It was the darkest hour of the darkest night in the darkest part of the world. No one wanted to be out on the street when the sun went down. The moon and the stars never appeared after dark. Great winds always took up, raging across the little village, and not a single flame would burn, even within the shelter of the houses. For the wind was not like other winds, it tore right into the village homes, going through their very doors and walls that held out nearly everything else. Why the people of the village stayed there was yet another mystery. Maybe it was because the village was their home and tied into their lives so tightly that they would know no other life without it. Every village had its secrets and this one kept its secrets for many years; but this is not a story about the strange history and life that the villagers led every day in this part of the world. This story begins where that story ends; it begins on the day that things in this small village began to change.
“Tia, Tia, Tiaaaaa!” Little Trey ran through the village street as fast as his tiny bare feet could carry him. “Look what I found! Tia!”
Young Tia spun around to find Little Trey tugging on her dress. She had just finished combing her long hair and fixing her shoes that were falling apart. She should have bought new shoes, but in the tiny village no one really cared about things like clothes and shoes. They wore what they had and never complained; they were simple that way.
“What did you find, Trey?” Tia asked, smiling at the little child. She had never met a child with as much energy as Trey. There were times when it seemed as though the child was everywhere at once.
Trey looked up at her with his large innocent brown eyes. They looked like they held the whole world in them, the beautiful strange world of a little child. He lifted one of his tiny cupped hands and opened his fingers slowly so she could see what he held.
“My, Trey! Wherever did you find such a thing?” Tia couldn’t believe her eyes. She picked up the tiny little stone that Trey had found. It wasn’t like any stone that Tia had ever seen. It had so many edges that she could not bother to count them. The edges glinted and sparkled in the dim light of the afternoon sun. It shone and glittered so prettily that Tia found herself mesmerized.
“I found it!” Trey said excitedly. “It was on the ground!”
“Where, exactly?” Tia asked, though she didn’t really care. She couldn’t really think about anything other than the flickering beauty of the tiny little stone. She had never seen a jewel before, never seen anything at all that glittered so.
“What should I do with it?” Trey asked Tia excitedly. “Should I show it to Madam Faira?”
Tia thought for a second. She really didn’t want to part with such an amazing object, but it was not hers, she had not found it. It belonged to someone else and they had lost it. Losers weepers, finders keepers, right? But Tia lived in such a village where that kind of thinking never even occurred to her.
“Yes,” she told little Trey. “We must show this to Madam Faira. It is something different. You know how dangerous new things can be.”
Little Trey nodded seriously, his small face grim. Tia led the way to Madam Faira’s home. Madam Faira was the village mother. Everyone looked to her for advice and she had lived for as long as the village people could remember, never changing, never aging. She was a witch, and she protected them against the flame wind and the curse that hung over the entire village.
“I have seen such a stone before,” Madam Faira said when she saw the stone in Trey’s hand. She refused to touch the stone. She gazed at Tia and little Trey as though they had brought the flaming wind with them. “You two have touched the stone?”
Tia and little Trey nodded.
“Then the two of you must leave the village, you have been tainted.”
“We have what?” Tia asked, sure she could not have heard clearly.
“You have been tainted by the outside world. Our village lives in isolation. Somehow an object from the outside world has entered the village. It must leave, and anyone who has been in contact with it must leave with it.”
Tia stared at Madam Faira, the woman who she had looked up to her entire life. The thought of leaving the little village had never occurred to Tia, it was her home. Then she looked down at little Trey, whose large eyes were suddenly brimming with tears. The child could not leave the village and leave his own mother and father.
“Surely there is something we can do?” Tia asked. “This is our home, we cannot leave; we have nowhere else to go.”
Madam Faira studied the two of them for a long moment. “If the stone is destroyed, the problem will be destroyed.”
Tia stared at the little stone still in Trey’s small delicate hand. They had to destroy the stone. They had no choice. “How do we destroy the stone?” Tia asked.
“You will have to throw it into the fiery pit. The fire there is the only thing powerful enough to destroy the stone.”
Tia nodded. “Then we will destroy the stone.”
They left Madam Faira’s home and walked slowly through the village street.
“Tia?” Trey sniffed. “Tia?”
“Yes, Trey?” Tia asked kindly.
“I don’t want to destroy the stone. It feels nice. It looks nice. It’s warm in my hand. I don’t want to kill it.”
Tia looked at Trey, startled. She had never thought to refer to the stone as a living thing. She took the stone from Trey and studied it. It was indeed warm in her hand and it almost felt as though it were alive. Tia looked from the stone to Trey. They could not destroy something that was living. What were they to do? She rushed back to Madam Faira. “Please,” she begged. “The stone is alive, we cannot destroy it.”
“I know that it is alive, and that is precisely why you must destroy it.”
“Whatever has it done to us?” Tia asked, surprising herself. She had never questioned Madam Faira before.
“It is what it will do that is the problem.”
“What will it do?” Tia asked defiantly. “How can you be so sure this stone will harm the village?”
“It shines, it glitters. All that glitters is evil. It must be destroyed.”
Tia thought for a long second. “That is not true. The same way all things that look dull and desolate are not always so, it is the same with beautiful things too, they are not always harmful. I will not destroy the stone and I will not leave the village. What are you going to do about it?”
Madam Faira blinked, thoroughly astonished. “You dare to defy me?”
“Yes, I dare,” Tia said, her eyes hard.
Madam Faira narrowed her eyes and began to chant in a language Tia had never heard before. She raised her hands and suddenly pointed them at Tia and Trey, her eyes shining eerily.
A light streamed out of Madam Faira’s hands towards Tia and Trey. But it never hit Tia or Trey. It went around them as though they were protected by some kind of powerful charm. Tia felt the stone in her hand grow hot and realized the stone was protecting them.
Tia turned to Madam Faira. “You are the evil one,” she accused. She felt understanding and knowledge creeping into her from the stone. “You are the one responsible for the flame wind that kills so many people each year! Why would you do such a thing?”
“It is a necessary sacrifice,” Madam Faira snarled. “Our village is different from the rest of the world. We have magic, we have powers here.”
“Are you saying that without the sacrifices each year, we would have no magic?” Tia asked. “That is a lie. Without the sacrifices each year, you would have no magic. You control the entire village, all you want is power!”
“And I have it,” Madam Faira said. “I have had it for many hundreds of years, and I will continue to have it, you will not stop me.”
“Yes I will,” Tia said. “This stone has the power to stop you.”
“If I am gone, the village will be ruined,” Madam Faira warned. “I protect them from the flame wind.”
“Without you there will be no flame wind!” Tia argued. “You are the curse over this village! The stone knew what you were doing, it somehow managed to get to his village. You knew that it would tell us the truth, because we’ve been in contact with it, that’s why you tried to get us to destroy it!”
“Enough!” Madam Faira growled. “You will not stop me, I am hundreds of years older and much more powerful than you!”
Tia felt the will of the stone pulsing through her and she took a deep breath. She told Trey to close his eyes and did the same. A bright light pulsed through the room they stood in, piercing almost through their eyelids. Tia knew it came from the stone. When the light died down, they opened their eyes. Madam Faira was nowhere to be seen Tia frowned, not sure if the woman had been killed, or if she had escaped. But either way, the woman was gone. Tia looked at the little stone in her hand and smiled. She instructed little Trey to run through the village and tell everyone to gather in the Village Square.
When the entire village assembled in the Village Square, Tia explained what had happened, told them of Madam Faira’s betrayal, and the help from the stone.
The villagers were extremely grateful to the stone, but it was just a stone, what could they do with it? What could they do for it? The stone however, needed nothing from the villagers. Madam Faira had completely disappeared. The curse upon the village had lifted, and the nights were no longer windy and dark. The flame wind never tore through the little village again and at night, for the first time in many hundred years, the villagers saw the moon and the stars and it was the most beautiful sight they had ever set their eyes upon. Though there were still many dark secrets and strange happenings within the village, the tiny little stone was not needed any longer. It quietly disappeared, wandering off to the next village in need of its help.