The Spring and the River – Five is finally here! Remember, these installments are not standalone – to really enjoy this series, you have to read them in order. After I post The Spring and the River – Six, I’ll write and post a recap. I would have written a recap for the first four, but the best pausing point is after Six. :) If you need a refresh on what’s happened, here is One, Two, Three, and Four. So without further
babbling that you’re getting sick of adieu, here is The Spring and the River – Five.
“So, if I go to this meeting you will stop this incessant pestering?” Marianne asked irritably as she and Lucy walked out of the eastern side of the village.
Lucy nodded. “However, I think incessant is inaccurate.”
Marianne took a long drink from a blackened flask. The enchanting whisper of Riverwater filled the air, and Lucy took a sharp breath, tensing. Somehow, the murmurs of the Spring reached her ears, and her Springstone grew pleasantly cool against her collarbone.
“For the last month you have been coming to the eastern side to ‘talk’,” Marianne sneered. “If I did not know better, I would think you wanted to take a swim in the River.”
Lucy ignored Marianne’s last remark and reached for her own flask for encouragement. When she unscrewed the lid, the sound of the Spring flooded her sense and soul. Before she took a sip, she could have sworn Marianne flinched. “Shall we go?” Marianne asked impatiently, shifting nervously on her feet.
“Yes,” Lucy replied, slipping her flask back into her pocket. Hope was building in her heart – getting Marianne to a restoration meeting was progress. They walked in silence, each occupied with her own thoughts. Lucy had begun to get discouraged about the lack of progress, but her parents and Lucien encouraged her to persevere. While she feared that Marianne was only going to the meeting to appease Lucy, she knew the power of the Spring – it could melt the hardest heart, and this meeting was an opportunity for it to speak more strongly to Marianne.
“How close is this meeting to the Spring?” Marianne asked, breaking the silence.
“It is beside the Spring.”
Marianne groaned and took another swig of Riverwater. “I am going to have to listen to the Spring babble all evening?”
“It is either the Spring or me,” Lucy replied, trying to keep the edge off her voice. She felt her hackles rise when Marianne said that the Spring babbled. Over the past month, she and Marianne had formed a tenuous relationship that resembled friendship, but Lucy was certain that Marianne would hate to be called the friend of one of the Spring
The Spring came into view and Lucy was overcome with peace. Springwater flowed over the pure white stones, and Springfolk boldly approached the Spring, drinking deeply of the Spring’s life-giving water. With the sun almost below the horizon, the stars began to wink with light. Marianne was grumbling, but Lucy was caught up in the scene. White starlight filled the Springwater, and the Springfolk moved around the Spring with contentment. The combined light from the stars and the Springstones flooded the area with beautifully pure luminescence.
“Which part of the Spring must I endure?” Marianne asked, and Lucy noticed that the other young woman was glancing around uneasily and sliding behind her. Good, Lucy thought, the Spring is speaking to her. “This way,” Lucy said, leading Marianne to an area of the Spring where the cold water pooled into a shallow little lake where several Springfolk and a few Riverfolk were beginning to gather. Lucy had been visiting the different restoration assemblies that met on different nights for a few weeks. With the Spring’s leading, Lucy had asked this group if she could begin attending, and they had excitedly welcomed her. Master Alexei, this assembly’s elderly leader, greeted Lucy and Marianne warmly. “Good evening,” he said smiling.
“And to you, Master Alexei,” Lucy replied, practically dragging Marianne out from behind her. “This is my friend, Marianne.”
“Friend?” Marianne snorted. “I would not get that ambitious if I were you, Lucy.” She barely gave Alexei a second glance before brushing past to go talk to the Riverfolk who were – in varying degrees of sheepishness – huddled next to the pool. Lucy sighed, but Master Alexei took her hand. “Take heart, Lucy,” he said in the wavering voice that comes with dotage. “The Spring is stronger than you or I, and it can reach Marianne. Don’t forget that you are not alone in this task.” He smiled broadly before turning to the group that was gathered. With the Spring singing gently to her, Lucy removed her sandals and let her feet slide into the pool.
All of the people of the Spring took drinks while most of the Riverfolk looked away, but four who were trying to be free of the River drank also. These were the ones that really wanted to be restored to the Spring – they were not just there because someone pestered them enough to come. They desperately wanted this for themselves. Master Alexei started the meeting with a song before people began talking. One of the River – one of the serious – swallowed hard before clearing her throat. “Yes, Joy,” Master Alexei said.
Joy wrung her hands, and Kathleen, who had started bringing her six months before, patted her arm encouragingly. “I told Kathleen about this yesterday, but…” she trailed off and took a deep breath. “I-I, um, I was walking by the River – I knew I was setting myself up, but… anyway – it called to me and instead of running for my life, I stopped to listen…” she drew her hands across her face. “The next thing I knew, I was gulping down as much Riverwater as I could.”
Lucy felt her heart break for Joy, who was so sincere and trying so hard. She knew that Joy was devastated with this setback.
“I don’t understand it,” Joy continued. “I do not want the River, but then I end up falling prey to it again and again and again.”
Lucy glanced at Marianne who was carefully arranged as far away from the Spring’s edge as she could be and looked as if she was being made to walk across hot coals. Before anyone could respond to Joy, Marcus – an impassioned, wiry young man who had been enslaved by the River for two years – spoke. “You’re not going to understand it!” he exclaimed, throwing his hands up. “Even after I nearly drowned in that death water – twice – I still wanted to go back to it! It’s the thrill of danger and euphoria we crave! Basically, you have to remember that so long as you are flooded with the Spring, you can overcome the River!”
Lucy saw Marianne roll her eyes, but Marcus didn’t because he was totally focused on Joy. “We let the River fool us into thinking that it and the Spring are equals, but in truth the River cannot compare to the Spring! The River is evil and cunning, I will say that, but it does not have power over us unless we give it to it!”
“There is a balance between giving the River too much credit and underestimating it,” Master Alexei interjected. “You are right – we cannot assign too much to the River, but we must not, must not, be arrogant. The moment you think you are above the danger of the River is the moment it will use your arrogance to seduce you.”
Marianne laughed, and every eye turned to her. “What?” she asked. “You all are just tossing words around! Half of you have no idea what you are discussing!” She stood and looked eerie and distinctly out of place in the light of the Spring’s stones. “The River gives what the Spring never will!” she proclaimed.
“Death?” Master Alexei asked.
Marianne paused for a moment, and Lucy realized she was holding her breath.
“We only get to live once, and I’m certainly going to try everything so that I don’t waste the one life that I have!” Marianne said.
“Yes,” Marcus said, leaping to his feet also, “you live right up to the moment your lungs are filling with Riverwater – killing you!”
Lucy’s uncle’s face rose in her mind’s eye, and she reached out to the Spring. As her fingertips grazed the surface, she closed her eyes only to open them when Marianne huffed before fleeing from the Spring. Lucy remembered her responsibility and started to rise, but Master Alexei stopped her. “You must tread with care, Lucy,” he said gravely. “Marianne is a fool and would like to drag you with her. She seeks not only her own destruction, but yours also. Leave her be tonight and drink of the Spring.”
Lucy sat down, cold fear gripping her heart. Master Alexei would only say these things if he knew them, and he could only know them if the Spring had told him. Taking a long drink, she felt the Spring drive Marianne’s words from under her skin.
“You must be vigilant,” Master Alexei said, “lest you become ensnared, but drink of the Spring and you shall never be alone.”
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8