There were stories, myths, legends, about a secret stone that was indestructible. A stone that held true to its form and couldn’t be changed. It was called the Adame Stone. Some cultures said it had magical powers and could bring healing to those who were sick. Some said it was more powerful than anything else on Earth and could be used to win battles. Some just thought it was unbreakable and could be used as a currency because it could stand the test of time. Still others thought it to be the most beautiful stone in the world, more glorious than a diamond or precious gem reflecting more colors than the eye could see. There were so many different ideas about it, but the one that was the same about them all was that this stone, was worth more than anything else on Earth and if anyone could find it, their life would be changed forever... As Killian worked the land on his father’s farm the heat of the afternoon sun felt heavy beating down on him. The ground was becoming harder from lack of rain and the farm’s supplies were decreasing from breakage against the hard dirt. It had been a tough couple of months since his father passed away. His mother had gotten sick, and his sister had disappeared. His grandfather was wise but his physique didn’t help much in the fields so it was left to Killian. Killian hit a hard spot in the ground and angrily levered all of his weight to tug it free but instead of it working like usual, the old shovel made a crisp snap that echoed in his ears; another tool broken. It seemed that the moment his father died, everything else started to funnel downward as well, and unless someone stopped it soon, they would all hit the ground and break just like the metal in his hand. Killian looked down at his shovel and picked up the broken piece. If only life weren’t so fragile. If only there was something strong he could rely on. Killian grabbed the rest of the seed he was trying to plant and headed back toward the house. Tossing the broken scraps by the barn he took a deep breath and looked out at the sky. “If there really is a God out there,” he thought, “help me. Please.” Killian then walked inside. His mother was asleep in a chair and his grandfather was reading a book next to her, eyeing Killian suspiciously. Killian opened the closet to get his bow to go hunt for supper. His grandfather cleared his throat so Killian looked over to see him walking out the front door waving his hand to get his grandson to follow. Killian met him outside and followed him to the back of the house, and then into the woods. “Where are we going?” He asked. His grandfather said nothing but instead stopped at an old pine tree and took out his knife. After studying the bark for a second, he started to widdle into the tree until he got something loose. He then pulled out a small cloth bag and brushing it off, tossed it to his grandson. Killian caught the bag and looked at him questioningly, “What is this? And... how did you get it into that tree?” “It’s time.” His grandfather replied. “Mmm time for what?” Killian asked. “Time we stop chasing the wrong things, and go after the right thing.” His grandfather replied. What in the world was he talking about? Killian opened the bag and found a pebble. A small brown pebble. The old man must have been losing his mind, which made sense with the way everything else had been going in his life. Killian looked at him puzzled and quietly said, “A pebble.” His grandfather looked offended and shook his head. “The Adame Stone.” He replied. Killian held it up to the light. “It exists?” He asked as he looked closer at the small rock trying to see if there was anything amazing about it. No, there didn’t seem to be. It seemed rather plain. “Grandfather, I...are you sure this is it?” He said cautiously trying not to crush his Grandfather’s dreams. “Oh no, son that’s not it, but you, you are going to find it.” He pointed at his grandson with determination. Killian lifted his eyebrows and threw out a laugh. “How in the world am I supposed to find it? I-I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I don’t even know if it exists. I could be searching forever for something that’s made up.” His grandfather sighed as Killian continued. “And even if it does exist, is it really worth leaving the farm and risking everything to find it?” Killian’s Grandfather leaned in close with urgency beaming through his eyes. “Let’s be honest boy, if you stay our hope will continue to dry up like the thirsty earth of our farm, and if you go and search forever, we’re in the same place with pretty much the same outcome... but, if you go, and you do find it,” he let out a hopeful laugh, “Oh if you find it, it’s worth far more than the farm and everything, it would save us all. It’s our only hope.” Taking a deep breath Killian looked down at the pebble in his hand and clenched it in his fist. “Alright,” he nodded, “I’ll go.” He looked up with determination and added, “And if it is out there, I’ll find it.”
The next morning Killian packed up his belongings, kissed his ma goodbye and saddled up on his horse, Storm. His grandfather came out and placed the bag with the small pebble in his hand. “This will help you.” He said. “This is a piece of emada, when you get close to the Adame stone this will start to change. It will try to become like the Adame. And once it is returned to it, it will mold into it and become one with it. It wants to be returned to it, but needs you to find the way.” Killian’s eyes grew wide looking at the pebble in amazement, wondering if that could be true. He was realizing how little he knew about the thing he was setting out to find. He was going to need to learn more. “What else can you tell me Grandfather? Where can I find it?” He asked. “You must seek it with all of your heart, yes how does it go? ‘and ye shall seek me, and find me when ye shall search for me with all your heart.’” His grandfather responded and Killian nodded, “Sure...I can do that. Thank you.” Killian was going to have to find someone else who knew more about this. And there was only one person he could think of, Ms. Liligrim. Her husband spent his life searching for the Adame Stone. It had been so long, that some said he died in his quest, but Ms. Liligrim claims that he found it, returned, and went back out on another great quest. If that was true, she must have some information that could help him. Killian said farewell to his Grandfather and rode on his way. He headed through the woods to Ms. Liligrim’s cottage, and knocked on the door. There was no answer so he knocked again and the door opened quickly. “Knock and the door shall be opened for you.” Ms. Liligrim said with a smile and asked him to come in. “Sit, sit child, I was beginning to think you weren’t going to come.” Killian slowly came in and sat down puzzled. “You knew I would come?” He asked. “Oh I suspected it,” she said, “Your sister left only two weeks ago and when everything falls, everyone starts searching.” Ms. Liligrim started rummaging through old books. “Wait, my sister came here?” Killian asked. The old lady smiled with a soft nod and continued through her books. “Ah, here it is.” She said. “Ms. Liligrim, why did my sister come here and where did she go?” Killian asked. “For the same reason you are here dear, and she went where you are planning on going.” She responded. Killian sighed, “I don’t even know where I am going, and how do you know why I’m here?” Ms. Liligrim closed the book slowly and looked at Killian. “There could only be one reason child, the Adame holds promises that nothing else does. In a world where everything breaks, it remains strong, in a world where everything dies, it remains alive, where everything fails, it remains victorious, where everything goes bad, it remains good”- Killian cut in, “I mean no disrespect Ms. but we are talking about a rock... alive..., good? That doesn’t make much sense, no I’m just looking for something that can fix my problems. Maybe sell it, make a little money, pay for my mom to get better, hire people to help on the farm...” Ms. Liligrim’s eyes narrowed. “The Adame isn’t something that can be sold, it’s worth is too high young man. As for your mother, it can help her if you find it and bring it to her.” Killian heard of the myths of people thinking the Adame could heal, it sounded great and jolly but this was the real world. Well Ms. Liligrim could think what she wanted, he wasn’t sure what was true about this rock yet, he just needed to know how to find it. “Of course Ms. Liligrim, would you mind helping me find it?” Killian asked.“Why, what do you think I’m doing child?” She replied and opening her book back up, she slid it over for Killian to see. He looked at the page curiously and saw a picture of her husband. Confused he said, “He was a great man.” She nodded and said, “Yes he is child, but look behind him.” Killian looked closer and in the photo, behind her husband was a large snowy mountain, only it was glowing a warm orange color on one side. “A mountain.” Killian scratched his head. This wasn’t going anywhere fast. “Ms. Liligrim, I’m afraid I don’t understand. Is that where the Adame is?” “Look closer.” She whispered. He took a deep breath trying to be patient and peered deeper into the photo. The orange glow on the one side was something like fire, or lava, but the other side remained snow. Strange. He looked at her and the old lady smiled at his discovery and stood up. “That is where you will find it, between fire and ice.” Killian nodded, “On this mountain?” Ms. Liligrim repeated herself, “Between fire and ice,” Killian shook his head in confusion and standing, handed the book back to her. She waved her hands at it and said, “Oh you can keep that child, it was one of my husband’s journals from a quest. I think it will help you find your way.” Killian tucked it under his arm. Maybe there was a map or something he could find somewhere else in the journal to actually help him. “I thank you so much, Ms. Liligrim for your help,” he said quickly, “Can you now point me in the direction my sister went?” Ms. Liligrim led him out the front door and pointed into the woods. “Remember,” she said with a joyful look, “Seek it with all of your heart, for it is worth far more than anything.” Killian nodded politely and mounted his mare to set off into the woods.
Chapter Three Upside Down
Killian rode through the woods in silence trying to reason out anything Ms. Liligrim had told him. What a strange encounter. He was hoping the old lady would have just given him a map and said you are here, and here is the Adame Stone, on this beautiful coastal beach, go get it. Instead she told him it was in between fire and ice, on some mountain that looked excruciatingly uninviting. Oh and she also gave him a book, one of her husband’s journals to help him on his way. He had looked through the first few pages and it was a bunch of her husband’s experiences. None of it made much sense to Killian at first glance, speaking of things he’d never heard of, it seemed to be almost a code or puzzle of some sort to him. Maybe he would come across some places that her husband had been and learn through that but until then it seemed quite useless. Killian came to a small clearing in the trees where a river was carving through. He stopped to get a drink when a loud noise crackled through his ears and almost made him fall into the water. He turned back to his horse carefully looking around until he spotted some men through the trees with axes. They must have been loggers and the noise must have been a falling tree. Killian decided he would steer around the guys and move past. He started to guide Storm to trot around when one of the young men working further out spotted him. “Hey, you there.” Killian looked over and the young man said, “A little help?” Killian saw the tree on the ground that the man, well more of a boy really, around Killian’s age, was trying to lift. It was small but he needed some help so Killian got off of his horse, Storm, and started toward him to help the boy. They lifted and led the tree over to a wagon where men were chopping the branches off. They hoisted it down and Killian went to leave when the boy said, “Wait! Here, for your pay.” Killian turned to say it was alright when something caught his eye in the boy’s hand. A small jewel that glittered like the sun. Killian froze confused. “Just for a little log lift?” He asked and shook his head. The boy looked at him and grinned and added, “And maybe for your horse as well?” Killian turned to go when the kid shouted back, “Alright, just more for me, you can never get enough Adame.” Killian stopped and walked back at the boy. “You mean to tell me that this is an Adame Stone? And you’re just walking around with it offering it to people who do little chores for you? How did you get it anyway?” The boy looked at him bemused, “Oh you’re one of the ones who still hasn’t heard.” With wry pity on his face he went on. “Well the Adame Stone has been found. A few months back now. It’s turning the world upside down. Everything has changed since the man found it. Everyone is using it as currency now, well that is, everyone except you it appears. But hey, Ill help you out and if you give me your fine horse over there, I’ll give you some so you can catch up to the rest of the world.” This could be easier than Killian thought. He really lived in a bubble on that farm it seemed especially since his father passed away five months ago. “Wait how many months ago, would you say it was found?” Killian asked. The boy looked puzzled and said, “Hmm how many was it again? About 3, 4 or...5?” Killian interrupted and spat out,“5?” “Yes, 5.” Replied the boy looking satisfied. “And what do you mean it turned the world upside down?” Before the boy could respond a man came walking over saying, “Call it magic, power, or just coincidence. But when they started taking some of the Adame from where it rested, strange things started happening.” “Strange?” Killian repeated. The man nodded and the boy looked back at Killian determined. “Well anyway, now that it’s out wouldn’t you want a piece of it? It’ll change your world back around I bet. Just for that horse, you can have this beauty of a piece.” Killian stood there as his mind tried to process everything these two were saying. The stone was found 5 months ago, his father died 5 months ago. Strange things were happening, the world was being turned upside down. Maybe it was the Adame that wrecked his life. And if it was he didn’t want anything to do with it. It suddenly hit him like a brick that maybe this thing he was seeking to find wasn’t quite as good as he thought, in fact what if it was the very thing that turned his life upside down? Killian looked around and saw that these men had many horses. One of them looked like his sister’s horse actually. Strange. He felt a fearful urgency to find his sister. “You aren’t looking well sir,” said the man, “do you need to sit down?” Killian shook his head, “Ill be fine I just need to...leave.” The boy held up the shining gem once more as an offer to Killian. The sparkling stone burnt at Killian’s eyes now and filled him with dread.His mind was racing, and as he started to back away shaking his head his feet followed and raced towards Storm. He mounted quickly and rode off leaving the loggers in his dust. Even when he was out of their sight he kept his horse running faster. His world was spinning. He had tried to hold his life together these last few months but no matter how hard he tried everything kept slipping from his grasp. Then when his grandfather sent him on this quest he felt hopeful, even though there was the risk of it being absolutely foolish and against everything he had known, he had had hope that it was true. Now the very thing he hoped in may have been the cause. He felt so deceived, and felt there was no escape. He ran faster still until his horse’s hoof caught on a rock and he was thrown over it’s head onto the hard ground. Everything started to fade and the last thing he could remember was the faint image of someone looking at his face before everything went black.
Chapter Four A Truth Unveiled
Killian’s head ached as he started to open his eyes. The dark sky glowed with millions of stars. They reminded him of millions of Adame Stones which made his stomach begin to hurt as well. He sat up leaning on his hand and was facing a crackling fire. Across the fire’s flames was his sister. “Ella?!” She jumped at his voice and at his sudden consciousness. “Shhh, don’t frighten me. I’m glad you are finally awake but if you’re going to frighten me then you can just go right back to sleep.” Killian stood to go sit by his little sister. “Ella, I’m so glad you’re alive! I didn’t know where you had gone and was worried sick, which by the way was an awful thing to do to your family, just running off like you did.” Ella shook her head like she had been expecting this lecture. “Well I can tell you were so worried it only took you two whole weeks to find me.” She scoffed over her nose and turned toward her pack looking for something. Killian quickly replied, ”I couldn’t just leave the farm, ma came down sick after you left.” Ella’s eyes narrowed worriedly. “And so you left her now?!” Killian glared back and replied, “Yes, which was a mistake. Ella I know you went to Ms. Liligrim’s house, I know why you are out here, and it’s a mistake for you as well. It’s not what you think it is.” Ella faintly smiled. “What isn’t? The Adame Stone?” Killian nodded as Ella turned back toward her pack and pulled something out, tossing it to her brother. He caught it before realizing it’s shimmering glare resembled what the boy logger was offering him. He dropped it as suddenly and kicked it toward the fire. “It’s evil. I thought it was good but it’s powers are too strong and it is affecting the whole world—,” Ella stood and grabbed a stick trying to poke quickly at the stone to get it out of the fire. “Evil?” She asked and annoyed, she added, “Killian what are you talking about? And why would you kick it into the fire? It can’t be broken or burned or anything, you know? You shouldn’t be afraid of it.” Killian pleaded, “I’m telling you Ella, it was found 5 months ago and since has been affecting the whole world in strange ways, father died 5 months ago. I think this is to blame.” As Ella struggled to get the stone free from the flames, the sparkle and glare coming from the stone faded and she gasped and yelled. “It’s melting!” Ella panicked, and Killian quickly went over to the edge of the dancing flames and peered in. She was right, where the stone had been was now a crumpling pile of melting metal. “It wasn’t real.” Killian said under his breath. The two of them stood there staring into the flickering flames that enveloped the shimmer of the false stone and unveiled the truth. “Those darn lying, cheating, snakes!” Ella shouted. Killian turned towards her and said, “Who?” Then the image of Ella’s horse, Sunset fluttered through Killian’s memory. “The Loggers.” He said as if already knowing and Ella nodded angrily. “Yes, they traded me this for my horse about a week ago and I’ve been trying to come back home only I don’t go as fast on my feet as with Sunset. I’m so sorry Sunset how could I have done this?” Ella sat back down and buried her head in her hands. “It’ll be okay Ella.” Killian said as he headed towards Storm. He grabbed the journal Ms. Liligrim had given him and went back to sit down to skim through it. He didn’t know what to believe and needed some answers. Searching through the pages, one entry caught his eye, being covered with dozens of drawn diagrams of stones. As his eyes studied it more he read silently that Mr. Liligrim had come across dozens of false stones. The answer had been in this journal the whole time. They had been deceived. Ella sobbed from across the fire and Killian closed the book and went to sit next to her saying. “Ella don’t cry.” Ella wiped her eyes and said, “I was just trying to do what was best, but it wasn’t true and now we’re worse off than before, and I’m without my horse. I just wish I could’ve seen this coming.” Ella looked down in despair and regret. Killian shook his head and replied, “I know Ella, they lied to me too, and I fell for it as well.” Opening the book he said, “Take a look at this. It turns out there are many false stones out there, we are just going to have to be more careful.” Killian's eyes scanned down to the bottom of the page to something Mr. Liligrim had scribbled and he read aloud, “With each false stone I have found a false story as well. All threatening my search and tempting my heart to turn back. I must keep onward. Must fix my eyes on what’s true.” Killian let it sink into his heart. “It was a lie. It didn’t feel like it, but it was.” Ella looked up at him, “It’s still out there.” She said and Killian nodded replying, “I think so.” Ella added, “And it’s not evil.” The last word hung in the air questioning what her brother still believed. Killian said, “No, no it may not be. We’re going to need to read through this journal and do everything it says in it. And I mean everything. It hasn’t even been 24 hours since I left home and we have both already been deceived. We have to follow this word for word if we are to keep going. Deal?” Ella nodded her head and Killian held out his hand and said again, “Deal?” Ella almost laughed but shook her brother’s hand firmly. “Okay,” he said, “I’ll study this tonight and in the morning we will set off. We can take turns riding on Storm.” Ella nodded sadly, missing her horse. “And we don’t do anything without looking first at the book.”
Chapter Five A Plea for Guidance
Ella and Killian rose with the sun and headed off East. Killian let his sister ride on Storm first as they started through the forest. “Do you have any idea where we are going?” Ella asked. Killian looked down at the journal again and flipped through the pages. “Last night I found a map in here, it looks like there’s a city about 3 miles east and then past that there are some mountains. I think we should look up in the mountains so we will head this way toward the city then go around it.” Ella bounced as the horse tripped over the knobby roots of the forest floor. “3 miles? And then into the mountains? That sounds like it could get pretty far for us to walk. I think we need to find another horse Killian. I mean, obviously there isn’t one around now, but that should be on our list of things to get here soon.” Killian ignored the comment as he didn’t have a solution to that dilemma quite yet. “Ella, did Ms. Liligrim give you anything or say anything when you went to see her?” His sister nodded and said. “Yes, but I was quite confused about it, so I don’t see how it would help.” Killian pushed on. “Well what was it?” Ella turned to her pack and pulled out a small candle and handed it down to him. “She said it would light at the right time and that is how I would know that it was the actual Adame Stone.” Killian repeated after her, “The actual Adame Stone. That right there was a hint that there were fakes. Why didn’t you use this when the loggers offered you a piece Ella?” She looked down sadly and said, “Well I did but I didn’t really believe her. I just got so excited at the possibility and when I saw that the candle wasn’t lit I didn’t care. I figured there must have been a mistake or that it wasn’t true.” Killian nodded and remembered the pebble his grandfather gave him, the one that just sat silent in his pocket during his encounter with the loggers. “I understand Ella. I felt like that too. I still don’t know if it’s true but I want to believe it. I’m trying to, so on that note, is there anything else Ms. Liligrim told you?” Killian handed the candle back up to his sister and as she packed it back in her pack she said, “Yes, she mentioned to be weary of others who were searching for it, that they could be evil. She said there was some out there who wanted it to use for evil, who wouldn’t use it for good and who wouldn’t want me to find it. Some who would do everything in their power to keep me from finding it. That also confused me because I didn’t understand who or why or how or...” Killian cut in, “I get it, but I’m thinking we should probably listen to that advice. I feel like we may be entering into something that has far more working parts than we were expecting. I don’t know if we are ready for this.” He sighed and Ella added, “Oh and, uh the last thing Ms. Liligrim said... was to ask... God to guide us.” Ella said as quietly and quickly as possible then cleared her throat uncomfortably. Killian looked up at her surprised. “She did? I wonder why she didn’t tell me that.” Killian said. Ella looked down awkwardly through her blond hair as Killian added, “Alright, well then that is what we are going to do.” Killian grabbed Storm’s reigns to stop him and looked up at the sky. “God, if you’re out there, please help us find the Adame stone...and protect us from everything we don’t understand or know is out there and show us which way please...umm thanks.” Killian took a step forwards and Ella added, “Amen, I think you’re supposed to say amen Killian.” “Oh amen.” He said and continued walking. Ella looked forward at the forest and pointed, “Oh look, I can see the city.” Through the trees the forest dropped down to a valley with a city embedded in it’s leaves. The structures flickered with the reflection of the sun’s sparks, and Killian and Ella began their decent down. The trees were getting thicker and they had to slow down to let Storm navigate through the twisting roots and vines of the woods. Ella got down from Storm and the three carefully treaded down the steep hill holding on to trunks to keep from falling. Suddenly a crack of thunder echoed from behind them and Storm leaped into the air and started running down the hill leaving Killian stumbling behind him. “Storm!” Killian cried and he and Ella started faster down the slope to try to reach the horse before he disappeared. “Storm!” They both yelled and as they did another crack of thunder split the air and echoed across the valley. Killian looked up to see the blanket of dark clouds quickly creeping overhead. “We have to hurry, the storm is coming.” Killian yelled across to Ella as they both continued climbing over roots and stumbling down the hill. One raindrop hit Killian’s cheek and then another on his nose until the clouds were directly overhead and seemed to have opened up to release a flood. Rainwater poured down on Ella and her brother and the dirtbeneath their feet became a muddy pudding slick under their steps. The two tried to hold on to the trees beside them as support but all it took was one step and down the hill they slid. Roots caught them again, a few trees apart from each other and the rain continued to beat down soaking them to the bone. Killian looked over at his sister who was trying to climb out of the twisted roots that caught her, failing at each attempt and slipping in the mud. The roots had her ankle and frustration covered her face as she fell back over the roots with every attempt to get free. Ella felt hopeless and looked up at the sky squinting as the rain dripped onto her face. “Okay God, okay, please...help me.” Ella buried her head in her lap and Killian watched as ever so slowly the rain let up drip by drip until it was only a trickle. The sun poked through from the clouds and then was covered again, a promise that the light would return. Killian got up from where he was and walked carefully across the hill to his sister, bent over and helped her foot out of the root. She looked up slowly and smiled as the sun poked through the clouds again lighting up her face. The two stood up carefully and looked down the hill. Roughly 100 yards below them lay the edge of the city. “Do you think he went in there?” Ella asked and Killian nodded and said, “There’s only one way to find out.” And the two headed down.
Chapter Six When Justice Seems To Hold Her Tongue
As Killian and Ella headed down toward the city they continued to call for Storm. They wandered through the dripping trees for a while until finally Ella started running. “I’ve spotted him Killian!” She yelled and disappeared into the wood. Killian followed in her direction and she met back up with him leading Storm by his reigns. The horse still seemed shaken from the thunder but they were just glad to have found him. Killian took the reins from his sister and cupped Storm’s chin stroking it. “It seems you may have named him wrong.” Ella joked and her brother shook his head. “No, he will live up to his name, it just may take time.” Killian patted his horse and then looked up at the city. Sweet and savory smells wafted towards them from within. Killian’s stomach growled. “Well I think it’ll be alright if we head through the city and look for something to eat while we dry off, besides it’s probably faster than going around anyway.” Ella nodded and they headed in through the gates. Merchants were all around selling anything you could think of it seemed. There were saddlebags, all different types of jewelry, pastries, meats. “Yum,” Ella said as her eyes took in all the food. “Let’s go there.” She pointed at the booth with the pastries. The two walked up to take their pick. Ella asked for a blueberry pastry and Killian grabbed a savory croissant filled with cheeses and meat. He also bought some day old bread, and dried meat to bring along their journey. As Killian was finishing up paying Ella whispered with urgency, “Sunset!” And nudged her brother to look. He turned to see Ella’s horse a few booths down in a line to be sold. Killian squinted his eyes to make sure it was the same horse and sure enough it looked to be her and not far off speaking to a potential customer was the boy who tried to buy Storm. Killian’s heart started to beat faster and he angrily gripped the reigns of Storm and hurried over. “Hey!” He shouted at the boy to try to get his attention. The boy looked up and smiled, “Oh hello again, how do you do sir?” Killian shook his head angrily, “How do I do?” He looked over at Ella who was standing by Sunset and walked over to the white mare. “I don’t do too well as it turns out, sir, as it turns out my sister’s horse somehow ended up with you, and I need it back now.” The boy asked the customer he was speaking with if he’d excuse him for a moment then walked over to Killian to speak with him face to face. “That horse?” He asked, “That horse I bought from that young lady a few weeks ago. If you fancy it, you may buy it back. Maybe for an Adame Stone, but as I remember correctly before, you don’t have any.” The boy smiled deviously and turned to go. “It turns out you don’t either.” Killian cut in before the boy could walk away. “It was a fake, it burned in the fire which proves it wasn’t real. So you gave my sister a faulty Stone for pay which declares the trade void. Therefore we are taking her horse back, unless you want me to spread the news here that you aren’t using real money...?” Killian threatened and the boy turned around and put his hands in the air. “Hey, hey, easy there. Fair is fair, she accepted the trade, it wasn’t my fault you figured out a way to destroy the thing.” The boy then snapped his fingers and a large man who was sitting behind the horses stood up and walked towards Killian while beating a fist in his other hand. Killian backed up and said, “Ella, come on let’s get out of here.” Ella had a look of loss on her face as she looked at Sunset and then back at the man walking towards her brother. “This isn’t fair!” She shouted at the boy who deceived her. “You can’t have my horse! You tricked me into giving her up, if I had known the truth I wouldn’t have traded her for your lie of a stone! I’m taking her with me!” The boy looked back at her and shook his head. “It doesn’t matter, you made the trade, the horse is fairly mine.” The boy snapped his fingers again and pointed at Ella instead of Killian. The big man grumbled and switched directions to the girl. Killian ran over to his sister before the man could and grabbed her. “No!” She cried. “Killian it isn’t fair!” As he saw the man rounding on them he lifted his sister up and helped her get on Storm. “Get up Ella.” He said as she scrambled on the horse. He then put his hands in the air and said, “Peace, we’re leaving.” And backing away led Storm through the crowd and out of sight of the boy, the man, and Sunset. Ella sat rigid on the horse with her arms crossed in frustration, and a face of stone. As they passed people in the crowd Killian noticed strange looks as people looked at Ella’s face curiously. Killian didn’t want any extra attention on them so he said, “Cheer up Ella, all will be well.” Ella didn’t respond. He tried again, “Here eat your pastry.” He tried handing it up to her but again was denied with cold silence. He sighed and put the pastry away. She could sulk if she wanted to. It wasn’t fair what happened and it angered him as well but there was nothing they could do about it now. Killian continued down the cobblestone streets taking in the sights of the city. It was filled with laughter, and mischief, oppurtunity, and lies, wonder, and hope, yet fear, and despair. A place bursting at the seams with contradictions. How could there be so much potential gone wrong? They passed by two boys punching each other and Killian stepped forward to help end it but one of the fighters ran away with some item he had stolen from his victim. Killian helped the boy up but he ran away afraid. “This place is wretched.” Ella huffed from the saddle. Killian couldn’t bare seeing the injustice either. All the more reason the world needed a fixing of some sort. Hopefully it was what he was setting out to find. “Hopefully we reach the other end of the city here shortly.” Killian said just as they turned a corner to see the city vast and open, much larger than they had thought. They could see the mountains at the other end beckoning them to hurry.
Chapter Seven Juggling Jewels
Cobblestone buildings lined this section of the city and then suddenly made way to a clearing where there was a magnificent castle up on a hill that overlooked a large span of gardens. In the gardens were hundreds of colors of tents set up and filled with a sea of people wandering from tent to tent. Music from pipes and drums filled their ears as they drank in the sight. A group of people brushed past Killian and Ella talking joyously of the event. They caught two words from their conversation and realized what it was they were looking at. “Grand Market.” Ella gasped incredulously. She looked down at Killian and smiled convincingly. “Could we maybe go for a bit Killian?” She begged. He looked back down the steps at the bouquet of traveling tents. They had heard of Grand Market, people from all over the world came to sell their products here. Every craftsman of any sort dreamed of one day selling their goods there and everyone else dreamed of waltzing down the endless parade of options that tickled their eye, and shopping away. Killian was hoping to avoid crowds but that seemed impossible anywhere in the city and this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. He nodded and said, I suppose we can walk through.” Ella climbed off of Storm and handed him the reins. They set down the stone steps to the clearing. The view of the majestic castle was beautiful from where they were. “Wow,” Ella said, “That castle is beautiful. I wonder who lives there.” When they got to the bottom they began to enter the crowd and started looking around. A whole row of tents held sweets that glistened with glazes and were sprinkled with sugars. Fruits and nuts covered in cream and chocolate syrups looked most delectable. Then rows of sweet drinks from tropical, tangy, and tart, to melted, creamy, and warm, they had it all. Every tent claiming they had the best. Killian wanted to try it all but there was too much and the prices were out of reach as well. The two strolled along gazing at all of the different products until one caught Killian’s eye. It was a booth that was filled with precious gems. Reds, greens, purples, and blues all sparkled richly with light. Killian asked Ella to hold Storm and warily stepped in to look closer. The tent was filled with people gazing upon the jewels. Killian found his way to a table that had tiny blue jewels lined out on it. “Wow.” He said under his breath. The lady next to him overhearing smiled and said, “Yes the sapphire is most glorious. It brings you protection.” Killian smiled politely and moved to the next table over, covered in green jewels. The lady followed him and said, “These are emeralds, they bring healing.” Killian lifted his eyebrows, “Healing? And the blue brings protection? And what of the red over there?” The lady nodded and a man who was on his left with a brown hat on jumped into the conversation and said, “Oh over there? Those are Rubies, they bring you courage.” Killian nodded at the man and said, “Really? These stones really do all of that?” Another man with a cane also joined in saying, “Oh yes, they absolutely do. The Sapphire saved my brother from a bear attack, he came out with nothing but a scratch. The most important one I’d say, if you can only afford one, the sapphire is the one to get.” The lady who had been talking to him said, “Oh I think the Emerald, everyone needs healing of some sort.” Then the man with the brown hat shared his thoughts as well, “Definitely the Ruby, you won’t need any of the rest if you have the courage to get through all of it.” Killian nodded and asked, “Are there anymore?” Then the merchant himself joined in the conversation and said, “Oh absolutely sir, I’d be happy to help you.” Killian curiously asked, “What is the best of all sir? The most powerful?” The old man lifted his bushy white eyebrows and chuckled a little, “Oh that all depends on you sir. To everyone their own. If you like the sapphire and feel a connection to that one, then that will be the most powerful for you. If this man over here fancies the emerald then that is the most powerful. It is whatever you choose sir.” The man smiling stood with his hands open to his tent. “So search around and see which you like sir. You can’t choose wrong, no one can.” That was the most ridiculous thing Killian had ever heard. Just because someone liked a stone more, couldn’t actually make it more powerful. He then asked as quietly as he could. “What about the Adame Stone?” The man with the brown hat overheard and laughing loudly he said, “The adame stone? You believe in that? Wow, how old fashioned!” A few of the other customers in the store laughed at the remark. The woman who told Killian about the jewels said, “Oh bless your heart child.” The merchant turned towards him after smiling at all of the comments and said, “Sir I admire your faith and wonder, but you don’t need anything from that stone. All of these gems can give you whatever you need.” Killian felt angry and said, “If you all don’t believe in the adame stone then how is it you believe that these stones have power? How are they any different?” The lady turned towards him and said, “Well my dear, it is because these are here.” The man with the brown hat then said, “Yes and where is that imaginary adame stone? These are real, and we can take them home with us. That’s the difference.” Killian’s face went hot with anger and he wanted to roll his eyes at the foolishness. Then a loud trumpet called from outside the tent. Everyone from inside started muttering, “The princess, here she comes.” Everyone turned towards the opening to funnel out when the lady came up to Killian and said, “The princess is making her way through the market. We must go watch. Come and see, she is covered with the jewels as well, she adores them.” She said trying to convince Killian further. He nodded but once out of the tent he turned towards Ella who was sitting up on Storm looking over the crowd’s heads at something. “Ella let’s get out of here.” He said and she turned towards him, “Oh there you are, it seems there is some royal parade of some sort up there coming this way. We might as well wait until it passes.” Killian stood there frustrated with city folk. What fools those people were to believe in those stones and not the adame stone. To just ignore it’s existence completely, it’s as if they were happy with less than gems even though there was a possibility of something greater. What was it the merchant said again? You don’t need anything from that stone? If he didn’t believe in it why would he say that? Maybe the man was lying. Killian pulled the pebble, the emada, from his pocket and looked at it. He felt his frustration growing as he was getting bumped left and right as people were trying to catch a glimpse of the royalty coming. Then someone ran through and bumped Killian’s arm sending the pebble into the air and over the heads of the crowd. “No.” Killian said breathlessly and quickly pushed through the crowd trying to look at the ground. He knelt down to look around and through a few legs he could see it. Crawling around he tried not to lose sight of it. He was almost there when someone accidentally kicked it forward. The crowd was getting louder and Killian hurried until he saw it again and dove forward only to watch it get kicked again. This time right into the middle of the clearing. Perfect. He ran out towards it to hear the crowd gasp and get quiet. The trumpets stopped and everything became silent as he reached towards the ground to pick it up. Finally. Satisfied he looked up to see the princess and her procession all stopped before him, with two swords pointed towards his throat.
Chapter Eight Counting the Cost
Killian sat in the dark angry and confused. The memory blurry and strange repeated itself over and over in his head as he wished he could go back and change it. After the emada was bumped out of his hand by the crowd, he had crawled around seeing nothing else until it rested safely in his palm. After he finally found it he looked up to see the Princess and her guards all before him. He had stood there shocked and confused at how he had ended up there with the guards swords pointed at his throat. He remembered putting his hands into the air with the pebble in one hand and looked up at the Princess as innocently as he could. Her deep blue eyes stared down at him curiously and she whispered something to one of her guards who came over to him and tried to take his pebble. He fought back and it all went downhill from there. His hands were bound and just when they were about to take him away, a horse came running through the crowd and into the clearing, the girl on it shouting, “Let him go! He has done nothing wrong!” Only to also be captured and bound and taken along as well. Oh Ella. Now where were they both? In some cold and damp holding place under the castle. Who knew how long they would be there? Their plans were ruined. Their belongings stripped from them. The guards were even successful at getting the emada pebble from his hand. It wasn't a fair fight them having swords and he nothing, but it did take them a while to be able to confiscate it, to his satisfaction. “I’m sorry Ella.” Killian muttered to his sister through the damp dark. “Oh stop Killian, lets admit it, this is truly all my fault. I’m the one who ran off in the first place. Then I sold my horse for a dumb pretend stone. Then I burst through the crowd with your horse getting him taken as well. It just seems that everything I try to do fails and ends up making things worse.” Ella’s words came out stone cold and numb. Killian’s heart dropped. “Ella, that isn’t true, if I hadn’t come out and found you in the woods, you would’ve just kept on traveling home and would be there safe and sound right now. Let’s face it I’m the one to blame if we are going to blame anyone. I’m the one who dropped the emada pebble and ran out to get it only to interrupt the royal parade or whatever that was, leading to us getting arrested and in here with the rats.” Ella stayed quiet for a moment then said, “There are rats?” Killian thought back to when they were being led down the stairs to this dungeon, he had seen a rat run by the guard’s foot but he said, “Oh I don’t know, maybe not.” Ella sighed. “Killian it wasn’t your fault.” He responded quickly with, “Well it wasn’t yours either Ella.” She sighed again and said, “I suppose it kind of was both of our faults honestly.” Killian nodded. “You’re right. We both made mistakes and both of our actions led us here. I just wanted to find that stone so badly. I’m so sick and tired of seeing stuff go wrong in this world. I want a way to fix it. I keep trying to fix it myself and it doesn’t work. I figured if we found that stone it could fix it for us.” Ella listened intently and said, “I know Killian, that’s how I felt too. It was my only hope. But now here we are in a dungeon. With possible rats. In the dark, without hope.” Killian added, “No not without hope Ella. They can’t take that from us. They can take everything else, but we will keep hoping. I refuse to give up. I refuse to believe the lies of the people at Grand Market. The Adame Stone is still out there. And it can help us. Remember what Ms. Liligrim said, that there are some who don’t want us to find it. We have to keep hoping. We will get out of here Ella. I don’t know how but we will.” Ella then said, “You’re right Killian, we have to hold on to hope. I hope we will get out of here. God, please help us to get out of here.” Ella almost yelled the last bit and it echoed through the walls. A loud creak came from somewhere within the dark making the two siblings jump. Then a blinding light cut through the blackness as the door from which they came opened and two guards made their way in. “The Princess requests a word with you two, come with me.” One of the men said and Ella and Killian held their breaths as they ascended up the staircase. As soon as their eyes got used to the light Killian looked at Ella the two of them nodding in encouragement to one another. They followed the guards into a grand hall where the ceilings were covered in beautiful paintings and inlaid with gold. At the end of the room the Princess sat on a throne covered in jewels. As soon as they got close enough the guard whispered harshly, “Bow.” Killian bowed and Ella quickly curtsied as best she could. The Princess didn’t notice their awkwardness about formality though. She was maybe three years older than Killian. She was covered in lace and satin embroidered with pearls and wearing necklaces, bracelets, and earrings covered in different colored jewels. The lady from the tent was right, she did fancy the gems. The Princess cleared her throat and said, “I am Clara, Princess of Taren. Today you interrupted my way through Grand Market and caused quite a scene. My people are quite shaken about it and fear your presence in the city.” Her voice was gentle but firm. Ella blurted out, “But we weren’t trying to cause any harm at all, um your majesty.” The Princess looked down at Ella with a look that silenced her. “I am arranging for your departure out of my land.” The Princess said ignoring Ella’s comment completely. Killian cleared his throat then said, “Your Majesty, we accept your decision. May I ask where it is we will be taken?” She said, “You will be taken to the border of my lands North of the city.” That would be fine according to the map in his journal. They could then head East into the mountains. Killian nodded and said, “And our belongings?” The Princess looked at him thoughtfully with those deep blue eyes. “Yes, your belongings will be returned to you. However,” she said glancing to the back of the room at the guards and then lowering her voice suspiciously. “I would like to keep the small pebble you found on the road.” Killian’s eyes grew big, then he settled himself. “Oh that old rock? What would a Princess such as yourself covered in beautiful jewels as this want with a dirty little pebble from my farm?” The Princess eyed him carefully and said, “Tis none of your business, what I want with it. You went to great lengths to get it, so it must be worth something no?” She said innocently. Killian forced a sad composure and said, “It is nothing but a token of a memory Your Majesty. One I hold dear.” The Princess then said, “I’d be willing to pay.” She motioned to one of her servants who brought over a small bag of gold coins and jewels to show Killian and Ella. They glistened with opportunity. The bag was full of more coins than Killian would make in his lifetime working on the farm. He held back a gasp and swallowed the temptation to accept. “I’m sorry it isn’t for sale, Your Majesty.” Killian said firmly. The Princess tapped her mouth thoughtfully and with a small smile said, “Very well. Some things are worth more than silver and gold aren’t they?” She held Killian’s stare curiously and he felt puzzled. The Princess blinked breaking her gaze then sat up straight and said loudly, “It’s settled then, you shall be escorted out in one hour along with one of my servants who has been exiled.” She then grabbed her jeweled staff and hit the floor one time signaling the finality and stood to leave as Killian and Ella were escorted back out of the room.
Chapter Nine A Poor Servant Girl
Killian and Ella were led outside where a wooden carriage was waiting to take them North of the city. His horse Storm was there waiting for him and Killian ran over to greet him. The Princess’s guards brought a young girl whose head was hanging low with a hat covering her face. She looked sad and ashamed by her stance but Killian couldn’t see her face. That must have been the servant girl who was being exiled. He had no idea why she was being exiled out of the castle and city. She must have done something terribly wrong. He figured it would be best to keep to himself and once they were finally out and the guards let them go, he and Ella would be on their way to find the stone again. Just the two of them. This might not be as bad as he thought, a little lift possibly closer to the stone. The servant girl climbed into the carriage first and put her head into her hands. Killian and Ella climbed in next and sat across from the girl. Their belongings were already in the carriage and Killian checked his pack quickly to make sure the emada pebble was still in there. Ella searched through her stuff and brought out the candle smiling with relief at Killian. Killian searched through his bag and still couldn’t find it. The driver whipped the horses and the carriage began to move. A moment of panic rolled through Killian’s nerves and he said quietly, “I can’t find it Ella. Wait. Wait!” He started to shout to try to get the driver to stop so that he could have a word with the princess. That thief! She must have taken it. He knew by their encounter that she was up to something. She had her eye on the pebble the whole time! He opened his mouth to shout again when he heard, “Are you looking for this?” The voice came from the servant girl across from him and he looked over to see his emada pebble sitting in her palm. Before he had a chance to be angry the girl looked up and the recognition of her face sent shock through him. Those deep blue eyes stared back at him cooly, and the face of the Princess smiled. “You, you...” Ella started only to be interrupted by the Princess saying, “Shh, you mustn’t tell anyone. You mustn’t.” Ella’s mouth hung open but she was speechless. Killian reached forward to grab his pebble but the Princess quickly closed her hand. “Wait. Please, I will return it to you but first you must promise not to tell.” Killian sat back annoyed and crossed his arms impatiently. “First you have to explain what you are doing here.” He said firmly. The Princess sat a little taller and said, “I will explain once you promise not to tell.” Killian sighed and said, “We promise, now explain yourself.” The Princess looked at Ella and only after she nodded as if to promise as well, did she begin. “First of all, I know what this is.” The Princess said. “It’s just a pebble of memorabilia.” Killian replied. The Princess leaned in and said, “No it isn’t, don’t lie to me. I know what it is.” She said. Killian’s eyes narrowed and he said, “No disrespect Your Majesty but you are the one who has been lying to us.” She nodded and sighed. “When I was young, my mother became ill and one of our servants brought us a small pebble.” She said as she held up Killian’s rock. “Only when he brought it, it glowed with light and color. It brought healing to my mother and thus lost it’s power and glow but saved her. My mother however thought it to be a coincidence and didn’t believe it so exiled the servant along with his pebble. I have always dreamed of finding it because I believed it healed my mother and I believe there is something out there that gave it that power and I must find it. When I saw you run out in front of my guards at the Market, you picked this up and I knew immediately what it was. You’re looking for it aren’t you?” She asked the siblings that sat across from her. They were silent as Killian and Ella took in all the information. Killian looked into the Princess’s eyes and said, “Looking for what?” She sighed and responded with, “The thing from which it gets it’s power. I don’t know what it is but I know it must be out there. You must know where it is if you have one of these? Please be honest.” Killian held out his hand for his pebble and as she placed it in his palm he said, “Yes, we are. And I can see you want to come as well but we can’t do that.” Ella looked at her brother confused and said, “Why not Killian? Sure we can.” Killian looked back at the Princess and said, “We don’t exactly know what we are doing. This pebble was given to me but I don’t know much about it. We are at the end of our rope and have nothing to lose. You however have everything to lose. You have your kingdom, castle, riches, I don’t even know what else but you have a responsibility here. If something happened to you, your people would suffer and we would be thrown into prison for kidnapping you probably. It’s too great a risk and it doesn’t make sense for you. We need it, you already have everything you need, phh more than that.” The Princess replied, “And yet it isn’t enough. It’s all empty. The jewels, the gold, all of it has empty promises of joy and fullness. The more I have the more empty I’ve become. There’s so much more, I can feel it. There just has to be. You’re right I have all the world has to offer, and yet something inside of me feels empty, longs and aches for something that’s missing. On the outside I am a Princess, but on the inside a poor servant girl. I have to seek. I have to find. I refuse to settle when I know there’s more. The Kingdom is spiraling down without it anyway. I owe it to my people to find out what’s missing.” Killian sighed and looked deep into the Princess’s cool blue eyes. “It’s going to be hard, and cold, and tiring, and dirty, and scary, and who knows what else. Just because you aren’t dressed like royalty right now doesn’t mean you know how to get on...um...out in the real world. Are you sure you’re really up for it?” The Princess smiled and said, “The joy I’ll have when I’ve found what I’m missing won’t be comparable to anything we have to go through to get there. So yes I am ready.” Killian and Ella nodded in approval and Killian said, “It’s called the Adame Stone by the way. That’s what we’re looking for.” The Princess opened her mouth in a quick moment of shock and then closed it nodding and said, “Of course. So, where do we begin?”