Red Stone, Black Crow - A.M. Offenwanger

Red stone, blood stone,
Round and smooth and cold stone...

Once there was a little girl who lived with her grandmother. One day, the grandmother said, “Take this medicine to the sorcerer on the other side of the woods. He has an upset stomach and needs his tonic.”

So the little girl swung her knapsack on her back, strapped on her heavy hiking boots, fastened her mother’s wool cloak across her shoulders, and set out.

She had gone no more than a league when she tripped over a bright red stone in the road, guarded by a purple weasel.

The girl picked up the stone and put it in her pocket. The purple weasel looked at her and said, “Remember, when you come to the raging river, turn the stone over in your pocket three times, and say—“

“I know,” said the girl,

“Red stone, blood stone,
Round and smooth and cold stone,
Make it stop, make it stand,
Take me over to the strand.”
“You got it,” said the weasel. He twitched his nose. “Good luck,” he said. “Not that I expect you to have any.” He scurried off.
“Well!” said the girl, whose name was Margie. “Wasn’t he encouraging!” She took a green apple from her backpack, polished it on her trousers, and took a bite. “But then, weasels tend to be that way.”
A little further on, a blue rabbit peered at her from under the hedge.
“Can I help you?” the little girl asked.
“Why, y-y-yes,” the rabbit replied. “M-m-my wife just had a litter of b-b-babies, and we c-c-cannot think of what to c-c-call them, as we have used up all the names we c-c-could think of on the l-l-last eighteen litters.”
“Call them Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter,” said Margie, who was a well-read child.
“Th-thank you,” said the rabbit. He looked at the yellow ring the girl wore on her finger, and said, ““In g-g-gratitude, I will tell you a secret. When you find your p-p-path blocked by a terrible great m-m-mountain, twist your ring on your finger three times, and say,
‘Gold ring, sun ring,
Clear and bright and light ring,
Lift me high, lift me up,
Take me over to the top.’”
The girl thanked the rabbit politely, though she did not bother to tell him that she had known how to use her ring ever since her grandmother had given it to her when she set out on her journey.
She went back to her path, finishing her apple, then threw the core into the hedge.
“Caw!” came the angry cry of a crow, “watch where you throw your rubbish!”
“I’m terribly sorry,” the little girl said. “I had not expected a crow in the hedges.”
“Shows you what you know!” said the bird disagreeably. “What do you want here anyway?”
“I’m on my way to the sorcerer over the forest,” said the girl, “to take him this medicine my grandmother promised him.”
“Caw!” the bird said. “You’ll never get there, unless—”
“Unless you come with me and help me,” said the girl. “I know. So please, dear crow, would you—But you are hurt!” She dropped to her knees beside the bird. “Will you not let me see to this for you?”
“Caw! You’ll only make it worse!” said the crow, but he stretched out his injured claw and let her bandage it. Then he sat on her shoulder, and together they journeyed on, the crow grumbling all the while.
When night fell, they made camp, and Margie looked up at the stars.
“Crow,” she said, “what are stars?”
The crow took his head out from under his wing and gave her a dirty look. “They’re diamonds stuck to the sky, everyone knows that. How am I meant to get any sleep if you keep jabbering at me?”
“Then what are shooting stars? Like the one that just fell over there?”
“Caw,” said the crow, “I suggest you go and find out and leave me in peace!” and he tucked his head back under his wing.
So Margie went to where she had seen the star fall. When she came to the edge of the ravine, she saw by the dim starlight that deep down, way below her, there raged a wild and foaming river. But she could see the fallen star twinkling at her on the other side, and so she reached into her pocket, took hold of the red stone, turned it three times, and sang,
“Red stone, blood stone,
Round and smooth and cold stone,
Make it stop, make it stand,
Take me over to the strand.”
At that, the roaring of the river ceased, and it stood silent as if it was dammed, leaving the riverbed bare. Carefully the little girl climbed down into the ravine, made her way across the slippery stones in the bottom, and climbed back up the other side. She found the twinkling diamond that once was a star and put it in her pocket.
But the river rushed again in the ravine, and she could not go back to her friend the crow.
She spent the night under another hedge with her knapsack for a pillow, and in the morning she set out on her path, away from the river.
Before long, the path abruptly ended in front of a sheer wall of a mountain so high it blocked out the sun.
The little girl twisted the ring on her finger.
“Gold ring, sun ring,
Clear and bright and light ring,
Lift me high, lift me up,
Take me over to the top.”
Before she could take another breath, she found herself on the pinnacle of the mountain. Beneath her, the forest stretched out for miles.
“At least I got this far!” the girl said. She dug another apple out of her knapsack, polished it on her trousers, and ate it for her breakfast.
After a long and weary journey down the mountain the girl arrived at the edge of the forest. It was a dark, deep, impenetrable forest, and for the first time her heart misgave her. But because she was a courageous little girl, she did not wait. Hoisting her knapsack higher on her shoulder, she took a step into the forest, and another.
Dark shapes flitted past the edge of her vision, dank smells assaulted her nostrils, creaks and moans crept past her hearing so she doubted her senses. She felt she had been walking for hours—or was it only minutes?—and she knew she would never find her way out of this awful place again.
She fell to her knees and covered her face with her hands. “What shall I do?” she cried. “Is there no one to help me?”
“You might try saying ‘please’,” cawed a voice in her ear.
“Crow!” cried the girl, “where did you come from?”
“Caw! Never mind that,” said the crow. “You know what to do.”
Margie took from her pocket the diamond that was the fallen star.
“Black crow,” she chanted, “dark crow,
Soft and warm and kind crow,
Make it bright, make it light,
Lead me out and give me sight.
“Please!” she added.
The crow took the diamond into his beak. And then from his beak there came a trilling, sweeter than any nightingale, and light streamed from the diamond that lit up the forest and made it brighter than the brightest noon.
“Thank you, Crow!” the girl cried. She sprang to her feet, and, carrying the crow on her arm, she ran out of the forest.
She found the sorcerer’s hut on the edge of the woods, and, once she had given the old man his medicine and made him well, he used his sorcerer’s art to send her straight back to her grandmother’s cottage, bypassing woods, mountain and river.
But the crow, who, contrary to all expectations, was not an enchanted prince, came to live with the girl and her grandmother, and he remained a cantankerous bird to the end of their long happy lives.
A.M. Offenwanger, contributing editor at Enchanted Conversation Magazine, is a writer, reader, blogger, and editor.
Follow her blog Amo Vitam
and follow her on Twitter @amoffenwanger
and on Facebook here

Cover Layout: Amanda Bergloff
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