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

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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.

 “Yes”

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

 “No”

 “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.

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.