After almost two straight days of travel, they found a clearing at last, and set up their tent. Tally was grateful to finally get some sleep. They were all in need of a restful night.
They wouldn't receive one.
Dark clouds gathered that night. The girls woke to thunder. Rain fell in a massive downpour, soaking the ground. It wasn't long before the sisters were soaked as well, even inside the tent. Lightning cut the sky, and gusts of wind shook the trees.
"Outside!" Tess cried, "Find a cave!"
They abandoned their torn, drenched tent, and hurried for shelter. No caves in sight. Not even a canopy of thick trees. The trees weren't safe to be near, for the wind was so strong it knocked several down.
The rain fell so hard Tally could barely keep track of her sisters. They were nothing more than shadowy figures around her. But a shriek behind her made her snap alert.
Boulders were falling from above them, and Olivia was on the ground, struggling to rise to her feet. Tally whirled around to help her, but Lulu grabbed her hand, pulling her away. There was no time. Olivia stumbled down the slope, but she wasn't fast enough. The other sisters ran, out of the way of falling rubble, slipping into a quickly-filling stream. Tally only glanced backward for long enough to see a boulder rolling over Olivia's body. She didn't even have the chance to scream.
The trees around them creeked, and the one above them toppled, sending them running in all directions to avoid it. Tally cried as she ran, tears blurring her vision even more, until the world was nothing more than a blur.
She collapsed to the ground, sobbing, until the voices of her sisters not too far from her brought her back to herself. "I'm here!" she shouted, "I'm here, where are you?"
Lulu's voice broke through the storm, "Here, Tally! Come here, Eloise's hurt!"
Lulu shouted until Tally found them. Eloise had broken her leg in a fall, and had a deep gash down her arm. Tally slipped into the meditative healing trave to mend the wounds enough to give Eloise the strength to walk again.
"Where are the others?"
"I don't know," Lulu said.
They huddled together in the bushes as the storm went on, sometimes crying out for the others. No response. Tally gave in to her tears as the storm went on, and her sisters held her and cried with her. "Poor Olivia," Tally whispered, "Oh, I'm so sorry I brought you all out here, this is all my fault..."
"No Tally," Lulu said, "No, we did this as a family. We all came because we wanted to."
The storm slowly died down, until only the rain continued. Cautiously, the girls emerged from their hiding place.
"Stella? Tess?" They called out for their sisters, until at last, a voice answered.
"Tally? Is that you?"
Tess came into view, and her face was red from crying.
"Where's Stella?" Tally asked.
Tess shook her head and pointed down the stream, where a body lay on the shore. "She fell in and hit her head," Tess whispered, "Drowned."
The sisters embraced, wiping each others tears, sharing words of condolences. Tally healed their superficial injuries, but there was no cure for the pain in their hearts.
At last, when they had gathered their strength, they went to Stella's body, to bury her.
With all the love in the world, child
I'll kiss you goodnight
With all the love in the world,
I'll say this brief goodbye
It'll never be for long, for my love it is so strong
To break the barriers that may divide
So sleep well, sweetheart, sleep in peace
And know with every heartbeat
It is with all the love in the world I sing
This may be goodbye,
But never for long,
I do believe my love is so strong
To break any barriers that divide
Only four of them left when they once were seven, the sisters didn't know what to do. The maps were lost in the storm, and they had no idea where the safest path to the summit was, or the safest path back home. They were hopelessly lost.
Tally led them back to the campsite, where they salvaged their remaining supplies. There was little left. "Let's rest," Tally said, "Perhaps we'll think of a plan after we've slept..."
They settled themselves again, and Tally fell into a fitful sleep. She woke in tears. No, sleep would do her no good. She rose to her feet, wandering away from her sleeping sisters, but still keeping them in sight.
"Stella..." She stared up at the sky, still full of dark clouds. The stars flickered in and out of view. "We make the light," she whispered. "We make the light..." Her voice grew louder as she spoke, and slowly, she turned the words into song. Not any known, written song, just whatever words came to her lips.
We make the light
No darkness can break us
Anywhere our travels take us
With my song you'll find me
And I'll never be alone
You're the light that guides me
And leads me home
Just then, she thought she heard a voice.
I'm never alone
You're always there by my side...
A familiar song, in familiar voices. "Impossible," she whispered, but she raised her voice all the same to join them:
We could go anywhere I'd pick any choice
I'll be home just as long as I can hear your voice
My home is true right here with you
So please won't you stay by my side
The voices sounded louder:
Sweet little lost girl of mine...
The voices had woken her sisters, and they rose to their feet and joined her, listening.
"Another!" Tally cried, and Lulu picked it up:
We've been through, such crazy times
And I can see you're scared for me, but I will be just fine
But I've never felt so strange before
Feels like my world's turned upside down and I can't take no more
All these memories coming back and haunting me
But in front of me, lover you are all I see
Love I need you now, and I know you'll stay with me
All the girls joined in, and the boy's voices answered in return:
Neither of us thought I would ever go
And I thought I was strong but now it's hard to hold on
What do I know?
I've dreamed of a life for us since so long ago
And I thought I could stay but now I'm fading away,
What do I know?
All these memories coming back and haunting me
I can hear your voice, saying 'love please stay with me'
I will be with you, we will meet again someday
I will be with you, always
There they were, the nine brothers. Tally couldn't believe her eyes. When she'd thought nothing could have been a more beautiful sight than the glowing fireball of magic, she'd been wrong, so very wrong. Walter had to be with them, he had to be.
But she could only count eight brothers, and one of them was gravely wounded.
Two of his brother supported him, and lowered him into Tally's arms. She connected her magic to his body, fighting to heal him.
"Boulder rolled over him," one of the brothers said. "We tried to hold him together, but his chest is crushed, and we couldn't..."
"I'll do what I can," Tally said. The sound of their spoken words clashed against the song. She didn't need an explanation of Walter's injuries. Her gift located them all. She zoned in, letting the song of her sisters give her strength.
I'm still here, watching you
I've seen it all from the start, and it breaks my heart
Knowing all you've been through
And I can't believe what's been done
I could see it happening to me
But you're life had only begun
He gasped, squeezing her hands. "Tally..."
"Hang on Walter, I've got you."
All the memories, finally let them fade away
I am with you now, open up your eyes and see
It's all over now, lover you are safe with me,
And I will be with you always
"I will," he whispered. His body trembled, and his eyes fell closed.
"Walter... No..." She drew him close, wrapping her arms around his body. Her tears came quickly, sobs shaking her hard. Pain began to course through her, grief, and pain of a different sort. Physical aches shooting through her limbs, confusion gripping her thoughts until she finally realized what was happening to her.
She had failed, failed at what she was born to do at the moment it mattered most, and now her magic was turning against her, attacking her from within. Her power was turning, a rare and terrible fate, something most believed to be only a story from a nightmare.
As the pain grew worse, she wondered if she should give in to it. As rare as turning power was, surviving it was rarer still. It was barely more than a myth, that one could grasp control of her turning power, pull it back and make it stop. Tally didn't believe it was possible, she never had. This agony would grow worse, far worse before she died, but then she'd be with Walter, and her lost sisters. She would never suffer again...
"Tally! We need you!"
"Pull it back, Tally, fight!"
"We're all here for you!"
The voices of her sisters. Then more voices:
"He wants you to live, Tally!"
"We need you too!"
"Fight it, Tally, we believe in you!"
There were hands upon her now, magic connecting with hers. The pain was strong, but all of those hands, all the love and faith, was stronger still. She fought to grip a handhold, to pull herself out of the pain. The voices of her sisters, and of Walter's brothers, gave her the strength she needed. With great effort, she shut her magic down.
She lay motionless on the ground, safe. Her sisters embraced her. She cried, tears of pain and gratitude, for she was lost, but she was not alone.
The wandering brothers told their side of the tale. They had supplies as well, and maps. Though their store was limited, together, the sisters and the brothers had enough to reach the top of the mountain.
The healing garden was beyond what Tally had expected, even with grief blinding her vision. The magic here was different from the rest of the Mountain: kind, peaceful, and full of hope. Silver streams flowed around golden stones, and the plants and flowers blossomed in a lush, magical garden. Healing energy poured from every leaf, every flower, and even flowed into the singers' lungs with the breeze. The singers united there, bonding on a level too deep to ever break.
"Promise me this," Tally said, "All of us will sing together for the rest of our days, and our children will carry on the tradition after we're gone. I need you all more than ever now."
"Hold us to it, Tally, and we'll hold you together," Andrew said.
"Outside this garden," Tally shook her head, "I don't know that even you can. I'm... I am lost."
"We all are, Tally, and proudly so," Lulu said. "We made it. You made it."
"We did," she nodded. "But not all of us."
"They're all still with us. I can feel it."
"Proudly lost in darkness," Tally whispered, "I'm still standing now, so... I suppose I can continue."
"Proud Lost Wanderers forever," Lulu said, "Swear it, Tally."
"Proud Lost Wanderers forever," she said, "I swear."
Tally kept her promise. Once they were home, some of them feared they would go their separate ways, and the adventure would be forgotten. But Tally held them together. She needed them, and they needed her. They sang. And over time, their songs were able to mend their broken hearts. Tally became a symbol of strength to the others. The Legendary Lost Girl. She kept them all together, united in one wonderful acapella group that still sings today.
The singers had children, most of them girls. They told them all the tale of the Emerald Mountain, and how the strength of family and song had saved them. The children grew up to join the choir, the Lost Wanderers. They learned from their parents to be proud of their struggles, to make the light, and to sing, to always trust their voices.
No one knows where the Legend is now, but even if she died, she lives on in the Lost Girl's songs. And she keeps all little lost wanderers strong, even in their darkest times.