A Small Mound of Stones

A Small Mound of Stones

Holding the image of safety in her mind, Morulin lit the candle and upended the contents of a small velvet pouch on the table, leaving a small mound of stones. She tried to calm the butterflies in her stomach by reminding herself this magick worked. She knew it did; her mother had used it several times, but most effectively while lost in the jungle of an alien world. All she had to do was hold the clear concept in her mind.

And believe in the spell. That was the difficult bit.

Drawing a deep breath, she lifted the candle and used it to circle the stones. She envisioned the bright light of the flame encircling the stones, saturating them. A moment later her mage sight confirmed the energy had traveled, and hadn’t been diverted. After several passes, the onyx stones glowed with bright mage light.

She tried to ignore the moans coming from the center of the room. The whole village was gathered in this rickety old church. The windows were drafty, the walls in desperate need of repair, and the roof revealed starlight in several places. But it was the only place they could house the entire population overnight, and she only had enough onyx to create one barrier.

The walls won’t need to hold if the shield does, she reminded herself firmly and lifted the warm stones in both hands. She brought her hands together, cradling the stones between them as she began to chant.

Earth’s foundation, cold and strong,
In existence for so long,
Lend your might to this deed,
Of protection we have need.”

Magic, of the kind she was more familiar with, was forbidden in this place. Many cultures invoked the concept of sacred ground, refusing to allow mages to practice within the designated holy space. Morulin had always respected these rules, in part because her mother had taught her to respect all beliefs and in part because Damian had warned her even the most primitive seeming people often retaliated with brutal punishment for those that disrespected the restrictions. But the people here were also desperately in need of sorcery. Whatever creatures stalked the land by night, they appeared little more than shadows even to her secondary senses. Hunter’s blades and arrows passed right through them, but their teeth and claws did severe damage to every building or body they came in contact with.

Even if the population wanted to lift the ban and allow a mage to solve their problem; they couldn’t. A sorcerer could weave any spell they wished in this place without worrying the population would turn on them with pitchforks and torches. Largely because the spell wouldn’t work. At first, she thought something in the ground was absorbing it; a spell, perhaps. But she couldn’t detect anything which could be broken. It was possible the ground absorbed the magic, much like her island home, but that didn’t seem quite right either. It was siphoned, somehow, redirected, returned to the wild energy it started as before the spell could take shape.

She wished she had the time to devote to studying it. If she could shape a similar spell, it would prove useful in a hundred different situations. The ultimate form of protection; dissolving your opponent’s spell and using the energy for yourself.

Of more immediate concern was how to protect a population that refused to flee their sacred grounds. The night before, the beasts had mauled an entire family while the rest huddled in their huts praying they wouldn’t be next. Protection first. Then identification. Then we solve the problem in the best way possible.

But it all depended on her ability to hold security, safety and protection at the foremost of her mind.

She finished the chant and let the onyx stones fall back into a small mound on the table. She drew a deep breath as she lifted the first and set it on the crossbar that lay across the door.

Evil from this place be banned,
By my wish, by my command!”

She spoke with authority, the way her mother taught her. Confidence was as key to her mother’s ritual magick as it had always been to her father and Damian’s sorcery lessons. Without belief, the spell would fizzle or, worse, backfire. At least in the case of magick, spirit always knew her intentions. It helped.

She returned to the table and plucked another onyx from the pile. She worked her way around the large room, spacing the stones as evenly as possible. As she placed each one she recited the final two lines of the spell. Her mage sight revealed the trace of light indicating the energy connection forming between them. It was working!

Morulin had never had to rely on her mother’s brand of magick before. Not because she didn’t believe in it, she had learned her mother’s lessons as well as all the others, she’d just never been particularly religious. Perhaps religion didn’t matter. Perhaps it was the spiritual aspect, the ritual. Could that be why the magic was allowed to remain?

She finished the circle, imagined the energy spreading out around the building, above and below, until it formed a sphere of pure energy, protection for the huddled mass of nervous villagers who watched her with anxious eyes.

The elder rose from the center of the mass when she turned and crossed the space between them. “Is it done?”

“It is,” she agreed with a nod.

“Will it hold?”

“We’ll just have to wait and see.” She laid a hand on his shoulder for a moment before she returned to the table.

Three hours she watched the candle flame flicker as the wax melted away. It jolted as they heard the first bang, the first door breached by the shadow monsters. The first family that would have died if she hadn’t wandered by.

Outraged howls filled the night air along with the scrape of claws and gnashing of teeth.

Then the terror began.

The bashing and battering of strong limbs on a solid surface filled her ears. It was only when the door didn’t move that Morulin realized she’d bit her lip and made it bleed. Tasting iron, she stood and checked the energy barrier.

The circle remained unbroken.

The sounds lasted the rest of the night, dreadful even after they realized the barrier would hold. Morulin spent most of the time among the villagers, embracing several even as they embraced her. No one dared approach the walls. Knocking a single stone out of place might have spelled their doom. But the creatures were not battering the walls and door. They were throwing themselves against a solid energy barrier.

In the morning, it didn’t matter how she had summoned it. Weaving the spell had taken longer than usual, been unreasonably nerve-wracking, but it had worked. And now it was in place, she could begin her real task.

She would have to remember to thank her mother when she wrote her next letter.

Be sure to check out what my writing partner came up with for this prompt!

If you’d like to participate, leave a link to your response in the comments and I’ll feature it next week.

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