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A name carved in stone
Zlinka woke to the sound of the surf on sand, the background music of her childhood. She lay in the hammock, watching the palm fronds just beyond the open wall of the hut. The light was grey and soft. Soon, a single bird would sing, waking its fellows, and the raucous dawn chorus would begin. But for now, all was quiet.

Zlinka rolled out of her hammock and tiptoed past the cribs holding little Luna and tiny Zora. She walked down the hut's steps, past the firepit, and into the tangle of lush vegetation around the homesite. The hour before the children woke was precious time, a time of quiet reflection.

This was her island, her ancestral home. She had grown up here. Visiting as an adult was strange. The island was her own past, and it held her extended family, but it was no longer her home. Her home was elsewhere, with her own small family.

Pushing through undergrowth, she came to a clearing with a pile of stones in the middle: the ruins of an ancient building, built many centuries before. She had played here as a child. The trees were taller; the vines and leaves were thicker than she remembered. A few of the stones had been displaced. But otherwise it was the same.

She glimpsed a loaf-sized rock at the base of one of the great foundation stones and smiled as she flipped it over. Shaky letters, spelling “Z l i N k A” were carved into its underside. That had taken her a whole afternoon. The edges of the letters had softened with time. She replaced the rock gently.

Zlinka sat on a flat piece of sandstone. So many memories. This sandstone slab had been a dragon, a boat, a banquet table, a castle. That gap between two blocks had been a hiding place, a house, a stable. The crack over there had been a place to hide treasures: shiny pebbles, a blue feather, a perfect shell. Zlinka slid her hand into the crack. It was empty now.

Zlinka remembered returning to this pile of rubble as an adolescent. She remembered the wave of sadness she had felt. The stones had been... just stones. The dragons and castles were gone. Her childhood treasures, magical and precious, had become mere pebbles and drab feathers. She could not play here any longer; it was closed to her. She had known, then, that her way led outwards, into a scary and exciting world, towards bigger and grander things. The only way was forward, into the unknown.

Zlinka heard tiny footsteps behind her. She turned, and saw little Luna, aged two and a half, peeking at her from the bushes.

"Mama!" Luna cried, "Mama sitting on rock! Luna sit on rock too!"

Returning to the present, Zlinka helped the small Tauren onto the slab of sandstone. Luna nearly burst with pride, her hooves dangling, her hands stroking the rough stone. "Mama sit rock! Luna sit rock! Everybody sit rock!" she announced.

Then Luna rolled to one side and peered at the rubble. She gasped, "A HOLE! Mama, a HOLE! See, HOLE!" She pointed eagerly at the little crack in the stone. "Luna put stones in there! Put stones in there right now!"

Luna slid down from the rock and started gathering up pebbles. She handed each one to Zlinka with the instructions, "Put in pocket! Then put in hole!" Zlinka followed her, enjoying the sunrise. Together they found little white pebbles, shiny black ones, and grey ones flecked with silver. Zlinka accepted the little treasures until her pockets overflowed. Then Luna led her to the broken stone and they fed the pebbles, one by one, into the crack. They rattled down to the bottom and Luna nearly burst with delight.

The sun was well up now, and Zlinka's stomach rumbled. Time to go back to the village for breakfast. She held Luna by the hand and took a last look at the pile of rubble.

I can go back, she thought, for a little while. When Luna and Zora grow up it will be closed to me again.

Until I take my grandchildren here.

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