The Spirit Stone

By Sharon Partington

Tieran moved through the wood, following the acrid tendrils of black smoke drifting through the trees. Afternoon sunlight shone on his silver hair and dead leaves, in muted shades of yellow and red, fluttered before him on the road. Apart from the sigh of the wind through the firs, there was no sound.

He approached the village cautiously, his eyes narrowing as he took in the devastation unfolding before him. Several houses still burned and bodies lay strewn everywhere. He knelt before a fair-haired youth whose chest had been laid open, closing the vacant eyes as he murmured the Prayer of Passing. He was not sure his Eldryn gods cared for the spirits of human kind, but it was the only prayer he could remember. Smoke stung his eyes, burned the back of his throat. He could not leave the dead like this.

He spent the rest of the afternoon collecting the bodies of the slain villagers, laying them in what used to be the central square. It was tiring, bloody work and though he hoped to find one or two who might have escaped the death of their neighbors, his hopes faded as the afternoon wore on. He fashioned a crude torch, setting it alight in the fire of a still smoldering wagon. As the sun slipped below the horizon he checked the buildings that still stood, looking for those he might have missed. It was almost full dark when he entered the small hut at the eastern edge of the village.

He shone his torch around the interior, his slender form casting wavering shadows across the walls. Cupboards were open; their contents strewn upon the floor. The table had been overturned, three of its four chairs broken. The body of an old woman lay upon the bed. Tieran righted the table and placed his torch in a wooden jug he found on the floor, before moving to where she lay. She had been run through. He knelt beside her, reaching to close her eyes. She coughed.

"Not yet, boy," she whispered, "I ain’t dead yet."

Tieran drew his hand back slowly. "Then you are the only one."

The old woman nodded. "I won’t be long behind ‘em."

"Who did this?" asked Tieran.

"Madyra’s men. They came at first light."


"High Priestess to the river goddess. Wicked, wicked woman. The stone was hers--before I took it."

"The stone?"

"The spirit stone."

Tieran felt his heart lurch. The Spirit Stone -- used to command the souls of the dead…

"The spirit stone is a myth," he said uncertainly. "A legend."

The old woman shook her head. "It was hers. And she wants it back."

"But why do you have it?"

"I took it from her. I had to. She killed so many. Sacrificed them to her goddess. She trapped their spirits within the stone. Dark…evil magic. So many have died…so many…"

She reached for Tieran’s hand, holding it tightly as her faded blue eyes burned into his.

"It was fate that led you here, boy. Fate that has allowed me to live so long after they did this. You must find her. You must avenge us…"

Tieran closed his eyes, shutting out her desperate gaze.

"Do not ask this of me," he whispered. "You are not my people, there is no blood bond between us. I will burn your dead and pray your spirits find peace, but I can do nothing more."

The old woman shook her head as she tightened her grip on his hand.

"Please, boy. There is no one else."

Tieran shook his head as he ran his fingers through his hair. "I am sorry. I have my own journey…"

The old woman sighed as she reached to touch his face. "My last wish, boy. With my dying breath, I ask it…"

A faint red glow formed beneath her fingers and Tieran shuddered and closed his eyes as he felt her death wish coil itself about his heart.

"Why do you do this to me?" he whispered brokenly, "I cannot fight this battle for you."

"Forgive me boy, but you must."


"I’ll give you the stone. My death will alter the magic of the wards. Madyra doesn’t know it but…her touch will break the seal…and release those locked within."

"How did her men not find it?"

"It’s protected…" the old woman sighed. "Deeply hidden. Light a fire for the dead, boy. When it burns to ash…you’ll find the stone. It will lead you."

The old woman’s body shuddered as her breath caught in her throat and the light died in her eyes. Tieran closed them gently and sat for a long time next to the bloody bed.

What had she done to him? He felt her dying wish; a burden of sorrow and rage he did not want, but could not escape. It settled heavily upon his conscience, dragging at his spirit.

Avenge us…

Tieran lifted the old woman from the bed, carrying her to the square to lay with the others. He retrieved his torch, and dousing the bodies with lamp oil, set them alight as the moon rose, watching in silence as flames consumed them. Smoke swelled toward the heavens and Tieran fancied he saw faces in the flames. Asking for vengeance. Begging for release.

He closed his eyes.

May you find peace and rest. May Elandrin lead you home…


Tieran stirred the ashes with his boots. The stone would not be here. The old woman was mad. It was a myth. A legend. Not real. What was he doing? He should leave. Go. Put as much distance between himself and this cursed village as he could.

Something hard brushed against his foot and he froze, his heart pounding.

Please, no…

He knelt, digging through the powdered ash, drawing forth a smooth, black stone a little smaller than his fist. He turned it over in his fingers; it throbbed like a softly beating heart. A surge of electric heat rushed through him and voices clamored inside his head, driving him to his knees.

Release us. It was not our time. The spirit gate will not open.


Take us to them. Their blood will set us free

"But the stone serves Madyra."

The stone does not serve. It is a vessel only. Madyra has bound us within. We will not be free until the spirit gate opens.

"I do not want this," whispered Tieran. "I have my own life. My own path. I did not ask for this burden."

There is not always time to ask when the need is great, and our need drives us. We seek release.

"And what of my release? The old woman’s curse upon me…"

Not a curse. A request.

"A request that binds me to her rage. I am not the one to do this."

Take us to Madyra. To those who took us before our time. Find them and you will be released.

Tieran closed his eyes. It appeared he had little choice.

"How do I find them?"

We will seek them.

Tieran held the stone before him as he turned slowly in a circle. North towards the frozen passes that crossed the Lizard’s Tail…nothing. West towards the Anderon Delta and the open sea…nothing. East towards the Gledden Moor…nothing. South towards the city of Harbridge…the stone glimmered, faintly blue and the voices sighed.


Tieran slipped the stone into his shirt, stopping only long enough to replenish his supplies from what little he could find in the ruined village. Then he left, traveling south towards the city of Harbridge and the promise of his release.


Cold drizzle fell as Tieran moved through the trees. There had been no sun for days, only cold, persistent fog and endless dripping rain. He brushed his wet hair from his eyes and peered into the green depths of the surrounding wood. Ancient trees stretched their branches towards the invisible sun, while tall ferns and thickets of wild berries fought for the spaces between. Green and yellow moss crept along the forest floor deadening the sound of his footsteps. The air smelled of wet grass and moldy leaves and Tieran heard the faint drip of water as it fell from the branches above him.

The path he traveled sloped towards the river and he could just make out the dull, glint of grey water through the trees. For weeks he had tracked Madyra’s men, haunting their back trail. Dressed in the green and grey of the forest he was almost invisible as he watched them. They were amazingly careless; perhaps it was their number that made them so. Tieran counted almost twenty men in all as they drank around their fire. Did they know how their voices carried in the still mountain air as they moved through the passes? Did they care?

Tieran thought, more than once, about killing them. He could have, he knew. He could have crept through their camp, another shadow in the night. Silent as death, silver blade flashing in the mist. He could have freed himself, once and for all, from the old woman’s burden.

But the voices within the stone stayed his hand.

Not yet. Another commands them. She too, we must have.

He crouched in the underbrush as rain splashed softly into the water at the river’s edge. Bullfrogs croaked in the shallows and dragonflies buzzed among the rushes.

Harsh voices called to one another and he heard the awkward splash of oars in the water. The first boat drifted into view and Tieran moved further into the trees as it passed him by. Four more followed the first and he stalked them from the bank. The men in the boats did not see him. They pulled their oars, cursing the current and the rain as they moved downstream towards the Harbridge Locks.


The city of Harbridge straddled the river Wildrun, connected by stone bridges that brought the East and West sides together. Streets paved with interlocking stones ran from the waterfront towards the inner city where shops, inns and taverns sat crowded between stone and timber houses. Street lamps flickered in the fog while at the end of the High Street, the temple of the river goddess, sprawled part way up the Rindamon Hill towards the garrison of the river patrol. Boats and flat-bottomed barges bumped against wooden piers, and warehouses lined the waterfront. The air smelled of river mud, and gulls hovered and wheeled, screeching their displeasure at the rain.

Five boats were tied to the north pier, the men who left them trading the cramped, wet vessels for the comfort of one of the inns along Swordfish Street. They were heavily mailed and armed, attracting a good deal of attention as they sauntered into the "Lucky Mermaid". Their leader was tall and broad chested, with wild dark hair and cold, grey eyes. He scanned the common room warily as he paid for three rooms. He did not allow his men to stay and drink, much to their disappointment. Instead they climbed the wooden stairs and ordered food and drink brought to them.

The night wore on and patrons came and went. The fire in the stone hearth burned brightly, casting flickering shadows along the paneled walls. Rain drummed on the roof but inside it was warm and dry, the air smelling of wood smoke, fresh bread, and spiced cider. In the rooms above, the men ate and laughed and fell into a drunken slumber.

In the darkness across the street, Tieran watched. He sat beneath the eaves of a bakery feeling the weight of the spirit stone in his shirt. The rain could not reach him, and he drew a small parcel of dried meat from his bag as he stared at the lighted windows of the inn. He had seen the men go in, but would not follow.

Tieran closed his eyes. He had carried the stone a long way from the forests of Janfir; he was tired and cold, and weary of carrying the old woman’s burden. But her dying wish haunted him. He ate little, and slept less as he hunted men he did not know. The few hours of sleep he did manage to catch were filled with dark, unpleasant dreams where echoed voices called to him from the flames of the burning dead.

He closed his eyes as he thought about home, remembering the play of sunlight on the lake. He recalled the soft scent of summer roses; almost heard the laughter of children as they splashed in the fountains. He saw the faces of his family. His parents. His brothers. His beloved, Miriel.

Beautiful Miriel. He saw her smile. He heard her voice. Did she believe him lost. Or dead? Did she mourn him? Did his brothers search for him beyond the passes?

Tears of exhaustion filled his eyes as he thought he might never see them again…might never hold them again.

Soon, Tieran. Soon you will be free…

Tieran shivered in the damp, wrapping his cloak more tightly about himself as he huddled in the shadows, watching the inn.



Dawn arrived without the sun, but the rain had mercifully stopped. Tieran woke with a start as he heard the inn door slam and he watched as the Raider leader left, walking swiftly up the street towards the temple. Tieran followed. The man passed through the wrought iron gates, and once he was out of sight, Tieran slipped silently over the wall.

The temple courtyard was paved with flat, white stones and lined with arched columns leading to the marble steps. Heavy bronze doors stood open, and Tieran glimpsed the flicker of torches upon the walls within; there were no guards that he could see. He crouched for a long moment in the gloom of the doorway, listening. He heard the sound of voices deeper within the temple, but they were echoed and distant. The air was heavy with the scent of incense, and the black tiled floor gleamed in the light cast by the torches.

Tieran moved cautiously down the corridor, his suede boots making no sound as he flit from column to column. It was hot in the temple after the cold outside, and the heavy smell of the incense made him lightheaded. He rubbed the sweat from his eyes as he moved towards a lighted chamber at the end of the corridor. Tieran squeezed through the doorway, careful to remain unseen.

The room was completely round, the arched and vaulted ceiling stretching upward to become lost in shadow. Tapestries hung from the walls, but Tieran could not make out the images they depicted. A woman sat on a simple wooden throne atop a raised dais in the center of the room. She was dressed in a plain blue robe, tied with a white rope and her hip length blonde hair was unbound, cascading down her shoulders and back in a wave of shimmering gold that reflected the light from the torches. Her eyes were blue ice and they gazed upon the Raider commander with frozen contempt as he stood before her. Tieran shivered at the malice he saw in those eyes.


"I ordered you to bring me the stone, Rolan," she said, her voice as cold as her eyes. "I did not order you to burn the entire village."

"They resisted."

"Of course they resisted, you fool! Did you expect anything else? Did you suppose they would hand the stone over to you with a smile and bid you be on your way? What did you do with the women and children? Kill them as well?"

"They’re on their way to Haldar."

"I’m sure you managed to turn quite a tidy little profit. I’m assuming the slavers got them after your men finished amusing themselves."

"They were entitled to their reward."

Madyra snorted. "No doubt. Did you find it after you went to all the trouble of burning and butchering?"

The Raider leader hesitated, Tieran sensed his unease. "It was not there."

Madyra cursed as she slammed her fists down upon the arms of the throne with a crack that echoed throughout the room.

"It has to be there, it’s where the miserable old crone escaped to when she left me."

"Then she hid it well, because we didn’t find it."

"And you searched everywhere?"


"And you are certain no one escaped?"

"Yes, Madyra I’m certain," said Rolan in annoyance. "No one escaped and the stone was not there. How many ways would you like me to say it?"

She looked at him with narrowed eyes.

"Don’t lie to me, Rolan. Don’t think of keeping the stone for yourself. It won’t serve you as it does me, and no one will buy it once they know what it is. If you have it, give it to me now."

Rolan laughed. "If I had it you’d be welcome to it. Some things are better left alone."

"Is that fear I detect in your voice, Rolan?"

The Raider captain shook his head. "It’s my fear that’s kept me alive this long."

"The stone won’t harm you, the wards prevent it."

"So you’ve said. I’d prefer not to test that theory if you don’t mind. I’ll handle it only long enough to give it to you. Don’t expect anything else."

"But to do that you must find it. A task you and your men appear to be unsuited for."

"We’ll find your bloody stone for you," growled Rolan bitterly.

Madyra chuckled. A mirthless sound that froze Tieran’s blood.

"Don’t worry, I won’t ask you and your bandits to scour the entire world. There is an easier way. I’ve called the stone to me. It’s mine, and knows my voice. I’ve called it. And it comes."

"If you could do that then why send us to fetch it?" demanded Rolan.

"Because the old witch warded it," snapped Madyra. "She had more power than I gave her credit for, but with her death the wards have faded. The stone can hear me now. I can feel it. It is near. Very near."

Tieran pressed himself harder against the column behind which he hid, closing his eyes tightly. Is this why the stone had led him here? Because Madyra’s magic had summoned it? He felt the weight of the old woman’s dying wish like a lead weight upon his spirit. Had she lied to him?

I have called it…and it comes.

He opened his eyes and looked desperately to the door. He had to escape this place. The stone had betrayed him. Tears of frustration and rage burned in his eyes. He had been such a fool. He raced for the door, but it slammed shut before he could reach it. He whirled, drawing his daggers as he prepared to fight for his release, but an unseen force threw him violently backwards and he crumpled to the floor. Through a haze of pain and blood he saw Madyra’s frozen eyes burning into his.

"See Rolan? Even Eldryn Ranjyr…the ghosts of the forest…seek to bring me what is mine. I told you," she said, her voice filled with a malicious glee, "I told you the stone would come!"


Tieran woke to a dull red pain behind his eyes and the bitter taste of blood in his mouth. He lay, face down, on a stone floor, felt the gritty residue of flaked and broken rock against his face. His lips were cracked and broken and it hurt to breathe. They had beaten him, but they had not killed him as he supposed they would.

He tried to concentrate on his surroundings, listening to the sounds that filtered into his fuzzy mind. He heard the faint drip of water as it fell from the ceiling and the echo of boots on stone not far away. He drew a deep breath and coughed painfully. The air smelled of damp rock and wood smoke. He opened his eyes. Firelight flickered on stone walls. Seven or eight men huddled about a fire; another dozen were sprawled about a large circular chamber.

A shadow obscured his vision as rough hands pulled him into a sitting position. His broken ribs protested by sending a bolt of agony through him, and Tieran gasped and moaned as a wave of nausea swept over him.

"He’s awake," called a gruff voice.

One of the men at the fire looked over then approached him. Rolan. He stood over Tieran, staring at the Eldryn ranger with sympathy and contempt.

"You should have ignored the smoke," he said. "You should have let the village burn."

Tieran closed his eyes. "Where am I?"

"Caverns below the temple. Madyra is trying to decide what she should do with you."

Tieran coughed, wincing at the pain. "Why…am I not dead?"

Rolan chuckled. "She doesn’t dare kill you yet, she doesn’t have the stone."

Tieran opened his eyes and looked at Rolan in confusion. "Why not?"

"Oh, she knows you have it, but she’s a suspicious bitch. She may have called the stone to her, but she says it feels different. She doesn’t want to touch it till she knows where you got it."

"I found it."

Rolan laughed. "You’d better come up with a better story than that."

"You know I have it. Why…didn’t you take it?"

Rolan shook his head. "The bloody thing is cursed and I’m not a stupid man. I’d have carried it back to her, if I found it; she paid me well enough for that. But I’m not touching it if I don’t have to."

He moved back to his place by the fire and Tieran was left alone. He leaned against the rock wall of the cavern, his chin upon his chest. He was weary and broken; Rolan was right, he should have left the village to burn.

He closed his eyes, seeing again the smoke through the trees. Hearing the crackle and pop of the flames. He saw the desperation in old woman’s eyes, felt the oppressive weight of her death wish upon him. The voices in the stone called to him, but he ignored them. He had fulfilled his end of their bargain and they had betrayed him, leading him to his death. Their promise was a lie.

No, Tieran. Not a lie.

"Yes," he whispered. "My life will end here…"

You will be released.

"Into death."

We have not lied to you. You will be free. Soon, Tieran. Soon…

Tieran felt rough hands haul him to his feet and someone grasped his hair, pulling his head painfully back. He looked into Madyra’s deadly, blue eyes.

"I believe you have something that belongs to me."

"Take it, then…"

She slapped him hard across the face and Tieran tasted blood again. His ears rang from the force of her blow and his cheek burned.

"Where did you get it."

"I…found it."

She slapped him again.

"Liar. It is not something you would find laying about in the dirt. Where did you get it?"

"I found it…I swear…" whispered Tieran painfully. She took his face in her hands, forcing him to look into her eyes. There was cruelty there, and rage and something else. Something dark and cold that made his spirit cringe.

"Where did you find it?"

"In the village…the one your men destroyed…"

"And why did they not find it?"

"They did not…leave anyone alive to ask…"

"And how did you know to bring it here?"

"It led and…I followed…"

Madyra glared at him. "Do you know what it is?"

Tieran hesitated. He thought about lying to her, but a lie would not save him, he knew. He nodded weakly.

"The spirit stone."

Her eyes flickered with grim amusement. "Very good, Ranger. You surprise me. And how do you know this?"

"Voices…the voices in the stone tell me."

Her smile faded. "What do you know of the voices in the stone?"

"Only that they lead me."

"And what do they tell you. These voices?"

Tieran forced himself to look into her eyes. "They tell me…that I must bring the stone to you."

Madyra stared hard at him for a long moment and Tieran saw anger and doubt warring in her eyes.

"You have it," she said. It was not a question and Tieran nodded.

"Show me."

"I am bound."

Madyra motioned to Rolan in annoyance. "Release him."

The Raider commander looked at her doubtfully. "Are you sure that’s such a good idea?"

"Do it!" she snarled. Rolan shrugged and cut the ropes tying Tieran’s hands and arms. The blood moved back into them painfully as he rubbed them.

"Now. Show me the stone."

Tieran reached into his shirt and drew out the spirit stone. It reflected the firelight dully as he held it in the palm of his trembling hand. Madyra gazed at it with hungry eyes.

"Yes," she whispered. "I hear it call to me…"

She reached for it, frowning as her hand hovered over it.

"It feels…colder…hungrier…"

"Perhaps it…senses your presence. Your power…" offered Tieran, hesitantly.

"Yes," murmured Madyra, "Yes. That must be why."

"Take it," whispered Tieran. "It has brought me nothing but pain and betrayal."

"And death," said Madyra icily as she wrapped her fingers around it.

Tieran closed his eyes. "And death."

The stone began to glow as Madyra held it in her hand. Blue light spilled from between her fingers, casting brilliant shadows upon the stone walls and the cavern was filled with a deep throbbing hum. Rolan and his men exchanged uneasy glances as the air seemed to vibrate around them, but Tieran could not take his eyes from Madyra. The light enveloped her and the hum rose to a hollow, keening shriek as the stone shattered and dissolved. The light changed abruptly from brilliant white, to blood red. Madyra’s eyes widened as she whirled to face Tieran, her face a mask of terror and rage.


A freezing wind extinguished the torches as the spirits in the stone were released. Flaming wraiths encircled her, and her body shuddered as they swirled and coiled about her. Her blue eyes were filled with wild terror as they passed into, and through her.

Tieran watched in horror as Madyra’s form wavered, her body evaporating as an unforgiving crimson fire rose to engulf her. The cavern ceiling split with a mighty, booming crack and Tieran felt the ground shudder as a gaping fissure split the floor, swallowing those of Rolan’s men not crushed by the collapsed ceiling. Tieran forced his broken body to move, scrambling up the fracturing stairs as rubble and dust rained down around him.

The marble floor cracked beneath him as he stumbled down the corridor and into the courtyard where he collapsed.

Tieran felt the spirits surround him.

You are free, Tieran. As we promised.

He shook his head weakly. "I can go no further. I will die here…"

He heard them murmur softly as they swirled around him.

You have released us. We will not let you die.

Tieran felt icy fingers brush across his consciousness.

Rest Tieran…it is done. You are free.

He closed his eyes and dreamed he walked with Miriel beneath a pale winter moon, through snow covered woods. She was wrapped in a mantle of white and her hand was warm in his. Moonlight sparkled on the frozen lake, shining on her raven hair and in her blue eyes…


He woke in the woods outside the city. The grass was wet beneath him and rain ran into his eyes and through his hair. He was alive. He lay for a long time, trying to gather the strength to move. His broken ribs made breath and movement painful, but the weight of the old woman’s wish was gone; the spirits within the stone had released him. As they promised.

He got slowly and painfully to his feet. The rain and fog could not hide the heavy smoke that poured from the Temple; most of the city of Harbridge had been destroyed. The old woman’s revenge was complete.

Tieran drew a deep breath and turned his face to the rain. It felt cold and clean against his skin and he allowed it to wash the pain and weariness from his damaged spirit. He had carried the old woman’s burden for so long it seemed strange now to be without it.

He paused, looking back one last time to where Harbridge burned beyond the fog. The spirit gate would be open now. Opened with the blood of Madyra and her raiders. The spirits would be free.

Tieran closed his eyes as he murmured the Prayer of Passing.

May you find peace and rest…And may Elandrin lead you home…

The End

Copyright © 2003 by Sharon Partington

Sharon Partington lives in Edmonton, Canada and moderates the Worlds of Wonder Writers Group. Her work has appeared in Demensions and she has appeared twice previously in Aphelion.



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