Previously on Seven Stones: Kobb reveals the stones are a connection to another realm; but the rituals have started to fail, causing power to leak into the world. After agreeing that they need to deal with any evils unleashed before they can repair the rituals, Haelen searches the notes they have recovered for any way to protect the circle while they are gone. While searching the stones for anything unusual, Anessa is startled by shadowy figure.
Searing sunlight haloed the figure. Streams of shadow bled from its edges, making it seem to flicker and twist.
The quarrel twisted in Anessa’s fingers, refusing to line up with the channel.
Stretching up into the sky, the figure jerked again, its arm now stretched towards her again.
She fumbled with the quarrel as she leapt backwards.
“Anessa?” The edge of a cloud brushed the sun. Kobb peered at her, one arm half-raised, before glancing over his shoulder “Did you see something? You didn’t answer when I called.”
She slide the quarrel back into its belt loop. How had she mistaken Kobb for an attacker? If she didn’t calm down, Kobb would send her home. And that would make it partly her fault if he failed. “Thought I saw something, but it was just the sun.”
She looked at the stone again. It stood silent and immovable, light catching random flecks of crystal.
“They do go wandering, don’t they.”
Hoping he hadn’t noticed her twitch, she faced him again. “You see it too?”
“It’s good to know it’s not my dreams making me see things.” Kobb half-grinned. “Not that it wouldn’t be better.”
Why would it better if—? If they both saw it, then the stones really were moving. Anessa leapt away from the stone. Head flicking, she checked the others. Seven rough pillars in a rough circle, the gaps between them apparently random, with a sort of long boulder in the middle.
She checked again. They still gave off the air of immobility, but she was sure they were a different distance apart now. She took a step to the left without taking her eyes off the stones on the far side.
The sense of a pattern within the crude ring grew. And as it did, one stone caught her eye. “Shadow’s different.”
Kobb took a few steps to the right and then moved back. “Stone doesn’t sparkle so much either.”
Looking at each other for a second, they each took a step towards it at the same moment.
When no evil powers blasted her where she stood, Anessa shook her head and walked forward more naturally. Closer to, the stone stood out even more; in as much as it didn’t stand out. A rough lump of dark rock, a little wider than her shoulders and a hand or so taller than Kobb. Sunlight pointed a dark shadow across the rough ground.
Anessa turned on the spot. Whether in the corner of her eye or the centre of her gaze, the stone sat, dull and motionless.
The sound of running feet ended her study. Haelen sprinted towards them, waving a handful of parchment. “This is… we need to open the gate.”
Anessa peered at him. “We know.”
“No… I don’t mean… I mean, this is where they took my daughter.” Haelen pushed past them towards the centre of the circle.
Kobb grabbed Haelen’s arm. “We’ll find her. But we need to do this right.”
“These notes refers to the gates of absence.” Haelen thrust a parchment into Kobb’s hand. “That’s what it said on the stone they found when she got taken. Look. Same words.”
Anessa wrapped her arm around Haelen’s shoulder. “That’s good news. You found where they came I mean.”
“And I think I’ve worked out some of the rest.” Haelen held up a dirty parchment covered in odd circular patterns and scrawled notes.
It looked random to Anessa, but Kobb seemed thoughtful.
Haelen pointed at one of the patterns. “Notes specifically say the barrier’s the same thing as a Courser; only the stones anchor it. There’s no Courser in the tent. Soon as I found this, I checked. So, the lack of control… I reckon that’s because he didn’t know the trick of it. But you could make it…” Haelen waved his free hand in circles.
“If there is a word for how I do it they never told me,” Kobb peered at the notes. “Could well work right if I do it; and the method’s clear enough. Only problem is, it needs to be done inside the circle.”
“But, that means you’d need to stay here.” Anessa fingered the hilt of her turf-hook. “Without you, how will we find the evil?”
“And even if we could find them, it will take months to walk there and back for every stray stream of power.” Haelen’s shoulders sagged
Kobb’s smile was large, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “Falcon could—”
“How did all this gear get here?” Anessa indicated the three tents. “Ain’t seen another horse, and he left on foot.”
“The Skithai must have helped. Before they turned against him.”
“Maybe. Don’t feel right though.” Anessa forced her shoulders not to curl as Kobb and Haelen both looked at her. She hoped she wasn’t about to make a fool of herself. “He talked them Eaters into helping, right? So, reckon he knew them better than what we do.”
Kobb’s eyes widened. “If they agreed to help him, he must have lied to them about what he was doing. So he would have planned to deal with them before they found out, not keep them around to carry his tents back.”
“Wait…” Haelen scanned a parchment, before thrusting it forward. “Gates of absence. Not gate. Gates. More than one. You said the power’s like a river but it’s trickling away. What if the connection went with it? He could raise the barrier and open a gate to somewhere else.”
“We could stop anyone from entering the stones, and travel faster.” Anessa grinned Haelen.
“It’s not right,” said Kobb. “The Book of Blessings says that power should not be embraced. Using the barrier maybe, but riding the power…”
“Not right.” Haelen jutted his jaw into Kobb’s face. “After all this time, I found a clue to where my daughter is, and you’re worried about whether your book would approve! Well, you don’t have to come. But you’re not stopping me.”
Kobb’s hand settled on his rapier.