The Tale of the Stone Heart

A bit of commanding lore about Rowan sharing one of his moves with Wrangler Ann in Chapter 08. Also the debut of Rowan’s new piece of gear and some more mysteries about the Harbingers.

“Can you teach me to speak to animals like you do?”

Rowan was not prepared for the question, nor for who asked it. But he had known Wrangler Ann long enough to know that she would not ask in jest or as a flight of fancy.

“That is no small ask,” Rowan said. He had been making calculations in a leather-bound journal in preparation for the night’s stars and now shut the book and tucked his quill behind his ear.

“I’m not asking to blow up mountains or anything like that.”

“That would be an easier request,” Rowan said with a small chuckle. Ann did not laugh.

Rowan turned to the horizon and raises a hand to shield his eyes from the setting sun. His eyes glanced about the mists rising from the low lands and he said nothing for a long moment. Ann started to speak, but Rowan cut her off. “I need to meditate on this. Wait near the edge of the mists at first light. If I join you, I will teach you.”

“And if you don’t?”

“Then you won’t.” And with that, Rowan walked off.


First light came and Wrangler Ann headed to the mists. Rowan was there with Ramal, waiting for her.

“I’m sort of surprised you showed up,” Ann said.

“As am I,” Rowan responded. Wrangler Ann gave him a look, but Rowan waved it off. “This is no small ask, as I said.”

“Well if it so hard, why do it anyway?”

“Because it will bring you joy. And you will be very good at it.”

“How would you know that?” Ann asked.

In response, Rowan raised his letter bound journal. On the pages he had turned to there were a pair of triangle ink blotches, one on each page. Ann looked at the blotches for a moment before asking, “What do those mean?”

“You’ll find out,” Rowan said as he handed the book down to Ramal and then undid the top button on his coat.

Wrangle Ann cocked an eyebrow as Rowan proceeded to remove the coat and then his shirt beneath. “If this is going to involve some ‘getting in touch with nature’ stuff, I don’t know if I…”

“It will, but not how you think.”

On Rowans’ left breast was a green splotch. He raised one hand to it and then into his chest. There was no blood and no obvious discomfort on Rowan’s part, but his fingers seemed to sink into the skin and past his ribs. When he pulled his hand free, there was a large piece of flint in it just barely larger than his hand.

“What is that?” Ann said with a bit of start.

“My heart. Or at least as close as any mage has.”

Ann snickered a bit at that. “Are you trying to tell me all the mages have hearts of stone.”

Rowan gave a loose shake of his head. “No, not quite. My master Gregor Bronzeshaper had smoldering lump of coal. Landis the Craftsman had piece of clockwork. Rashan Beastlord had a wolf’s tooth. This one is mine.”

Rowan walked towards Ann and handed her the shard. “The first step for any magister to teach a novitiate is to hand them their heart and see what they do.”

Wrangler Ann eyed the shard for a brief moment and then looked skeptically at Rowan. “And how old are these novitiates?”

“I believe I was five when I was given to my first master.”

“And no kid ever did anything stupid with them?”

“Of course they did,” Rowan said with a flourish of his hand. The shard was back in it, though Ann never saw it leave her hands. It was just gone. “But the heart always knows who it belongs to.”

Rowan handed Ann the shard again and she looked into it. “So what now?”

“You have my power in your hands. Or at least parts of it. Try talking to Ramal. He is eager to have someone new to talk to.”

Ann turned to the stone ferret and gave a tepid “Hello?”

Ramal stood up on his hind legs and raised forelegs in celebration. “HELLO!” he shouted with so much exuberance Ann almost dropped the shard in shock. “You smell amazing! What kind of animals have you been around?!”

Ann smiled and started to answer, but then the shard was gone again. She turned to Rowan, who had it in his hand.

“How am I supposed to talk to the little guy if you take that away?”

“That’s sort of the point. This is a crutch for now. I trust that you will pick things up quickly.”

Ann sneered at Rowan. “Someone did this to you when you were five?”

“No, Rashan did this exact thing to me when I was fourteen. My first four masters mostly used me as a valet until I have finished learning the discipline needed to be a magister.”

“First four?”

“It’s a long story and not needed for this.”

“This is going to take nine years?”

“No, learning to speak to the beasts of the earth will take most of the morning. If you had wanted to blow up mountains, we would definitely be taking the nine year route.” Rowan took the shard and gestured to Ramal. “Now try to find his voice again. When you can’t, I’ll hand you the heart again and let you try to get the feel for it again.”


Hours past and slowly Ann learned to hear Ramal’s voice until she no longer needed the heart.

Confident of her abilities, she turned to Rowan. “Now what?”

“Now we see how you do with animals who aren’t used to talking to people. And maybe you’ll find your animal friends…. Friend. I meant friend.”


“Nothing. Uh, you choose which way we go.”


Thanks Mike! This is fun. Trust that Ann will use these pieces of information to occasionally raz Rowan. May I assume that Ramal will want to chat more?

Doyce: I would like to take a bond with both Rowan and Ramal for this delightful scene.