from THE FORGOTTEN TEMPLE
FARCHRIST TALES - BOOK TWO
Approximately 46,000 words
Copyright © Eric Lanke, 1990. All rights reserved.
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At the age of sixteen, Gildegarde Brisbane II stood in the audience hall of King Gregorovich Farchrist II with a slew of other young men to be reviewed and chosen for the elect position of Squire to one of the Farchrist Knights. At sixteen, he was one of the youngest ones there, but he also had some of the best credentials. He had graduated first in his class from the King’s School for Boys, he knew most of the Knights personally, and, perhaps most importantly, he was the son of Sir Gildegarde Brisbane. That year, five Knights had positions open and the first one to choose, Sir Reginald Ironshield, chose young Brisbane to be his new Squire.
+ + +
Brisbane had mixed feelings as the winter passed into spring. On the one hand, he wanted the spring to come so he could set out on another adventure. But on the other hand, he was sorry to see winter leave because he had really come to treasure the moments he spent alone with Allison Stargazer.
Ever since the night of his nineteenth birthday, Brisbane had been spending a lot of time with her, going to her cottages in the morning, spending the day with her and her patients, and going back home again at night. It was a winter full of surprises for him, and the more he saw Stargazer, the more he was sure he was falling in love with her.
One of the first surprises he got came on the first day he visited her. He knocked on the door to the cottage where she tended the ill and it was answered by an old man with a short white beard and a bony frame.
“Hello?” the old man said gruffly. “What do you want?”
Brisbane stammered in his surprise. “I’ve…uh…I’ve come to see Miss Stargazer.”
The old man eyed him dubiously as Stargazer’s voice sounded from the background. “Who is it, Joe?”
Stargazer then appeared in the doorway behind the old man. “Gil,” she said when she saw Brisbane. “I’m so glad you’ve come. Let him in, Joe.”
The old man named Joe stood aside slowly. “I don’t like the look of him,” he said.
“Don’t be silly,” Stargazer said as she pulled Brisbane inside. “Go chop some wood.”
Joe gave Brisbane an intimidating look. “Mind your manners,” he said purposefully, and then left the cottage.
Brisbane couldn’t help feeling nervous. “Who’s he?”
“Oh,” Stargazer said, “you remember him. The old man I was treating when you first came here with Nog.”
“Yes,” Stargazer said. “That’s his name. Joseph Skinner.”
“But he looks so different,” Brisbane protested. “So healthy.”
Stargazer nodded. “Amazing, isn’t it? I have a hard time believing it myself. The day you and Nog came to see me was the last time he has had a drink. He’s a changed man. I don’t know what came over him, but I thank Grecolus that it did.”
Not only did it seem that Skinner had given up the drink but he had informally appointed himself Stargazer’s helper and now he did any number of chores around the place without complaint or expectation of payment. He chopped wood for her fireplaces, he washed bandages for her patients, he did just about anything she asked of him. Stargazer would often comment that she hadn’t known how she managed before Joe Skinner had decided to help her.
Skinner’s first assessment of Brisbane was premature, and throughout the winter, as Brisbane spent more and more time there, Skinner’s perception of the young man changed and he eventually came to like him. A boy with his head in the clouds but his feet firmly planted on the ground, Skinner would often say about Brisbane, and Brisbane, despite himself, began to find the old man’s cranky mannerisms likable.
But a healthy and helpful Joseph Skinner was not the only surprise that winter had in store for Brisbane. The second came one day as he and Stargazer sat quietly in her living room watching the snow fall outside. They were just sitting there, Stargazer paging through a large picture book of mythical creatures and Brisbane staring in wonder at her beauty, when they both heard a disturbing sound rising from the threshold of their hearing. At first they couldn’t recognize it, and they spent a few moments looking at each other in confusion, but soon it became apparent the sound was that of many approaching human voices.
They quickly got up and ran to the window. Over the crest of the hill a large group of people appeared, all hurrying along and shouting incoherently. At the front of the group, two men were carrying a third between them, and this third man had a bundle tied around one leg, a bundle that was wet and dripping with blood.
“Dear Grecolus,” Stargazer exclaimed as she pushed her way out of her cottage and into the one next door. Brisbane quickly followed her. Skinner was gone to town for some supplies and it looked like he would have to take the old man’s place in assisting Stargazer with the injury.
“In here, in here!” Brisbane shouted to the men as he stood in the doorway of the second cottage. Behind him Stargazer was preparing the things she would need to treat the man.
Brisbane stepped aside as the two lead men arrived and brought the injured man inside. Brisbane could now see how badly off the man really was. His makeshift bandage—it looked like it had once been someone’s shirt—was tied around the lower part of his right leg, and was absolutely saturated and actively dripping with bright red blood. The man’s flesh was ghostly pale and his eyeballs flickered in his head as he moaned in desperate agony.
The sight sickened Brisbane. As the two men placed the injured man on the nearest bed, it suddenly occurred to him that this could be almost anyone he knew. Shortwhiskers, Roundtower, Roystnof, Stargazer—even himself. There was no real protection against this kind of thing. In the spring he would be setting out on a dangerous adventure with some of the most important people in his life, and there was no guarantee they would all survive. He tried to picture Roystnof dying here before his eyes and it made him so dizzy he had to sit down.
“Gil,” Stargazer said. “Shut that door.”
Brisbane snapped back to reality and forced himself to stand up. He offered an apology to the concerned folk standing outside and slowly shut the door in their faces. They quickly moved over to one of the windows and peered instead through that. Brisbane went over to Stargazer to see if there was anything he could do to assist her.
The two men who had carried the injured man in stood at the end of the bed, one with his hand over his mouth. Stargazer sat next to the bed on a small stool and Brisbane stood over her right shoulder. Stargazer carefully untied the bloody shirt and removed it from the man’s leg.
The wound was horrifying. Something had cut deeply into the man’s leg, something huge and heavy, and it had left nothing behind but destruction. The layers of flesh had pulled away from each other like the walls of a canyon clear down to the bone, which was broken and jagged in several places. The two men at the end of the bed turned their heads away from the sight.
“It was an accident, Miss Stargazer,” one of them said with the accent of the uneducated. “He was chopping wood and the axe glanced off the block.”
Brisbane thought of all the times he had watched or helped Skinner cut wood for Stargazer. This really could have been himself or someone he knew. Brisbane found himself in a state of amazement over the idea of how fragile people sometimes seemed to be.
“Gil,” Stargazer said. “Hold him.”
Brisbane looked at her gravely and she gave him a knowing nod. Brisbane knelt down beside the man’s bed and placed his arms across his chest, pinning the injured man’s body and arms.
Stargazer took a pitcher of liquid from the table beside the bed and began to pour it onto and into the man’s wound. Brisbane saw the man’s eyes fly open in sudden agony and his body seemed to jump off the bed. It took nearly all of Brisbane’s strength to hold the man down, although if they had arm-wrestled in a pub somewhere, Brisbane could have beaten him easily. Brisbane realized Stargazer was pouring alcohol into the man’s wound to cleanse it.
When the man began to scream it became too much for the men at the end of the bed. They fell over themselves trying to get out of the cottage and they left Brisbane and Stargazer alone with the injured man.
It seemed like hours but finally the pitcher was empty and Stargazer had put it aside. The entire bottom half of the bed was soaked with alcohol and it reeked like a distillery. The fumes went directly to Brisbane’s head and made his eyes water.
Then, Stargazer began to sing in that odd language she had used when she had taken Skinner’s pain away. She placed her hands on either of the man’s grisly wound, in a way Brisbane was sure would hurt the man, and she sang softly in a sad melody.
But the man did not flinch at her touch. He lay back quietly in the bed and gently closed his eyes. At first, Brisbane thought the man might have died, but with his arms across the man’s chest, he could still feel it rising and falling with the man’s feeble breath.
Brisbane took his arms off the unmoving man and sat back on his heels. Stargazer’s singing was growing louder and sadder, and Brisbane sat mesmerized as he watched her. The gentle curve of her throat as she formed the sounds and the swelling of her bosom as her diaphragm pushed air slowly out of her lungs—they both seemed enticing to him in a way he could not explain. But even with these exciting sights, the sounds of Stargazer’s singing brought a sensation of unmeasureable sorrow over Brisbane, tears welling up uncontrollably in his eyes.
And then the unbelievable happened. Brisbane saw some movement in the man’s wound and, when he looked closely, he saw that the shattered bone had become smooth and whole again, and the flesh that had been cleaved apart by the axe was slowly drawing itself together.
Brisbane looked at Stargazer’s face as she continued to sing and he saw that her eyes were fixed intently on her work. He looked back to the wound and it was almost entirely closed. A bloodless, shallow split in the skin was all that remained and, in a moment, that too drew shut and all that was left was the thinnest of lines of scar tissue where the wound had once been.
Stargazer took her hands from her patient, stopped singing, and collapsed at the beside.
“Allison!” Brisbane cried as he rushed to her slumped-over form and lifted her from the floor. He picked her up and cradled her like a child—privately amazed at how light she seemed—and as her head fell against his chest, Brisbane heard her say one simple word.
He kicked the door open and took her next door while the crowd slowly filed in to see what had become of their friend. Brisbane entered her home cottage, carried Stargazer back to her bedroom, and placed her on the bed. He fumbled off her shoes and threw a heavy quilt over her.
“Allison,” he said. “Allison, are you all right?”
Stargazer kept her eyes closed but even in the darkened room Brisbane could see a smile spread across her face. “He’ll be hungry when he wakes up, Gil,” she mumbled to him, drifting off to sleep. “Make sure there’s plenty for him to eat.”
“I will, Allie, I will.” It was the first time Brisbane had called her that.
When Stargazer had fallen completely asleep, Brisbane went back to the other cottage and found the people gathered silently around the bed of the injured man.
“Will Miss Stargazer be all right?” one of the townsfolk asked him.
“Yes,” Brisbane said. “She just needs to rest.”
“She really can work miracles,” another one of them said. “Can’t she?”
“Yes,” Brisbane said. “I guess she can.”
Brisbane asked the people to leave because the injured man needed his rest, too. He thanked them for their concern and for their assistance, and they silently left and made their way back to town.
Brisbane thought a lot in the following weeks about what had happened that day, and he decided that if what Stargazer had done did not count as magic, then he knew of nothing else that did either. What she had done made Roystnof’s spells look like parlor tricks. Brisbane wondered how Stargazer explained her powers in the debate over whether or not magic truly came from Damaleous, but he knew he would never have the courage to ask her about it flat out. Regardless of how Stargazer felt about it, however, Brisbane felt more strongly than ever than magic was not a tool of Damaleous. Here was Allison Stargazer, after all, former high priestess of Grecolus and still a devout servant of her lord, working magic. To say that she worshipped the Evil One in exchange for her powers was even more ludicrous than saying that Roystnof did. Roystnof wasn’t just a fluke. Brisbane felt that he now had two strong cases in which the scriptures were wrong in their assertion that magic was nothing more than a device of Damaleous to make his influence be felt on earth. And, in Brisbane’s mind, if the scriptures were wrong about this one thing—this one thing that seemed so crucial to so many other beliefs detailed therein—who knew in what other respects they might also be incorrect?
But even this experience was not the greatest surprise that Brisbane received that winter. The greatest surprise came late in the season when the temperature was rising and the snow was melting. One day Stargazer came to him and said that she wanted to take him somewhere in order to show him something. She was very close-mouthed about it and would say nothing else except that what she wanted to show him was wonderful and that it was something he would never forget. On both counts, as it turned out, Stargazer was right.
So it was that at dawn on a Friday morning, with the night chill still in the air and the dew frozen upon the ground, Brisbane found himself standing with Stargazer behind her cottages with a pack full of supplies looking at the trees of the Shadowhorn Forest.
They started their march into the forest and although Brisbane asked her many times where they were going, Stargazer continually refused to tell him. She did say it would take most of the day to get there, but she would not even hint as to what their final destination was. Eventually, Brisbane gave up on his curiosity and simply enjoyed the walk and Stargazer’s company.
Even in the shade of the trees the day grew quite warm. The only clue they had that winter had recently been there was the few remaining pockets of snow that clung to life in the more shadowy parts of the forest. The Shadowhorn was, all in all, a pleasant place, with its trees far enough apart to filter some sunlight down to the earthen floor. Brisbane saw all kinds of woodland life, from colorful birds, fresh returned from their southern climes, to small foxes and groundhogs, and even a few deer.
They did not talk much, for somehow their voices seemed too loud in this quiet place, but they did carry on short conversations about the things they saw in the forest and other innocent things.
“How did you do it?” Brisbane asked after a particularly long period of quiet. It had taken him a long time to figure out just how to ask her about the way she had fixed the man’s leg and he hoped she knew what he was talking out.
“How did I do what?” Stargazer said.
Brisbane swallowed hard. “How did you fix that man’s leg?”
“I didn’t, Gil.”
That set Brisbane back for a moment. “What do you mean?” he said. “I was there. I saw you do it.”
Stargazer smiled. “You were there,” she agreed. “You saw the man get healed. But it wasn’t me who did the healing.”
“Then who did?” Brisbane asked.
Brisbane was stunned. “Grecolus?”
Stargazer laughed. “Gil, you didn’t think I could do that kind of thing all by myself, did you? The power belongs to Grecolus. He just sends it through me. I pray to him and he sends it. I’m his medium.”
Brisbane did not like the sound of this at all. The scriptures made mention of special people who could act in this manner for the creator, but they also said that the time of these people had passed long ago. It had been many centuries since the last one had died. Modern theologians had decided Grecolus was so powerful that he didn’t need a medium through which to channel his power. Damaleous did, they said, and that was a sign that he was weaker than Grecolus.
But, the thought suddenly occurred to Brisbane, what were centuries to an elf, creatures who could live for thousands of years? This was, in effect, why elves stayed so secluded from humans. They had a hard time associating with them because a human could live a full life and die in the time an elf spent going through adolescence. Stargazer was a half-elf, and Brisbane did not know how long she would live, but Shortwhiskers had said she was sixty-seven and she looked no more than twenty-five. At that rate, Brisbane supposed, she could live for several hundred years. He would live and die before Stargazer was through middle age. The thought scared him.
Brisbane looked at Stargazer, tears in his eyes.
“Gil, what’s the matter?” She stopped walking and grabbed Brisbane’s arms.
Brisbane shook his head helplessly. “I don’t know,” he said in choked voice. “I’m just so sad.”
Stargazer quickly embraced him, her head resting comfortably against the swelling of his chest, and Brisbane dumbly brought his arms up to return the embrace.
“Do not be sad, Gil,” Stargazer said. “I am taking you to a happy place. What you see there will fill you with so much joy. It really will.”
“I hope so, Allie,” Brisbane said. “I really do.”
They broke their embrace and continued quietly on their trek through the Shadowhorn. Brisbane did not bring up Stargazer’s healing power again, but he thought about it a lot to himself.
The power was Grecolus working through her, she had said. Brisbane knew a lot of people would consider that to be a statement of the insane, like one of those people who kills their family and then claims that Grecolus had told them to do it. He appeared to me in a dream, they would say, and told me my wife was evil, she was possessed by demons. I had to kill her. I had to. The problem was that Stargazer did not sound crazy when she made her claim and, if she had, Brisbane wouldn’t have believed her to be anyway. She honestly believed Grecolus was working his will through her. She believed magic was the tool of Damaleous and believed, in effect, that she was the tool of Grecolus.
But Brisbane knew just because she believed it was so, that did not make it true. Roystnof had told him years ago that there were plenty of people who worshipped Damaleous because they honestly believed that was where their magic powers came from. It wasn’t true, Roystnof said, magic came from within the individual, but they believed it anyway. And in their minds, the believing is what made it true for them.
Brisbane supposed it was the same with Stargazer. She believed the healing power belonged to Grecolus and not to her, and in its own way, that belief alone made the healing power Grecolus’. Faith was a very powerful thing, whether it was misplaced or not. Brisbane was sure Roystnof would tell him that if Stargazer ever, for some reason, believed Grecolus no longer wished to use her as a medium, she would suddenly be unable to heal so much as a paper cut, even though the power still remained within her.
Eventually, their journey in the Shadowhorn came to an end. The day was ending as well and the sunbeams that came through the foliage were becoming more and more angled. A clearing was up ahead, Brisbane could see it through the trees, but it was small and Stargazer stopped him before they entered it.
“We have arrived,” Stargazer whispered as she crouched to the forest floor.
Brisbane knelt down as well. He was obviously expected to do so. There at first seemed to be nothing special about this particular place in the forest but, as he looked closer, Brisbane saw that the trees ringing the small clearing were fruit trees and were wholly unlike the oaks and maples they had been walking amongst all day. Brisbane could not tell what kind of fruit they bore, it was unlike any fruit he had ever seen, but the trees were all at the peak of fullness. Their fruit was plump and ripe, and they seemed to be covered with tiny pink flowers, whose petals would gradually come loose in the light wind and rain down upon the small clearing, covering the floor like a new-fallen snow. A small creek meandered through the center of the clearing and some of the petals fell onto its surface to be lazily borne away on the gentle currents.
“It’s beautiful, Allie,” Brisbane whispered. That, too, seemed expected.
Stargazer smiled. “Now, Gil, you must stay here. I’m going into the clearing to call Ellahannah. If you come out to soon, she will run away or never even come.”
Stargazer’s smile broadened and in that moment Brisbane saw just how much elf and how little human she was. She might have genetically been half and half, but at that moment she seemed nearly entirely elf, a capricious and lovely creature, more magical than mundane, who watched the toil and pain of every man’s life and thought it the ultimate joke of mortality. A creature whose longevity was only surpassed by her happiness and her love of life. Brisbane expected her at any moment to float off the ground, too mystical to be affected even by the planet’s gravity.
“You’ll see,” Stargazer said. “Just don’t come out until I call you. Promise?”
“I promise, Allie.”
Stargazer stood up and picked a few pieces of fruit from the nearest tree and then crouched back down next to Brisbane. She quickly kissed him on the nose and then skipped out into the clearing, her feet shuffling through the fallen petals. She went right up to the edge of the small creek and stopped on its bank. She looked around mysteriously and, when satisfied that no danger was near, put her fruit-filled hands behind her back and lifted her chin.
“O, Ellahannah,” she sang, her voice washing back to Brisbane like a warm breeze. “Won’t you come and play today? I have some fruit for you; so won’t you come and play today? O, Ellahannah.”
Brisbane watched, and nothing seemed to be happening. Stargazer waited patiently and then sang her verse again. Brisbane searched the trees for something and, as Stargazer finished her recitation, he began to see movement deep in the trees on the other side of the clearing.
He crouched even lower in the underbrush in which he was hiding. He watched the shape move among the trees, weaving between them effortlessly. He actually saw what the creature was several times, but his mind kept refusing to see it, refusing to believe it could possibly be seeing what it was seeing. It wasn’t until Ellahannah stepped into the clearing, and into Brisbane’s unobstructed vision, that he fully realized what manner of creature she had to be.
The glossy black hooves, the shining white coat, the wisps of gossamer hair that wafted from the neck and the hind and the backs of the legs, the spiraled horn of gemstone gold—it was all there. Ellahannah was a unicorn.
Stargazer looked back at Brisbane and smiled. She then turned to the unicorn and held her arms out to show her the fruit. Ellahannah nickered, her voice sounding like a summer breeze drifting through wind chimes, tossed her head back, and trotted over to Stargazer. She came to stand on the other side of the small creek and stretched her neck across to nibble at the fruit in Stargazer’s hand. While the unicorn ate, Stargazer stroked the animal’s nose with her other hand, talking to her in soothing tones. Brisbane could not hear what Stargazer was saying, but she seemed to talk for quite some time. After Ellahannah had finished the fruit, Brisbane would have sworn the unicorn responded to what Stargazer was saying in much the same way a human would have. Although Ellahannah never spoke a single word, the two of them certainly seemed to be carrying on a conversation.
Finally, Stargazer turned back to Brisbane. “You can come out now, Gil,” she said. “I’ve told Ellahannah all about you and she wants to meet you.”
Brisbane stayed where he was. He looked cautiously at Stargazer and at the unicorn standing behind her, both looking directly at him and waiting patiently.
“Well, come on, silly,” Stargazer said. “And bring some more fruit with you.”
Brisbane slowly stood up. He reached up and picked three pieces of fruit and then stepped out into the clearing. He kept his eyes on Ellahannah as he made his way toward the center, expecting her to shimmer and vanish at any moment. But she did not. Before he realized it, Brisbane found himself standing next to Stargazer on one side of a trickle of a stream with an honest-to-Grecolus unicorn standing not two feet away from them.
Ellahannah was small, that was the first thing that struck Brisbane, much smaller than all the legends he had heard about unicorns would have led him to believe. She was more pony-size than horse-size, with her nose only coming up to Brisbane’s chest and her horn up to his eyes. She nickered again and began to eat the fruit right out of Brisbane’s hands.
“She likes you,” Stargazer said.
Brisbane was amazed. He had only heard of unicorns before in legend. They were supposedly creatures of such incredible goodness and magic that they could not even be touched by evil. He never expected to have one eating fruit out of his palm.
“Allie,” Brisbane said. “How could… I mean, how did…”
Stargazer chuckled. “It’s a long story, Gil. Let’s just say I always knew she was here. She used to call to me before I knew her, call to me to come and see her. At first, I thought I was going crazy, but one day, her call became so strong that I just followed it into the Shadowhorn. That was the first time we met.”
Ellahannah continued to eat.
“When was that?” Brisbane asked.
Stargazer smiled. “Years ago. Before I met you. Before your father’s death. Before the expedition to Dragon’s Peak. Even before I entered the Temple of Grecolus. It was before everything.”
Ellahannah finished eating and raised her head to Brisbane. She nickered again.
“She’s accepted you,” Stargazer said. “Now you can come here, too. You can call her like I did.”
“Certainly,” Brisbane said. “Isn’t she beautiful, Gil?”
“She is,” Brisbane said.
Ellahannah turned to Stargazer and the woman patted the unicorn on the nose again.
“Goodbye, Ellahannah,” Stargazer said.
“Goodbye?” Brisbane did not want the unicorn to leave.
Stargazer nodded. “She can never stay long. I’m not really sure why. Her visits are short, but they are healing. Don’t you feel better just being around her?”
Brisbane reflected. He did feel better. He seemed more at ease. His heart and mind seemed tranquil and they had stopped their usual arguing.
Ellahannah turned to Brisbane.
“Touch her, Gil,” Stargazer said softly. “Touch her and you’ll feel even better.”
Brisbane extended a hand and placed the palm against the unicorn’s nose as Stargazer had done. His vision blurred and for a moment he could not see. But he could feel, and what he felt was not himself. For the briefest of moments he felt Ellahannah, not just the softness of her hair or the warmth of her body, but Ellahannah herself, the consciousness held inside the shape of a unicorn. She was special, so brimming over with love and goodness that evil and coldness were not only unacceptable, they were unthinkable. Hers was a life of joy, a rejoicing of everything, an existence that was blessed and would never end. When that moment was over, and Brisbane could only feel himself again, he quailed, for never before had he felt the full extent of his loneliness, never before had he felt the true magnitude of his uncertainty, never before had he felt the ever-pressing demand of his own mortality.
“Healing,” Brisbane said, insanely savoring the irony of the word.
Ellahannah turned and trotted out of the clearing, seemingly oblivious to the condition in which she had left Brisbane. In moments she was weaving among the trees of the Shadowhorn again, and moments after that she had disappeared from sight. Stargazer led Brisbane out of the clearing, back the way they had come. They walked a respectable distance from the clearing and then stopped. The sun was setting.
“We’ll have to camp here for the night,” Stargazer said and she began collecting wood for their dinner fire.
Brisbane unshouldered the pack he had been carrying, which contained the bulk of their supplies, including a small tent. He went about the business of setting it up. The experience of meeting Ellahannah was heavy on his mind for the rest of the evening, so much so that he had not even considered how awkward he would feel sharing such a small tent with Allison Stargazer.
“Allie,” he said as they ate the dinner she had prepared. “Why you? I mean, why do you think Ellahannah called to you?”
“I don’t know,” Stargazer said. “I suspect my elven blood had something to do with it. I was raised and have lived among humans all my life, so I know surprisingly little about my father’s people, but theirs is an existence deeply rooted in mystical forces and creations. Ellahannah is also such a creature. Perhaps she could sense me so near. As far as I know, there are no others of her or my kind in the valley.”
Brisbane absorbed this. “What do you think she is?” he asked, knowing that this was an important question. In much the same way she viewed her healing power as important, Brisbane knew she would see her visits with Ellahannah as important.
“I believe,” Stargazer said, “that Ellahannah is an angel, a messenger from Grecolus to me, to help me do his work and to live by his word.”
Brisbane nodded. He could understand why Stargazer thought that and he had suspected such a response from her. “Has Ellahannah ever revealed herself to you as such?”
Stargazer looked at him narrowly. “What do you mean, Gil?”
Brisbane paused, searching for the best words. “When you two…communicate. Has she ever said specifically that she is an angel sent from Grecolus?”
“No,” Stargazer said. “But I don’t doubt it for moment. I feel the truth of it in my heart.”
Brisbane nodded again and they both went quietly back to their meals. Ellahannah, Brisbane realized, was the force that had pushed Stargazer along her path of service to Grecolus. Raised by her human mother, Stargazer had been given the rudiments of Grecolus’ religion as a young girl and, when she had heard and followed Ellahannah’s mysterious call, she had tied the unicorn’s existence into the mythology her young mind was forming. For angels on earth, like mediums that Grecolus used to channel his power, were things that were spoken of as commonplace in the scriptures, in the long ago, but were all but unheard of today. No wonder Stargazer was rooted so deeply in the ancient worship of Grecolus. She found herself surrounded by ancient things.
Brisbane looked at her in the firelight. “Yes, Allie?”
“What do you think Ellahannah is?”
Brisbane finished his cup of canteen water, knowing as he drank that this question was even more important that the one he had asked Stargazer. “I believe,” he said slowly, “that she is a unicorn. I’m not yet sure what that means.”
Stargazer seemed to accept that response stoically. They ended their meal and their conversation about Ellahannah and prepared themselves for the night’s sleep. The thought of winter returned with the darkness as the temperature dropped to a chilly extreme. Even with the blankets in the tent, they would sleep with most of their clothes on to combat the cold and, for Brisbane, what could have been a painfully awkward situation became one of surprisingly little discomfort.
When all was cleared and stowed away, Brisbane and Stargazer shed only their shoes and crawled into the small tent and under the blankets. Contact was unavoidable in such a small space and rather than try hopelessly to preserve her personal space, Stargazer actually encouraged that they huddle close. It would help to keep them warm, she said.
As far as warmth went, however, Brisbane was sure Stargazer got the better part of the deal as her small frame fit neatly in the pocket created by his arms and bent legs. But Brisbane did not and would not complain. It felt good to hold Stargazer so, and once he got over his initial shyness, he reached a state of relaxation he would have scoffed at the possibility of before. Upon reflection, Brisbane decided to himself that only thing better than falling asleep with Stargazer in his arms was waking up with her still there.