Rise of the Sidenah—Short Excerpt

From Part I

A narrow ravine stretched before them, echoing the path of an ancient tributary. Sheer rock enclosed both sides, the ground only about fifteen paces wide. Tishaan slid down the hill and trotted ahead, arms out. Sreng followed, placing his feet carefully as he made his way down. Adrienna started after him, her gaze glued to the ground, but when she looked up again, she stopped.

Pressed from the opposite cliff like pudding from a pastry was the purest white rock she had ever seen. Covered in a dazzling array of crystals, it rippled its way to the ground and then flowed outward in a shelf-like formation. She walked toward it. Chill bumps dotted her arms. When she reached level ground, she glanced at the boys, but they stood at opposite sides of a small pond some distance away.

Just as well. She wished to examine the stone alone.

Where the shelf met the corner of the ravine, broken pieces lay on top of one another in a pile. She tucked one of the larger ones into the folds of her skirt and tiptoed to where the formation extended far enough to cast shade. On her hands and knees, she scrambled underneath. With her back to the cliff, she looked at the stone. Already its shape spoke of something to come, a neck here, a head, the tail there. A burning energy rose inside her chest and pressed on her lungs.

Using a smaller, pointed rock, she began to carve. When the dust fell, she tasted it. Gritty powder tingled the tip of her tongue. She worked faster, chipping off chunks and digging crevices into the stone flesh. As the pieces littered her skirt, she told herself she must remember to brush it off before returning home.

Her mother wouldn’t approve.

The sun drifted behind her and still she carved, hands moving at a feverish pace, shaping the stone while Sreng and Tishaan fashioned fishing poles out of branches nearby. She didn’t stop to think about what she was doing. Time danced around her in a dream. When she got to the eyes and mouth she slowed, her nose a breath away from the rock. With her fingernails she etched careful details. She didn’t remember when she stopped, or when her eyes closed in exhaustion. Only that when she opened them, he was there.

His shoes appeared first, laced and short on his ankle, and then the mud-spattered legs, bare chest, and blue jewel. “So, Adrienna. You found the white stone.”

Adrienna followed his gaze. The rock had changed. There was a flattened head, four short legs, a fat body, curved tail, and sharp teeth under wide lips. She gazed into the gouged eyes and felt her chest contract around her heart.

Nuana. The creature’s name was Nuana.