Chapter 25: Peace
Chapter 25: Peace
Deuel rushed to the side of the fallen man. “Bring a healer, quickly!” he cried out urgently.
Guards scurried out to fulfill the command with the place in turmoil.
The High Chieftain found Mitt Cela’s heart rate low and breathing shallow. “What has happened to him?” Deuel asked, concern etched on his expressive face.
“We were attacked suddenly in Tel Quesel three nights ago,” Rebekah, answered, voice quivering in fear. “He was wounded in the fight. The apothecary said Mitt Cela needed to rest but he insisted that we press on. He said all along he was fine but I knew he wasn’t.”
“And where is his wound?”
“On the shoulder,” Rebekah pointed out.
Deuel carefully untied the laces holding Mitt Cela’s leather jerkin together then opened his linen shirt. The bandage underneath was a crusty crimson red from soaked and dried blood. Tenderly removing it, they were horrified to see that blood and puss oozed out of the discolored, purple wound.
Rebekah gasped, placing her hands over her mouth in shock while Hai’asi kicked a wooden pillar in frustration. The elderly Mahlite, though, lightly taking his hand placed it directly upon the wound. Closing his eyes he began to mumble in a barely audible fashion.
This went on for an excruciating length of time for Mitt Cela’s friends. Finally, the sound of shuffling feet hurrying along could be heard entering the room. An even older looking and more withered dwarf than Deuel entered the hall. Wearing a red linen robe with a small leather bag held by a simple belt on his waist he said nothing. The healer looked inquisitively at the other elderly Mahlite. The pair communicated without words, yet the sense of urgency and importance was conveyed.
Kneeling down beside the still unmoving man the healer reached into his bag. Taking out some dark green foliage, he rubbed the bits together between his hands, and then sprinkled the dust all over the wounded area. Taking a piece of sheer cloth, he gently allowed it to cover the same spot. Then placing his four fingers lightly on the spot, he closed his eyes and began to mumble in a similar fashion to what Deuel had done.
By this point Mitt Cela had turned gray and still hadn’t moved. Everyone in the room knew he was near death.
“Is that all you’re going to do?” Hai’asi called out in frustration. “You have to do more. Can’t you see he’s near the dark gates?”
Deuel, who up until that point had still been kneeling beside the fallen man, stood and faced the warrior of Amethyst. While considerably smaller and having to tilt his head sharply upward to look into the man’s eyes, the Mahlite’s commanding presence caused the captain to pay attention.
“He is having everything done for him that is needed. Come, let us leave them.”
“Forget it! If you think I’m leaving Mitt Cela you’re sadly mistaken!” Umim joined Hai’asi in this chorus.
Gently, in an almost paternal fashion, Deuel reached out, taking the strong man by the arm. “Come, there is nothing ye can do for your friend. Leave him with the healer and trust to providence.”
The calm assurance rendered through the soothing voice of the gentle man seemed to have an effect on the bounty hunter’s anxious friends. Reluctantly, the party from Carnelian allowed themselves to be led out of the chamber and into a smaller receiving room.
The spell didn’t last long. Soon Hai’asi and Umim were pacing once more. Looking at the door into the Chamber of the Chieftains they knew that no one would be able to enter since three heavily armed Mahl guards stood directly in front of it. While those two fretted Belac and Rebekah sat with Duel conversing in a low tone on small, upholstered seats provided for them. Hai’asi and Umim, though, refused to sit and went to stand in a corner away from the group.
After several hours of this with no word or movement from the other room, Hai’asi’s anxiety grew from impatience into frustration. “How do we know they’re doing anything to heal Mitt Cela?” he said in a low whisper to the scout. “While the old one seems to have affection for him, the others seem to have no love for us. What if they’re letting him die?”
Umim’s silence encouraged him to continue.
“Besides, what did we see them do? Precious little! The time for herbs and gauze were long past. He needs a stronger remedy.”
“I don’t know Hai’asi, Umim replied. “I’ve heard that the Mahlites have strange and powerful medicine here. Besides, I don’t see how we have many other choices. We wait and trust.”
“Trust? Trust what? Plants and providence? I trust this.” Hai’asi held up his axe catching the attention of the guards at the door.
The sound of the door opening ended the discussion. After the healer walked into the receiving room the travelers were stunned to see Mitt Cela walk in as strong as he had been prior to his injury.
Rebekah let out a cry, throwing herself into his arms, embracing the man tightly. Hai’asi and Umim stood with mouths ajar unable to speak.
“How can this be?” voice breaking, Hai’asi asked incredulously. “You were near death. Now here you stand as if nothing had happened.” His amazed look turned dark. “What magic did they use on you?” he asked in an accusing tone. “What pact has been formed to restore you to this state?” Walking around his friend he looked him up and down. Seeing the strength in his face and carriage, he concluded, “It’s not natural.”
Belac quickly stepped forward, standing in front of the man who still held his axe in a threatening fashion. “You’re wrong Hai’asi. It was no magic, though as High Chieftain Deuel has explained, it is a power beyond what we can comprehend.”
Mitt Cela laughed, going to his confused friend. “It is I,” he said, “and I am he. No tricks, magic or pacts. I don’t know by what power I’m restored, I only know that I am.“” Then he bowed formally to the healer. “But I am indebted to this skilled man.”
“No,” the healer shook his head, “not I. For I am but the conduit rather than the source.”
This splitting of hairs to Mitt Cela was of little matter at this point to him. The leader of the group felt better than he had in days, months in fact when he thought of it, not only in body but in spirit.
Deuel came over, embracing him as well. With open emotion he declared his joy at the man’s recovery. Then, holding the book in his hand that Belac had presented to he gave the group a thoughtful look. “The Clan Council can now meet to discuss all that is transpiring and meditate on the contents of the document Squire Belac has provided. While this takes place, why do ye not join our people for our sacred assembly? Ye may find yourself uplifted and perhaps learn a little about the power which you have just witnessed manifest.”
Several of the Mahlites in the room opened their mouths to protest, but a pre-emptive look from the High Chieftain caused them not to speak. Princess Rebekah, sensitive to the fact that they had likely been extended the greatest of courtesies, agreed on her companion’s behalf so led them out of the room. Another guide met them at the doors to shepherd the group to where this gathering would take place.
They left the governing building of the Alliance and were led into the mountain. Though now walking inside the rock, the cleanly-cut boulevard they took was lined with multi-colored plants with the path itself being made of smooth polished stone. Despite being enclosed the place was strangely bright even though no torches were evident.
Walking along the same direction with them were many creatures, Mahlites, Folkor, even Kobalds and other creatures. They found this beautiful path destined for only one location, a building even more imposing and breathtaking than the one from which they had come. Two stories in height with a high, vaulted peak to the roof, the majestic structure had been built of stone with the rocks being cut into small uniform bricks, light pinkish in color. Multi-colored windows were set at regular intervals and a tall spire rose to nearly touch the ceiling of the cavern, holding this magnificent building. Belac discerned from the snatches of conversation he was able to have with their guide, that this was their place of worship, the Sacred Hall of Mahl Jaktan.
Four sets of double doors were open to allow those coming to the assembly to stream in. As the party from the Confederation mounted the five steps to enter themselves, several creatures in white flowing robes stopped them. Rather than attempting to bar their entry they were warmly greeted in the Mahl tongue but through Belac were told their weapons would not be allowed inside the hallowed place.
Hai’asi was leery but Mitt Cela readily agreed, his mind filled with anticipation of what they were about to experience. After what had happened to him in the Chamber of the Chieftains he found himself uncharacteristically willing to trust. So the bounty hunter readily surrendered his arms encouraging the others to do the same.
Strangely, once unarmed those who had carried weapons felt a greater sense of security then they had before.
The room they entered into was simple yet elegant. Though deep within the mountain, natural light somehow emanated through windows regularly spaced about casting a warm glow on the place. Darkly stained wooden benches laid out in rows with a center aisle were already beginning to fill up with worshippers. While some took note of the arrival of those from the south, all who looked up from bowed heads seemed to have a look of tranquility and acceptance on their face. This contrasted significantly with the looks they had received outside. Taking seats to the side and in the middle of a row they were left without escort to experience the sacred assembly of the people of the Northern Alliance.
Eight Mahlites, four male and four female, dressed in the same flowing white robes that the travelers had first observed outside the hall entered from opposite sides and silently stopped at the head of the aisle. The low murmur that permeated throughout suddenly stopped. The eight then, looking across at each other, opened their mouths and began to sing in unison.
All the party from Carnelian had heard singing before. Indeed many had listened to what would be deemed, in the land of the Confederation, fine singing. Princess Rebekah was a fine singer in her own right while they had the pleasure of Lady Noner’s songs only days before. But these singers were different. This was no mere performance it was deep, true worship.
The voices sang in perfect harmony words unknown to the travelers. Yet in them there was a balm for the weary souls. Eventually the worship service gave them for the first time not only a sense of peace but also a security they had not felt since leaving Carnelian.
This bliss went on for a length of time none could be sure. On cue but without prompting the ensemble would finish one part, then a moment of exquisite silence hung heavy in the hall before they began again. The sweet sound carried throughout, touching all those who sat in silent rapture. Though the high, vaulted ceiling towered over the singers, it was they who filed the cavernous hall to capacity.
Incredibly, as if the sounds had reached the heavenlies sunlight began to stream through the stained-glass windows of the hall. Their dormered positions at the top of the wall meant a rich, colorful hue filled the room even though they were in a mountain.
Transfixed to a person the assembled sat enraptured, soaking in the atmosphere, being restored in many ways.
The party from the Confederation felt over the course of the assembly the burden they had been carrying lifted from their shoulders. Then peace came upon them and finally, a new determination began to enter into the void that their fatigue had left. Prejudice gave way. The thought that those who could make such beauty would not be easily thrown down, indeed must not be thrown down, encouraged them.
The assembly ended as it had begun. The singers finished, turned in unison then left the way they had entered. Those who had participated as witnesses stood afterwards then silently filed out of the hall.
Rather than leave the building, collectively they went through an adjacent corridor into a spacious room arranged as a dining area. Still overwhelmed by the presence they had felt at the assembly, the stunned visitors from the south moved along with the others weapons forgotten and the troubles of their journey overruled by the sense of peace and joy they had experienced.
Afterwards, while sharing a sumptuous meal with their hosts, Deuel entered into the room alone seeking out the group from Carnelian. His face glowing, he asked what they had thought of the gathering. Feeble attempts at explaining their feelings were eventually abandoned and the speechless party gave testimony to what they had not just witnessed but rather felt. They had been moved for some reason to the very depths of their spirit.
The withered Mahlite leader smiled broadly then took the group aside. “The chieftains have decided to aid you in your, nay, in our cause,” he happily announced. “Already our troops are assembling. We will be ready to march the day after tomorrow.”
Rebekah began to quietly weep for joy. The others beamed in delight.
Moved by more than the declaration, Mitt Cela, with tear-filled eyes and quivering lip betraying his emotions, left the dining chamber unannounced and returned to the Sacred Hall alone. Gazing up at the ceiling, light still streaming in, he could hear in his soul the joyous voices from earlier in the day anew.