Oracle of Light
By Cil Gregoire
The Cold Generator
As the days grew dimmer, shorter, and colder, the babies plumped out, their weak cries becoming shriller and more demanding. November turned into December, snowy days turned into dry cold dark ones, and the new normal soon felt like the way things had always been. Daylight hours dwindled to so few, darkness was always close at hand.
“Brrrr…..it’s cold!” Bundled up and carrying an armload of wood, Vince shut the door quickly to avoid letting out too much heat. “Clear skies, little to no wind…the bottom is going to drop out of the thermometer tonight.” He crossed the room and quietly eased the firewood down onto the floor in front of the stove so as not to awaken the babies. In rockers nearly facing each other, Maggie and Melinda each rocked a sleeping baby near the stove’s radiant warmth.
“Daddy, Daddy!” Leaf shouted, running up to him from the children’s room.
“Shhh…! Not so loud. The babies are sleeping,” Maggie reminded him.
The babies were always doing something, Leaf thought, but only Melinda “heard” it. A brief pout crossed his face; then he was over it.
Crystal stretched a little in her blanket on Melinda’s lap, but didn’t awaken. Rock, cuddled in Maggie’s arms, just balled his tiny hands into fists, and then relaxed them again.
“Daddy, can we make popcorn?” Leaf asked, as Vince loaded wood into the stove.
“Certainly. You and I will make the popcorn. Okay?”
“Yeah!” Leaf shouted a bit too loud again as he ran off to get the popcorn kernels from the pantry. Maggie smiled and shook her head. It was a good thing the babies were adjusting to a noisy household.
“I better hurry and get to the kitchen before he has the popcorn already popped,” Vince said, closing the stove’s door. Indeed, Leaf had out the pot and lid they routinely used for the task, as well as the kernels, oil, and popcorn salt by the time he arrived to see a large bowl appear on the floor with the rest of the items. Vince was as stunned by how completely Leaf had thought out what was needed as he was over how the little fellow had gathered the out-of-reach items so quickly. Swallowing a negative response along with his own discomfort over Leaf’s talents, he offered support instead. “Let me help you with that; after all, we are partners,” he said.
Vince picked up the pot and lid off the floor and Leaf handed him the rest of the items one by one. While the oil heated on the burner, he helped his son measure out a half cup of popcorn kernels, with the inevitable few escapees scattering across the floor. Leaf leapt to collect them as Vince dropped the measured kernels into the hot oil, covered the pot, and gave it a sizzling shake.
Vince jumped! What sounded like a kernel of popcorn popping came from behind him. He turned.
“Daddy, watch me make popcorn.” Giggling, Leaf threw another kernel into the air.
Pop! The kernel burst into fluff almost as soon as it left his hand, landing on the floor freshly popped.
“How…?” Vince muttered, trying to figure out how to react. Then there was another pop, this time from the pot beside him.
“I want to see!” Leaf cried with excitement. Slowly at first, but quickly picking up momentum, the robust rhythm, followed by the unmistakable whiff of freshly popped popcorn, filled the room. Vince lifted his son up so he could see the action through the heavy glass lid.
“You are an incredible little boy,” he told Leaf as they watched the tiny miracle unfold together. Soon, the popping quickly diminished again to only a few individual explosions.
“It’s ready!” Leaf exclaimed.
“All right.” Vince lowered him down, and grabbing the pot handle and lid, poured the contents into the bowl. He quickly added popcorn salt while Leaf danced about in jubilant anticipation, and then he grabbed some smaller bowls from the cabinet. Filling one, he handed it to Leaf.
“Take this bowlful to Mommy, then come back and get one for Melinda.”
Leaf took off, losing a few popped kernels along the way.
“Here, Mommy. I popped popcorn,” Vince heard him announce proudly. Maggie did not know the full truth of the statement.
“Great job! Thank you!”
Where’s mine? Melinda asked.
“Coming…” Leaf ran back to the kitchen, quickly returning with a heaping bowlful for her. Then Vince followed him out of the kitchen with two more heaping bowlfuls in hand.
“Let’s play a game,” Maggie said when the popcorn was nearly gone, and rose to clear space at the living room table. Maggie set Rock gently down on the sofa, placing a pillow to buffer him from the edge, and then relieved Melinda of Crystal, setting up a safe zone for her at the opposite end.
“Let’s play Chutes and Ladders!” Leaf said excitedly, and ran off to fetch his new favorite game. He was back in a flash.
I want to play, Melinda said, joining Maggie and Leaf at the table.
“Count me in, too,” Vince said. They ate popcorn and played games and laughed. It was one of those wonderful rare spans of time when both babies slept. Leaf loved it, until all too soon, one by one the babies woke from their nap, and all attention reverted back to them.
“Caleeza!” Sarus cried, running toward her, the warm golden sunshine glinting off his light golden brown hair and tall sun-burnished frame. “We did it. Brakalar just gave me the news. We are going on a great expedition to the Devastated Continent,” he announced gleefully, lifting Caleeza up in his warrior-strength arms and twirling her around.
“Oh, Sarus, that is wonderful!” she cried, leaning into him when he finally put her down. It was their dreams come true; they had worked toward this for so long!
“We will explore a transformed continent and make important discoveries that will be beneficial to all; I just know we will,” he said with youthful confidence and enthusiasm. Their minds raced with expectations and their hearts soared with love as they harvested vegetables for her family’s table.
Caleeza knew she was dreaming, but she didn’t want to wake up. She was happy. She missed being that happy.
Groggily, she opened her eyes to dimming daylight and realized she had slept most of the short daylight hours away. The planet’s quick rotations were hard to adjust to, and Alaska’s position on the planet, being tilted away from the sun, made it even more difficult. The cabin was cold; the fire in the woodstove had gone out again.
Caleeza found one of the leafless trees lying down in the snow after the last heavy snowfall. She had been reluctant to take down a living tree, but this one had been provided by the forces of nature. Drawing energy from the elemental forces, she proportioned it up to look like the firewood she borrowed from Rahlys’ woodshed. She teleported some of the freshly cut up tree to a stack against the outside wall of the little schoolhouse, and sent the rest to Rahlys’ woodshed to replace what she had used.
But this wood was heavier than what she had been using, still wet with the life forces of the tree. Drawing on the elemental forces to dry it out enough so it would burn, took nearly as much energy as drawing energy to warm the air around her. The logical solution was to trade her little pile of wet firewood for some of the abundant seasoned wood in Rahlys’ woodshed. The wet firewood would have a chance to dry before Rahlys returned to use it.
Donning the old coat and boots, she teleported herself to the woodshed. The nearly full woodshed of towering neatly stacked rows left little room to stand in. Knee-deep snow walled in the outer perimeter of the large pole structure, sheltered by a sloped roof. The sun had already set and darkness was seeping into the cold, crisp, blue sky. Pulling the badly worn oversized coat tighter around her for closer warmth, Caleeza made quick work of the transfer, teleporting a stack of dry wood to the cabin and replacing it with what she had recently harvested.
Upon returning, she soon had a crackling fire, solving the problem of heat, but not of light. Drawing energy, she produced a small glow globe, and needing a hot drink fast, sped up the molecules in a cup of water to make tea. Caleeza sat back sipping tea as she nibbled sparingly on a rationed cracker, recalling the happy images of her dream. The snapping roar of the fire filled the quiet, but there was nothing to fill the loneliness in her heart. She realized she could leave, find a warmer place where there was more to eat, but instinct told her to stay.
From what she had learned from the children’s infrequent visits, her only hope of going home rested on Rahlys returning…unless Sarus found a way first…but she couldn’t be certain she had actually connected with Sarus. Rahlys was the Guardian of the Light, possessor of Sorceress Anthya’s powers, and destroyer of Droclum. Surely, one so great will be able to help her.
As her mastery of the language improved, Caleeza searched for other references of Droclum’s demise from the schoolhouse resources, but could find none. Yet she had been able to pick up thoughts from the children’s chosen mother and father that would confirm Melinda’s claims.
Rahlys was on an expedition to a distant world…her world! She had joined Councilor Anthya on a mission to the Devastated Continent to find the lost expedition…her expedition! But Melinda had no idea how Caleeza would go about returning home, except wait for Rahlys to return. That was not surprising since the farthest reference she could find of these humans traveling in space/time was to their own moon. Leaf and Melinda were the key to her getting home, of that she was certain. She needed to learn more.
Can I have the last piece of blueberry pie? Melinda asked as she and Maggie were finishing up the supper dishes.
“Of course you can.” Maggie put the pie on a saucer for her. “Now, we won’t have to put it away,” she said, handing it to her. The pie came with a thankful little hug. “I don’t know what I would do without you,” she said in explanation. “You are the greatest daughter a mother could have.”
Thank you, Mom.
Well, she wasn’t really Maggie and Vince’s daughter, but she was glad they loved her and took care of her. It was a wonderful feeling being part of the family. The pie wasn’t for her though, it was for Caleeza. Taking it to the children’s room, she would stash it with the rest of the food they were taking to her tonight…after everyone went to sleep.
To her surprise, Leaf was already fast asleep, but she would wake him when it was time. It shouldn’t be much longer. She placed the pie on her desk, picked up a novel, and began reading by a small lamp attached to the headboard of her bed to pass the time. When the battery bank that served as its power supply ran low, it would be recharged using the diesel generator.
Vince fell asleep twice reading in his recliner…she could hear him snoring in the living room. And the twins were down, for the first part of the night anyway; fortunately, they still slept in their parents’ room, so Mom and Dad weren’t likely to come into the children’s room during the night. Finally, Maggie, tired after another long, hard, but rewarding day of motherhood, made a move to go to bed. Vince would surely follow.
A couple of hours later, the house slumbered into a deep winter’s sleep. Now was the time to go. Melinda reached out mentally to Caleeza.
We are coming to visit and bring food. Soon Melinda received a response.
Thank you. I peer ahead for your visit. It was evident Caleeza was still studying English. Melinda nudged Leaf in the silent darkness.
He resisted waking up, and she wished she could let him sleep, but he was the only one who could teleport them. Slowly at first, he rubbed his eyes open, then clicking awake, he scrambled to his feet.
No, you’re not. Get dressed, including a coat and a hat. In rapid succession, pants, shirt, hat, and coat appeared on his little boy frame.
Now I’m ready.
What about your feet? Snow boots instantly appeared over socks nearly halfway off his feet. Melinda, also dressed, reached under her bed for the plastic shopping bags of stashed food, and then picked up the saucer of blueberry pie from her desk. All right, let’s go.
Focus and concentration crossed Leaf’s youthful face. Then in a flutter of a butterfly’s wing they were there, standing in the center of the schoolhouse, the room cool and dim. Caleeza rose from her seat by the stove, placing the book she had been studying on the nearby table.
“Good evening, Miss Melinda…and, Master Leaf! Happy you make it.”
“Caleeza!” Leaf cried, and ran to her for a hug. Then his attention turned to scouting around the room to locate his favorite games and toys.
It’s chilly in here. You are going to have to burn more wood tonight. It’s going to get very cold, Melinda said, also giving her a hug after setting the food on the table. She added wood to the stove from the pile on the floor, and opened the draft. And you need more light than this to read. The glow globe she had been reading by was barely brighter than a candle.
“I have to save strength. Thank you for taking care of me,” she said.
No problem, Melinda assured her.
Caleeza searched through the shopping bags of cans, bags, and boxes for something to eat.
Here, eat this first; it’s blueberry pie, Melinda said, handing it to her, and Caleeza promptly obeyed.
As they were putting the food away, Melinda happened to spot the cold generator pushed back against the wall under the table. She quickly retrieved it, blowing off the dust. Remember this? It’s the cold generator Theon built. I think it is cold enough now to put it into service. If this works, you will have all the light you need.
And you said Theon made this? The same Theon, friend of Droclum?
Yes, but Theon is a good guy now.
Theon is a good guy?
Yes, I’ll set this outside and plug the cabin into it, and when the cold charges it up, we should have electricity. Melinda was certain it was cold enough for the generator to work. The little cabin that had served as a schoolhouse had been wired complete with receptacles and light switches. It just needed to be plugged into a generator to make them work.
Caleeza, coatless, and Leaf, still wearing his hat and coat, followed her out into the frigid, star-studded night, the cold dry air searing their throats and nostrils. Their exhaled breaths billowed out in clouds of white smoke and the cold contracted snow underfoot squeaked loudly as they made their way to the side of the house. Melinda could feel the bite of the air on her unprotected head and hands; she would need to complete the task quickly.
Stepping off the packed trail in front of the cabin, she waded through unpacked snow to reach an outside shelf under the eave of the roof. The generator’s power crystal, mounted on end in the light intricate metal frame, had already begun to glow and spin as the deep cold caused it to contract. Placing the cold generator on the shelf, she wasted no time locating the end of the electric cord that supplied power to the cabin and plugged it in.
“C…c…cold…d…d…..!” Leaf said, running for the cabin door as soon as she turned to rejoin them, his little body shivering. Caleeza followed close behind him, seeking warmth. Dusting snow off her pants legs, Melinda entered the cabin after them, and flipped on the switch by the door. Light flooded the room from a fixture on the ceiling.
“It worked!” they cried together, enjoying the bright light. Caleeza released the glow globe, dimmed by the new radiance, and relaxed. She was still hungry and offered them something to eat, but they declined, so she quickly ate another cracker while Melinda looked through the books she had lying about.
“Theon went with Rahlys to the Devastated Continent?” Caleeza asked, as though resuming a conversation that had been broken off just moments before.
Yes and Theon’s daughter Ilene…and Raven.
“Theon has a daughter from Earth, daughter Ilene,” she said, solidifying the fact in her mind. “Who is Raven?”
Raven is a raven, Melinda clarified, sending her mental images.
“Raven is a bird?” Caleeza shuddered, remembering the large dark bird of stealth that flew over her, crossing the big river. The great black bird had instilled in her both wonder and fear. She had since seen one fly over these woods. But why would the Guardian of the Light take a raven with her? Caleeza tried to imagine a raven flying over the Devastated Continent!
Ravens weren’t the only flying species that lived in these woods. There were numerous little birds with brown or black heads that cheeped from the branches of the leafless trees, larger gray birds, and black and white birds with long tails, and a larger bird still, majestic and graceful with a white head. All were a wonder to her, coming from a world that had none.
It was Raven who found the crystal.
The Oracle of Light, the crystal with Sorceress Anthya’s powers; Raven found it originally and took it to Rahlys. That’s how Rahlys became the Guardian of the Light.
“Where is the Oracle of Light now?” Caleeza asked, building up hope. The Oracle could be a means of making contact with her world.
It’s with Rahlys, of course; she took it with her.
The children left Caleeza with much to think about after their visit. As a young new person, she had learned the history of Droclum’s destruction of her world and Sorceress Anthya’s efforts to stop him, but the legend of a powerful crystal…the Oracle of Light, ignited with the great sorceress’ dying breath…she had always considered to be just that, legend. The existence of such a crystal would explain how Rahlys made contact with her own world. If only Rahlys were here!
An expedition was looking for them on the Devastated Continent! They wouldn’t find her, of course, but she could always hope that maybe they would find the others. If only she could let Sarus know. Would the new expedition find him and guide him home safely? She could only hope.
The cold outside deepened, causing the logs of the little cabin to pop loudly from contraction. Caleeza kept a warm fire going, using seasoned wood from Rahlys’ woodshed, and filled her belly to comfortably full with food the children brought. Then, for long hours, with sufficient light, she studied, learning more about this world from the large collection of books called the World Book Encyclopedia until her eyes grew heavy. Finally, she closed the volume she had been perusing and made her way groggily to her narrow bed. Cozily warm, snuggled in her blankets, her head on a soft pillow, she extinguished the lights. Immediately, her thoughts turned to Sarus. She had barely closed her eyes when she heard him speaking to her.
“I have news that may please you,” he said, reaching toward her, but never quite reaching her. “I am working on a way to bring you home.” Caleeza felt a rush of hope.
“Soon. I am learning the answer.”
“Oh, Sarus, I miss you so much.”
“I will always be with you; I have not gone away.”
Caleeza pondered on his statements for a moment, without making sense of them. “There is an expedition headed your way; they are looking for us.” A glimmer of concern passed Sarus’ projected countenance. “Councilor Anthya is a member of that expedition. Also Sorceress Rahlys, Guardian of the Light, defeater of Droclum, is with them.”
“They must not enter the Crystalline Landscape.”
“There’s more. Theon, self-reformed, is also among them, as well as his daughter of Earth…and a raven.”
“They must not enter the Crystalline Landscape,” Sarus repeated. “The crystals generate tremendous forces that we are not ready to understand. Collectively, they form energy fields across the landscape. These power reservoirs are like mine fields to humans. When one is triggered, the release of energy can teleport a person through folds in space, across the galaxy, to another world, whether habitable or not…or into the cold depths of the void.”
A shiver ran down Caleeza’s spine as she imagined such a horrible death. How lucky she was to be alive!
“What are we going to do? We can’t let Councilor Anthya and the others come to harm?”
“We must stop them from entering the Crystalline Landscape.”
“We…?” Caleeza felt another stab of hope.
But Sarus had already begun to fade.
One long dark night followed another, with fleeting days in between, as Winter Solstice was finally reached, and passed. Tiny seconds of increasing daylight were gained day by day, gradually turning into minutes by the end of January. Vince started thinking of putting in work trails for cutting and hauling firewood. With increasing daylight, he needed to be out doing something after being cooped in with the women and children for so long.
Warmly dressed, Vince stepped out into the cool, crisp air, the sun shining through the leafless tops of the trees, casting long blue shadows in the gleaming white snow. He strolled up to his parked snowmobile, checked the gas and the oil injection, and started her up. The well cared for machine roared into life, beckoning to go. Adjusting his ear plugs, goggles, and hat, Vince climbed on and headed southeast through the woods behind the cabin.
He started off following a winter recreational trail he kept open to the overlook above the big swamp, now a frozen, treeless expanse of white. His plan was to run a large loop off of the recreational trail to the south and back again, from which he would later make more connecting trails. By the end of wood harvesting season, woodlot trails generally became a confusing maze. He thought he might even make a detour today to check on Rahlys’ place.
When Vince turned off onto the unpacked snow, the snowmachine sunk in deeply but continued forward, guided by his steering and body language. The snow could use a little more moisture for packing, he noted, as he steered the machine near stands of trees that could use some thinning out, working to keep the snowmachine level over the soft undulating snow cover. Finally, having gone as far south as he intended, he curved toward the West.
Vince quickly reached the point where he had to make a decision; go on an excursion to Rahlys’ place, or swing back north toward home. He wished the snow conditions were better. Stopping the machine but not killing the engine, he paused to take a break and cool off for a couple of minutes. He removed his gloves and opened his jacket to let out some body heat…using body language on a snowmachine can work up a sweat…then geared back up to take off again.
Leaning back in his seat, Vince pressed the throttle and the snowmachine roared to life, but instead of speeding forward when he gave it some gas…the tracks dug into the snow, burying the machine.
A disgruntled Vince got off his snowmachine and pulled it back a foot, packing down the snow. Then he trudged to the front of the machine, stomping the snow down with his boots, and pulled the snowmachine skis up out the snow, for a running start to get back afloat. He decided not to take the detour up the ridge to Rahlys’ place until the snow pack set up a little better. I’ve had enough exercise for one day.
Trying again, Vince jumped on his snowmachine and took off, this time with success. Swerving to the north, he headed back toward the recreational trail leading into his backyard.