Thinking Stone (516 Words)
The day after her eighteenth birthday, Princess Tana’s parents told her that it was time to marry. Because their daughter’s happiness was everything, they promised she could make her own choice with one caveat.
“If you aren’t in love within three months,” they said, “we will choose your husband for you. It is for your own good, Tana. You don’t want to die alone.”
Tana didn’t even believe love existed.
“Someone made it up,” she said, “just to make everyone else uncomfortable.”
One day when Tana and her friends were out riding, a sudden storm separated the companions and Tana was left to wander alone. She wasn’t afraid. The woods, after all, were still in her parents’ kingdom. But she had never been allowed to stay in them after dark and she looked at the starlit sky in wonder.
Tana looked around in surprise.
“Who are you?” she said. “I can’t see.”
A hand caught her arm. Tana felt herself pulled low, almost crouching on the ground.
“There are evil things in these woods at night,” said the voice, “and you are not afraid?”
“Are you one of them?” asked Tana.
The person laughed. He had an unusual voice, rasping and curiously accented. His hand felt strange too, as if his nails were sharp.
“Stay here,” he said, “and you will be safe for the night.”
“Where am I?”
“On my roof. Don’t thump your feet. I will be resting close by, and my ears are sensitive to vibrations.”
“Vibrations?” said the princess. But she listened to him and was careful not to be too restless.
But as the night passed they talked. Tana’s companion was fanciful and entertaining, and she enjoyed his stories about prophetic birds and gossiping rivers. But when he mentioned stones that could think and paint, she drew a line.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” she said.
“I wouldn’t lie to a princess,” said her companion. “It’s the truth. There are stones as clever as you or I.”
Tana sighed. “I wish it were true,” she said. “You make everything sound so magical. So alive.”
“And who’s to say everything isn’t alive in its own way?” he replied.
The hours passed and Tana fell asleep. When she woke it was dawn, and she heard voices. She recognized the people who approached, servants in her parents’ court who had been looking for her.
She was about to get up when she noticed something resting in her lap. It was a stone shaped like a bowl, the top flat and smooth, its polished surface banded with beautiful shades of blue, gray, and gold. The princess had never seen anything like it. She looked around her, remembering her companion, but saw no one. If she was on the roof of his house, his house was under the earth itself.
Tana cradled the stone. “No rock painted these colors,” she said quietly. “It is a sweet idea, but stones do not know love.”
Written in response to Grace Popp’s beautiful artwork, Cobalt Agate I. Check it out and support the artist!
Image (c) Art.com.