Amethyst Skull Book One–Sample Chapter:

 

Chapter 1-

The Dolphin’s Prophecy

 

Open your hand, commanded the priest.

The crystal felt alive in my palm, or was it the silver chain swinging back and forth between my fingers?

Sit down, he uttered in the same deep monotone.

I sat cross-legged in the dirt, aware of the hundred pairs of eyes surrounding me. Off in the distance, the crystal dome shone down on us all. Instinctively, I placed the blunt end of the crystal on my forehead and closed my eyes. Then the priest began to chant.

That was the last thing I remember. Only a pure white light remained, while the sensation in my body was like being touched by our neighbors, the angels, whose gentleness always thrilled me from head to toe. Otherwise, I felt miles away—from our village, from Altea, and from everything I had come to know in my sixteen years of life.

I also don’t remember how long I was ‘gone’, or my letting the crystal drop, or even when the priest stopped his chanting. What I recall was seeing the crystal sparkle in my open palm again. This time, it was everyone else who appeared lost to the world around them. The faces of my family, my friends—everyone in our village—had turned either pale or blank. Even the stern-looking Malachite priest, who usually showed no visible sign of emotion, stood with his mouth half-open.

When I examined everyone’s eyes, I noticed they had turned toward the deep night sky and a triple rainbow, which had mysteriously appeared around the moon.

 

***

 

I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have started like this. It’s just that I’ve never used my rebirth crystal to record anything before, and I’m excited to tell you everything that happened in the days and weeks following my rebirthday.

I suppose I ought to start again, or you’ll be as lost as I was the first time I placed the crystal on my forehead and fell into the light.

My name is Aaron—named after my deceased father.

I only know of his death because I overheard Aunt Kate speaking with Uncle Jonas late one night, discussing how he was killed in a battle during the last war on Earth.

The next morning, I asked my dog Blackie what a ‘battle’ was, as well as a ‘war’, because I had never heard of either one before, but he only raised his ears and pawed the ground as if he didn’t know.

But I’m heading in the wrong direction, when I really wanted to tell you what happened after my rebirthday. So let me start again…

 

***

 

Why is it asymmetrical? I wondered.

I examined the crystal’s uneven edges in the sun, which beat down mercilessly on the beach.

I turned the crystal over to examine its other side.

And what’s this? I don’t remember seeing these marks before. It looks like the figure of a man. But it’s not. It’s more like a star. Yes, that’s it—a star with one—two—three—four—five rays.

I let the crystal drop against my breastbone where it rebounded heavily.

Too heavy for me to get used to, I thought. Not at all like the more slender crystals of my friends. I wonder if it has anything to do with my less graceful body?

I hated admitting being stockier than the other boys in the village, so I stopped thinking about the crystal and turned my attention to my reflection in the undulating water beside the jetty.

Yes—my aunt’s eyes, like a new leaf in spring, and my family’s unruly red hair, already tangled by the wind and turned blond by the summer sun.

Then my gaze was broken by a tingling sensation that started down my left arm and ended at my fingers.

Something unusual is about to happen, I thought—something good.

The tingling stopped and started down my right arm.

“Or something bad,” I said out loud.

I looked toward the shoreline but saw nothing out of place. The long white beach still stretched toward the ocean in a brilliant arc. The shade along the cave-strewn bluff still looked as invitingly cool as it always did on a hot summer’s day. Soft curls of blue-white smoke rose gently in the distance—not unusual, given this was the time of day when everyone in our village began cooking their midday meal. No—nothing out of place.

Then suddenly, the water’s glassy surface broke exactly where I had been gazing a moment before, and the slender white snout of a dolphin appeared.

His ivory skin shone like polished marble around his two black eyes as he swam within inches of my face.

My dear child, he said, soon you will rid your people of the darkness and become someone great.

I stared at him in disbelief.

What darkness? I asked telepathically.

I glanced from the sun-drenched beach to the cloudless sky and back, wondering what the dolphin meant. Instead of answering, he sank beneath the surface and vanished into the shimmering blue depths.

I scanned the shoreline again for whatever ‘darkness’ he might have been referring to.

He couldn’t have meant Blackie, could he? I wondered. He’s dark, but he isn’t made of darkness.

“Blackie?!” I shouted in my excitement, but my voice was lost in a gust of wind.

Feeling my heart pounding in my chest, I remembered my rebirth crystal resting there. I raised it to my forehead and saw Blackie exploring the interior of a cave along the bluff, sniffing in each of its abandoned corners before raising his ears at the sound of my voice. Next, I scanned the emerald-green water off the side of the jetty, but I only saw a few brightly-colored fish feeding languidly in the shallows.

Then I felt something jump on my back, knocking me forward.

I caught myself on a rock. Spinning around, I saw Blackie retreat a few feet away.

Nice try, I said, but I’m not planning on taking another swim this morning!

Blackie sat with his tongue lolling over his pearl-white teeth, though I caught a glint of disappointment in his eyes at having failed to push me in the water.

Before I could repeat what the dolphin had said, he read it from my mind.

We’ve got to tell your aunt and uncle right away! He sprinted toward the beach. Come on! I’ll race you to the harvest!

Blackie never spoke out loud, like I sometimes did when I was excited or upset, and I had never bothered to learn his canine howls and whimpers. Like the rest of the inhabitants of my village, we communicated with our minds. Still, I hesitated to leave my comfortable perch.

But why do we need to leave? I asked. We still have the rest of the day to explore, don’t we? I waved at the ocean. And who knows what other creatures are out there that may have something to tell me?

Blackie shook his head vehemently.

Come on! he said. There’s no time to lose! And his voice reminded me so much of Remus, the grumpiest dog in the village, that I followed him without further argument.

 

***

 

The soles of my feet, as hard as the jetty after running barefoot all summer, barely registered where the sand turned to gravel and dirt. As I shifted directions toward the field where everyone was harvesting that day, a ray of light glanced off the distant crystal dome and struck me in the face. Before I could stop, I ran into someone’s chest.

We both fell backward—him more heavily than me.

Can’t you see where you’re going?! he demanded.

It was Donovan Surefoot, my uncle’s best friend.

Why not use that rebirth crystal of yours if you’re going to run around with your eyes closed, young man?! he grumbled. Maybe then you might see where you’re going!

His wife, Alice, helped him stand.

I wouldn’t blame the boy, she scolded. Especially when you take up the entire path yourself! And I wouldn’t say such unkind things about his rebirth crystal, either. After all, it’s only one day after the gifting ceremony, and he’s barely had a chance to use it.

As I pointed toward the sunlight glancing off the crystal dome and started to explain, their daughter, Jenny, grabbed me by the hands and danced with me in a circle.

Happy rebirthday, Aaron! she laughed. Now take me to the beach like you promised, and you can tell me everything you’ve learned from your new crystal!

Blackie darted back and forth on her other side, while I tried to think of an excuse to leave.

I need to speak to Aunt Kate and Uncle Jonas, I said. I have something important to tell them.

But you’re supposed to be spending the day with your new crystal! Jenny’s face fell in disappointment. You never know what special things you’ll discover, and you promised you’d tell me everything!

Yes, you must tell Jenny everything you’ve learned so far, added Alice. A triple rainbow around the moon must mean something unusual is about to happen—

—or already has, Donovan broke in with a penetrating stare.

I was tempted to tell them what the dolphin had said, but Blackie shook his head even more vehemently than before, so I mumbled something about needing to run off, and raced to join him.

You won’t find your aunt and uncle where you’re heading, Aaron! Alice shouted after me.

They’re not at the harvest with the others! The last we saw of them, they were heading home!

They must already know about the dolphin, I thought.

Shifting directions, I headed toward the curls of blue-white smoke that were gathering over the village.

 

***

 

As I reached the front gate of our one-story house, I noticed the round green face of an elf appear from behind a rosebush.

His pointed hat was angled so impossibly off the side of his head I was surprised it didn’t fall on the ground.

A most happy rebirthday to you, dear boy! he smiled. Now won’t you help me? It just rained, and I can’t decide which flowers need the raindrops the most. The roses are all crying at once, as you can hear—which isn’t unusual for roses. They’re the most spoiled flowers in the garden! Not at all like the others that wait their turn!

I crossed the narrow bridge that led to our front door.

I’ll be back, I replied. I have something important I need to tell my aunt and uncle.

When I turned to gauge his reaction, I noticed his smile had vanished.

Is that a real promise? he frowned. I don’t want you to disappoint me like you’ve done with all those fake ones in the past.

I recalled the many promises I’d made to him since he became our garden elf and hoped my turning sixteen didn’t mean I had to keep them all.

I promise on all the flowers in the garden, I replied.

His smile instantly reappeared.

Just the roses is enough, he replied. There are one thousand two hundred and eighteen of them, to be exact, and I—

I disappeared past the door without letting him finish.

 

***

 

Uncle Jonas and Aunt Kate were waiting for me in the kitchen. The light from the window fell at their feet in a luminous carpet. Uncle Jonas twirled the corners of his grey moustache, while Aunt Kate kept her deep-blue eyes steadily on my own.

I sensed that Blackie was sitting in the shadows by the door, listening intently.

“What happened at the beach?” Uncle Jonas asked, stepping forward.

“Yes—what did the dolphin say?” Aunt Kate added anxiously.

They were using words, not telepathy, which meant they were either excited or upset.

“The dolphin?” I squinted across the room to see if I could gauge how much they knew, but the sun passed behind a cloud, and the shadow hid their faces.

“You met an albino dolphin along the jetty, didn’t you?” asked my uncle.

They must have used their crystals, I thought.

“Please tell us what he said,” he prompted.

I shrugged, trying not to appear too full of myself when I replied.

“He said I would rid my people of the darkness and become someone great.” I glanced from my uncle’s shadowed face to my aunt’s keen blue eyes, expecting to see a sign of relief. Instead, I saw their brows furrow even more than before.

“When did he say this would happen?” my aunt asked nervously.

“Soon,” I replied, “that’s all.”

I looked from one to the other.

“I’ve never seen an albino dolphin before,” I said. “Are there a lot of them in the ocean?”

They didn’t seem to hear my question. They had turned toward each other and were conversing with their eyes. I couldn’t hear them inside of me, either. I was being blocked.

“Darling.” My aunt finally said. “Why don’t you run outside and help Tiberius with the roses like you promised? They need the rainwater, and I’d rather it be them than the tulips. I’m sure the garden fairies won’t mind, since tulips need less water this time of year.”

I didn’t budge.

“Aren’t you happy about what the dolphin said?” I asked.

“Of course we are.” She looked toward my uncle.

“Yes, of course,” my uncle added, but he had turned the other way, so his expression was even more hidden than before.

I waved for Blackie to join me, but he was already on the other side of the bridge, telling Tiberius I was on my way.

 

***

 

I closed the front door to our house, but before I crossed the bridge to the garden, I doubled back.

After hiding behind a tree, I raised my rebirth crystal to my forehead.

It’s too soon. I heard my aunt’s voice clearly in my mind.

I watched my uncle pace from one side of the kitchen to the other.

Too soon? He stopped. What about his brother? Was that too soon? He was less than a day old when the darkness—

Please! my aunt broke in. I don’t need to be reminded of that terrible day—especially now that Aaron’s life is in danger!

I’m sorry. My uncle reached out to grasp her hand. I won’t say anything more about it. He paused. Then again, I don’t think the darkness cares how old a boy is once it decides to kill him. It’s more a matter of when it finds out what the dolphin said, and it’s clear we haven’t much time before it does.

My aunt wiped a tear from her eyes.

Maybe you’re right, she said. Maybe it’s time.

 

***

 

I felt Tiberius’ tiny feet stomp on my shoulder and let my crystal drop to my chest.

Embarrassed, are we?! He shook his head. Eavesdropping on your aunt and uncle like a bad, bad boy?! You ought to be ashamed of the way you’re using your newly gifted crystal! His frown stretched from one side of his round green face to the other. Why, if I had one of those crystals to myself, I’d— He glanced at the sky. But the rainclouds have started moving out to sea, and you promised to help me water the roses, remember?

I headed over the bridge.

Where’s Blackie? I asked, seeing he was gone.

Tiberius jumped from my shoulder onto a rosebush where he bounced up and down.

Digging a hole in the herb garden like he promised the garden fairies he would do, he replied. Such a good, good dog! He frowned at me. And such a bad, bad boy!

I need to speak to him right away! I exclaimed.

I ran toward the herb garden before Tiberius could raise one of his long green fingers in objection.

But the roses! The roses! he cried.

 

***

 

I stopped where Blackie was kicking clumps of dirt into the air—most of them landing near a group of translucent butterfly-like fairies, who dodged a few stray clumps that flew too close.

I know what Aunt Kate and Uncle Jonas were talking about, I said.

Blackie stopped digging and looked up from his hole.

You mean about whether the roses or the tulips need the raindrops the most? he asked.

No, I replied. My brother didn’t drown like they told me. He died because some sort of darkness killed him, and I’m sure it was the same darkness the dolphin spoke about this afternoon!

 

***

 

I lay awake till late that night. I couldn’t sleep. How could I, thinking about what Aunt Kate and Uncle Jonas had said about my brother?

My dear, dear brother! He never drowned. They had lied to me. He was murdered. But by what? What darkness of any sort would murder an innocent child? And was it really the same darkness the dolphin spoke about at the jetty? It had to be. Darkness is darkness, after all.

I looked through my window toward the crystal dome that sparkled on the tallest peak of the Altean Mountains. Next, I placed my rebirth crystal on my forehead and asked about my brother, but my mind remained blank.

My friends were right, I thought. These crystals were only helpful when it came to everyday stuff, like eavesdropping on our parents and finding things we had lost, but when it came to the bigger questions in life, they were as useless as a block of stone.

I let mine drop on the pillow beside me.

Not being very good at imagining things—especially my flesh and blood brother—I turned on my side and slept.

(end of sample chapter)