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This is the thirteenth chapter in Sky of Stone and the seventh in part two: Ore.

Keeper of Earth

Motionless as the stones in his cave, Karzelek stood there and did not dare to turn his gaze from the gigantic creature that had risen before them.

Geb did not move an inch either. Why was he so nervous? He knew Terrai, after all. The guardian had been kind to him when he had given Boulder and him elemental magic. But then I was able to prepare for the meeting. Now we just went in and interrupted him asleep. Not to mention that Boulder had been with him at that time. Without his companion, Geb felt so defenseless.

However, Four-leaf's presence didn't seem to help Karzelek either. Poor guy. Standing before a guardian whose existence he has never guessed.

Again a deep hum began to fill the cave. It had similarities with snoring, with the difference that Terrai was now awake. But this sound was oddly more soothing than threatening, just like what was next to be heard. "Hello, little friends."

Terrai had not opened his mouth, and yet they heard his voice clearly. Karzelek was clearly overwhelmed; He was even smaller than he already was, and he did not dare to turn away his terrified gaze from Terrai.

The keeper did not pay much attention to him, which was probably precisely Karzelek's intention. "Pretty dark here, is it not? Wait a minute." He changed the pitch of his hum, until it was almost a buzz.

And it became bright.

And on the walls, on the ceiling, even on Terrai's body, innumerable points of light appeared. They were small beetles, which now turned the entire cave into a mystic half-darkness. They were like the stars at the cloudless night sky - only that they moved.

"That ... that's incredible," Karzelek whispered. Geb could sense the way he had just felt: The boy had never seen the starry sky, and certainly not this much more beautiful version of it. Above all, it seemed to take away his fear, what Terrai also noticed.

"Beautiful, right? I've always found the stars great, but you can not see them down here. So I got my own." He dropped back into his lying position, so the ground shook for a moment under his weight. "Now tell me, little friends, why are you here? You've got your stone already, and you ... well, you're not from my tribe." Terrai blinked as if he was afraid he had not looked properly. "And your companion has horns, but it is not an antelope."

"I ... I come from the ore tribe," stuttered Karzelek, who had taken his companion from his shoulders and clasped again protectively.

"For real? This is fantastic!" Terrai breathed a wave of warm air in his face.

"... it is?" asked Karzelek. Geb was also surprised. Karzelek had told him that his tribe had no connection to the guardians at all.

"Naturally! I've been waiting for you to visit me again."

"Again?" repeated Geb. If the ore tribe knew Terrai, why did they deny it?

"It's been a while, but yes, I've met an Elmin from this tribe shortly after I learned of his existence. She insulted me and told me that her tribe did not need me ... ever since, none of them ever visited me again. I thought first of all that it could be because of the tunnel from which it came, because I felt its collapse shortly thereafter. So I dug them new tunnels that were even enchanted, so you only need hours and not weeks to get here. I do not know what I'm doing wrong, because up to now, every single one of them is also falling down ... but now you're here!"

"We are really in your pit," Geb was amazed. This place lay south-east of the midday dune and was a several-day ride from the cave of the ore tribe. At the same time, Geb had felt no change at all when he had passed through the tunnel.

"I hope this does not confuse you very much," said Terrai, but Karzelek nodded.

"A-actually it does ... I mean, we ..."

"We did not know the tunnel was leading to you," Geb helped. "We're only here by chance."

"... oh." Disappointed, Terrai let his comparatively small ears hang. "You get an actual visit and then it was not even intention."

"We're really sorry," Geb excused himself. He never thought he could make a guardian sad. Above all, with such a powerful being, he could not stand the sight. "But ... I would have a question."

"Yes?" Terrai's face brightened as best it could be for an animal.

"Yes, so ... my friends and I are looking for the hero from Lumeon's prophecy. Do you know where we might find him? "

Karzelek looked helplessly at him. Geb would not be surprised if his tribe did not even know about the prophecy.

"What do you want from him?" Terrai inquired. "It can not be time already."

"We need his help to destroy the shadows. They attack our tribes and make elves shadows too. "

"So it is time," Terrai said more to himself, but his voice was still clear. "I can not believe it's already been a thousand years."

"Since what?" asked Karzelek, whose curiosity was now aroused.

Geb told him what he had remembered from the conversation with Zephyr: "For a thousand years he has been waiting is the first line of prophecy."

"What he?"

Geb blinked. He had never thought about that.

"His name is Umbrath," Terrai explained. "The Sixth Guardian."

"The ... sixth guardian?" repeated Geb. "But there is only Lumeon and you and the other three."

"And Umbrath. He is the guardian of the shadows. "

With this title alone, Geb felt a shudder run over his back. "I ... I did not know that they have a being on their side that is so powerful."

"Unfortunately yes. You know, a thousand years ago, he had set himself against Lumeon and almost plunged Elysia into chaos. We other guardians had to unite all our forces to stop him."

"What did you do with him?" Karzelek asked.

"Imprisoned, somewhere in an underwater ditch south of Xiro. However, such a spell does not last forever ... I would not have thought that a thousand years went by so fast."

But why did Lumeon need a single hero? If the Guardians had defeated Umbrath before, they could just do it a second time.

"We could, that's right," Terrai confirmed, as Geb suggested that. "But Lumeon wants to destroy Umbrath this time. And to kill a guardian, you do not necessarily need the others. For example, I would be pretty easy to overpower when I'm just sleeping ... but luckily nobody has."

"So we do not really need Lumeon's hero after all, because we could do it ourselves?" Geb quickly corrected himself: "With a really big army, I mean." He definitely had no intention of taking on a gigantic and incredibly powerful shadow alone with Iris and perhaps Sedna.

"Oh, let Lumeon take care of it. He knows what he is doing. If you ask me, wait for the hero instead of dragging innocents into a fight in which their opponent can sweep hundreds with a clawing movement from the earth. "

"Exactly," said Karzelek. "Here you are safe in the caves."

"But not the rest of Elysia!" Geb was not a good fighter, but he would still not watch the shadows become more and more powerful. "Please, Terrai, can you at least tell me where we could find the hero of the prophecy? Or anything else that might help us. "

"Let me think." It was quiet around them. Geb felt the need to draw Terrai's attention again, but he could not. He stood facing a guardian.

Finally the hum returned, and with it Terrai's voice. "No, Lumeon did not tell us much about him. Nothing at all, honestly. We know exactly as much as you all. But ... I'm pretty sure you can find him on the plain of Lumeon."

Of course, Geb and Iris already knew that. They would go to the place immediately, if only they knew where it was. After all, he was not listed on any single map, just a place of legends.

Geb decided to ask Terrai about the way.

"I've never been there myself, you know. Lumeon makes a big secret out of it. I can only tell you that it is not here in Xiro. Oh, and only the guardians and light elms can see it at all ... I would like to tell you more, but unfortunately that is all I know. With the other guardians you have certainly more success."

I'd rather let the others do that. Geb had no desire to meet any guardian who did not embody his element. Would they even want to talk to him? They were the most powerful beings that had ever existed - the creators of everything there was. Compared to them, Geb was terribly insignificant.

"So," Terrai continued, "is there anything else I can do for you? Are you hungry? I should still have some sacrifices somewhere around... "

Karzelek grimaced, and although Geb knew it was only a matter of fruit, he also declined. Even if Terrai allowed him, it was not right to eat the sacrifices for a guardian.

There was something, however, that really felt right at that moment.

"If it is possible, could you carry out the ceremony at Karzelek?"

The guardian wiggled his small ears happily and looked kindly at the Ore-Elm. "With pleasure! Come closer, little friend."

Karzelek, however, shook his head and even stepped back a few steps. "That ... this is not possible. I'm not twelve yet. And I ... I know I am a warrior."

"Well, if that's so, you do not have to worry about it, little friend. I will confirm that this is your calling, and for you everything will stay as it is now."

The boy looked questioningly at Geb, who also smiled at him. "It does not hurt, either."

"Really?"

"Definitely not."

"Okay." Karzelek set down Four-leaf and walked slowly towards Terrai, his companion close to him. "I ... we're ready." If he was still afraid, he hid it amazingly well. He stood erect before the being, which was so much bigger and more powerful than he. Was it his companion, who now gave him strength after all?

---

It was a year ago that Geb had been standing there. He could remember this day as clearly as his first encounter with Iris a few weeks ago, if not even more intensively.

So full of reverence and tension had he been, tiny and powerless, against the millennial old guardian. But he had also felt joy. This day, which he had known from the beginning, would decide his entire life.

He heard Terrai's voice still clearly: "Companions of the Earth Tribe! Welcome to the pit of Terrai, the place where you will see which way you are going to go - your vocation, which will guide you in your future life. Since the beginning of the tribes it has been the vocations that keep the peace in the tribes and guarantee that each individual makes the best possible contribution to this. It is time that you also occupy your rightful place in the community. Step forward and touch my horns."

As in trance, Geb and Boulder had followed his call. The rhinoceros had exactly known what it had to do, without any intervention. And the boy understood.

The hum that accompanied Terrai's words was audible for every elm and animal, for it was an actual sound. It was only in the heads of the companions that words were drawn; translating by itself and understandable for everyone. A magic of which only the guardians were capable.

From the ghostly silence, Geb and Boulderhad finally touched one of the bent forward horns of Terrai. They had begun to shine, but not glowing - the warmth spread only in Geb, while Terrai looked deep into his heart; The energy of long past times that filled him.

"Karzelek." Geb was suddenly torn from his memory. He quickly realized that Karzelek and Four-leaf were in exactly the same position that Geb had just remembered. Although it was not about him, he could not help but hold his breath. Any moment now Terrai would make his decision. "I see great potential in you that is just waiting to be kindled. You seek recognition, but no glory; you are afraid to disappoint others. You shall be a worker, for your greatest strength is not in your physical strength, but in your precision and your craftsmanship. Use them to support your tribe not by violence but by goods that remind it that every object and creature is valuable in its own way."

"I ... I can not do that," Karzelek said, a scarcely audible whisper compared to Terrai's powerful voice. "My horns are orange, not gray. I am a warrior ... not a worker."

Was he talking to them at all or only with himself? That was hard to say. Still, Geb could not just leave it that way. He did not want to say he knew what was best for Karzelek - but he was sure that the ore tribe was wrong with its views.

When Terrai was silent, Geb decided to intervene.

"Terrai is right," he said. "You know for yourself that you are not good at fighting. And this ... thing you've built is also a sign that you have quite different talents. Instead of spending the rest of your life unhappy, you should rather do what is fun for you. What you are called to do."

"But my parents ..."

"... will be proud of you if you pursue your own goals!"

"That's true," said Terrai. "If you are concerned, then determination is also a trait of a warrior."

"I ... I have to talk to them about it. As soon as we get back to the tribe."

"Do you want to leave already?" Terrai asked. "I'm not finished yet! You have not yet received your magic."

Karzelek looked down. "That will not do. I ... no, I can not accept your magic."

He's a keeper, Karzelek! Whether he accepted his vocation or not, he could not refuse such an offer. Geb had to intervene before Terrai could punish the boy. "Give him time, Terrai. He must think about a lot. Then he will return and you can finish the ceremony. "

Karzelek shook his head. "That's not the point ... I want to get my magic from Enki, just like everyone else. When I am old enough. And besides ... I do not think Terrai is able to give me ore magic in the first place."

"You might be right with that," thought the keeper. "I honestly have never tried it. An attempt would be worth it, but if you do not want, then another time."

"We'll tell Enki that you'd be ready," Geb offered, whereupon Terrai grumbled contently.

"Good. But do you really want to go already? You have just arrived. Are you hungry? ... wait, I've already asked you. What about sleeping? Are you tired?"

"Honestly, yes." Geb had completely lost the sense of time under the earth. "Karzelek, how late is it?" The boy knew for sure since he lived in the caves.

Karzelek thought. "I'm tired, so it must be night. I sleep at the same time as the guards, and they are the only ones who are orientated to the upper world."

"That means the rest of the tribe sleeps when they want?" That was something that Geb could live with very well.

"That's about it, yes. But I guess that would be too difficult to explain."

Geb shrugged his shoulders. "Whatever you say. At least my friends will sleep now, so we can do that as well." He looked at Terrai. "If that's all right."

"No problem," said the keeper. "If it's night up there, then no one who wants to know their calling will come anytime soon. So you can stay here until you want to leave again. Just take care that your animal companion does not eat one of my fireflies."

Karzelek looked alarmed at his companion, who, however, made no attempt to attack the light bugs. "We will, Your Majesty. Thank you."

"Oh, Terrai is enough," he snorted. "I do not have it with titles like the other guardians. I'm satisfied if you're just nice and friendly."

"Fortunately this is not difficult," Geb smiled.

"Oh, but it will be when the shadows gain power. They have already succeeded in the time before there were Elmen. We guardians are glad that now a thousand years of peace lie behind us. We have confidence in the tribes and hope that they will be able to hold their own, unlike the old civilization. But if that is not so, I want to be honest with you ... your friends and you, you can not find Lumeon's hero fast enough."

"We do our best." If even a guardian entrusted them with the fate of Elysia, there was really much depending on Geb and his friends finding the chosen one in time. Nevertheless, thanks to Terrai, they now knew that they needed the help of the other guardians to reach the legendary plain of Lumeon.

But first of all I will personally take care that Karzelek does not get problems with his tribe. There is definitely time for that.

Sky of Stone Chapters
 Prologue   Prologue
 One: Earth   1: Summer Solstice2: Riders of the Wind3: Light and Shadow4: Opposites5: A Strange Encounter6: Across the River
 Two: Ore   7: Dark Omens8: Underground9: His Radiance10: The Forbidden11: A Boy and His Goat12: The Story of a Tribe13: Keeper of Earth14: At the Bottom15: Changes
 Three: Sky   16: Back to the Start17: Against the Darkness18: Old Acquaintances19: Change of Plans20: Unexpected21: Sky Holes22: Wind and Water
 Epilogue   Epilogue

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