A Harvest of Broken Stars

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Chapter 13: Power

‘What makes your stones so special?’ Ada asked.

The two women had stopped to drink from a stream, and took the opportunity to wash away some blood and dirt from their faces and hands. They had been alternating between jogging and brisk walking for an hour, always following Rayn’s pendant towards the Jaw Mountains.

‘Shards,’ Rayn mumbled, before she raised her voice to a normal level. ‘It all depends on how they are created. The more power that goes into making a stone, or an item, or a being, the more powerful it will be. The shards are fragments of a star, and the stars were made by the sun on The First Day. Part of the sun’s power is embedded in every shard.’

‘Power?’

‘Power. Force. Fire. Energy. Magic,’ Rayn replied. ‘People have used different words, and the power can act in many ways.’

‘What about trees and creatures and magical items?’ Ada said, as they resumed walking towards the east.

‘It’s the same. It depends on how they were made, and how much power went into making them. A yew tree that’s been nourished by the sun for three hundred years will be stronger than a young pine living in a dense forest for ten years. From strong materials, a skilled artisan can craft durable items. From materials possessing magical energies, an enchanter can imbue magical items.’

‘So the sun is the source of all the power in the world?’

‘Much, but not all. Every element is potent in its own way, but we depend mostly on the sun. Even underground there is power in abundance, from the Black Sun trapped under the mountains. The Black Sun always struggles to break free, and from its power are created the precious stones, as well as the underground races and monsters. The dwarves are strong because they were created from the pressure from the mountains above them. Some say diamonds are the remnants of dead dwarves, buried under the stones many thousands of years ago.’

Rayn was winded from trying to talk at the same time as she walked as fast as she could. They reached a new river and followed the north bank upstream.

‘Did the Black Sun create the dead man chasing us?’ Ada asked.

‘No. I don’t think so. The undead are not natural beings. They are made by someone, for some purpose.’

‘What purpose?’

‘That is decided by the one who makes them. But I’m quite certain the dead man chasing us was made to collect starfall shards.’

‘Why?’

‘Because starfall shards contain energy that can be used to create potent magic.’

Was that why I was able to create fire from my hands? Ada wondered. For a moment, she longed for the power she had felt surging through her body. ‘How many stones are there?’

‘Nobody knows. Most of them disappear in the sea. Some burn. Others get crushed into small fragments as they impact on a mountainside. Sometimes, they hit marshland or a forest, and shard. Other times, they crash into forests or marshland, and some shards can be dug out of the ground.’

‘So, for every starfall, more fragments are made? Sooner or later, everyone will have their own shard. Or some lord or wizard will collect several shards, and grow stronger than everybody else?’ Ada said.

‘Yes, but only for a short time. It creates an imbalance. A disturbance, as too much power resides in one place or person. Some will use it to hoard treasure or destroy their enemies. Others will be envious of those who prosper, and seek to eliminate them or steal their shards. When shards are kept together, they interact with each other in unforeseen ways. There will be magical accidents when someone starts using magic far beyond their ability, and this many shards can break or burn out. People will die, and cities will burn.’

‘Sounds dangerous,’ Ada mused.

‘Yes. That’s why magic was banned.’

‘How come you know all this?’

‘How come you don’t?’ Rayn replied. ‘Do you know how to read? Didn’t you learn anything at the academy?’

Ada took a moment to consider the question. She never got the impression they had tried to teach anything at the academy, except that it was wrong and illegal to use magic. All she could remember from those years was the punishment and shame they had exerted on her. Then again, she hadn’t really tried to learn anything. She was too busy drowning her shame and loneliness in the attention of others. That is where she met her first lover. And her tenth.

‘I learned that I’m a useless hussy, I guess,’ Ada said.

‘That’s only half true,’ Rayn consoled.

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