The Focus Stone
The morning brought with it the promise of a good day. The first rays of sunshine cresting the distant mountain ridge brought together the contrast of light and dark in a unified blaze of colour. Zya was normally up with the rise of the sun, before nearly all of the camp. It was a time when she could think clearly, free from the distraction of the warm hearted caring folk around her. She cared for all members of the caravan deeply, but every person needed their own time, and now was hers. She gazed at the distant ridge, and the resplendent globe rising behind it. She had never seen a vision so stark and yet so beautiful all at once. With the slight wisps of cloud having dispersed at the touch of solar heat, the sky became a deep blue, the crystal clarity pronouncing that the rest of the day would bring weather as good as it was now. A slight breeze raised the hairs on her neck, the early morning chill refreshing as a swim in a mountain stream. It was good to be here at this time she decided. Everything was perfect, from the meadow flowers at the side of the track to the cry of a single hawk as it proclaimed its dominance to an empty sky.
Zya's only companion at this time was Cahal the caravan guard. The grizzled old man had seen his fair share of fights during his life, and despite his advancing middle years he was still one of the toughest men Zya could remember meeting. He stood a short distance away from the camp, the chill morning breeze ruffling his hair, the only sign of movement from a man who could have been carved from one of the distant peaks. There was no real need for a lookout in the high lands, but Cahal maintained his post with a stoic commitment for a hired guard. He was one who had earned the fee paid a dozen times over. He had been with the caravan as long as Zya could remember, and despite his aloofness, was a warm caring man; he was as an uncle to her. He winked at her as she strolled past, bringing a smile to her young face. There would be no harm in her walking across the nearby meadow to the stream beyond. Otherwise Cahal would have accompanied her, calling the other guard out from his state of slumber.
The meadow felt soft, yet firm underfoot as Zya strolled, lost in her thoughts. The meadow flowers, tiny sunbursts of yellow surrounded by delicate fringes of white bounced back as her feet lifted. It was as if there was a vitality so pure, so concentrated that it gave the inhabitants of this area a boost beyond what sun and water could do for most. Even the weeds, sparse as they were seemed healthy and full of life, content with their lot in this wonderful place. The meadow rolled down a gently sloping hill towards the headwaters of the stream, and Zya found herself following the contours of the incline as she made her way towards what could well have been the source of the vitality in the region. Zya glanced uphill; she could see that Cahal had followed slightly, just enough to keep her in sight while keeping an eye on the rest of the camp. Stepping around a burrow that seemed as perfect as creation, she approached the stream. The vibrant sound added to the pleasure of the dawn. The sun pierced the distant crest of mountains and sent shafts of light past her and into the trees opposite. 'Miracles' her father called them. For when one single beam was said to touch someone deserving, something miraculous would happen to them. People scoffed at the things her father used to say, but scepticism was not part of her nature.
Zya crouched on the bank, trailing her fingers in the crystalline perfection of the babbling brook. As with everything else in this spot it seemed almost alive, as if the enthusiastic bubbling were the pulse of the river laid bare for her alone to see. The water was icy cold, and when she lifted a handful to her lips it tasted as sweet as morning dew, refreshing as a mountain breeze. The taste only served to enlighten the pleasure of the private moment she had stolen. She gazed at her reflection on the rippling surface. Her hair, long and dark framed a face with high, pretty cheekbones and dark, luminous eyes. As she gazed, her eyes looked deeper into the stream. It was as if she was seeing beyond the surface of herself, a feeling she had had several times during her life. The feeling passed and Zya found she was gazing at the bottom of the stream, the bed full of broken rock not yet worn smooth by the flow of the river. Amongst the rock she noticed the eggs of some creature laid long past, and imagined that the effort was worth it to reach such a place. Whatever hatched from the eggs would receive a beneficial start in life, she was sure of it. She lay back on the riverbank full of blissful contentment. A day would rarely start so positively for many, and she felt blessed for her experience. There were not many places like this and as she shut her eyes to soak in as much of the feeling as she could, Zya vowed this was a place for beginnings and endings, one she would return to. She lay there for a time, enjoying the peace, until she became aware that she would shortly be joined. How she knew she could never tell, but Zya had a knack of knowing when someone was coming.
The man stopped a few paces away from her, and she knew who it was without opening her eyes.
“Beautiful, isn't it?”
“You picked a perfect moment to go for a stroll,” her father replied, “I have rarely seen such a day in twenty years. It makes you want to freeze the instant and live a lifetime in it.”