The gemstone seemed to press into my chest as Ethan and I walked toward Faiza. She was settling a squabble between two girls whose argument had something to do with cooking breakfast.
“And if you bother me with something you can fix on your own again, you’ll both have cooking duty for the next two weeks,” Faiza said to them over her shoulder as she tromped over to us.
Great. She was in a perfect mood to hear about how I want to go to Hashna because of a dream after I found a gemstone that I didn’t tell her about.
“If you two have a disagreement, work it out on your own,” Faiza said when she saw we were waiting for her. “I don’t care if the fish is seasoned with thyme or lemongrass. Do I look like a cook?”
“Something important has come up,” said Ethan, ignoring her ill temper.
Her annoyance vanished and her eyes shifted between the two of us expectantly. “Well, get on with it.”
“It would be better if we were alone,” I said, not wanting this to play out with half the camp watching.
She let out a breath. “Fine.”
She turned sharply and we followed her into the woods. When we couldn’t see any of the huts through the trees, we stopped.
“What’s going on?” she demanded.
I looked to Ethan wishing I’d just left without trying to explain this whole bizarre thing to Faiza. Ethan was certain it was better to tell her now before I left than try to explain when I got back, but with those piercing brown eyes looking hard into mine, I was sure it would have been better to leave without saying anything. I’d take my chances that she wouldn’t let me come back to the Foxes. It was better than looking like a dream-chasing idiot.
“Dalan found something,” Ethan said, looking at me. It would have been nice if he’d explained more than that.
“Are you going to tell me what it is, or just stand there looking at each other?” She crossed her arms. The early sun glowing off her short red hair made it look like her head was a blazing fire.
Not wanting to start telling the dream just yet, I did the only other thing that would explain. I pulled the necklace from under my shirt.
The ruby spun lazily in the early morning light as if enjoying being in the sun after being hidden so long. Faiza actually looked stunned. I’d never seen her anything but bored or ticked. Even Ethan’s eyes widened when he saw the gemstone.
“It’s bigger than I thought,” he said.
“Where did you get this?” Faiza snatched the gemstone, making the chain tug around my neck.
“Careful,” I said.
“Where did you get it?” she repeated, inspecting the ruby.
“I found it in a cave.”
Her eyes snapped away from the ruby.
“Yes,” I snapped. I knew it was unbelievable, but I wish everyone would stop thinking I’d stolen it.
“Were you with him?” she asked Ethan, who shook his head.
I pulled the gemstone out of her hand. “If I stole it I wouldn’t be showing you. I’d be long gone with the money.” Then I felt a little guilty because I did almost sneak off with the money. Or at least part of it.
“When did you find it?”
“When I was hunting. I stepped into the cave to get out of the rain and found it.”
“Why am I just now hearing about this? You could have pulled me aside any time last night to tell me.”
“Who cares how I got it, or why I’m just now telling you. It could be dangerous.”
She raised an eyebrow and her lips formed a smile. “Dangerous? It’s only dangerous as long as we have it.”
What? How did she know? Maybe she recognized it like the guy at the pawnshop. Before I could ask her she said, “I’ll go to town right now. We could live for years on the money this would bring.” She held out her hand, expecting me to put the necklace in it.
“We can’t sell it.”
“Why not?” Her voice dropped to a dangerously low note.
I stopped myself from telling her about the experience at the pawnshop. She wouldn’t be very happy she found out that I’d tried to sell it behind her back.
“You said you found it, didn’t you? And what did you pledge to do with things you find?”
“It’s not that I don’t want to share it, it’s that I can’t.”
“We think it may not be safe to keep it,” Ethan said. “Tell her about the dreams.”
“Dreams?” Faiza’s voice was covered in skepticism.
I told her what I told Ethan about the dwarf and his warning.
“That doesn’t explain why we can’t sell it,” said Faiza. “If it’s so dangerous, then why do you want to keep it? Let me sell it. Then you won’t have scary little men showing up in your dreams.”
“I think they may be more than just dreams,” said Ethan. Finally, he was going to help me explain.
“Of course you would be encouraging this.” Faiza rolled her eyes.
“I wouldn’t think anything of it except for the fact that it is a dwarf in the dream. And it’s too much of a coincidence that the dream is the same every night and they only started happening once he found the gemstone.”
“Every night?” Her voice hardened and she looked to me. “How long have you had this?”
“A few days,” I said, not quite looking at her.
“It’s taken you this long to figure out how to tell me that you found a giant gemstone that could take care of us for years?”
I flinched. “I wasn’t going to keep the whole thing for myself.”
“Is that why you had Ethan take you to town? How much did you get for that pocket knife?” She emphasized the last two words and looked at me smugly, knowing what I was really trying to sell.
“I was going to sell it,” I admitted, “but I wasn’t going to keep the money for myself.”
“Then why did you keep it a secret?”
“I was planning on leaving,” I blurted. I knew I was digging myself deeper, but lying now wouldn’t help me much at this point. “I wanted to leave Minaria. Go somewhere where I wouldn’t have to hide from the King’s soldiers. I was going to keep half the money and leave the other half here.”
“How generous.” Faiza gave a stiff smile. “So why are you still here with the gem around your neck?”
“That man at the pawn shop wouldn’t take it. He wouldn’t even make an offer. He was—“
“So you still have it because he wouldn’t take it. Not because you realized that you were going back on your word.”
“I wasn’t going back on my word. I was going to share it.”
“Do you swear to bring anything you find to me, the leader of the Foxes, to distribute evenly among the group? You answered yes to that question.” Faiza paused to give me a smoldering look. “Not only didn’t you show me what you found, you admit that you weren’t going to split the money evenly.”
My anger flared. “I didn’t have to give any of it to anyone. I found it. It was mine to keep. At least I was going to share it. So what if I didn’t do it by your rules?”
“Rules are what holds this pitiful group together.” Her voice rose to match mine. “And as far as your gracious sharing, there isn’t a reason to believe that is actually what you were going to do.”
Ethan stepped up. “Look, he messed up, but I’ve spent the most time with him since he came here, and I don’t think he’s lying to us. Maybe he did want a larger portion so he could get out of Minaria, but I don’t think he would have left us with nothing.”
Faiza glared at both of us.
“Fine. We won’t try to figure out the past.” She held her hand out again. “You won’t get any money from the gemstone, but I’ll let you stay with us.”
“It’s going to Hashna,” I said grasping the ruby around my neck.
Her nostrils flared. “If you want to go to the land of short people because of a dream, go ahead. But you aren’t taking that gemstone with you.”
“It’s bad luck to anger a dwarf,” Ethan cut in.
“Exactly why we shouldn’t go to Hashna,” Faiza said. “We can’t anger them from here.”
“Someone already has or they wouldn’t be sending messages to Dalan. Someone is after that stone and whoever the dwarf in the dream, is warning us.”
“Well he can warn the next owner once we’ve sold it.”
“I don’t think we can sell it,” I said, and Faiza gave me a smoldering look. “The man I tried to sell it to was scared. He knew something about it.”
“We’ll ask him about it then,” Faiza said.
“He wouldn’t tell me,” I said.
“And we don’t want to go back there and draw attention to it,” added Ethan. “Who knows where this person is that wants it or what he’ll do if we’re caught with it?”
“If you think I’m going to give up a chance to give those kids out there what that gemstone can bring…” She shook her head.
For the first time, I saw a bit of tenderness in her eyes. The orphans she looked after really meant a lot to her.
“But at what cost?” asked Ethan. “My monastery education may be pretty useless out here, but it did teach me how dangerous it is to mess with magic. That stone is definitely magic. And dwarves are after it. Do we really want to bring a curse on us?”
“I don’t believe in curses.” She jutted out her chin.
“I didn’t think I did either,” I said. “But those dreams. They were just too real. There’s definitely something after this thing. In my last dream, some creature attacked me and pulled it from my neck.”
“What creature?” Ethan asked.
“I don’t know.” I shrugged, wishing I hadn’t mentioned it at the risk of making the dream sound like a frightened child’s nightmare. “It was like a black dog with wings.”
“Did it have talons instead of normal paws?”
“And yellow eyes?”
“How did you know?” I asked.
“A grimulin,” Faiza muttered.
“You saw a grimulin,” Ethan answered.
“I thought a grimulin was an animal in children’s stories. And doesn’t it look like a cougar?” I said thinking of the stories of brave soldiers fighting flying grimulin as they shot fire from their mouths when I was little.
“There is a lot of lore about them that isn’t true,” Ethan said. “A real grimulin isn’t an actual animal, but an evil spirit that only skilled sorcerers can conjure.”
“You think someone sent a grimulin in Dalan’s dream?” Faiza asked. I was surprised she was interested. Finally, something got to her.
Ethan shrugged. “I don’t know. There’s no way of knowing if it was a real one or not.”
Faiza looked hard at me as if trying to see in the dark, then she said. “You can go to Hashna, but we’re coming with you.”
There aren’t any choices to be made this chapter, so I’ll be posting the next chapter tomorrow. Yay for two chapters in one week! 🙂 If you’re new to this story or missed a chapter be sure to check out the Hashna Stone Page for previous chapters.