Book Zero, The Village - Prologue
The place he was seeking was now a climb up almost vertical rock. A cold, steel chain was pegged into the stone to aid the climb when it became too steep. He barely needed to touch it, but it was a reminder to collect all of his faculties as he lifted his frame up and up, his staff more hindrance than help, scaling the steep, stone wall to arrive on a plateau. It was covered by low, patchy grass, scratching scrub and the twisted trunks of a species of acacia tree.
He turned around to face the valley.
It now seemed a much greater rise than it looked from below, but perhaps that had to do with the rivers and tendrils and dervishes of mist that flowed and danced where once there was solid earth.
Elias sat. The cool stone chilled his backside, thighs and feet as he crossed his legs. He removed the bag, laid it at his side and placed the staff across his lap. Closing his eyes, his hands went to the two places worn a little deeper on the staff.
At best estimate he still had four hours before dawn, so there was plenty of time to centre himself. The mist rose even further, breached the summit and wove around him so that he was shrouded in its cloak of cool wetness.
Breath in and out, slow and measured, brought his attention to also shrouding the energy that welled in him. It wouldn't do to announce himself before time.
Visioning that point just behind his navel, light in the darkness of his physical body, he realised that containing it until the time was right had been the principal work of his entire life.
The mountain, the boulders, the soils and rocks and sand and stone could feel him. A shudder ran through the bedrock, perhaps reaching all the way down, and all the way back in time, to when this mountain had last spewed lava and life. She had been one of the colossal volcanoes of the Dreamtime.
What might have been hours, but for Elias was a timeless experience, passed as he sat in that meditative pose. His staff thrummed with the energy channelling through it. Now he must go to the ceremony place.
He rose in silence, stretched his back, arms and legs then shook his body from head to toe to get the blood flowing. While the air was now quite cold and damp, his skin steamed a little, following the trail of steam that was his exhaling breath. Elias checked that he had everything.
His staff held firm in his left hand, Elias pushed through the sparse brush to the open space hidden from the view of all but the few who climbed up to this place. This was the ceremony place, hidden in plain sight by the words and the dreams of the sisters, the Aunties who tended the mountain.
He placed the bag on the ground and laid the staff nearby, pointing to where the sun would rise in just an hour or two. The mist swirled once and the ceremony space became totally transparent, the air alight, cerulean sparks tinkling in a dome over the space for those with the eyes to see.
Elias frowned in concentration. There must be no doubt that it was right timing for this. He lifted the soft leather flap of the bag, drew out the coloured cloth and unravelled it with care as he had done so many times before. The blade of the knife glinted blue in the sparkling light.
With his right hand, Elias embraced the carved wooden hilt, spread the cloth out in front of him and placed the knife with the blade angled to the place where dawn would break. He collected the hard, wooden staff, lifted it to the sky and began to wend and weave in a dance, round and round the full circle.
Sometimes he whirled so fast that everything was a blur. Sometimes he was still, as if frozen in time. In every moment it was a dance of incredible beauty.
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The thicker end of the staff emitted an almost imperceptible sound that could have been voices of the people of this land, could have been the rush of wind or water, the roar of a fire, the rumble of stones cascading down a mountain, the song of a cathedral choir, a solitary catbird, wildcats fighting or a child's sleeping breath.
From that same place came a light like lightning and fire, dragon's breath and dying breath, mist and madness. That light, that sound, wove a magnificent, intricate dome above the space, above the man – locked tight to the earth in an astounding geometry of lines and frequency.
Elias, the Conjurer, the Caller, the gatherer, then drove his staff deep into the solid rock, both hands reverberating with the effort of his dance and that final impossible thrust of timber into solid bedrock.
Now he dare not release.