“You can’t fight fire with fire,” said Odin. “Everyone gets burned.”
Chapter 64: Tension
“Thank God,” said Ide as she lay on the floor of her dear and peaceful lounge room. “No more hospital visits.” She had returned from the city for the last of Christopher’s visits to the surgeon after his broken leg. “No more fighting the city traffic,” continued Ide in singsong fashion. “No more crazy hospital. No more graphic YouTube videos.”
“What do you mean?” asked Salt.
Ide laughed. “Every time we saw the surgeon, he thought of another superstar sportsman who broke his leg in similar fashion to Christopher – skiers, footballers, hockey players, wrestlers, and martial artists – and it was all captured on video and then posted on YouTube in slow motion.”
Salt understood Ide’s reluctance for Christopher to watch repeats of dramatic leg injuries while he was trying to heal his own massive injury. “Why didn’t you put a stop to it?” he asked.
“I would have,” said Ide who would not have been shy in speaking up if she thought something was injuring her son, “but before I had an opportunity to, I noticed a sparkle in Christopher’s eyes.” With each visit and video, Christopher seemed to be gaining a badge of honour that read, This happened to me too and I have not only survived but thrived. “The first time the surgeon mentioned the videos,” said Ide, “I turned to him to see what the heck he was doing but he didn’t even glance at me. He spoke to Christopher as a man, with a man’s injury, to beat in the ‘secret’ way that men fix things. So I left them to their secret ways because I just wanted my son to get better and not be psychologically affected by the whole event. Now that it’s over,” said Ide stretching her wound up body, “I think all the stress has accumulated in my neck and shoulders.”
“Come,” said Salt. “Sit up here. I will help.” Both Christopher and Ide had benefited from Salt’s magic hands. He was not like the Chinese masseurs that Ide occasionally went to in Darnall. They were great but Salt was magic. He ran his hand softly over her spine until he found something needing attention. He didn’t knead it like the Darnall masseurs; he touched it firmly and slowly until it succumbed to his knowing fingers. This was the third time that Salt had touched Ide in this way and today, she totally relaxed. She thought that it must be the most relaxing thing in the world. You couldn’t pay for it. Towards the end of the massage, Ide noticed an odd feeling inside her; a tension. That’s strange, thought Ide. Why am I tensing up? She didn’t want Salt to notice but, of course, he did.
“That’s enough,” said Salt and stopped.
After a while, Ide put a name to the tense feeling. It was the flickering fire of sexual interest. It surprised her. She hadn’t had any sexual interest in anyone since Farkas. And Salt was so much older than her. And besides, this was not her plan. She wondered if maybe the feeling was purposely instigated by Salt. Don’t be ridiculous, Ide told herself. Salt isn’t like that and he has never given me that message in the slightest. Still, she couldn’t quite get the thought out of her mind.
Chapter 65: Finally
“Finally, you have come,” said Erdo who was not bothering to soften his exasperation. “How long has it taken you, Gabriel? Was it not Charlie who first told you about me more than ten years ago? And how many times has Amira spoken about me?”
Gabriel was taken aback by Erdo’s abrupt manner. Isn’t he supposed to be a spiritual teacher? thought Gabriel disapprovingly. He wanted to make it clear to Erdo that he wasn’t there as one of his budding students. He came because he couldn’t find Amira. That was all. He didn’t need anything else.
Gabriel had been ringing Amira for the past week. He initially wanted to ask her if she had seen some art brushes that he was missing. However, after she didn’t return his calls or messages, he became concerned. Telling himself that he must have left the brushes in the bungalow, he decided to go to Waldmeer and get them and also see if Amira was in the house. He rang her from the garden. No reply. More worrying was that he could hear her phone ringing inside the house. He decided to break in. He wouldn’t have to break anything because the back windows were generally unlocked. She wasn’t in the house. It crossed his mind that maybe he should go to the police and report a missing person. Somehow, that seemed a little too dramatic. Knowing Amira, he thought, she could be somewhere odd or having a non-contactable retreat someplace. He remembered Erdo, the forest mystic of the Leleks. He probably knows where she is, thought Gabriel. He also remembered that Amira met Erdo on the other side of the old walking bridge, next to the lake. It was a pristine, clear day and so he headed into the forest for a drive.
“Look,” said Gabriel in a deliberately patient voice, “I haven’t come to you as a student…”
Erdo cut him off. “Then you are trespassing,” said Erdo turning to leave and pointing to the bridge for Gabriel to also leave.
Oh my God, thought Gabriel, he is the rudest person ever. He bit his tongue and asked Erdo if he knew where Amira was. Erdo pointed to the lake and left. An image was forming on the surface of the lake.
Amira was walking in a mist. There were many deep crevices beneath the ground she walked on. Some of the ground was on a solid foundation but some of it was thinly covering the ravenous crevices. Before every step, Amira stopped and closed her eyes. She then continued forwards or took a different direction.
Gabriel looked up into the towering trees surrounding the lake, content in their serene environment, and wondered what the image meant. When he returned his gaze to the lake, the image was gone. I’m imagining things, he thought. It’s this place. I need to get out of here. Being none the wiser about Amira’s whereabouts but telling himself that she must be alright or Erdo would be doing something about it, he crossed back over the walking bridge. He gladly jumped into his car and headed for the city – partially relieved, partially ill at ease, and, if he was honest, totally confused.
Chapter 66: Lady of the Night
Back in the Borderfirma Mountains:
As Odin was travelling with the children, he had to slow his pace. There was no road into the Great Valley, only a walking track. On his own, he could have reached the cottage by the end of the day. However, with the children and, in particular, with baby Lentil, they needed to stop overnight. They stayed in the forest home of one of his warriors. All bunked down together on the floor, they had plenty of blankets and a few mattresses to share. It was cosy. After a long day travelling, everyone went to sleep instantly. In fact, baby Lentil had fallen asleep in her mother’s arms hours ago. Odin ended up carrying her most of the way as she was too heavy for everyone else.
After a few hours, Aristotle woke to a deeply sleeping household. He could hear a strange but interesting noise outside. At first, it sounded like the trees talking. He was used to the trees talking. Then he heard the low sound of an animal which was getting closer. It seemed to be calling his name. Aristotle, Aristotle. Come outside. Come outside. Eventually, he got up and went to see what the sound was. The glowing moon lit the edge of the forest and he saw a black cat moving stealthily between the trees.
“Come with me,” said the cat. “I have something important to show you.”
The trees were speaking more urgently now but Aristotle couldn’t hear them. He could only hear the cat.
It was almost morning. Odin dreamed that his own cat, Chester, was waking him up, “Get up, Odin,” said Chester. “Something has happened to Aristotle.” Odin sat bolt upright and counted the children.
Thank God, Lentil is at Bethany’s side, he thought. She hasn’t crawled off somewhere dangerous. Malik is snoring. But where is Aristotle? He ran outside and listened to the trees.
“Evanora came and took him away,” whispered the trees. “She came in her cat form and has taken him back to the Borderfirma Lowlands.”
“It’s not Aristotle that she wants,” said Odin.
“No, Master,” replied the trees. “It is Lady Faith. Evanora wants Lady Faith to go to the Lowlands in search of Aristotle.”
Lady Faith had four sisters. Each ruled a section of Borderfirma. They were Ladies Pearl, Melba, Evanora, and Rose – the very same sisters that manifested as Amira’s great aunts in Darnall. Odin and the children hurriedly packed up and left so that they could get to Lady Faith in the Great Valley.
“I don’t want mother to go to the Lowlands,” said Bethany quietly to Odin.
“Don’t you worry, Lady Bethany,” said Odin. “Your mother has angels walking with her and they see things differently.” He hoped to God that whatever they saw, it wasn’t what he saw. “You can’t fight fire with fire,” said Odin. “Everyone gets burned.”
“With what then?” asked Bethany.
“If I knew the answer to that, Lady Bethany,” said Odin, “I would not need this mountainous body that I have.”
Chapter 67: Dreaming
After consultation with Nina, Lady Faith set out for the Borderfirma Lowlands. She took Odin with her as far as the border between the two lands and then said, “I must leave you now. I cannot take reinforcement. It is not that sort of a journey.”
The exit sign of the Borderfirma Mountains read,
Thank you for visiting us. If you must dream a dream, at least, make it a happy dream.
The entrance sign of the Borderfirma Lowlands only had an image. It was two snakes fatally attacking each other. A king cobra was biting a python and the python was constricting the king cobra. The cobra died of constriction and the python died of venom. Nothing particularly happy about that! thought Lady Faith as she ventured into her sister’s territory.
An hour into the Lowlands, the mist moved in like a fugitive. Lady Faith could see very little around her. Sensing the danger, she walked very carefully. At every step, she paused, withdrew to the inner sanctuary, and asked herself, Does this feel right? Her answer came in the form of peace or tension. If she felt tension, she stepped a different way. If she felt peace, she kept going forward. After a while, the mist lifted and she could see the land before her. Dangerous, yes, but she had her inner guide and her reason for being there. She was not only there to rescue her son but she had a long-term hope of regaining her lost sister. Evanora was lost and in pain – in pain and causing pain. Lady Faith repeated to herself, If you must dream a dream, at least, make it a happy one.