The Stone Call
Author: Stephanie Bretherton

Chapter 7
The Meeting

The cool evening sky was dotted with clouds and twinkled with a mass of shining stars. They were stood at the bottom of a huge valley where in front of them; a tiny, clear stream flowed down the hill towards the lake to the west. Tiny fairies danced on the large pebbles, but rather than being different colours, they were all golden balls of light. Bridget and Tim gazed in awe, for they had never seen such a wonderful and enchanting sight.
“There must be different breeds of fairies,” said Bridget thoughtfully; “because they’re all the same.”
“No,” replied Aeridel, “These are the Night Fairies, also known as Eves.”
“Ah,” said Tim.
They sat down on the warm grass and continued to watch the Eves. They shone like fireflies, their glows shining on the surface of the river. The trio watched for what felt like forever, entranced by the midnight ritual.
“Let’s rest here tonight, we can see the Warlock tomorrow.”
She stretched her arms and curled up like a cat, and soon fell fast asleep. Tim and Bridget continued staring at the stream. The calmness and the serenity of the scene soothed their hearts, their spirits steadily beginning to feel cleansed by the water. The Eves noticed them watching and, one by one, they fluttered towards them. They gathered around Tim and Bridget, forming a circle around their heads. The Eves stared thoughtfully at them, sensing that both the Humans were very close, they saw their true hidden feelings for each other deep within their shining auras.
These fairies were very different from the fairies in Marlin; rather than fearing humans, the Eves had kind souls. They have the ability to see through humans, and see their true selves. And the Eves saw Love in Tim and Bridget; so much love, though they were only young and had yet to unlock the true potential of their love. They began tugging lightly and Bridget and Tim’s clothes, their voices a mere twinkle as they urged them to stand.
“Oi,” said Tim, attempting to lightly waft them away with his hand, but with no luck; “What’s up? You want me to get up or something?”
They nodded in reply and he obediently got up to his feet. Bridget decidedly did the same. The Eves took hold of Tim and Bridget’s hands and placed them against each other like an embrace.
“What are they doing?” Bridget whispered, blushing a little, though it was too dark for Tim to notice.
“I don’t know,” he said.
As soon as he said this, they both heard a strange song, quiet enough not to wake Aeridel, but clear enough for Tim and Bridget. The Eves shot sparks of gold into the air above their heads. Bridget giggled.
“I think they want us to dance with them.”
The fairies began pairing up and waltzing around their heads in confirmation.
“Well, we can, if you want,” asked Tim shyly.
“Sure.”
Bridget placed her hand in his, her other resting delicately on his shoulder. He put his free hand round her waist and he turned them round in a waltz. He had never danced like this before; his heart began to beat faster for no apparent reason, and he wondered if Bridget minded this. He looked into her eyes and saw only happiness. Her eyes shone with the light of the fairies glow. The Eves seemed happy, as they twinkled a merry tune, almost like laughter. Bridget was in bliss, being close to Tim was the only thing that seemed to matter, and her heart began to beat a tune of its own.
Both hearts beating as one.
Two Friends. One Destiny.
“Tim?”
“Yeah?”
“I...” she paused, “no, it’s nothing, I’m just feeling tired now.”
“Oh, okay, let’s lie down.”
They lay down on the grass. Bridget rested her head on his chest, and settled down to sleep.
“Well, good night, Tim.,” she said. Soon she was breathing lightly.
Tim raised an arm and carefully held her, stroking her long blonde hair.
“Sleep well,” he said, though she was too tired to hear.
And he realised at that moment that he had begun to feel something new. Some feeling that was unexplainable, an emotion so strong and pure that nothing could possibly change it. For the first time, he felt true love.

~X~

“Sir, we’ve just crossed the borderline. Destination in five minutes time.”
The Lord pressed his fingers together and smiled. His eyes drifted towards his gleaming stone. Idly, he picked it up and gazed into the pools of shimmering colours. He could feel its strength almost throbbing in his hands.
“Soon, it won’t be long now until your power can be tested,” he said to himself.
The stone seemed to glitter in response. The Lord got up and, placing the stone in left pocket of his robes, commanded the pilots to land the Rosethorn. The Lord walked slowly out of the ship and towards the tall tower, the moon shining brightly behind its top. He failed to notice the small camp side just a few yards away. He walked across the river, interrupting the Eve’s midnight dancing.
“Move you damn dirty pixies,” he said angrily, splashing water all over them. They twinkled with anger, but they were too small to fight back, so went in search of some dry leaves to wipe off most of the water.
The Lord was calm, breathing silently, undeterred by what sins he was about to face. The stone felt heavy in his pocket as it bumped against his leg. His hand stretched out towards the wooden door. It opened easily; but he knew this. The Warlock was expecting him.
The circular room was filled with books; on the floor, on the stairs, brimming from the shelves. He was disgusted because he had never liked books. The Lord climbed the stairs, which led to another room. This time the room was a lot tidier, a fire burnt gently in the fireplace. A squashy looking chair faced the flames and the Lord could see a tall, pointy hat poking from it.
“Warlock, show me your face,” the Lord said.
The figure turned from the chair and looked into his eyes. He shut the book he was reading. He rose and faced the Lord directly. The Warlock was dressed in robes of deep scarlet red, his hair and long beard pure white, like chalk. He adjusted his rounded spectacles and took his wand from his belt.
“Let’s get this over with...” the Warlock sighed.
“Ha, it will be over very soon. I will prove to Bragverla that you are a fraud! Calling yourself immortal, no-one is immortal!”
“Are you so sure about that? You, who has probably never opened a book in your entire life, would never know the secrets of Magic in this world!”
“Ah, but I have this…” The Lord took out the stone from his pocket and stretched his arm so the Warlock could clearly see.
“The stone. Coveted by many, and many killed as a result of greed. You would be wise to be rid of that stone before the greed gets the better of you.”
“Before it gets the better of me? I control its power you imbecile! It has no feelings, no opinion, it cannot release its power alone!” the Lord bellowed.
“I have seen it, the future only holds darkness for you if you keep hold of that stone!” shouted the Warlock.
“Ha, I don’t believe you. I command my own fate, not the stone.”
“But do you know how to release that stone’s power?” laughed the Warlock, “How can you possibly hope to defeat me if you are unable to use it?”
The Lord looked down in embarrassment to the stone in his hand. Yes, he did not know how to unlock its power, but he will learn soon. He touched his dagger with his elbow for reassurance. He may have to make a quick escape.
“Tell me,” said the Lord, “Tell me how to use the stone and I will spare your life.”
“And why should I? You covet the stone for evil purposes!” the Warlock spat on the stone floor at the Lord’s feet in disgust.
“Then you leave me no choice…” muttered the Lord, as he withdrew the dagger from his robes. The Warlock flinched; and raised his wand in battle position. The Lord lunged, but his hand jerked as the metal bounced against the protective barrier the Warlock conjured in mere seconds.
“Ah, so you don’t even need to mutter the spell to make the magic work. You must have been training. I must say I am impressed,” said the Lord.
A great spark of gold emerged from the tip of the Warlock’s wand, shooting across the room and hitting the Lord squarely in the chest. He fell to the floor trapped by the paralysing spell. The Lord’s eyes seemed surprised as he spoke; “So are you going to kill me, Warlock?”
The Warlock stood over his body, looming like a dark shadow, a being to be feared. He kept the wand pointed at the Lord’s heart. Suddenly, he withdrew his wand, and releasing the spell said; “I am no killer.”
He walked away and stood gazing at the fire in the grate. “Killing leads to more killing. Blood over more spilt blood. Sacrifice by losing what was most precious. We are given this precious gift of life. Why do people insist on removing this gift from those who embrace it the most? The world has indeed become a dark place. I hope that someday someone will change that.”
“Humph, all rubbish. I thought you was immortal. And what good have you done to the people of Bragverla? I do not hear of the people speak your name, or tell tales about you. You are a waste of a life. You do not deserve the gift of life.”
“I am written and heard of in history. But what would you know? You cannot read.” he chuckled to himself.
The Lord got up, quickly grabbing the dagger, and thrust it into the Warlock’s back. He cried out in pain, as blood began to soak his robes, turning them black. The Lord grabbed his face, and whispered in his ear; “The problem is, I am a killer. Greed is my ally and my friend. You are alone and dying. Who is the real winner?”
He dug the dagger in deeper, and withdrew, letting the Warlock’s body slump onto the floor. The Lord grabbed some of his robes and wiped the blood off.
“Immortal, my ass.”
Something caught the Lord’s eye. He noticed a book lying open on the armchair. He stepped towards the book and picked it up gingerly. The writing on the cover was in gold and said; ‘A Legend Told: Tale of the Masadon Stones.’ Of course, the Lord did not know this. He assumed it might be useful as it had an engraved picture of the three stones, and the page left open showed a strange triangular symbol. He was curious to know more, but he hated books.
“Ozzarath can read though, He can just tell me what this book says, it might help me unlock the stones’ true potential.” he thought.
He held the book close to his chest and stole away into the night, leaving the Warlock cold on the tower’s stone floor.

~X~

Aeridel awoke to the sound of birds and rushing water as morning arrived. Rubbing her eyes she looked around. All of their rucksacks were placed against a mossy boulder. Dragonflies danced on the water of the river. She searched for Tim and Bridget, and noticed two pairs of feet behind the boulder. She crept over and saw the most romantic thing she had ever seen; they were both lying against each other, Tim holding Bridget as she lay a hand near his heart, sleeping. She thought she would let them wake up on their own. Aeridel went to the bags and rummaged around for ingredients and her cooking pot to make breakfast. Soon, the air smelt sweet with the wonderful smell of Aeridel’s porridge.
Tim awoke to the sound of his rumbling stomach. Then, he realised what he had gotten himself into, trapped under Bridget’s sleeping weight. Ever so gently, he eased her off him and stood up, with a large yawn and a few stretches. He sniffed the air, and it smelt almost of home during the weekends, when his mum would bake sometimes or make home-made meals. His nose found the sensual scent of the pot’s contents and he stared with moist lips as Aeridel stirred the porridge.
“Did you sleep well?” she asked, adding more oats.
He blushed angrily; “Erm, well… you see, oh I don’t know. Something weird happened to me last night Aeridel. Knowing Bragverla a little better, I would say it was magic, be it those fairies or something else.”
“Possibly both. You see, Eves have to power to release the emotions that people hold the most in their hearts. I think there’s something you aren’t telling me about Bridget.”
Aeridel spooned some of the porridge to check the thickness, letting it drip back into the pan. She continued stirring. Tim shuffled closer to her so his voice could be a mere whisper.
“Okay, well I think I have grown to love Bridget. Not as a best friend, well she still is my best friend but she’s more than that now. It’s kinda hard to explain. But please, don’t breathe a word of this to her, ‘cos I wanna tell her myself.”
“Your secret is safe with me,” replied Aeridel, and she began placing porridge into small bowls that she had kept in the cooking pot, along with spoons; “Breakfast is ready.”
Tim crept over to Bridget to wake her. He looked down at her face. To him it looked perfect. She seemed to have a small smile as she slept. He nudged her lightly and said;
“Hey, Bridg, Aeridel’s made us breakfast, wake up.”
Her eyes slowly opened. She sat up and rubbed her eyes so they could adjust to the light.
“Morning sleepyhead,” said Tim, smiling at her.
She smiled back and yawned in a cute way, which made Tim’s heart flutter.
“Mmmm… Smells good. Is there anything she can’t do?” Bridget said.
“Come on guys, it’s getting cold!” shouted Aeridel, who was already tucking in.
They walked over and all ate heartily, leaving the cooking pot clean of any proof of breakfast at all. Bridget began telling Aeridel what happened with the Eves. Tim listened intently and was surprised to hear that she had skipped their dance. He wondered why she had kept it quiet.
“Oi, daydreamer, what’s up?” asked Aeridel, seeing him staring at the boulder in deep thought.
“Oh, I just realised how green that boulder looks, I didn’t notice last night you see,” he replied.
“Erm… because it was dark?” said Bridget with an obvious tone. The girls began to giggle.
“No duh, Bridg. No duh.”
With full stomachs and happy faces, the trio walked steadily over the wooden bridge and towards the Warlock’s tower. The tower was atop a small hill, and below and around the landscape was breathtaking. The sun had risen over the tops of the hills, casting its young light on the morning dew. The hills seemed to glitter and sparkle as the breeze moved the grass like waves on a green ocean, and made the flowers dance next to their feet. There was a small pile of stones placed in a circle, presumably for campfires, but where Aeridel suspected of magical rituals cast by the Warlock himself. Hesitantly, Bridget made to knock on the door, but found it already ajar.
“That’s strange…” said Bridget.
“He must already be expecting us,” said Aeridel.
“Warlock or not, don’t you think this is a bit suspicious?” asked Tim.
Aeridel shrugged her shoulders.
“He does have a point there,” said Bridget, “we should make sure its safe.”
She pushed the door open and they stepped inside. All were on guard should any danger arise. The room was crammed with books. There was nothing but books. The shelves around the circular room were stuffed with hard-backed books, the floor drowned in a sea of paper and ink encased in an assortment of coloured leather. Bridget was in awe; she had always loved books, the feel of the paper, the smell when you flipped the page, and the many journeys and knowledge that the words would engulf her in. Then she had an epiphany.
“Don’t you both think its ironic,” she said, walking towards a stack of books and stroking the dusty surface of a blue book, “that we are on our quest and yet these books themselves hold adventures of their own? It’s like we are in our own story.”
Tim scratched his head for a moment before chuckling and saying; “Yeah that is weird.”
“Guys, your being a bit silly,” Aeridel said, and then, after looking at their confused faces, explained; “The Legend of the Heroes is like a story. Though its based on real life, it has been told by the lips of storytellers since it began. Bet you didn’t know about a book that has been written telling it?”
They shook their heads in bewilderment. She continued; “It’s annoying though, because people used to write their own versions to make money, so now nobody can really be sure of what the real version is anymore. Only those who actually know it can provide the true story, the minstrel being one of them, as it has been passed down as one of many teachings for minstrels for generations. Sort of like my white magic in a way.”
“Wow…” said Bridget, “So we had a story before we even knew it.”
“Or we are simply playing a similar role to our predecessors from the legend, but that could mean people may not believe in us, if there are so many versions, they may lose faith in us,” said Tim sadly.
It bothered him that the people may be in danger and felt they had nothing to hope for, all because of this stupid ‘Legend’ that has been shared amongst the people as though it was a prize in a party game. As it gets smaller, it becomes harder to believe its actually worth anything at all. Bridget patted his arm in sympathy.
“Don’t worry Tim, I believe that in time they will come to believe us, when we make the world safe again.”
He nodded in reply. Then, his ears caught the sound of shuffling above his head. An intruder?
“Somebody’s up there,” he said, and instinctively reached for his belt but his hand never felt the handle of a sword or dagger. What was he thinking?
‘Bastard,’ he thought, ’Never considered bringing a weapon did you, dumbass?’ He looked at Bridget, then at Aeridel before facing the stairs.
‘How can you protect your friends?’ His conscience told him mockingly, ‘How can you protect the one you love and hold dearest to your heart?’
He ignored his teasing mind and crept steadily up the stone steps, fists clenched and ready for a fight. His head just reached the banisters as he walked, and expecting to see a figure ready to attack when he reached the top of the first flight of steps, saw instead the vaguely inanimate bundle on the floor.

~X~

Tim gasped and ran towards the heap. He heard a low groan. He knelt beside the cloaked man and placed a hand on his arm.
“Hey, what happened to you?” Tim asked, as Bridget and Aeridel climbed up the stairs, and their eyes wandered over to where Tim was crouched over the man. Bridget pressed a hand to her mouth, and followed Aeridel in pursuit, as she moved quickly towards the man and began turning him over so he could face them all. Struggling slightly because of the weight, they managed together to place the Warlock on his back. He winced in pain, his left hand placed over his hand over his stomach.
“Oh Sire, who did this to you?” asked Aeridel, staring at her now blood-stained hands. The Warlock breathed out a deep sigh, as though he was used to the pain. He replied;
“Don’t worry, child. It’s not as bad as it looks. Hmmm…. Fortunately I see you have healing powers,” he noticed the birthmark on her hand; “Please, could you take this pain away?”
Aeridel nodded and placed her hand above the man’s heart, before drawing an invisible cross on his face and muttering soothing incantations Tim and Bridget couldn’t understand. The Warlock suddenly began to smile as he felt the pain melt away like butter on toast.
“How does that feel now?” asked Aeridel, finishing her healing spell.
“Much better,” he said, rubbing his back and trying to stand. Tim and Bridget eased him onto the squashy looking armchair next to the fireplace.
“Thank you,” he smiled politely. Aeridel picked up his rounded spectacles from the floor and handed them to him.
“My, my, what a helpful bunch of youths!” he chuckled to himself. They stood in front of him for a moment, and seeing that he was relaxed made them feel more at ease.
“So who did this to you?” repeated Aeridel.
“My, my, I have no idea,” the Warlock lied, for he knew in his wise old mind that they should figure it out for themselves; “It was dark, and I could not see his face. He was probably just some common thief looking for food. If he asked I would of gladly fed him a meal, there’s no need for violence in my house.”
“I see,” said Tim.
“By the way, how have you three travellers come across my Tower?” asked the Warlock.
The three of them in turn began explaining the full story, starting from when Tim and Bridget arrived in Bragverla, all the way to their travels and the meeting with Roland’s cat and receiving the stones; to which the Warlock raised his eyebrows in keen interest; the discovery of the Maiden, the Dolites and the Eves.
“You see, we came to you in the hope that you could help us become stronger,” said Bridget.
“Yeah, seeing as you seem to have made quite a name for yourself around these parts…” said Tim, to which Bridget gave a slight chuckle in response.
“Be serious, Tim. You see, Sire, we have been given these to aid us,” said Bridget, drawing out the pendant she received from Roland from underneath her clothes. The ruby’s smooth surface glinted against the flickers of the fire in the tower’s grate. “We need to learn how to defend ourselves using these. Since we arrived here we have been told we are a part of some legacy, which is repeating itself.”
“If we don’t get some sort of help, then basically your world is crushed into pieces…” said Tim, “And we don’t wish for that in any way.”
Tim reached into his shirt and drew his own green jewel, turning it over in the palm of his hands. The Warlock eyed both the stones carefully.
“Hmmm… those stones look awfully familiar,” he muttered. He rose and began searching the floor, until he found a piece of paper hidden underneath his armchair. It had a few drawn images and handwritten text, but one side looked like it had been ripped out of a book. He looked at the page for a few moments, then said;
“Ah yes, the Masadonian Stones.”
“Say wah?” said Tim.
“Well, put it this way, there is more to the Legend of the Two Heroes than you may realise. You see, I just so happened to begin reading the book where this page came from before I was attacked so I can tell you the details whilst they are fresh in my mind. You see, the stones which you hold in your hands hold special properties that are unique to each other, but together work as the perfect team. Your stones hold both the attack and defence of the trio. The other is the key to unlocking the ultimate power locked inside of them. In order for you to reveal the true potential of the stones, you must bond with them.”
“And how exactly do we do that?” asked Bridget.
“That will have to wait until tomorrow, my child.”
“Is there anything I can do to help, Sire?” asked Aeridel.
“Perhaps, if you are ready to learn well and become stronger to help your friends,” replied the Warlock.
“Yes, I am ready,” she said.
He smiled. “Good. Then you all start at dawn.”

X

The loud hum of the of the engines soothed the Lord’s dull ache in his temples as he sat in the quarters of the Rosethorn. He swirled the contents of his drink and raised it to his lips, listening to Ozzarath’s wispy voice as he muttered through the stolen book, searching for any vital information that would lead them to the answers he would seek. It had been days since he had acquired the book, and even though Ozzarath could read, it wasn’t brilliant so it took him some time before he could interpret it all. He recited from the book;
“… to control everything within the earth, the three stones must be placed in a triangle and the following words must be spoken;

Stones of Legend,
With blood from the one who calls forth the four elements,
Fire, Water, Air and Earth,
And the power of Time, Light and Darkness, and the Key,
Lain on the symbol of Masadon,
I now call forth your Might,
And unlock your true power.

This ritual is to be performed somewhere in the Castle of Morscalfe, as the book foretells it bears the most magical potential.”
“Excellent, you have done well Ozzarath,” said the Lord, “This book turned out to be very useful. The castle held a lot of magical bloodlines I think, though the family name is all but wiped out now the magic is still holding those walls in place.”
“Correct my Lord,” replied Ozzarath, adjusting his spectacles, “May I continue from the book?”
“If there is anything of more importance, then you may.”
“It is of much importance, my Lord. According to the book, in order for the stone to move successor, the bearer must be killed by the hand of another. Only then will the stone become yours.”
“Is there anything else about claiming ownership of the stones?”
“I’m afraid not my Lord, it seems the page has fallen out or something.”
“It matters not, we have gathered enough information from this book for now. Though our main problem now is to find the other two stones, or else we won’t be able to perform the ritual.”
“And what of the magical blood, my Lord?” asked Ozzarath looking worried.
“We may be able to find somebody nearer to the castle, there may be some villager with magical potential we can use.”
“Excellent idea, my Lord.”
Ozzarath began to flick back a few pages in the book, looking for some information. He paused for a moment, his eyes flickering back and forth.
“Master, what about the Legend of the Two Heroes? It mentions in the book that they held these stones during their quest.”
“It does? Well well, seems the tables have turned, using the power for evil rather than good.”
“Heh heh, yes, my Lord,” Ozzarath laughed nervously.
“Ah, but they are long gone. You don’t suppose the stones got buried with them do you?” suggested the Lord, looking toward his servant with mild uncertainty.
“Possibly, or the stones are hidden and now without a master,” replied Ozzarath, patting the book with fragile looking fingers.
“That sounds promising, where should we start looking?”
“From what I know,” said Ozzarath, “ We have two choices. Either we go to the shrine, or go to the Minstrel and see if we can’t demand more information.”
The Lord considered his options carefully. He didn’t want to waste time on this, and he needed all the information he could get in order to aid his plan.
“I think the best bet is to go to the shrine, at least then we can follow a few leads and see if the stones are there first.”
Ozzarath rose from his chair and paced toward the door leading to the ship’s bridge.
“Change course southbound!” he announced to the workers.
“Yes Sir!”
“Be there before nightfall Sir!”
Ozzarath walked back into the room, but the Lord ordered him to bring him a strong night cap. He turned around and closed the door behind him. ‘I shall need some rest before our adventure,’ he thought, ‘Soon, things will all come together quite nicely indeed.’

~X~

 

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