The Crystal Forest . . . . part 4

Poeli glanced towards the lagoon. ‘I saw you with him.’ He thought to Bru. ‘How is he?’
Bru took a deep breath and let it out slowly. ‘He knows we’re here. I’ve told him the crystal isn’t going to kill him, and that he can stay alive a long time if he makes good use of the river water. He’s in some pain, but not more than he can cope with – at the moment. I’ve given him as much healing as I could without touching the casket. I’ve asked the Light to stay after we’ve gone, because if you’re right we’ve got to find help, and we may be away a long time. He managed a couple of finger signs, to show he could hear me and he understood. Breathing’s difficult for him and his head’s just too low in the water to speak safely, so I told him not to try. He can drink easily enough, but it would be just as easy. . .I didn’t want to watch him drown!’ His eyes filled with tears, and he wrapped his arms round himself as if he felt the pain Niethi was experiencing. Poeli drew him close and held him, saying, ‘Put your shieldings up, Bru. You can’t carry all their pain and fear. And it won’t help them if you break.’
He waited until Bru had recovered his composure, then said, ‘I’ll explain to Niethi what we’re going to try.’
‘Be careful, Poeli.’

Poeli walked to the lagoon, and knelt down as close to Niethi’s casket as he dared. Slowly and carefully he explained his theory, concluding, ‘Bru will Turn us away, and we’ll find someone who’s willing to come back with us and make whatever the Crystal needs so it’ll set you free. We’ll be as quick as we can, and we’ll ask the Powers to give you Light.’
Slowly, and obviously with pain, Niethi finger-signed. ‘Thank you. The Grace go with you.’
‘The Great Powers keep you,’ Poeli replied, and getting up walked away, his own tears now running down his face.

Once they were out in the open Bru chose a clear space, memorised eight Markers, and then Turned them to where they’d agreed to meet Galbon. After that events moved quickly. Another Turn took them back to the capital where they explained what they’d found, and what they hoped to do.
It took a while to persuade the king and his councillors that it wasn’t necessary to go in and destroy the Crystal – at least not the living Crystal. They might have to clear some of the forest, to make a straighter way through to the tunnel, but with Bru’s Gift of Turning, even that should be unnecessary.
‘The Crystal isn’t your enemy,’ Bru explained for the fourth time. ‘It was created by chance, and the intelligent being which inhabits it is simply trying to keep itself alive. If we can help it to do that by harmless means, it’ll have no need for any other source of power.’
‘And it can’t leave the valley,’ Poeli declared. ‘It wouldn’t want to even if it could.’
They kept the thought to themselves that if they or the Great Powers could transport it to a more suitable world they would do so. As well not to raise hopes which might not come to fruition.

Within another day they’d re-Turned to Myldora and called an emergency meeting of the Constellation.
‘How did the Crystal respond to your presence, and to the Light in the cavern?’ Olure asked. ‘Was it angry, or afraid?’
‘At first it was disappointed, and then confused. Obviously it wanted another two sources of heartlife, but because its light and music made us nauseous, it couldn’t entice us, and it seemed to accept that.’
‘Perhaps the Weronti who escaped out of the canyon were also immune to the attraction,’ Shan said.
‘Did it understand you wanted to take. . .’ Druan’s voice shook, ‘Niethi away from it?’
‘I don’t know. The Light seemed to calm it. Perhaps the Powers have some way of communicating with it. That would make sense.’
‘You might even be able to risk touching it, if it understands you’re trying to help it,’ one of the Junior Masters suggested.
Poeli shuddered. ‘I don’t think so! You haven’t seen. . .No! Definitely not!’
‘What we need is someone with an understanding of higher technology like Qeplo,’ Kyra said, briskly. ‘It’s a pity we’ve no way of contacting the Zutli.’
‘Perhaps we have,’ Ielen said. ‘There are a great number of Senior Callers and several Sensitives in the Constellation, and we’ve already shown we can reach out to the Grace, and be carried to where others need us. Who’s to say we can’t be carried to someone who can help us and the Weronti.’
‘Or the Powers carry them to us,’ Mo suggested.

So they planned carefully, and when dark had fallen the gathered members of the Constellation formed their double ring under the stars and the Callers and Sensitives linked their gifts and ‘reached’ towards the Powers.
Bru, as the silver-haired Star Crowned, had been deputed to speak for them, but although the Light of the Grace swiftly filled the circle he remained silent. At long last, Ielen spoke, ‘Great Powers of the worlds, you know our desire – and that it isn’t only to rescue one of our own, but to help the people of another world, and to restore a lost being to its home – Guide our thoughts, our words and actions, that this may be achieved.’
The Light remained for many minutes, and no one else spoke, though they listened patiently and in hope. When it had faded they discovered they’d been there far longer than they’d realised. The moon was already descending into the west, what had seemed like moments had been several hours. Silently they returned to the observation room.

‘Ielen, tell us what the Powers said to you,’ Kira said.
‘Not only to me, I think,’ she responded. ‘If I’m right they spoke to the Callers, the Sensitives, and the Masters of Turning.’ She looked around at those she’d mentioned and they nodded one by one. ‘There’s no way for us or anyone to keep the Crystal alive where it is – even using human heartlife it’s growing weaker. But if we re-Turn to the Valley we’ll find that through the Powers we can communicate our purpose to the Crystal, and they hope that it will release those it holds and if it does the Powers will carry it away to a world suitable for it.’
‘And you are to be our channel,’ Bru said, ‘because you can pass on both the thoughts of the Callers, and the purposes of the Sensitives; and hopefully Sense and Hear a response from the Crystal.’
‘Yes. But we must make haste, because as well as the Crystal the last few Weronti are weakening, and every life there is at risk.’
‘But not so much haste that we don’t consider some of the other practicalities,’ Mo suggested, quietly.
‘I agree,’ said Theraltilimo, now the Great Master of Healing. ‘I shall come with some of my Seniors to do what we may for those released.’
‘It may be difficult to draw the injured out of the water,’ Mo continued, ‘so a number of strong swimmers will be needed, and in addition to whatever Thera brings we’ll want stretchers and soft ropes.’

By the end of the night all the necessary people and equipment had been Turned to the Observatory, and in five groups they were carried directly to the Valley.
‘I’m glad we didn’t need anyone else,’ Poeli said quietly to Bru, as they led the way down to the lagoon. ‘It’s our task, and I always thought we’d manage it somehow.’
Bru smiled at him and nodded, but before he could speak Ielen called him to join her and the other Sensitives and Callers. They arranged themselves in a linked half-circle, with Ielen and Bru at the open ends, and then, everyone else staying very still and quiet, they ‘reached’ towards the mind of the Crystal, Ielen communicating their good will to it, together with their intentions; and then they waited.

A shudder went through the linked men and women at the Crystal’s first angry response, and the ‘jewels’ spat sparks. Ielen said quietly, ‘We need reassuring Light, and perhaps, if you can manage it, Poeli, music it will trust.’
Those who held Light let it shine over the crystals with a comforting glow, and Poeli, after reaching out for help, tried to sing to it in its own strange tones. It felt most uncomfortable, but he found if he allowed himself to be an instrument for the use of the Powers, the music came from deep within, and though his stomach wanted to heave and his head ached, he could close his eyes and let it flow, adding to it his own willingness for the Crystal to be restored to its home.
‘It’s calming down,’ Ielen reported; then a while later, ‘the Powers have touched it and it has reconsidered; it will release those it holds so that it can be carried away from this world. But the release will be slow – it can’t absorb itself as quickly as it extends itself – it’s an unnatural thing for it to do.’
.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .To be continued

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