Here is the next part of Faith (Book 4 of the Waldmeer Series).
Chapter 32: Us and Them
Every day for the week since Gabriel and Rybert left, more and more soldiers arrived from the Borderfirma territories. They camped on the Monastery hill and numerous ones beyond. As the thousands arrived, so too was the Borderfirma Lowlands army amassing on the opposite side of the land. Impending doom hung heavily beneath the sky which, regardless, remained a cheery blue with cloud puffs skipping along their carefree path.
Odin kept repeating a phrase which was dear to his heart, “Not on my watch.” Faith knew that he was reaffirming his commitment to protect Lady Faith, her family, the Borderfirma Mountains, its people, and all that he considered to be right. He was normally a force to be reckoned with but, with the added fire of danger, his intensity was not to be underestimated.
Faith had her own version of, Not on my watch, running through her mind. Not on my watch; I am responsible for the lives of these people. Not on my watch; no one must be lost. Her version included the Lowlands, its army, and even Evanora. Unlike Odin, who still perceived life as us and them, Faith had no perception of us and them. To her, the Lowlands army was as important as her own. The problem was obvious and nasty. Under Evanora’s rule, the Lowlands army not only perceived an us and them, but they were deadly intent on destroying the them. Further, with every arriving soldier to the Monastery hills, the intent of the Lowlands force grew greater from fear and propaganda. Although the Lowlands people were initially reluctant to join Evanora’s army, they now flocked to it under the notion of self-defence.
Faith did not know what to do. Her first problem was how to keep everyone safe. Her second was that the conflict was escalating at an alarming, unstoppable rate. She did not know the answer but it was her responsibility to find it, and find it fast. Every morning, she went to Floating Cave looking for that answer. She sat motionless at the edge of the salt pool. The quiet, dark, wet air was calming. Every morning, she asked the same question, How can this conflict be resolved without doing damage? She listened. And listened more. If the answer was there, she couldn’t hear it. All she heard was, No one must be lost. That seemed impossible.
Chapter 33: Dream
As she was going to sleep in her Monastery bed, Faith heard the muffled, distant sound of men around campfires. Some hours later, she had a very vivid, lucid dream which went as follows;
She was, not surprisingly, in a type of battle. At one critical point, she decided that she must venture on alone. Knowing that her friends would be unwilling to return to safety without her, Faith told them that they must take the children to safety and that she would return soon. She also told them that she would use the magic golden armour that she possessed. While wearing it, she could not be hurt. Reluctantly, her friends agreed and let her go on alone.
When Faith arrived at the edge of the space where she would face the enemy, she felt that the armour was terribly heavy and cumbersome. She didn’t want to wear it but she would be completely vulnerable without it. A group of little birds arrived. They were very similar to the sweet ones that always accompanied Mullum-Mullum. They told her that it would do more harm than good to wear the magic protective armour. “Take it off, take it off,” the little birds repeated.
Faith was reluctant to take off the armour as she would be instantly killed by the ferocious enemy as soon as she entered the arena. Nevertheless, something about the little birds was so pure and trustworthy. Besides, they seemed to be speaking for an ancient voice which wanted to be remembered. Irresistibly, the voice drew Faith deeper into its being and she, for better or worse, took off the armour and stepped into the arena. She was afraid, yes. Truth be told, she thought she would be killed but her trust in the little birds and their invisible Master was so great that she decided to do it anyway.
As she walked into the sweltering heat of the arena, ready to face her fate, a strange thing happened. She did not burn under the fire of the enemy. Her body disintegrated; not because it was being destroyed but because it no longer was there. Yet, Faith, herself, was totally present and conscious in the arena. As she had no body, she could not be hurt or touched. The enemy passed straight through her and, perceiving no threat, went on its way.
Chapter 34: Fire-Eyes
The following morning, Lady Faith slowly and deliberately dressed. She silently walked onto the hillside and called Odin and the three other Borderfirma commanders to her side. She had a low fire burning in her eyes. It made her look different; stronger but also less reachable. Odin looked at her, several times, to try and understand why she looked like that and what she was doing.
“I have called you to me,” said Lady Faith, “as it is time for you to take your armies back to your own territories. We will not be fighting the Lowlands army. As for me, I will be staying here.”
Predictably, Odin and the other commanders were shocked and highly reluctant to accept her command. “Lady Faith,” said Odin forcibly, “the Lowlands army will certainly attack and if you remain here, they will, without doubt, kill you. I cannot allow…”
Faith rarely used the dormant fire that was inside her. It was seldom necessary but when it came, it came without apology. It came from Beyond and when present, Faith had no personal identity. Having no identity and therefore nothing to lose, the force was given free rein. Therein lay its power.
“It is not a request,” said Lady Faith with steely resolve. She stared at Odin until, realising it was useless to resist, he conceded. The three other commanders likewise lowered their eyes and headed for their relevant army groupings. Lady Faith turned to go but stopped and called after them, “Wait. There is one more thing.” Odin and the commanders looked at Lady Faith with tense, worried faces. The fire in Lady Faith’s eyes was already subsiding and she said more softly, “You need not worry. I will not be here alone. Each of you must send me your best mystic.” The commanders now looked confused as well as worried. “Only one mystic,” smiled Lady Faith reassuringly, “but your best one, please.”
Chapter 35: Innocence
By the end of that week, the mystics started to arrive at Floating Cave Monastery. Lady Pearl was delighted to have found one of the original Floating Cave Monastery monks who had fled to her land when Evanora took control of the Lowlands. He was elderly but had lost none of his devotion or ability. Lady Melba sent her most respected religious leader. Lady Rose sent a local farmer who was known amongst the people as a healer. He never took money for healing but he was rather brutally honest to anyone who knocked on his cottage door with questionable mentality or ethics. There was still no one from Faith’s own land, the Borderfirma Mountains.
Bethany was having trouble deciding who their best mystic was. She sent a message to Nina, in the Great Valley, to ask her crystal ball. Although Bethany did not find out who the ball had chosen, she did receive a message that Odin would be accompanying the mystic to the Lowlands and that he would remain with him as protector.
Odin and his charge reached the border of the Mountains and the Lowlands. They had just passed the Mountains exit sign which read, Thank you for visiting us. If you must dream a dream, at least, make it a happy dream. In the distance, Odin could see the Lowlands entry sign. It had an image of two snakes fatally attacking each other. A king cobra was biting a python and the python was constricting the king cobra. Odin chatted brightly to his charge as if to counteract the negative vibe of the sign. It was probably more for his own benefit. His charge didn’t seem bothered or frightened at all by the sign. He barely noticed it. Perhaps, he didn’t.
When Lady Faith opened the green Monastery door, her face fell. It was Aristotle. Not my own child, she thought. It’s too dangerous. She then corrected herself and thought, Everyone is my child and no one is in danger.
“The crystal ball said that Aristotle’s innocence will protect him,” Odin whispered to Lady Faith. Nevertheless, Odin looked like he was thinking that, just in case the ball didn’t know what it was talking about, he was there for backup.
And that is how Odin and Aristotle ended up sharing one of the monk rooms in the Monastery. Faith could hear their laughter as she walked along the hall. It made her smile. The tension in the Monastery was breaking up. Was that foolish? Would it help? Would it make for a sad closing curtain or a solution?