Part Six of my Latest Free Serial

Breaking Ground is a Darkeningstone novella – it's a standalone book: a bonus story. I'm presenting it here in weekly parts. Each part on this site is tagged ‘breaking ground' so you can find all the published episodes easily. I'll add a link at the end of this episode. I hope you enjoy it.

Chapter 5

3,540 BC

Cleofan ran a hand over his face and sighed.  This time, it had been harder to slip away to the pit.  And the climb up to the ledge had taken longer.  This time, there’d been…a complication.

He shook his head.  What was done, was done.  I’m here now, he thought.  I’ve made my decision, and must live with the consequences.  He raised his eyes to the horizon.  Soon, the sun would dip toward the distant hills, sending long shadows to snake through the pit.  Then it would be too late.  Too late to do what must be done.

It was now or never.  Cleofan crossed the ledge and, bowing his head, he knelt down before the Darkeningstone.  Slowly, slowly he raised his eyes, and allowed his glance to skip across the sacred stone.  And his breath caught in his chest.  The Darkeningstone lay before him in all its glory, a perfect slab of pure black stone.  He gazed at its immaculate proportions.  It was longer than a man was tall, as wide as a man’s outstretched arms, and the perfect height for Cleofan to kneel and look down upon its flawless surface.  And it was his.  He had found this treasure, had uncovered it, releasing it from its hiding place among the lifeless stone.

“I’m the only one,” he whispered, “the only one who understands, the only one you’ll allow.”  He bit his lip and, almost despite himself, he reached out an unsteady hand toward its cold perfection.  His fingers trembled, brushing against the stone’s sharp edge.  A flash of blue light flickered across the stone, and Cleofan jerked his hand away.  “I’m sorry,” he whispered.  “I shouldn’t have… I… I wasn’t ready.”  And yet, he must make himself ready, control his thoughts.  He had a task to perform.

Cleofan put his hands up to his face and rubbed his tired eyes.  Last night, the stone had slipped into his mind as he’d slept, had murmured its lonely message into his dreams: The secret must be shared.  It was time to pass the sacred duties to the man who would one day take his place.  Cleofan’s knowledge must not die when he passed into the Shade World.  And so, he had made his decision, his choice.

Now, he hesitated.  It was too great a responsibility.  What if he’d made a mistake?  He took a deep breath.  He could not deny the will of the Darkeningstone, but perhaps he should choose someone else, someone older.  “It’s not too late,” he muttered.

“What’s not too late, Father?”

Cleofan blinked, refocused his eyes beyond the Darkeningstone.  Across the ledge, his son, Waeccan, sat on the ground, idly arranging a collection of smooth stones into patterns in the soil.

Cleofan studied his son.  The boy was eleven years old.  All he thought about was hunting and fishing.  Soon, he’d become a man, and then he’d want to build a hut, take a wife, tend a patch of earth.  No, he thought, I can’t allow that.  His son was meant for greater things.  And this was where he must begin.  Before it was too late.  Cleofan raised his hand and beckoned his son.  “Come here, Waeccan,” he said.

The corners of Waeccan’s mouth turned down into a frown.  Oh no, he thought, what have I done wrong this time?  He’d only been playing to pass the time.

Cleofan forced a smile.  “Come forward, Waeccan,” he said.  “I want to show you something.”

Waeccan stood slowly and dawdled across the ledge.  As he neared his father, he gave the dark stone slab a sideways look.  It’s so big, he thought.  Bigger even than my father.  He shuddered.  There was something about it he didn’t like, something that scared him.  It was too flat, too straight, and too…unnatural.

“Come, Waeccan,” his father said, “kneel here, by my side.”

Waeccan swallowed and did as he was told.  When he knelt down, the stone seemed even larger.  He could only just see onto its flat top.  He looked up to his father.  What was he meant to do?

“Look, Waeccan,” his father said.  He gestured to the black stone.  “This is the Darkeningstone.”

“The Darker…the Darkeningstone,” Waeccan mumbled, his tongue tripping over the unfamiliar word.

Cleofan nodded.  “That’s right, Waeccan.  And what do you think the Darkeningstone is?”

Waeccan swallowed.  “Is it…is it something to do with the Shades?”

Cleofan raised his eyebrows and nodded in approval.  “Very good, Waeccan, very good.”  There was hope for the boy.

Waeccan smiled nervously and looked up at his father.

But Cleofan did not return his smile.  He turned back to the dark, forbidding slab of stone.  ”I want you to look into the Darkeningstone,” he said.  And his voice was low, an insistent whisper.  “I want you to look deep into it.  And I want you to tell me…tell me what you see.”

Waeccan’s eyes were wide.  He’d never seen his father like this.  His stomach squirmed.  He quickly scanned the ledge.  There was nowhere to run to, no hiding places.  And anyway, his father would be furious if he did that.  No, he thought.  I’d better do what Father says, and just try to get it right.  Waeccan narrowed his eyes and looked down onto the dark stone.  And he gasped.

—-

Thanks for reading this part of Breaking Ground. How about a tweet?

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If you prefer to read on Wattpad, you can find Breaking Ground here. I've been adding a cast of characters on Wattpad, e.g. I've just cast young actor Samuel Joslin as young Waeccan.

samuel joslin

On this site, you can see all the published episodes with the following button:

See all published episodes of this free serial

If you'd rather get the whole novella in one go – as well as the full-length sequel – and all for free, please click on the following button:

Get the full story and the full-length sequel for free

Or find Breaking Ground on amazon – the ebook is free:

Breaking Ground: A Tale of Supernatural Suspense

Image sources:

Samuel Joslin – IMDB http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4575328/

Landscape via Pablo – an app from Buffer.com

 

 

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