The Stone Keeper – Chapter Seven

Steinar woke to the smell of food. Hot food. He could scarcely believe it was true. He was going to have another hot meal. Oh, Gott was so good to him!

He went to jump out of bed, but the floor was frigid! It was so cold it almost hurt his feet. He grabbed his clothes and jumped back INTO bed for a little while, hugging the clothes closely under the blankets, trying to warm them. While he waited for his things to warm sufficiently that his skin didn’t freeze on contact, he took the Stone in his hand and asked for light.

In a heartbeat, it responded with a burst of light that was nearly blinding! It came with a surge and a rush and it filled the room with robust light. “I’d better learn to control this. I don’t want this kind of light when I’m hiding.” Remembering that the Stone had helped keep him warm, he held it tightly, hoping it worked quickly.

A short while later, sitting downstairs with Hayrick, Steinar waited for him to begin the conversation. He couldn’t wait to learn more about the Stone. He wanted to learn more of what the Stone could do. Right now, all he knew was that being a Stone Keeper meant possibly losing his entire family, and all the people he knew and loved for his whole life, so he was eager to hear a bit more about the blessing part.

Granted he also knew that the Stone could sing, offer him a bit of heat and that it seemed to give him answers to questions he asked of it. And now, he knew it could provide him with some light. Man, he wished he had known that back in the cave.

Entering the hearth area, he was puzzled. There, cooling on the table was something he had never seen before. It looked like a strange kind of bread. Steinar stared at it, puzzled. Hayrick had his back turned to him. “It’s a little something I learned while in the Holy Lands. It’s called a ‘tart’. It has figs, raisins, apples and pears with some pork in it. There are a few spices in it that I’ve learned to like along the way, as well. The top that looks so strange to you is called a ‘shortcrust’. I think you’ll like it.”

If smell were anything to go by, Steinar was sure he’d like it. That and the chicory brew he could smell. His stomach growled. Hayrick chuckled and handed him a small dish. “Plums. They’re warm as well. Eat them first, then you can have some tart.” Steinar stared at them. “Really, they’re very good for you. They will help your body remain strong. I’ve added a bit of honey and some lemon and something called vainilla that I brought back from my last pilgrimage.” That was the last sentence that either of them shared for a while. Hayrick deep in thought, Steinar deep in food.

After they both ate a hearty breakfast – well, mostly Steinar – Hayrick leaned back, looked long and hard at the young man and said, “So, besides singing, what else have you seen or heard the Stone do?” “What do you mean? What might I have seen or heard it do?” Hayrick continued to look at him, without saying a word. Steinar wondered if he was reading his mind while he was doing it. If so, he might as well speak.

“Well, I’m not certain. Since I left the Community, running for my life with no additional food or clothing, and since my mind has been taken up with wondering if I’d ever see the people I loved again, I don’t know how much I’ve really noticed and how much I’ve imagined.” Hayrick nodded.

“That was the way it was for me, as well. I, like you, became a Stone Keeper unexpectedly. The man who appointed me also left me with no other instructions but to keep it safe. There were many things I’ve had to learn on my own, as well. I am certain I will continue to learn them until the time that I die or pass the Stone on to another. We are all that way. The Stone is never to be fully understood by man. It is not my place to tell you all that I know of the Stone. I can tell you some of what I know – but some of it you must find out on your own. That is part of the adventure of being a Stone Keeper.”

Steinar had been listening and watching Hayrick closely while he spoke. He was trying to discern from his face what he wasn’t saying. Steinar had learned from his father the importance of listening to faces, as well as words. When people came to talk to the spicer, there were many times that people came to tell him what was wrong with them and they mentioned many things – sometimes none of which were the real issue. So, Steinar applied that same methodology to dealing with Hayrick. What should Steinar really hear from him?

“So, you’re saying you won’t tell me all about the Stone and that I have to just figure everything out all alone?” “No, that’s not exactly what I’m telling you. I AM telling you that there are things that I won’t share with you, that you must figure out on your own. I AM telling you that there are some things I can’t share with you, because I don’t know them myself. I AM telling you that there are things that may not apply to others as they apply to you or me. I also am telling you that there are ways for you to learn more and I’m also telling you that there are others who will teach you more. You must be willing to learn, which you obviously are. You must be willing to be silent, which you obviously are. You must be willing to have your thinking changed….and it would appear that that is the case for you, as well.”

“When you say that there are those that will teach me more, are you referring to the old young man and the baker and the fuller?”

“Exactly what old young man, baker and fuller are you referring to? Are these men you have met or just seen?”

“I have seen them – at night, in my dreams. Do you know of them? Have you met them?”

Hayrick was silent for some time. While he was waiting, Steinar could imagine Hayrick taking his answer out of his mind and rolling it from hand to hand, trying to decide if it was something he could share with him. After a bit of silence, Hayrick cleared his throat. “I have heard of such men, but I have never met them. Those of us who are called to be Stone Keepers know of them – but none of us have met them yet. We talk of them, we believe a day will come when we do meet them, but for me that day has not yet come.”

Again, Steinar had the distinct impression that he should be reading Hayrick’s face to decipher what he was really saying. He saw something that appeared to be a blend of amazement, awe and fear on Hayrick’s face. He decided that he must surely be wrong – for he couldn’t imagine Hayrick fearing anyone.

“Steinar, my son, I have known of you in my dreams – my night visions – for some time. I can see a part of your path, but there is a place where it becomes invisible to me. I can tell you this much, the call that has been placed upon your life is great. Your noodlot will take you places that none of us have gone before. Because of this, I do not feel qualified to teach you, but will pray a blessing over you and release you into the hands of our Gott. He alone can direct your path – He alone knows the path you must take. I suspect however that the urgency I feel in my heart to send you on your way is not inconsequential. It weighs heavily on my heart to send you on your way quickly. You have an appointment that der Herre does not want you to miss. Please do not think me rude, but I must pack you food and send you on your way. It is imperative.”

An hour later, the sun was high enough in the sky that it seemed that shadows were running out of places to hide. Steinar faced Hayrick, holding a pouch of bread, cheese, dried fruit, dried meat, fresh water for his bottle and an extra wool cloak. “Vrede to you, my son. Go with Gott.” Again he reached out in great tenderness and stroked his cheek, as he had when they met. “You are so richly blessed. I am honored to know you.”

The people in the town tried not to gawk as they watched the old Stone Keeper walk side-by-side with the young Stone Keeper and take him to the edge of the Community. They were eager to hear all that had transpired between the two. Gossips were quick to guess what their conversation must be while they were walking together. They were all wrong. “From here go north – walk quickly, and by sunset tonight, you will be at the next Community. Do not lag behind or you will be stuck in the forest for the night.”

Steinar didn’t need to be told twice to get moving, he set out at a very fast pace. He kept that pace up for quite a while. From the position of the sun, he would guess it was early afternoon and the growling of his stomach seemed to support his guess. He decided that he had kept a pace that would allow him to take a short break to eat some of the food that Hayrick had packed for him.

The air seemed to be getting cooler, so Steinar chose a place that would allow him to sit in the sun to eat his meal. He gave thanks and gratefully ate – quickly – some bread, some cheese and a handful of the dried fruit that Hayrick had sent with him. He leaned back against the rocks and allowed the sun to soak into every inch of his body.

Not wanting to be caught in the forest after dark, Steinar didn’t waste too much time soaking up the delicious warmth of the sun. Very quickly he was back up and on the way. The trees in this part of the forest were thicker. The sun soon seemed to become lost behind all the trees. However, when the breeze began to blow, Steinar knew he was in store for some more rain. He fought the temptation to groan aloud.

Before the first roll of thunder echoed all about him, Steinar had found a fallen tree that he reinforced with additional branches. He wasn’t any too keen on getting wet again. He looked about for as many large fir branches as he could find and he covered the top of his shelter. It wasn’t large – just big enough for him to sit up, only at the very front. If the storm continued through the night, he would barely be able to lay down to sleep. The last thing he did before climbing in, was to remove the extra cloak Hayrick had packed for him and wrap it around himself. It would keep him warm and dry – and the fact that its muddy brown color made it even harder to see him was an added bonus.

Once inside, he began to trim off the underside branches, so that he could cover the floor of his little shelter. If he was going to be here for any length of time, he wanted to be as comfortable as possible. And he suspected from the sound of the wind and thunder echoing through the mountains behind him, that he was going to be here a while. Taking out his satchel, he began to nibble at the food Hayrick had given him. He was so grateful that he wouldn’t have to catch something in this rain.

The slow dripping of the rain became like a sedative and without really even being aware of it, Steinar slipped off into sleep.

~~~~~~~~~

The boar was chasing him up the side of the mountain. Steinar was running as fast as he could, yet the boar was gaining on him. Suddenly the boar threw his head and gored Steinar in the back of his legs. He could feel the pain as the tusks sliced upward across the back of his right leg. He saw himself fall down and the boar came at him again, slicing over and over at him as he lay in the dirt on the mountainside.

Steinar could feel his grip on cognizance slipping away. He closed his eyes because it took too much effort to remain conscious. He could hear the footsteps from far away – they were coming closer. Who was out in the dark walking on the mountainside? He needed to warn them of the wild boar….he tried to cry out, but found the effort to open his mouth, let alone his eyes, to be too much. The pain fell again and again in crashing waves over him.

He could sense the presence of the person more than see them. The voice that whispered in his ear seemed strangely familiar – it seemed like the voice of his father or his grandfather. “Do not be afraid. I have a Stone. It is a healing Stone. It will heal your wounds. If you will let me touch you with this, you will be healed.” Steinar knew his head wanted to nod, he hoped that was enough, because he wasn’t at all certain that it had done so.

The heat of the Stone ran along his entire body. Along with the heat, there were memories that went racing through Steinar’s mind. Memories of words and deeds done to him, words and deeds that had hurt or wounded him in some way. The memory of hearing Wyatt ask their father if Steinar would ever be anything but a mama’s boy. The memory of having Anwen laugh at him – he liked her so much and when she made fun of him in front of the other girls, he hated it. Memory after memory pounded through his mind, causing his face to flame with embarrassment. With the heat came strength – enough strength that he was able to turn to see who was applying the Stone to him…..it was the Great Stone Keeper of his dreams.

“Hello. My name is Steinar,” he managed to force out between his lips. The Great Stone Keeper smiled. “Yes, I know. You were badly wounded, but I have applied the Stone and you are now healed.” Steinar reached back to touch his leg, “My leg is healed, then?” The Great Stone Keeper’s smile deepened – “Your leg was the least of your wounds. But, they are all in the process of being healed.” Steinar looked confused. “Other wounds? I guess I was hurt enough from the first puncture, I didn’t realize he had wounded me in other places.” The Great Stone Keeper laid his large hand on Steinar, “Most people don’t realize how wounded they are, either. But,” he extended that huge hand toward Steinar, “that’s changed for you, at least. May I help you up?” Steinar grasped the hand he held out toward him. It seemed to Steinar that picking him up was effortless for the large man.

“Do I know you?” Steinar had to ask. The Great Stone Keeper’s eyes crinkled. “I would imagine you are hungry – my dearest friends are with me – the Baker and the Fuller. Would you like to eat some fresh bread while the Fuller cleans your tunic? It’s very dirty and damaged from your wounds.” Steinar looked down at his tunic. It was covered with blood and dirt. The Fuller held out a clean tunic, which Steinar took gratefully.

From where he stood, Steinar could see that a wooden table had been set up, on which there was a loaf of warm bread, butter and a flask of wine. The wine had a glow about it, as if there was a candle sitting on the table behind it. In fact, the whole table had a strange glow about it.
Steinar didn’t believe he had ever seen a more beautiful table in his life. “Yes please, I AM hungry…and thirsty.” “Come – eat, drink – you will be satisfied.”

Just as the wine went down his throat, Steinar sat up with a start.

Where was he? What was happening? Had he been dreaming? It seemed so real. He sat there fighting the temptation to cry, feeling the back of his leg for boar-tusk scars. The feelings that had flowed through him being near the Stone Keeper were so sweet, that awaking to find himself without him was heartbreaking.

It took some time before Steinar could fall back asleep and when he did, he did not dream again.

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