The Heart of the Stone

                                                                                The Heart of the Stone

Stephanie Scofield

The third book of The Elements quintet

(suitable for children/adults 12 years and upwards)

Continue following Owen’s quest in the third book in The Elements series, The Heart of the Stone.

Owen returns home with the Water Sath to discover that the Fire Spirits are closing in fast and nowhere is now safe for him. Time is running out.

Together with his friends Finn, Raya and Arin, he embarks on his most challenging quest yet, journeying into the Realm of the Earth Element, a World that has fallen under the spell of the Fire Lord and stands on the brink of destruction.

Published December 2008; ISBN 978-0-9545786-6-4  Price: £6.99. £3.19 for Kindle or EPub as download


< Owen stared back bewildered. This couldn’t be right. Who was this old lady dressed in rotting rags? Certainly not the Princess.

For what seemed like an eternity no-one moved, then slowly the grey-cloaked man reached out a long, slim hand. Owen drew back. The alabaster white skin was stretched paper-thin over the bones, unnervingly like a Baarash, but the silver eyes which held him transfixed, gleamed with an icy light, totally alien to a Fire Spirit. He appeared to be waiting for Owen to make the next move. Then it came to him. Of course! He was an idiot. Ator had told him exactly what to do. Reaching into his tunic, he pulled out the slightly squashed Wheat Ear and with a shaking hand held it out.

The grey-cloaked man hesitated a moment, then closed his long fingers round the stem. Gently he lifted it to his face, held it under his nose and inhaled; a high whistling breath, like the wind in the mountains. Then with a great sigh he leant back on his throne and closed his eyes.

And now? Owen looked round nervously. What did he do now? Where was the Princess?

Slowly the old lady began to move. Painfully slowly she stretched her gnarled, knobbly hands, and with a long groan heaved herself up from her seat, wheezing for breath. Owen hurried forward to help her, afraid that she might fall. She leant upon him, surprisingly heavy for someone so frail. But before they had gone more than a few steps, the grey-cloaked man spoke.

“Stop.” His voice was high and imperious. “Where is the Substatua?” His eyes were on the empty throne.

Owen realized what he meant, but it didn’t make sense. He looked from the throne to the old lady. Surely the deal was for the Princess, not an old lady. It didn’t look as if he had much choice though.

“Where is the Substatua?” the grey man repeated. And in an instant Owen had his answer. An answer that dazzled with its simplicity.

“Eggo.” He turned to the smirking Morph. “Go and sit on that seat.”

The Morph’s smirk vanished, replaced by an expression of outrage.

“Go on.” Owen urged him.

Eggo’s eyes bulged with impotent fury, but he couldn’t stop himself moving inexorably towards the vacant throne.

The grey-robed man watched in silence as Eggo took his position, then turned back to Owen and the old lady and gave one nod of his head. The old lady turned away from him and began to hobble across towards the darkness from which Owen had recently emerged. Owen hurried after her, but just before stepping into the waiting darkness, cast one quick look back at Eggo. The grey robed man had risen to his feet and was turning towards the Morph. Owen looked quickly away. Whatever was about to happen, he didn’t think he wanted to see it!

And then he was once again passing through the all encompassing blanket of blackness into the gleaming crystalline cavern of the shadows. This time he was glad of the fact that his eyes took time to adjust to the changing light, as he hastened across towards the next Veil. He could still make out shadowy forms, but with far less clarity than before. Ahead of him, the old lady was already on her way through the filmy curtains.

“Hang on!” Owen called after her. She seemed to be going remarkably fast all of a sudden. If she wasn’t careful she would end up racing straight over the edge of the abyss that lay in the next cave. But when he stepped through into the bridge cavern, she was standing waiting for him. And he now understood why she was able to go so fast. Before him stood a woman barely recognizable from the stooped old crone in tattered rags, who had struggled up from the throne. He was never any good at guessing adults’ ages, but he reckoned she must be about his mother’s age... or a bit older... or maybe a bit younger! For some reason, her plump, rosy cheeks and long, curly chestnut hair, reminded him of apples, conkers and autumn fruits. Even the clothes had changed and her rounded form was wrapped in sumptuous green and red velvet.

She smiled and reached out her hand towards him. Without hesitation Owen took it, and immediately a wave of warmth swept over him.

He felt utterly safe, as though nothing could possibly harm him as long as she was there. Together they walked forward towards the bridge and this time he felt no fear. The woman stepped confidently out over the chasm and holding tight to her hand, like a little child, Owen followed her. It no longer felt slippery and seemed much wider than it had in the other direction. Easy! He couldn’t believe he’d made such a meal of it before.

Ahead of them across the cave lay a doorway framed like the entrance to Moshi’s house, by two upright stones and a lintel along the top. Owen hadn’t noticed that last time. But then surely he had come crawling out of a narrow little tunnel, not the wide, high passageway that led up beyond the doorway.

One thing hadn’t changed though. As they headed up the sloping tunnel, it grew hotter and hotter. The Baarash’s trap was still in place. Owen wondered if it had realized that he and Eggo had passed through. He suspected not, but that didn’t really help him now. He had to go back through in order to reach the surface and this time he was dry as a bone. The freeze spell wouldn’t work.

In the end, it didn’t matter. Just as the heat was becoming almost unbearable, it began to rain. Not a heavy downpour, merely a fine, hazy spray of droplets, which drove a path through the oppressive heat ahead. The woman’s hand tightened on Owen’s as she led him on, and inwardly he heaved a sigh of relief. He had been right. Everything would be all right as long as he was with her. But then before he knew it, they were stepping through the final Veil, the rain was gone and the woman had let go of his hand.

Only she was no longer the motherly, apple-lady, dressed in green and red velvet. She was the Princess. Now at last he understood; now as he saw before him a girl in spring green chiffon robes, a red rose in her hand and vine leaves plaited into her golden hair. Even in the eerie twilit passage she seemed to sparkle with a radiance like the sun. With a laugh she turned and ran up the path ahead. Just like Beith! The memory of their first meeting popped into Owen’s head, of the young Birch-Eddra running through the forest, just for the pure joy of running. Owen began to run too, suddenly desperate to be out of the gloomy, sulphur smelling tunnel and back up on the mountainside, under the wide open sky. >

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