AN END OF DARKNESS

Chapter 12

Now there was time for the refugees to realise where they were, and what had happened, and it was as well that there was such a company of Priests and Healers waiting to tend and reassure them. The Gardens were crowded with a milling throng; the exhausted, half-joyous, half-terrified Children of Light Zarel and the others had rescued from Ma’al, and those of Li’is who had come to meet and welcome them. It was not chaotic, though, as Priests and Healers moved purposefully among the people, directing them to the way stations, and others did what they could to help. Karlin realised that Corhan, whom he and Saban were still supporting, had begun to shake, probably, Karlin thought, with the shock of the destruction of his world, as well as loss of blood. “Karis” he said softly to his young uncle, who was nearby “It is not well with Corhan.” Karis, standing with Sharamine and the two sets of twins, gave a concerned glance at Corhan, and, seeing no Healer near, since Aiel had taken Dorvai to explain the way stations to him, turned instead to Zarel. The Lightstone-Bearer looked across, saw Corhan’s need, and went at once to lay the Lightstone to his brow to sustain him till help could be found. Karis had turned to scan the crowd. Thankfully, he recognised Rentha making her way towards them, some way away, and called out to her. Zarel’s sister came quickly to them, saying “Light be praised that you have all returned safely! But why did you call me? Is one of you hurt?” “It is Corhan, our Sword-Brother. There, with Karlin”, he told her, and she turned towards them, asking “What ails the Swordsman, Karlin?” “He was wounded, back in Ma’al, and did not say, because he would not slow our journey while we tended him. So he tried to mend matters himself” Karlin said. “And then, on the way up to the Meeting Place, he slipped and knocked the place and set it bleeding again. All on top of the stress of the journey, and the pursuit and battles, and seeing Ma’al destroyed.” “Much to bear, indeed. When was he wounded and where?” Rentha asked. It was Saban who answered. “Two days ago. His left arm, on the underside, near the shoulder.” Rentha nodded, as she drew back Corhan’s cloak, and her gentle fingers felt his arm. “Yes, a wound there would bleed quite hard to begin with, and now he has made it bleed even more. He has certainly lost much blood, and no way to tell how pale he might be under that dark colouring, except..” she smiled up at Corhan and said “I think you must sit on this stone, Swordsman. You are too tall for my reach, and the rest will do you no harm.”

Corhan obediently sank down on the flattish ornamental boulder she indicated, his friends still supporting him. Rentha leaned over and very gently turned back his lip and eyelids, to see how pale their lining might be, so she could gauge his loss of blood. But as she did so he gave a start, and Rentha exclaimed “Oh, I am sorry – did I hurt you?” He was staring into her face, but he shook his head. His eyes, though, did not leave hers. Puzzled, she gazed back, laying one hand on his brow, to see if he were feverish. Still he stared, until a soft flush rose in Rentha’s cheeks, and at last he gasped “Who -who are you, maiden?” Still puzzled, Rentha glanced at her brother, and asked quietly “Zarel, why does the Swordsman stare at me so? Are there no Healers in Ma’al?” “There are. It is not that.” Zarel said, as a sudden idea stirred him .” You should know better than I, Rentha, that shock can do strange things” , he added, still unsure if his guess were right. He spoke quietly but clearly to Corhan. “This maiden is Rentha, my sister, Corhan. She is a Healer, and has come to tend your wound.” “Ah!” Corhan gasped. “Zarel – my dream…” “Rentha? Is it Rentha?” Karlin exclaimed. “This maiden – yes!” the dark young Swordsman burst out, then, overwhelmed with emotion, pain, and physical weakness, suddenly reaching the end of his great fortitude and stamina, he slumped unconscious in his friends’supporting arms. They were alarmed, but Rentha was reassuring. “It will not harm him. He needs to rest. He has not taken the Wound Fever, praise Light, but he is weak and exhausted from stress and loss of blood.” “He would not leave Ma’al until the very last, though he sorely needed tending, for he is Lord of the Malani and would not leave until he knew they were all safely into Li’is.” Zarel told her, adding, to assure her about Corhan, “He is a brave and honourable man.” Rentha looked at the unconscious Swordsman as if considering her brother’s words, and said, “He is quite beautiful, Zarel – like a statue carved of dark stone. Are all his people so handsome?” Saban answered her, smiling. He was so glad that Corhan had found his dream-maiden, and that she seemed to like him too, that Zarel could not help but Perceive it. “Many of us are very handsome. But some, like me, are not.” “Oh, I am sure you are too modest!” Rentha laughed, then sobered to ask “I wonder why he gazed at me so – but he said something about a dream, did he not, Zarel? Perhaps, after all, he has been a little feverish, with the pain and loss of blood, and weariness.” Then, as if feeling she showed a little too much concern over a stranger, she became suddenly brisk, telling them to carry Corhan to the way station where those who were actually sick or hurt, rather than just tired or upset, were being tended. She would care for Corhan there, where he would be more comfortable, until he could be taken to the Gatehouse Healing Place, she told them. As Karis, Karlin and Saban obeyed her, Zarel watched his sister closely. Already she seemed to feel some attraction for Corhan, and that, if she were truly the maiden the Lord of the Malani had seen in his long-ago, Light-sent dream, must be Light’s doing.

Once they had conveyed Corhan to the way station and knew he was in safe hands, Karis and Karlin were eager to find their own family among the throng. Karis took hold of Sharamine’s hand and drew her along with them. He had had to gently persuade her, knowing that she was nervous about meeting his parents, but she had listened to his assurances and agreed to come with him. At last they found them; Lin and Krystha, Mellin and Marla, Mella and Janna, searching for them as they had also been searching. As soon as Karlin saw Janna, he ran to embrace her and they clung together. Janna was smiling and weeping together, with exclamations of love for Karlin and praise for his safe return. Karis followed his nephew more slowly, to be embraced by his parents and brother. Mellin hugged him, saying, “Praise Light you are all safe! It is good to see you again – that was well done, little brother!” Sharamine had stood aside, quiet and shy, as the reunions took place, until Mella, turning from embracing her brother in turn, noticed her and said “Oh – who is this maiden? Have you brought her out of Ma’al?” That drew their attention and Karis took Sharamine’s hand again and brought her forward. “This is Sharamine” , he told them, ” and yes, she has come out of Ma’al. She is a Child of Light, and ..” he hesitated, but the atmosphere was joyous, and he could not resist the urge to tease his family, so he continued ” she is my wife.” Krystha exclaimed ” Your wife?” and the others stared. Sharamine, worried by their response, blushed hotly red and said quickly “Oh no, it is not what it seems! Karis, please explain!” Krystha, seeing her discomfort, came and put one arm round her shoulders, saying, to console her, “It is well, Sharamine. Do not be concerned. Karis will tell us all.” Her kindness seemed to calm Sharamine, and Karis, a little shamefaced now, said “I am sorry, I did not mean to cause concern…” and went on to explain the circumstances of his sham marriage to Sharamine, in Ma’al. When he had finished with the telling, Lin nodded and said, “You did right, Karis. Sharamine had need of your protection.” Sharamine’s face showed relief, and Karis said, “That is how it began, but as time has gone on, we have grown to love each other, and wish to be wed properly, in the sight of Light, so that Sharamine really will be my Lady.” Krystha smiled at her younger son and Sharamine, and said, “That will be a joyful thing indeed! It seems Light meant you for each other, Sharamine. So I shall have two daughters-in-law born out of Ma’al!” “Two?” Sharamine asked, glancing at Mella, but Marla said, “Krystha means me, Sharamine! I was born in Li’is, but born of Ma’al. But I was Changed….” “Oh!” Sharamine broke in ,”You must be Marla? Karis has told me your story.” “Indeed I am!” Marla smiled. Lin said “We will be glad to welcome you into our family, Sharamine. ” He gave a wide smile, then, and said, “After all the concern of Zarel’s Way, it will be a blessing to have happy times to look forward to. Though I think Karis’ and Karlin’s weddings will not be the only ones to come out of this Way.” Karis answered him. “I think you are right, Father.” He was thinking of Corhan, and was surprised when Lin said ” The twins, now, have grown very close. I do not have Perception, but still I sense some affection between Aren and Moondancer, and no doubt it is the same with Zarel and Whitestar. I think there will be betrothals.” “I had not thought….” Karis said, then , “It is true, though, that Zarel and Whitestar seemed to find much comfort in each other, but I thought it was because each was missing their twin. But yes, it could well be more than that.”

Mella had been looking away from them for a few minutes, and now said, “I think I see someone in need. I will join you again soon, but I must see if I can help.” She moved away from her family and went across to where she had seen someone sitting on the ground,leaning against a small ornamental tree, as if they were hurt or exhausted. As she drew nearer she saw that it was a Swordsman. Coming up to him, she asked, “Are you hurt, Swordsman? I am a Healer.” The young man looked up at her. He looked tired and worried. “I am not hurt” he answered. “I have lost my brother.” Mella considered this, unsure what he meant. At last she asked gently.” How did you lose him? Was he slain in Ma’al?” “Oh, no!” the Swordsman said. “We both came through the Gate from Ma’al, but we were each helping others, and in the confusion I lost sight of him. And I am so tired…” He sighed, and Mella felt sorry for him. Like the other Healers, she had with her a flask of a reviving draught, for they had known that the refugees from Ma’al had had an arduous and frightening journey. Now she poured from the flask into one of her little wooden Healer’s cups, and handed it to him. “Drink this, it will restore your strength” she said. He thanked her, and drank the draught. She watched as it took effect, and he began to revive. “What is your name?” Mella asked, and he replied “Lorin. My brother is Talar. Thank you, Lady Healer.” “My name is Mella.” she told him. “The Priesthood have set up way stations for the people from Ma’al. We will surely find your brother there. If you feel better now, come with me, and I will show you.” Lorin rose, and thanked her again. As they walked towards the way stations, he glanced at her, and said, “It is strange, Lady Mella, but you seem familiar to me, though I have never been in Li’is.” “But you have fought alongside my brother!” she laughed. “Karlin is my brother, and Karis my uncle. It is a family resemblance you see.” “Ah, that must be it.” the Swordsman replied, and then gave a glad cry. “Talar!” They had reached the line of refugees at the way station, and Lorin saw his brother waiting there. Talar turned, and gave a huge grin. “Lorin! I thought I might find you here!” As the brothers embraced, Mella smiled, and slipped quietly away, back to her family.

When she reached them, and told them about Lorin, Karis said “Those two are valiant Swordsmen, and true to Light, though they have suffered a great loss…” and went on to tell them how the two Swordsmen had returned from a mission helping the Lightfriends to find their entire family had been destroyed by the mercenaries of the Dark Lords. “Then they only have each other?” Mella asked. “No wonder Lorin was so upset to think he had lost his brother!” Lin said “I wonder what the Swordsmen of Ma’al will do now? Are there many of them, Karis?” “Very few, other than the Malani.” Karis said. Karlin, who was nearby with Janna, said “Only twelve in all, Grandfather. There was no means of training Swordsmen in Ma’al, other than those belonging to the hidden ancient families that were still loyal to Light, and those the Dark Lords did all they could to destroy.” Mellin said. “So few! If they are willing, they could take on service to the Watchwards. I would gladly welcome any who wished to join the Fortress Watch, as I am sure would Janir at the Western Fortress.” Karis said ” I too would be glad to have the Swordsmen of Ma’al – especially Lorin and Talar. They have had no place to belong since their family perished. But we must give them time to adjust to being here before we ask them to make such decisions.” Mella turned to Sharamine, and said “We have not asked you, Sharamine, how it is with you. It must be strange and frightening to you to be brought here, even though it is a place of safety, and you are with Karis.” The other girl smiled at her, and said, “You are kind, Mella. It is strange, and to know that Ma’al is destroyed, and my parents with it, though I ran away….they were not always so cruel as recently, though they did not serve Light….” She paused, then, and there were tears in her eyes. Karis hugged her. Sharamine took a deep breath, and went on “But I know I am safe in Li’is, and that all that has been done was in the Will of Light. It will take time to learn to live in freedom and open worship of Light, there is much to learn about my new world. I am thankful to Light that I am here, and for Karis…” she looked up at the Swordsman, and he smiled tenderly at her. “You are part of our family now, and we will help you.” Krystha said. “As they did me!” Marla added. “When Mellin and I were betrothed, Krystha and Lin were the kindest of friends to me, for I too had no parents, and a Dark heritage.”

Aiel and Dorvai were standing by the three way stations, watching the progress of the refugees. Those that needed it were being tended by Healers for bodily, or Priests for emotional, needs, and all of them were being listed and assigned places to rest. Saban had left Daria with the Healers to be checked over, and taken charge of the Malani in Corhan’s absence. It was all being done in an orderly manner. Dorvai asked Aiel “You are the High Priest of Light here, but were Lightstone-Bearer before Zarel, so he said?” “That is so.” Aiel answered. “I bore it on the Lightstone Way, and Marla’s Way. I have had little part in this Way, but have been brought here to see its end, as the Secret Word foretold that I would.” “Then since you are High Priest of Light, we Lightfriends will come under your authority.” Dorvai said, but Aiel replied “Only if you all wish it so! You are the leader of the Lightfriends, Dorvai, and they recognise that. I would not usurp your place. But there will be time for all such decisions later, once we have you all settled and feeling secure in Li’is. I think that will take time, my Brother-in-Light.” “It will”, Dorvai agreed. “Zarel swept us up in the Way, and we obeyed Light’s command and followed him, trusting in Light and the Lightstone. We knew we were coming to Li’is, to a place of safety, but still the Way has been frightening at times, and the journey tiring. All of us, even the Lightfriends, will need time to rest and recover, and to work through all that has happened.” “Even allocating places to stay, for now, is difficult” Aiel commented. “The Gatehouse was never intended to take so many, and some will have to use the tents that the Westerners- who you know as the Ketai – have brought for that purpose.” “That may not be such a problem.” Dorvai told him. “The Malani too are wanderers and used to living in camps. There are many of them, and no doubt they will be happy to use the tents. Corhan their Lord was wounded and has been taken to the Healing Place, but his sister Daria and her man, Saban, will take charge and can answer for the Malani.” “There will be much for us of Li’is to learn too.” Aiel answered. “We knew nothing of the Malani until Zarel told us of them. We knew that the ancient Lightfriends came into Li’is out of Ma’al, with Rafel the first Lightstone-Bearer, and the Ketai, but until the Dancers came to call Zarel to the Lightstone and this way, we did not understand that there were still Lightfriends and Children of Light in Ma’al, believing that that world was wholly of Darkness.” “And we in Ma’al knew nothing of Li’is.” Dorvai responded. “We knew the story of the Lightfriends leaving, but over the centuries, with all we had to contend with, much of the tale was lost, and we did not know where or how, or even why, they left. It was a shock to us when we saw Dancers for the first time, and they told us of what was to happen. I am not ashamed to admit that though I love and trust Light, I was still fearful for Moondancer when the Dancer carried her away from us.” Aiel smiled gently, and said, “You were not alone in that, for we too feared for Zarel, Karis and Karlin. Praise Light that all that is past now, and the Way has ended as Light meant it to, with all of you safe in Li’is.” “Praise Light!” Dorvai echoed.

The joy that Zarel and Aren had felt at their reunion was too much for words, and their Perceptions flowed together in their old accustomed way. As they shared, they could sense Whitestar and Moondancer doing the same, like an echo. It seemed all four still kept that connection. Impossible that either set of twins should not know of the love between Zarel and Whitestar, Aren and Moondancer, but all had expected it to be so, and none was surprised. When their Perceptions drew apart again, the four of them stood in a little group . Aren said, as if to confirm what they already knew. “Moondancer and I – we knew it would be the same with you and Whitestar.” ” And we knew it would be so with you two, also.” Zarel replied. Aren smiled at Whitestar, then said to Zarel “Our mother and father waited in the Gatehouse, while we came to the Gate with Grandfather. Come and show them all is well with you, and let them meet Whitestar.” The four of them moved away, past the way stations, telling Dorvai as they passed where his daughters were going. As they walked through the Gardens, Whitestar exclaimed at their beauty. “The Gatehouse Gardens are designed to be restful and inspiring.” Aren told her, then laughed, and added, “Though they are not so restful now, with so many people here. But that is a blessing, and maybe the peace and beauty of the Gardens will help to soothe the spirits of those who have come from Ma’al. It has been a tumultuous time for you.” They reached the Gatehouse and went in, finding Arenel, who had Perceived their approach, waiting for them with Zohra. Aila, Janir and Lira were waiting too, to welcome them. Arenel stepped forward and embraced Zarel, and as he did his Perception flashed to his son’s the joy and relief he felt at Zarel’s safe return, and the pride in his accomplishment of the Way. Then he turned to Whitestar, and said, “Welcome, my Sister-in-Light! Light be praised you and all of Light’s Children from Ma’al are safely here.” Whitestar thanked him, and Zarel introduced her to the others. She looked curiously at Aila, seeing that she had Perception, but was not of the Priesthood. Aila sensed her thought, and said, “Welcome, Whitestar, Lightfriend. Moondancer has told us how you served Light in Ma’al. In Li’is we daughters of the Priesthood born with Perception are not required to become Priests, since our brothers are so many. But now that you and the other female Lightfriends are here, that may change!” she added. Lira reached out to hug her cousin”Praise Light you are safe, Zarel!” she exclaimed, then turned to Whitestar and embraced her too. “I am happy to meet you”, she said. “Moondancer has told us so much about you.” “I am happy to be here! ” Whitestar said. “It is wonderful to be back with my sister, and to feel the safety we have never known. To receive such a welcome, too, is overwhelming. So many good people!” Janir said “But you deserve it, Whitestar. For so long the Lightfriends of Ma’al have stayed true to Light, and risked all to bring some to be Children of Light, while we were ignorant of it. You are all warriors of Light, and we are proud to welcome you.” Zohra had embraced Zarel in her turn, whispering her praise to him. Now she said, “You have been brave indeed, Whitestar. The Way must have been frightening, and tiring, despite your great faith in Light. ” “It was, but I trusted Zarel” Whitestar said, smiling at the Lightstone-Bearer. “Well, all is done now” Aila said, adding, with the practicality of a Healer, “Come, there are places to rest , and food is being prepared.”

Rentha had had Corhan carried to the Healing Place and laid on one of the couches. His cloak had been removed and she could see the torn, bloodied sleeve and the clotted bandages under it. She would need to remove those, but gently, and the wound beneath would no doubt require pinning. Corhan was still unconscious, but not so deeply that she could tend his wound without causing pain. She moved to the Healer’s bench and prepared a draught of sweetwood, then reached for the sealed container of pure gold wound pins in their cleansing solution. As she did so,she heard Corhan groan behind her. Rentha set the pins down on the bench and went to his couch. Corhan’s black eyes opened and looked up at her, but dazedly. He seemed confused, and asked “What has happened? Where am I?” “You are safe, Corhan”, she assured him. “You and the Malani have reached Li’is, but you were wounded. You are in the Healing Place of the Gatehouse.” “I do not remember…how am I here?” “You were weak and exhausted, and you lost consciousness. You were carried here”, Rentha told him. “And now you must sleep again, so I can tend your wound, and make you fit to return to your people.” She turned to pick up the bowl of sweetwood and took it to him, leaning to support his head. “Drink this”, she ordered. “It will send you to sleep while the wound is pinned.” Corhan seemed hesitant, so she told him “You can trust me, Corhan. I am Zarel’s sister, and a Healer. I mean you only good.” He seemed to relax at that, and drank from the bowl which she was holding to his lips. She laid his head down again, and he gave a sigh and closed his eyes as the sweetwood took effect. The Healer waited a few moments to make sure that the narcotic spice had done its work, then began her task. She cut away the sleeve and carefully removed the bandages beneath, soaking them to loosen them where necessary. When that had been done and she had cleaned away the dried blood from Corhan’s arm, she inspected the wound. There was no signs, thankfully, of the Wound Fever. The wound was small, but deep. Probably made by the tip of a sword, rather than the full blade, Rentha guessed. He had been unlucky that it had caught a blood vessel and caused so much bleeding. It would not require many wound pins. She cleaned the wound with cleansing solution and dusted it with a powdered herb that quickened healing, then joined the edges with wound pins. She needed only three, in the end, and they would not need to stay in place for too long. A clean bandage finished her work, and she looked down at her sleeping charge, and smiled her satisfaction at a task accomplished. To make him more comfortable, she pulled off his boots and set them beside the couch, then covered him over with a coverlet. No more she could do till he woke. She could leave him in the charge of the Healing Room attendants, who would call her, or another Healer, if Corhan had any need. Yet she felt somehow reluctant to leave him. Zarel had told her that Corhan was the Lord of the Malani, the new people he had brought out of Ma’al. Maybe, Rentha thought, it was the excitement of meeting someone so unexpected that made her feel like this, for otherwise she could not understand. She was a Healer and had tended many, some of them very unwell, yet she did not recall feeling such extreme concern and – could she call it compassion? – for any of them. These were strange and emotional times, though, and it was impossible not to feel for the people of Ma’al who Zarel had rescued, and all they had endured in that dark world. She shook her head. She would leave Corhan to the Healing Place attendants, at least for now and – an idea came to her – she would go and find the rest of the Malani, and see that all was well with them. Then she would have good news to bring him, for she was sure that he would be eager to return to his people, and she could not allow that until he was at least almost fully recovered. Thus resolved, she tucked the coverlet more securely round Corhan, and left the Healing Place to give her instructions to the attendants.

The refugees from Ma’al, once past the way stations, were beginning to make their way through the Gardens towards the Gatehouse, guided by the Priesthood and Healers. Most of them walked slowly, looking round at their surroundings, enjoying and being calmed by the beauty around them. The children, though, after so long cooped up in the carts and made to keep still and silent for fear of the Hawks, revelled in their freedom and ran joyfully through the Gardens, leaping and playing. Dorvai, walking with Aiel, watched them, and said to Aiel, “Ah, it is good to see the children free to play!” “They will live and grow in freedom, here.” Aiel answered. “That is a good thought, Dorvai. Freedom and no fear for all Children of Light, now.” Dorvai asked ” There is a Prayer Place at the Gatehouse? Zarel said that there are places of prayer all over Li’is. ” “Yes, the Gatehouse has a Prayer Room.” Aiel replied. “Then we Lightfriends would be glad to go there, when there is time, and give thanks to Light for our deliverance.” Dorvai told him. Aiel smiled. “There is always time to give thanks to Light. When all the Lightfriends have reached the Gatehouse, we will arrange it.” Dorvai looked back to where his sister and Naton were following, with Kira . Little Kilmo was running with the other children, though he kept coming back to his mother, then running back to the others. Aiel could Perceive Dorvai’s gladness for his family before he spoke. “My sister will be so relieved that Naton need not face danger when he goes to teach the Children of Light now. Her daughter’s man was killed . I trust Light that Kira and the little one will fare better now we are here.” “A great sorrow for her”, Aiel said. “As there was for you, so Moondancer said, with the loss of your Lady.” “There was.” Dorvai said. “Though I knew she had touched Light. But to be left alone with my daughters- little more than babes then – and my responsibilities as leader of the Lightfriends- it was a hard time for me, Aiel. But praise Light, I was sustained through it by my faith in Light.” I felt for the maidens, when Moondancer told us.” Aiel answered. “For I too lost my mother at a young age, and though I knew she had touched Light also, the gap in my life remained.” “It does remain” Dorvai agreed. “And will, I think, till we too touch Light and meet our loved ones again.” They had reached the Gatehouse now and went in, to join their families. Aiel introduced Dorvai to Arentha and those of his family that the Lightfriend had not yet met. Arentha smiled her gentle smile, and said, “We are so glad to welcome you all to Li’is!”

Everyone was congregating in the Great Hall of the Gatehouse, finding friends and family and waiting to be shown where they would sleep. Rentha, coming into the Hall, was quickly surrounded by Karis, Karlin, and Saban, anxious to know how Corhan fared. “It is as well with him as may be.” she told them. “I do not believe he has taken the Wound Fever. The wound was small, but deep, so I had to pin it, and to do that I gave him sweetwood. He is still sleeping.” “Thank you, Lady Healer” Saban said. “He is our Lord, and my wife’s brother. We were greatly concerned for him.” He indicated Corhan’s sister Daria, who was seated on a bench nearby. Rentha looked over at her, and asked Corhan “When is the babe due?” “Not quite yet, but soon, I think,” he answered, and the Healer replied “We must look after her, then.” “You may try!” Saban laughed. “She has a strong will, and would be loath to leave our people at such a time, when her brother is already in the Healing Place.” Rentha told him “When you have the Malani settled, I would like to come and see how it is with them, Saban. If I can bring good news back to Corhan, he will not be so anxious to return to them,as I know he will be if not. He needs to rest and heal.” “Certainly!” Saban said. “It is a kind thought, Lady, and we would be glad of your help.” He added, “They told us at the way stations that they would tell us where we could stay, but some would need to use the tents of the Ketai. I have told them that we would gladly use the tents. It is what we are used to, and will make more room here for others.” “Then we should certainly try to persuade Daria to stay in the Gatehouse.” Karis remarked. Daria, hearing her name, rose from the bench and came over to them. “Did you call me?” she asked. “No, we were wondering if it would be best for you to stay here if the Malani are camping.” Karlin told her. “I will stay with my people!” Daria said, firmly. Rentha studied her covertly. She could see that Corhan’s sister was strong and fit, of athletic build. She would have strength and stamina. The Healer said “If you will be more at ease among your people, I would not advise you otherwise. This is your first babe?” Daria nodded, and Rentha went on. “First babes do not often come quickly. There will be time. I have told Saban, though, that I will come and see that all is well with the Malani, to reassure your brother when he wakes. You will let me tend you also?” “Yes, Lady Healer, thank you. ” Daria answered. “I think it will reassure Saban, too.” She cast an affectionate glance at her husband, who laughed. “Indeed!” Karis noted that Saban had made no reference to Corhan’s certainty that Rentha was his dream-maiden. He would not, however, the Swordsman thought, until Corhan was able to explain matters to Rentha. He wondered, though, if Saban had told Daria.

Aiel had left Dorvai and his family, to find Rujel and ask that the Prayer Room, which had been closed while the transfer from Ma’al and all that it entailed was happening, be opened. “The Lightfriends are anxious to stand before Light and give thanks.” he explained. “I know you are very busy, Rujel, but it will mean a great deal to them.” “Gladly!” Rujel answered. He hurried away to carry out the task, while Aiel waited, and returned to say that it was done, and the Lightfriends welcome to go to the Prayer Room whenever they wished. Aiel in turn went to find Dorvai, and said “Are all the Lightfriends here now? The Prayer Room is open for you.” Dorvai looked round, and Aiel could sense his Perception reaching out to the other Lightfriends. Then Dorvai said “We are all here. ” As Aiel watched, the Lightfriends of Ma’al made their way through the bustling Great Hall to their leader. Naton, Whitestar and Moondancer came first, then the others, in ones and twos, including, Aiel noted, more women. When they had all assembled, though, he was astonished at how few, comparatively, there were. Used to the extent of the Priesthood in Li’is, he was surprised that the Lightfriends of Ma’al numbered little more than fifty, and his respect and admiration for them grew. That a number less than the full complement of the Temple Priesthood had kept the service of Light alive in Ma’al, and won some to that service despite the overwhelming odds, humbled him. Dorvai turned to him, and asked, “Will you show us the Prayer Room,Aiel?” “I will be honoured” the High Priest answered, and led the way. As the Lightfriends entered the Prayer Room, he Perceived their joy and excitement. The miniature of the Crucible in the Temple, as in all Prayer Rooms across Li’is, was lighting the room with a soft golden glow, and he explained it to them, not knowing if their Prayer Places in Li’is had had Crucibles. Dorvai responded that they had not, but he was glad to see it, knowing that, as Aiel had explained, the Crucibles had begun with the first Lightfriends who came into Li’is from Ma’al, so long ago. That meant that at some time in their distant past, there would have been Crucibles, though it might have been that they had all been brought into Li’is long ago. Aiel was prepared to leave the Lightfriends of Ma’al to their time of prayer and thanksgiving, but Dorvai said “Aiel, Lightfriend, you are High Priest of Light . Will you lead us?” Aiel was happy to agree, but first he said, “If that is what all the Lightfriends wish, Dorvai.” Their agreement was unanimous, and so he led them, first in the Quieting Prayers, to create a calm atmosphere, and then in thanksgiving and celebration.

It was growing calmer in the rest of the Gatehouse too. The refugees had been given a meal, though in shifts, as the Gatehouse kitchens could not cope with so many at once. Then they had been shown to the places where they would be staying, for now, until they decided where they wanted to go. Since the Malani had volunteered to take most of the tents out on the wildflower meadow, the rest were given to those who were alone or in pairs, such as Lorin and Talar, leaving room in the Gatehouse and its outbuildings for families and those with children. Every available space was filled with refugees and helpers, but somehow everyone had been fitted in, and the unique joy of the occasion made any small inconveniences worthwhile. Zarel, Karis and Karlin, now that the Way was completed, though they could scarcely believe, at first, that it was over, were beginning to relax and enjoy the reunion with their families and loved ones. Aila and Janir, cousins to Karis, had been introduced to Sharamine and heard the story of how they had met, been married by the laws of Ma’al, to protect Sharamine, and then found themselves truly in love. “Then maybe you two and Karlin and Janna will have a joint wedding.” Janir suggested. “Since you and Karlin seem to do everything together, Karis!” Karis laughed, and Janir looked at him fondly. He remembered the night Karis had been born, when his Lady, Aila, had been the Healer tending Krystha, and how he had been taken to see the new babe the next morning. Now that baby cousin was a strapping young Swordsman, had shown his courage and prowess in Ma’al, and would soon be married. Janir said “I am proud of you all – you and Karlin and Zarel. It was well done!” “I think Zarel was the braver” Karis answered. “Karlin and I – we are Swordsmen, we had training. But Zarel – he had the Lightstone, true, but he had not Aiel’s experience of it. Yet Light chose a worthy Lightstone-Bearer – his faith in Light was so strong, and we have seen him grow so much in that faith, in Ma’al. I was astonished by him at times, and humbled.” Lin looked round him at the crowded Great Hall, and said “All of you did well, and here is the proof. The Children of Light and Lightfriends of Ma’al, brought safely here to live in Light. The Secret Word is finally fulfilled.”

Published by afaithbasedfantasytrilogy

I'm first and foremost a Christian. I'm also a widow, mother of 5, grandmother of 9, and a retired school librarian.

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