Friday, January 15, 2016

Free Fiction: The Ocean Stone

“If you are ever in the most terrible of situations, and need assistance, take this stone and throw it into the sea. Your cousins will come. But do this if it is truly dire. It can only be used once.”

His grandfather’s words rung in Lio’s brain as he stood on the rocky shore and contemplated his next action. The stone warmed in his hand, smooth and lustrous, and perfectly round. His grandfather called it a stone, and perhaps it might be, or it might be something worth far more. Except for its enormous size, Lio would have thought it a sooty-colored pearl.

The situation certainly seemed dire, and most tremendously terrible and dangerous. His grandfather had died years ago, peacefully passing on control of the kingdom to Lio’s father, Vierothur IV.

Lio’s father had ruled well, though beset with problems on the borders and scheming politicians all around, until the most recent two years when suddenly, crops refused to grow. The summers were too warm and the winters too cold. Wells went dry and the wind shipped across the land with fury.

Worry , fear, and superstition began to spread among the population, and suddenly some of Lio’s uncles snatched at opportunities to dethrone Vierothur and take control for themselves. Argument and posturing made little headway from all but one. Uncle Siomon. He had gained lands to the north by marrying that king’s daughter, and now he wanted to expand his reach. Arguing and posturing weren't enough for him, and he resorted to treachery and deceit. And poisoning his own brother.

A tainted morsel of food had sickened Lio’s father, who now writhed in bed with aggravated symptoms, and left him too tired and weak to do see to the safety of his lands. The physicians had no cure, and predicted his demise within the week. The moment Vierothur took ill, Siomon's impressive armies marched toward the borders, and waited there, looming and aggressive, promising devastation. Ships from Siomon’s allies anchored out in the bay, as well. Unrest and fear bubbled everywhere, from the smallest villages to the people in the capital.
I rarely write anything in a fantasy genre, but apparently oceans are on my mind this month, and so I have another story with an ocean setting. There will probably be one more part to this, at least, although more is whispering to me, just not whispering loudly yet.

Lio hadn’t slept more than a few hours in the past several days, subsisting on black coffee and not much else, as he watched his older siblings and father’s staff and advisors determine the best course of action. But it seemed a quick slide into being overrun. Stability had been his father’s best and strongest tactic. Now that it had evaporated, solutions to regain it were nonexistent.

Which was why Lio stood on the shore just before dawn, and stared at the inky black sea, and wondered if he dared to throw the stone.

Cousins, his grandfather had said. Did Lio really want to bring cousins into this, considering how much trouble his uncles had caused? Yet, Lio didn’t quite think these were true blood cousins, but perhaps cousins of fortune. Grandfather had spoken of them in a way that brought to mind brothers of the battlefield, united by experience and love that came from sacrifice. Lio wished he’d been older while grandfather had been alive, wished he’d asked more questions. But grandfather was gone now, and Lio had only fragmented memories, and many questions.

He looked at the stone. “What else would I throw it for?” he thought to himself, “If I do not throw it to save my family, and the people of this land, what else would there be?” A small part of him thought perhaps his grandfather put more weight to it than truly existed. With so many years gone by, wouldn’t those that were cousins of his grandfather’s be also dead and gone? Who could possibly be left to honor the stone?

Lio took a deep breath and said a small prayer over the stone. “Please, bring aid,” he whispered. Then he heaved with all his might and flung the stone into the water, where it vanished into the darkness of the night. The sound of the waves covered over the plop of the stone falling in, and just like that, Lio had nothing, not even the hope that the stone might bring help.

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