It took another hour for the company to make its way down to the Temple, which rested in a little valley. The Willows grew tall and strong and the company dismounted outside of their protective ring. As they moved beneath the Willow boughs to the inside, Sarah stopped. She moved back outside and then inside again, completely puzzled.
“What ya doing?” Ryan asked as he came to go in and out with her.
“Trying to make sure I’m not crazy and that it really is warmer inside the Temple,” Sarah told him, hobbling back and forth again.
“Of course it is,” Ryan looked at her with an odd expression as she went to where Sparrow was giving out orders to the men. “Why wouldn’t it be?”
Sarah looked down at the boy. “Because, where I come from, it would’t.”
Ryan looked up at her with big eyes as if she’d just told him the most outrageous thing ever, but before he could say anything Sparrow spoke.
“Go on home little one. You brought us to the Temple like you said. We can take it from here.”
“But I need to show you...”
“We can take it from here,” Sparrow’s voice was firm.
Ryan sighed and skipped off to a Willow tree. Just before he climbed back up it he turned and waved. “See you at your wedding!” Then he was gone in a flash of light.
Sparrow sighed and looked back to the ladies. Her gaze focused on the Princess. “James indicated he can’t remember ever hearing about this river changing course. The boys are going to check, but I doubt the Pairents House or the Knight Manor will provide us with any shelter, so we’ll have to build something.”
“Why can’t we stay in here? It’s warm, it’s...” Sarah stopped as they turned flabbergasted stares her direction.
“And it is where you are meant to stay,” an unexpected, yet familiar, voice spoke.
Turning Sarah watched as a woman climbed from the gaping hole below the Dogwood tree.
“Grand-Moyther!” Princess Allmarah rushed into the woman’s open arms.
Grand-Moyther Magdalene hugged the Princess tight before letting her go and then surveying the group. “Please, come down to the Gods’ Cavern, we’ve just managed to replace the stairs, it would be a waste of the Gods’ generosity if you didn’t.”
All but Sparrow followed the Grand-Moyther down into the hole, who affirmed that the generosity did indeed include Lady Miriam and Goodwoman Katherine. Still, Miriam only came down because Sarah insisted she needed the young woman's help with the stairs. There was a strange sense of fear about Miriam, as if she expected to be struck down. Katherine seemed to feel the same way, though Sarah had always felt Jay’s Gods were loving ones. Though the cave was dark, it felt inviting. Torches flickered about the falls illuminating the space. Opposite the stairs, Grand-Moyther Magdalene was building a fire.
“There’s a fireplace in here?” Sarah commented.
Harriet gave her an odd look, as she passed by, bucket in hand. Clearly, Sarah still had a lot to learn about Jay’s religion. After all his Gods were her Gods now, she supposed. They felt a lot realer than her God ever had.
Sarah quickly hobbled out of the way of Sparrow and Prince Hermanus, who were laden with gear.
“Can we really stay down here?” Hermanus asked as he set down his load.
“Of course your Highness,” Moyther Magdalene smiled at his startled expression. “I am Grand-Moyther Magdalene.” Her nod was nearly a bow and when she looked back at him, her face shone slightly. “The Gods are very pleased with you.”
Prince Hermanas looked away, embarrassed by the praise. Princess Allmarah smiled and step to stand beside him. Sarah noticed her gentle touch to his arm. The Grand-Moyther smiled and unfurled one of the bedding rolls. She beckoned to Sarah, who hobbled over. Lying down, Sarah let Magdalene examine her wounds. Allmarah came to kneel on the other side of Sarah as the others bustled up and down.
“Do the Gods know how long it will take for us to return home?” the Princess broke the silence as the Grand-Moyther began to place fresh bandages on Sarah.
“It depends on the choices that are made,” the Grand-Moyther replied. “But one thing is certain.” She smiled. “You will make it to Verdas in time for Lord and Lady Phoenix to be wed.”
Standing up she placed a kiss upon the young woman’s forehead. Then, with a nod to each person she passed, the Grand-Moyther walked up the stairs, disappearing half way to the top.