The Stone Keepers

"Beauty is a curse on this world. It keeps us from seeing who the real monsters are."

Astrid is an ordinary girl who lives with her parents and 2 sisters Olive and Kate in a small town far from normal civilization. Astrid is a very adventurous girl and being stuck in a little town where nothing happens is like a death sentence. She often stares dreamily out her bedroom window at the forest way in the distance surrounding the whole town. For her whole life something has pulled her towards going in that forest, exploring it's untold mysteries, but she never thought this harmless adventure could go so very wrong.


Author's note

This is an original story by me which I hope you enjoy. You can see this and my other books on Wattpad also.

1. Orange Eyes

"A slight stroke of the blue.... a swish of the green...and done!" I lean back in my chair admiring my month-long project with pride. I used nearly all my good paints but it was worth it to see the once plain canvas exploding with the colours of nature. I push back my chair and hold my painting up to the light, making my multi-coloured field bloom to life. I smile and bite my lip - a nasty habit according to my mother that makes me look 'un ladylike'. As if I care whether I look un ladylike or not, I've stopped caring about what my mother thinks of me long after I realized my sisters are all she cares about. The only one who appreciates me for who I am is father, and he's out of town on work most of the time.

I sit the canvas back down carefully on my desk, where it'll stay until Father can get some good tape to stick it on my wall. I pack up what's left of my paints and ease them into my arts draw which is nearly empty except for a couple paintbrushes and pencils. Oh how I wish mother would give me some pocket money so I could spend all day in the crafts shop, looking at all the wonderful paints and pencils and easels and actually buy something. But no, mother says that since Olive and Kate are older they deserve pocket money more than I and more importantly 'won't spend it on silly paints'. I assure you painting is not silly it is an immensely fun and rewarding hobby that I hope I can do as a job one day. All Olive and Kate spend their money on is stupid clothes which is all they really care about. At least my hobby is creative and uses skill, theirs is just trying on clothes, wearing them for a day then shoving them back in their wardrobe.

I lie down on my bed my arms behind my head, enjoying the peace and quiet. Saturday is my day off from chores and I always spend it up in my lovely room, where a little window allows sun to light up the walls and make my paintings come to life. I wish I could paint my walls and create the feeling that I'm in deep forest on a sunny day surrounded by butterflies and rabbits. There's a massive forest that surrounds our whole town and I always have a yearning to go into it and explore it's untold mysteries. I love the idea of never knowing what lies ahead, never knowing what's around one corner or where one decision could take you, it keeps life exciting.

I suddenly sit up and look out my window at the forest now, it's tall gloomy trees casting a shadow over the whole village, their branches waving stiffly. Maybe I could go out there... just for a tiny bit, Mother won't even notice as she's too busy cooking dinner, and Olive and Kate will just assume I'm off to the crafts store. I spring up from my bed and quickly grab my little notebook and pencil and shove them into my little bag which I sling over my neck. I can't believe I'm really going out there, something I've been waiting to do for nearly my whole life! I feel butterflies inside my stomach as I creep out of my room, checking down the hallway to make sure the coast is clear. I softly walk down the stairs, and see Mother in the kitchen, her head deep in a recipe book. It shouldn't be this much of a struggle to leave the house, but with two overbearing sisters and a Mother who gets blindsided by everything they say, it's better if no one notices me leaving. I quickly walk past Mother who is now humming merrily as she puts a rather foul looking dish into the oven, and to the door which to my relief is open.

I quickly rush out, and nearly skip because I'm so happy out how easy that was. I don't even have to worry about Olive and Kate being out here, they hate the outdoors. They think it's too 'dirty'.  I however, am obsessed with the outside world. There's so much to do and see, well that's what I think. Our town is so small, and it is surrounded by the forest which is forbidden to go in. Mother says there is too many dangerous creatures in there, and Father unfortunately agrees with her. So there's nothing to actually do or see where I live, maybe that's why I want to go in the forest so badly. I'd do anything to see some new scenery.

I walk briskly trying to put as much distance between me and the house before Mother notices I'm gone. I take in a deep breath, pleased to be out of that stuffy room and into some fresh air. Birds chirp happily as they swoop above my head and into their hideouts in the trees. It's such a lovely day I feel almost criminal for spending most of it inside.

 I continue walking down  the lane of houses and take a sharp turn left onto a path that leads out to a large farm and then finally the forest. I always feel nervous walking past The Farm as a wicked old lady lives there with her husband and she absolutely despises me. Every time she sees me she assumes I'm up to some mischief and questions me endlessly until her old bird comes flying over to her and she quickly hurries away whispering to the bird as it sqwarks into her ear. I'm surprised she can even run a farm anymore she's gone so crazy.

A row of trees loom over each side of the path causing shivering chills up my spine. They make strangely loud creaks and groans as their old branches move with the wind. I start jogging down the path and come to a large clearing with the farm house just to my left. I crawl along the ground trying to blend in with the grass and get past the farmhouse before I get noticed. It seems oddly quiet so I gain more confidence. I rise slowly and then sprint past the farmhouse and up to the forest. I would go another way but this is the only way I know of that doesn't have large animal traps hidden all around the place.

I leap up onto the wooden fence and sit there for awhile, looking out at the endless rows of trees before me and wonder what kind of mysteries lie inside. Suddenly I hear soft footsteps behind me. Without thinking I clutch my bag and when they get right behind my I swing around whacking whoever it is right in the head with it. A loud thud hits the floor. When I look down to see who it is that tried sneaking up on me it gasp.
"Oh no" I sigh angrily.

Staring up at me, face half covered in dirt is my best and slightly annoying friend Cullen. He lifts himself up to his feet and brushes off bits of mud and grass.

"What was that for?" He hisses massaging his head where I'd hit him, a large lump now forming.

"You snuck up on me! What else was I supposed to do?" I say swinging my legs back around so I'm facing the forest.

"I don't know! Not attack me at least. It could've been a little child!" he cries struggling to get a good grip on the fence railings.

"And why would a little child be following me out here?" I ask raising my eyebrows.

"Any reason! Little children have the curiosity of a cat!"

His hand suddenly slips and he falls back in the dirt, mud flinging back onto his clothes.

"Your not much good at being outdoors are you?" I say laughing as I grab his hand and pull him up.

"Well I've never gone climbing fences before! What're you doing over here anyway? I thought you weren't 'allowed'" he asks quizzically, staring at me with such intent I feel he's looking right into my head, searching for answers.

"Because why not? There's more to life than just sitting in my bedroom painting and avoiding my stupid sisters! I mean just look in front of you, there's a whole other world out there waiting to be discovered! Don't you want to go find it?" I cry excitedly, staring out at the horizon with wonder.

"You're just being ridiculous! All I see is a bunch of old scary trees!" he huffs angrily, blowing his long gold fringe out of his eyes.

"Sometimes I wonder how we even became friends Cullen Greene" I reply jumping off the fence and down onto a thin bed of leaves.

"Where are you going? Astrid come back! It's getting dark you know I hate the dark!" he whimpers jumping down next to me.

"Go back then, I never asked you to follow me. This may be my only chance in a lifetime to explore some of these forest and I'm not wasting another second arguing with you!" I shout stomping away, leaves crunching underneath my boots. I hear him mutter to himself and reluctantly start following me.

We walk along an old path, tracked into place by old wagon carts that used to run down here. Cullen kicks stones, a clear attempt to make his anger obvious. I just ignore him and push on, there's no way he can convince me to turn back now.

It feels strange walking in here, small animals scurry out in front of us, scrounging for food. I look around, trying to take in as much as possible before I have to go back. I pull out my notebook and begin sketching out various things that I can paint in more detail later. I don't know what I was expecting when I came in here, but it feels very - underwhelming.

The path is suddenly overcome with nature and we have to forge our own way through.

"Come on Astrid haven't you seen enough? If we keep going any further we'll get lost, or eaten." Cullen shivers and hurries to catch up to me.

I look up at the sky and see the sun slowly sinking, and a cold breeze picks up. But I'm not ready to leave yet. I didn't come all this way for nothing.

"No, let's just keep going. We still have time before it's totally dark, and if we get lost... Well we just won't get lost ok?" I reply, not stopping.

He nods feebly and starts shivering. We keep walking in silence for a while later, when I suddenly hear a faint sound. It almost sounds like... a voice? I hold my arm out to stop Cullen and he looks at me.

"What?" he nearly shouts.

"Shhhh!" I hiss. "Listen!"

We strain our ears, but the voice seems to have gone away. Was it just my imagination? No, I suddenly hear soft footsteps and rustling.

"Get down!" I hiss pushing Cullen down into a bush.

"Ow! You're squashing my foot!" he whispers angrily.

"Just shut up a minute! There's someone out there" I whisper back furiously. He gulps and we look through the gaps in the bush, searching for the source of the noise.

Suddenly, two flaming orange eyes look back at us, staring unblinking through a bush. All colour drains from my face, and Cullen gulps nervously. Could I be looking at - a person? No I can't be, but by the way Cullen starts shaking I can tell it's not my imagination. Suddenly the eyes disappear, and I am left gaping at the empty space.

"D-Did you see that?" Cullen asks me.

"Yes. What was that? Who was that?" I ask not taking my eyes off where they were.

"I don't know, but we should go. It's not safe here" he says grabbing my arm. I shrug him away.

"Wait, where are you going? Astrid come back! They could still be there" he hisses as I step out of our hiding place.

I stand there dithering, unsure of what to do now. When nothing happens I start walking towards the bush where the eyes were peering at us. Cullen curses under his breath and follows me.

"Where did they go?" I wonder. Suddenly a bright orange flash catches my eye.

I bend down and see a shiny orange thing sticking out of the ground. I dig it out and dust the dirt off it. I gasp.

"Wow. It's, it's a gem!" I say breathless, as I stare down at the stunning stone in my hands.

Cullen takes it from me and rolls it over in his hands.

"It's a spessartite garnet! I never thought I'd see one of these before. But that can only mean..." he trails off, staring transfixed at it.

"How do you know what it is? And what can it mean?" I ask snapping him to attention.

"Uh, I don't know. What was I saying?" he asks putting his hand to his head.

I sigh and take it back from him, securing it safely into my bag. Maybe I should've held off from hitting him earlier.

"Come on, I think we've spent enough time here" he says grabbing my arm and pulling me back in the direction we came. This time I don't argue, and we trek back up to the edge of town.

~~We don't have to worry about being seen as we walk past the farm house. It took us long enough to get here, that the sun has set and the moon has risen. I can't help but get the chilling feeling that we're being watched, and Cullen must think so too because he speeds up. 

"Hey isn't that the bird that's always with that crazy old lady?" says Cullen to a stiff creature sitting in a tree. "That thing always gives me the creeps" he says shuddering. 

I look to where he pointed and see the unmistakable bird, it's luminous green eyes staring right at me, not even twitching when a cold wind picks up. We quickly walk into town, where all the house lights have gone out as people settle in for the night. 

"Well I'll leave you here, my house is in the other direction. You'll be all right won't you?" Cullen asks me staring at me worriedly.

"Of course, a little darkness never hurt anyone," I say nervously laughing. I'm not usually afraid of the dark, but tonight I feel - unsafe. 

He nods, and begins to jog away back the way we came. As I come up to my house, I get nervous. I hadn't realized how long I'd been gone until now. All the lights in the house are out, except for one in the kitchen. I gulp as I walk up the path, I can't even imagine the punishment I'm going to get for this. I can't use the excuse of going to the crafts store this time.

I gather all my courage and walk through the door. But the person waiting inside is the very last person I expect to see. 

It's Mrs McGregor, and in her arms she holds my sister Kate, dead.

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