. She clasped Cwyn’s hands desperately. "Where’s Chliara’s garden?" she cried.
Cwyn led Brey to a creek behind one of the tree-houses. By that creek was a plot of rich, loamy soil with plowed rows and plants. Some were of a very ordinary kind- flowers, vegetables, and herbs. But the plant that caught Brey’s eye was a thick, tall stalk of brownish-green color. It was as tall as she was, with large, flat leaves, and many small, green pods. Despite their diminutive size, they shook and rattled as though in a strong wind- without any wind at all.
Brey’s eyes lit. "This is exactly what we need!" she exclaimed, pulling off a few pods and clutching them tightly in her fists. As they walked back- though Brey would have liked to run- she explained, "Jumping beans. They aren’t ripe, but they should work. Yllna- my mentor-" She stopped as she realized that, for that first time since that terrible day, she had said the name without choking on tears. "She taught me to use them."
"Thank goodness for that!" said Cwyn.
Back at the tree-house, Brey called for a pestle and mortar. While she was waiting, she popped the beans out of the pods and crushed them between her fingertips. A few escaped, but having five more, Brey wasn’t worried about it. Using the pestle, she ground the beans further until they were in a paste, as she had suggested to Yllna to save work. Then she asked for the vial Cwyn had shown them.
"Here, let me," said Rhys. He emptied the small vial of clear liquid into a larger one, then added the bean paste. Amazingly, the beans immediately liquefied upon contact with the liquid. Rhys put a top on the large vial and shook it up to mix it. The result was a thicker but still liquid substance of a nondescript brown color.
Brey made a face. "It looks horrid."
"The question is, will it work?" asked Cwyn, taking it from Rhys.
Brey shrugged. "I pray it will. It’s the only thing I knew to do."
"Which is why it will work," said Rhys with strong conviction.
Brey said nothing more, just watched Cwyn pour the concoction down Chliara’s throat. Garrett’s wife then turned them out of the room. "You two need to get some food and rest after your journey. I’ll tell you if there’s any change."
Brey and Rhys both attempted to protest, but she continued, "It will need some time to work anyway, and I don’t need you in my sickroom, in the way. Now, shoo!" With that, she closed the door on them, leaving them to climb wearily down the ladder.
When Brey sank into bed next to Kayelli only an hour or so later, there was still no change. Brey had eaten, and she hadn’t realized how tired she was until she lay down. Yet, she promised herself she would not sleep. She had to be awake the moment Chliara either got better, or- or the alternative, which she did not care to think about.
Despite herself, she must have drifted off, because the next morning, she woke up with the sun in her eyes, streaming through a window. Kayelli was no longer beside her, presumably having woken up already.
Aghast with her own tardiness, Brey sprang out of bed, dashed to the door (dashed back and got dressed, then dashed out again), half-climbed, half-tripped own the ladder (clambered back up for her staff-and-ball and stumbled down again), and ran heedlessly into Cwyn.
"You’re awake!" exclaimed Cwyn, smiling.
"How’s Chliara?" Brey asked breathlessly.
"The jumping beans worked," said Cwyn, as unwilling to keep the news from Brey as Brey was to wait to hear it. "Chliara is awake, talking with Rhys. I didn’t wake you because, frankly, you wouldn’t wake."
Brey gave a Cwyn a hurried reply that could have been a thank you, apology, or gibberish- she didn’t care, preferring strongly to burst into Chliara’s room.
The northern Magician sat up in her bed, listening raptly to Rhys rendition of everything that had happened since her illness. Her red hair was combed and braided, and her skin was back to a more healthy shade. Georgiana sat in her lap, bright-eyed and eager as well with Chliara stroking her glossy fur, and Henry was on the bedside table, peppering Rhys’s tale with embellishments galore.
"Henry located Brey in a cell near the center of the first level," Rhys was saying.
"She was so starved," put in Henry dramatically, "she could hardly talk."
Rhys rolled his eyes. Chliara, catching the movement, laughed and said, "Aye, and I suppose the brave, heroic, handsome ferret had to drag her to sustenance."
"Naturally," said Henry, looking as though he suspected an insult but couldn’t pinpoint it.
"Not without help," interrupted Brey.
Everyone looked over simultaneously. Chliara’s smile grew, and she held her arms out. "I was wondering if ye’d come to visit me, O Discoverer of the Jumping Beans that Saved my Life!"
Brey laughed and hugged her. "I couldn’t have done it if I were still at Caer Yddwyn," she said. "So please, Rhys, on with the story."
He smiled, shaking his head, and resumed. Immediately Chliara was silent and solemn, listening. "Where was I? Oh yes. Henry had found Brey. Well, he came back and told us where she was, but that the whole thing was a set-up to snare us all and force us into submission."
Chliara’s eyebrows creased. "That’s daft! We would rather die first. Surely they ken that," she said.
"The hope of fools knows no bounds," said Rhys. "Thus, why we still endeavored to rescue Brey."
Some piece of memory came back to Brey. "Not all of us," she said suddenly.
"What was that?" said Rhys and Henry and Chliara simultaneously.
"Not all of us would rather die than join the enemy," she repeated. "The man who tried to get me to join- he said… Well, first I said what you just said- that we would never join. And he said," she recounted, her brow also creasing in puzzlement, ""Some of you already have.’"
A look of understanding came over Rhys. "The man at the ambush site," he muttered. "He sent images of you into my mind, Brey. I didn’t know where they came from, but it must have been him. If he were a specifically talented Magician, he could have done it."
Brey swallowed slowly. "Then the man did not lie. Our own kind has betrayed itself."
Chliara took all this information silently. "Their deeds donnae account for ours," she said finally. "We shouldnae we let it discourage us. We must do what we ken is right, even if our brethren havenae. ‘Tis their choice, nae ours."
"Well said," replied Rhys quietly. All three (four, including Henry) fell silent.
Brey began twisting her dusky hair between her fingertips. "Umm… I’ve been thinking…"
But before she could say what she had been thinking, Henry started speaking as well, picking up the thread of her escape where Rhys had left off. Discouraged, she retreated into silence, saving her though, important though it was, for another time.
Eventually, that time came. Rhys and Chliara and Brey were all outside the shack where Henry and Georgiana lived (though the ferrets were absent); they were all unusually quiet.
"Rhys- Chliara-" Brey hesitated and ran her fingers through her black hair. "I tried to say this earlier, but the timing wasn’t right… that was Henry’s fault. Besides, we were still talking and celebrating my rescue- but, well, I the feeling hasn’t gone away."
Rhys put his hands to his temples and began massaging them. "Then I’m not the only one," he groaned.
"Nae ye too!" exclaimed Chliara.
"I haven’t even said what it is yet!" Despite the seriousness of her thoughts, she was a bit annoyed that her build-up had been spoiled.
"Does it matter which one of us says it first?" asked Rhys. He sounded weary, so unlike himself, and his green-and-grey eyes were so sad…
So they all said in unison, "We must leave Phoenix Forest."
Almost at once, discouragement was thrown out. But just as quickly, it was choked by reality.
"The King’s Men won’t leave us alone forever, just because they didn’t immediately follow us from Caer Yddwyn," said Brey.
"They’ll be led to the forest if they look heard enough- and, of course, they will look hard enough," said Rhys.
"’Twillnae be safe here any longer," said Chliara.
Brey thought they sounded the way that dirt in a puddle looks when stirred up- cloudy, dark, unclear, unhopeful. It was an unusual thought, and not particularly helpful, so she kept it to herself.
"I leave one home for another, and just as it becomes home, I must leave again," said Chliara despondently. She sighed. "Aye, but ‘twas ever the way of the hunted to run."
"I can’t go," said Rhys. "I thought it over before you brought it up, and I realized I have to stay with my men."
"Who’s to say they can’t come?" asked Brey.
"I couldn’t ask them to do that," he said, shaking his head.
"Ye did it before," said Chliara, who had long since heard the story of Rhys’s life.
"They have wives and children now," protested Rhys.
"I’m old enough to be a wife," pointed out Chliara.
"And I’m young enough to be a child," added Brey. "If we can make it, so can they."
"Besides," said Chliara, "if Brey is right- and she most likely is- ‘tis goin’ t’be more perilous here than wherever we go. They’ll find us here eventually, whether they track us down or burn us out or… Whatever they do, I wouldnae want to stay, Magician or nae."
"Where shall we go?" asked Rhys helpless, finally swayed the women’s reason.
"’Twould be daft t’go north," said Chliara sadly.
"Or south," said Rhys.
"East is out of the question," said Brey, remembering Yllna’s deathscream with a shudder. She brushed her hand past her eyes to wipe almost imperceptible tears.
"Looks as though we must go west," said Chliara.
"There’s a mountain range to the west," said Rhys bleakly. "The DragonsTeeth. No King’s Men there, but no safety either."
Brey was still determined. "We’ll have to climb it."
The logic was indisputable. Where else could they go?
But then Brey’s face fell. "Wait… how are we to help the people if we are in the mountains?"
This time, Rhys had an answer. "We can’t help them anymore by staying," he said. "We can’t help a country that won’t let us. Now," he wondered aloud, "who will go with us?"
"… And so, Chliara, Brey, and I must leave Phoenix Forest. We don’t want to go, none of us. And I don’t want to abandon you. So we won’t force you, but rather, plead with you." Rhys’s voice was earnest, and his odd, clear eyes were filled with indescribable emotion that was usually bottled inside. "Please, come with us. Don’t stay to be killed."
"To the mountains?" cried one woman. She pulled her son- Brey recognized him as the boy who had greeted her on the day her ankle healed- closer to her.
"There is no where else to go," said Rhys in a tone of finality. "The forest is marked, and no one- except perhaps the children- can return to the towns. And what mother would send her children out alone? We’re still outlaws." Or had you forgotten? his eyes said. The sharpness both in his features and his words was stronger than he’s meant it to be, Brey knew. She felt the same way- frustrated, but determined to have them see reason.
Chliara now spoke, sounding ever so much more gentle. "We ken the DragonsTeeth isnae an ideal choice, but ‘tis the only escape. The search for a safe place will be arduous… but the more of ye join us, the greater our chances of survival."
Garrett stepped forward after a short consultation with his wife and children. "We will come," he said, putting an arm around Cwyn’s waist.
But Landon also had something to say: "I was only eleven when we came here to Phoenix Forest. I’ll go with you now, but when I come of age, I’ll be coming back- not to the forest, but to the people, to make sure that they don’t forget the Magicians- and that they remember them the right way."
"Where Landon goes, I go!" said Kayelli. She winked at him. "Right, Twin?"
He smiled. "Right, Kay."
Ryken came forward next. His face was wrinkled in a fearsome scowl, but he grunted, "Can’t be leaving you reckless children to go alone, now can I?"
Georgiana- though no one had even known the ferrets were there- piped up, "We’re going, too!"
"No we aren’t!" contradicted Henry speedily. He nipped her in astonishment. The two fell to bickering, which ended in Georgiana skillfully pinning her mate to the ground. When she rolled off, he slowly righted himself and said in a much subdued voice, "It appears that we’re going." He shot Georgiana a look that would have frosted fire or scorched snow. "Are you happy now, beloved?" he said bitterly.
Georgiana sat oh her haunches and nodded smugly.
Brey stood on her tiptoes and whispered to Rhys, "Did we even invite them?"
Rhys laughed, a relieving sound, and the tension in his face broke. "Come on," he said to the rest of the crowd. "Don’t want to be beaten by a couple of ferrets, do you?"
A dark-haired man named Philip, with his wife and three daughters, came next to join the small band. Then two single brothers named Dugworth and Hreff. "Die here or die there," Dugworth commented. "It seems as though we at least stand a chance there."
Faced with this logic, most of the others joined. A few families still stood there uncertainly. After a few minutes of indecision, they shook their heads and backed away. "No, we’re staying. Sorry, Rhys. We can’t brave the DragonsTeeth. It’s madness."
Rhys bowed his head. "May the Lord protect you, then."
"When shall we leave?" asked Kayelli, almost sounded excited.
"Tomorrow morning?" suggested Brey.
"The sooner the better," said Chliara.
"The morning should work," said Rhys. "Go on, get ready!"
Rhys himself went on his own way to get ready. When his own tree house was emptied of necessities, he looked back around the sadly bereaved room. That’s when he glimpsed the glass flower on the windowsill, and it conjured up his vague imaginings of the woman who would one day hold it. But the face in his mind didn’t have feathery red locks and eyes as blue as a summer sky, as Cwyn had once suggested. Instead, it had the shadowy suggestion of soot-black hair, bewitching hazel eyes, and a girlish grin. The mental image surprised him, and he shook it away.
Only after a second thought did he pack the glass lily to come with him to the mountains, and he stored away the image in his heart.
The journey to the DragonsTeeth was indeed arduous, as Chliara had suggested, though she (and others) suspected the journey into the mountains themselves would be worse. They hoped to find shelter before winter came; as autumn dawned, bitter and chilly, it found them only at the foot of the mountain, haggard and weary.
They debated what to do. If they traveled into the mountains, winter might catch them unready for it; if they stayed, there was more risk of the King’s Men finding them before spring, when they could set out again. Still, they finally decided it would be best not to venture into the DragonsTeeth until they were certain to be able to make a decent dwelling. Until then, they could build some sort of temporary shelter at the bottom of the mountains until winter ended.
Winter, in which many of the outlaws had almost lost their lives to sickness an hunger (almost, but not quite, thanks to Chliara and Cwyn’s combined skill), had almost ended. Restlessness had taken hold of them, and fear, as well. The closeness of spring did not alleviate their ruffled spirits. In fact, it almost intensified it. The closer spring got, the closer their trip came, but likely, the closer the King’s Men came.
But the heaviness of soul did not weigh on some as much as others. Brey, for instance, was exhilarated at the thought of leaving again. It was what chiefly dominated her thoughts, except on one particular day, when something else had caught her slight attention span.
She ran up to Rhys with a smile from ear to ear. Drawing out a grey bundle of cloth from behind her back, she cried, "Happy birthday, Rhys!"
"I didn’t tell you it was my birthday!" exclaimed Rhys, surprised.
"Cwyn did," she explained, holding out the bundle to him. "She helped me with it. And Chliara. And even Kayelli. Anyway, take it!" Excitedly, she thrust it into his hands.
"Okay, okay," he laughed. He unfolded it carefully, as though it were woven of spider’s webs. He laughed again when he saw what it was: A new cloak.
"Thanks," he said, giving her shoulder a friendly squeeze.
Brey grinned. "now maybe the next Magician we find won’t try to kill you with a lantern like Chliara did. I say ‘we’ because next time you get new, you are most certainly not leaving me behind again, and not Chliara either, I think."
He smiled. As he put the new cloak on and folded up the old, stained one, he noticed her staring at him curiously. "What is it?" he asked. "Too small? Too large?"
"No," she said. "How old are you today, anyway?"
He grinned. "Twenty-three. I seem older, don’t I?"
"Much older," she mumbled. That’s only eight years older than me… she thought. (She had celebrated her own fifteenth birthday earlier, on the road to their "home" at the base of the DragonsTeeth.)
He stopped a moment, looking at her, and suddenly smiled. "Wait here," he said, and came back with a flower fashioned of glass. He held it out to her. "Here- take it."
Brey gasped at its delicate beauty. "But it’s not my birthday! You already gave me something when it was!"
Voice calm but eyes somewhat anxious, Rhys said, "You’re a girl right now… but someday you’ll be a woman. Will you keep this till then?"
"Then what?" whispered Brey in awe, taking the flower gently between her fingertips.
"Then, if you still want it…" he trailed off. "If you still want to keep it, you can."
She looked at it, then at Rhys. She smiled, understanding. "I will."
And when spring finally came, they fled and found a haven in the mountains, where the King did not cast his troubling shadow. And, to their wonder, they were not the first to find it! Other Magicians resided there, working together to help each other and their land as best they could. There Brey, Rhys, Chliara, and the non-Magician outlaws stayed, except for occasional ventures to rescue more Magicians. And there they and the other Fairies and Wizards wait and watch, preparing for the day when those wicked Kings and silly people will realize their need. Then the Magicians will be ready to rise again, and when they do, what a blessed day shall it be!
The Magicians are waiting and watching. One day, they shall be free."
The woman finishes her tale. She started in the early evening, and now the sun is rising. The fire has burned very low, to just glowing embers, but you had not even noticed.
The woman stands up with a long sigh. "Your arm should be mostly healed by high noon. You may leave then. I have to go now, but I shall leave some food and supplies in there," she says, motioning to a cupboard-like box in her wall. She dips her head. "I don’t think you’ll see me again. I’m going away, for I was only to be here temporarily in the first place."
She turns to walk out the door.
"Wait!" you cry. "Thank you."
She turns halfway round and turned her eyes to the floor, so that she is not looking at you, but you know she is addressing you. "I don’t think I ever told you my name," she says. She pauses, then says softly, "It’s Brey."
She straightens. "Goodbye," she says, and quickly strides out the door.
This particular encounter is fictional, but the rest of the account is completely true. Even the setting for the beginning and ending of the story is based on facts. (At one time, looking for Magicians, Brey was living in Erazel.)
Brey, along with Rhys and Chliara, is considered one of the greatest magicians since the First Rising, and her story makes a magnificent entrance to the Riapra, which is "reappearance" or "rise again" in the Magician’s tongue.
Chliara is said to have been the first magician to use magic more for healing than helping trades. This may not be strictly true, but she is credited with it nonetheless. She taught Brey much of healing, as well.
Brey went on to invent many useful tools, including the famed Hovering Pancake Maker (a tribute to her first mentor, Yllna, it is said). Rhys helped her greatly in her work, and they often contributed to each other’s ideas. She married him when she turned twenty (well, stranger things have happened- I think), and they proceeded to have ten children- of which I am researching now.
Here ends Brey. The next book will be entitled Ardranath.