In the days that followed, I did my best to ignore the changes occurring all around me. The Spider Queen’s army now sat on the outskirts of our borders awaiting her commands as to what to do next. While things were not as chaotic as they’d been several days ago, we waited with bated breath for what was yet to come.
Much to my dismay, Daeanyara was still here within the castle. Her father had sent word she was to remain here until further notice. I wondered briefly if he was aware of the fact that she’d been brought here against her wishes to begin with. Still, such things weren’t of my concern and I was determined to do my best to stay out of her way as much as possible.
Reaching for a coarse sharpening stone, I ran it up and down the length of my sword. I was so focused on the task at hand that I was not aware of the presence residing in the room with me. A soft giggle soon echoed throughout the barracks. The sword and stone clattered to the floor as I spun around abruptly.
“Who’s there?” I demanded. Another giggle was my only answer. A slight breeze swept past me as I bent down to pick up my weapons. “I warn ya, I’m armed!”
“Mortal weapons cannot harm me,” a childish voice replied.
The inflection was familiar, yet I could not place it. “Who are ya?”
“Someone who knows you quite well, Marius Pendragon.”
“I have no time for games.”
“Party pooper!” My invisible visitor swept past me, ruffling my hair in the process.
I swung the sword about, stabbing at thin air. “Show yerself!”
My guest laughed. “Not yet. I’m enjoying this way too much.”
“What purpose will it serve ya in keeping yerself hidden?”
The sound of something sailing through the air drew my attention. I turned left to deflect what I could not see, yet came up empty. Tuning into my abilities, I allowed myself to concentrate and caught sight of minute pebbles as they came toward me. Ducking the trajectories, I angled the sword slightly as I flicked my wrist back and forth to send them flying back in the directions from whence they’d come.
My visitor continued to laugh, enjoying the fact that they’d placed me in such a helpless situation. Growling with annoyance, I turned around and aimed the sword at the thin air behind me. The disembodied laughter was cut off abruptly as the metal made contact. A little girl, about the age of ten or so, materialized before me. Her jade-green eyes were open wide with surprise, child-like innocence lurking in their depths. Golden curls framed her chubby cheeked face as her bow-shaped mouth split into a slight smirk as she stared back at me. Guilt rose deep within me as I took in the thin line of red that now marred the silky expanse of her throat.
“Forgive me,” I whispered as I recognized Giarrah, the Goddess of Chaos, dropping onto my knees and staring at the dirty wooden floor.
Her hands descended upon my head, smoothing back the errant raven curls. “I forgive you,” she said lightly, “but don’t let that happen again.”
“I’ll try not to.”
Pulling an empty barrel toward us, she lifted it with ease and flipped it around before she floated into the air and settled down upon it. Her intent scrutiny unsettled me as she assessed me from head to toe. A knowing smile played about her lips as she slid a tiny hand into one of her pockets and withdrew a small blue stone. She held it out to me and waited.
Wrapping my fingers around it, I gazed down at the smooth rock, perplexed. “What is it?” I asked, turning it around within the palm of my hand.
“A rock,” she said.
Upon closer examination, I realized she’d given me a piece of Cerinium. Back on Earth, it was known as Lapis Lazuli. Running the pad of my thumb across its jagged edge, I waited for her to fill me in on its purpose. Giarrah, unfortunately, was not very forthcoming.
“What’s it for?”
“Don’t you know?”
“And yet you’ve seen the stone before.”
I nodded. “Yes. Ty wears a necklace bearing a piece of this same stone, except hers is in the shape of a heart with a gold backing. I inquired about the trinket once and she explained that it was a gift her human mother had given her on her thirteenth birthday. If I’m not mistaken, this stone is a piece of Lapis Lazuli.”
“Here, we call it Cerinium.”
“Aye. I still don’t understand why yoo’ve given this to me.”
“You’ll know its purpose soon enough.”
She smiled, her eyes glowing with amusement. “We can only go so far in revealing certain mysteries to mere mortals, Marius. It’s up to you to decipher what I have not said.”
“You’ve barely told me anything at all!”
“Exactly!” she laughed, her small stature shimmering slightly as she sat upon the barrel. “I’ve given you something to start with. It will help you on your journey.”
“When the full moon rises, you’ll know exactly what you need to do.”
“Can’t ya just tell me what I need to know?”
She shook her head, rustling her golden curls. “Let your instincts guide you.” Her corporeal form winked in and out of existence. “Do not shun what you’ve been given.”
With that said, she disappeared. The barrel teetered back and forth before falling onto its side. It rolled into the adjacent stall as if guided by an unknown hand. As I gazed down at the stone sitting in the palm of my hand, I tried to make sense of what the goddess had told me. Try as I might, the meaning behind her words refused to sink in.
The Gods had something in store for me. I was sure of it. What it was, I did not know. The rock was a part of the mystery Giarrah had presented me with, a mystery I was hell-bent on discovering, no matter the consequences.