“Eric,” a dreamy voice whispered softly. “Eric, its time you woke up,” it cooed once more. Eric wriggled deeper under his sheets, deeper into the peace and comfort of sleep. His mind, once occupied with the fleeting images of dreams, now slowly focused as his eyes peered through heavy eyelids.
“Eric. You’ve slept long enough,” came the voice again, this time less pleasantly. Eric sat up in bed, giving a lengthy yawn. He rested his head against the bed post, not quite awake yet.
“Get dressed and meet me in the living room. We need to have a bit of a talk. Hurry now!” urged Diom. Then there came the click of a door closing. Eric sat up further, hunching over. He rubbed his eyes absentmindedly while slipping out from under the covers. Dropping to the ground, he reached under his bed for his clothing trunk. His finger’s reached out until he felt the cool touch of the metal latch, then, pulled out the worn trunk. Opening the lid, he examined the trunk’s contents, finding some pants and a loose fitting linen shirt to put on.
Giving out one last long yawn, he pulled on his clothes and opened his door to find Roman and Diom in deep conversation in the next room. Roman and Diom looked up as he entered.
“About time you woke up,” clacked Roman. That was the odd thing, thought Eric, he made a deep clicking sounds whenever he spoke. Eric hadn’t noticed it before.
“Well, sit down,” motioned Roman, pointing to a wooden chair. Eric sat obediently.
“I think we should tell him about the stones first, Diom. Then we can get on to the other…subjects we need to cover,” said Roman.
“Lets see. The stones,” mumbled Diom, thinking to himself. “Have you, by chance, discovered the stone inside one of the daggers?”
“Well, then, do you, also by chance, have any idea of the importance of the stone?”
Eric shook his head. “No,” he said rubbing his eyes. “Sorora thought it was important though,” he added absently mindedly, stretching away the sleepiness.
“Your friend Sarora is very perceptive. The stone, in fact, is one of only three in the world. This particular stone is called the Sun stone, or stone of light. It allows the user to perform a very specific but powerful spell, known as the Spell of Ashes. Anything and everything that is in some way organic, even if the item in question is not at all living but has some trace amounts of organic material on it, can be reduced to ashes. The power of a spell such as this is reserved only to the beholder of this particular stone. But the user must also possess a certain amount of magical ability to perform the spell.” At this, Diom reached down beside his chair, retrieving the two daggers. “Do you remember which dagger it was that holds the stone?”
Eric looked at them intently. One dragon’s eyes lay tightly shut in eternal slumber while the other’s eyes lay gazing out. Eric reached out to one; his hand recoiled and reached for the other, pulling it back once more.
“I don’t remember which it was,” he said simply
“Good,” sighed Diom, “its better that way. These daggers were built to do just that. Deter a person from choosing one or the other with the intention of taking the stone.
"There is a special reason that this stone is more protected that the rest, but that will have to wait until another time. Right now we need to try some simple exercises outside.” Diom and Roman both stood up, striding to the door. Eric followed closely behind.
Once outside, Diom motioned for Eric to stand in front of a tree as he placed a couple of small pebbles in his hand.
“What do I do with these?” asked Eric.
“I want you to think of any item you want, and blow those stones towards that tree.”
“How am I suppose to blow stones?” he retorted skeptically.
“It will make sense once you try. Now, imagine, say, an apple. Picture it in your mind. Hold the pebbles firmly and blow them towards that tree, while still imagining that apple.”
Eric tightened his fist, firmly holding the image of an apple in his mind. He slowly released his grip, allowing the stones to become loose in his hand. Then, taking a deep breath, blew the stones towards the tree. The pebbles fell from his hand and rolled over uselessly on the ground.
“Just what I thought. Not an ounce of magic in the lot of him,” Roman sighed. Then, adroitly, Roman reached down and placed the pebbles in his right hand. His eyes became unfocused as his fist tightened.
Then, ever so gently, blew the pebbles towards the tree. But instead of tumbling to the ground, they floated on the breath Roman had cast, slowly deteriorating into dust and spraying the tree with ash. As the ashes floated elegantly to the forest floor, a small red apple materialized at the tree’s base. Eric gaped in astonishment. Did he just see what he thought he had?
“Eric will have to find another way to protect himself,” Roman stated simply, picking up the small apple and placing it in his left trench coat pocket. “I think we should teach him to throw something smaller like, say, daggers. A sword would probably be too hard to adapt to so quickly, its pretty heavy, and so would a bow and arrow. That also takes a lot of strength.”
Roman sat quietly, thinking to himself. Then he reached into his right coat pocket and pulled out a handful of pebbles. As he had just done, he held them securely in his hand, blowing them away carefully. This time as the ashes drifted to the forest floor, a red target appeared painted across the tree. “Could I see those daggers?” Roman asked Diom. Diom nodded and revealed the daggers he had been holding to Roman.
They glinted lightly in the sun’s warmth. Diom smiled lightly, their luster always surprised him, no matter how many times he gazed at them. Somehow they’d managed to become more brilliant than before. But he knew it wasn’t the daggers that called to him, but the stone within.
“Eric, come stand over here,” instructed Roman, pointing to a spot about ten paces from the red target.
“There are several ways to throw a blade, depending whether it is a lighter blade or a heavier one as well as which one works better for you.
“First, I want you to try the hold reserved for heavier blades as well as a slower throw. Hold it by the handle as you would a hammer, placing your thumb along the smaller side of the blade. Keep your wrist tight so you don’t loose control of the blade, there is no guarantee it will go where you want it to if you leave you wrist too loose. But don’t hold it too tightly either.
"As you throw you have to keep your right foot back, putting most the weight on your toes. Bend your knees slightly and throw in a circular motion. Don’t worry about the target too much this time around, that will come in practice. First comes technique.”
Roman then handed one of the daggers to Eric. He took in nervously. Swiveling on his heel, he turned to face the tree, hoping he could remember everything that Roman had just said.
Placing the dagger carefully in his hand, so his thumb extended over the smaller side of the blade, he took aim. Then he remembered about his right foot, sliding it behind him in his best attempt at the proper position. With a careful swing of his arm, he let the dagger fly. It hit lower on the tree.
“Good. Now this time I want you to practice the hold reserved for a lighter, faster blade throw. This hold can only be used with a duller blade. You are to hold the blade by the dull side, pinching it in the middle with your forefinger and thumb. Remember to keep your wrist relaxed a little more in this throw. Now, go get the dagger you just threw and try it once more with this grip.”
Eric hastened over to the tree, looking over the leaves to find the beautiful craftsmanship of the dagger. Something shimmering caught his eye. He reached out to find the dagger. Again he walked over to the spot indicated by Roman, thinking over Roman’s instructions. Once more he threw the dagger. This time it spun several more times, digging itself deep into the bark of the tree.
“Keep your wrist a little stiffer and don’t extend your arm out fully. It will only strain your arm more than it has to be. Now keep practicing while listening to what Diom has to say. And release the blade a little sooner, notice how the blade lands below the target,” Roman remarked.
“Right, the other stones,” continued Diom. “The two stones I haven’t spoken about yet are the Weeping Stone or stone of sorrow, and the Chimera Stone or stone of guise. The Weeping stone allows the possessor to reap a person’s mind of their most sacred and painful thoughts and memories. It can even be used to discover a person’s weaknesses. The Chimera stone is something quite unique.
It is the only stone that effects the performer of the magic instead of the performer’s enemies. This stone allows the user to change form or appearance. But, the only way they can maintain that form for a long period of time is if they are in direct contact with it, otherwise they will retain their original form.” Diom looked to Eric, making sure his mind wasn’t somewhere else daydreaming, Eric’s favorite place to be. “Eric, I don’t think you understand just yet,” spoke Diom softly, “We have to leave here.”
“But, why do we have to leave?” Eric asked, caught off guard by the statement. “Who would want the stones enough, or even know where the stone in the daggers is that they would come here looking for it?”
“Because, the man who has taken over Rune castle has a lust for the stones stronger than any other desire. His heart is as black and as hard as his actions.” Roman said quietly. “If he were to catch us and take the stones, there would be no hope left for Opar. He has an entire army backing him up. We have no choice but to run.”
“Where will we go?”
“There is an island off the coast of Cray and just west of the Great Ship Graveyard. On that island there is another fortress where anyone with important information or, in our case, something valuable enough to protect goes in an emergency,” answered Roman. Eric lowered his head, pretending to stare intently at the ground.
He was really going to miss his home. What was he to say to Sarora and Ralin? A couple of tears escaped his eyes. I won’t cry. There will be a life for me when I get back, I can wait. Eric raised his head slowly, looking into the eyes of Diom, searching for some falsehood.
Then, resolutely, asked, “When are we going?”
“Tomorrow,” answered Roman, as laconic as ever.