The man who stood in front of me only came a few inches above my waist. He held his hand out, palm up.
“It isn’t yours,” he said.
I looked around the forest, wondering who he was talking to, but there was no one else among the trees.
He spoke again, hand still out as if expecting something to fall into it. “The stone isn’t yours.”
“I don’t have a stone.”
“You do. Around your neck.”
The gemstone. I looked down and was horrified to find that I’d left the necklace hanging in the open instead of safely hidden under my shirt.
I tried to shove it down my shirt, but my hands didn’t move. I felt strangely detached from my body.
“Danger will come,” said the small man. I looked away from the stone to him, and when I met his dark eyes, a chill shot through me. “He wants the stone.”
Who wanted the stone?
Something black whooshed between us, knocking aside the man’s outstretched hand. In front of me was an animal like a black dog but without a tail and ears that pointed up like a cat’s. It didn’t stand on the ground like a normal dog, but hovered in the air, flapping the wings that sprouted from its back. Its yellow eyes focused on me and it bared its teeth.
I reached for my bow on my back. It wasn’t there.
“Hurry! Bring us the stone!” The man’s voice sounded distant and I couldn’t see him behind the flapping black dog. Was he leaving me to fight off this thing by myself?
“Where are you?”
The dog thing flew at my chest and knocked me on my back. Its teeth came down on me, grabbing the stone and ripping the gold chain from around my neck.
“We are in the forest of Hashna.”
I shot up, sweat covering my back and torso. I blinked in the dark, barley making out the familiar shapes of the small hut that was my home since joining the Foxes. I put my hand over the gem underneath my shirt and leaned back down against the pile of blankets and animal skins that was my bed to wait for my pounding heart to slow. I was in my hut, not in the middle of a forest with some strange beast that was after the gemstone.
The creature was something that hadn’t been in the last two dreams I’d had. The last two nights the same small, dark-haired man appeared and told me that the stone wasn’t mine and I needed to give it to them or some sort of danger would come. I didn’t know who “them” was or who the “he” was that wanted the stone.
The first time I had the dream, I thought it was just my subconscious replaying my feeling from the pawnshop earlier that day, but the next night when I had the same dream, I wondered if it meant something.
Now that this was the third time, I knew it wasn’t a coincidence. I rarely had nightmares and I never had the same dream three nights in a row. Something was trying to warn me about the gemstone.
Maybe it was cursed.
I thought about returning it to the cave, but that probably wouldn’t help. What if the curse stayed on the last person who touched it? Besides, the man in the dream wanted me to give it to him. He must be the owner, and if he had put a curse on it, it would continue haunting me until he got his gemstone.
I knew what he was. He wasn’t a man who was a bit short.
He was a dwarf. And there wasn’t much known about the mysterious dwarves living in the mountains of Hashna except that they were powerful magicians. It would be foolish to keep a dwarf necklace, but just as foolish to leave it somewhere in hopes of getting rid of the dreams.
Perhaps the dwarf in the dream was threatening me; letting me know that if I didn’t bring him his gemstone, something terrible would happen to me. Maybe he actually had a dog-like creature with wings that he would send after me. Just because I’d never seen something like that before didn’t mean beasts like that didn’t live in Hashna. Who knew what kind of things those dwarves conjured up with their magic.
I pulled the stone from under my shirt and fingered the smooth edges. I had to get rid of it, but taking it to Hashna, like the dwarf wanted me to, would be difficult. Not just because of the distance and supplies I would have to get, but because it would mean leaving the Foxes.
Sure, I was ready to leave them three days ago when I thought I’d have money to travel with and live off of, but if I went off on my own with no money I wouldn’t make it far. Besides, once I returned the gemstone where would I stay? I doubted Faiza would let me come back after leaving without a word. She was a suspicious type and I don’t think she’d trust me if I just disappeared for a few weeks, then came back without an explanation. And I couldn’t tell her why I was leaving. There’s no way she’d let me leave with the gemstone.
As much as I didn’t want to be cursed or eaten by one of those winged dogs, I also didn’t want to be on my own again without any funds.
I ran my hand through my hair and let out a huff of air. I wished I could throw the gemstone into a lake and never think about it again.
I could ask Ethan about the dream. He’d grown up in a monastery so he probably knew a few things about magic and dreams and all that mystical stuff. But that would mean telling him about the gemstone.
I rolled over and groaned. I wouldn’t be able to sleep until I figured this out.
Check out the Hashna Stone Page for previous chapters