This is the tenth chapter in Sky of Stone and the fourth in part two: Ore.

The Forbidden

That could not be. Sure, the injury was bad, but not that bad. Amethyst was just not a good healer.

"You were supposed to heal her and not disfigure her," Iris argued. "Close the wound or something. I have not come into these unbearably skyless caves so that Shimmer loses her foot! "

"Her claw." Sedna let out an unnerved sigh. "Stay calm, okay? She will survive it. It's just a claw."

"A claw with the toe!" How could the others remain so calm? They would not like to lose part of their bodies. "How can she walk properly without the toe? Or fly? What if she can not fly?"

"I do not think a toe can affect that," Geb said. At least he sounded as if he had pity. "I mean, I can understand that this must be a real shock to you, but we should stay on the ground of the facts. You do not want to let Shimmer suffer unnecessarily, do you? Amethyst will know what to do."

The healer nodded. "I would not do it if it was not absolutely necessary."

Iris glanced at Shimmer, who was still unconsciously lying on the table and could not guess what would happen to her right away. But when Iris saw her wounded foot, she realized that there was no other possibility. The toe, which was hardly connected with the rest of the foot, had to be removed. "Okay, fine. But I'm staying here. Shimmer needs me. "

"Not at all." Amethyst immediately corrected her stern tone. "I'm sorry, but I think it's better if you go outside. I need to concentrate."

"But -"

But Sedna agreed with the woman. "You're not a big help when you're making Amethyst nervous with your panic."

Iris had to admit that this was true, but she could not leave her companion alone. But before she could say anything, Geb came before her.

"Besides, Boulder will stay here, too. He's already watching her. "

She felt a little better. The rhino was a perfect companion for both Geb and now for Shimmer. It glanced steadily upwards to make sure that the magpie was all right. In his company, she was in the best of hands. Then it was easier for Iris to leave her behind.

"Do not worry about Tanzanite," Amethyst said, before Iris went away with the others. "I'm gonna take care of that. Just take a look at the city, and we'll find you. "

Iris stroked Shimmer's feathers again. "Do not be afraid," she whispered, wanting to get rid of the injury to her companion. "Everything will be fine. I'll be back soon."

"Before I forget," she heard Amethyst say to Geb and Sedna, "Keep away from the lower tunnels. It's not safe there."

"Will do," Geb said and Iris went back to him. Someday they had to leave the room, she could not delay it forever.

When they were outside, Geb immediately looked worriedly at Iris. "We should do something to distract you," he thought. "Then you think of other thoughts and feel much better!"

"You think of food, don't you?" Sedna had also found out his habits, which made Iris smile.

"Maybe ... but it already works, as you see. Smiling is always a good first step."

That even made Iris giggle - she had never seen Sedna smile, as this remark just fit perfectly.

Again the water-elmin twisted only the face. "In any case, we will not distract her by making fun of the others. We should think about something different. "

"We could go into the lower tunnels," suggested Iris. "I would be interested in what there is."

"Amethyst just said we should not go into the lower tunnels," Sedna said. "I'm not going to make more enemies."

"She does not have to know," Iris argued. "There must also be a reason why we should not be there, and I know from experience that it is always a really exciting reason. Imagine what we could find down there!"

"I do not care much about treasures, unlike your tribe." Sedna crossed her arms. "No ten sharks can get me down there."

As expected, thought Iris, looking hopefully at Geb, who, however, did not look very enthusiastic.

"I do not know," he said hesitantly. "We have no idea what's down there, and Tanzanite will be pretty mad when he finds out we were there."

"Then stay up here!" Iris jumped from the path on which they were standing, and landed safely on the rocky surface a few meters below. Here it was quite like home, just a bit bigger - and in the city of her own tribe, climbing was almost better than flying.

For the rest of the way, which included numerous heights, she continued jumping and climbing. She did not stop until her surroundings suddenly seemed to be much more desolate than before: there were almost no colorful crystals, and the caves that led into the rocks were all decayed. If there are Impures in this tribe, then they'd be here. But this area was not alive; not even slaves seemed to live here.

On the other hand, it was logical that the Ore-Elmen had no Impures. How could they, if they had no contact with the other tribes?

But Iris knew of a hybrid, half gray - Thorn. There were, therefore, elms who disregarded the prohibition, and Impures were certainly lost in the caves. Perhaps they were killed before the tribe saw them? This way, Enki could make sure that no one was curious about the upper world or even the other tribes. And now we are here and mess everything up.

"Well, at least you wait for us before you go around looking."

"Not my fault you're so slow," Iris grinned. Sedna and Geb had finally caught up to her. They had certainly taken the long and cumbersome way over the stairs. Now they too looked to the deserted caves. Did they think of the Impures, too? "Up to now nothing has been going on here yet. Let's see if there is still a cave that leads deeper into the rock."

But all the openings they passed ended in a dead end after a few meters. There was something there, else Amethyst would not have warned her.

"Do you hear that too?" Iris suddenly stopped. Somewhere nearby, someone was talking.

"Maybe if you were quiet," Sedna replied, so Iris fell silent. All three listened for the sound.

"I can not hear anything," Geb whispered, his voice too much too loud. Iris, however, was quite sure. There had been something.

"My sense of hearing is especially good, I suppose." As quiet as possible, she crept forward to find out where exactly the sound came from. The others were close behind her.

"Listen, Dwarf." She froze. That was Tanzanite! And he sounded no less irritated than usual. "I do not ask much from you. Just that you scream for help."

He did not get an answer. Iris noticed that the others had heard him as well, and gave them a "What did I tell you?" look. Sedna rolled her eyes, but said nothing. They were all waiting for what they would hear next.

The cry of an animal. Almost at the same time the horrified cry of a boy who could hardly be older than Iris.

Then she knew she had to act. Whatever Tanzanite intended, to hurt a child's companion went too far. She stormed into the nearest tunnel, where she could see the two elms thanks to a luminous crystal lying on the ground: Tanzanite with his black stone in his hand, and a boy clasping a small animal protectively.

Iris did not have time to look closer, because she was focused only on Tanzanite. It did not matter that he was much bigger than she was. She could not let him get away with everything.

Even before she reached the man, she was joined by Sedna, who obviously had the same idea. The light of the light crystal was reflected by her hand - did she have a weapon? Iris hurried to keep up with her.

"Geb, to the boy," Sedna cried, without turning around. "Iris, to me."

I had that idea anyway.

Tanzanite turned to them, surprised, just before the girls reached him. "Too early," he growled and ran to the exit, pushing Iris aside. She caught herself when she landed on the ground.

"Two are better than none," she heard Tanzanite say, and did not feel good about it. Sedna, kill him before he does something stupid, she thought. Iris did not even know if she would go through it herself. Hold him back at least somehow.

She was just trying to get up again, as she saw from the corner of her eye that Tanzanite was changing something on one of the pillars of the tunnel. What Sedna did, she could not see, but it did not look as if she had hurt Tanzanite. Iris had to do something herself.

But she did not come to it - the ceiling collapsed. At first they were only small stones, but within moments they became more and more powerful.

The sky falls! Iris did not dare to stand up. The risk of being hit was too great, so she made herself as small as possible. Just a nightmare, she told herself. I'll wake up at once, and then everything will be all right. That should actually soothe her, but with every passing moment her heart was racing faster and faster. When would this nightmare be finally over?

Somewhere nearby, Geb called her name. Someone grabbed her by the arm and dragged her up, before a gigantic boulder landed moment later, where Iris had just crouched. Stunned, she stumbled after the person who pulled her out of the cave, and Iris could not think of it until the tunnel was clear enough to see her as Sedna.

"Is everything all right?" asked the water-Elmin, who herself was out of breath.

"I think so." Apart from the fact that her back hurt violently from the smaller rocks she'd gotten hit with. But she quickly realized that was her least problem. "... where is Geb?" He was slower than her, but even he had to be with them already ...

Sedna looked back at the cave without saying anything.

No. "That ... that can not be. He can not - "

"He's fine, alright?" Sedna interrupted. "I would not have pushed him away from you if I had not been completely sure he was going to make it."

"You did what?"

"Made sure you're alive." She still did not look Iris in the eyes. "Geb would have done it, but then the boy and his companion would have been completely alone. They are much better off when Geb is with them, especially after Tanzanite has scared them this much."

"And you risked Geb's life for that?" Iris still could not believe what Sedna had just told her. "So that a completely strange boy gets some company? What kind of friend are you?"

"I've never said we're friends. I act the way it is best for everyone without letting anyone influence me."

"True, we're not necessarily the best friends. But I want to hope for you that Geb is going to survive, otherwise we're even less than that. "

Sedna was silent for a moment, then she nodded. "We can not do much for him anyway. Until he returns, we should devote ourselves to other things."

"Tanzanite." The thought of him made Iris even more angry. "I mean, as he obviously escaped ..."

"Is that my fault too or what?" Their eyes met and both were not very happy. "It is not my problem if the Sky tribe is absolutely useless."

"Useless? Sabazios, perhaps, but only because he is my mentor, I am far from being like him. "

"It depends on how long you've known him."

"Years," said Iris, without thinking. Sedna, after all, should not think she was uneducated. "I have lived with him and Zephyr in the immediate vicinity of the palace for forever. My half-life, you could say."

"You realize yourself that you only support my assertion?"

Iris did not know what to say. It had to be enough to stare at Sedna in frustration.

"Well, we can not do much anyway," Sedna changed the subject after holding Iris's gaze for a few seconds. "Enki has allowed Tanzanite to do with us whatever he likes; we can not accuse him. "

"We have to do something." They could not let Tanzanite get away with everything. "Maybe ... hey, look." Iris bent down and picked up a sharp-edged black crystal. "Tanzanite must have dropped it when he left."

"Where did he get the thing anyway?" Sedna asked, while Iris put the stone in her pocket. "I have seen many colors here, but black was not there."

"Right." Iris shrugged. "But that is not so important. We need to consider what we can do against Tanzanite ourselves. I think Amethyst might help us."

Sedna was not very impressed. "Maybe. I guess we can try."

When they went up again, Iris had to follow Sedna. She herself had not taken the stairs down, so that only Sedna knew the way back. In their whole way, the two did not speak a single word.

It was only a brief moment before Amethyst opened the door to them, which was so much bigger than Iris. "You're back already?"

Sedna just nodded and they entered. Apparently, Amethyst was just about to join Shimmer's foot, and now a toe was missing. The fabric had already reddish in some places so that Iris looked away quickly and concentrated instead on Amethyst.

"Where is your friend?" The woman asked as she closed the door behind them. "Hopefully nothing happened to him."

Sedna took the explanation before Iris could open her mouth at all. "We were at the lower tunnels. There, Tanzanite lured us into a trap and collapsed the tunnel. Geb was separated from us when he tried to help a boy Tanzanite used as bait."

"That he goes so far as to..." Amethyst sounded sad rather than surprised, as if she had really known that Tanzanite would do such an action. "He has not been the same since his death."

"Whose death?" Iris blurted out.

"Tanzanite's companion," Amethyst explained, not seeming to care about the question. "About two months ago he fell into the abyss. A terrible accident. "

But Iris felt only a tiny touch of compassion. Was this the excuse for Tanzanite's behavior?

Amethyst could guess what Iris thought. "I do not claim that this incident justifies all his deeds, because of course it does not." She sighed. "Nevertheless, it can not be denied that the day has hit him hard. He even climbed to the bottom of the cave because he simply could not believe what had happened. Since he's been up here again, he's much more aggressive than usual. There must have been something down there." Almost melancholy, she stroked her round belly, catching Iris's eye. "... but he does not even want to tell me about it."

Iris reached into her pocket and fished out Tanzanite's black stone. "Could it have anything to do with this?"

Amethyst stared at her as if they had presented her with a shadow. Then she slammed Iris's stone out of her hand - which was quite painful with her power.

"What was that for?" Iris asked, rubbing her aching hand while Amethyst picked up the stone and wrapped it in a piece of fabric in seconds.

"Excuse me," she replied. "But something is wrong with this crystal. Don't you feel it?"

"Not really," Iris replied, and Sedna shook her head. Probably only the elms of the ore could perceive such things - if Amethyst hadn't only imagined this.

"I do not know what this means," the woman continued. "I have never seen such a stone here. You should talk with Enki about it; he can help you with it, I'm sure. Besides, he should know about today's events. After all, he is our chief. "

A pretty senile chief, that's true. Iris was not looking forward to see him again, but she had no choice. Something told her that the black stone was important ... and if she could get Enki to punish Tanzanite for his trap, then even better.

Sky of Stone Chapters
 Prologue  Prologue
 One: Earth  1: Summer Solstice2: Riders of the Wind3: Light and Shadow4: Opposites5: A Strange Encounter6: Across the River
 Two: Ore  7: Dark Omens8: Underground9: His Radiance10: The Forbidden11: A Boy and His Goat12: The Story of a Tribe13: Keeper of Earth14: At the Bottom15: Changes
 Three: Sky  16: Back to the Start17: Against the Darkness18: Old Acquaintances19: Change of Plans20: Unexpected21: Sky Holes22: Wind and Water
 Epilogue  Epilogue