Only a one more post left in this fabulous A to Z Blog Challenge-and one more quick reminder to Vote for Zoraida Grey and the Family Stones in the Long Paranormal category at InDtale Magazine . You will need to register but it’s a free and easy process.
Look for a nice pdf of the entire story here on Sunday.
Episode 25: Yesterday, Tomorrow, Never
Long ago, my great-great-great grandmother lived near the cataracts, halfway up the mountains on the eastern border of Highmoor Province. In those nearly forgotten days, expectant mothers spent their confinement before bearing children in solitude, attended only by a trusted friend or relative. According legend, she and her closest friend made their way to a cavern in the heights and settled in for the remaining weeks before my great-great-great-grandmother’s first child was born.
While they waited for the baby, a great storm rose. The rain was so intense and the thunder so violent, a portion of the cavern collapsed to reveal the worked stone of a corridor which extended down to the roots of the mountains. My ancestor and her friend explored the cave by the light of an enchanted staff. They passed half buried bones of giant creatures and the broken foundations of massive columns. Far beneath the surface, they were about to turn back for fear of becoming lost in the twisting passageways, when a luminescence drew them farther.
A wall of black stone rose at the end of the chamber. The likeness of a multi-headed beast with a spiraling tail had been carved into the smooth stone. Thirty white crystals shone in the eyes of the massive carving.
There, deep beneath the mountains, with the mysterious carving watching with its opalescent eyes, the pain of childbirth overtook my great-great-great grandmother. Her child was born with the crystals as witnesses.
She and her friend pulled one tiny crystal from the carving before they made their way back to the surface.The crystal, so the story goes, fizzed and bubbled when exposed to air and sunlight.
Excited to return with the new child and their prize, they hurried down the mountain. But their home was not as they had left it. The two women had been gone for over one hundred years. When she showed her amazed husband the crystal, he returned to the cavern and retrieved the remaining stones, careful to keep them in sealed vial of quartz. And so the time crystals came into my family.
The stones proved more dangerous than useful. Once exposed to light and air, their peculiar effect threw time into consternation, often spinning the user out of time’s current and into an eddy far from the main concourse. So the stones were hidden away, but both Darkmores and La Croixs lay claim to the shimmering stones for my great-great-grandmother’s friend was a La Croix. The vial containing the entire store of crystals changed hands often through war and intrigue. Centuries of conflict solved nothing and when both families were decimated by Lucia’s mad tantrum, time crystals became the least of our worries.
One tiny crystal tossed New Darkmore Castle and a thousand inhabitants eight months into the future. What can thirteen stones do? Will we be forever suspended in this limbo? Will we awaken to an Earth reformed by the millennia?
The glittering crystals rise against the cobalt blue sky. An opalescent haze rises from the east until the vault of sky above the valley shimmers with it. Time twists around us, but the circle of La Croix and Darkmore witches holds tight. Days, months, years—perhaps centuries warp around Highmoor Valley but inside the dome of pearly light, we remain untouched.
The crystals float, serene and effervescent.
The child in my arms splutters and coos, her rose petal lips round and pink. Her indigo eyes focus on the time crystals and her baby fingers twitch. As if in answer, the crystals spiral together. The twisting vortex whirls toward us until they hover just beyond the reach of her chubby fingers.
“Gather them in the vial if you can, Maddock.” Clarissa’s voice, low and intense, wakens me from a stupor. I draw in a cold, spring-scented breath.
Maddock stirs beside me. He reaches into his vest pocket and draws forth a clear vial. Inside it, seven more stones glitter.
“No!” Lucia swirls toward us in a froth of golden hair and gossamer gown.
The circle of family draws closer. Their combined wills manifest into a soft, blue sphere around the raging woman. Clarissa steps inside the sphere and intercepts her sister’s course.
“It’s done, darling. You don’t have to fight anymore.” Aunt Clarissa pinions Lucia’s arms, holding her close and pressing her pale cheek against Lucia’s.
Lucia struggles but even she can’t fight the sleep spell conjured by a thousand witches. Her green eyes close and she slumps in her sister’s arms.
Maddock’s gaze never wavers from the spinning stones above our child’s upturned face. Ever so gently he removes the stopper from the clear quartz vial and tilts the mouth of the vial upward.
My daughter’s lips curve into her first smile. Her strange, dark eyes reflect the glow of the time crystals. Soundless and mesmerizing, the glittering crystals spin into the vial. Maddock pops the stopper in place.
Aunt Clarissa sinks with Lucia to the ground. A thousand witches stand in a ring, hands clasped, eyes goggled like purblind owls.
Tomorrow–Z is for Zed
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A Cold Spring_4302017