“In the name of Minvar, greetings”, said a farmer as they passed.
“We haven’t time for the farmers today, I doubt they have anything important to tell us,” commented Storm Wizard as they passed by with barely a wave.
“You never know who might have something important to tell you until you ask, but I understand. Let me not deter you from your very important quest. We should head straight away to the Hunting Lodge, where you will have your best chance of meeting those who may be able to help you. But let me ask you a question. What is it you plan to say when you do meet the people you are seeking?”
“That… if they don’t want their farms to be devoured by locusts next summer they need to help.”
“I think they will ask, ‘How do you know this?’,” pointed out Clarence affably enough, yet with a piercing gaze.
“Ahhh… good point,” replied Storm Wizard. “I don’t suppose I can explain how I was informed of this in the temple of the Aphids when we were tiny-sized. I doubt they would believe it.”
“Indeed,” said Clarence.
Meanwhile, far away in the other world, Juliette was searching her pockets. She seemed to have everything she had left on the adventure with. She took some fabric and ripped it into a long wide piece that could go around her face. A makeshift eye patch. She then took a smaller piece, and she took out the dagger and shouted,
“Ok I’m going to do this!”
She then crouched down and pretended to cut out her eye out. Instead she covered the smaller cloth with the blood from her hand, and then the rest of her face as well.
“Ok!”, she shouted up at the bird. “I have an eye, come and get it!”
She was unlucky. The bird took no notice hardly at all, and gave a small caw. It then went back to pecking at the feather doll.
“Marriage, eh?” said Juliette to herself.
“And I will be able to go back to the land of the living and be your queen?”, she asked the black haired man despairingly.
“Yes, that is so,” he said.
“I think I’d rather give my eye. I am not ready for marriage,” she said grimly.
“Ok black bird, you can take my eye. Come down and get it,” she called.
And so the black bird dropped the feather doll and swooped down to Juliette and with his red talons plucked out her right eye and carried it off into the dark sky cawing. Juliette tried to catch the bird as it flew off, but the pain was great, and her luck was poor, and she was unable.
Juliette was utterly dejected. She wandered over to the doll. When she reached down to pick up the doll she noticed that it was not a doll after all, but a girl. A young child who opened her eyes as if from a terrible nightmare.
“Thank you,” she said finally.
“How did you get here?”
“All I remember is that I was in our house, and it was on fire. And felt a knock on my head as something fell, and then I was in the clutches of the terrible bird, and it seemed forever that he held me in his claws and pecked at my face!”, she sobbed suddenly.
“There, there, dear, it’s ok now. The bird is gone, and he won’t be back,” said Juliette looking wistfully up into the dark vault over head. “What is your name, little one?”
“My name is Pamela McFearson,” she replied finally. “What happened to your eye?”
“The bird took it, and flew away with it,” said Juliette.
“How horrible. It was forever starving, and it wanted an eye, I know. An eye for the sacred place. I think it had lost his eye at some time earlier, and he said it belonged in the Place of the Sun. But I could never understand what it was cawing on about. It seemed he was filled with hunger always,” said Pamela. “Where are we?” she asked.
“I hate to say it, but we’re kind of dead, and I’m trying to find a way back. If I can I will bring you too, but I don’t know if either of us can make it.”
“Look!” said Pamela, and looking Juliette saw the black bird land in the tree nearby.
“I shall attack it!”, declared Juliette. And with a deep solemn prayer to Minvar, she invoked the great power within her, striking upward at the bird with the palm of her hand. There was a tremor, and the tree shook, and the bird fell out of the tree. Juliette quickly ran over to the stunned creature, and covered it with her bag. The bird rigged inside the bag, and Juliette took Pamela to the salmon.
“Throw the bird in the river,” said the salmon. And so Juliette threw the bird into the dark waters and it floated down stream in the bag, and vanished over the edge of the roaring waterfalls.
“You have done well,” said the Salmon. “Behold, take the stone from your bag, and hold it over your missing eye.” And so Juliette took the sacred stone that she had obtained from Storm Wizard at the Tower on Black Hill, and held it over her lost eye. And through the stone she could see with great depth into the gloom, and saw for the first time all of the six stones clearly. The spiral design shone with a silvery light.
“This is a great stone!”, said Juliette. Each stone she looked at had a pattern. And the patterns represented constellations, and the signs of the Elkron who pertained to them. Against one was a sword. Against another was a man standing. Upon another stood a white crane on one leg. There was one that had the scorpion. Another had the golden Sun-Lion, and the last had the symbol of the salmon.
“Can you bring me back now?” she asked the salmon.
“Climb to the top most branch of the tree and find your way home,” he said.
“And Pamela?” asked Juliette, but the salmon remained silent and then with a 'plunk' disappeared into the black waters.
Juliette then took the sacred seeing stone and with her bandage tried to affix it to her where her eye had been so that she could see through it. However, when she did the stone fell into her eye, and took its place where her old eye used to be, and the silvery glyph faced outward and shone. With the eye she could see deeply into things clearly.
“My lady,” said the man with the black hair, “You can still marry me.”
“I’m too young,” said Juliette.
“I will wait for you,” he said.
“I don’t wish to marry you… I don’t know you,” she replied.
“You should reconsider before you leave this place,” he stated in a low tone.
“Is that a threat, good sir?”, she inquired.
“No it is advice. You will learn that great responsibility requires great power.”
“No thank you,” said Juliette and turned away with an inner shudder. What did he mean about great responsibility?
"As you wish. I will not forget my young queen by the River of Death," said he. And so he turned away and left that place.
Wishing very much to be gone from that grim precinct, Juliette carried Pamela on her back up the branches of the tree until they came to the branch on which the bird had been sitting. And there Juliette saw a script that had been pecked into the branch of the tree. And it said the following.
The land is without a king,Juliette read this, and wondered what it might portend. She then continued upward until they achieved the highest branch and from that place they shone in the solitary ray of light, and fell upward and flew into the light.
beset by many woes.
The sun and the moon
must be taken home
to their father’s kingdom.
When the champion of sovereignty
quests for the hollows,
And founds the Throne
Of the White Crane.
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