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The Light of Drombar (Chapter 1)

by  writer-ros

Posted: Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Word Count: 1868
Summary: The opening chapter of a children's fantasy novel. Jane Jepson finds a stone in a burial chamber, and later that evening, with her brother, Robin, and cousins, Becky and Thomas, finds that the stone has magical qualities that takes them to another world.

Rosamunde Bott


In the cool, grey shade of the burial chamber, Jane shut her eyes and imagined a time long ago…
It was just possible that she had been born in the wrong century. If she had lived back in medieval times – perhaps when King Arthur was alive – she would have fitted in. She would have been able to talk about justice and truth without being laughed at. The ideas she had would be listened to and not sneered at. Of course, she would have had to have been a man as well… but she supposed you had to compromise somewhere to have what you want. Jane very much wanted to go back to school next term and be able to talk about the books she’d read and the plays she’d seen – but the other girls just looked at her as if she was weird and carried on talking about boys and pop groups and clothes.
It wasn’t that Jane didn’t like those things as well – but somehow when she tried to fit in and talk about them as well, the others just looked at each other and walked away. What was the matter with her? How could she ever get to be popular?
It was then that she felt something fall at her feet.
Opening her eyes, she bent down and picked up the small grey stone. She looked up. There was nowhere it could have come from. The walls of the chamber – where she liked to come to get away from the world - were crumbly and yellow with age. The stone was smooth and grey.
As she held it, she felt a slight buzz – like electricity – running through her fingers, and an excitement of anticipation stirred in her stomach. Anticipation for what? She did not know.
It was time to go. In two hours her cousins Becky and Thomas were arriving to stay with them for the summer. Becky was all right – but she was very like the girls at school. Jane would have preferred to spend the summer on her own. She sighed, putting the stone in her pocket and walking out into the sunlight.

* * * * *

The full moon shone through the bedroom window onto the stone which lay on Jane's bedside table. It was very late. Jane’s mum had allowed the four children to stay up as it was the first day of Becky and Thomas’s visit.
Jane touched the stone lightly before getting into bed. She liked the way it glistened slightly in the light of her bedside lamp.
On the other side of the bedroom, Becky was brushing her thick blonde hair. She was wearing her pink pyjamas with a picture of Eeyore on the front and neat slippers, and her pink dressing gown was already hanging in its place on the door, while Jane's own, ink-spotted blue one lay where she had left it, carelessly slung across the back of a chair.
Becky’s face, slightly plump and slightly sulky, showed no signs of the awful change that had happened in her family. Her parents had just split up and her father had moved away, leaving her mother, Jane’s mother’s sister, to bring up the two kids on her own in London.
Jane wondered how she would cope if that happened to her, but she couldn’t imagine it – it would be far too dreadful. Becky hadn’t mentioned it all day so she supposed she was hiding her feelings.
'Jane,' said Becky suddenly, as she sat down on the bed on the other side of the room.
Jane sat up, wondering whether she was about to reveal her true feelings. Would she cry? What do you do in this situation?
'What's that thing - that stone thing on your table?'
Jane looked at the stone, which sparkled slightly in the moonlight.
'It's a stone.' There seemed to be no other reply.
Becky looked at her steadily with her practical, hazel eyes.
'A stone.' She waved the air with her hairbrush and rolled her eyes, 'Only you, Jane, would keep a stone as an ornament. Some people like pictures of Orlando Bloom or a vase – but, no. Jane has a stone.'
Jane looked at it, and without thinking, said, 'It's not an ordinary stone.'
'Oh, yes?' said Becky, her voice already sounding uninterested. She started to climb into bed.
Jane picked up the stone and sat looking at it for a while, feeling its cold smoothness and watching the slight sparkle as she turned it in her hand. It was strangely light, as if hollow - but without being fragile. She felt a kind of strength within it, impossible to describe. She turned her bedside light off, and the room went dark, but the moonlight shone down on the stone and it seemed to glisten and sparkle even more than before.
Without knowing why, she suddenly got out of bed and kneeled down in the middle of the floor, laying the stone on the carpet so that the moon was now shining fully on it. Becky sat up in bed and looked at her with an air of tolerance, then got up and kneeled down beside Jane on the floor.
'It looks pretty ordinary to me.' she said.
Jane twisted strands of dark hair round her index finger and bit her lip.
'It just fell - right in front of me - in the burial chamber up near the ruins this morning. It wasn't an accident, and no-one was there. I think that it was...given to me.'
There was a short pause, and a light breeze whispered in the trees outside the window.
'I don't know what on earth you're talking about.' said Becky, ‘I think you’re nuts. Or tired – you should go to bed.’
Jane sighed. Robin had been just as difficult when she had tried to explain it to him. Why she had even bothered was beyond her. Robin never listened to anything she said with anything but disdain.
But she knew that there was something important about the stone, and she had to tell someone. The difficulty was finding someone who would listen.
They both jumped as there was a knock on the door behind them. Jane leaned over and let Robin in. He was holding the new torch that he'd got for his birthday. Close behind him followed Thomas, holding a black cuddly gorilla called Grumpy that his dad had bought him when he’d taken them to Whipsnade for the day. Robin shut the door softly behind them.
'Thomas can’t sleep – so I thought we’d come in and make some plans for tomorrow,' he whispered, 'but we’d better not let mum hear us.'
‘Oh, really, Thomas,’ scoffed Becky, ‘can’t you put that ugly looking thing down for one minute? Do you really need a cuddly toy when you’re nearly eight?’
'What's that?' asked Thomas, ignoring Becky and kneeling down beside the girls to see what they were looking at.
Robin shone his torch on the stone, though it did not need any more light. The moon was so bright that it was clearly visible.
'Oh Jane!' he said, scornfully, 'Not that stupid bit of rock! Can't you give it a rest? I’m going to go back to bed if you're going to start talking rubbish.'
Jane said nothing, but she felt the heat in her cheeks that always came when Robin teased her. Robin kneeled down between Jane and Thomas, so now the children made a circle round the stone, and the moon still shone down through the window, its light palely sliding between Jane and Becky onto the stone.
'Jane loves to make up stories about things,' Robin explained, in a grown-up voice, 'she reckons some ghost or something threw a stone at her in the burial chamber, and so now it's a magic stone.' He laughed, and Becky giggled.
'It wasn't a ghost.' said Jane quietly, close to tears.
'What's a burial chamber?' asked Thomas, 'can we go there tomorrow? Are there really ghosts? Ow! - stop poking me Becky!'
'It's an ancient tomb.' said Robin, 'Dad says it's thousands and thousands of years old. There’s loads of them in Wiltshire. You can go right inside it - but there aren't any ghosts of course.' he added, with a condemning look at Jane.
'Can you see dead bodies?' asked Thomas, his eyes round and shining, ignoring another nudge from Becky.
'Of course not - it's ancient, I told you. All the bones and things are in museums now, but it’s got a spooky atmosphere. We'll walk over there tomorrow if you like and we'll show you.'
'Sounds weird. I’m not sure I want to walk a long way for a “spooky atmosphere” – what else is there to do?' said Becky.
'It’s not just the burial chamber – there’s a castle as well – there's not much to look at, I suppose - just a mound and a few bits of stone, but there's a great view from the top – in winter we go tobogganing.'
'Robin!' Jane said suddenly, and everybody jumped because of the urgency in her voice, 'Robin! Look at the stone!'
They all looked down at the stone, and Robin shone his torch on it again.
'That's odd.' he said, shaking his torch, 'there's a new battery in this - the light shouldn't be yellow...'
'It's not your torch - switch it off, switch it off! It's the stone - look!'
Robin switched off his torch and they all looked at the stone in amazement, as it had begun to glow with a golden light.
The children looked at each other, their faces reflecting the yellow glow.
'What's happening?' said Becky in a small, frightened voice, 'I don't like it - Robin - turn the light on - I don't like it.'
Robin was about to get to his feet, but he stopped, staring at the stone.
'Wait a minute, he said, 'something's happening.'
The light was changing.
It was becoming clearer and brighter, and the yellow colour was fading, until the stone itself was swallowed by a bright, white light that lit up the whole room in a dazzling blaze. The children had to shield their eyes. A sound like the echo of a deep bell rang in their ears, dizzying and deafening.
'Stop it! Stop it!' cried Becky.
'How can we?' shouted Jane. Nobody was whispering now.
The light was now so bright that they had to shut their eyes tightly, even with their hands in front of them.
Suddenly, there was a brilliant green flash and everything went black.
There was a long silence, and the children slowly opened their eyes.
The full moon was still shining down on them. The children were still kneeling in a circle.
But the moon was not shining through a window. And they were not in Jane’s bedroom.
They were sitting at the bottom of a hill. On top of the hill was a castle. In front of them, cold and dull now, was a small, grey stone.