Away from the coast, the night sky was endless, ablaze with a centillion stars. Although she missed the thrum of the ocean, Solara’s heart soared in that familiar space. This was home.
Heading back was essential. Dead or alive, she needed to find her mother, And now Solara knew she had the strength to do it. All she had to do was think of Eli and her fears fell away.
Somehow the marauders who laid in wait for her could detect this. She would watch them swagger, anticipating some easy meat, this little woman. As she drew closer, though, their leering faces would grow doubtful, until they halted or reversed their approach. It wasn’t just the sabre, she knew. It was her faith.
Once she had asked Eli what that word meant. His explanation had been nonsense to her. The ideas were strange. unsettling. Her head wouldn’t wrap around it. But that was before she had traveled with him for so many miles. Before she had watched him in action. Before she she knew he was every bit as sightless as her mother.
Her stay at Alkatraz had certainly given her answers-- even to questions she didn’t know she had. As Eli and Lombardi worked on the manuscript she listened to the stories. Some of them held her rapt. Some of them put her to sleep. Who cared whom begat who? Many were horrifying. There was so much killing, vengence, and poor treatment of women and the conquered ones. She had seen quite enough of that.
In the library she marveled at the array of books. One of the researchers there, a kindly woman with cracked and taped eyeglasses, started to teach Solara to read. The difficulty of the task astonished her. Briefly she considered remaining, becoming one of the learned ones. But a growing sense of restlessness coiled in her belly like a tight spring, ready to propel her homeward.
Eli had taught her so much. As Solara lay under that profound night sky she missed him greatly-- not as the fierce protector, not even as the wise teacher, but his loving presence-- she wished with all her heart that he was there to admire the beauty of the night with her.
She still wondered why he had not wanted her. Now that he was gone, she longed for him, next to her. But he had seemed unmoved by any carnal desire. Solara thought it might have something to do with his holy book.
Eli said his power came from the book. But Solara had traveled far with him, and saw his strength come from from his calm inner self, in the way he would close his eyes and become still, and radiate peace This was no book, this was a man creating from himself a place of beauty, strength and calm.
Claudia had told her tales when she was a child. But in Mother’s stories the vitality of life flowed from earth, fire, water and sky to man, woman and child. All the plants, animals, birds, fish and stars shared their wisdom with she who was willing to listen.
As she slipped into dreams, she found herself walking with Eli near Carnegie’s compound, but now it looked so different. The windows were open, and people strolled about chatting, at ease. Eli wore the white robes as he had at Alkatraz, and walked with slow and measured steps. He listened. He did not speak. She looked into his face, he smiled at her, then took her hand.
Solara awoke as was her habit well before the dawn and moved toward the brightening sky.