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CHAPTER 1 The Most Revered
A winter storm howled outside of Elaya's cabin. She sat before the stone hearth in the common room where a crackling fire blazed within it, staring at the dancing flames as she popped roasted Sarsie nuts into her mouth, one after the other, savoring their mealy texture as well as their delicate flavor.
Elaya's mother, Tella, sat in a cushioned rocking chair, knitting the fine strands of wool Elaya's father, Massori, sheared from their small collection of goully the previous spring. One-quarter turning-of-the-glass passed when Elaya's face slackened and her hands dropped into her lap as the fire, with its welcoming warmth, disappeared.
What is this? Elaya thought. Have I become a spirit? She felt invisible, flying over the treetops of Naire toward the snowcapped peaks of the Angora Mountains to the west. She felt the cool, crisp breeze against her skin and the smell of spring rain soon to come. Elaya looked around her panoramic view of the world, delighted with all that she could see. She did not know why, yet it seemed perfectly natural to her that she should be one moment in her home during a winter storm and the next overlooking the mountains in springtime.
A movement on the surface of one of the steep hillsides caught Elaya's attention. She peered closer at the activity and felt a moment of unease. The mountains' surfaces started deteriorating in numerous places, crumbling and shifting from beneath. A pair of tiny white hands pushed through the loose soil of one of the mounds, and then reached for better purchase. Pair after pair continued popping through the crust of the earth, followed by the bodies of a race of people she had never seen.
Tella looked up from her knitting and saw her daughter's inanimate face. "Elaya!" She rushed to her daughter and gently shook her to bring her out of her trancelike state.
Elaya looked up into her mother's concerned face, and felt happy she was home.
"Are you all right?"
"There are people tunneling through the ground to find a new home, Mommy. They look like�short, rough people. They are so white, it is kind of scary."
"What do you mean by rough people?"
"Their skin is rough, not smooth, and soft like ours."
"Did one of the soothsayers tell you this?"
"No, Mommy. I was looking at the fire and then I saw the rough people digging out of the mountains. I think they're coming here to find a new home."
Tella went to her bedchamber. "Massori, wake up. I have something important to tell you."
"What is it, Tella?" her husband replied groggily, waking from his nap.
"Elaya had a vision. I've never known a soothsayer to get her sight before the age of majority. Nor have I heard of a soothsayer who could see without the aid of a musical instrument."
"Maybe Elaya was dreaming, Tella," he said with a yawn.
"I wish you could have seen Elaya. She was in a hypnotic trance, and when she came out of it, she told me about a new race of people who are tunneling through the earth to get here."
"Interesting. What do these people look like? Are they Humans?"
"She said they were rough-skinned and so white that they looked scary."
"Elaya hasn't seen any race except her own, so it's only logical the newcomers are scary-looking to her. Humph. I wonder if there's anything to this, Tella. Maybe we should have her document her vision with pictures before she loses the images of it. We'll take her for testing once the storm's over, and if she's truly a soothsayer, then we'll arrange for her to learn to read and write. The soothsayers are the most revered Elves because they can steer us to avoid trouble. Yet, they eventually have to validate their claims, and our laws require documentation of the vision to prove what they've prophesized, always assuming the events happen within his or her lifetime."
"If they're illiterate, soothsayers are allowed to use pictorial representations without a written account."
"Yes, that's true," he responded, scratching his head, "but if Elaya's a soothsayer at the unheard-of age of five-yarin, then the Gods must expect to use her talent for more than what we're accustomed to seeing. It will be important that there be no room to exaggerate what she has reportedly seen, or may see in the future."
Massori rose from the edge of the bed and rummaged around in his desk for some parchment and fine-pointed charcoal sticks. He took these items to his daughter and knelt down in front of her. "Your mother tells me you had a vision. Could you draw me a picture of it?"
"I don't draw very well, Daddy, but I'll try." Elaya took the parchment and charcoal her father proffered. She spent the next turning-of-the-glass drawing her vision in such detail that Massori caught his breath upon its completion.
He stared into his daughter's violet eyes, proud beyond measure. "I would say your artistic talent is among those of soothsayers hundreds of yarin your senior."
Elaya began her literacy lessons the following morning after she received the title of 'Most Revered Soothsayer in Salariety' at a ceremony held in her honor, attended by the entire Elfin population, where each soothsayer in the land pronounced her talent was genuine and highly developed. As her writing skills improved, Elaya utilized a written account of her visions including her emotional responses to the imagery revealed within them. She also continued to draw intricate pictures to capture the scenes she visualized. For yarin, her Prophesies pertained to mostly inconsequential events, such as which Elf would be the last one dancing at their yarinly spring festival, but the Gods' purpose for her talent did not surface until much later, at which point, they changed the lives of her people forever.
Excerpted from Choices Born of Prophesy by Saulander Evans Copyright � 2004 by Saulander Evans. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.