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Stepping Stones
Carolyn Ann Aish
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Forced to leave her sister in a dungeon, Michela goes with her guardian’s to take part in the ‘King’s Test.’ Does the king really believe she can spin straw into gold?

Michela denounces the ‘King’s Test’ as a charade. Will she find death, or will she find love?

The insulting voice bellowed again, causing everyone to pause in their various tasks for a second or two.

"Stand over there out of my way! No, not there; over there where I can see you." Lord Beric waved the back of his hand as the two girls pirouetted away from him. "There! That’ll do. Now, stay there, both of you, until I tell you to move!"

Seven-year-old Sarah clung tightly to her older sister Michela’s dress as if her life depended upon not letting go. The frightened girl hid her face in the folds of the fabric, feeling comforted by the familiar warmth and protection.

Although nearly nineteen, Michela was just as afraid as Sarah was, but in a different way. She felt she was living one of Sarah’s nightmares. Michela had never suffered a nightmare, but from Sarah’s descriptions, this was what it would be like. In numbness and confusion, Michela kept thinking, This can’t be happening; this is not happening to us!

Standing stiffly amidst the disordered activity, Michela--in her black dress--looked like a princess in mourning. Her long golden-brown hair, arranged simply around the back of her head, was perfectly in place as she fixed her blue-green eyes on the distant wall. Michela’s pale face was inscrutable; no one would have believed this chaos was her home.

Beric strode to her, rattling a bunch of keys in her face, asking, "Which is the treasury key?"

Without replying, and with trembling fingers, Michela selected the right one.

"It better be!" he said grimly, swaggering across the marble floor, his boots scuffing due to his erratic gait. Almost as wide as he was tall, his shock of brown-gray hair looked like a worn chimney brush. It perched atop a huge kettle-shaped ruddy face bristling with forests of eyebrows, nose-hair, and thick moustache. Shaven pats of round features drooped between his large ears, which again sprouted stiff thick hair from the ear-holes themselves. His wide red bulbous nose and huge protruding belly spoke of one who drank alcohol and ate rich food to excess.

Some minutes later, Michela recognized two coffers--a chest and a box--carried out of the castle to be loaded onto the carts waiting in the courtyard. Guards stood, alert, their weapons at the ready as though expecting an ambush. The coins inside the coffers were tax-monies, collected from the extensive estates surrounding the castle, taxes due to be paid to the king. The chest contained the family jewels, and the box held various articles that had been greatly valued by Michela’s father, Lord Raynor.

There was nothing Michela could do. This man, Lord Beric, while claiming to be her guardian, was taking everything of value from their home. And Michela knew she had no right of argument, either with Beric’s documents or with the considerable army that had ridden through the gates with Beric at its head.

Sarah turned to watch as valuable tapestries and vases were removed and carried outside.

"Oh, Daddy, Daddy; how could you leave us? Why did you die? You cannot help us... and we need you," the girl moaned. Tears drizzled down Sarah’s face, and without thinking, she licked them as they ebbed at the sides of her mouth.

Michela’s frayed emotions were beyond lamenting her father’s sudden death. Was it just yesterday that Lord Raynor’s horsemen had carried him from the forest and taken him in a coffin to the castle chapel where he lay in state? How unprepared she had felt for such bad news. But how can one ever be prepared for…death? Michela wondered sadly. How shocked she had been, but no tears had come. She wondered why she had not cried. I will never cry, she told herself. Our father left us in such debt to... that man... Beric. How could Father have done this to us? Why did he not tell me? How could he sign that document, giving Beric rights over Sarah and me and the castle if something unforeseen happened? Father should never have trusted a man like that... but perhaps... perhaps... I did not know my father...

Carolyn Ann Aish was born Carolyn Ann Gundesen, in the town of Waitara, Taranaki, New Zealand, in 1948. She grew up New Plymouth, and now resides in Inglewood beneath the spectacular Taranaki Mountain.

Carolyn earned a place in the 1996 Guinness Book of Records (music section, page 144) for the longest hymn published, "Sing God's Song". This is also listed in the 2003 Guinness World Records book.

Carolyn’s series, "The Frencolian Chronicles," enjoys rave reviews, creating an on going following for Carolyn's work. Carolyn currently has over 40 books published.

Among the many series Carolyn has written for children is "The Nine Lives of Rastus," based on the lives of Max Corkill and his beloved cat, Rastus. KIND HEART is Carolyn’s first published book for adults.

O to have a faith like Sarah's. So often we think that the trials we are going through are unnecessary, but if only we keep our faith like Sarah, we will come out the winner and will be stronger. Stepping Stones has been an encouragement to me in that though others are watching for us to make mistakes, we can keep on. -- Thirza Elizabeth Dew

STEPPING STONES is so exciting and wrenching that it can't be put it down. I'm really interested to know what happened to Michela and Sarah's father's castle and the treasures. What became of Elisabet and Alfena? A fantastic story which I enjoyed, now I need the next. -- Wendy Shaw

Fiction Books :: Coming of Age Books

ISBN: 1590888685
ISBN(13-digit): 9781590888681
Copyright: 2008
Book Publisher: Wings ePress
Binding: Perfect
No. of Pages: 176
Paper Weight (lb): 7.8

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