away, destroyed, and shattered, most claim never to be found again. Forever, the kingdom of Zanaih is lost to our knowledge and its beauty and creatures. But I find that to be wrong. It exists. ” He raised the stone, its severed edges gleaming in the light of a nearby torch.
The small group stared in silence as the man turned and stared at Jex. ”This stone brings nothing but a reason to go on, ” his stocky legs shuffled across the dirt of the road. He took hold of Jexs hand and placed the shard in his palm. ”For your collection, ” he stated. ”Im not discouraging you to find the rest now. Its quite the adventure. I cannot ale you enough. They are out there. ” The old man stepped back and raised his hands, peering around to the group of people. ”I give you a parting message. May the world change not in your favor but in time. Darkness there may be, but light will always return to those who seek it. ” The old man waved off the crowd.
Jex admired the stone as he and Ray merged with the flow of the crowd once more. Concern met Rays brow at the look on Jexs face. It was as if the stone had captured his soul and was pulling it out through his eyes in a golden wisps almost like magic or thats how she saw it.
She huffed then smiled, ”Well, that was a lovely story. ”
”It was, ” Jex answered.
Smile faltering, Ray rolled her eyes, ”Every year with you. You believe everything. Dragons, unicorns, trolls! ”
”Cause everything is worth believing, ” Jex insisted and tossed the stone in the air and caught it one handed as they found a place to sit. Jex held the stone up to the light. ”To think, a kingdom, a lost kingdom. Its got to be out there. ”
Ray adjusted the bow to sit in a more comfortable position. ”Oh Jex, you talk about chasing each story and concur each fairy tale… When will you grow up? ”
”But this ones real, I mean look here. ” He held the stone out to her to hold. ”Is this not enough for you? ” he asked with childlike hope. ”We could find it, find that stone and sell it, and become rich… or something. Itd be a pleasant trip. It can be far. ”
Ray laughed then searched the stone for answers, finding none. She shook her head in response. Jex wasn being serious or at least she hoped.
”I must tell you one thing… ” came the gruff voice of the elder man. He walked up to them with the use of a staff. There was a twinkle was in his soulless eyes for a moment. He pointed at the shard he had given to Jex. ”I fought and defeated a dragon for that shard… ”
”A dragon?! ” Jex was interested.
The man smiled and cooed, ”Yes, a green one, with golden eyes. Got me a good gander with the lizard, I did. ”
”Jex, he can possibly… ”
The old man smiled, Rays cheeks turning red from embarrassment as he pushed up his sleeve and revealed the scarring from claws on the aged, splotched skin on his left forearm. ”You were saying miss? ”
”Oh don embarrass her too much. She might hit ya, ” Ray then punched Jex in the arm.
The man howled, ”Oh Im sure she wouldn hit an elder… ”
”Try me, ” Ray spat and smirked, crossing her arms.
”Easy, easy there… ” The old mans eyes fell dark once more and he gazed upon the stone in Jexs grimy clutch. ”Ay, that shard has brought me nothing but happiness… as sadness too. It has brought with it many stories… but not all are tales I can recall myself… ” The eagerness radiating from Jex pushed him further, ”There are few who have chased after the Kingdom nor have made it farther than one man… He goes by the name Nimer. Nimer has slain more dragons with precision and taken many folk towards the kingdom. I cannot recall his story, but I was a part of his group in long journey towards finding the stone. Driven, he became a legend till he disappeared without warning. Though he fell from contact, his name came about again within the past few years… ” he looked them each in the eye, ”I tell ya, hes your best bet for a guide if you can find him. ”
”Where is he? ” Jex blurted with haste.
”Hes about a full days trip from here, Chathing I believe. ”
Jex clutched the stone, ”Chathing-thats in the foothills, ” he gasped and smiled, ”Not far… who will we be looking for? ”
”Ay, average height, black hair, young feller,
” he chuckled,
”Just don gamble with him. You
e guaranteed to lose. ”
”Id like to see him try to win against me, ” Ray snide remarked.
The man smiled and winked, ”Challenge everything, dear. This is the journey of a lifetime. ” Jex and Ray watched the old man waddle away and as he mingled with others around and soon disappeared.
The next few days rolled by, the waves of grain disappearing from the fields leaving them barren and tasteless. Frigid air kissed each face of the farmers as they bundled up the last of their grain. Satisfied with their goods, the tradesmen had filtered out of the town. The altars and statues of the harvest spirits, gods and goddesses came down with in days. The usual bustle of people walked the streets once again. It was only a matter of time before the first snow settled in.
With his harvesting scythe in hand, Jex went after Rays family fields like no other. His mind raced, his joy was over spilling throughout the days. He couldn contain it. He pretended he held a sword, attacking a beastly dragon and cutting off its head. He pretended to make wine from its blood and downed the bottle like a true victor.
After his daily activities and carrying several bundles of plowed wheat back towards the silos, Jex found shelter inside Rays warm farmhouse, feeling welcomed after a long days work with fresh brewed tea. He sat back on the couch. Ray lay close to him with a clay mug in her hands. The fire danced, painting a picture in the stone fireplace in the dim lit family room. The flames reflected in their tired eyes, each sip of their herbal tea becoming sloppy.
”I… still want to go, ” Jex insisted.
Ray lowered her mug and looked up to his face covered in a light glow of orange from the fire. She sighed, leaning on his shoulder. ”I know you do. But we have neither the money nor supplies to go. Besides, its just a story. When will you stop believing everything you hear? ”
Jex slid an arm around her shoulder. ”Never, ” he said with a smile. ”I can only think about finding the rest of the stone, selling it, and spending the money on those I care for. I want to find that stone and find my destiny… Ill slay a thousand dragons get there. ” He hoped more than anything, his destiny was with Ray.
Ray smiled burying her face into his arm. ”I know you would. ”
No later than the next morning, Ray awoke to a rap on her bedroom window. She rubbed her eyes and opened them only to find darkness. She shook her head tossing her thick brown hair about her shoulders.
”Whatever is going on… ” she growled and slipped on her moccasins and a warm coat before tiptoeing through her house being mindful of creaks in the old wooden floor. She reached for the brass handle, opening the front door letting the cool morning air flood into the house. The sky in the east was becoming lighter as the stars who played all night would soon go to bed with the moon. She shuffled around the front yard and froze startled by a figure standing in the shadows.
”Good morn and surprise, ” Jex chimed which was odd. Jex had never been a morning person. In his hands he held the worn leather reins of two steeds, saddled and geared with supplies and food. His bow and quiver were slung over his shoulder and his hood was up and over his hair. He had a bright, determined grin on his face.
Ray bit her tongue. ”Jex, are you crazy? ”
”No, why? ” he asked tilting his head.
”You… where… what are you doing? Its too early in the morning for games, ” she said in a harsh whisper.
”Im not playing games. Im being serious… Ray, our destiny awaits us, ” Jex urged. ”Come-on, what can be so bad about it? ” Ray had many answers, but he insisted, ”Come on… itll only be a few days. Well find it together, please? ” He gave her longing eyes full of plead. Even in the darkness, Ray could see it on his face.
She sighed, ”A week Jex, that is all. ” She said then smiled as she sped inside to get dressed.
An adventure… What could go wrong?
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