Chapter Six – The SecretThe night air was cool and damp. Kira lay wrapped in a blanket by the fire, rocks steadily jabbing at her from beneath the dirt. Uncomfortable, unable to sleep under the moonlit sky, Kira spoke softly to her mother as if she were right beside her.
“I don’t understand, mom” came the quiet whispers. “Why would everyone just forget about such wonderful magic? It just doesn’t make any sense. You must have known all along to keep telling such wonderful stories, keeping history alive. Why didn’t everyone else? Why didn’t father?” As Kira continued to voice her queries to her mother, she eventually drifted off to sleep. The night passed quietly and quickly, giving way to the morning sun bursting over the mountain tops, and Kira woke without having one single dream.
Aedan was up and boiling water in a small kettle for his morning tea, and had already unwrapped the biscuits they brought along for breakfast. Zoosk snacked on small pieces that Aedan had thrown down to him. Kira joined them, feeling refreshed after sleeping so deeply. Softly humming the tune that her mother used to sing to her, she pulled out a small jar of honey for their biscuits, handed it to Aedan, and began packing up the blankets they had slept on. Quickly eating after packing everything up, she was ready to begin hiking north again. Sitting on a large boulder just beside the fire, Kira waited anxiously for Aedan to finish his tea.
Yesterday she was so wrapped up in figuring out why everything was changing so quickly that she hadn’t taken the time to appreciate the beautiful mountains. The trees were majestic, reaching high toward the blue sky with their bright green leaves shimmering in the breeze. The birds whistled to each other and sang happy tunes as they foraged for food. Squirrels ran up and down the trunks of trees, jumping from limb to limb, seemingly playing a game of tag. Kira loved this, and wished she had more time to enjoy it. The morning sun was breaking through the high branches and beginning to burn through the low fog filling the air. There was a feeling of magic, Kira thought as she soaked in the beauty all around her.
Soon they were on foot again, trudging up the steep mountain’s rocky path. The cool spring air was a relief to the warmth gained by the steady climb. Zoosk ran ahead of the pair chasing a rabbit that hopped into the path. Kira smiled up at Aedan, hooking her arm in the crook of his elbow.
“Athair, I am glad we are going together on this journey. But, could you please tell me what we are going for? I am so curious, and you have kept the details very vague”
Aedan thought briefly, and began with a warning. “Kira, no one must know about what I am going to show you. Some will read too much into it, and our village may again face war if anyone found out.”
“War? Why would we cause a war by our trip into the mountains?”
“Kira, let me finish, please.” Aedan looked down at her with a hint of laughter in his eyes. Patience had never been one of Kira’s stronger characteristics. She always knew what she wanted, and went after it with a vengeance. Looking at her today, he saw more of Caiside in Kira than he ever had before. He really missed his wife, the last few years had been difficult without her.
“No one must know. I am going to show you an ancient place, protected by ancient law. A place you may recognize when we arrive. But the secret is what I have hidden there. We should arrive by late afternoon, before the sun settles low on the mountaintops. I have kept this hidden from everyone, except your mother. She knew that I had discovered something rare years ago, and urged me to leave it be. But soon, she came to know that it must be protected, and that I was the protector. The time has come that I must pass it on, and I believe that I must pass it on to you. You are special, Kira. You will soon see this, too.”
“What is it, father? You sound so urgent, but still vague.”
“It’s a stone, Kira. A special stone. I found it years ago. I cannot tell you more right now, but soon will show you what you need to know.”
Kira felt as if the conversation had left her with more questions than it had answers. Readjusting her sack, she settled her mind again by wistfully humming her mother’s tune. The comfort it brought her was exactly what she needed to keep the questions from bubbling up inside her like molten lava.
Kira, Aedan, and Zoosk marched up through the winding path, coming to an old wooden bridge crossing the stream that gurgled over a rocky bed and down the mountain. Aedan stopped just before the bridge and brought out his scian, the blade long, the wooden handle ornate.
“What is if father?” Kira asked as she watched him reach into his pack. He produced another long blade and handed it to Kira.
“Keep this with you, Kira. The dangers past this bridge are real. I do not mean to scare you, but be prepared to protect yourself.”
Zoosk sniffed along the creek bank, momentarily disappearing under the old bridge. Catching the scent of something he did not like, he growled low threats as he came back to Aedan.
“There, now. Settle down, Zoosk.” Aedan patted the dog’s head and stepped onto the bridge. Zoosk barked at him, and stepped in front of Kira, looking at her with pleading brown eyes.
“Zoosk, come on.” Aedan almost barked the order at him, and proceeded across the bridge.