The Queen's Belt

Vicky is an ordinary 16-year-old girl from Edinburg. Accidentally, she comes into possession of a stone, which leads her to a time portal. Vicky becomes involved in the search for a stolen ancient artifact. Not fully in control of her time travel ability, she takes a chance and travels to a prehistoric world. There she lives with a female Amazon tribe and learns horse riding and archery. But will she find the stolen relic and be able to come back home?

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1. Chapter 1: Grandpa’s Study

Copyright © 2017 by Andy Stelar. All rights reserved.

 

~~Vicky was on her way home from school. The early spring sun was bright, although not warm enough to melt away the winter-like coldness in the air. Vicky took her usual route through the park and could already see the grey roof of the familiar cottage. It was her grandpa’s house where on her way home from school, she would often get a cup of tea with biscuits or candy.
As she approached the building, a mist of tears made everything into a blur.
“Oh, grandpa,” thought Vicky as she wiped the tears away, “why did you have to go?”
It had only been two weeks since her grandpa had died, and she felt that she was yet far from getting over her loss. It was also hard not to think about him when she daily had to pass by his cottage. In the mornings, a ride in her parents’ car saved her because they drove by the other side of the park where the bushes and trees hid the cottage. But on the way back, if she caught sight of it, it inevitably triggered the memories of their afternoons together.
Grandpa’s cottage was small and old-fashioned.  From what Vicky learned in her history class and from the pictures in the history books she would have said his house looked Victorian. Inside, it always was a little damp, so by Mondays the cookies, which grandpa had bought during the weekend, would have become soft. She did not mind: she dipped the biscuits into the sweet tea, so that they would get mushy anyway.
Vicky felt regret for not telling grandpa often enough just how much she enjoyed his company.
“He knew it of course,” thought Vicky, “otherwise I wouldn’t have visited him almost every day.”
Despite these attempts of convincing herself, she wished she could go back, turn time backwards just for one day so that she could see him one last time. 
Since grandpa had died, Vicky hadn’t yet once felt the desire to come by his cottage. She rather found herself inventing new routes home avoiding the park. Today, however, Vicky chose her usual walk past his house. On this occasion she expected that same regret to accompany her just as previously, yet instead she felt something more resembling curiosity. She felt her pockets for the key. Grandpa had given her the key in case he would be out walking Lumpy in the park when she would arrive. Lumpy was his dog, a miniature schnauzer, which got its name because as a puppy it often got burdock flowers tangled into clumsy lumps in its fur. Now Lumpy moved in with Vicky and her parents and became her sole responsibility, which she eagerly welcomed.
Vicky fished the key out of the pocket and hesitated. Everybody forgot about her key in the kerfuffle after grandpa’s funeral. She hoped to keep it at least until her parents had put the house out for sale. She turned the key in the lock and went inside.
Everything was in its usual place as if grandpa was still alive. Any minute now he could have walked inside and smiled in the anticipation of their tea ritual. She was still standing in the corridor when she awoke from her daydream.
At the end of the corridor grandpa had a study, which she had never entered. It was a kind of a silent agreement between Vicky and her grandpa that she would never do it, and she never had done. In his younger days, grandpa had worked for the Edinburgh Geological Society. He had told Vicky that in the study he kept boring papers and samples of stones from the times when he had been on excavations in different parts of the globe.
Standing in the narrow corridor, the curiosity came over Vicky again, only this time she knew it was connected with her grandpa’s study in particular. She remembered that the room was locked. At least this is what she had always assumed as grandpa had retired some years ago and had presumably not used the study for work since. She walked through the corridor and stopped before the door. Just to make sure that her assumption was correct, Vicky pressed the door handle. The door was indeed locked. Suddenly it dawned on Vicky that she still was holding the key to the cottage in her hand.
“What if this key can open the study door?” she thought, “It is worth a try."
She thought whether her decision was a betrayal of grandpa’s trust. She decided that it was not, since she never actually promised him not to enter the room. Neither had he ever asked her not to. The key passed through the key hole as if it belonged there. Vicky turned it, pressed the door handle down again, and the door opened.
The room was brightly lit by the spring sun. It was furnished with a large desk of dark wood, a chair and several bureaus and shelves of matching wood. Vicky did not precisely know what wood it was, but it made the room look warm, even though the whole cottage had not been warmed for some time now, and it was quite cold in the study.
Despite the bright sunlight, Vicky could not shake off the eerie feeling accompanying her since she entered the cottage. Perhaps it was because there was something conspiratorial about her being in grandpa’s “secret room” for the first time. Or perhaps because it was difficult to accept the idea that grandpa would not be returning in just a moment together with Lumpy.
She approached the table and glanced at the papers still lying here and there covering the table’s surface. They seemed to be extracts from some scientific reports with pictures of stones.
“Just as grandpa said: boring papers,” thought Vicky.
Her eyes stopped at some photographs scattered around one of the sheets of paper. These were pass size photographs of grandpa.
“Strange,” thought Vicky, “maybe mom or dad needed them for some documents for the funeral or for putting the house up for sale.”
Vicky picked one of the photographs up as the tears filled her eyes. It was still difficult to look at grandpa’s image without feeling sorrow. She felt her backpack, which she still was carrying around with her. She took it off her shoulder and dug into it with her hand. After rummaging inside for a while, she fished out her wallet. It was a pink affair with a transparent pocket intended for a photograph of a future boyfriend. She slid grandpa’s photograph into the yet unoccupied space. She had of course his pictures and selfies with him in her phone, but to have a tangible photograph of him somehow made her memories of him more real. She closed the wallet and put it back into her backpack.
She looked around and decided to examine the shelves across the room. She walked towards them and scrutinized the files and books filling them. The labels on the files bore mainly geographical names, like Burma or Ecuador. Vicky was not particularly interested in geography so she ignored these while her eyes continued to scan the labels from shelf to shelf. When she reached the lower shelves her eyes fixed on a dark green file, which was the only file without a label. The files with the geographical names on them did not surprise her as she expected that they had something to do with the geological expeditions in which her grandpa had participated. The same curiosity that brought her into grandpa’s study in the first place was there again; Vicky knew it was connected to the green file. 
Vicky took the file from the shelf and opened it somewhere near the middle, ready to browse through the pages protected by the plastic sleeves. The transparent membranes of the folders revealed drawings of women riding horses. The women wore loose long-sleeved blouses or something more resembling pieces of cloth fastened to each other by means of some metal buckles and secured by waste belts varying from woman to woman. Almost each woman was portrayed with a spear, a bow and a quiver with arrows as well as a short sword hanging off her belt. The women bore woven half-moon shaped shields, perhaps made of cane strengthened by what looked like thick animal skin. These women were obviously warriors of some kind.
Some of the drawings were close-ups of female faces with strange ornamental makeup or of shoulders with tattoos. Vicky did not know that her grandpa could draw, especially with such skill, but then these might have been drawn not by her grandpa at all.
The file began to weigh Vicky’s hands down: she realized that she had been standing with the heavy file in her hands for quite some time. Captivated by her finds, she did not even think about finding a chair or sitting down on the floor. To rest her one hand, she lifted her left knee up and laid the file on it for a moment.  She pressed the pages down with her right hand in order to ensure that the file would not glide off her knee when she felt a hard object sticking out a little, protected by several layers of plastic sleeves on top of it.
Vicky quickly turned around in search of something to sit on and moved to the brown armchair by the window. She made herself comfortable before diving deeper into the file for the object.  She placed the file on her lap and quickly turned the plastic sleeves containing maps, texts, pictures of what could be Grecian statues of women and more drawings, if not of the women then of some caves or of landscapes, until she finally reached the plastic sleeve containing a little velvet bag. Inside it, Vicky clearly felt something hard, certainly a stone of some kind.
As if to confirm Vicky’s assumption, the top of the page read: “The Talking Stone”. Vicky thought whether she was supposed to take the inscription literally or metaphorically. She decided to proceed with both lines of inquiry. She hurried to take the little cloth bag out of the plastic file, opened it and let the stone fall onto the palm of her hand. The stone looked quite ordinary for some sort of a mineral or a semi-precious stone. Judged by its white half-transparent appearance it could have been a piece of quartz of a bit uneven oval form slightly bigger than a dove egg in size. If Vicky was to believe that the stone could literally speak, she would have expected that the stone had a cavity for a mouth. Under such an assumption she would have expected the stone to be hollow inside. She weighed the stone in her hand just to make sure that the weight of the stone more or less corresponded to its size, which it did. This proved that the stone was in fact not hollow, and the theory of a literally talking stone fell apart.
Just as Vicky was about to consider the possibility of a metaphor of some kind, she felt the stone change its temperature from cold, into considerably warmer and consequently hot as if it was instantly warmed by fire. Along with the temperature the stone’s color also visibly changed from the dimly white into rose and then into blood red. Vicky felt a strange heavy exhaustion come over her. She closed her eyes. She tried to move her arms and legs only to discover that she could not: the sensation of heaviness arrested her whole body.
As if in a trance, Vicky saw a large transparent sphere filled with water or perhaps hot air perceptibly moving inside it. Then whatever filled the sphere evaporated into a clear vision of one of the women whom minutes ago Vicky had seen on the drawings from the file. The woman looked at Vicky and spoke to her in a language which Vicky did not recognize. Nevertheless, Vicky understood the meaning of what she heard. From time to time the woman’s words dissolved in the water-like sphere, so that Vicky heard only pieces of phrases and some sentences: “Victory belongs with us… to find the door, find the cypress… oracle … help us … was stolen”. After these words the sphere disappeared into the stone, which was slowly losing its temperature and changing its appearance back to the original whitish color.
Through the state of shock, Vicky heard her mobile phone ringing in her jeans pocket. It was probably her mom calling to ask whether Vicky already had come home and walked Lumpy. The phone stopped ringing. Still coming to her senses Vicky did not answer it in time. Now she quickly needed to call mom back with a plausible story.
“Yes, hello, mom? Yeah, I forgot to switch the sound on after school…  No, I’m on my way home now: it’s this science project, I told you, remember? With Amanda?… Oh well, maybe I’ve forgotten. I’ll be there in 5 minutes, ok?”
Vicky hung up, put the stone, which was considerably colder by now, into the little bag and put it in her pocket followed by the phone. Then she quickly closed grandpa’s file and shoved it back onto the shelf where she found it. She grabbed her backpack, which she earlier dropped on the floor near the table, and ran out of the study. She noticed that she forgot all about the key, which was still sticking out of the door lock. She pulled the key out, put it in her backpack and slammed the entrance door as she ran out of grandpa’s cottage.

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