Tomas, pt. 18

**the battle of the Stone**

He was to hunt the Stone in the west. Once the shifters had made it past, he could follow. That was the price of his passage, of his freedom. Such a little thing, really. Something he might even enjoy.

He slid through the trees, effortlessly moving from cover to cover. It was as if the land moved to conceal him. He paused at the edge, senses tingling. They had said it would be near, but they also could not describe it. Shifters cared so little for physical form. He waited… and the sun began to move across the sky. Nothing… had they betrayed him? Sent him here so that they may escape ‘Him’? His knuckles began to ache as he gripped the dagger tightly. If they tried something so foolish, they’d find him far deadlier than one of these Stones.

A light caught his eyes, flitting through the reeds near the water’s edge, no larger than a pixie. Nothing else moved. It didn’t fly like a pixie, random and distracted. It moved with purpose… it was hunting. It floated a bit further, then stopped suddenly. Even before it changed direction, he knew he had been spotted. Faster than before, it began crossing the distance to where Tomas had found cover. Reacting without thought, he pulled the rolled parchment from his belt and uttered the words he had practiced so many times before. He saw no threads, but felt the wave of power go out from him as the scroll turned to ash. The light stopped in its approach, shuddered, and let out a wail. In that moment, Tomas was on his feet and charging, closing the distance. The sun was lower and too his back. The shadows from the tree line reached out ahead of him and he used them. The glowing light darted again, but he was already beside it. Driving his blade forward he felt it connect with something solid. Another wail told him it could be hurt. If it could feel pain, it could be killed. For an instant, or an eternity, he dodged and struck. The touch of the creature brought the smell of his own seared flesh to his nostrils. He met blow with blow, avoiding as many as he could. His ears rang, his heart thundered…

And ages later, the light went out. The sun had set. Only a fading orange glow lit the sky. He dropped to his knees, exhausted. It was over. That was when he saw it, as his eyes adjusted to the dark, laying in the grass in front of him, smoldering. Surrounded by a layer of ash. There it was… a scarred and battered Stone. Each blade thrust had left a razor thin line on its surface, but the Stone remained intact.

Hesitantly, he reached towards it. His fingers brushed the top… it was warm, but cooling rapidly. It was a Stone! He closed his hand around it. Even in this state he could feel its power. Safe. He would keep it safe. None must ever know what he held. For they would take it from him, destroy it, and he could not allow that. No. Not that. The Stone still had its uses. He knew he could best it, and in time, he’d learn how to control it. Moving quickly, he thrust it into the bottom of his pack. He still had to reach the boat. They were waiting for him after all. They had promised to take him with them. There was nothing left for him here. And besides. He had work to do.

~to be continued~

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