They were up early the next morning to help with the morning duties. Camrin went to help Jack, who had to let the horses and cows back out to graze, while Selenia went with Helen to get eggs for breakfast. They were all easy jobs, and they were done shortly after sunrise.
Back on the road, Camrin had some things on his mind that he had to talk about with Selenia. "I wonder what this journey is all supposed to be about. So far, I've almost died numerous times, traveled many miles, and found things I didn't even know existed. All I have to show for it is a metal staff and a book that doesn't make any real sense. Is there something you're not telling me about this? Why do I have to go to a castle? All that I've been doing is trying to get away from my town, because of an attack by bandits. Now I'm here, wherever that is, and I want to get back home. I could find my way, but something tells me I don't want to go back."
"I don't know any more than you. My foreteller said all this to me, and she never gave any reason. I only do this because I trust her, because she's helped me many a time. Believe me, I'd want nothing more than to be home right now, but you must get to that castle, and I'm the only one that can get you there."
"Fine. Did you know that Choel isn't that far away from here? We can pick up some extra supplies for our journey. I have a few marks with me. Not many, but perhaps enough." Camrin caught his step as he twisted his ankle on a rut. It brought a sharp pain to him, but he shrugged it off and walked on, lightly on his right foot.
"Yes, Choel is nearby, a half day of good walking. But we must also make another stop. The place that the book you have depicts is nearby also. We must hurry though. The animals should just be getting to sleep now, and the earlier the better." Camrin just nodded and concentrated on walking again, as did Selenia.
About two and a half hours later Camrin stopped, almost hitting Selenia because he had been looking somewhere else. "Why did you stop?" he asked her.
"We stopped because we need to go get the staff. Now please be silent, we are very close to them, and I would not want to wake them."
"I was hoping you wouldn't say that. Hopefully we'll find the staff and escape with our lives, but I don't want to think about it any longer. What do we have to do?"
"First we have to get there. Then we should split up and look for the staff, but you must be careful. You can't make any noise. Most of the animals have acute hearing and can hear in their sleep, so be really quiet and don't watch your step." Then they turned and stepped off the path and into the forest once more.
After threading their way through dense vegetation and trees and going around man-eating plants, they came to the animals' territory. There were caves and caverns along the whole side of a small mountain; some cave entrances covered by dislodged rocks that must have come down during various avalanches. There was also the spring that Selenia had talked about earlier. Camrin immediately turned leftward going toward the caves while Selenia went right, toward another grove of trees.
About thirty feet from the cave Camrin stopped and then went parallel from them, toward the lake. He was watching his steps so he wouldn't crush and dry leaves and wake up the animals. I wonder how Selenia is doing. He looked over in her direction. She was heading toward another section of forest, moving just as stealthily as he does. He hoped she didn't wake any of the animals, for they lived in the forest also. Not all animals live in caves, he thought to himself. She was watching her steps too though, and Camrin wasn't that worried about her.
It could be in any one of these caves. How am I supposed to search them all without being caught? Camrin had many weapons now, a staff, a sword, and a dagger, but against all the monsters contained in the caves, he didn't stand a chance. Camrin had an idea though. He took out the book again and opened it to the poem. Maybe he wouldn't have to look in them at all. Reading it quickly over again, he then scanned the environment. There were caves, grasslands, forest, and small drinking hole, nothing more. He shielded his eyes against the sun and walked around some more. Walking always helped him think. It has to be here somewhere, and I've really no clues. There has to be something in the poem He looked at everything again and then back to the poem. Of course! The water. It's in the water. It has to be.
He approached the lake cautiously and peered into it. There was something in there that rose almost to the surface. He set the book down and touched the water carefully with one finger. Nothing bit him so he put his whole hand in it, feeling its coldness. His hand brushed a piece of wood. He grabbed it hard and pulled, but to no avail. He dropped the metal staff he held and used both hands to tug harder, but he got the same result. Silently he signaled Selenia to come to him.
"Selenia," He whispered as soon as she got over to him, "on the count of three we're going to pull on this piece of wood. It may be the staff. Are you ready? One, two, three pull." They both pulled very hard, but still nothing happened. The piece of wood just wouldn't budge.
"I think there is a spell holding it to the bottom of the lake," she said, realizing it before Camrin did.
He snapped his fingers. "You're right!" he yelled, and then realizing his mistake, quickly quieted. But the damage had already been done. Animals were now starting to grunt, groan, and make just about every other noise imaginable. I'd better hurry up and think of something fast before any animals see us. Camrin picked the book back up and turned it back to the second page. "I'll start with the first spell," he said. "G, Z, N, J, S, V, Y, B." When Camrin said the last letter, he thought he heard a low noise, somewhat like a melodic note. He looked around. Nothing was different. The animals were now getting out of the caves and were coming out from the forest. So, he tried another line of letters. "D, B, C, A, B, B, D, A." Still nothing happened, but this time he was sure he'd heard something, and there were more than one of them. The monsters were now advancing toward the two standing on the water's edge, quite angry at being awakened this early. A shadow covered them briefly, and when they looked up, they were awed at the size of the large bird that had completely obscured the sun. Camrin hurriedly tried the next line. "A, D, D, C, B, C, D, A." All of a sudden, the spring started bubbling. They both jumped back and let go of the wood, but they didn't go very far, because the monsters were now quite close. They stopped moving also, perhaps awed by what was taking place. The piece of wood rose from out of the spring dripping water and floated over toward Camrin. He grabbed it. The staff! It had been faintly glowing before; now it stopped. He set the slim end down on the ground. The staff was somewhat taller than Camrin, and there were little notches in the wood about every three inches. There were only four of them though. Camrin thought about it and figured out why. In the first spell, he had only heard the last letter, but in the second and third spell, he'd heard all of them. Each space represents one letter. The only letters the staff could use right now were A, B, C, and D.
"Look out!" Selenia yelled tugging on his shoulder. He turned around and found himself mostly surrounded by monsters. The only way left to move was into the lake, and neither wanted to risk it.
"Selenia, hold my hand. I'm going to try something." He held onto the staff with his right hand while he held Selenia's hand with his left one. Then he quoted the third line of letters just as the monsters began to advance again. "A, D, D, C, B, C, D, A." Camrin looked at the staff while he was saying the spell. Then he noticed that each space between notches turned a color when he said the letter that it was representing, as well as make a musical sound that increased as he said higher letters. 'A' was almost black and was a very low sound. He suspected 'Z' would be almost white with a very high-pitched note. A slight pressure was placed on his mind as they rose above the ground, effects of the staff's power.
"Camrin, are we supposed to be lifting off of the ground?" Selenia said with some distaste, for she had no love of heights, and they were now looking over the mountain that had just seconds before towered over them.
"Yes, we are. I said a spell, and its magic is working on us. I need to write what the spell is on the opposite page, and I doubt you have any ink. We must get some soon, though I've no idea where there is a town near."
"Choel is still not too far away, though it is at least three hours away still. I don't suppose you can sustain us in the air until we reach it, can you?" She said it almost more of a statement than a question, but Camrin answered her anyway.
"No, I can't. I may not be able to hold us much longer." The pressure was building, and it was more physical now than mental. The magic was using physical strength of Camrin's to continue the spell.
When they were a respectable distance from the monsters' lair, Camrin began to move back toward the ground by concentrating with his mind. It was a simple matter, not anything requiring much thought.
"Selenia, the road is this way," Camrin said after they landed on the ground. She appeared a little lost, and hadn't looked down that much.
"Oh," she said, "I thought it was the other way." She turned around and started in the direction he was pointing. He lowered his hand and followed.
It was a good two minutes before they got to the road. There, on the other side of the road behind some bushes, gold caught Camrin's eye. "Look, I think that's another sign." Parting some of the dense brush, Camrin assured himself that it was. It had a new configuration of letters. He brought out the book and placed it on there, as he had before, and when he pulled it away, the letters were gone, placed into the book by some magic. Camrin opened up the book and looked at it.
"Now I have a full page." He showed Selenia the book.
"I can't make any sense of this. Why would someone have lost a valuable magic book, and why would it be connected with these signs? It just doesn't make any sense," she said. "Can you understand it?"
"Not really, not now anyway. I still don't know why I'm here. I don't want to keep running around in circles trying to find a clue that will help me. I want to find the meaning of my being here."
"I know what you mean. I wish I could tell you, but I don't have any idea either."
"Ok, you are supposed to take me to a castle, right?"
"Yes, and then I will conjure myself home and you'll do whatever you have to do."
"I have to find out all about this staff. What is it capable of doing? If each one of these spells does something different, I already have a valuable artifact, one that can do more sorcery than anyone alive can." I handed the staff to her. "See if you can use it too." He handed her his book. "I want to know if I'm the only one who can use it."
"Let me see. A, D, D, C, B, C, D, A." She rose up into the air. Steadily, but signs of strain appeared on her face almost instantly.
"Now point the staff toward the ground before you float away and I can't catch you." She did just that and was on the ground a second later, relieved.
As she returned the staff to Camrin noticed something glowing on her hand. It quit glowing the instant she released the staff. "Selenia, what's that thing on your hand?" he asked curiously.
"What, this? It's a ring. Why do you ask?"
"Well, when you handed me back the staff I noticed that it was glowing. I wonder if it has anything to do with my quest."
"I don't know," she said.
"Here, take the staff again and I'll show you," he said offering the staff to her.
"No!" she cried. "I believe you," she said, backing slowly away from him.
"Take it," he said sternly. Then he added, "I think you're hiding something. I think you know why your ring glows. You probably also know if and what it has do with my quest." Camrin placed the staff into her hand.
"No!" she cried, very loudly this time. She threw the staff on the ground.
"Why did you do that?" he asked her calmly.
"Because I don't know what the ring does. I don't want to hurt myself. It could be dangerous."
"Then why didn't you tell me that the first time I asked you?"
"You didn't give me any time to talk."
"But the ring didn't hurt anyone the last time you had the staff, right?" She looked pained. She must be hurt because I fought with her. I'm really becoming something, something that I don't want. I can't fix that now. Or maybe I could... "Selenia, I'm sorry. I didn't want to hurt your feelings. But please don't throw the staff on the ground. If that staff gets broken," he said as he picked up the staff. He turned it over in his hand, examining it for cracks. "As I was saying, if this staff gets broken, I'll probably never be able to complete my quest."
"Ok, I won't do it again. But what's happening to you? You were so quiet when I met you. Now you're changing."
"You're right, I am, and I'm not sure if it's for the better. Well, let's get going before something bad happens. We've already wasted too much time here." They started down the path once again, setting a fast pace to get to Choel before sunset.
The sky was turning a light pink as the sun began its descent below the horizon when they broke over a large hill that the path went up. Below them, in a valley surrounded by forests, the city of Choel spread out before them, huge shining white walls that surrounded the city still sparkling in the setting sun. They could see the South gate below them, and they could see the two guards standing watch there, garbed almost completely in black. Many buildings they could see inside, and the palace stood out, the Kingdom of Mists, given its name because of the fog that looms near it in the morning hours. It was grand, gold and silver taking in the sun's rays and sending them out in every direction, brighter than before. Camrin and Selenia looked at each other and smiled before setting off at a near run down the hill, careful not to trip. They had reached civilization again.