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

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I don’t want to be here - Narissa Silvermoon
“Are we going to talk about what happened back there?”
Tarea shook her head, the golden strands of hair sending light bouncing around the area.
Shaunna sighed. It was obvious that something had happened that none of them were aware of. Tarea’s deep golden skin, hair, and eyes were testament to that. Then there was the fact that her special heat resistant clothes were absent. Shaunna was reminded of a golden Cera every time she looked at her companion. Stranger still was the fact that her birth mark was still visible, even though the skin around it was now the same color as the dragon. A solid mass of flame covered most of her left breast.
“Well, when you’re ready to talk, you know where to find me.” Shaunna leaned close to Tarea’s ear, trying to be quiet so the others wouldn’t hear. A fine sheen of perspiration formed on her face as intense heat radiated from the golden form, but she didn’t pull away. “You know we will need to discuss this sooner or later. Hopefully sooner. You just killed someone, and you look like Cera’s long lost sister.”
Tarea nodded thoughtfully. “That’s not the first time I’ve had to kill somebody, you know.”
“Perhaps not, but I know the cost of taking life.” Shaunna paused a moment as the memory of her first kill came back to her. “Unfortunately, it does get easier. Even then, it always leaves its mark.”
In her current state, it was impossible to tell Tarea’s mood by looking at her. The shiny skin and solid gold eyes gave her all the expressiveness of a statue. However, Shaunna could tell that Tarea was bothered by what had just happened. Unfortunately, she did not know what happened in the mines, so she didn’t know what was bothering her exactly.
They walked the rest of the day in uneasy silence, the others in the party giving Tarea a wide berth. The air with which she held herself was obviously that of a woman that wanted to be alone.
They made camp at the same spot they’d camped two nights before. A light dinner was consumed as they sat silently around a blazing camp fire.Nearing bedtime, Tarea approached Shaunna.
“If it’s alright with you, I’d like to head back to the house. I need to speak with Morganna about some better fire proof clothes. I won’t be able to put anything on until this,” She gestured to herself. “Fades anyway.”
Shaunna nodded. “We’ll accompany you to the house, and then you will be free to stay with your sister and Parel.”
Without another word, Tarea went to a clear patch of ground to bed down for the night. She did not cover herself. Shaunna’s wonderment only lasted a moment as the ground around the gilded form blackened.
Shaking her head, Shaunna turned to retire for the night.
The next day dawned unseasonably warm. The leaves on the trees and shrubs were wilting, and it got worse the closer they were to the mine.
“It’s worse than I thought. Those mines will be unusable for quite some time,” Tarea sighed as she spoke. “I was hoping that it would only effect the one mine, not the whole area.”
“Let’s get going.”

Evening was descending as they stepped into the clearing that held the Na’el’s house. Light flooded from the windows in the dusk gloom that shrouded the forest. Smells of roasting meat and spices flooded their nostrils. A sprightly tune flowed through the clearing. The sound of laughter reached them from the open windows. It sounded like someone was having a good time.
“Sounds like we got here just in time.” Shaunna smiled and headed toward the door.
The scene that greeted them inside was almost whimsical. Parel was dancing as Morganna played a long wooden flute. Na’el tapped his foot to in time with the lively tune. Ne’al had a scowl on his face, clearly annoyed with the light- hearted proceedings.
“Did you get it?” Na’el asked
Shaunna shook her head. “We have the gold, but not the forge. We’ll go get that tomorrow.”
“Let me see”
Shauna pulled the raw gold out of her pack.
“Hmmm… Not as pure as I would have liked, but we can work with it.” Na’el looked up as Tarea walked into the room. “What happened to you?”
Points of light, reflecting from her golden skin, danced around the room. “It’s a long story.”
The conversation in the room was deceptively light-hearted as they partook of their evening meal. All minds were on the task that would be taken on the morrow. They were going to walk into the home of a literal god; one that was not sympathetic to their plight. As time wore on and the festivities died down, each of them retired for the night.

“Shaunna, wake up.” Erik gently pulled Shaunna from her slumber. “Amber just let me know that our diminutive friend is not doing well. You should probably go and check on her.”
The the half moons hanging in the dark sky, showed that dawn was still a few hours off. Shaunna shook her head. She’d never understood the moon cycles. They didn’t seem to follow any discernible pattern. She’d tried to follow the moon phases over the years. She’d even asked the old man once, but he didn’t have any ideas either.
Shaking her head, she walked over to where Narissa was lying on the floor, her knees against her chest. The small woman’s eyes were open, staring at things that only she could see. Convulsions tore through her body occasionally.
“Narissa, are you okay?” Shaunna knelt beside her friend. “Kitten?”
Narissa’s body jerked at the noise, a small shriek escaping her.
Shaunna knelt beside her friend, placing a hand on her small shoulder. “Kitten what’s the matter?
Narissa’s eyes were glazed. “We can’t go. What if he’s there?”
“If we don’t go, he and his brothers win. We can’t allow that.” Shaunna whispered as she ran her fingers through the smaller woman’s long white hair. “We have to go. Don’t worry, I will be there with you.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.”
Silently, Shaunna returned to her bed. “Erik, keep an eye on her please.”
Silent affirmation was the only answer.

Dew glistened in the grass as Shaunna emerged from the tiny house, the large moon shining on the sky. She was glad of the break from sleeping in tents, but the cramped quarters in the hut was beginning to wear on her. It didn’t help that they had to keep the large circles in the center of the room. She didn’t know much about magic, but she was pretty sure that breaking either of the circles was a bad idea. Thrusting the thought aside, she moved to the eastern most edge of the clearing.
She figured sun rise was still at least an hour away. A rare smile crossed her lips as she remembered the dream she’d been having. Dreams of her past were rarely comforting, but this one reminded her of an ability she hadn’t used since the day her mother died.
“Never fails, reality ruins perfectly good dreams.”
Quickly disrobing, she folded her clothes and placed them on the moist grass. Closing her eyes, she willed her senses to reach out beyond her. Frustration flared as nothing happened. Pacing back and forth, she tried to remember what her mother had taught her. It had been thirteen years since she tried this, and the technique was not fresh in her memory. Several minutes later, she found herself sitting on the grass, eyes closed. Breathing deeply, she drew deep within herself. Little by little, she released her consciousness; feeling the energy flowing within as it filled her. There was a pause in the process, as the energy hit the barrier meant to keep in contained within her. With a little effort, the barrier cam apart and she felt her self expand. She could see, hear, smell, taste and feel everything around her. Everything from the stream flowing several yards away to the infinitesimal insect crawling on the ground next to her. Joy filled her at the sensation. She’d forgotten how much she used to love doing this, but five years old seemed so far away. The Nature Meld lasted for several minutes, as she watched the area around her.
Just out of reach of her expanded senses, an immeasurably large creature passed over, headed south. A sense of dread seeped through her, causing the Nature Meld to crumble, forcing her to draw back in to the confines of he own self.
Shaken, she rose from the ground, quickly dressing. Sun rise was approaching, so she hurried back to the cottage, the purpose of her pre-dawn excursion forgotten. She glanced at the blackened earth and dead grass surrounding the still sleeping Tarea. She shook her head, “I swear she didn’t have that kind of heat radiating from her when I touched her yesterday.”
“Good morning.” Tarea wiped the sleep from her eyes as she sat up.
“I know you don’t want to come with us today, but I think you need to come.” Shaunna paused to steady herself. The terror that broke her Nature Meld still fresh. “I think we are going to need you.”
Tarea raised an eyebrow, but just nodded, “Okay.”
Shaunna steadied herself and continued to the door of the house. The others were still asleep as she silently slid into the main room. She chuckled when she saw Narissa in her tiger form, and Grathius cuddled together in front of the fire.
“Well, at least they’re not fighting like cats and dogs,” She whispered, appreciating the irony of the sight.
Ne’al and Na’el both eyed her. Ne’al still under the influence of Morganna’s silence spell was mouthing a gleeful tirade at her.
“Morganna and Oran will be getting tired. It takes energy to maintain even the smallest of spells, and the spell separating myself and my counterpart is not a small one. You will need to hurry.”
“I’m ready,” Shaunna jump as the tiny voice sounded behind her. She hadn’t heard Narissa come up behind her.
“I’m afraid there might be some resistance to our attempts. I think the Mother Dragon might be there waiting for us.”
Narissa nodded silently, afraid of betraying the absolute terror that flooded through her, “We need to be going soon. If we hurry, we can be there and back before night fall.”
Shaunna woke Hope and Grathius, “We need to go soon.” She turned to Hope, “Make sure you bring your dragon killer sword. I have a feeling we are going to need it before the day is over.”

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