I Am A Rock

by Heidi

A Magnificent Seven Fantasy,
based on the Dungeons and Dragons Universe

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction loosely based on the characters created and called The Magnificent Seven. No offense or copyright infringement intended to Mirisch Corp., Trilogy, CBS, TNN, or any others with claim to the characters.

Author's Notes: This piece was written for the M7 Lyric Wheel, Fantasy Edition, and as such, has not been beta'd. Special thanks to those who helped with the creative process, giving me a sounding board to bounce ideas, and you know who you are - my nags and nudges! Thanks to Mac for the wonderful lyrics; I only hope I did them justice. My interpretation of this fantasy AU was inspired by the game Dungeons and Dragons, and many thanks to those (Nettie, Winter) that first put that AU out there, and for giving this lowly writer permission to play in that AU. Many thanks to Nancy for being so kind to me, and posting my stories.

I know the guidelines of the the lyric wheel say to use one line of the song and one line of the chorus, but the song I received was so powerful that I was motivated to incorporate the lyrics into the story. Warning - lyrics are not in order - creative license to blend them in better. More like got smacked up side the head by my muse, but I've learned not to argue with my muse. The muse might go away and that would be bad.

Everything depends on me now. Their lives, the lives of innocents, and countless others, all needing to be saved, and the entire burden resting squarely on my shoulders. How could this have happened? I'll tell you.

There I was, minding my business in place, or as Josiah called it hiding in my room. I don't hide, Josiah, I just...stay there. It's warm, comfortable, and to me, I'm safe within my womb. It's a dangerous world out there.

Out here, I should say. I'm out in this deep and dark December, a winter's day, and I am alone. By myself, looking up a cliff, wondering how in My God's name I'm going to climb this monstrosity. Nevertheless, I have to, and I will. Just give me a minute to gather my strength. My wits, however, left me several days ago, so I can't collect those.

I guess you're still wondering why I'm going to attempt to climb a treacherous cliff, with turbulent water breaking across sharp rocks at my back, and my gaze travels up on a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow. It snowed while I traveled here, and that's covering the handholds that I'll need. I can't do this.

A wave breaks hard on a rock behind me, the spray dusting the heavy cloak I'm wearing over my backpack. I shiver, and then put that out of my mind. If only I could be like the rock, almost unchanged over time, only ground down a tiny bit over a span of several years. My friends call me a rock, but they're not here with me now. They're up there, and I'm down here. I'm not helping them by standing here.

Sighing, I move to the boat and make sure it's anchored safely in the small cove I found between the three largest rocks. Inside the cove, the water's calm, and no one will see it by looking over the cliffs for a boat. The tarp I placed over it should keep it dry inside. I'm using the tarp because I don't know what condition I'll find my friends in, and how much of my strength and skills they'll need to make it here. One last glance at the boat, and I have this image of an island in the middle of the storm. An island, and wishing I were a rock, boy, I am getting fanciful in this bitter cold.

Drawing a frigid breath into my lungs, I return to the base of the cliff and start looking for the first handhold. Ah...there. My hide gloves protect my hands as I dig in the snow and brush the white flakes away, revealing a natural ledge. I lift my body, my feet leaving the ground, and swear to myself and My God I'm not going to look up or down, just right around where I need to reach. I don't want to fall.

I find another handhold, and another, and then my feet start working, too. My toes, enshrouded in my sturdy boots, manage to dig into the crevices bared by my hands, and I'm on my way. Left hand, pull, right hand, pull, foot, pull, left hand, pull, foot, pull. My mind starts to follow the rhythm, and I'm actually climbing this cliff faster than I thought I would. Then I look up.

Didn't I say I wasn't going to look up? I'm dizzy now, and it's all my fault. I close my eyes, and I wait for it to pass. I hear the surf beneath me, and the image of the rock appears in my mind. I am a rock, I tell myself, and I am an island of tranquility in the midst of chaos. I can do this. When I open my eyes, I see the dark brown of the cliff face, and the white of the snow. Dark and light, a strong contrast, and my mind pictures the last time all of us, a collection of contrasts ourselves, were together in our little village.

It's a nice place, our village, just big enough for all of us, yet small enough where we know everyone, and everyone knows us. The seven of us signed on as guards, but for some reason the folks now call us their guardians. Glad they didn't say angels, because there's not one among us. We're far from that ideal.

So, there we are, sitting around the hearth fire at Inezia's Inn, and each of us took our favorite places around the common room. The conversation flowed, along with the ale and mead, while we enjoyed our evening meal. We thought nothing could affect us, and we'd surmounted every problem thrown at us. I guess we got a little too sure of ourselves, too cocky, and it cost us greatly.

I turned in early that night, and rose before the dawn started lightening the sky. I went into the woods, searching, and found what I wanted. When I returned, the village was smoldering. Inezia's Inn lay in ruins, and Lady Mari rushes over to me. I will never forget her words, or the cold fear that gripped my heart that day.

"They've been taken, all of them. Nearly killed, and they made us watch."

"Who?" I asked.

"I don't know who they are, just that they must be stopped. Seer Nettina and her niece, the Herbalist Cassandrea, tended all the injured, but Cassandrea overheard their plans. They'll hold our men captive, and make them work in their mines. Cassandrea listened to them plotting an overthrow of the king, the destruction the wizard's conclave, closing all the temples, and turning us into slaves."

"Where did they take the men, Lady Mari?"

"To the north, a fortress there along the sea."

"Does someone know the route?"

"Seer Nettina will supply you with a map." She stopped when she realized my plan. "You cannot go alone!"

"I must."

"Take someone with you. Let me go, and I will watch your back."

"Lady Mari, I appreciate your offer, but you are not trained. I will not have you killed because of following me. Promise me, Lady, that you will stay here and work on rebuilding."


"I know where your heart lays, Lady, and I will do my best, but I cannot do that if I must be responsible for you as well."

She sighed, giving me a resigned look. "Go with your God, and bring them home safe. If their plan succeeds, all of us are lost. There are no stronger men anywhere close enough to stop them, and you are our last hope. Free our guardians, and free us all." She touched my hands briefly, squeezing once, and then we provisioned me for my journey.

I went to visit Seer Nettina, finding her working hard at changing the bandages on the elderly and powerless of our small village. When she saw me, she straightened, signaled her niece, and motioned me into the back room. I joined her there, and she unrolled a scroll, the contents a map to the fortress. Other scrolls lay beside her on the table, all ready for travel.

Her eyes saw something only she could see before focusing on me. The Seer said, "Your path will be filled with danger, and you must take to the water to make your escape. They gather at a fortress there, a fortress deep and mighty, that none may penetrate."

I protested her proclamation that none may penetrate. I always believe there's choices, and some you just have to look harder for than others. "There must be a way inside, Seer."

The wizened woman stared me deep in the eyes, finally saying, "Yes. I know of a way in, but you must climb and overcome many walls during your journey. Walls they built and walls of your own design. Go in peace, and best to you." She handed me the scroll case, written instructions about the hidden entrance buried high in the cliffs, maps of the fortress itself obtained from somewhere, and all the money that the villagers collected for me knowing I would undertake this quest for freedom - a quest for me, my friends, and for our known world.

I set off early the next morning, traveling on my horse as far as she would take me, and leaving her stabled at a place where I knew the owner. I then continued my journey by boat, having trusted fishermen take me up the coast to a small settlement tucked across the water from the fortress. The water provided natural protection for the fortress, for the jagged rocks and violent surf discouraged all comers by sea.

The settlement I visited survived because they knew how to blend into their surroundings, and when they realized friends no longer occupied the fortress, they quickly doused the lights at night and pulled the boats into their hidden coves, out of sight of the fortress and its new guards. This settlement often hosted smugglers, so the seamier side of their lives benefited me.

They loaned me the boat, knowing that their future profits depended on me. If I fail, we all fail, and their hidden wealth will quickly disappear. Their kindness possesses a dual-edged blade. For accepting their help, I am promoting their lifestyles, yet I cannot refuse, or the world as we know it is lost. I left them as quickly as I could, rowing myself across the water in the darkest hours of the night. The rhythmic monotony gave me plenty of time to think. Again, I asked myself why I was doing this, and again, the small voice inside my head sounded. Was I on this quest out of duty, or love?

The voice cautioned me again. Don't talk of love. Well, I've heard the word before. Love. Powerful, even for only four letters. It sleeps in my memory, for my love has not come completely to me, and I won't disturb the slumber of feelings that have died. I tell myself if I never loved, I never would have cried when my love returned home. But I never would have known the joy of loving. Do I love the men I am set to rescue? I care for them, yes, and they are like brothers to me. So, I guess I do love them as brothers, and that thought carried me through the freezing winds whipping at my cloak, the snow as I cut across the lake, and the time it took me to reach the base of the cliff I must climb.

Now, I'm hanging here on the side of this atrocity, working my way up to a secret passage probably long forgotten, which may not work, to rescue men I consider brothers but did not realize the depth of my feelings for until now. I question my judgment now, halfway up, and my arms feel so tired. My leg muscles strain at the effort of keeping me here without the protection or support of ropes or spells, but I dare not make too much noise, lest I trigger an alarm sensitive to magic and sound.

My breath comes in gasps, quickly sucked away by a stronger wind at this height. It rips at my clothes, yanks at my pack, pulls at my hands, and makes me want to give up. Strange warmth starts to fill me, and the warmth makes sleepy. My arms are heavier, not wanting to hold my weight, and my legs, well; I don't think I can feel them anymore. I can't do this.

I look down. Didn't I swear I wouldn't do that? Drat. I start to close my eyes, but my vision catches sight of the big rock making the most noise as the surf pounds it. It stands there, season after season, continually beaten, but staying strong. It's a rock, not a living thing, but it fills me with a sense of purpose. I am a rock. I am an island of peace in the midst of a war. I can do this.

Renewed, I continue my climb, this time putting more energy into it, and pulling myself faster, instead of the slow rate I rose before. I am a rock, I am an island becomes my mantra, and a rock feels no pain. And an island never cries. So I am strong, and I will not feel pain and I will not cry, no matter how much it hurts. No matter how badly my muscles are burning, and my body aches. I will reach my friends, my brothers.

Before I know it, my mind starts going through the tomes I keep in my room, and I realize I have my books memorized in my thoughts, and my poetry to protect me. I am shielded in my armor, both the physical protection, and the imagery for my mind. They keep me company as I climb, verse and rhyme, adding to my mantra, giving me much needed strength. Right now, I touch no one, and no one touches me. No one, no thing, no force will keep me from completing my quest.

The rocks shift beneath my fingers, and the ledges start to widen. As I reach for the next one above me, I hear the sound of the surf beneath me echoing back at me, telling me that I have found the cavern I want. Slowly, carefully, I drag myself onto the flat, wide ledge, my mind already preparing an attack spell, consequences be damned, if someone challenges me.

My God blessed me, for no one was there, and it appeared no one from the fortress used this ledge in some time. The snow laid undisturbed, pristine white, except for where I lay my body on the edge. I allow myself a few moments of rest and recovery before pushing myself wearily to my feet. I decide against the spell, saving it for later, and cautiously pulled my weapon. I wait for my eyes to adjust to the darkness, and forgo the torch in my backpack beneath my cloak. I want no light to betray me, especially after my climb.

Slowly, carefully, I move forward, checking the entrance for any glyphs or wards that would trigger an alarm by entering. Dying now will not help anyone. I find none, so I continue on my way, my shoulders almost touching the cavern walls. I take care not to let that happen, but I do not want to stand in the middle of this expanse and allow the tiny amount of moonbeams to backlight me and show my form to anyone ahead.

Thank you, My God, for your generosity. No one and nothing waits for me at the warped wooden door at the end of this thirty-foot cavern, except a rusted padlock. One touch to the lock and it crumbles to dust, the moist sea air having rusted it completely through. I catch the bigger pieces, laying them on the ground beside the door. Do I yank the door open, knowing it will creak and echo, or do I risk a spell?

One hand touches the wood, and the wood itself crumbles under my fingers. Using this as a positive sign, I continue touching, letting the wood disintegrate until I have an opening wide enough for even my larger companions. As I step through the opening I have made, I feel confident no living person passed this way recently, or the spider population had experienced a sudden boom. Webs hang from the ceilings, walls, and all over. Using my weapon, I clear myself paths, planning to torch the entire cavern on my way back out to the boat. I'll wait until have my companions ahead of me, so the smoke will help delay our pursuers.

My trail continues through the cavern, and I turn right at the fork indicated on the scrolls. I follow that path to the end, coming to a stop at a wall. I hear voices. They are my brothers' voices, and joy fills my heart. I am so close now. How can I reach them? I take out the scrolls detailing the layout of the fortress, and light a small torch out of necessity. No alarm sounds, and this relieves me. Reading them, I see the secret passage marked on the scroll not five feet from my location. This passage will take me into the dungeon level of the fortress, built into the cliff, and the reason for the passage becomes clear to me now. They used the passage to throw the captives to their deaths.

I shudder, not wanting that fate for my friends, and continue studying the scrolls until I feel I have the majority of this level memorized. The torch burns out, and I do not bother to re-light it. I tuck the scroll away, and make my way as silently as possible to the secret passageway door. I listen hard for what seemed a long time, and heard no noise on the other side. Cautiously, I tripped the lever to open the door, and it opens with a groan.

I slink into the room, sliding along the wall, and find the lever to close it. I know where that can be found if I need it, but I don't trust these levers. They could shut at any time, or quit working. I didn't climb the cliff to be stopped because of a faulty lever.

As I look around, I realize that I will be spending the majority of my time at home, at least the first week, paying homage to my deity. My companions' equipment has been stored in here, and none of it appears searched too thoroughly. Well, Josiah's pack was tampered with, but I'm guessing the burn marks and blood are from the fool that opened my friend's pack without checking for warning runes.

With my heart pounding loudly in my ears, I wait and listen. No one approaches, but I hear my companions speaking quietly amongst themselves. The sounds of their conversation add to my elation, and I make sure I hear six familiar voices before continuing. I tiptoe from this room, and walk to the end of the hallway near me. Hanging on the wall, I spy a set of keys that - I hope - open the heavy metal doors confining my friends. I take the keys, making a minimum of noise, but someone hears me.

A raspy voice calls out, "It's not morning yet, so I'm not helping you kill me now."

I say nothing, but I move so that they cannot see me as I near the small window cut into the door of their cell.

"You hear? I've still got time left."

I listen to him stand and move to the door, looking out the square cut in the stone. A few metal bars block him from sticking any part of his body out of the square, but I rejoice in the sight of a face I thought I would never see again. I jump in front of him, a big grin on my face, and I say, "More than you thought, unless you want to keep blocking the door and don't be quiet."

His face registered his surprise, and I swear I saw a light enter those blue eyes. "Get us out of here. I hate being closed in."

I open the door, and I find my brothers all there, and in relatively healthy condition. Long ago, we all learned the rudiments of tending each other, and I am pleased to see that they used the lessons taught on that long ago day. "Come on," I say, pointing for the other room. "We have to go, and go now, if you want to leave."

They help each other up, and I can see they're weakened from lack of food and water. I lead them to their equipment, and that's when I check them over.

I start with the bard, for he looks the most abused of all of them. Someone lights a torch, and I see the pain in those green eyes. "Let me help," I say.

He nods, letting me close enough to use my magic on him. It takes a bit of my strength, but I feel my temporary loss of strength in return for his health ranks as a good trade. Once I'm done, he smiles. "I thank you for your timely rescue. It appears that I am in your debt, and I will work to remedy that situation once we leave this horrid place."

"Just forget about the gold pieces I owe you, and we'll call it even." I smile back at him. He swallows hard, thinking about losing that money, but it's only for a moment. I think it's all for show, anyway. Ezra's a stickler for appearances. He thinks that neither he nor I have no need for friendship, for friendship causes pain, and it's laughter and it's loving we disdain. We are both rocks and islands in our own ways, which makes us similar, yet our philosophies are so different.

"Done, my friend. Gladly done." Ezra starts checking his equipment, and I see that he finds the hidden compartment of gold in his pack. He thinks I don't know about that, but I found out one day when I wondered where all his gold came from.

I won't tell him I know, but at least he's got some money left. We'll need it to get home. I ask, "Who's next?"

"Take care of JD, Nathan. He got between me and one of those nasties." Buck pushed the young fighter toward me, and I could see the fighter about to turn on one of his mentors.

"JD," I say softly.

He turns to me.

"Cassandrea worries about you. I don't think I want to face her and Seer Nettina with your corpse."

"She said that?" Hopeful eyes look at me.

I nod sagely. "In her own fashion. Now, let me heal you."

He comes over to me, and I give him more of my strength, and the strength that My God has given me. JD gives me a warm pat on the back in thanks, and then finds his equipment, starting to attach his armor and weapons.

"Tend Buck next." This command comes from the man hidden in the shadows, his face away from me. I will see to him after the gallant, experienced knight Sir Buck, for I know the dark knight's tricks.

"I will, but you will follow." I say this to the dark knight.

"I'm well, Healer."

"You do not bend the truth well, Chris."

"I'm not."

Vin shoved Chris a little, just enough to knock him off balance. "You are, but I'll go after you just to make you feel better."

And that, as they say, was that; I would tend Buck, then Chris, and then Vin.

Buck dropped to his knees by me, giving me a better look at the poorly bandaged arrow hole in his shoulder, and the two grazes along his upper left arm. One side of his face looked particularly bruised, but I know that's only superficial damage. Besides, the women of the village would fawn over him once he returned in this condition.

I say the words, filling my friend with my strength, healing his wounds with my touch. I then cast another spell, curing him of any disease that he might have encountered or developed from his wounds during his time away from me, because his wounds showed signs of infection. I will do this for the others tomorrow, but I cannot do it now because I must rest and pray to gain that ability.

He stands, giving me a broad smile, and tells me that he'll take care of me in the near future. I wonder what he means, but the black knight now shoulders him out of the way with a devil-may-care grin.

"Get this over with, and then we can destroy this place."

"Destroy? I planned on an escape, not a destruction." I stare at the man in amazement.

"Things have changed, Nathan. They called a council of the entire force, so all but the scout parties have assembled here tonight. We destroy the fortress, and the threat's gone. The sooner we do that, the sooner we can go home."

"Trust his wisdom, brother, for he has the way of it. This place must come down, and we will take it down, no matter the cost to ourselves." Josiah straightened his robes, brushing ineffectively at the dirt, but the sense of duty and purpose showed strong in his erect posture.

"They won't be expecting it, especially if they're celebrating tonight." Vin notched an arrow in his long bow, checking the weapon for any defects. He carefully set the finely crafted weapon down for a moment. His long hair fell almost to his waist, and the riot of waves softened his harsh expression. He yanked the top of it back and secured it with a leather thong from his pack, making sure the front part never fell in his eyes or blocked his vision.

I realize at that moment that my friends will help me, and I am no longer alone against this threat. That fills me with purpose, with strength, and I am able to heal Chris almost to overflowing.

When Vin stands by me, I feel My God give me additional power, letting me bring him back to almost perfect health as well. I'm drained, but not completely. I still have a few tricks left.

Rummaging in my backpack, I hand a bottle to my dearest friend, letting him drink deeply. The potion of healing does its work well, and the bloom of health starts to return to him. That's when I explain what I planned.

"I have three potions of feather falling, which will make your descent to the bottom of the cliff very easy. Each potion carries three doses, so we will need to share the bottles.At the base of the cliff, tucked between three rocks, I have hidden a large boat under a tarp for our use."

"Josiah? You up to this?" Chris turns to the magic user, who will be the cornerstone of our attack. His ability to call forth the powers of fire, electricity, and meteor swarms will help us in our endeavor, but it will drain him considerably.

Silently, I hand him another healing potion, and he thanks me. We all know that mages are the first targets of fighters, because the mages are usually not as physically strong because of the power drain on their bodies. Josiah's different, but he has been a captive for a few days. That weakens any man, mage or not.

Chris plans our attack, using the maps I provided to find the quickest and quietest way to the banquet hall, and from there we'll start. There will be mass casualties, and I know this, but we must stop these enemies to our way of life. Vin, Chris, and Buck will protect Josiah, while I come behind them and heal them if they are hurt. We will make our initial attack, and then we will leave this way, setting off fireballs and destroying the foundation of this fortress from the inside out. It will crumble, and fall into the sea, taking the denizens of this hell with it.

We move out, everyone with weapons drawn, Vin leading the way and Chris right behind him. I'm in the rear with Josiah, JD holding our flank for us. His job will be to make sure that we keep a way out. Ezra taps me on the shoulder, and I understand his message. Both of us stop the others, and the spells start.

First, Josiah casts spells from the scrolls kept in his pack, spells that will make everyone, including him, harder to hit, Second, he hands Ezra a magical wand, one that will ignite fireballs when controlled by the right hands. Ezra's hands are strong and steady, so he will take good care of this when the time comes. I begin my prayers to My God, requesting that we have a better chance to strike our enemies, and they will have a harder time hurting us.

Ezra tunes his mandolin, and his job will be to play and sing during the worst of the combat. His song will inspire us, and his music will make us fight better. Our path takes us through the bowels of the fortress, coming to a stop at the service entrance to the banquet hall. When we reach the outer doors, we take a moment for ourselves. We stand in a shoulder-to-shoulder circle, one hand reaching into the center, and piling on top of each other until a strong stack of fourteen hands held true.

"To us," I say.

"To Brothers," Josiah says, changing the wording.

A soft chorus of seven voices said "To Brothers" in unison, and I felt My God's touch. Our eyes met, and I would have sworn a sense of electricity rushed through us all, connecting and binding us together for all time. The moment passed, and our handclasp broke.

Vin and Chris opened the doors at Josiah's signal, and a massive swarm of meteorites flew from Josiah's fingers to deal immense, if not fatal damage to those inside. The magic user could not do this earlier, for they bound and gagged him, and deprived him of the components needed for the spells. Without the components, even being able to move and talk would not help him create this swarm. Their oversight of leaving the spell components with his belongings signed many a death warrant this day. Cries, yells, and shrieks of alarm rose from the assembled invaders, and they tried to find the source of the spell.

The ranger took advantage of the confusion, using his bow to lethal effect whenever a leader rose up to control the chaos. The leaders died one at a time, letting the troops fall into disorganization.

The closest invaders to the Seven tried attacking, but Chris and Buck met their charge, letting the ranger continue his more effective killing spree with his bow. The two knightly friends held the line against the numbers, and the additional spells we activated before entering helped make them even stronger. Blows that should have landed on them did not, and hits they made that should have missed found their target.

Ezra strummed his mandolin, and I'm inspired. I stand behind Buck, giving him healing while he fights, and he continues to stand long after many of the blows should have taken him down. I do the same for Chris, alternating what's left of my spells and strength.

Josiah rains fireballs throughout the chamber, and the burning stench of flesh reaches us, almost overpowering in the intensity. JD keeps our back covered, also sending arrows into the melee in front of Chris and Buck.

Ezra stops strumming, switching to the wand when it appears the numbers will overwhelm Buck and Chris. He clears a path, lessening the amount of invaders charging them. Chris and Vin slam the doors shut, letting Josiah place an exploding rune on the doors. We leave before the invaders activate the runes, which will inflict more damage once they open the double doors.

Our flight from the fortress went quickly, me giving Josiah someone lean on as he continued throwing high-powered spells to weaken the structure. Ezra used the fireballs from the wand carefully, making sure he did not cook us along with the foundation, and we reached the dungeon level.

Once there, the smoke nearly overcomes us, for it followed us through the burning wreckage of this once great fortress. We all cover our mouths and noses, and the dark knight stands beside Ezra.

"Let's finish it."


Side by side, they wait while the rest of us escape into the caverns and take our potions. We pause before we leap off the cliff. I turn to watch. The flames tell the story better than I could, and I watched two figures silhouetted in orange charging their way toward us.

Chris downs his portion of the potion, passing it to Ezra, and the bard quickly drinks while they run.

They reach us, and we all grab hands. As one, we leapt from the ledge, letting the gravity carry us softly and gently down to the waiting beach. The potion's effects saved ourlives, and cut precious time off our escape. We held each other so no one drifted off into the surf, and somehow, we all landed on the beach.

I led them to the boat and removed the tarp. That's when Ezra handed the wand to Josiah. "The honor is yours."

Josiah took it, climbing into the vessel, while Chris and Buck grabbed the oars. JD and Vin took up their bows, prepared to shoot anything that showed itself, and we left the cove.

I'll tell you coming in with the water by myself was easier than going out against it heavily laded with men and their equipment. Chris and Buck struggled mightily against the waters, and Ezra's mandolin helped them persevere. Once we were clear of the dragging tide, Josiah stood in the center of the boat and let loose with a barrage of orange balls of flame, engulfing the fortress and surrounding cliffs, the likes of which I have never seen before and will likely never see again.

The entire fortress burned, and as the incredible heat brought the place down, we watched with only the accompaniment of Ezra's mandolin. No one spoke, letting the melody fill the boat, and we took turns rowing our way back to the settlement.

It was over, the invaders all but destroyed, and the last pockets of them easily detained or destroyed by the king's guard. We reached the settlement, but chose not to stop. I showed them the route I took there, and we found ourselves at the place I stabled my horse by the time the sun reached its zenith.

We rested in shifts. All of us suffered from exhaustion, and desperately needed to recuperate. Once we finished our rotation of watches while everyone slept and gathered our equipment, we used Ezra's money to purchase horses for the others and continued on our way. Our homecoming was a blessed event, and as I promised, I spent my first few days on my knees at the altar giving thanks.

Ezra made our story into a splendid tale, and he gave me the role of hero. It's not a role I would ask for myself, but he insisted, as I faced more danger getting to them than they did in captivity.

Every once in a while, though, I get to thinking about that rock, and what it meant to me. I searched the area, and I found one of the same color and shape, but significantly smaller, and it sits proudly in my home. Whenever I'm down or depressed, I remind myself that I have friends, and I am a rock.


A winter's day
In a deep and dark December
I am alone,
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow
I am a rock, I am an island

I've built walls
A fortress deep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need for friendship
Friendship causes pain,
It's laughter and it's loving I disdain
I am a rock, I am an island

Don't talk of love
Well, I've heard the words before
It's sleeping in my memory
I won't disturb the slumber of feelings
That have died
If I never loved, I never would have cried
I am a rock, I am an island

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room
Safe within my womb
I touch no one
And no one touches me
I am a rock, I am an island

And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries

I Am A Rock
- Simon and Garfunkel

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