by Jenny Fulton
They were at it again. The crass noise polluted the air in this half of Duoren before the sun had even peeked above the horizon.
What was the source of this unsavory sound?
One might wonder what these people had to bicker about. After all, their opulent homes were well-equipped with every imaginable convenience. Robots cooked and clean. “Goody” machines provided anything and everything.
So, what did they argue over?
Well, siblings fought over toys, children and parents squabbled over what to have their robot cook, and spouses engaged in a heated debate over which leisurely activity to embark upon.
This was the way things were on the eastern side of Duoren. Nobody knew what lay on the western side, for a great mountain range divided the two regions. Besides this, no one in the east desired to venture beyond their perfectly comfortable life.
Except for Kiara.
She was ten years old and had a reputation for being among the less-enthusiastic disputers.
One day, after the first morning argument, Kiara decided she was bored.
“I want an adventure,” she wined to her five-year old brother, Nathan.
“I want an adventure more!” he said.
And so they agreed, sort of. While their parents continued to argue, Kiara and Nathan walked out the door. Since their house was on the western edge of the populated area, they hadn’t walked far before the land began to slope upwards towards the towering mountain peaks.
Being unaccustomed to such exercise, they soon stopped to rest under a shady tree.
“Adventures are hard!” Kiara moaned.
“I think they’re harder!” Nathan gasped.
“You could quit,” a different voice said.
Two heads shot up to behold a bent, elderly man with skin as wrinkled as his eyes were kind.
“You could quit,” the man said again. “However, if you are still desiring an adventure, I have a task for you.”
Kiara’s eyes widened. She had never been entrusted with a task before. Somehow, it sounded nice. “What is it?” she asked eagerly.
The man smiled. “It is not easy, but I promise that it is worthwhile. Can you hear those people?” He pointed to the populated area.
Kiara and Nathan nodded in embarrassment, knowing all too well they had recently been part of the ugly noise.
“Their bickering is not good,” said the man, “and I think it is time for it to stop.”
“What can we do?” asked Kiara.
The man looked her straight in the eyes and his voice took on an emboldening intensity. “You must go over the mountains and bring back the Mafanian Stone, for through the work of this stone, the people may learn to get along.”
“I’ll go,” Kiara said.
“Me, too!” exclaimed Nathan.
And so they agreed. Really agreed.
To say the journey was hard would be an understatement. To say it was impossible would be inaccurate. There were certainly plenty of times when they wanted to give up and almost did. However, each time they felt they couldn’t take another step, something wonderful would happen. They’d come upon a magnificent view, or stumble upon delicious berries, or discover a fresh mountain stream. And they would press on.
At long last, they arrived at the western side of the mountains and beheld a populated area of a very different nature than that on the eastern side. The houses were smaller and surrounded by gardens. People were engaged in all manner of work. They were smiling and laughing and not arguing.
“Excuse me,” Kiara said to an elderly woman who was resting at the side of the trail. “Where can I find the Mafanian Stone?”
The woman studied her and smiled. “Come with me,” she said.
With the children in tow, the woman walked through the streets to a white circular building. After entering and speaking with several people, she led the children into a room at the building’s center. There, sitting upon a dull, grey pedestal, was a very unremarkable looking stone.
“This stone has served our people well,” said the woman, “but now I have been permitted to give it to you. It is the stone of suffering. You see, just as you and your brother learned to get along through the hardships of crossing the mountain, this stone will allow hardships to enter the populated area where you live so the people there may also develop the perseverance and character to love.”
Images of the journey flashed through Kiara’s mind and she cringed. But then she looked at her brother and the true relationship they had gained. It was worth it.
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