When I woke, I didn’t open my eyes. They were too heavy to be moved, like the rest of my body. I was drifting back to sleep when I realized the familiar weight of the Hashna Stone wasn’t on my chest. I moved my hand to the spot, and was surprised by how stiffly it moved. Then I remembered the fight with Bayvlad, my blackened, bent sword, Radon’s confrontation with his brother, and Samel’s brave attempt to take the Hashna Stone. The image of his small body lying motionless on the floor and his curly dark hair surrounding his bloodless face filled my mind, and I bolted out of bed.
I was disoriented to find myself in a room that wasn’t one of Tallis’s, but the regal blue and silver decorum let me know I was still in the castle. I rummaged through the stately dresser drawers for my clothes, but couldn’t find them. I shoved the last drawer shut and let out a huff of air. I couldn’t go searching through the castle for news about Samel in my nightshirt.
I shrugged. Then again, maybe I would. I started toward the door when it opened and a maid walked in. I froze in my nightshirt, feeling foolish.
“You shouldn’t be up,” the woman said trying to hustle me back into bed, but I didn’t move.
“Where is Samel? And Rachael and her father? And—“
“They’re all fine.” She frowned at me, clearly dissatisfied that I wouldn’t move back to the bed.
“Even Samel? He’s…”
“Resting. Like you should be.”
“I want to see him. All of them. Where are my clothes?”
She snorted. “Those things you were wearing? The ones with holes through them and blood on them? We burned them.”
“I had another pair in Tallis’s place.”
“We haven’t had the time to move your things,” she said, looking at me as if I should know this. “It’s been a bit hectic around here after what happened.”
“What has happened?” I knew Radon had the Hashna Stone back but I didn’t know what happened after that. Had the court accepted him? Did the soldiers believe that he was Radon? Or did they think he was some look-a-like Bayvlad hired to help steal the crown? Surely once his face was washed, his beard trimmed, and his hair untangled they would be able to see that the resemblance was too much to anyone but Radon.
The maid looked at me like I’d gone mad. “What happened? Aren’t you the one who caused what happened? And you’re asking what happened.” She shook her head and let out a huff of air.
“I mean, Radon is king again, isn’t he?”
The door came open again and Rachael, Faiza, and Ethan spilled in.
“I told you three to come back later.” They maid scowled at them. “Let him rest.”
“He looks rested to me.” Faiza looked me over with a smile playing at her lips and I was keenly aware that I was still in my nightshirt.
“Did everyone decide to stop knocking?” I said.
“Is that anyway to great your friends after all we’ve been through together?” Ethan asked with a smile.
“Sorry,” Rachael said. “We were worried about you.” Her apology wasn’t very helpful because her whole face looked like it was trying to hold in a giant giggle.
“If you were so worried, you wouldn’t be busting down his door without any thought to his health.” The maid put her hands on her hips, but no one paid her any attention.
“What’s happening?” I asked, hoping to get more answers from them than I had from the maid. “How long have I been out?”
“Only since yesterday,” Rachael said. “You’ve slept through the night.”
“Which is more than we could say,” Faiza said. “You’re lucky you knocked out like that.”
I didn’t feel lucky. My body was achy, like I had the flu.
“There was a lot of confusion,” Ethan said. “Tallis and Radon— King Radon I mean—called a meeting with all the nobles to straighten everything out.”
“My father explained how Ryker asked the dwarves to make him a new stone,” Rachael said, gesturing animatedly, “and how he became angry when they wanted to use magic to see the stone. He told them how they saw King Radon in a prison cell, using the stone, and how you found the Hashna Stone and brought it here.”
“We had to stay up half the night with them,” Faiza said, “to tell our side. Basically we were robbed of our sleep just so we could tell those stuffy nobles that Tallis was telling the truth.” She rolled her eyes.
“But Radon is king once more,” said Rachael.
“What happened to Ryker?” I asked. Last I’d seen him, he was held between two soldiers.
“The council found him guilty of treason and sentenced him to death,” Ethan said.
“Doesn’t the king get to decide?” I asked.
“He can overrule anything they decide,” said Rachael, “but I think he was glad to have them make the decision for him. I get the feeling he didn’t actually want to be the one responsible for killing his brother.”
I thought back to the fight yesterday. Radon could have run Ryker though, but instead he told the soldiers to take him. Perhaps even after all that Ryker had done, it was still difficult for Radon to kill family.
The door opened again and an aged gentleman came in. He was carrying a small bag and I assumed he was the doctor. He frowned when he saw all the people in my room.
“I thought I told you to keep people out of his room,” he said to the maid.
She gave a huff. “How am I supposed to keep them out? The castle walls couldn’t keep them out and the dungeon doors couldn’t keep them in. How is a maid supposed to keep them from doing anything?”
“Alright,” said the doctor. “Everyone out.”
“See you later, invalid,” Faiza said as she left. Ethan gave a wave.
“Wait,” I said to Rachael just before she followed them. “Samel?”
She gave a small smile. “He’s fine. He’s been sleeping, but the doctor says he’ll recover. He’s tougher than he looks.”
I wanted to say something else. Something about how relieved I was that he was alive. How sorry I was that I hadn’t been able to kill Ryker with my twisted sword. But no words came and I just nodded.
“I’ll come get you as soon as he’s well enough to receive visitors.” And she left before the maid could shoo her out.
I woke up the next day to pounding on my door.
“Just a second,” I called as I hurried to dress. My clothes were brought to me yesterday. Which was a good thing, because I was summoned by the nobles to tell them how I’d found the Hashna Stone and everything that had happened afterward. It was the only thing that I’d been allowed out of my room for. After my friends’ short visit yesterday morning, I’d spent most of the day bored out of my mind.
Once I was dressed, I opened the door. Rachael was on the other side, her blue eyes shining. I was suddenly aware that I hadn’t combed my hair and ran my fingers through it.
“The doctor is allowing visitors.”
At first I thought she was talking about visitors for me, then I realized she was talking about Samel.
He was in the room next to mine so it didn’t take long for us to get there. Rachael opened the door. “Go ahead. I’ve already had my visit.”
I stepped in and Rachael shut the door behind me. The bed in the center looked even bigger with someone as small as Samel laying in it. He looked like a doll tucked under the covers of a child’s bed. He was sitting up, surrounded by so many pillows he looked as if he would drown in them.
“You gave us the biggest scare of our lives,” I said, then thought that probably wasn’t the best thing to say to someone who’d almost died.
“That’s what I’m best at.” He gave that cheeky grin of his and almost looked normal except for his sallow cheeks.
I smiled back. “You did that just to scare us, didn’t you?”
I shook my head, the smile falling from my face. “I thought you were gone.”
“So did I.” It was the first time I’d seen him look so serious. “It was quite a chance. The Hashna Stone couldn’t be taken by a human hand. But what about a dwarf?”
“Then you knew it wouldn’t kill you?”
“Had no idea.” He shook his head, making his curls swirl. “The wording of magic is a tricky thing. If the dwarves that made it said ‘human hands’ and left it at that, then it wouldn’t kill me. I didn’t know if they included ‘dwarf hands’ or not.” He shrugged. “I saw you charge in with that crooked blade in your hand, and thought ‘if he’s crazy enough to do that, I’m crazy enough to take that stone.’”
I was suddenly glad that I’d decided to rush in, even if my plan didn’t work.
“But it still zapped you,” I said.
Samel shrugged. “Who knows how those spells were worded. I guess my hands were enough like human hands that it wouldn’t let me take it freely. But not enough like a human that it killed me.” Samel lifted his right hand. Well, he lifted his arm. His hand flopped forward in a crumple of limp fingers. “It got its revenge though. It didn’t let the hand I grabbed it with come away unscathed like the rest of me. I still can’t feel a thing.”
I swallowed. What could I say? Was it polite to ask if he would ever be able to use it again?
“Is it permanent?” I blurted. Too late to think about what was polite.
He let his hand fall limply to the quilt. “The doctors aren’t sure. They’ve never dealt with injuries from magical dwarf stones.” He wiggled his eyebrows.
“Maybe the feeling will come back later.”
“That’s what the doctors said. I think they’re just saying that to make me feel better. They think that just because I’m the size of one of your children that I am one.” He let out an indignant huff. He glanced his stiff fingers, then looked away. “It’s just a hand, not my life.” He tried to keep his voice cheerful, but it cracked at the end of his sentences.
Nothing I could say would make up for the loss of his hand. But I knew what would at least lighten the moment. “One thing’s for sure,” I said, grinning. “I was pretty smart for letting you come with us.”
He grinned back. “You sure were.”
Missed some chapters? No problem! They’re all at the Hashna Stone Page .