The Crystal Bridge

Chapter 22 - Stone Seer

Kaden woke to the smell of something sweet and tangy. He opened his eyes to see a mound of berries set on a large green leaf, just inches in front of his face.

“Eat. You will need your strength.” Evandrel paced back and forth across from him. “And do so swiftly. We have already lost much time.”

Kaden stretched and popped some berries in his mouth. They were perfectly ripe and juicy. His stomach immediately growled and he finished them off in seconds. “Got anything else?”

“We will find more as we travel. You humans waste so much of your nutrients. You had to get up and relieve yourself twice last night alone. It is ridiculous.”

Kaden felt himself blush a little. “It’s natural, dude.”

“Not for the Keitane. I need only—”

“Woah there, buddy! I don’t need to know your bathroom schedule. Let’s just get going.”

Evandrel smiled. “Exactly what I wanted to hear from you, human. You also snore. It is very fortunate I require very little sleep.”

“Yay for you.” Kaden rolled to his feet and blinked as Evandrel bolted into the forest. “Um…”

A few moments later the Sidra returned. “Why are you not following?”

“What? We’re running? I just woke up.”


“It takes me a moment to get going, especially after sleeping on the ground all night. I’m not a morning person.” Kaden stretched as Evandrel glared at him. “Fine. I’m ready.”

Evandrel sped away and Kaden jogged after.


Kaden couldn’t breathe. He’d been running for hours and sweat poured down his face, blinding him. He stopped to wipe it from his eyes. “Wait up. You’re killing me.”

The elf never got tired. Kaden had been struggling to keep up since they left that morning and he’d expected them to stop and rest, but Evandrel loped ahead like a deer bounding through the forest.

“I apologize.” Evandrel appeared next to Kaden. “I forget sometimes how slow and feeble humans are. It is why you use beasts to aid your travels.”

“Nice apology. You’re super sneaky too. Anyone tell you that? You’d make a great ninja.”

Evandrel cocked his head to the side. He did that often when perplexed. “Ninja?”

Kaden smiled at the now familiar face of his companion. “Yes, a ninja. A stealthy warrior capable of moving without sound and killing with just a touch. Wears black pajamas.”

“That is a fairly accurate description of me apart from the black pajamas. I am a Ninja Elf then?”

“Yeah, pretty much. I’m not quite up to ninja status myself, so how about a breather?”

Evandrel glanced forward toward his homeland and shook his head. “We are not moving as quickly as I would have hoped, but I also can­not push you beyond your limits. It would do me no good to kill you with the journey.”

“Hah. That’s the spirit. Always nice to have you talking about killing me again.” Kaden slumped to the ground in exhaustion. Now that they’d paused, the sweat cascaded in waterfalls down his chin. “Got any water?”

Evandrel pulled a small gourd from inside his tunic. He tossed it over. Kaden removed the cork-like stopper with a pop. The water tasted clean and crisp, colder than he expected and sweet and earthy like snow. Kaden resisted emptying the entire gourd, reluctantly leaving a few swallows for Evandrel. The ninja elf slipped it back into his tunic without a sip.

Kaden sighed loudly. Dang! I could’ve finished it. He isn’t even sweating. Freak of an elf. “So…three more days?” He leaned back against the trunk of a tree.

“Four, at least at these speeds. I will see what I can do to improve your speed and agility.”

Kaden sat up, instantly more alert. “Magic?”

Evandrel arched an eyebrow. “Some. Mostly more water and nourishment. You created your body when you arrived. I do not un­derstand why you did not make some improvements.”

Kaden laughed. “It’s not like I get a drop down menu and I can pick and choose my attributes. This isn’t a video game.”

“Video? Never mind. I have too many of your foreign human words in my head as it is.”

“Okay. While we breathe a little, tell me more about how magic works.”

“It is my turn to ask you as to your knowledge of mysteries and hidden things now. What do you know of the world of the minuscule?”

“You mean cells or atoms?”

Evandrel sighed. “I do not know why I bother. What are cells and atoms?”

“Yeah. Sorry. Cells are the tiny parts that make up life, a thin membrane holding in the liquid and genetic stuff. Atoms are the smallest part of an element…like gold, silver, oxygen, and a whole bunch more whose names you aren’t going to know, at least not in my language.”

Evandrel looked at Kaden appraisingly once more. “You have shown yourself to be well edu­cated once more. There are also things much smaller than an atom.”

“Yep, protons, neutrons, subatomic physics, quantum mechanics, quarks, and the like. Who would’ve guessed an elf knew about subatomic physics?”

“Yes. And who would have guessed a human knew anything about the laws of the Che’saalum, the elements and the miniscule. This is very surprising.”

“I’m a rather well read human. I have AP Biology and Chemi­stry classes this year. I’m a bit of a science geek.”

“AP? Geek? No, do not explain these. I do not want to know. So you know that the world of the very small, subatomic, is…what is a good word…chaotic?”


“Magic works by speaking to these elements, allowing the chaos of the small to influence the laws of the large.”

Kaden leaned forward. “Hmmm. That’s more or less what I think happens with my wormholes. I’ve read a few books on theoretical physics. Didn’t get it all, but I’m pretty sure I’m bending the rules to open up a wormhole. Wait, did you say speak?”

“I did. That is what a Light Bringer does. We learn the language of the miniscule and speak to the elements. This is the basis of all magic.”

“Language? Okay, now you’re not making sense.”

“Am I not? You understand that the subatomic elements are volatile? You must know that at some level your brain and your body cross over into that region. Those of us with the gift learn to speak to the elements and influence them.”

“But…language? Atoms don’t talk. They’re not alive like cells.”

Evandrel frowned at him. “They do speak and they are alive, though not like cells. They vibrate with energy, spin, and fly. They link together and burst apart. They communicate with each other across great distances. You must learn to listen.”

“You’re telling me words create magic? Speak the magic words and I can fly? Abra freaking kadabra.”

“No. It is more than that. One must have a deep connection with the elements, a strong will, and a mastery of the language of the universe. These together create magic.”

“So I say the right words with force and anything is possible?”

“Not anything. There are limits, but words are power. You know this already. Deep down all creatures that speak know this, even humans.”

“Really. How’s that?”

“Ponder upon it. Words are just sounds. You take those sounds and hammer meaning into them. You apply them to things.” Evandrel waved a hand above him. “Sky, leaf, home. You define your world with them. Your perceptions build upon them like a tree upon roots. You cannot even think without them bouncing around your skull. You cannot feel without them swimming in your mind. Smooth, hot, rough, cold. They are nothing but sounds, and yet they are everything you know. Do you not see?”


“No maybe about it. You take these words and use them as you speak and write. Insubstantial sounds and yet they can be used to make someone happy, sad, smile, laugh, cry. You argue to prove a point. You lie to alter the truth. Words cut, hurt, heal, comfort. They do more than just define the world, they influence it.”

“Okay. I see where you’re going, but I still don’t see how this translates into magic.”

“Words are power. The right words at the right time and place influence the structure of the universe itself.”

“I’m sorry, this isn’t how my universe works.”

Evandrel put a hand to his chin and stared off into the distance for a moment. “That may be true. Different universes may very well have different laws. We have suspected as much. Though, they must be similar. Your world is too alike my own for them to be completely dif­ferent. Have you not seen will and words do magic?”

“We definitely don’t have magic, not real magic, but I guess we have our own quirks. Mind over matter. Placebo effect. So, maybe this world has that times a thousand. Yeah. You think it. You say it. You make things happen. Interesting.”

“Yes. Here, let me show you.” Evandrel placed his hands above Kaden’s outstretched legs. “Do you wish to feel better and run faster?”

“Um, didn’t I say that a minute ago?”

Evandrel put his hands on Kaden’s shoulders. The Keitane’s eyes tightened. “No joking. This is important. Your will must align with mine for this to succeed.”

“Sorry. Yes, I wish to feel better and run faster.”

“Good.” Evandrel chanted away in his language of the minis­cule for several minutes, his tone rising and falling in odd staccato rhythms.

Kaden didn’t see or feel anything happening. He opened his mouth to say so, but then warmth spread through his legs, unknotting the cramped muscles. Energy poured through his veins and he felt more awake, rested. “Wow and weird. I’m not sure if I like you having that much control over my body.”

Evandrel looked down and shook his head as he let go of Kaden’s shoulders. There was just a hint of dark circles under his eyes that had not been there a second earlier. “I understand your apprehension, but I do not have that much control over you. It is one of the limitations of magic. Will affects the outcome, including the will of others. If you did not want to be faster and feel better, you would not. I have merely sped up the natural process of healing, nothing drastic.”

“Drastic? Like give me horns, turn me into a toad, boil my in­sides?”

“Yes, those and more. I am sure the other toads would not approve in any case.”

Kaden laughed. “They’d be lucky to have me. So you really can’t hurt me?”

Evandrel raised an eyebrow. “You already know that I can, but with magic it is more difficult. I can do almost anything I like to my­self, but it becomes more complicated with inanimate objects, and even thornier with other beings. You would have to want the same as my will, or my will would have to be strong enough to crush yours to dust and override it.”

Kaden gulped. “Okay…that doesn’t sound fun.”

“Don’t worry. Unfortunately, I do not have such a will. I can influence plants, but they are very close to the Keitane and align easily with my will. I have not met many who could influence the inanimate without taking it into their bodies,” he pointed at Kaden’s shirt, pants, and boots, “though I can with some effort. I have only met one who might be able to influence the wills of others, Thyra so’a Amara, the Eldest, our leader.”

“One’s enough. Are there other limits?”

Evandrel looked up into the trees. “It takes energy. A great feat of magic would leave me drained, exhausted, and vulnerable. There are also the Stones of Landfall.”

“Stones of what now?”

“Stones infused with the power of the Crystal Bridge when it collapsed and the Prophets first stepped onto Ealdar. These stones dissipate magic.” The Keitane’s tone turned hard. “Your kind folds the ore into steel and uses these weapons to hunt us.”

Kaden shook his head. “Not my kind, remember, but I am sorry, Evan. Didn’t mean to bring that stuff up again.”

Evandrel looked away. “As enlightening as this conversation may be, are you ready to continue our travels?”

“Yeah. I’m good. Can we keep it a touch slower though?”

Evandrel ignored him and sped off into the sun dappled forest, laughing as his green hair whipped behind him.

“Man, wait up! Didn’t you say something about more food and water?” Kaden raced after him, his legs feeling stronger than they had ever been.


Aren’s knees shook as she passed the Gates and moved deeper into the darkened room. She could make out pillars in the dim light and faces beyond them. There were thousands of sparks of light there, but these were too small to offer much light, leaving most of the huge room lost in shadow. She felt Kaden move further and further away from her, the sensation growing dim until she wasn’t sure if it had even been real. What am I doing here? I should’ve stayed in the clearing.

Dveldor moved forward at a faster pace, the tiny light at his waist bouncing as he walked, casting odd shadows. Aren felt certain she was going to trip. “Wait up, Dveldor. I can’t see.”

“Oh, of course. I am sorry, Aren.” He called out to the dark­ness and more lights sprang to life around her and grew brighter. Large lanterns burst to life along the walls and many smaller ones began to burn in the hands of the Dwaros. The room swam out of shadow.

The walls glowed a warm orange, reflecting the lamplight back into the great room like they were covered in beaten gold. The ceiling was at least a hundred feet up and glittered with inlayed jewels and metals, bright sparks in the dark. A thousand rubies ran through the center of the roof. Aren realized it was a depiction of the night sky, the red nebula twinkling in the lamplight.

The two moons sat low on the curved stone walls, twinkling with smoky gray diamonds, emeralds, and sapphires. The swirls looked somewhat familiar to her, but she couldn’t place from where.

She tore her eyes away from the wealth around her and turned toward the far end of the cavern. Where the floor met the curved walls of the cavern sat a double terrace of ornately carved stone. On the top ledge stood a throne of solid blue crystal. The throne shimmered in the wavering light from the lamps.

The Dwaro who sat on the throne sparkled in silver armor, his graying beard flowing from the helmet past his waist. He appeared calm at their approach, but Aren knew this was far from the truth. Hatred seethed and raced behind the serene mask, Aren’s gift invading the Keeper’s mind and memories, even from a distance.

Aren looked into the eyes of a human child who’d been dragged before the Keeper, found trespassing in one of the farthest tunnels. A Dwaro stepped forward, Inasi Dho Suani Darsh, who’d dis­covered the human. He dumped jewels and broken bits of stone to the floor. He spoke in the sing song language of the Dwaros, but now Aren understood it because she was hearing it as Sethkar.

“This human was caught trespassing on our lands and stealing our heritage. He chipped out bits of our history that may never be re­written, so old that no one remembers the proper placement.” Inasi spit in the dirt next to the boy.

“Please. I didn’t mean any harm. My family is so hungry. We farm, but my father died of illness. Please. I only wanted to feed my younger sis—” A spear slammed into the boy’s neck. Aren could feel the satisfaction roll through the Keeper at the death of the human. She wanted to scream, but couldn’t.

A dozen similar memories flowed through Aren in a fraction of a second. She blinked up at Sethkar, Keeper of the Gates, and struggled to take another step. Okay. What’ve I got to work with? He hates humans. He’ll kill me if I do anything that displeases him. He’ll also look for reasons to be displeased. I’m in real trouble here.

She whispered to the Dwaro at her side. “Dveldor. This is a bad idea. It isn’t safe. I just want to go back.”

He looked at her in confusion. “Keeper Sethkar is very kind and noble. You will be safe here. I will explain and translate for you. Good?”

Sethkar stood as they approached, disapproval written all over his face, but even clearer on his soul that had opened to Aren’s gift.

Aren’s legs shook even more and she might have fallen if Dveldor hadn’t taken her hand. She could feel his confidence flow into her. It was just enough to keep her standing and move her forward a few more steps.

The Keeper raised a hand to halt their progress and spoke, his tone displaying his anger even as the Dwaro language filled Aren with flashes of red, blood, a young Dwaro girl’s face.

Dveldor had bowed his head as they approached, but it snapped up suddenly. “Nim, shea fallim hes! No, the girl is with me!”

Guards rushed in from all sides, small spears tipped with sharp purple stone jabbed at Aren, one pricked her arm and a line of blood trailed down and dripped from her finger. Commands were shouted. No one needed to translate. She put her arms up to show they were empty and allowed the small men to lead her away.


Aren couldn’t stand in the cramped prison cell, made for the shorter frames of the Dwaros. The pitch black of the room suffocated her, making the room feel even smaller than it was. Don’t they believe in any light? She knew they did though. She’d seen the memories of Sethkar in dazzling illumination. Their eyes are very different from mine.

Her eyes failed to adjust to the complete absence of visible light, making shapes appear and shift in front of her where she knew only air existed. The effect made her dizzy and tired. It didn’t help that her jailers had only given her a small meal of root vegetables and a cup of water after her long trek into the heart of the world. At least I hope those were root vegetables. They could’ve been grubs for all I could tell. The water at least had been crisp and clean with a pleasant mineral tang.

The door clanged, announcing another meal. Aren crawled forward, carefully feeling for the cup, so as not to spill any of the precious liquid this time. I hope Dveldor’s better off.

As she thought of Dveldor, his now familiar face swam out of the darkness, haloed in dim purple light. Aren jumped when she rea­lized it was no illusion. “Dveldor?”

The light grew and Dveldor stood before her, his small lantern held up for her benefit, the purple metal door standing open. “Hi, Aren.”

Aren embraced her friend. “Thank you.”

Dveldor shrugged in her embrace. “Should not be thanking me I think. We go to the Keeper of the Gates for our trial now. Sethkar is very angry with me for bringing you here and showing you too many Dwaro secrets.”

Aren looked Dveldor in the eyes from her kneeling position. “I know. I still wanted to thank you in case I don’t get another chance. You’ve been very kind.”

“You will get another chance I think.”

Aren smiled at him, knowing that he was as unsure as she was of her fate. “I hope so too.”

The guards led them to the Keeper Sethkar’s throne room, but this time they entered through a side tunnel and not by the great Petro Gates.

Aren gasped as she ducked through the entry and took in the crowd. Dwaros must have traveled for miles to attend her trial. The cavern held thousands of the tiny people, children raised on shoulders to get a glimpse of the human, all buzzing with life and energy that made Aren’s head burn as her gift absorbed too much information. Gotta tune them out.

Aren closed her eyes and let Dveldor’s grasp guide her as she fought back the onslaught of emotions, memories, and thoughts, focusing on the actual sounds of their song-like murmurs and the scent of clean fur that reminded her of when she’d held her pet hamster close to her face. “You have an amazing people, Dveldor. Many hate me, but there’s also so much kindness and ingenuity here.”

Dveldor said nothing, just squeezed her hand, until they reached the steps before the sapphire throne. “I will translate. I am so sorry, Aren.”

She opened her eyes as Keeper Sethkar spoke, Dveldor trans­lating quickly at her side.

“Dveldor, what is the meaning of this. You dare bring a human into our caverns and past the Gates of Anysh?”

“I do. The Children of the Stone told me to tunnel to the sur­face and I found her alone and in danger. I also found this.” He lifted up the piece of plastic from the desk. As he did so he broke into song.

The song filled Aren with strange images. Life, death, the pas­sage of time, slow changes that come from heat and pressure, pulled from the earth, combined with other materials, heated, and pumped out as a liquid.

“Plastic. This human girl brought it to us from across the stars.” He pointed up at the ceiling. “Just like the Prophets foretold. She is the Kal’asee. She is the messenger.”

Aren shook her head at Dveldor. “What?”

Sethkar sprayed spittle as he responded. “She is nothing! She is human. The Kal’asee would be Dwaro! The Spirit of Ealdar would have told us of her arrival. Do you presume to know the will of the Prophets? You…”

A Dwaro in a red robe approached the king and whispered to him. Aren caught nothing of what they discussed in their song-like language, but something told her that the priest believed the Kal’asee could be human. I hope the Keeper is religious. But she already knew that he was.

Sethkar’s eyes narrowed and turned on Aren. “Speak human! Deliver your message and we shall see if you are the Kal’asee.”

Aren could feel the contempt roll off the man, the burning hatred. She leaned on her gift hard. There must be some way out of this. She dug deeper into the king’s soul past hate, anger, and sorrow to his al­most human center where sparks of life danced around his fiery life-force, but she found nothing that might save her. She glanced at the priest and was flooded with insights into the religion of the Dwaros. She saw one tiny kernel of hope and pounced upon it.

Aren took two steps forward and then kneeled before the ter­races. She put her head to the ground. Must show him respectHope Dveldor can keep up.

“Oh great Sethkar, Keeper of the Gates, King of the Dwaros. I am not this Kal’asee. I am dust beneath the stones. I am nothing. I am from another world, but I have no message for you or your people. I’m sorry. I’m simply lost and alone. I seek only your aid and your protection. By Eshe and her love of the traveler, I ask your help. I am entirely in your mercy.”

Sethkar froze. His face shifted, moving through anger, pain, sorrow, surprise. “How do you know of Eshe the Prophetess?”

“The same way I know of Cael the Prophet, of Panish the Spirit of Ealdar, and also the same way I know you lost your daughter, Lael.” The audience of Dwaros gasped when Dveldor trans­lated. Even he looked upon her with astonishment. Aren could only see them through her peripheral. She dared not raise her head, which limited her gift, but she didn’t want to show disrespect.

“I am sorry for your loss, my Keeper. I promise you that I had nothing to do with that tragedy.” She could feel the barriers breaking down. Could still easily backfire on me. “I share in your sorrow. My father died when I was young. I’ve now lost everything. My only link to my world has abandoned me. Please help me find my way home.”

Silence filled the air. Aren could taste the dust from the floor. Her breathing sent it spiraling away as she rested her head on the cold stone in supplication.

“How do you know these things? What are you?”

Aren kept her face to the ground. “I am your servant.”

Aren listened to the slick sound of metal being drawn from a sheath. She’d never heard it before, but recognized it immediately. I thought this was working.

Dveldor hissed and argued in his tongue. Sethkar yelled back and the sword cut through the air. Aren heard it whistle and though it didn’t connect with anything, Dveldor fell silent.

Fear gripped Aren. She tried to control her trembling body, but her limbs refused to listen. A Dwaro in the crowd cried out in dismay and someone quickly hushed her. I’m dead. I’m so dead. She wanted to run, but couldn’t move. I’m surrounded by rock and Dwaros. I have nowhere to run.

Aren closed her eyes and pushed the tears away. Sorry Dveldor. Sorry Kaden. Sorry Mom. In the stark silence of the cavern she could hear each beat of her heart and the soft footsteps of the Keeper. She lost all control of her shaking, vibrating with profound fear as Sethkar’s footfalls stopped next to her. She could imagine him with the sword held high. She waited.

The sword sank into the ground inches from her face and she couldn’t help the squeal that escaped her mouth. Aren glanced up and saw the Keeper standing over her, his eyes filled with tears. Dveldor stood beside him and continued his translation.

“You are not human. No human has shown me such respect or compassion.” He blinked away the tears as he knelt down next to her and took her chin in his hand. “Let me see your eyes, young one.”

Aren lifted her face at his soft tingling touch and met his eyes and felt the hatred Sethkar had carried for so many years bleed away, a touch of recognition passing over his fur covered face.

“You are a Stone Seer, a disciple of Eshe” He motioned toward the bejeweled depiction of the sky where the twin moons hung. “We have not seen one in over a hundred of years. Kal’asee or not, you will be safe here.” He reached out a hand and lifted Aren to her feet. “Welcome to Dunfaa, home of the Dwaros.”

The gathered Dwaros cheered and sang, but their songs failed to melt away all the fears in Aren’s heart. I’ve been so worried about making it home, I haven’t thought about how dangerous this world is. I may die here. Kaden may die here…could be dead already with that green haired man still out there.

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