Things were different in Kalpana now under the Sea-Isle King, who’d come to their shores with massive ships, massive men, and merciless weapons.
What he wanted with the place, Sanja couldn’t imagine, but here he was.
I’m going out, mama.
Watch out for the patrols, Sanja.
That was pretty much the dialogue these days between them.
Papa was always out, looking for work, as he told it. Sanja suspected otherwise, but didn’t follow him to see. Work was hard to find for natives now; the Sea-Isle King had placed his own people in positions of authority, and they in turn had set their sons and daughters up as the new merchants.
Anyone who refused to apprentice them was set adrift, taking their chances on the open sea.
They’d set her neighbors adrift.
And her best friend Elva.
That was an odd day. Sanja saw the boat pushed from shore, and Elva looked at her with a kind of calm resolve. Usually it was a scene of crying and pleading, but the Sea-Isle King allowed no one to change their minds once it came to that point.
Neither of them waved good-bye, and Elva, in fact, had soon turned and faced away, embracing her fate.
Sanja wondered that people could be so stubborn: was it better to apprentice the nobles’ brats and live, on the chance that the king could be deposed, or die, or better to be set adrift on the capricious, open water, prone to weather and creature and pirates and the like, for some vague principal that was nowhere near as solid as land, and far more uncertain than life?
Then why aren’t you home? “Ha. That’s a good one, Sanja.”
Home wasn’t the sanctuary it had been for Elva, but she didn’t want to go down that lane of memory now.
The stones she walked on were lichen covered, and slick with water and moss, and the small crabs ducked between the crevices as she approached.
The sun was lowering, but the sky was still blue. A brisk breeze snapped at the hem of her dress, and she hugged herself as she walked; she didn’t mind the coolness, it made her feel alive and refreshed.
She found a rock that wasn’t too wet, too icky, and too sharp, having just enough of a flat surface that she could sit and dangle her feet, so she did, staying there until the sun was low on the horizon, the first star appeared, and she was shivering from the spray driven by a wind that capped the little waves with froth.
Time to go.
She stood, stretched, rubbed circulation back into her legs, and took one last look around.
In the fading light, she noticed some rocks she’d never seen before, a distance from her, past the pier. The way the light hung there, it made them almost gemlike.
She wanted to see them, and didn’t know when she’d come back here again, or if she’d get the chance, so still shivering, but resolved, she headed for them.
The sun was just high enough that she could see them, but she was grateful for the light.
The stones were large and deep purple, with a smooth, dark beauty. Looking down the shoreline, they seemed to Sanja like they were waiting for something to come, as sentinels of some kind.
Stopping, she stared at them for awhile, then walked among them, not on them, not wanting to spoil them with a trace of her presence.
The water lapped at the hem of her skirts, but here it was warm, as was the air.
She’d lived by the sea all her life, and never understood its patterns, or even knew if the sea and sky bothered making one. Their dance seemed ever improvised.
The warmth of the air, the beauty of the stones, the spectacular sunset all relaxed her, and unable to resist any longer, she reached out, touched one of the stones with her fingertips.
Darkness all around, but not a menacing darkness, and a silence so profound she could hear her own heartbeat.
She didn’t know how long she stood there, only that she dared not move.
“What is this place?”
“You are inside the stones; you are not yet ready for the light.”
“You’ve found them; we’ve been waiting for you.”
“Yes, you discovered it; that’s why we brought you inside. These are the Dreamstones of Kalpana.”
“They will unlock their secrets when you are ready. Seek your grandmother, Sanja. She knows what we are.”
“She never told me…”
“It wasn’t time.”
Sanja was back on the shore, the shoreline covered with mist, but the sky was clear and full of stars.
Somewhere between sweating and shivering, she made her way back to the sand, when two men on horseback approached her, one with a torch, the other with a short sword.
“What are you doing out here, girl?”