The True Stones (1)
Matthew James Parsons


The snowflakes danced down to the ground like leaves in a breeze. There was no movement on the snowy plain whatsoever, except for that of a hunting cat. It had its tail up and nose down, trying to deduce where its prey hid underneath the snow. The cats blue eyes shone out against its black body, and its whiskers were long and grey. The cat froze, and then pounced on the snow. It rose triumphantly with a mouse caught in its jaws, and began to swagger back to its home.

The falcon watched the cat from its perch, tilting its head one-way and then another. Its eyes carefully traced the cat’s path and the falcon dove off its branch, wings beating silently. The cat still just walked along with its head raised and eyes closed. The falcon swooped in for the kill, but the cat instantly turned around and slashed out at the bird of prey. The falcon fell to the ground, several feathers missing from its wings.

“You remember the treaty,” the cat hissed at the falcon, which was making feeble attempts at flight. “You and your kind stay on the eastern side of the pass, and my kind stay on the west.”

“The treaty cannot apply to those of flight,” the falcon cried back. “We falun rule the skies, and we shall rule the ground as well!”

At this, the falcon began to metamorphosis into a new creature. Its feathers fell off, revealing scaled skin underneath, and the flight feathers were replaced with a thin, green membrane, stretched tightly along three great fingers, much like a bat. An extra pair of arms grew out of the beast’s chest, and the feathered tail became the tail of an alligator, rough and bumpy. The creature opened its beak to release a bone-chilling cry, and at the same time, it revealed several rows of vicious teeth that had grown there. The eyes of the falcon turned entirely red, and the falcon belched out a plume of flame.

The cat jumped back and hissed. It began to change as well. Its back legs grew longer and straightened out. The fur grew out longer, and the cat’s already formidably large teeth grew even bigger. The cat’s claws and fur also gained a couple of extra inches. The cat roared out, and another of the cat-men ran out from the bushes nearby.

“There is no way you can kill me,” the falun said, staring the two cat-men down. “You lium are a weak race. I shall eat well tonight.” The falun flew up into the air and prepared to dive in for the kill when an arrow pierced its neck. The beast fell to the ground, its body writhing.

“Humans!” the lium screamed as they ran off into the underbrush. The human hunters entered the clearing to see their dead prey. One of the humans cursed and began to yell at the other hunters.

“Fools!” the lead hunter cried. “Alive, we were supposed to catch it alive! How can we fill the order now? We needed two wyverns, one male and one female! We have the female, but this is the only male we have seen in weeks? And you kill it!”

The other hunters cowered, all trying to hide behind each other. Their flat noses, turned up like a pigs, shook with fear. One hunter, who had his head close to the ground, began to sniff. He followed the trail, and the lead hunter followed him. They followed the scent all the way to a cave, where the two cat-men stood, warming themselves by a crude fire. The lead hunter made some hand signals to the others, and they pulled out a net. The hunters threw the weighted net over the two lium. The lium tried to transform back into cats in order to escape, but the hunters bagged them immediately.

“A couple of yeti,” the lead hunter said. “You half-bloods are useful sometimes, with that troll blood in you. These will catch a pretty price at market.”

“What about wee-varn?” one half-blood said. “We needeed wee-varn.”

“Ah, yes,” the lead hunter said. “You aren’t of pure human blood like me, so I doubt you would know. While wyverns make great hunters, yeti are known for their loyalty and brute strength. We can sell them as guards.”

The half-bloods grunted in agreement, jumping up and down. They dragged the sacks containing the two yeti across the snowy ground, groaning at the weight of the two creatures.

Foundriks, the capital city of Haelbark, was covered in a blanket of gray, soot-filled snow. The steel foundries that the city drew its name from pumped gallon after gallon of smoke into the air, further sullying the city and its surrounding lands. The two yeti stood at the gates to a giant mansion, ill-fitting helmets strapped to their heads by a thin strap of leather. In their hands, they held giant halberds. These halberds were enormous in size, and would most likely take several men and a team of horses to move.

A stranger approached the door, and the yeti grabbed the halberds and pointed them menacingly at the stranger. The stranger pulled an amulet out from under his coat. The amulet showed a golden sword, with points of color along its blade, supposedly representing gemstones. The yeti stood up straight again and held the halberds up. The stranger entered the house, mumbling something derogatory about the two great creatures.

“Blast, we ought to skewer a couple of the hairless freaks,” one yeti grunted to the other in their own language of roars and howls. “Come on, Desti, it will be fun.”

“No,” the yeti named Desti said. “Do I need to remind you what the humans did to you last time you acted out?”

Desti pointed to the other yeti’s free hand. He opened it to reveal a scar shaped like a circle in his hairless palm. He grunted and closed his hand again.

“All the better reason to impale them!” the yeti screamed. “I, Regalius, will not be a slave to these… things!”

Regalius started to chant, and his body began to change. He was attempting to revert into his cat form. He got about halfway when he gave out a cry of pain and was forced to change back into a yeti.

“What is this?” Regalius screamed. A passerby would have said that there was a group of cats being slaughtered if they hadn’t seen the yeti that was screaming.

“Look at my helmet, Regalius,” Desti said, reaching up to her helmet. She tapped the onyx set in the helmet. “These gems are called the Gem of Clarity. It destroys all illusion or change. Things are what they seem with this stone.”

“Blast it all, now you speak their language?” Regalius groaned. “Next, you’ll be reading their books!”

Desti looked at the ground, avoiding eye contact with Regalius. Regalius grunted and returned to the position he stood in while guarding, head up, eyes vacant, and teeth bared. Desti sighed and returned to attention. Another human walked up and the two yeti once again held their halberds at the ready. This human didn’t pull out an amulet but instead, a golden knife. He tried to get near, whispering and cooing, trying to keep the yeti calm. Regalius took a stab at the human, who jumped out of the way just in time.

The human went up to Desti. “Stay calm, you will be free,” the human said as he cut through the leather strap holding the enchanted helmet on.

Desti grunted at Regalius, who allowed the human to draw near and sever his bonds as well. The two yeti gave a grunt of thanks, and transformed back into their feline form. The human followed after them.

“He’s following us, this is a trap!” Regalius meowed at Desti. “We should never have let that human cut us free!”

“I trust him,” Desti replied. “Perhaps we ought to talk to him. I could scratch out words in the ground…”

“So you do read their language!” Regalius cried. “Stars above, send a falun to gut me!”

The two cats stopped outside of the city boundary. They transformed back into their yeti forms, and Desti greeted the human with a grunt and Regalius gave the man a menacing look. The human was not deterred at all by Regalius, and he spoke.

“You, lium,” the human said, much to the surprise of Desti, who translated for Regalius. “You are free, if that is what you choose. Or, you can help me in a task I need to complete. The choice is yours.”

“We ought to just bolt,” Regalius whispered to Desti, even though he knew that the human could not understand him. “He said we can go free.”

Desti wasn’t listening though. She painstakingly scratched out a message in a nearby tree: What is this task?

The human smiled. He simply reached into his pocket and pulled out a large piece of parchment. He unfolded the parchment to reveal a map of the realm of Thraegar. The human pointed to a large dot in the center of the largest landmass, Aia. It was labeled Haelbark.

“We are here at the moment,” the human explained. “I need to make a delivery. I already have the package, I just need guides, because my destination is here.” The human moved his finger from the point marking Haelbark to another point on a peninsula to the east, on the sub-continent of Read. There was another point labeled Trav. rest.

“We would go to Traveler’s Rest, a major port town in the kingdom of Ilyote, spanning from that peninsula to the westernmost lands of Eruad. Will you come with me?”

“I say we go,” Desti said. “We can learn so much more---“

“No.” Regalius grunted.

“What do you mean, ‘No’?” Desti said. “We are going. We owe our freedom to this human!”

“That is the point! He is a human!” Regalius bellowed. “Humans can’t be trusted, they kill for entertainment! They are crude, base creatures!”

“If we refuse to help him, we will be no better than what you believe humans to be!” Desti fumed.

Regalius sat there and thought. In the meantime, the human was becoming anxious for a reply. The human walked in circles, kept on checking his map, and mumbled to himself constantly. Regalius got up and whispered something into Desti’s ear. Desti smiled a yeti smile, and etched into the wood: We, Desti and Regalius, are at your service!

The moon was high in the sky, and the starlight revealed a falun on the forest floor. The dead Falun was rotting now, the arrow embedded in its neck red from the falun’s blood, which had seeped into it in the week it had been there. A wyvern’s shriek filled the air, and the wyvern glided down into the forest clearing. The wyvern used its magic to change back into a hawk, and a single man walked out into the clearing. He was wearing dark purple robes, with a hood that obscured his face except for his mouth. The hawk flew to its master and landed on his master’s shoulder. The old man smiled to reveal yellow, rotting teeth. The man walked over to the falun’s corpse.

Chanting in a foul tongue, the man held up a gem in each hand. In his right hand, he held an opal, the Spirit Gem, and in his left hand, he held a sapphire. His chanting grew louder and faster, and the corpse began to twitch. The man would not stop his foul magyck now, not when he was so close to achieving his goal. The corpse began to twist around now, and its actions became more coordinated. The man finished his chant, and the falun Corpse stood up.

The old man smiled an evil smile, and he walked up to the Corpse. The falun, still in its wyvern form, stood still, eyes looking off into nothingness. The old man bellowed out a command to the falun corpse, but it didn’t budge. He kicked the wyvern, but there was no reaction. The old man was becoming enraged. Not now, not when he was so close, would he allow failure. He pulled out a knife and stabbed the falun in the neck. The falun did not bleed, nor did it fall over. It didn’t gasp for air. It did nothing.

The old man cursed and threw the knife to the ground. The falun Corpse stood there like a statue. The hawk on the man’s shoulder transformed into its wyvern form, and it cried out in a language not spoken by common men. The Falun Corpse moved for the first time after its resurrection. It moved its head to face its living kin and cried back. The old man smiled. His experiment had worked, just not in the way he would expect it. The old man called to his own falun, which turned back into a hawk. The falun Corpse transformed into a falcon, and the falcon Corpse alighted on the old man’s other shoulder. He walked off into the forest, leaving his knife in the snow. The blade lay there in the snow, its soft golden glow illuminating the night.

“Blast it!” Regalius said as he trudged through the snow. “Why can’t we leave now? We have nothing here for us!”

“I want to see my home again before I leave,” Desti replied. “I cannot wait for our journey either, but I want to just remember all the good times I have spent here before we go.”

Desti walked along through the snow, with Regalius close behind. Regalius saw something in the snow and picked it up rather clumsily with his yeti hands. He held up a glowing knife, and he looked at it very carefully.

“Look at this,” Regalius said to Desti. “It is a glowing knife. How curious… Wait, this is the clearing where we were captured, isn’t it?”

Regalius made a large sweeping motion with his hand, and he walked over to where the snow seemed more packed down.

“And this is where the falun was shot and killed. Where did it go? It was dead, it can’t move…”

Desti walked on until she reached here cave. It was a rather nice cave, with a small fire circle and a mat of dry leaves. Desti looked at her cave, and her gaze fell upon her collection. It was a collection of human objects. There was an old, rusted key, a shoe buckle, a children’s book that was missing several pages, an amulet set with bloodstone, and an odd looking piece of cloth. She struggled to remember what the humans called that cloth. Wasn’t it shirt?

Desti took one last look, and she resolved to bring her collection. She had a pouch that she had taken from a trashcan while she had been free, roaming the city as a cat. She filled the pouch, and she placed the amulet around her neck. She walked back to find Regalius succeeding in only confusing himself more about the missing falun. Desti placed her hand on Regalius’ shoulder. The two yeti walked back to where their employer was waiting.

The human was tapping his foot impatiently. “Finally,” the human said. “You’re here. We will start today, and camp at nightfall. Understood?” The two yeti nodded their heads, and the group started off. Regalius gave the knife to Desti for safekeeping in her pouch, which she wore around her neck. They had reached the mountains by nightfall, and the yeti simply fell asleep where they first fell. The human set up a simple tent, and he fell asleep soon after the yeti had.

The two yeti and the human had been traveling for three months across windswept plains of snow and through foreboding mountain ranges. They had passed through Caolen and had trekked through the Swarbon Empire. The group had now just one last mountain range to pass through, the Alelep. Desti and Regalius marched along obediently behind the human, who called himself Grulmdin. Grulmdin had blonde hair and a small moustache, and his skin was as white as the snow that blanketed the northern half of he world. He wore armor that seemed to large for him, which he said had belonged to his one of his male relatives from several thousand years ago, one who had accompanied the great hero who slew the horrible Paladin Souls of old. He explained to the yeti much about human culture and government and of the other magyck stones.

“So when we reach Traveler’s Rest in Ilyote, you must know a few things,” Grulmdin told Desti and Regalius. “First and foremost, while you have been traveling with me as companions, Ilyotes see any animal as property and will attack you and drag you off instantly if you do not appear to belong to me. Second, they are horribly superstitious. The lium and falun are not found here in this part of the world. So if you even consider transforming, you will be attacked and killed with a silver blade, supposedly to kill demons.”

“What barbaric people,” Regalius said, and Desti scratched this onto a piece of wood she had been carrying as a notebook of sorts so they could communicate with Grulmdin. Grulmdin looked at the message and laughed.

“Well, that is one way of putting it,” Grulmdin managed to get out even though he was laughing so hard. “They are not so much barbarians as businessmen, and would kill their own mothers to earn some money. Don’t let it get to you, it happens at every major port. There is always someone who worships money above any other god.”

Desti and Regalius laughed one of their yeti laughs and continued to march on towards the Alelep Mountains, which dominated the distant horizon. The lium were at home in the mountains, and they were glad to be getting off of the plains, where they felt exposed. The sun was setting as they reached the foothills before the mountain. In the final rays of the day, it looked like the fields of snow were fields of gold. Some quetcotl were flying in the air, playfully making small plumes of flame jump out from their nostrils. A single tree sat on the plain, its branches flying out like the veins of the human body.

The camp was set up. Desti and Regalius had taken to choosing where they slept more cautiously since the accident between Regalius and the three Sabertooth Porcupines that now had no nest. According to Regalius, the porcupines were evil beasties that were possessed, but there was really no way to prove it. So it became a kind of joke between the three travelers, to be wary of any porcupines, lest they attack you without warning. So Regalius and Desti both picked out a spot and evened out the snow and removing any objects from where the two yeti had decided to sleep. Grulmdin had already set up his tent and had fallen asleep. The two yeti followed suit and did likewise.

It was night now, and the quetcotl were asleep in the branches of the one tree on the plain. High above, a falun in falcon guise wheeled around in the sky, looking for what its master had told it. The falun saw its target: a man traveling with two yeti, and swooped in for the kill. The falun transformed into a wyvern mid-dive and let out a swath of flames from its mouth. Desti and Regalius were immediately awakened and saw the falun fly up and go in for another dive. This time, Regalius was ready, and he reached into Desti’s pouch and pulled out the golden knife.

So there was Regalius, standing there with a knife that was about ten inches long, standing up against a wyvern, which could fry Regalius from twenty feet away. But Regalius truly was ready. He threw the knife with expert accuracy, hitting the falun right in between the eyes, knocking the foul beast out of the air. The two yeti ran up to the supposedly dead wyvern just as Grulmdin had crawled out of his tent in full battle regalia, a proud helm with a crest resembling the neck feathers of a quetcotl.

“What has happened?” Grulmdin asked as he ran up beside the yeti. “Oh, that. What would a falun be doing all the way out here?”

Desti had gotten closer to the wyvern, despite the horrible stench and gave the beast a closer inspection. She beckoned Regalius over, who shook his head and held his nose. Desti walked back to Regalius and whispered something in his ear. He had a look of surprise on his face and decided to go and look at the Falun. Regalius retrieved his knife and came back over.

“It is the falun that died on the day we were captured,” Regalius said. “That is why it wasn’t at the clearing, but it is dead! How did it… but that’s impossible, isn’t it?”

“No, it isn’t.” Grulmdin said. Both of the yeti looked at him in shock. He could understand them? “It, oh wait. I should tell you that I can understand you only with the help of this gem, the emerald.” Grulmdin held up the green stone. “It is the gem of hearing, and it can also translate languages. How funny that I had forgotten I had this in my pack. Either way, that is not the point. The kingdoms have put out a state of emergency. There is a necromancer roaming the lands. He is looking for the True Stones, lost ten millennia ago when the tomb of Larmandi the Hero was broken into by the infamous thief Black Star. These stones are magyckal like any other, but these particular stones are considered to be the strongest of them all. Stolen from his golden sword, Hope, and his armor, Determination, they were. Then his knife he used to save the Paladin Souls from darkness had its stones stolen.

“The necromancer is looking for these stones so he can rule the world. He already has the stones from the knife, but the rest elude him. I will let you know a secret. I have the True Ruby, Sapphire, Amethyst, and Onyx. The rest of the stones are being protected by an order of mage-knights calling themselves the Light Keepers. I believe I rescued you from them. Either way, these stone must be delivered to Traveler’s Rest so that the final plan can be completed.”

Regalius started to say something about how humans couldn’t be trusted, but Desti raised her hand, and Regalius quieted down.

“You must be one of them, then. So you have all the stones?” Desti asked, seeing no reason to scratch any words into the wooden board anymore. “You have very last one gathered at Traveler’s Rest?”

“Well, most of them. Like I said, the necromancer has the True Sapphire and Opal from the knife. My particular gems are from the sword. The True Bloodstone from the Armor is the last gem to be found.” Grulmdin said.

Desti removed the bloodstone amulet from around her neck and handed it to Grulmdin. Grulmdin looked at the amulet, then held the bloodstone next to the emerald. Both gems started to glow.

“The True Bloodstone is here!” Grulmdin cried in joy. He handed back the bloodstone amulet to Desti. “Here, keep it for the rest of the journey. You may find it useful. The bloodstone is the gem of clairvoyance, after all.”

While everyone was talking, the falun Corpse rose up and flew back to its master. It had completed its mission. It would eat well tonight. The necromancer in his purple robes was awaiting the falun Corpse’s return. The falun Corpse cried out and the necromancer chuckled, then he broke out laughing, and as he threw his head back and laughed manically, his hood fell back. His face was decomposing in several areas, and his eyes were missing. He had another hole where his nose ought to be, and his skin was stretched like parchment across the remains of his face.

“Well done, my pet,” the old man whispered. “You have done well. You wish to eat, yes?”

The falun Corpse cried out in agreement, and the old man threw the beast a live squirrel. The falun Corpse caught the creature before it hit the ground and swallowed the squirrel whole, not even bothering to chew. The old man laughed again, stroking the falun hawk on his shoulder.

“Go, my friend,” the necromancer told the living falun. “Go, and find me more of your slaughtered kin, and I will bring them back from death’s threshold. Go, and you will be a king among your own kind!”

The falun hawk flew off of the old man’s shoulder and transformed into a wyvern, going off to follow his master’s orders.

The Alelep Mountains cut off the kingdom of Ilyote from the rest of the world by land, but the mountain range had its uses. Many were the failed attempts to attack the kingdom of Ilyote by land, horses unable to walk along the rugged paths, men freezing from incorrect closing, and if they didn’t freeze, they fell to their deaths into the bottomless valleys. Also, on occasion in the past, there were veins of Herodinite found in the mountains, and major mining operations scarred the earth.

Herodinite was a volatile metal, but the metal was not as strong as skyrite, the unbreakable metal. Herodinite, through some odd power, made the bearer stronger physically and mentally. It was eventually outlawed in some kingdoms, for it was discovered that Herodinite increased the bloodlust of the one using the metal. The metal eventually became rarer and rarer as those that feared Herodinite’s power destroyed the metal. The last Herodinite mine closed seven hundred years ago, only three hundred years after its discovery.

The group had taken shelter in one of those ancient mines now to wait out the blizzard that had begun earlier that day. Grulmdin wrapped himself up in his blanket, shivering in his armor. Desti and Regalius had suggested that Grulmdin remove his armor, but the knight refused, lest his armor freeze and he be unable to get it back on. Regalius entered the cavern with several logs in his hands. He set them on the floor in a pile and Grulmdin fumbled around his pack for the True Ruby so that he could light a fire. Grulmdin finally found the True Ruby and mumbled a few words. Flames leapt out from the gem and the logs caught on fire after a solid five minutes.

The fire burned intensely. Grulmdin got as close to the fire as he could, finally getting out of his armor and got into his woolen skins. Grulmdin said as long as his armor was by the fire, it shouldn’t freeze. Desti and Regalius didn’t argue with the logic, and Desti went out to go and collect more wood. The snow bit at her face, but her fur prevented her from feeling the cold. She felt a vibrating on her chest. She reached up to find exactly what was vibrating, and her hands brushed the bloodstone amulet.

Desti opened her eyes to see that she was no longer in the Alelep Mountains, but on a boat, in the middle of the sea during a storm. There was Grulmdin on the deck, barking out orders to sailors as waves splashed on the deck. There was Regalius, holding a rope. Desti reached out to touch Regalius, but her hand passed right through him. Desti was startled and she turned around to see what she feared she would see. Desti saw herself.

The Desti that was part of this illusion was also gripping on a rope, but her grip was slipping. The rope slid right out of her hands, and it flailed about like a fire hose. There was a sickening crack, and the mast cracked at its base and fell over. Desti screamed and ran for the mast. She tried to grab the mast, but it passed right through her hands.

Desti woke up. She reached up to the bloodstone amulet again and felt it. No vibrating, no sounds, no visions. Desti ran to find the firewood that she knew Regalius and Grulmdin were counting on her to get. She tried to drive the haunting image of the ship from her mind, but it remained. Even when she returned to the cave with the wood, the vision was still in her head. She could hear the screams of the sailors, the sight of the mast breaking, the look on her doppelganger’s face, and the ship sinking into the sea. Well, she ship hadn’t sunk in Desti’s vision, but it was easy to draw conclusions.

“You seem troubled,” Regalius said as he sat down next to Desti. “What is it?”

“The amulet,” Desti said, despondent. “I had a vision, and it was horrible. There was a ship in a storm and there was Grulmdin and you were there and I was there and…”

“And what?” Regalius asked.

“And the mast broke. The rope slipped out of my hands and the mast cracked and started to fall.” Desti said.

“And what happened after that?” Regalius prompted.

“That was the end of the vision,” Desti said. “I failed, I caused us all to die! This amulet is a curse!”

“Wait!” Regalius cried. “You only saw the mast fall, right? We don’t know if we die, because you didn’t see that. The amulet is a gift, you can use its power to do amazing things!”



Go to part:2 



Copyright © 2008 Matthew James Parsons
Published on the World Wide Web by ""