Cassiopeia rushed to Mom’s nightstand. The teacher’s lesson on the Trojan horse reminded her of the tiny figurine Mom had worn around her neck and Dad had buried in a drawer since she died. Cassie rummaged in the drawerful of knick-knacks Dad hadn’t yet had the heart to clean out until her fingers closed around a bauble wrapped in Mom’s cotton hanky.
Tears sprung to Cassie’s eyes when she saw Mom’s initials knitted into the cloth but she fought them back and unwrapped the trinket. In her palm she beheld a black stone carved into the shape of a horse rearing on its hind legs. It shone iridescent gold when the light caught it and Cassie remembered Mom telling her it was Fool’s Gold, an obsidian with a gold sheen. Mom had promised Cassie would inherit it someday. Someone had wrapped a silver wire around it, simulating a saddle and bridle which twined into a long silver chain with no clasp, as if to bind the figurine into infinity.
Dad didn’t think it worth much, it only had a deep and cutting sentimental value to him. But Mom had always told her ancestors had bequeathed it even after the townspeople had hanged Great-Grandma Cassandra as a witch three-hundred years before.
At the thought of Great-Grandma Cassandra, the ancient graveyard by the meadow flashed through her mind. Cassie checked herself and endeavored to distract her thoughts away from the cemetery, though it was her most beloved place in the world. She and Dad had spread Mom’s ashes amidst the tombs of her ancestors.
“Stop it!” She scolded herself.
If she concentrated on a place, Cassie would find herself there. Once, while imagining herself as a hawk perched on a branch, she appeared atop a tall oak and had a harrowing time climbing down from it. She’d gotten better at controlling this gift. Now, by concentrating on her room, it served as a respite from the harassing torment of her walk home in her tattered sneakers and faded clothes.
Cassie twirled her fingers around the obsidian horse, then draped the chain around her neck. In a flash, she stood at the old graveyard in the meadow. The peacefulness of the place ran through her body and washed away the distressing school day mired by constant bullying.
Two groves flanked the old graveyard, one a barren clump of dead birches with peeling ghostly white bark and scraggly branches that rose upwards like supplicant fingers. Mom had said Great-Grandma Cassandra’s unmarked grave had withered those trees.
On the other side, stood a thicket of hawthorns and redbuds that seemed in constant bloom and powdered the ground with pink and white blossoms. Whenever she walked among the ancient graves, the wind always stirred these blossoms and they clung to her hair like fairies.
Cassie’s chest tickled. She gasped when she saw the tiny obsidian horse dangling by her bellybutton, kicking and bucking. She tried to grab it. The tiny horse, still on its long chain, slipped through her fingers and galloped up her arm and onto her shoulder, where it patted her skin with its glimmering hoof. It emitted a tiny huffy neigh and gazed at her.
The wind gusted through the hawthorn and redbud blossoms and drew her attention. In the swirling pink and white buds a woman appeared with a long black dress, white apron and hair tied into a cap. She shimmered and seemed to meld into the wind until she hovered before Cassie. Their eyes met and Cassie perceived the same mystical pearlescence of her own malachite-green eyes.
Cassie gulped; the woman ran a ghostly finger down Cassie’s nose, just like Mom used to do, only it felt like falling dew instead of Mom’s warm caress.
“Cassandra?” She squeaked.
Cassandra nodded and smiled, then placed her fingertip under the tiny horse’s snout still perched on Cassie’s shoulder. The horse nuzzled it.
“This is Ethur, he is your spirit-guide and protector,” Cassandra spoke, “only those like us can bring him to life. Ask and he will answer, go and he will follow, but know this, he is of Light and only works in Light. He will not heed the dark requests of your heart. He is your constant companion, guide and friend. Love him as he loves you, and when you leave this earth, he will sleep. Pass him down to your descendants until someone awakens him again.”
Tears rolled down Cassie’s cheek, but Cassandra, her fingers under the girl’s chin, continued.
“You have much magic in you and much to learn. As your gifts evolve, he will guide you to use them for the good of the world. Those who torment you do so out of fear, this is your fate, do not let them stop you in your path to lighten the darkness. Ethur, I, and your ancestral line are always with you. Fear not your destiny; embrace it instead.”
She bent down and kissed Cassie’s cheek. It felt like a cool speckle of rain under a clear sky. Another gust of wind and Cassandra vanished with the swirling blossoms.
Cassie stood alone by the old graveyard. She gazed at Ethur on her shoulder; his obsidian gold sparkled in the sunlight. She smiled at him and placed a fingertip under his snout, just as Cassandra had done. He nuzzled it and warm energy rushed through her body. In her heart, she knew the gesture had formed the thickest of bonds.
Voices approached and Ethur froze. He tugged at her neck as he slipped off her shoulder and dangled at her belly, a stone trinket once more. An old couple in hiking boots stopped to admire the blossoms and never noticed the girl with the shabby clothing who was there one moment and gone the next.