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BRINGER of BALANCE - Book II of THE LAND series

By smatusky All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Adventure

Chapter 26 - A Final Farewell

“Are we almost there?” I asked Shawn, who had flown tirelessly across the – being a protector he would never wear down. On the other hand, I barely survived riding two days on his back.

“We passed the protector’s island hours ago. We should arrive soon.” He telepathically replied. His rhythmic flying remained constant.

popped his head out of my shirt pocket. “Do you think we’ll make it?” he asked.

“I hope so. How long has she been ill?”

“We have been caring for her for over forty moons. She asked me to find you ten moons ago.”

“Moons?” I asked. “Is that days? Like following the cycle of the sun rising and lowering as one day?”

“Yes, it is.” He chirped into my ear as air rushed across his feathers. “Our people rarely travel in daylight, so we count the cycle of the moon. We’re safer at night.”

Hours later the sun was behind us and I saw the shoreline.

“There it is!” I pointed while yelling at Shawn. “Keep flying east until you see a city. I’ll tell you where to land.”

Shawn’s thoughts confirmed my wishes and within minutes we were flying over the City of the West. I pointed out the courtyard in front of the town hall where Grandmother lived.

“Down there!” I cried. I leaned over to look and almost fell off Shawn. When he landed I slid down ungracefully and my legs could barely straighten. I wobbled and eventually gained my balance. By that time the loyatees had come out to greet me.

“Rose!” one of them shouted to me. I forgot how much I looked like her and how they associated me with actually being my grandmother. “This way. Quick!”

An orange light hit the façade of town hall; it was more beautiful now than during our first trip to the City. The sun had almost set and three of us ran into the building. Everything looked new and bright, even more so than when we left by ship to the . We slowed down when heading upstairs to Rose’s room and I found her lying on her bed asleep. I waved for the loyatees escorting me to step outside and I placed in his cage by an open window.

The room began to darken, so I used my power to light two lamps. A warm glow filled the space around my grandmother and I took a chair, lifting it carefully as to not wake her. After placing it at the edge of the bed, I sat down and placed my hands lightly on her arm.

Although I concentrated on her illness, nothing happened. I was not healing her.

“Ha, ha…” A soft chuckle came from my grandmother as though she had been laughing in her sleep. “I knew you would try.” Her voice was deeper than I remembered.

“You’re awake?”

“Yes,” she said and opened her eyes. “And I knew you’d try to heal me. That’s why I’ve cast a spell, making it impossible for you to do so.”

“What?” I said, touching her again and noticing she was right. My healing powers were not working. “But why?”

“Because, my dear, it’s time. For so long I’ve avoided death, pain, and fear. Then you came into my life and taught me what really matters.”

“I did?”

“Yes, you did.” She took my hand and began to caress it while speaking. “When you first came here I feared you, as I feared my father. I was worried the evil passed down would somehow invade you and take over, like the moment we released father’s curse and you released your angry magic toward him. Later, I realized that it was my fear that had blinded me from seeing a part of you I had almost forgotten.”

“Really, what was that?” I asked. Her thoughts were just as hard to read now as the first day we met.

“The part I never had the chance to share my life with. It was your Grandfather Orielle who had been staring me in the face, yet I couldn’t see. You are like him in so many ways. He was strong-willed and would face death without reward, just like you. He’d even go into battle for a young girl lost in the woods. He had always been virtuous, which is what I finally saw in you.

“I traveled with you to The Land after I saw the strength in you, the strength you carried for others. My granddaughter was more important than any fear held in my heart, and eventually my hidden worries left me, helping me live a rich life. I learned that there was more to life than hiding from pain and suffering.”

“I know,” I said and helped grandmother sit up. “Before father died I never thought about pain and suffering. I can understand why most people would hide from it.”

“Do you have that seed of yours?” she said as I fluffed her pillow to make her as comfortable as possible.

“Yes, it’s right here.” I pulled the small box out of my inner pocket.

“May I see it?” She held out her hand. “The seed, can you place it in my hand?” I was reluctant to have anyone touch it, but I opened the box and carefully placed the seed into her open hand. She cupped her other hand over the seed and mumbled a few sentences.

“Here,” she said and slowly raised her hand, revealing the seed. “Blow on it.”

“What?”

“Lean over here and blow your breath on the seed.” I did what she asked.

“There,” she picked up the seed with her fingers and gently placed it back into the box. “It is only yours now. No one can ever harm your tree as long as you shall live.”

“What did you do to it?” I was very confused.

“Once you plant your Scarlet Ribbon Tree it can be touched by only you. No human, animal, or insect will be able to destroy your tree of contentment. It belongs to you alone. The seeds that come from this tree can be spread to others; however, no one will be able to harm the original tree.” She placed her hand over the box and closed the lid.

“My dear,” she continued. “There is much for you to learn. That’s why I’ve summoned you. When I leave this place, what’s mine is yours. My books, notes and objects collected throughout my lifetime are in your hands. It takes a sharp mind to learn the skills of a spell-caster, yet I don’t doubt your capabilities.”

“Thank you.” I said and slid the box back into my shirt. “I’m sorry I have nothing to give to you.”

“Oh, my child,” She gave a feeble laugh before continuing. “You have given us everything. Even life itself! It’s been a joy living here since father’s curse had been banished. You have already given me more than necessary. In return, I wish to give you my own cloak with an added personal touch. Look over there.” She pointed to an open door filled with clothes. “Open the chest on the floor.” I hesitated, but she insisted. “Go ahead. There are three robes in there. Take them. Mine was the maroon one. The other two are deep green and have also been magically enhanced.”

I walked over to the chest and took out the robes. They reminded me of my own cloak that I had burned behind the castle when I set Christian free from his magical paper. They were soft and I asked Grandmother Rose what had made them so special.

“Anyone wearing the robes will be protected from a harmful attack - whether object or human. The foe will be instantly paralyzed. The spell knows the difference between harm and kindness. Even a speeding blade will stand still at the slightest touch of the fabric.”

“This is so gracious a gift,” I said and ran my fingers across the top of the folded cloaks. “I will handle them with utmost care. Your gifts are beyond words.” I kissed her forehead and she smiled.

“I’m pleased you like my gifts, but there is ill news I must speak of. It warrants your attention.” Grandmother sighed, her face cringed with concern.

“Do you remember the memory stone?” I nodded. “Indeed, the stone will be as useful for you as it had always been for me. It has shared troubling news about your courtly gentlemen from , the knight who helped with the ships.”

“Sir Gabrial?” I asked. “Captain Drischoll told us that he remained in to help gain support.”

“Yes, I heard the same.” She drew in a labored breath then continued. “I have been interested in , particularly after its years of war with my father, so I asked for a memory from Sir Gabrial’s past. I could not see a full picture of his memory, but there’s a problem with those that hate you and despise the West. He is in trouble and has been taken by the Governor. He will need your help.”

“I shall go right away!” I was eager to help the man that risked so much for my alliance.

“No!” urged Rose. “It’s too soon. You have many more matters to deal with and you need the support of others still on Palleo. Be patient and don’t rush into matters with Dealing with people scarred by my Father’s malice will be a difficult, especially if you wish to share your new friends with them.

“I also have a secret that I’ve never told a soul as long as I’ve lived, but telling you might prove useful when dealing with Governor McCook. Your great grandfather spoke of this just once when I was very young. It is quite disturbing, but I believe it is time for us to learn from the past. Your future with depends on it.

“My father’s parents, your great, great grandparents, were brutally murdered by leaders when Sabastian was a small child. They were magical people and strong just like you. The story should be revealed. Perhaps by searching the past, it will be less likely that our future will reflect the same opprobrious mistakes.”

We shared a moment of silence. Grandmother rested and I left briefly to find food, contemplating her news about the past. Later, we sipped warm broth and drank veroleaf tea used to regain our strength.

No matter how hard I tried I could not stay awake. Morning ushered in through Grandmother’s open window, and I lifted my head from the side of her bed. She did not move. I touched her hand resting on my soft hair and it was cool. This was the final farewell to my family. I did not know if I would bare a child with Riley, and no one in my family remained alive. A familiar feeling wrenched my heart; it was the loss of Christian, who at the time I thought to be my last relative. I had never anticipated finding Rose or ever becoming so attached to her. She risked her own life to save mine and deserved a hero’s burial.

That day the loyatees grieved her death. She had been their leader for most of her life and we prepared her body to be buried in a garden beneath the city. It was a place I had never seen.

My vision had once again come true and before dusk we proceeded through the city, everyone dressed in white. For the loyatees, white symbolized the lifting of the spirit. Silence had been their greatest sign of respect, so we marched across the courtyard without a single sound of sorrow.

South of the courtyard we stood in front of a grand marble wall. Ancient runes were carved into it and two loyatees stood on either side of the wall. They each placed a glowing stone into an indentation at the start and end of the inscription. The marble began to swirl like liquid and the party in front of me walked through the marble as though it did not exist. Everyone walked through the wall and descended down a majestic twisting staircase. All the while, our path had been guided by glowing stones embedded in the side of the walls.

After an hour of silent marching we reached a plateau underground lit by holes in the ceiling. I remember the same grates long ago upon entering the city and assumed they were built for drainage of rainwater. The space was incredibly bright for being underground, and a beautiful garden sparkled before me. These ingenious beings used mirrors to reflect the light shining down from the numerous tunnels and sunlight poured across the garden. Crops of numerous kinds were planted between tall pillars supporting the city while half reed tubes collected rainwater from above, spreading water to trees, flowers, vegetables and unfamiliar plants.

In the center of the garden was a statue of Rose. She looked identical to me and beneath the statue lay her casket. It was a tribute fit for a Queen, which was what Grandmother Rose had been to these immortal people. We were much alike and I was proud to have known my grandmother.

After the ceremony a loyatee took my hand and silently led me to a room just behind Rose’s statue. He opened the door and lit a lamp, then with a wave of his hand the room brightened with the same type of stones from the hallway.

Once the door closed, I was left to wander the cozy den of books, artifacts and notes scribbled with archaic languages. The items were stored in more than twenty chests lining the floor while books took up every space along the walls. This room was much larger than my den in the castle. Resting on a desk I noticed the same stone used years ago on my first visit. I was tempted to use the memory stone again but thought I should wait. Grandmother’s items would be safe until my trip back to Noore, so I left everything in its place. Only her magical cloak accompanied me on my trip back to Palleo.

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