Heart Stone - (The Dagger of Dragon Rose Book 2)

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New Leadership

“Tis good to mourn, Tis better to remember.” - History of the Dead.
Shaunna’s eyes were red and her nose was stuffy when she rose the next morning. She’d spent the night in tears again; Taren’s death replaying itself over and over in her mind. She was sure she had found the antidote to the creature’s venom. It just hadn’t been in time.
I need to stop this. She thought to herself. Hope is right, it wasn’t my fault. Her mind went immediately to the bag of gold she’d found in this very room yesterday. The note made it clear that there were those who did blame her, thanked her for her services. “No no no no...” She chanted, shaking her head violently to clear the thoughts away. “They will not get away with this.”
It was early morning, the sun hadn’t risen yet, when she rose and started packing things into her pouch.
“What are you going to do?” Erik asked her.
“I am going to complete his quest, if I can.”
She paused as a soft knock sounded on her door.
“Come in.”
The tiny form of Narissa slipped silently into the room.
“Welcome, Kitten, what can I do for you?”
“Shaunna, what are we going to do?” Narissa echoed Erik’s words.
Shaunna smiled sadly. “I intend to finish Taren’s quest. You are welcome to join me if you wish.”
“I have nowhere else to go. Grandma might accept me, but Grandpa won’t I would like to come with you and help any way I can,”
Shaunna wrapped her arms around her cousin. “You will always be welcome with me. I am just as much family as my terrible uncle is.”
Narissa nodded, tears streaming down her cheeks.
The sun was cresting the horizon as Shaunna placed the last bits of equipment in her pack. With the equipment all packed, she started adding other things she might need. The shards of Cyan’s crystal heart, the feather that was left when Taren was burned, and the blue crystal the queen... whatever it was gave to Taren. Strapping Ethos and Cyan’s corpse to her back, she turned to leave.
The others were dining silently as she entered the dining room.
“I intend to continue Taren’s quest. Any of you that wish to join me are welcome.” She nodded to Hope. “Even you.” She smiled as the words escaped her lips.
Grathius grunted. “I would like to see how this ends.”
Parel nodded. “I will continue on with you, for Taren.”
Narissa smiled. She didn’t have to say anything, Shaunna already had her answer.
Hope frowned. “Even if we are able to find this apprentice, how do we know that he will have the information we need? If he does have the information, how do we know we will be able to do what is required? If Paron was right, and his children bear the marks of the prophecy, then the prophecy is broken. Why should I continue on a doomed path? I do not wish to continue with you.”
Maxx rose from where he was strapped across Hope’s back. He hovered in the air for a moment, then smacked Hope in the forehead with the flat of his blade.
“OW! What was that for?”
The other’s watched in awe as they assumed the sword was chastising his wielder. They could only hear Hope’s side of the conversation.
“Why should I?”
“I know.”
“But...”
Hope let out a long exasperated sigh.
“Fine.” He turned to Shaunna. “Apparently, I will be joining you.”
She smiled brightly. “We welcome you.” She turned to the three sisters. “What about you three.”
Tarea rose, “We have no other place to go. We know very little about this world.”
The other two nodded there agreement.
Celeste sat listening to the exchange, gently stroking Ellie’s fur. She raised her good eye to her new mother. “Shaunna, how will I eat while you are gone? I don’t know how to cook.”
“I’ve made arrangements for that. You will receive meals three times a day for the duration of the time I am gone. Should, I not return, I have paid well in advance. You should be taken care of. Should you decide you would like to learn to cook, speak to the innkeeper. She has always been friendly to my family. I’m sorry we don’t have more time to get to know each other.”
Celeste smiled, the gesture looked unnatural on her face. “Just come back and we can do it then.”
“We leave as soon as you are all packed.” Shaunna turned to leave, thought better of it, and turned back to Celeste.
Drawing Ethos from his scabbard, she offered the blade to the child.
Celeste’s white eye flashed, and she shook her head. “He won’t accept me. I am not his wielder.”
Shaunna nodded, sliding the blade back into its sheath. “Don’t be long, please.” She exhorted the others as she strode from the room.
She took a moment to steel her nerves. The easy part was past, getting the others to join her. Now the real work began. Shaking her head, she wondered why she was doing this. The whole idea was mad, and yet here she was leading a party that she had no right to lead on a quest that was not hers. Yet, there was no one else who could, or would, take the lead. The one she thought best qualified, was also the most resistant to the idea.
Silently, she thanked Maxx for interfering and convincing Hope to come along. She was only slightly surprised when the sword answered her. You’re welcome.
A sudden idea popped into her head. Hey Maxx, what do you make of Celeste?
There was no answer for several moments. She had just resigned herself to the fact that there would be no answer when Maxx spoke to her, causing her to jump
She has suffered much grief, as such she is extremely guarded. She has great potential, especially if she were to learn to tap into the fullness of the power that sleeps within her.
What kind of power? Is Uncle right? Is she a witch?
No, she is much greater than that. She has the potential to become an oracle. She is wary of you, but she is thankful for what you have done for her.
Thank you.
She shook her head again. “This just keeps getting better and better.” she muttered.
She didn’t have much time to consider what she had learned before the others joined her.
“Well, let’s get on with this nonsense.” Hope muttered as he walked past her and out the front door.

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