Book II _ Chapter 2
I never realized how black darkness can be. Our lanterns lighted the area immediately around us but beyond that was a dark soundless shadow in every direction.
"I don't think I've ever been in a darker place Mom."
"Yes, the deep tunnels are unsettling at first. See how the walls are so much smoother than the part we live in and the floor isn't flat, we're in an oval tube that stretches down into the middle of the mountain."
We were on a gradual slope down. I could feel the angle of decent as we walked. There was a spot where Grandfather stopped and told Jack that this was the first one.
"This is the first branch Sandy. Stretch your hand out to the left wall."
I did and it wasn't there. Jack had taken one of the glow crystals and marked the passage we had come from.
"How many branches are there?"
"Just two others right here, but there'll be dozens more. It's like looking up into an old oak tree in the winter when the leaves are gone, except here the tree is in the mountain and its branches are the tunnels."
I knew I was asking too many questions again but I couldn't help asking one more, "Do the tunnels become smaller or larger as we go deeper into the mountain?"
Annie answered this time, "They become bigger, Sandy, with more branches. It will become increasingly more difficult to mark the way."
"Oh." It didn't sound good but I trusted everyone I was with so I decided to just enjoy myself and not worry. We moved on and came to several more junctions where Jack and Grandfather left a glow crystal to mark our passage as we emerged into each new intersection of tunnels. You just can't imagine how brightly the crystals glowed in the darkness, even as we moved farther and farther away from them.
After another half hour of steady walking, Mom said, "We're close now, if I remember correctly."
Grandfather said, "Yes Dawn, you'll see the luminescence soon."
Then we were at another junction of tunnels. To the left there was a strong glow of light. We'd been going strait or to the right at most of the junctions but now we turned left toward the light after Jackmarked the passage we had just emerged from with a glow crystal that had a soft blue-green light.
Annie giggled, "I always feel so silly when we come here, it must be the light."
Grandfather said, "Yes, it does effect the emotions more than any natural phenomenon I've ever seen. The Uliaks come here for that reason but I don't know what passages they use."
I was startled by that, "The Uliaks come here, right under our home?"
Mom laughed, "We're about two miles from our cave; smell how fresh the air is in here. There are many entrances and vents to this shaft but theyíre all hidden except the path from the work shop."
Annie said, "This is the light-that-shines-in-the-earth. The Uliaks say that plants have two lives, one above the ground, their trunks and branches, which grow toward the sun and then there is a plantís life below the ground, or its roots, that grow toward this - the light-that-shines-in-the-earth. The Uliaks tell us that there are a lot of light sources within the earth. I guess they should know since they live down here."
We were coming to the room with the light. The floor of the tunnels, we had traveled through, were slightly round, almost as if we were in a big garden hose that was very smooth. Here, in the lighted room, there were stalagmites of glow crystal rising from the floor but no cones hung down from the ceiling like you see in many caves.
Grandfather said, "You must not step onto the crystal floor Sandy. It's not a true solid. The crystal rock is a supersaturated mineral mix that reaches right down to the magma under the earth's crust."
"Is this where you get the glow crystals, Grandpa?"
"Yes. See the little bubbles of fluid rock; they pinch off and I pick up the loose ones. The Uliaks, who live in this mountain, have given me their permission to use this resource. See on top of the stalagmites, the perfectly shaped crystals. These are the seeded gems that the Uliaks wear around their neck. They collect and radiate light a hundred times better than the crude ones I cut back in my shop."
There was nothing to say, it is a beautiful place with a warm glow and the nicest feeling you could ever hope to have. The room is larger than I first thought, perhaps the size of the llama's stable, and there seemed to be other rooms that branched off in the back. Black tunnel stone formed a narrow path around the pools of liquid crystal. Several paths stretched towards the room's center. We followed one of the paths to the center and here there is a fairly short stalagmite with a seeded gem about the size and shape of a peach pit. It formed a perfect loop on the top.
Grandfather reached over and picked it up, "This one is yours Sandy. Mary and I started it when you first came to visit us twelve years ago."
I gasped, "But the seeded gems belong to the Uliaks."
Mom smiled, "Not all of them, this is why we came today. This gem will open many doors for you in the forest. It will be as good as a lantern with light from just a single star. The various Uliak groups, all over North America, will know you come from Eric. He and Mary are the only people, like us, who have learned the secret of seeding gems in our current time."
Jack pulled out a length of raw hide and they tied the gem around my neck. Annie said, "See the other seeded crystals around us. Uliak gems don't have a natural loop at the top like Eric's. I've heard many of our Uliak friends talk about your crystal. They call it the gem-with-the-loop. This is the first time I've seen it. There are whole Uliak communities waiting to see this crystal starshine."
Jack laughed, "If you think llamas are curious, you've never seen an Uliak community on the new moon with a clear sky."
Mom said, "Perhaps we should move on to the song rooms."
Annie said, "Lets go."
We left the crystal room the same way we had entered. Back to the junction where Jack had last left a glow crystal from his pack. We then followed another passage that was as dark as all the others had been. Left at a junction, then strait and strait again until we made a right. It was a good thing Grandpa and Jack had brought a lot of their glow crystals.
We came to a stop and Grandpa was resting, "Where are we now?"
Annie said, "In a cave of tree songs."
Mom took the lantern and showed me the wall, it was covered with carvings. Repeating clusters of two characters: a period type dot and a curved line. The carvings ran for as far and high on the wall as I could see in the lamp light. The writing look like:
"Is it writing Grandpa?"
It was Jack that answered, "Yes Sandy, it's a binary alphabet. Patterns of dots and curved lines make up each letter or number. The Uliaks believe in oral tradition and memory for every thing except tree songs. These they record deep in the earth so the record will never be lost."
This seemed a little unbelievable, "They talk to trees?"
Annie answered, "No, they listen to them. They have found that older trees gain a self consciousness after period of time. Perhaps fifty years for some trees, a hundred years for others. As they gain consciousness, they begin to sing songs that are inherited. Uliak culture places a very great value on the meaning of these songs, that's why they're down here safe."
"What are they about?"
Mom smiled, "Many people throughout history have felt that the Creator placed the most important information in the simplest of places. The Uliaks believe that trees hold part of that wisdom."
"Can you read it, Grandpa?"
He put his hand on my shoulder, he'd become over tired again, "No, I know the characters are defined by groups of twenty-eight characters, dots and curved lines. I've yet to define them or interpret the meaning. It's one of many secrets that belong to the Uliak. I meet them quite often on the mountain. They have told Mary and I that we are welcome down here but I've yet to ever encounter one in the caves. This is an active tree song, it grows every year. There are other chambers with dormant songs that dwarf this work. It just staggers the imagination when you consider how much information is recorded and then put it in perspective that this is one tree song chamber in a network of thousands."
Mom had Jack and Grandfather empty out their remaining glow crystals. Annie stacked them in a very carefully constructed and specific shape. Then Mom shined a lanternís light on the pile of glow crystals. This made a wide central beam of light that illuminated all the walls. This cave chamber is larger than the main cavern at Laurel Mountain. The walls are covered with the secret script, a scroll that extends as high and away as we can see. We watched the cavern for several minutes in silence. Then carefully repacked the crystals and headed off for the last stop before we would go back to the surface.
The last wonder to see was a vertical shaft in another adjoining cavern. Actually the vertical shaft didn't seem like such a big deal after all the other things I had seen this day.
It was a big circular hole, with light in it from somewhere way down. The hole just went done and down as far as you could see.
As we hiked back up the dark tunnels to our cave, Jack and Grandfather would recover the glow crystals that had been left as markers. I kept thinking about the tree songs. As we came around the last corner of the last tunnel. I could see the light in the doorway of the workshop. Jack and Grandpa stopped.
Jack said, "We've got a visitor Eric."
I could hear Grandpa shift his backpack but then he stopped as a thin beam of light stretched out from a figure in the doorway. The light beam went right to the crystal around my neck.
Grandfather said, "Starshine in a cave, how about that."
I was getting a little excited because the my crystal was starting to glow brighter and it made a faint sound. I said, "What is it?"
Grandfather laughed, "It's ok Sandy, this is an Uliak friend and he's saying hi to you. I think it must be EO. Iím fearful that this means there must be a problem."
When we reached the shop door there was no one there. The adults all dropped their packs and we went up the tunnel to the main room. EO was there with Moche. He was a normal looking man about Grandpa's age with white hair and very blue eyes.
Grandfather didn't say anything but he smiled and the two men touched the palms of their right hand together.
EO said, "The gem-with-a-loop has finally come out for starshine. I am very pleased my friends. I am EO. I know all of you though only Eric has met me before. We consider each of you a friend. I am greatly grieved that a problem has brought me here at this joyous time. I must show you. Come to the entrance.
We followed him to the log entrance of the valley and then all of our mouths dropped open. Five big troop carrying helicopters were suspended in midair over our valley. The helicopter blades weren't turning, they were just frozen in space.
Jack spoke, "It's a timeline, who would have thought the stories were true."
Annie smiled as she starred at suspended helicopters, "That means all the other Uliak stories are probably true too. I never thought I'd be surprised by anything again."
I had to ask, "What's going on?"
Grandfather put his arm on my shoulder and said, "These are the same people that were after you at the Rendezvous two years ago. It would seem they have found our valley."
EO spoke again, "They've been guided by a satellite that picked up the spectrographic pattern of the llamas. Our review of the computer data on board the crafts indicates that one llama keeps circling outside the entrance to your stable."
I said, "That's Sophie, she's going to have her baby soon."
EO looked at me, he didn't smile but his eyes did, then he continued, "We will not interfere with the lives or plan of these people but I have a plan if you would accept."
Grandfather bowed his head, "Of course we will accept your counsel EO."
EO continued, "We should not hold the timeline for longer than six more hours or the persons on the helicopters will begin to suffer organ damage. If you pack what is necessary, I will lead you and the llamas to a safe place and we will seal these entrances."
I didn't know what to think. Grandfather would have to leave his valley, we will need to leave our new home. Then I thought of the people with red hair. "Will we be able to protect the cave of the red people too?"
They all looked at me and those eyes of EO smiled again as he said, "The crystal has found a good friend. Yes, that entrance will be closed also."
Mom said, "We better get going, three hours to gather what we need, two more to pack the llamas and one to get started. It'll be close to dark. Will we take the ledge into the crevasse?"
EO nodded, "Yes, that's the path to the hidden valleys among the high peaks. Your llamas will have enough room to live and multiply for years and you will be welcome to stay or come and go as you like."
Boy did we pack fast. The llamas all seemed to know what was happening, the males were loaded with packs. The females and yearlings were left free. No one was haltered and even the young llamas were serious for once. We were ready in four hours. The llamas were all in a long line that stretched from the log cabin entrance to the stable entrance.
We stood there as the cave entrance was sealed. Two more Uliaks joined us, IO and EM. EM was a lady who seemed a little younger than Mom or Annie and IO a man was about the same age. They sealed the entrances with their hands; the rock just grew across the opening and it was solid.
I blew cold air out from my mouth and said, "Wow, that's even better than holding the helicopters up in air. How do they do it?"
Annie was watching in as much wonder and said to me, "Technology is only one way to harness natural forces, the Uliak people took another path long ago. I never dreamed this folk lore was real."
We were off, a long train with three Uliak persons, five people, seventy two llamas, our faithful dogs and two goats. We all walked single file down past the wall of Grandfather's garden and into the great crack in the mountain that the kitchen window opens toward. The ledge was very narrow. The footing was firm. We all passed through without incident.
I had never come back onto this ledge because it was so narrow. As we walked deeper and deeper into the narrow cleft of the mountain, I noticed that on the far wall were deep carvings of animals, trails and what I think are star patterns. We walked at the front with EO, then came the dogs, then the llamas followed by my two goats. At the rear of our train were EM and IO. Grandfather told me there would no longer be a ledge here after we passed.
Ralph Raulings was at the forward command base for this operation. The assault force had been lost from all scanners for nine hours and then they reappeared in the same location with all their equipment reading nine lost hours. "Tell them to land and I want that valley checked with a fine tooth comb."
The operations officer relayed the message and then responded, "Ralph, they're pretty shaken up. Let's abort this mission and regroup after a smaller force has checked out what's happening up there."
Ralph sneered, "Tell them to land now or you and that Captain O'Dell are going to end up in front of a Foundation tribunal."
At Laurel Mountain, Ed Flass was just reporting to Randy Perch. "It's one of those odd low frequency sound messages that do not come from our people. It says that the Stanfords, as well as Jack and Annie Perch are safe. It also says we should let that airborne force complete its search and leave. Who sends these messages anyhow?"
Randy leaned back in the massive wooden chair he used at his desk and thought; then he said, "To tell you the truth Ed, I've never had the pleasure to meet them. I know they have been good friends of Eric Stanford, also to us and as far as I know to anyone who follows an honest path. It kind of makes them sound like the Loan Ranger." He laughed with that missing tooth showing. There were good dentists at Laurel Mountain but Randy hated to go to the dentist. "We'll follow their counsel and I'll let Frank Cornwall know that the Foundation-for-Liberty is trampling around in our mountains again."
Later that night Randy finished his report to Frank Cornwall, "That's it Frank, I don't know where Eric and the others are but I believe they're safe. It'll take that force a good day to survey Eric's valley, I have a feeling Eric's caves have been sealed. It's hard to believe it can happen but he explained to me once what actions would be taken by the Uliak people if the valley was discovered."
Frank said, "Yes, the Uliak people are a completely unexpected element to this situation. It's odd, they have never taken sides in human conflict, they don't intervene to stop mankind from polluting the earth but they always risk exposure to save individuals from harm. We probably wouldn't know anything about them at all if it wasn't for infrequent events like this that come to light. When you come to Washington in the spring for that Congressional hearing, I'll show you what they did with those helicopters. Not that we understand it but we were able to record it on a satellite scanner. The Uliaks either possess tremendously advanced technology or they're magicians."
Back in what was our llama valley Captain O'Dell was smiling to himself. He had been a very successful soldier, loved his country and had joined the Foundation-for-Liberty because he thought the country needed strength in its resolve to maintain freedom. Now he was considering what was wrong, all wrong, about this whole operation and the Foundation. He walked over to the command helicopter and said, "Lieutenant."
"You're now in command of this operation. Complete the search, report back to Mr. Raulings and extract the troop without detection or incident to Assembly Site B. Wait for additional orders at that location."
"Yes sir! Sir?"
Captain O'Neil was grabbing a mountain pack and snow shoes. He had discarded his side arm on the floor of the helicopter and taken out a package he had stored prior to take off. A good knife, a bow with arrows and a pike that he had fashioned after the ones he had seen at Buffalo Flats.
"Are you going after them on foot?"
"No you ass, they're the good guys. I quit and if you try to stop me you'll be sorry." With that Captain O'Dell lifted his pack and headed for the valley edge.
Ralph Raulings received the news of Captain O'Dellís departure and sat back. "Did he really quit his command or has he gone after them on foot?"
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