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

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Family Ties

“I miss him.” - Saria Elloy
Darkness fell in complete silence, the dancing fey glittering through the glade. The fire raged, almost unbearably hot, yet it appeared that the logs were not consumed. Those that watched the flames stewed in their own thoughts as the tiny lights flickered around them.
“I think we should stay here for a while.” Shaunna’s voice broke the silence like the crack of a whip. She glanced at the three sisters. “We never really took the time to grieve. We are safe here, so this will be a good place to spend a few days. I only ask that you do not step on, or in, the mushrooms on either side of the stream. It would not do to upset our hosts.”
The others nodded in understanding.
Hope shook his head. “Is this really necessary?”
Parel placed her hand on his arm. “Some of us have lost someone dear. A friend, a brother, or a fiancée. We really should take some time to come to terms with that. We don’t need to grow emotional in the heat of battle.”
Hope just shook his head again and retired to his tent for the night.
Shaunna couldn’t blame him, he didn’t want to be here anyway, but she was glad for his company. Despite his cynicism, he was a good friend, and an excellent healer.
“I think I will follow suit.” Parel announced, disappearing into her own tent.
The others quickly retired to their lodgings, Narissa taking her spot on the ground outside Shaunna’s tent.
Shaunna smiled at the large cat, pausing to stroke her coarse fur before she, herself, retired for the night.

“You have failed me, child.” Shaunna’s mother floated through the air toward her. “You have killed the only chance that there was to stop the darkness. Our efforts for the last three hundred years were all in vain.”
“No, there has to be a way. I will find it.”
“You let the only one that can wield the dagger perish child. What do you think you can do against the Dark Lords?”
Shaunna covered her face with her hands, She was a bit surprised when her hands came away wet. “I don’t know, but I have to try.”
Her mother’s spirit nodded, her face softening. “That will do. All is not as lost as you fear. Guard the feather, it is the key to everything.”
Warmth surrounded Shaunna, the feeling of unconditional love flowed into her invoking images of her childhood. The only time she could remember feeling truly happy.
“I must go now. Know that I love you.”
Shaunna felt empty, completely devoid of happiness as the image of her mother faded into the darkness.

Shaunna’s cheeks were wet when she opened her eyes. She took this opportunity to indulge herself a moment of weakness, and cried. She felt like screaming, letting any that would hear know that she was in pain, but she kept quiet. It wouldn’t do to let the other see her like this. Hope and Grathius had already seen her like this far too often.
“You’re weak, Nightshade” she berated herself. “I thought you were stronger than this.”
Shaking her head, she emerged from her tent into the cool night air. Grabbing a small metal cup, she went to the stream to get a drink. She didn’t know why, but she felt a compelling need for a drink of water.
Silent as a shadow, she dipped her cup in the cool, clear, water and drew the cup to her lips in one fluid movement. As she imbibed the sweet liquid, the sounds of quiet sobs drifted to her ears from not far away. Setting the cup on the stream bank, she moved to investigate the sad sound.
The fabric of Saria’s white dress was luminescent in the moonlight. Her long white hair cascaded down her back, almost blending into the folds of her clothes. She was facing the opposite direction from where Shaunna was approaching. The rhythmic movement confirmed without a doubt that Shaunna had located the source of the crying.
“I can see why the people on the other world thought you were a phantasm.”
Saria emitted a small scream as Shaunna’s words reached her causing several of the faeries to scatter at the sound.
Shaunna held up her hands in a placating gesture. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“It’s okay, I didn’t think anyone else was up.” Saria tried to brush the tears from her eyes.
“Are you okay?” Shaunna sat next on the ground next to her. “Do you want to talk about it?”
Saria dissolved into tears again.
Shaunna waited patiently for her to regain her composure enough that she could speak. Several minutes passed as she sat in uncomfortable silence next to the weeping woman.
Several sobs, and a few deep breaths later, Saria turned to her companion. “I’m sorry, Shaunna. It’s just that I miss them so much.”
Saria smiled sadly, the tear streaks on her face glittering. “I didn’t know Taren very well. We’d really only just met, but he was my brother.” She paused for a moment. “I am no stranger to loss. I’ve seen people die many times. The area where I was raised was brutal, even my healing talents weren’t always enough to save someone. It is quite easy for me to see where Hope’s cynicism comes from. You almost have to turn your emotions off so you can handle the death of someone you have spent days, or weeks, or even months trying to save. You have to not get attached. That’s vital.” She covered her mouth to stifle a sob. “It’s completely different when you lose someone close to you. When Seth died, I was devastated. He was the only father I’d known. I don’t remember anything about my real one. I doubt any of us do.
“Jethro was there to help me cope with what had happened. He protected me. He guided me. He loved me. Four months, from the time Seth was killed to the time the portal opened, he stayed with me. Three months in, we spoke or vows. Now I’ve lost him as well.”
Shaunna placed her hand on Saria’s knee. “I understand better than you know. I do remember my parents. I was there the day that they died. I watched as a scared mob of elves murdered my mother. I have caused so much death. Like you said, don’t get attached. That was easy for me; I never had anyone to get attached to. Then there was your brother. I was looking forward to spending the rest of my life with him.” Her gaze wandered to the stars above. They were far enough from the fire that most of the stars were visible in the dark night sky. “I haven’t felt pain like this since I was five; having watched my mother die. I tried to save him. Had I been just a bit faster...”
“Shaunna, don’t. There was nothing we could do. Even through the combined efforts of Hope and myself, the poison continued to slide through his veins. We all did everything we could...” Saria stopped before finishing her thought. She didn’t think it would be wise to point out that their combined efforts were not enough. I only hope that is not a shadow of the future.
They sat together in by the stream, each lost in their own thoughts. Both were comforted by the others’ presence. The faeries danced around them, gliding across the surface of the stream, flittering about.
“Shaunna, what did Celeste mean by what she said before we left?”
Shaunna shook her head slightly. “I’m not sure. I know it has something to do with the feather I found among Taren’s ashes. That was confirmed in a dream that I had tonight.”
Shaunna pulled the snowy plume from her hair, offering it to Saria. “I found this as I was sweeping up your brothers remains after the pyre burned itself out. I thought there might be something special about it, so I kept it. Twice I have been told to keep the feather near since then.”
Saria yawned sleepily
“It’s late, we should probably go to bed.” Shaunna rose, offering her hand to Saria.
The pale elf accepted the proffered hand, and rose from where she’d been seated. “Good night, Shaunna.” Without further ceremony, she turned and walked toward camp.
Shaunna returned to where she’d left the metal cup. He heart stopped when she beheld the sight that awaited her.
The cup was still there, but it was now filled with a thick crimson liquid that held a strong resemblance to blood. The blue heart shaped gem lay next to it, two shards of Cyan’s shattered heart stone lay crossed upon it. Strange writing was marked in the mud around the objects.
“What are you doing here? I left you in my tent.” She wondered aloud.
The marks in the mud flared brightly when her hand touched the cool surface of the heart stone shard.
Jerking her hand back, the shard she’d touched fell on the strange writing and shattered into much smaller pieces.
“What’s going on?” She steadied her hands enough to grab the large sapphire and the remaining crystal shard.
She was startled as the light from the marks jumped toward her hand, trying to retrieve what had been stolen from it.
“I’m already on it.” Erik answered before she could ask him her question.
Moments later, a groggy Morganna stumbled up to her. “Shaunna, what’s going on?”
Shaunna just pointed to the shimmering shapes on the ground. They stood staring at the glyphs that were trying to move toward the heart crystal.
Morganna perked right up. “Oooh, I’ve only heard of these. Did it touch you?”
Shaunna silently indicated that it hadn’t.
“Good, that would be disastrous. You would most certainly be dead soon, if it had.”
“What is it?”
“It is said that only very powerful magic users, wizards, and sorcerers are able to conjure a maaginen. It is supposed to be living magic that is bound to protect certain items. Some of them are even able to move. That way, they can track down the thief should their treasure be stolen.” Morganna became more animated as she spoke. Clearly this little piece of deadly magic excited her curiosity as a magic user herself.
“Living magic? Based on what you know now, what do you think it is?”
Morganna frowned. “This is powerful. Someone was able to bind the magic to this spot, and break it down to its constituent parts. That is a being of pure, unadulterated, power. It no longer holds any resemblance to others of its kind.” She shook her head. “Who would do this? This is akin to murder.”
Shaunna stepped back. “This is worse than murder. When something dies, it gains rest. There is no rest here. Better than asking, who would do this; we should be asking, who could do this. Is there anything you can do for it?”
The younger elf began to draw runes around the glowing creature. She spent several minutes after each one, examining her work, ensuring that she had was doing it correctly. When she was done, the silver light was surrounded by a ring of identical symbols, each glowing a different color.
“We’ve never tried this before, are you sure you want to do this?” Morganna smiled sadly. “Okay, I hope nothing happens to you.”
Closing her eyes in silent prayer, she thrust the end of her staff toward the center of the ring. Purple light began to pulse through the crystal shaft in time with the beat of the staff’s heart stone. As she neared the creature, the amethyst light intensified. The silvery power reached toward her, and just as quickly pulled away as she drew ever closer. The shaft began to vibrate as it touched the primordial magic. Morganna opened her eyes to see the silver light crawling up the crustal surface, feeding on the purple light.
“Somni.” She whispered, causing power to shoot through her, adding itself to Amethyst’s.
The silver creature emitted an ear shattering scream that caused the faeries to scatter. The clearing was silent and dark after the violent outburst. The faeries no longer flittered about, having fled back to their sanctuaries. The sounds of the forest creatures had died off, scared into silence by the sudden noise.
“What did you do?” Shaunna stared at the dark shape left in the mud.
“I put it to sleep. Permanent sleep.”
Shaunna’s nerves were shot. The events of the night were wearing on her heavily. “Sleep sounds like a fabulous idea.’
Morganna nodded her agreement, and together they walked back to camp.

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