Three Stones – Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight –

Stepping closer to the northern edge of the grove, Kira heard the growls. She turned to see where Zoosk had gotten off to, and saw him just behind her. His ears were upright, like he was listening to the low growls, too. “Stay, Zoosk” Kira said to him, his ears turning slightly as she spoke.

“Do you hear that, father?” Kira asked Aedan as she touched the back of his shoulder. He didn’t have to answer, she saw him already reaching for his scian. As he unsheathed the long dagger, an old, scraggly appearing wolf stepped out of the trees. Kira stepped backwards, grabbing for her own blade, Zoosk now beside her, front feet forward and teeth showing.

Aedan was also stepping back, not taking his eyes off of the wolf. He told Kira to get back as far away as she could. His voice was low and quiet, but his words hit her hard. She didn’t want to leave his side, she felt safe with him near. But Kira knew that her father would keep her safe, so she did as she was told.

The wolf stepped closer, teeth glaring at Aedan through the low growls escaping the wolf’s angry snout. Gnarling, glaring, warning… the wolf didn’t leap forward. He just stood his ground, threatening the trespassers. Aedan stopped moving backward, lowered his raised blade to his side, and tried to appear non-threatening. The wolf continued to growl.

Kira now kneeling behind the large cracked boulder, placed one hand on the tree and one on her chest where the medallion hung. “Mother, please help me, help us. I know you are with me.” She felt a warmth within her, a slight humming vibration, as she closed her eyes and focused on her plea. She saw the image of her mother, her long ebony locks of hair, her soft smile. Kira, slightly startled, opened her eyes and the image was gone. She felt silly now, asking her mother for help. She knew her mother was gone, and only appeared in her dreams.

Aedan, still standing near the edge of the clearing just feet away from the wolf, seemed to be shaken up as his hands trembled slightly. Sweat was beginning to bead upon his brow. He knew the risks of coming here, but thought that he would have support from the gods. Now he wasn’t so sure. The wolf had began to edge closer to him, and he heard movement to the left of him. He dare not turn his head to see what it was, he was hoping it was just Zoosk.

Raising his hand back up, blade gripped tightly, Aedan decided to challenge the wolf. He lunged forward, two large steps and he was inches from the wolf. Swinging his arm downward, stabbing at the wolf who was now lurching toward him, his blade sank into the wolf’s ribs, but moments too late. The wolf bit him on his leg, tearing a chunk of meat away from his lower leg.

Kira jumped up and ran toward Aedan, screaming for her father. Aedan had fallen to the ground, unable to stand on his injured leg. As Kira closed in on her father, she saw a figure step out from the trees to the left. She stopped in front of Aedan and pulled her blade up in front of her, holding the shaft with both hands. The stranger walked slowly, hands up in front of him, saying he wanted to help. “We must stop the bleeding and get him to the village.”

Kira turned to look at her father, who was trying to untie his belt that was knotted around his waist, but his hands wouldn’t cooperate. Kira helped him, then wrapped the belt around the shredded skin and muscle. “Can you walk, father” Kira asked him softly as she anxiously eyed the wolf lying just feet away. It didn’t move, even to breathe, but it frightened Kira after seeing it attack her father.

Aedan attempted to get up, but still could not bear weight on his leg. The young man helped Aedan stand, holding most of Aedan’s weight as he hobbled back toward the Tree of Life. As he settled under the shade of the enormous tree, Aedan asked the young man to fetch a large stick he could use as a crutch to aid him in returning home.

As the young man walked away, Aedan hurriedly spoke to Kira.

“Kira, you must go find the stone. I cannot help you anymore, there is no way I will make it with my leg torn so badly. It is at the crest of this mountain, at the head of the stream, where the spring bubbles up from the earth. Once you make it through this grove of trees and into the dense forest, straight north, you will find the stream. Follow it to the very top. You must do this Kira. Once you have the stone, come back here, where I will be waiting for you. You will be back here by night fall if all goes well.”

As Aedan finished giving his instructions, the young man reappeared with a large stick. He took some twine and a blanket from Aedan’s pack and padded the top, so Aedan may rest it beneath his arm and support his weight. Aedan rose on one foot in an unsteady motion, and tested it out. It was sturdy, but he still couldn’t use his injured leg to walk. He would definitely be waiting here for Kira to return. “Kira, you go, I will be fine here, waiting for you.”

Kira turned to the young man and noticed him for the first time. He was tall, skin tanned from working in the sun. Dark blonde curls sat upon his head in thick locks, framing a handsome face with eyes of dark green. He smiled at her, a dimple forming in his cheek. She blushed shyly, and thanked him for his help with Aedan. “I don’t know what we can do to thank you” she said, shaking his hand. “Please, what is your name?”

“Finley” he replied, adjusting the small quiver slung across his shoulder. I was hunting, and I heard someone speaking. “I came down to see who was here, as I am usually alone. Looks like I could have come out of the trees a little sooner.”

“Well, we are glad you came out when you did. I could never have gotten my father back to the cover of the tree alone” Kira said, blushing again as she quickly looked back down at her father who was now sitting against the large boulder. “I must get going. Thank you, again, Finley.” Kira began walking away, remembering what her father had told her. She was trying to keep the nervousness at bay, recovering slowly from the wolf attacking her father.

She approached the trees lining the clearing, and slowed her walk. As she stepped into the grove, she began humming the same tune that brought her comfort many times before. Heading due north, Kira kept a steady pace while remaining alert to any sounds. As she saw the undergrowth become thicker and the trees more dense, she knew she was getting closer. She could hear the faint sound of a stream, so she kept walking.

“Kira, wait” she heard Finley say behind her. “Your father wants me to go with you. I have my bow and arrows, I can help protect you.” Kira stopped, looking back at Finley sprinting toward her.

“And did he tell you what I must do?” Kira asked, eyeing Finley suspiciously. Her father had been so vague with her, she doubted that he would send a stranger along for the journey.

“He only told me to stop and wait for you where the tree splits in three. That you would be safe past that point. I know nothing of what you are doing.” Finley looked back at Kira with suspicion momentarily. “Please, I just want to make sure you are safe, and that you get back to your father” Finley pleaded.

Kira acquiesced, reluctantly, and began walking again in silence. Finley tagged along, barely making a sound as he strode behind her. The brush now more dense, limiting their available path. Following the due north directions that her father had given was becoming more difficult. Kira was navigating around shrubs and thorn-covered plants. The sound of babbling water was growing louder. Kira paused to scan her surroundings. Just ahead, there was a shimmer of light as the suns stray rays struck down onto the water’s surface. Kira squealed delightfully, feeling she was accomplishing something. She turned to Finley, smiling as she said “There’s the stream. Now we just follow it to the top!”

Finley grinned back, his dimple forming again, and Kira had to turn away. She didn’t know why he made her blush so easily. She was uncomfortable around him, but also felt an easiness when he spoke to her, like she could tell him anything. They both began climbing again, the path now a bit more rocky by the bed of the shallow stream.

After a while, Kira found she was winded, and wanted to rest for a moment. Leaning against a tree, she took her canteen out to sip some water, then offered it to Finley. Both feeling better after the cool drink, Finley saw the tree up ahead that appeared to split into three separate trunks. Pointing, he told her to look up ahead.

“I will wait for you there, as your father said. But if you need me, you yell loudly. I will come to you.”

“Thank you” was all that Kira said, and then she was off following the stream again. Leaving Finley at the tree, she hiked up higher and higher, until the stream was just barely flowing from a small pond of water. The small pond had formed beneath a rocky area where water bubbled freely from beneath the stones.

Kira waded through the water, the pool only deep enough to reach her lower legs, and came to the rocky formation. Reaching into the crevice where water was flowing freely, she blindly felt around for a small round stone. That is what she imagined she would find, how she saw the images in her mind when her father spoke about the stones. Her fingers hit something smooth, and it rolled in the crevice. Grabbing hold and pulling out the smooth stone, Kira knew instantly that this is what she was seeking. The vibration of a strange energy traveled from the tips of her fingers up to her shoulder, and she gripped harder to not lose the stone. As she squeezed her fist around the stone and stepped backward, she stumbled backward, landing in the pool of water. Stone still in hand, she closed her eyes, relieved she didn’t lose it. There she was again, long black hair, eyes welcoming and smile enchanting.

“Kira, I knew you would find the stone. Let Finley help you, he is kind and will protect you on your journey. You must find the other two stones. Your father cannot help you, he is growing weaker. Get back to him now, he needs you, Kira.”


Fountain of Words

Share your story here…

An inviting line when you open up the blank Word Press editor. 

Sometimes the story flows from you like bubbly water gurgling in a stream of words.  So many words whirling around, forming sentences and phrases, ready to run from left to right, anticipating the punctuation that forms the tone with which one might speak the words into life.  Will they be informative? Maybe they will be exciting, or loud with emotional importance. Perhaps there are questions prompting the readers’ minds to explore their own word fountains. They are ready to be expelled whether by the stroke of a key or the brush of a pen, waiting for that life giving moment.  

Sometimes the invitation stares back at you expectantly, then disappointingly, while the story struggles to find a way to escape the confines of your mind. Words ducking down in crevices, afraid to join the other words for fear of sounding funny or irrational.  Wondering if the few forming letters will ever measure up to the words found in other brains, the more sophisticated lines that have been bought and read over and over again. Hesitation and doubt keeping the words dammed up in a stagnant puddle, muddled together and confused. 

Where will my words go? 

Who will my words touch? 

Will they bring happiness and wonder? 

Will they escape my mind once more?

Three Stones Ch. 7

Chapter Seven – In The Clearing Kira was very alert now. The way Zoosk had reacted about crossing the bridge gave her goosebumps. Her hair was standing on end, and her instincts were awakened. The rocky path seemed to narrow more as they climbed higher, reaching the peak of the hill, but not yet defeating the mountain. The air was chilly and crisp. There was no smell of wood burning up here, only fresh air.

 As they came to what appeared to be the end of the path, where brush and weeds overtook any hint of a traveled trail, Aedan stepped into the shrubs and reached out for Kira’s hand. Guiding her along through the thick undergrowth of the forest, they soon came to a clearing with a looming tree and a large boulder in the middle.

 Kira let go of Aedan’s hand and kept walking toward the boulder. It had a large crack down the middle, and one side seemed to lean over too far. Kira could see that if you were to piece the two sides together properly, they would resemble a large table.

 “Is this Table Rock? The one from the story?” Kira asked, surprised at the scene in front of her.

 “It is. This is the place where sacred ceremonies were once held. The village was once not far down the mountain side. As we had to adapt to more farming and less hunting, villages moved further down the mountain. This is a lost place to our people. Not many come here anymore, and those that do are usually just here to hunt. Special ceremonies are a thing of the past.

 Kira found herself running her fingers over the rough surface of the boulder. She could almost feel an energy in the air, but brushed it off as just her own excitement. The stories were coming to life. She never dreamed that such thrilling stories had a real tie to her own heritage.

 “And this, this is the Tree of Life? The one with a sweet nectar?” Kira gingerly stepped over to the looming tree whose branches seemed to span half of the clearing.

 “The Tree of Life, yes. This is a sacred tree that produces a sweet nectar that our ancestors thought to be sacred. It was believed that it aided in the development of one’s powers.”

 “Father, what is so dangerous about this place? Why do we carry these scians with us?”

 “There are animals here that we do not typically run into down in our village. Wolves, bears… they can be dangerous and aggressive to people who pass into this area, as it has been long abandoned by our kind. We must be careful and alert, watching for danger.”

 Kira glanced around the edge of the clearing, looking for signs of life other than the birds, bees, and small creatures she had seen scampering in the tall grass.

 Aedan stepped up to the tree trunk, touching the chestnut-brown bark with his calloused hands. Mumbling a few words quietly, he stretched his arms up to the lowest growing tree limb. Barely reaching it, he managed to keep hold while walking his hands to the end of the limb, pulling it down.

 One of the branches growing off the end of the large branch snapped off into Aedan’s hand, a yellowish liquid began dripping slowly from the injured tree. Aedan grabbed his small copper cup from the hook on his sack, catching the sticky liquid just in time. Minutes later, there was enough liquid to sip down in one swallow, and Aedan handed the cup to Kira.

 “Many years ago, this process would have taken several men a whole day to gather the nectar for the Rites of Passage ceremony. Today, we gather enough for you to sip on and ask the gods to bless you.”

 Kira took the copper mug, holding it in cupped hands, peering into the golden liquid sitting at the bottom. Aedan again rummaged in his sack, and produced a silver medallion that was fastened to a dark purple ribbon. The medallion was tarnished and beaten. Kira imagined that it was once gleaming silver, polished regularly to keep it sparkling.

Aedan lifted the ribbon over Kira’s head and around her neck, the medallion dropping lightly onto Kira’s chest. Her heart began to thump with excitement. “We don’t have the proper robes, face paint, or elders to do a true Rites of Passage, Kira. However, you are of age, and this is something that I never took part in. We will do the best we can, so I will have you repeat after me.

Aedan spoke to the gods with his hands stretched up in the air, asking them to bless his daughter with the gift that they chose. Then told her to repeat his prayer.

Bless me, sacred with the light upon me – light without and light within.

May the blessed sunlight shine upon me like a large bonfire, so that stranger and friend may warm themselves at it.

And may your light shine out of mine two eyes, like a candle set in a windowsill, bidding aimless souls to seek shelter from the storm.

And may the blessing of rain be on me, that the spirits of the gods wash me clean, leaving a shining blue in my eyes, like the sky where the stars guide the way.

And may the blessing of the earth be upon me, that the ground be soft as I journey on the paths you provide, and that the ground be soft for when I need to lie and rest upon it, and that my needs are met by your gifts placed here to nourish me, body and soul.

And may the blessing of the gods be upon me to protect me from those who wish to see your will undone. That you provide me with the powers I need to fight for you, and to fight for me.

So be it, as you will.

 Kira repeated each phrase, mimicking her father’s pose, feeling a vibration in her chest growing with each word. The copper mug she held in her trembling hands now rose to her lips, and she drank down the sweet liquid it held. Her face flushed, turning pink and feeling warm and vibrant. Her eyes glistened with unshed tears, she wanted to cry because of the beautiful prayer. She also wanted to cry because she felt like her mother was watching her as she completed the prayer, she had heard the familiar humming in her mind.

 Aedan also had unshed tears threatening to spill over as he leaned in and hugged Kira. “You are now a woman. And you are now a protector. I must now show you what you are to protect.” He picked up his sack and started for the far edge of the grove, Kira following his footsteps

Three Stones Ch. 6

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.

Three Stones – Chapter Five – Going North

 The sun wasn’t up yet, but Kira couldn’t lay there any longer. She jumped out of bed, feeling the anticipation build minute by minute. She hurriedly put on some layers of clothes; thick pants and a long-sleeved shirt over some cooler clothing. She knew the hike was going to be long, and up on the mountain it would be a good ten degrees cooler than it were at the cabin. Once her boots were laced, she set about packing up some biscuits and dried meat.   
 Aedan was up not long after Kira. He looked tired and pale, just as he had the morning the stormless thunder had occurred. Kira was worried about him. Aedan had made several vague comments about his time running short, but Kira was so absorbed in all the changes taking place in her world that she didn’t even recognized how tired and run down her father was appearing these days.

 “Father, are you sure you want to go today? You look tired, we can rest up and plan better for tomorrow” Kira said as Aedan fumbled in his large pack.

 “No, Kira. We must go today. Are you all packed?”

 “Yes, I packed some food for us, too”

 “Let Zoosk out of the fence, he can walk with us”

Zoosk was their dog, he normally went with Aedan when he travelled. Kira thought it was more companionship than protection, but every little bit of protection helped. Zoosk could be very protective of her at times, even snarling at Aedan if he raised his voice to Kira. The thought of this made Kira smile, Aedan would sometimes pretend to yell at Kira just to gauge the reaction of their four legged mate. It pleased Aedan to know that Zoosk would protect Kira even from him.

 As they set out on the trail behind their cabin, Kira questioned Aedan about her mother and the vision she had had the previous day. Kira was beginning to understand that there was much more about her father’s life, and her life, that she needed to learn. She watched him as they walked. He kept fidgeting with a small silver chain that hung from his pocket. The last question she asked him seemed to make him uncomfortable, and he hesitated to answer.

 “Father, did you ever learn of your special power?” Kira had timidly asked.

 “This is partially why we must go north, Kira. You must learn my truths, as well as your own” Aedan replied.

 “What truths, what are your truths that I must learn?” Kira felt muddled in her own mind.

 “I did learn a power, a special gift from our ancestors. I was thirteen years old, it was summer, and I was swimming with some friends at the lake. One of them thought it would be a good idea to swim toward the damn and try to reach the bottom. We had a small canoe that I stayed in, watching from above. We were young, wilder than we were smart, and brave was often synonymous with stupid.”

 “His name was Bradan, he was a daring person. He never hesitated to try anything. When he dove down under the water’s surface, no one was really scared because when Bradan attempted something, he generally succeeded. The three of us that stayed above water watched, seeing bubbles rise occasionally to the surface.”

“After what seemed like a lifetime, there was a great burst of bubbles, and the other two boys panicked and scrambled for the canoe. I jumped in the water and dove down. I couldn’t see anything through the blurriness of water hitting my eyes. Pushing hard to go deeper, I caught a glimpse of his body. He appeared to be caught on something and unable to get loose to swim back up, he was fighting weakly.”

 “As I reached him, I felt an odd feeling in my chest. It was like a vibration, or a humming from in my heart. I thought it was panic, or the need for air. But when I was just an arms length away, my arm extended trying to grab him, I felt it. It was like the vibration in my chest shot down my arm and exited through my fingers. The water churned, there was a new current pushing me. Bradan and I both began to move up toward the surface of the lake. I saw him finally break free from his restraint, hurling faster toward the surface than myself.”

 “At the surface, Bradan coughed and sputtered, winded from the fight below. He never knew what I had experienced, he believed he fought hard enough to get free. But from then on, I continued to try to control water. At times I was successful, and at times not so much happened.” Aedan became quiet again as he pondered his power.

 “So you are a water mage?” Kira inquired.


 “Did you have a stone?” Kira kept questioning.


 “Then how did you use your power?” There was so much that Kira hadn’t been able to understand about all this magic.

 “The stones help to channel the magic. The provide a point of focus. The stones help, definitely, but are not required to use your power. We all have the ability to use magic, Kira. Some are stronger mages, and some are more knowledgeable. There is an ancient power that is rooted in our blood. The stones just help focus the magic, and can help a weaker mage make better use of their powers.”

 “So why are the stones so important to us?” Kira wanted to understand this new world she was learning of, especially now that she knew her father had felt the same humming she had. Was she beginning to find her power?

 “They are vital to those of us who do not know how to use our magic, Kira. That is now all of us. The stones will help guide the magic and strengthen us when we need it. Not many of us even know what our gift is. People like myself who faced a terrible situation and needed help have been lucky enough to get a push from the gods. If I had never been at the lake with Bradan that day, I may not know that I could control water that way.”

 “Athair, am I learning my power? I saw mathair, we spoke, it felt so real. I want it to be real.” Kira rarely used the endearing terms for mother and father, only when she was especially worried or wanting of something. A smile came to Aedan’s lips as he remembered her as a small child, begging for a small toy, calling out “please, athair, please can I have it?”

 “We will soon see, won’t we?” Aedan responded. We should camp here for the night. It will be dark soon, and I am starving.

 Kira looked around. She had never spent the night in the woods, and was a little weary after all the tales she had heard so far. With a heavy sigh, she peeled off her heavy pack and began to gather kindling for a fire. She knew her journey was just beginning.

Vanishing Trace

A response to the Daily Post one word Prompt – Trace

“Hi, my friends call me Trace” she said cordially, as she took her seat at the table.  Awkward is the best way to describe how she felt as she sat down joining the group which consisted of his brother Galen, his sister Amber, and his parents Mike and Julia.  Now that introductions were made and she was invited to sit with them for at least some coffee, she wasn’t sure if she should stay.  Her shyness and introverted nature begged her to flee the cafe.  Her politeness kept her there.  

Last night she had been in his bed after meeting him at The Wet Whistle, a local bar that she rarely visited.  There was live music, beer, and no one she knew.  That’s exactly what she wanted.  An uncomplicated night to help her escape her complicated life.  The light banter between her and the nameless man who she now knew as Joshua was fun and titillating. They hit it off quick, she found Joshua likeable and interesting.  Avoiding anything too personal, the conversation was kept light with tales of adventures and experiences.  No careers or family came up, there were no mention of friends.  Just two people having a decent conversation without any sign of commitment. 

They danced, alcohol causing a swirling giddiness to keep the two close together as they made their way gradually around the dance floor, laughing and swaying.  His hands felt strong on her back, but gentle as they guided her to the sway of the slow melody.  She couldn’t remember the last time she had danced.  High school prom, maybe? It certainly wasn’t at her wedding… the bastard wouldn’t dance.  Joshua, however, seemed to love it.  He was graceful and confident, or perhaps he was as lost in the moment as Trace was.  Trace felt bold and free, she leaned into him, finding his kiss to be as gentle as his hands.  

“Are you local, Trace?” Mike asked between bites of apple turnover, inturrupting her memory of the perfect unplanned night. 

“No, sir.  I moved here two years ago.  It’s such a lovely place, quiet and peaceful” Trace replied.  

“It’s a small town, for sure.  But wait til you know more people.  The peacefulness disappears.” Amber interjected with a look of boredom on her face.  

Trace knew all about small towns.  The town she came from was much smaller than this. Gossip was rampant, and everyone knew everything that happened to you seemingly before you knew it yourself.  

Julia kept eyeing Trace as she sipped on her coffee.  “So Josh tells us that you only met last night.  What are the chances that you should meet again this morning.”  It wasn’t really a question, and Trace did not know how to reply.  Julia sat there with her neatly styled hair, her perfect makeup, and her glittering diamonds all mocking the relaxed look that Trace was sporting today.  Skinny jeans and a whit tee, a braided hemp necklace with beatiful orange stones, and tan canvas flats.  She definitely felt out of place at this table where everyone appeared to be ready for Sunday church services.  

“Yes mom, we had a couple of drinks together, it was a nice night” Joshua politely replied to his mom, saving Trace as she began to blush, remembering how nice the night really was.  He grinned over at her. “My only regret is not getting your number before you left.” The conversation continued around her, but Trace was lost in her own thoughts. 

She had left, quickly and quietly, in the middle of the night.  She did not want this.  She had been separated from her husband for two years, but the divorce was just now final after a long battle with him and his family.  All she could do was smile at him and provide a chance for her mind to quit whirling by paying attention to the coffee mug in her hand.  She added some creamer and a packet of sugar, then began to absently stir the concoction.  Why exactly had he called her over to their table? To meet his family? To make her blush in front of their accusing stares? She was beginning to become agitated at the banter, but realized it wouldn’t be so bad to see him again.  she did enjoy herself last night, she actually felt like herself while she was with Joshua. 

“This has been lovely and serendipitous.  It was so very nice to meet you all.” Trace politely stated as she glanced at her watch.  “But I must get going.  Joshua,” she grinned at him, now unable to help herself, “If you wish to see me again, you will find me as you did this morning, perhaps by chance.”  She excused herself, gulping down the coffee and leaving the mug on the counter by the other used mugs and dishes.  

As she Trace walked out the door, she saw the look on Joshua’s face.  His eyes sparkled with humor, he winked, conveying that the challenge had been accepted, and she saw him say something to his parents as he folded his napkin and began to get up from his seat. 

Trace hurried out the door to avoid him.  She rushed to the next shop on the strip, opening the lock with her keys and quickly ducking inside the shop, vanishing from the awkward encounter.  She watched him as he stepped outside onto the walkway, looking around the parked cars, unable to locate her.  “Good luck Joshua” Trace said as she turned the sign hanging on the back of the door to Open, ready to start her day.  

Three Stones Ch. 4

As the two sat at the small table, fire crackling nearby, Aedan continued the tale.“Raegan stood frozen at the bonfire. Watching the crowd, he witnessed chaos unfold. Wolves had entered the sacred field and attacked the families closest to the edge of the gathering. He vaguely heard the frantic calls of his father as he looked upon the village members running away, some of them trying to help injured loved ones to escape. There were few villagers that were sprawled on the ground, unable to move, and abandoned by everyone in hopes of their own escape.

“Raegan felt a hand grasp his upper arm firmly, and heard his father clearly for the first time. “Stay behind me, Raegan” and Raegan stepped behind the large body of his father. The bonfire came to life, growing in size and sparks spitting out toward the wolves. Raegan saw the elder motioning to his father, but didn’t understand what was happening. The commotion was too much to translate into clear thoughts.

“The village elder reached into his dark red robe and produced a small round stone in the grasp of his fist, and extended his hand toward the sky. Raegan heard the crackling of electricity in the air. He looked again to his father, who was standing in a manner eerily similar to the village elder, mimicking the elder’s movements. The fire continued to spark and spit, reaching toward the wolves that had interrupted the celebration. Raegan could feel the heat from the now enormous fire warming his back. He turned to gaze at the sight of the fire that seemed ready to engulf the entire field when he felt a hard blow to his left side.

Three Stones Ch. 3

“That was one of my favorite stories as a boy” Aedan said over his dinner plate, “Eat, I will tell you the story.” Kira absently stirred her fork around her plate, thoughts twirling around her mind distracting her from her food.“Reagan was twelve years and eleven months, and twenty eight days. A feast was being planned for his coming of age. It was, as tradition held, a time for immense celebration. The moon was nearing fullness, bright beams of light interrupted the darkness of night. In two days, Reagan would become a man in all rights.

“It was a mystery to everyone what their talent would be. As the thirteenth year approached, many children would fantasize and dream of the many capabilities that were possible. Raegan spent nights upon nights dreaming of summoning the rain, controlling the weather. He thought that would be most helpful for his family and their crop farm. The recent droughts had all but ruined their crop and sent the family into a time of great need for food and for money.

Three Stones Ch. 2 

Kira lay under the tree gazing up at the early morning rays of light, watching the branches sway in the breeze that blew gently, rustling the leaves slightly as the low rumble of thunder bounced off the mountains. The long flowing branches of the willow appeared to be dancing with each other, movements graceful on the breeze. Today, there were no birds singing in the branches, and the low growling thunder made her uneasy, so she closed her eyes and tuned into the humming melody of her mother’s voice.With the calming energy seeming to seep into Kira through the ground, she eventually abandoned her thoughts about her father and fell asleep in the soft grass.

Her beautiful hair fell below her shoulders, long dark wavy locks glistened in the sunlight. Her long skirt swayed across the top of her bare feet as she seemed to glide along the ground toward Kira. Kira rubbed her sleepy eyes, not believing the apparition. “Mom?”

Kira sat up, looking around her. Everything seemed surreal. The air seemed to glisten, The ground was covered with a thin layer of misty fog. Kira’s mother closed the distance in a graceful march. Kira rose to her feet, almost leaping into her mother’s arms. The embrace was light, but full of love. When they pulled apart, Kira gazed into her mother’s emerald eyes and knew that this was more than a dream.

Three Stones Ch. 1

The path was overgrown with weeds, making it hard to navigate through the twists and turns on the mountain. Nearby, a bird sang a lonely song as the stream bubbled its own tune. The quest seemed to be impossible. Three stones? How would she ever find three stones to heal her father? But she must. He was the last of her kind that possessed enough power and knowledge to use the stones. Without the stones, without her father, the remaining people in her village would cease to exist.