When the service had ended, Phoebe and Labesh encouraged our companions to remain in the alcove (otherwise known as a “Chapel” in cathedrals) in which they had been seated. They watched the cheerful villagers filter out into the square as the organist continued to play its massive pipes softly. The music was just enough to encourage you to take most of your conversation out into the square, lest you make your throat raw from speaking over it.
To Mercy, the large Adelphia Cathedral almost seemed like a happy living being. Despite the orderly flow toward the huge doors leading to the narthex, many people did stop to chat.
“Martha, look!” She said. The King and Queen were proceeding out surrounded by large retinue of Palace guards. For the first time, the girls noticed that the Queen was being carried. It was not that she was carried so as to look like a pompous, triumphant, parading Cleopatra type, but, rather, right next to her husband the King, she was simply carried on a small chair supported by staves and carried by four guards.
After the great organ played its last note, the Cathedral fell into a restful ‘hush’. A few scattered townspeople remained in various places praying or talking quietly. The pictures in the stained-glass windows were very fully recognizable now at midday. Phoebe and Labesh were talking in hushed tones.
The girls turned around expectantly to see if it was time for them to go. As they did, they noticed for the first time the stained-glass window directly behind them. It depicted a young warrior withstanding a fierce dragon. He was resisting the dragon’s powerful, tongue of fire with a shield while preparing his sword for a stroke. But what made the picture different was a woman seated off to the side holding out the Patternstone. It’s rays were illuminating the dragon. The girls tried to identify the woman, but her flowing cloak and vail made the woman ambiguous. The warrior too was ambiguous, being covered in armor.
Phoebe spoke up, “it might be a picture of you.”
“I want to be that warrior!” said Malachi with a sober expression.
“You’re too little,” said the girls in unison.
“Don’t discourage him,” Labesh said with a smile. “You never know…”
The party began to walk down into the Cathedral. As Martha drew near to the center of the floor, she found the Patternstone was humming in her bodice. Not knowing what prompted her, she took it out and there was a bright flash as it illuminated the stone floor once more. Her eyes were commandingly drawn to the face of the Patternstone. Again, It began to play a little movie. They all gathered round this time.
In the screen was another large cathedral. In contrast to the bright, sunny joyful day they were in, the atmosphere at this Cathedral was charged with dark foreboding. The gargoyles here were not smiling in the sun on their gutter spouts. They were flying and circling like vultures on their prey.
“That’ll be the Cathedral at Phesus,” said Labesh.
As they looked, the faces of the people outside the cathedral seemed very indifferent. The people were not looking up and so did not notice the gargoyles. It was as if doom was coming to that city and the people were blissfully ignorant.
There was another flash, and then the Patternstone was simply reflecting beautiful rays of light back on their own faces.
“It’s calling us,” said Malachi. “We have to bring it there.”
“Children, look at me,” said Labesh. “As you know, I am keeper of the royal wardrobe, as I was also for Queen Tirzah. She and I used to watch the little pictures in the Patternstone. This is how she learned to go on pilgrimage. The Patternstone would show her where to go next. I think somehow you are to go to Phesus if you are willing.”
“But what about Queen Lydia?” said Martha. “She is the queen. I must give the Patternstone to her! This is her job.”
“I cannot say more at this time,” said Labesh. “There is a summons for you to meet with her this very afternoon. Let us go.”
They walked under the large Gothic archway which opened into the narthex, past the baptismal font, and out into the square. The archway was carved beautifully with people and animals as if to tell stories.
The transition from the belly of the Cathedral out into the sunlight felt like stepping out of a comfortable armchair. Martha couldn’t help looking back toward the archway. There was a peace that now radiated from it’s interior which warmed her very bones.
On the Cathedral steps, along with the twittering of bluebirds, Labesh gently broke the hush, “We’ll be going back to the cloisters. We need to examine you again to see that you are fully healed before you return to the Palace.” The party walked around to the left side of the Cathedral, under the flying buttresses. Flagstones had been carefully laid in a slightly curving patterns through small gardens.
Stone benches frequented the alcoves, flanked by azaleas and rhododendrons. Clergy and townspeople would gently wave and smile to them as they conversed on these benches.
Looking up, the children had to crane their necks to see the gargoyles. Some happy, some sad, some strange: all at the ends of buttresses: ready to spout water when it rained. They were struck by the immensity of the building itself. Like a giant sleeping dinosaur –snoring in the wind.
As the party reached the cloisters, a guard handed a message to Labesh. She read it aloud to the children as they return to their rooms. “It is requested that Mercy, Martha and Malachi dine with the King and Queen again this feast day, if they are well and rested,” Labesh read aloud. “Are you ready for a nap?” she asked. “The Royal couple says that you must be rested!” She gave them meaningful smile.
Truth be told, exhaustion had taken its toll upon them. The soft flaxen beds were calling.
When they awoke, the sun’s golden rays were streaking through the west facing windows. Phoebe had tea kettles singing. The smell of herbs and various preparations filled the apartments.
“Duman will be here to escort you to the Palace,” said Labesh.
“How are Listener and Miriam?” Asked Martha.
“The doctors are in the process of binding their wounds,” replied Labesh You can’t go in to see them now. However, I think they shall come through.”
“Ahh! good to see on your feet,” said a voice. They looked up to see Duman bowing low before them. “Shall we?”
Soon, as they walked through the winding streets, they felt a little awkward being protected by several guards. Duman helped them to relax–chatting with them as they walked. “It’s going to be a long healing time for Listener and Miriam,” he said in response to their questioning.
Cheers began to go up from some of the townspeople as they noticed the party. More and more faces lined the wide street leading from the Cathedral to the Palace. Some of the people wanted to shake their hands, but this was prevented by guards. “Don’t be alarmed,” said Duman. “The guards are for your protection. Try to wave and smile.”
Malachi noticed that Scrapper, Duman’s little dog, was trotting alongside. Suddenly, the dog veered to the right and stood still growling directlly before the man called Rasha among the crowd. It was as if Scrapper was pointing out that something was not right.
“Congratulations children,” Rasha intoned with a painted smile.
Duman simply gave a low whistle calling Scrapper back. He paid no attention to Rasha, but continued walking evenly, gesturing for our companions to do likewise.
When they had gone perhaps another 50 yards, they came through small gate into the palace grounds. The crowds were exchanged for trees and shrubs.
Duman now spoke to the children, “Miriam told me that she taught you about the ‘diplomatic face’? Yes?”
The children nodded.
“Well, think of this as a diplomatic walk. You must learn to continue on your course at times, though you are used to stopping and saying hello.”
As these words sunk in, the huge front gate and drawbridge to the Palace stood open, beckoning to the party. Martha could now feel the rough beams of the drawbridge under the leather of her shoes. The timbers were quite warm because of the heat of the day. As they transitioned through into the Palace, the cool stone of the Palace floor was a welcome relief.
The retinue of guards dispersed in practiced maneuvers, taking up stations in the corridors. Hand signals were exchanged.
Before the companions entered the great Hall, Mercy asked if they could stop to gaze once more upon the picture of Tizrah the Queen. There she was again, wearing the Patternstone. The deep eyes, the expression which called to the children.
The evening meal was not as crowded in the Hall this time. Looking up, the children could see that some hasty repairs had been made to the upper windows. As before, the dogs came and sniffed. Fiddle music was playing softly. The King and Queen were smiling warmly as the children approached the royal table.
This time, they were escorted to sit directly across from the Royal couple. “Welcome again, children!” said King Titus. When the guests had been seated, he led the singing of a Psalm and gave a blessing.
Never before had the children been so motivated to mind the forks and napkins! The gaze of the King and Queen was not discomforting or even stern, but sitting directly across from them was awe-inspiring.
When everyone had begun to eat their fill, the King asked, “are you children beginning to feel recovered from your adventure yesterday?”
“Yes sire. We are quite well thank you.” Answered Mercy.
“Well, my Queen?” Said Titus to Lydia.
As Lydia began to speak, the children felt sadness and depth in her tone. “I have spent many hours in prayer since you children arrived in Highpattern. I feared for your life when you went through the labyrinth. I would like for you to be able to remain in the protection of the Palace.
She paused, and Martha was thinking, “yes, yes that would be wonderful. We will gladly stay here and be taught the ways of the Palace!” But somehow she knew that she was not to speak yet.
After meeting each of their gazes, Queen Lydia continued, “Alas! The Adelphia stone has been restored, and that is a great victory, but…” (she looked at them meaningfully) “the struggle has only begun. The other six stones surrounding the Patternstone must be matched to their corresponding cathedrals.”
She paused again. Even Malachi did not play with his silverware. The fiddle music wafted into the conversation. Suddenly, Martha reached inside her bodice and handed the necklace to the Queen. “My lady,” Martha said with a bow, “as your mother wore it before you, so may you wear it now.”
Queen Lydia stared at the necklace in front of her, letting it rest on the table–making no move to put it on.
“Children,” she said, “please come around to this side of the table.” When they did so, they were astonished to see that the Queen had pulled up her queenly robes for them to see her lower legs. “Do not be embarrassed,” she said. One leg was perfectly normal and graceful, but the other was wooden. So you see,” she said, “I cannot undertake the pilgrimage.”
Without the least bit of recoil, Martha ran up to Queen Lydia and gave her a big hug. “Is it okay to sit in your lap? Does it hurt?” Martha’s little hands gently stroked the Queen’s brow smoothing wrinkles of care and pain.
“No, it doesn’t hurt child. Thank you for sitting in my lap and hugging me,” she replied. “I’m so glad to find someone who doesn’t treat me as though I was made of China or dried tea leaves.” Tears streaked down her face.
“So, why can’t you take the necklace?” asked Martha. “It would look beautiful on you.”
The Queen took a few more minutes to weep. “Well, bless God for giving us a good cry once in a while!” Then she looked directly into Martha’s eyes. “I could wear it, but I would not be able to complete the task. On me, it would simply be an ornament that would teach the people for a time, but eventually, if it does not go on pilgrimage to all seven cathedrals, it only becomes something to draw evil. A temptation for evil men.”
“What would they be tempted to do?” Asked Martha. “They would be tempted to take it. Chaozz the Black would reward the theif with gold and simply hoard it in the Caves of Chaos. His goal is that we would forget the patterns given to us by God. In Highpattern, the necklace serves as a great reminder.”
The Queen gently stood Martha on the floor in front of her again. She continued to hold her hands. “When I was a little girl, I wanted nothing more than to go on pilgrimage with the necklace. But, it was not to be. As I continued to prepare for this, riding horses, reading the histories, worshiping and feasting with my parents, there began to be more and more reports of Chaos coming from other kingdoms. We heard that some had stopped gathering for festivity and some were not even going to Cathedral.”
She paused, and her eyes had a faraway look. “My mother was a beautiful Queen! She gave me the most precious gift in the world. She taught me how to love others. She showed me how to sacrifice my own comforts for the good of other people.”
“Yes, yes said Martha. We saw her …uh, I mean the paintings of her… in the corridors. Do those paintings have magical properties? She seemed to be communicating to us.”
“My mother may not be dead,” said Lydia. “She fled for her life at the time the Patternstone was taken. Sometimes I feel her talking to me when I look at those paintings as well. It’s more like a memory — when she talks to me, it echoes in my mind. How I long for her to come out of the paintings. I long for her to hug me and stroke my hair like she did when I was a girl. How she used to shoo Labesh out of the room!”
Mercy piped in. “Queen Lydia, ma’am.” The queen gestured for her to continue. “Maybe your mother would speak to us if we went now to the painting.”
“Yes. I hadn’t thought of that.” The Queen gently raised her hand and was given immediate attention by Twombly. “We would like an escort to the painting alcove.” “Yes Madam.”
Very quickly, four men in Palace livery came to carry Queen Lydia. Her chair had rings for staves similar to the Ark of Israel in the Bible. The guards simply pulled the staves through the rings and the four men picked up the Queen. The hallway suddenly grew quiet. Everyone stood. The gentleman bowed and the ladies gave courtesy. King Titus stood proposing a toast for the successful placement of the Adelphia stone. He gestured to the three children and also to Duman at an adjacent table, commending their bravery. Cheers went up in the Hall and Martha held up the Patternstone. The Queen gracefully waved and smiled.
The three children were actually able to walk alongside her chair in between the guards. The retinue of the royal party continued through the corridors until they reached the alcove. Here, the largest painting of Queen Tirzah was watching them. The Patternstone shone brightly: both in the painting and the real one Martha was wearing. As they stood in front of the painting, a dreamy light atmosphere filled the alcove.
The necklace seemed to hum with excitement. Martha held it out in her hand. There was a bit of a joyous quality. It was as if the angelic choirs were singing in the background. “What do we do now?” Asked Martha.
Queen Lydia thought for a moment. “ My mother used to speak a command. Try a command. “
Of course, the command that was foremost in Martha’s mind was, “Show us where Queen Tirzah is!” At this command, the Patternstone went black and still. The Angels stopped singing. The contrast in the atmosphere was so sharp that everyone gasped. As they huddled, they beheld in the flat seven sided facet Patternstone another little movie. They saw a cave entrance in the side of a dark mountain. Behind the first mountain, they could see a second mountain with fire and rumblings in the distance. It was obviously an active volcano. The little video took them through the cave entrance and into a large iron door with a troll sitting in front of it.
“It’s taking us into the cave entrance, right past the troll!” said Martha excitedly.
“Twombly!” said Queen Lydia. “Jot down all you can.” Twombly busily removed a wooden slate from his side bag and tapped his quill pen. “Left just past the entrance. Second door. Key needed…” Queen Lydia kept speaking as the vision moved forward. “Now straight ahead 20-30… 30 feet then to the right…”
After approximately 3 right-hand turns in seven left hand turns, the vision had descended a set of stairs and came to a very dark cell. There, on the floor, they saw the figure of an old woman huddled. The vision in the diamond had stopped moving. They could hear the woman breathing softly. “It is! Mother!” said Queen Lydia. The woman in the vision did not move. “Try saying something to her Martha.”
“Can you hear us?” said Martha loudly.
The woman got up and looked around. “She hears!” said Lydia. “Tell her who we are. Ask her to say something back.”
Martha explained who they were and that Lydia was right by their side and could see her. She smiled and spoke to them but they could not hear the words. “We cannot hear you, so you’ll have to respond with… signs,” said Martha.
“Ask if she is getting enough to eat,” said Lydia. “Are you eating every day?” asked Martha. Queen Tirzah went and lit a candle in the cave. Then, she nodded “yes”. By the candlelight they could see that she was a little gaunt and underfed. “Ask if she gets out of the cave daily,” said Lydia.
Martha did so and Queen Tirzah nodded “yes” and made motions of shoveling dirt to show that it was for hard labor every day….