Part Nine 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.
Waeccan gazed at the dark stone slab. And as he let his eyes wander over its strange surface, he gasped. This wasn’t right. Stone was dull, solid. But this…this was different. As he watched, the stone’s surface shifted and stirred, grew darker. It’s like the deep, cold water of the lake, he thought, when you dive down too far. And now he understood why his father had told him to look into the stone. Suddenly, the black rock seemed to fall away before his eyes, like a dark tunnel plunging into the earth. His stomach lurched. How could this be happening? He must look away, but then, what was that? For a moment, he thought he’d seen something, something inside the stone – a speck of light, as blue as the night sky. Waeccan blinked. No. He must’ve made a mistake. He mustn’t tell Father, it would only make him angry. Waeccan kept his head down, kept his eyes on the stone. He cocked his head to one side. What was that noise? A faint hissing and crackling, like damp wood on a hot fire. Was he imagining it, or could his father hear it as well? Waeccan opened his mouth to ask, but then…there it was again – the glimmer of blue light. And another, darting across the stone, stronger, brighter. It was beautiful, like watching ripples in the river by moonlight. Waeccan smiled. Now he knew why this Darkeningstone was so special. And then it began.
The hiss rises to a roar, drowning out all other sound. It fills Waeccan’s mind. He wants to put his hands over his ears, but there’s something wrong with his fingers. He looks down at his hands. He can’t move them. They’re too cold. No. They’re frozen solid, like a carcass buried in the snow. Waeccan opens his mouth to cry out, to call to his father for help, but it’s too late. The sound catches in his throat. He can’t turn his head away, can’t move. He can only watch as the icy numbness slides its thin needles through his flesh. It creeps along his arms, spreading across his shoulders, his neck, his face. And then, suddenly, as the cold darkness overwhelms him, Waeccan can see.
The demon tears through the air, a growling nightmare rushing toward him. Waeccan cannot look away, cannot even close his eyes. And it hurts. It hurts inside his head. He can’t breathe. His chest aches, burns. But something grabs him and holds him tight, squeezing the breath from his body. And it whispers, whispers without words, and Waeccan understands. He knows the man is coming, knows this man has seen the Darkeningstone and has tried to take it for himself. This man can no longer be trusted to keep this sacred place secret. He must be stopped. And now, Waeccan’s mind has only one thought: The stone must be protected. Over and over, the words burn through his mind. He looks deep into this vision, focusing his mind upon the monstrous creature of the air, piercing it with his savage thoughts. And suddenly, it is done. The demon whines and drops from the sky, spinning and fluttering through the air like a falling leaf. Waeccan hears it slam into the ground. He feels the wash of heat over his face as the creature is consumed in flames. In a matter of moments, it is gone.
And the Darkeningstone sighs and whispers, and finally, it lets him go.
Waeccan’s young body crumpled to the ground, his lips trembling, and his eyes closed. Cleofan stared at his son in disbelief. He reached out and touched the boy’s forehead. It’s all right, he thought, he’s warm. Suddenly, Waeccan moaned, and his father drew his hand away. The boy would live. But what had he seen? Cleofan stood and gazed at the Darkeningstone. He ran his hands over his face and tried to understand. “I know,” he said. “I know what it means. He has the gift.” Cleofan smiled. His son had the gift, and the Darkeningstone had chosen him. Of course. What other explanation could there be?
And now, things would have to change. Cleofan paced the ledge. There’d be no more games with the other boys for his son now, no more hunting and fishing. He was ready, and he must begin his training right away. And it would have to be kept secret. But how? Everyone would expect Waeccan to build a hut and take a wife. They’d expect him to raise a family, to hunt and grow crops to feed his kin.
Cleofan frowned. And then he saw the answer. “We could live here,” he muttered, “here in the pit.” He strode over to Waeccan and bent over to shake his son’s shoulder.
Waeccan moaned. His eyes fluttered open. He coughed and raised a hand to rub at his temple.
“Come on, Waeccan,” his father said. “Up on your feet.”
Waeccan used his arms to push himself up off the ground. He rose shakily to his feet. “My head hurts,” he groaned.
“Never mind that,” Cleofan said. He reached out and placed his hands on Waeccan’s shoulders. “You’ve done well, very well.”
Waeccan managed a weak smile. His head wasn’t so painful now, but every time he moved, the world span and swayed. “Father, can I have a drink?”
But Cleofan shook his head. “Later,” he said. “Come on, my boy. We’ve got a hut to build.”
Thanks for reading this part of Breaking Ground. How about a tweet?I've just enjoyed reading Breaking Ground - a free #scifi time travel serial by @mikeycampling Click To Tweet
If you prefer to read on Wattpad, you can find Breaking Ground here.
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:
Image source: quarry – personal collection
Featured image: pablo.buffer.com