- Author: Sarah Ashwood
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Repairer of the Breach
Stones of Fire Series
About the Author
Works by Sarah Ashwood
Repairer of the Breach
Copyright © 2021 Sarah Ashwood
Editing by Olivia Cornwell Editing Services
Proofreading by Fantasy Proofs
Cover art by Oliviaprodesign.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Excepting brief review quotes, this book may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express written permission of the copyright holder. The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, real events, locations, or organizations is purely coincidental.
All Scripture quotations from The Authorized (King James) Version.
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In memory of my Gran, Alamae “Polly” Ferguson. It was from her that I inherited my sense of humor, my love of black coffee, my love of the color red, my love of poetry, my love of puns, and my love of words themselves. Without her influence, I doubt I would have become the person—or author—that I am today.
“And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.”
“Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.” —Ezekiel 28:14
I don’t know what made me wake up. There was no loud noise, no sudden action or movement. Maybe it was the dull, pounding pain in my head, my limbs. Not the type of pain that jerked you from slumber, like a leg or foot cramp in the middle of the night, but the kind whose awareness slowly grew on you until it eventually drew you awake.
I heard groaning as I came to, and wondered who was making those noises. Took me a minute to realize they were coming from me.
Slowly, I unwound my limbs and dragged open my eyelids. Slowly, consciousness returned and my attention focused. Something was underneath my legs—cold, hard ground. Something cold and hard was also underneath my torso, my head, my arms. I raised my head so I could look down.
A body. A bronze, like a statue. But a statue that lived.
Carter. The Talos.
Just like that, my memory starting working again. My limbs felt sluggish as I scrambled up to my knees, one hand reaching for the spot on his chest over his heart, the other for his face.
“Carter,” I whispered, my throat raw as if from heat or smoke inhalation. “Carter, are you okay? Can you hear me?”
His eyes were closed. Despite his fall through the fire, the portal, he hadn’t shifted back into human form. I didn’t know if that was a good or a bad sign. Maybe the Talos was what had saved him, and me, as well? Because of his bronze exterior, I couldn’t feel a heartbeat under my palm. I fought my trembling fingers to place them on his neck, feeling for a pulse. At the same time, I bent, putting my face in his, praying desperately to feel his breath on my cheek. A few tense seconds of holding my own breath, shutting out the questions, the worries, focusing solely on what I wanted to find. I never felt the weak thrumming of life beneath my fingertips, but I did finally feel the soft inhale and exhale of air against my chin.
I sank back with a half-laugh, half-sob of relief.
“You’re still here,” I said. “Thank God you’re still here.”
Wherever here was…
With the blessed realization that he was alive came the next realization that I had no idea where we were. I sank back on my legs, both hands on the Talos’ chest, grounding myself to reality by touching him, knowing I wasn’t alone in a strange world. Although, at first survey, it didn’t look so strange. Beneath my legs, beneath Carter’s body, was sand. Normal course, yellowish sand. A few paces away, water lapped at the edge of the beach. Pebbles and tiny seashells were strewn about on the water’s edge, just like a beach back on earth. A thick, grey-white fog hung over the scene, obscuring the water beyond the shore. I couldn’t tell if it was a river, a lake, or even an ocean cove. Thin, reedy grass grew up to the edge of the sand on the opposite side of the beach. Beyond that were a few trees, around which tendrils of fog snaked and curled. Beyond them? More fog. Darkness. Possibly a forest? I squinted, thankful to realize I still had my glasses, but couldn’t be sure. Still, there was nothing outright weird or supernatural to suggest that we were in some strange, alien place.
Maybe we are still on earth?
I didn’t know where else the fall through the Stones’ portal would’ve taken us. I hadn’t calculated that part, or even tried to. In the moment, there had only been the desperate need to follow my instincts and push Carter through the portal, hoping to save his life.
I glanced down.
It had worked. For now. Feeling his breath had told me he was still alive, but he hadn’t moved since I’d awakened. Not so much as a twitch. He hadn’t reacted to the sound of my voice or my touch. Instinct told me that he needed help if he was going to survive.
At that thought, sheer panic seized, causing me to glance around wildly. Where was I? Whether on earth or in some other world or dimension, I obviously wasn’t in Texas