Stone Stories I:
Goldstone: Mars Ascending
Hello, and welcome to St. Sinjin, where I we talk about writing, making your mark, and combatting Writer’s Block. Meet the newest addition to the family, the Stone Stories series, where I write a story based off a gemstone, which I have purchase and collected from Sublime Souls, a metaphysical shop located in La Plata, MD!
For the inauguration of this collection, this story was inspired by Goldstone, a stone of ambition and thought to help the user’s goals. In the story, we will meet a character on Mars, who has some things she wants to accomplish as the tale unfolds.
Let’s roll (rock pun, I apologize!)
Clouds drifted above Aster, white vapor across the midday sun. Amber fletched birds dipped across the radius of the fiery orb. Their wings ignited for a moment before they disappeared. Aster sighed. He gripped the blades of grass under his palms. He inhaled. Notes of pine and uprooted earth plated his lungs.
He closed his eyes.
Thunder quaked. He turned his head to watch as the remainder of the horses faded farther into the woods.
Iron seeped farther.
He gritted his teeth and barred against the iron, which staked him to the ground. The shaft of the spear was still sleek with his blood.
His nails dug at the grass, the blades wet under his palms. He exhaled. Iron grated. Tassels of weeds twisted in the crooks of his fingers.
“Okay, Lady Death,” Aster said. He exhaled. His shoulders relaxed. He rested his head against the trunk of the oak, and he studied the empty tree branches above.
“It’s funny. I forget how quiet the woods get when humans come through, and I am sure it will rejoice when I am gone,” Aster said.
“What a delusional thing to say,” a voice said.
Aster tensed. Branches broke to his right. He turned to see a woman in front of him. She was clad in fibers of shadow; a blouse tucked into black pants, trudging in leathery black riding boots, with a black cloak trailing behind her. A sword peaked under her dressings as she padded on. Aster held his breath. She dropped down onto her knees. Her honey hair dripped down over her shoulders, and aromatic scents of lavender and oranges washed over him. Her eyes flitted over his face. Her hands, so warm, grazed his forehead as she muttered.
Aster shifted. He said, “Are you her?”
The woman chuckled. Two fingers pressed against his neck. She looked past him. Her lips shifted as she measured his heart.
“Still strong,” she whispered. She pulled her hand away and looked down on Aster, her eyes lidded.
She said, “Who do you think I am?”
Aster swallowed. He cleared his throat and cloyed at the grass under his hands. She noted his movement. Aster pushed himself up against the tree. The spearhead grated against his sternum.
“Lady Death,” Aster said. The shaft of the spear drifted as he exhaled.
The woman closed her smile into a thin line. She brushed the hair from his forehead. She shook her head.
“No, I’m not her, close though,” she said, a grin perked in the corners of her mouth.
Aster said, “Who are you?”
The woman smiled. There was a glint in her eyes. He exhaled. The speared seeped farther. Aster gritted his teeth. Ground pinched against his nails. He twisted his fingers around the weeds as he looked into the woman’s eyes.
“I have been called the Vulture, but that is unkind, so you can call me Mars. Mars Dagger,” she said.
Aster blinked at Mars. She cocked her head at him, a smirk still imprinted on her face. He said, “Mars? Like the planet?”
Mars chuckled. She shook her head at the earth. Aster tensed. Her eyes lifted to him as she said, “Like the god of war. Get the point?”
She ticked her nails at the blood-dyed shaft. Her smile faded. She looked at Aster. He held his breath. Mars’ eyes were like the Moon, silver, and silent, gliding over him with ease.
“It looks worse than it is,” Aster said.
“Because you’re dying,” Mars said. She turned to look through the pockets of her cloak.
Aster slackened against the tree, gazing up at the network of branches above them, the light finding its way through their threadwork of chlorophyll. The edges of the individual leaves eroded to make the canopy bulbous, rough and haloed by light. He drew in a breath, and his lungs rejected it; he sputtered, the spear twisting into the pulp of his vessel.
Voices drifted in the breeze. Wispy and light, they echoed through the wood.
Aster pressed his head against the tree trunk. Breath drifted from his mouth. The voices washed over him. He looked at the light that broke through the vast green.
Aster said, “I am dying, aren’t I?”
“Where is it? Hold on,” whispered Mars.
Aster swallowed. His body shifted. He exhaled. He gripped the blades of grass in his hands. He closed his eyes.
“Come out. He won’t hurt us,” Mars said to her pockets.
Two girls padded to Mars’ side. One had hair the color of ice, and the other fire. They looked at her to the man with big eyes, their shoulders tucked by their ears, backs bowed to stay low, and their molted brown dresses hissed as they dragged across the dead leaves.
Mars clawed at the bottom of her pockets and said, “Shoot, where is it?”
“Don’t pull. I need willow bark, can’t find it,” Mars said. The girls bowed their heads under her gaze. Their fingers still hooked into the fabric of the cape as Mars resumed. She snorted through her nose, going from pocket to pocket.
“Mars -,” said the redhead. She pressed herself behind Mars.
“Not now,” hissed Mars. Her hands sifted through dried cloves of mushrooms and empty bottles. She gritted her teeth. Smoked peeled from her flared nostrils.
“Mars,” said the icy one. She tugged at the cape.
Mars snorted. She looked down at her. Breath caught in her throat. The girl blinked up at her with dimmed eyes. Her lips were fretted into a frown.
“He’s dead,” she whispered.
Mars furrowed her eyebrows. She turned to Aster and sighed. The spear was so still on him now. The only movement the wind playing at his light hair. He looked past them all, a smile on his face for being free of it all.
Mars shifted. She breathed in salt as tears brimmed her eyes. She shook her head.
“No,” she said, “No.”
Metal sung against metal as Mars stripped her fingers of her rings; thick, thin, beaded, knotted, encrusted with river stones, useless.
“Useless, useless, useless,” she hissed between her teeth, throwing the remainder against the bin of the sink.
She crumbled over the rim. Her nails curved into the metal. She glared at the cluster of discarded rings, shining and overlapped, linked only by how they fell, glinting by the leftover water.
“Leave it, Mars,” Siobhan said.
Mars braced as one of Siobhan’s hands rested on her shoulder. Mars pulled in a breath and held it, let it press against her sternum, let her lungs ache before she exhaled. Tears washed down her face. She gripped the basin of the sink tighter. The tips of her fingers white.
She looked over her shoulder. Siobhan studied Mars with her golden gaze, her hand still placed onto her apprentice.
“It was him, Siobhan. I know it was,” Mars said.
Siobhan nodded her head, “I sensed it too.”
Mars gritted her teeth and turned to face her mentor, Siobhan’s bronze visage was a blur in her eyes. Mars clicked her tongue and brushed the tears away from her face with the heels of her hands. She screamed, teared the hands away, let the skin pull her face and burn her. She crumbled. The kitchen filled with her breaths.
“It’s over, Mars,” Siobhan said.
Mars clenched her jaw. She glared at Siobhan, who looked down on her.
Mars pulled in breath as she straightened. She exhaled smoke. Mars’ hands flexed in and out of a fist, and Siobhan noted the motion with lidded eyes.
“Settle,” Siobhan said. Her eyes met Mars’ gaze.
Mars said, “Settle? He killed so many of us; Palma, Grace, Vesiri. He killed them, and he gets peace? Him, Siobhan?”
“Yes, him, Mars, he has his peace, so we must have it too,” Siobhan said. She stepped forward and melded her hands to fit Mars’ shoulders. Her apprentice backed away from her. Siobhan fretted at Mars, she relaxed her body.
Mars said, “What? How do we have peace? How?”
Heat spread across Mars’ palms. She flexed her hands. Siobhan noted the smoke that peeled from the corners of her fingers.
Siobhan sighed. Her shoulders settled. Mars bristled. The muscles of Mars’ jaws bulged and rolled under her skin.
Siobhan said, “Day by day, we will take his peace for our own. He died under the hands of witches, even when -”
Mars scoffed. She nodded. She brought a thumb to her mouth and pulled a the skin with her teeth. She shook her head. Her eyes darted this way and that; feral. Siobhan furrowed her eyebrows at her apprentice.
“I know what you wanted, and be thankful you didn’t get it,” Siobhan said. Her voice careful.
Smoke billowed from Mars’ nostrils. She withdrew her hand., She spat disgarded skin and squared with her mentor. Siobhan looked at the matter that glistened between them on the stone floor. Siobhan met Mars’ gaze. Mars pulled her lips into a snarl. Siobhan raised her head, studying Mars, how her eyes were etched with tears, smoke etching her cheekbones.
“Peace isn’t enough. I wanted him in pieces,” Mars said, vapor passing between her teeth.
Siobhan frowned,“You wanted this. You wanted him to die. You threw the spear, Mars,” she said.
Mars looked away. She glared at the stained segments of spear now left on the table beside the late Aster. She exhaled, a cloud of vapors erupted from her nose. She flexed her hands.
She had broken through the enemy of Aster, running through the thunder of clashing swords weaving around men colliding, running to him, her lungs burning with the names of her fallen; Vesiri, Palma, Grace, as the world of men fell around her body by body. Her hands sinched to the spear, fingers burning against the shaft until it wasn’t anymore.
It sailed through the air and bit into Aster’s chest. The men and thunder and steal and wind stopped as he fell, eyes wide, arms outstretched onto the earth, against the oak tree, where he remained limp, looking out at the battlefield.
Where Mars stood, cold and quiet, alone, with so many voices around her.
“I did. But there was so much I wanted,” Mars whispered. She looked to the door, exhaled smoke, and padded toward it, her heels hammering into the hardwood.
Siobhan grasped Mars’ wrist and turned with her. She whimpered. Mars pivoted to see her mentor holding her hand, the skin on her palm flushed and shining, steam evaporating from the pores.
Breathe caught in Mars’ throat. She stared at the hand, blisters now sealed the skin over, Siobhan’s fingers extended out, tendrils stretched for relief.
Mars’ nerves turned cold, which snuffed her out.
“Siobhan,” she said.
Siobhan inhaled through her flared nose, focused on her hand. The hand shook as the blisters, fluid, and fat broke, the liquid washed over the red skin, and pulled the abrasions until her flesh resumed its normal bronze tone.
Her eyes lifted to her apprentice.
“Siobhan,” Mars said. She shifted in her stance. She looked down at her hands, “I am so sorry.”
“Apologize to yourself for being a fool, Mars. If I see you pursue this any further, then, you will apologize to me,” Siobhan said. She walked out of the room, her cloaks hissing behind her, leaving the smoldering witch in her chambers, with rings in the sink and her dead man on the table.