Written In Stone

Kaia Maralah’s story was originally written for the Lane of Unusual Traders.  Alas, the tiny owls leased the storefront at #89 to someone else…

The Handsman was back.

This time, he was wearing spectacles. Some sort of True Sight, she guessed. He stared past the tiny, lifelike bears without seeing them, lifting up the cats lazing atop their tiny pots as his eyes swept over the shop.

“Good afternoon.” The Lapidary greeted him.

He stared intently without responding, evidently surprised to find that she looked the same to him as she had on his previous visits.

So he knows – or suspects – I am not human. “May I help you?”

“Just looking,” he answered with a hint of irony.  Or perhaps that was her imagination.

He stared over her shoulder, pretending to watch her polish a stone as he looked through the illusionary wall and into her compact living space: a single bed, a chair next to the hearth, a cupboard at one end. He briefly scanned the tapestries hanging at the back, then turned his attention elsewhere, snatching a figurine from a nearby shelf to maintain the pretext that he was a customer.

“What’s this?”

“That’s Scoris, son of Ferrakus.”

“Ferrakus – some kind of dwarven god, right?”

“The Lord Beneath rules caves and is the patron of those who craft in stone. His son is said to have been buried near this place, a thousand years ago.” She flicked her eyes quickly upward to meet his. “Four gold.”

“Another day, perhaps.” He set the figure carelessly on the shelf and departed, his pretense exhausted for today.

She turned the sign to “Closed” and flipped the levers that secured the door. She ran a cloth over the figurine to erase the oily fingerprints, then returned it reverently to its shelf.

“I will find your bones, Ancestor,” she vowed. “I will take them from this place and rest them once again in safety.”

When the humans had unknowingly built their new city atop Scoris’ grave, the Oreads had watched without interfering. But as the city expanded into the sacred earth below, the careless interlopers could not be permitted to accidentally dig through Scoris’ bones – or worse, recover and profane them.

Kaia crossed the tiny apartment, lifted the edge of a tapestry, and slipped behind it – through the second illusionary wall and into the tunnel beyond. She dragged her thumb across a sharp rock, rubbing blood on the back of the stone amulet that hung around her neck. It glimmered weakly, its aura growing subtly brighter as she continued into the passage.

She reached a dead end. Twisting left, then right, she gauged the pendant’s radiance. When she was certain she was facing the direction of its strongest response, she placed her hands upon the earthen wall, closed her eyes, and Called to the Earth. A few moments later, the rock and soil dissolved away, adding another foot to the tunnel.

She took a step forward, the talisman’s glow brightening almost imperceptibly. Again, she twisted left and right. Again, she reached her hands out to the earthen wall.  Again, she closed her eyes…

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