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by Shade ©1995
It took but another moment for Robert to push open the humble door where the warmth of the fireplace beckoned. She swept the cloak away and hung it near the fire watching the steam rise immediately into smaller versions of the clouds outside.

"And how will I not be caught here, Robert? I expect to be welcomed back at the ruins where last I stayed." She took the proffered cloth and patted her hair dry as she watched him.
"There is no place that is safe, M'lady Serena." His words seemed to caress the air with the sound of her name, making her blush. "Watch..." He pushed the oak table away from it's corner of the floor. With a swipe of his foot the cracks of a door appeared in the dirty wood.
At a questioning glance from her, he leaned down. His muscles rippled and bulged with the effort before the door swung open. "T'is to all appearances a potato celler, but come!"

At his beckoning, she took a bit of tallow for light and moved down below with him. The room was meagerly appointed with a few sacks of potatoes and wine casks. "A good ploy, Robert!" She laughed. "And what is behind the farther wall?"

He chuckled merrily for the first time since she had landed upon the shore. "Pray you need never find out, M'Lady, for there will be blood spilt above us if that time comes once more."

Her curiousity aroused, she brushed past him, fingers lightly testing the strength of the walls outline. "Come, Robert. Show me. You have turned me into a child again, delighted with your mystery."
She watched as her words softened his face. Wordlessly he nodded and moved up next to her, placing his hands up high into the rafters that were the floor of the humble hut above. With a twist of his wrists the wall groaned softly and a crack appeared barely wide enough for his brawny chest.

The two of them joined on the other side. She lifted the tallow candle to see into the recesses of the darkness as the hidden door groaned shut behind. "I would not know how to leave this place." She said while rising up on an elbow.

"I thought you would like to refresh yourself, M'Lady. There is a steaming hot tub yonder and fresh clothing from your bag. I will wait above." He watched her closely as he leaned up and twisted the handle's partner to the way into the secret room. She nodded, now sure of herself. 
 
The night held it's own urgency, but her body welcomed the heat of the water while she bathed. Sounds of more than one pair of feet walked upon the floor above. The gathering was happening. From all the far distances of the land, they were coming to hear her message.

She prepared herself as best she could, draping the crystal around her neck as a testiment of why she was here, then made her way upstairs.

The aura of the room almost overwhelmed her as she entered. So much strength here, and so much fear. But the thing most recognizable was the hope. She felt as much awe for the ones around her as they felt for her. With every beat of her heart, every surge of blood through her veins, she wanted to help them find the answers. These were her people, a part of her, and she of them. Life must be changed for the children who would join the clan. Life must be changed for all .... and her part in it would be to use and direct the gifts with which she'd been endowed.
 
As she directed her thoughts in that fashion, the crystal around her neck began to take on a warmth, and she could feel the energy tingling from the top of her head, down through her spine and down again, grounding into the soft earthen floor beneath her feet.

"Blessed be!" she spoke clearly into the room..... A chorus of voices responded in kind, "Blessed Be!"

She could feel Robert's strength behind her, and the pleasure flooding him at the exchange. She would feed off that strength, needing every ounce he had to give, because she herself was only one...and if they were to succeed in driving away the evil that was threatening to engulf them, it would take all of them. And more...it would take the help of the otherworld. And that was why she was here.

"Oh, my clan, my family. 'Tis courage we must find this day. I see the hope in your eyes, glowing like the sun above. Feel the strength of the earth beneath us, and the sound of the sea not far away. The wind blows from the west, from the spirit realms and the Ever Living Lady shines her light in our hearts. Let not despair come near by, for we will find the way ... yes we shall!"

She began by walking through the room, embracing each one as she went, touching the hands and fingers of all, leaning into their necks for a moment, feeling the gratitude and hope growing ever stonger.

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Revised: March 11, 1999
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