Heather stood at the outside of the blacksmith’s shop, her thoughts a total mess. She had elected to wait outside, letting Janus return the rope they had borrowed. The last thing she wanted to do was to explain to someone what had happened. And she knew that the friendly blacksmith would ask her questions of what she actually did with the rope.
The door creaked open, Janus coming out down the steps.
“Did he take it?”
Janus nodded. He looked a bit somber himself, as if the joy had been wiped from his face. That look alone made Heather’s heart ache, hanging her head as she shuffled along behind him.
The two kids started their voyage back home. The late afternoon had been quiet, as if it had no clue as to what had happened at the well earlier.
“Janus…I-” she began softly.
“Yeah?” He looked up at her.
Heather looked like she would cry. She grabbed him in a hug, squeezing him tightly as the tears flowed.
“I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” She sobbed.
Janus was speechless, slowly embracing Heather back as she went on.
“I got you into trouble, you nearly fell and were gone for good….All because of me. And I feel so rotten and bad about it.”
Janus didn’t respond, his grip loosening as he looked up at Heather.
“Heather, It’s okay. I…it’s okay.”
He wormed out of her embrace, patting her hand before starting to walk again.
“Maybe Mom can make you some coffee and it’ll make you feel better.”
“Yeah.” It came out as a hoarse whisper. Heather wiped her eyes with the back of her sleeve.
She continued on, shoulders hunched and hands thrust deep in to her apron pockets. Nothing seemed to make the hurt and mistakes that she made go away.
She had worked so hard to foster something good with someone she liked and trusted. Now she was afraid that she’d lose it. Would Janus keep his mouth shut? What would Elizabeth do to her? Would Janus ever trust her again?
“You still have that rock, right?”
Heather’s head snapped up, caught off guard by his question. That was the last thing she expected to hear from him.
“Of course. Here,” she stammered. Heather tugged the quartz-like formation out of her pocket, handing it over to Janus.
Janus turned the crystal over in his hands. Even in the bright daylight, the glow was still faintly visible. He shook it a few times before holding it out back to her.
“I don’t know a whole lot about stuff like this, but it reminds me of something Melvina described when I was on my voyage.”
“What do you think it is?” Heather’s curiosity perked up a little, a hand reaching forward to gingerly poke it.
“I think it’s probably Ennol’s Fire.”
Heather took the crystal back, carefully putting it back in her apron. The name was completely lost on her, but the way Janus had said it, the rock was something revered or valued. She patted the pocket’s exterior to make sure it was safe, sidling closer to him.
“What’s that? Something rare?”
“Something like that. I don’t think its worth a whole lot or has a real practical use. But from what I understand, it only comes from one place; the lower Fire layer.”
She most definitely knew what that was. Below the clouds of their supposed paradise, the world got more dangerous and more inhospitable. The Fire layer was the most extreme layer that man had ever made it to and survived to tell the tale. It was filled with numerous storms, an almost pitch black night and liquid iron that rained down into the further depths.
“So someone got that and brought it here. How’d it get to the bottom of the well?” Heather was puzzled.
Janus shook his head.
“I don’t think that’s what happened. Melvina said something important regarding that; sometimes people can find Ennol’s Fire inside the upper islands. She said it means that before the islands rose up here and were able to support life as we know it, that it was a sign that they had been formed down in the Fire layer. Or deeper.”
Heather’s jaw slacked, in disbelief of how informatively Janus explained what the rock meant. Here she was thinking it was some strange treasure just prized for it glowing; within a minute of his information, it had totally changed the view of her whole world.
She stared down at her feet, then about herself at all the land of Ellowwood. She tried to imagine it as a large barren rock floating in the hellish underworld, eventually arriving here to have the current life flourish on it.
“I’m just a little amazed a young boy like you knows all of that.” Heather had a prominent blush on her face in admiration.
“I’m not that little. I’ll be eleven soon.”
“I know. Mom’s voyage across the sky taught me a whole lot of new things. I seem like an average boy on the outside, but I’m a little bit more extraordinary than I appear.” He had a teasing smile, refusing to tell her anything else.
“I don’t suppose you have some insight on that…thing, huh?” Her voice wavered, eyes darting frantically to check his response.
Janus’ face grew cold momentarily, shuddering a little.
“I – I don’t. Nothing explains how something like that would be there. I never saw or heard about anything like that before.” Janus glanced to the side of the path to make sure it was only them around.
“Why did you want to go looking around there in the first place?” The way Janus looked at Heather made her want to go hide under a rock.
“I had a dream about the place.” It was a meek answer but the truth.
Heather nodded, relating to him the dream and how she kept having it for over a week. And then the urge to find that location in her dream to solve herself.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
Heather stopped, looking like she could cry again.
“I was afraid you wouldn’t help me. Or you would be scared and not go. Or even go tell your mother that I’m crazy.”
“I guess I can’t blame you. I wasn’t too close to you to trust you, or you to trust me. But we could’ve been smarter about the whole thing. Maybe even get Tau’mi to help us. It actually is a disaster if you think about it.”
“I’m sorry…” she repeated. “I…I don’t know what else to say.”
The tears flowed from her eyes as her eyes as she stood in place. All the words and memories that Elizabeth had drummed in her head seemed moot at this point. She was being faced with the realization that she actually liked Janus. Now it was hurting her that things weren’t well between them.
Janus stopped, turning around and staring at her for a moment. He walked over, slowly taking a hold of her hand.
“I know you don’t want to hear it, but I think we need to tell Mom.”
His grasp made her heart calm, but not his words. “But-”
“Something’s going on with you, Heather. I don’t really know what it is. You come to our house banging on the door saying that there’s monsters attacking you. The next day your house isn’t there and your dad vanished into thin air. Then you get a repeating dream about a rare rock and a monster underground.”
He shook his head in disbelief, drawing in a deep breath.
“You need to trust us and tell us what’s going on. Otherwise we’ll never be able to help you.”
Heather nodded, a bit shell-shocked at his response. It was…so serious. She couldn’t fathom how this was the same boy washing dishes that morning.
“You need to confront what’s going on with you and come clean. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for me. Okay?”
His face had softened, looking a bit more calm. She sniffled, holding onto his hand tightly as he started to walk once again. She stayed close, refusing to let go.
“I guess its obvious, huh?” A smile finally broke on her face.
Janus smiled, his own cheeks darkening a bit.
“It is. At least Tau’mi and Mom keep a straight face about it. You blunder and blush like crazy.”
“Oh, stop it, you.” Heather admitted sheepishly, turning her face away.
Janus giggled at her reaction, shaking his head.
“See, what did I say? Red cheeks. Look at yourself.”
She couldn’t help but to smile in spite of herself. Heather dreaded the talk that would occur when they got home, but it already seemed that a part of her troubles had been lifted. For the first time in ages, she felt that life actually had something special for her.
“C’mon. Let’s go home.”