The Stone Call
Author: Stephanie Bretherton

Chapter 5
The Plan

Time passed for the trio as they ventured north through the acres of fields. The sun was high in the sky and the heat was becoming unbearable. Tim continued to scratch where his clothes were rubbing agitatedly on his skin. Bridget watched him quietly.
“God, it must be midsummer in this world!” he moaned as he wiped his brow.
“I know, it’s only autumn where we come from,” said Bridget to Aeridel.
Aeridel smiled and replied, “Well the summers have been getting hotter recently, and you get used to it after a while.”
They began walking up a large hill. A large oak tree stood in the middle of a vast cornfield. They could just about see its tall branches in the distance.
“Let’s rest over there, in the shade,” suggested Tim, pointing desperately to the large tree. He had only just noticed it was there. Soon they were sat underneath, fanning their faces and feeling uncomfortable as the sun reached its peak. They took turns in sipping water from the leather skin flasks. Aeridel took out the magical map from her bag. Suddenly she felt a strange aura coming from the paper. Bridget saw the shocked look and her face and asked,
“Hey, are you alright? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Yes, it’s just… I felt something when I opened the map. It was strange, like it was vibrating a glowing.”
“Hmm… sounds like what we felt when we placed the pendants round our necks. Maybe you’ve had a sort of magical connection with the map,” Tim mumbled slightly with his eyes still closed.
He hated the heat, detested it, and when it became too hot and stuffy like it was now, he would try to cool down as much as possible. Bridget did not seem to mind the heat as much; in fact, she enjoyed sunbathing on the grass during lunchtimes at Wilbury High, drifting off into another of hr daydreams.
Aeridel examined the map. After a short time, she found her own village, Telbrek, the woods they had walked through and Delroth, the village they had just come from. However, she could not see any tree in the middle of any field surrounding Delroth.
“Hold on, I can’t find where we are,” said Aeridel, becoming increasingly worried.
“Let me have a look,” asked Bridget. She took the map from her and examined it for herself, using her finger as a pointer, but Bridget could not find it either.
“Well, that is strange,” she said thoughtfully.
Aeridel took the map back. She gazed at the map and thought about it for a long time.
‘There must be some way we can find out where we are. We’re screwed if we don’t know then, what sort of navigator would I be?” she thought.
Then, the map began to form into the centre, all of the colours and lines swirling into it like a whirlpool. The whirlpool then expanded to form the face of a beautiful young woman, with long, wavy auburn hair and bright pulsating green eyes.
‘Who, who are you?’ thought Aeridel.
A gentle voice replied through Aeridel’s mind, sounding as clear as crystal, “I am the Maid of the Map. I felt your magical energy flowing through your body. I knew I was to help you in some way. That is why I show myself before you now.”
‘And we are able to communicate through my mind?’ Aeridel thought.
“Yes, my child,” replied the Maid, as a slight smile curved on her perfectly rounded lips, Aeridel disliked people calling her ‘their child’, seeing as she already had parents. “It has been many years since I’ve talked to someone like this, long before the war reigned on Bragverla. I can see that everything is peaceful for the moment. That’s good. I can also see that you are a friend, not an enemy. But I see a great destiny for you, Aeridel. You aim to help those beside you, am I correct?”
Aeridel looked towards Tim and Bridget. Tim was snored quietly and Bridget was sat staring at the clouds contentedly.
‘Yes.’
“Then I shall too. What is your request?”
‘I need to know why we cannot find the tree we are sat under on the map.’
“That is because you are sat within the Wishful Fields, my dear. They cannot be distinguished on a map because they change all of the time.”
‘What are the Wishful Fields? I’ve never heard of them before.’
“Basically, my dear, the fields change to satisfy the needs of whoever is on the land. In this case, when Timothy complained about the heat, the tree formed to aid him.”
‘But, wouldn’t the field just be plain grass? How come its full of corn?’
“Simple. See the farm over there?” The map suddenly changed back to form a landscape. A small red circle appeared over a building west from the field. Aeridel heard the Maid’s voice again;
“Well, the land is full of corn because it is the farmer’s wish. He wants to provide food for his growing family and for the neighbouring villages. The fields allow this because it is a good deed, and not a greedy plan to make profit from.”
The landscape formed back into the Maid’s face.
‘That’s a very kind thing to do, but how did you know Tim’s name?’
“I have the ability to speak with the forces of nature. I listened to the fields and they told me about the farmer. For your friends’ case, I can somehow read your mind also.”
‘Wow, so you know about Bridget as well?’
The maid nodded.
‘How can that be?’ asked Aeridel in her mind.
“You know that feeling you felt when you opened me?”
‘Yes…’
“I believe that we have formed a special magical bond together. I am not sure how or why but I feel that my purpose is now intertwined with your destiny. I am sure I am to help you in some way. That is all I can tell you.”
‘Well, if our destinies are connected then I’m sure you and I will become good friends.” She smiled at the paper.
Bridget drifted her gaze towards Aeridel, curious about why she was so happy.
“Why are you so happy all of a sudden?” she asked.
“Oh, I’ve just realized where we are, thanks to the Maid of the map!” exclaimed Aeridel.
“Where? Who? What?” said Tim dozily.
“We’re in the Wishful Fields, so the map says,” Aeridel replied.
Bridget looked over Aeridel’s shoulder to view the map, but so no labels on the spot.
“Hold on, it doesn’t say it here on the map.”
“The map spoke to me, Bridget,” said Aeridel, stroking the surface. She felt the paper of the map go warm, as though it was affected by her touch.
“The map spoke to you?” asked Bridget.
“Yep. The Maid of the Map told me about the fields and she knew both of your names as well.”
“How?”
“You know that aura I felt before? Well the Maid and I formed a bond, so she can read my mind now.”
“Whoa! So Tim was right for once?!”
“Seems so,” replied Aeridel, covering her mouth to hide her laughter.
“I do have my moments,” muttered Tim, sitting up and stretching his arms. “Think you can ask your new friend where we go next?”
Aeridel closed her eyes and concentrated on the maid. ‘Please, I have one more request. Could you tell us where we have to go now? Give us guidance to continue our journey.’
“You must venture through the Cave of Lorei. I must warn you, the Dolites are docile cave dwellers and there have been many wars because of land ownership, so they can be very wary of humans. I also sense a great danger within its depths. So be on guard.”
‘Thank you, Maid of the Map.’
She opened her eyes again and saw that the face of the beautiful Maid had disappeared, leaving only the landscape on the yellowing parchment.

~X~

The sun blazed high in the sky. The skies were clear, no clouds in sight.
Perfect flying conditions.
A dark shadow loomed over the fields and the snow-toped mountains.
The Rosethorn.
Considered by Ozzarath to be a threat to all of the innocent and the Destroyer of Peace.
In the bridge, he stood silently, twiddling his knobbly fingers, awaiting instruction.
On a single throne in the centre of the room, the Lord sat, a hand resting on his young, smooth chin, cloaked in rich purple robes that shimmered like the night. Below him, workers were busy piloting the ship.
“All is ready, Captain. We shall report if there are any problems on deck.”
“Good,” replied the Lord through the speaker.
“Master, are you sure this is a good idea? I mean, its power is immensely strong…”
“Yes, I must see its power for myself. I must know how the stone’s power is before I unleash it’s so called might onto Bragverla.”
“That seems like a reasonable answer,” replied Ozzarath, “Any ideas on where to test the stone’s power?”
The Lord paused for a moment, scratching his chin. After a few minute he said,
“I have been going over this for quite some time. At first, I considered whether to blow up some poor village, but I’m going to save that for later.”
“So, where do you have in mind, my Lord?”
“I plan to destroy the Great Warlock of Terrona.”
“But my Lord, no-one can defeat him! His powers are immensely strong, better than our powers combined!”
“We have the stone now. This is the perfect opportunity. The battle between human magic and nature’s strength…”
“But, my Lord-”
“SILENCE! I have decided. This is the challenge bestowed upon the stone.”
Ozzarath fidgeted in the background, ashamed that he should dare question his master’s authority. The Lord gazed at the window to view the cloudless open skies ahead. Beside him lay the stone, cushioned by a deep red silk pillow placed on a metal stand. The stone, a pool of blues, greens and yellows, sparkled like the Bragverlean ocean. The colours seemed to buzz with energy, and as the Lord stared at it, the more excited he became. ‘Warlock, you shall meet your fate soon, I’ll reveal your secret to all. You are nothing but a fraud. A fake. Your Legend is over.”
The Rosethorn slowly glided on the sea of clouds, like a mighty ship passing through the raging sea. A mountain of clouds faced them, and the airship passed through.

~X~

Leaves began falling off the tree whilst Bridget packed their lunch away. They all sat in silence, the Cave of Lorei and its hidden depths boring into their skulls like chisels on wood. None of them liked the whole idea of travelling through an underground kingdom, especially if the inhabitants were aggressive and vulgar. Aeridel had told them not to worry;
“I have heard many stories about the Dolites. The minstrel would tell us a story every Sabbath. One of the tales was about a war between the humans and the Dolites. We were claiming land… but the son of the Dolite who signed the Peace Treaty has fallen under his grandfather’s spell.”
“A spell?” asked Tim.
“Yes, the grandfather told him that there was no treaty and that the Dolites won the battle and claimed the land as their own. He has put a spell on the King to make him believe the story.”
“I feel sorry for the king… Maybe we can help him and break the spell?” said Bridget, looking at her stone. She suddenly felt a warm feeling crawl up from her spine and resonate on her chest.
She heard voices in her head;
‘What a nice girl…’
‘So warm hearted…’
She jumped slightly when she heard these, she asked aloud; “What?”
“Hmmm? I didn’t say anything, Bridget are you okay?” asked Tim, concerned.
“Yeah, I’m fine I thought I heard something that’s all…”
She shrugged it off thinking it was her imagination, but her thoughts went to the stone dangling from her neck. ‘Just what powers do you have anyway?’ she thought.
After that, everything was silent: everyone was too lost in their own thoughts to make any more conversation. The rustle of the leaves on the oak tree and the cornstalks swaying in the wind was all to be heard. A bird sung in the sky.
Bridget slowly got up and glanced at Tim before sighing and turning to talk to Aeridel. He was gazing into the hills, thinking. ‘He always had a thing for landscapes…’ she thought again to herself.
However, unbeknownst to Bridget, he was actually worrying about her. He dreaded to think what would happen if she got hurt, or worse even die. He felt sad, depressed by this thought. His stone sensed his pain. It began to grow warm on his chest.
He looked down and noticed its faint glow. It soothed him, and as he stared out into the hills, he clasped the stone in his hands. A cool voice rang in his mind, “Don’t worry, as long as you are with her, protecting her, keeping her safe, then no harm will come to her…”
He suddenly felt better. He turned towards Bridget. She was busy talking to Aeridel about hair accessories. He sent out a promise in his mind; “I will protect you.”
“Hey Aeridel, show me where this Cave is again on the map,” he said, walking towards them.
“The least you could do is say ‘Please’, you ingrate!” shouted Aeridel. Bridget began laughing.
“Fine. Please show me,” he replied, and then to himself; “You witch.”
As Aeridel rummaged in her bag, Bridget sidled up to Tim and whispered, “I heard that. And you’re not insulting her because technically, she is a witch. But she’s a good witch, because she can heal.”
“Damn!” he muttered back.
“Okay, I’ve found it.” said Aeridel.
“Here’s the Cave, Tim.” said Bridget, pointing her finger on the spot.
“What’s that, next to it?” he asked, moving Bridget’s finger lower down.
He was pointing to a drawing of a hill, with strange grass. Suddenly, the map changed into the Maiden’s face.
“Oh, hi, erm… what’s your name?” asked Bridget.
“Well, I’m the Maid of the Map to most people. But you can call me Marian.”
“Nice name. Why have you suddenly appeared then?” Tim asked.
“I’m answering your question, Tim. The place is called The Fields of the Fallen.”
“Thank you.” said Tim.
Marian closed her eyes and nodded. She disappeared back into the paper and the map returned to normal. The drawing of the fields was imprinted on Bridget’s mind with fear. The remnants of many meals by the cave people, her unconscious said to her. She shivered even though the sun was overwhelmingly hot; she never liked seeing the inside of the human body, even worse the bones.
“You okay?” asked Tim, “You look like you’ve been punched by the Reaper.” And he was right, Bridget’s face was as white as snow, but it had a slight greenish tinge. Though he couldn’t see it, her hands began to sweat and were shaking slightly.
“Yes, I’ll be alright in a minute,” she murmured, “The Cave is due north-east from here, right Aeridel?”
“Yeah,” Aeridel replied.
She rolled up the map and placed it in her rucksack, then threw it over her shoulders. With a sigh, she began to walk. Tim and Bridget followed a pace behind. For a while nobody seemed to talk to each other. They were both scared for one another, the fear of an unknown place taking its toll.
Aeridel however, was unaffected by the fear of the Dolites and the Cave of Lorei. The evening tales had taught her not to be scared. Because as well as the weight of the rucksack on her back, there was a heavy burden of homesickness as she thought for a passing moment about her parents. Would they be proud of her? How can they, when they may never know about her black magic training? ‘They should be proud’, she thought, ‘proud that I am helping the two heroes from our legend’. She smiled to herself as she led them on, the burden lifting off of her chest with each lumbering step.
Behind her, Bridget fingered the cuffs of her dress. It felt slightly rough, but was pleasant on her skin. Her hands were still damp with sweat. She kept her head down, looking at the trodden dirt path. She didn’t want Tim to see her face, to show him her fear. She felt embarrassed. ‘He wouldn’t be scared of bones’, she thought. ‘He isn’t scared of much, he’s so lucky. I wish I was brave like him’. She heaved a deep sigh, to try and relieve some of the nerves.
Tim looked at Bridget as she continued to stare at the ground. He could tell she was scared; this whole thing was scary. He wanted to put his arm around her, comfort her; but he couldn’t do it. ‘No’, he thought, ‘She’d shrug me off. She wouldn’t want me to feel sorry for her. To take pity. I only want to help. Well, it’s worth a try.’
“Bridget?” he asked. She looked up from the floor, into his eyes. He looked through hers, and he saw the fear, even though her eyes shone with the colour of the sky.
“Yes?” she replied. It was a relief for her to share the adventure with her best friend. ‘He could be a great comfort to me’, she thought.
“Oh, erm I was thinking, if you ever felt like talking or something,” he paused, feeling a little embarrassed, but he continued, “Well, you know that I’ll be here for you, right?”
Her face slowly crept into a warm, comforted smile, and placed his hand in hers,
“Yes, I do,” she said, grinning, “And you know that I’d do the same for you too.”
“Yeah,” he replied. He gave her a big smile, and then they started laughing. Bridget said, through bursts of laughter; “You looked really goofy when you did that!”
Aeridel turned around, curious as to why they were laughing.
“You two seem to be feeling better, you were so miserable before.”
They quickly broke hands. Tim said,
“Yes, thank you.”
Bridget simply nodded, her cheeks showing some colour now with a slight pinch of red. ‘What would I do without you, Tim,’ she thought.
“Well, you should be ‘cos we’re here,” Aeridel said. All of the happiness drained out of Tim and Bridget like water in a sink. The fear came back in its place.

~X~

 

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