Draykon: The Prologue

August 18, 2011 § 10 Comments

Dear Readers,

As I promised in my last post, today I am going to share the prologue for my forthcoming fantasy/science fiction novel, Draykon. This book is the result of nine months of consistent effort, following nearly ten years of writing short stories, articles, essays, scripts and blog posts and dreaming of the day I would produce a full-length work of fiction. I’m incredibly excited to have reached this point at last, and here’s hoping it will only get better and better from here.

Draykon is scheduled for release in the next few weeks, and I will be releasing one chapter a week until release day. I hope you enjoy the tale.

***

On one cool afternoon when the rain fell in gentle, glittering droplets and the ground underfoot was spongy with moisture, nine-year-old Llandry Sanfaer walked with her mother beneath the trees far to the south of the Glinnery forests. They were gathering mushrooms, diminutive little fungi with stems fat with juice and caps painted with colour. Llandry crowed with delight each time she found a new mushroom ring, picking the fattest or the most colourful specimens with nimble fingers. Their baskets were growing heavy with gathered produce when Ynara began to speak of returning home.

‘Not yet, Mamma, just a little bit longer!’ Llandry loved these excursions, loved the hours they spent in close companionship, just her and Mamma. She gazed up into her mother’s face with her most hopeful smile, and of course Mamma relented.

‘All right, little love, but don’t pick too many more mushrooms, or we’ll never be able to carry them home.’ Llandry promised and was off once more, her small form a whirlwind of activity.

Then a faint melody reached her ears and she came to an abrupt stop, her keen eyes searching the mossy slopes for the source.

‘Ma, what’s that sound?’

‘What sound, love?’ Llandry looked up to find nothing but incomprehension in Mamma’s face. She frowned and dismissed the thought, dancing onward once more.

There; again, a hint of music. Not a sound at all, in fact, more of a feeling of spiralling harmony, drawing her onward through the vast, pale trunks dotted like serene guardians over the meadow. In the shade of a particularly broad-capped glissenwol tree was a glade encircled by tall, variegated fungi. The mosses that carpeted the circle of ground were not of the customary colour. Instead of the deep blue that matched the eventide sky, these were lavender touched with green. Golden sunlight drenched the clearing, bright and glittering in spite of the glissenwol cap that rose above. And the drifting motes of light that filled the air of Glinnery were thickly clustered here, twinkling far more brightly than their paler cousins, sparking with energy and laced with colour. Llandry stood, mesmerised by this scene. She was distantly aware of her mother’s voice calling her name, but she was unable to answer.

The thin sound of an animal in distress reached her sensitive ears. Something moved in the centre of the glittering circle: she saw a flash of grey, heard the faint wail of unhappiness repeated.

Mamma had caught up with her. Llandry was aware of her footsteps approaching, then halting a short distance behind her. She could imagine her mother’s reaction to this place; she must be filled with wonder and delight, just as Llandry had been. She was surprised, then, to hear a note of horror creep into Ynara’s voice as she called.

‘Llandry! Llandry, stop there. Don’t move, love.’ The footsteps approached, and Mamma’s arms closed around her. To her dismay and confusion, she was lifted and carried backwards.

‘No! Mamma, there’s an animal, don’t you hear it? It’s hurt.’ The movements of the mysterious creature had ceased, but now Llandry saw it again: a small body, long and thin, with sleek, pale grey fur. She struggled out of her mother’s arms and ran forward.

When she stepped into the circle, she felt the golden light bathing her skin as if it was a physical thing, like water. The effect was beautiful, soothing and warm, but not wholly pleasant, for a feeling of tension hung heavy in the air and Llandry’s skin prickled with unease. For a moment she forgot about the sleek-furred creature, but another squeak of distress drew her eyes downward into the centre of the strange lavender-hued moss.

The animal stood on short, shaking legs, its pointed face lifted to the winds as it keened in despair. It was so small, so obviously feeble, that Llandry quickly realised it must be a baby. A baby without its mother. She picked it up, carefully cradling it against her chest.

She turned to show it to Mamma, but Mamma was gone, hidden behind a curtain of light that had fallen between her and the familiar glissenwol forests of home. It was like a wall of rain, cold and shimmering pale; she could see nothing beyond it.

‘Mamma?’ Fear stole her voice and the word emerged as a whisper. She screamed her mother’s name and heard an answering call, thin and distant as if Ynara stood on a hilltop far away.

Llandry ran towards the curtain and tried to pass, but it was like walking through treacle; a strong pressure beat upon her limbs and her face, threatening to smother her. She fell back, sobbing.

Then the curtain rippled and pulsed, as if struggling against something. Ynara broke through the wall, her face pale and her eyes sparking with anger and fear. She picked Llandry up and marched back through. The sensation of suffocation was the same as before, and it grew worse as Ynara bore forward with Llandry in her arms. The pressure intensified until Llandry thought she must explode like rotten fruit. Then they were through the curtain. All of the strange sensations, good and bad, faded and Llandry was herself again.

Ynara did not stop. She marched onward without looking back. Llandry could feel her mother’s body shaking; her arms were trembling so badly that Llandry feared she would drop her. She pressed her face against her mother’s and kissed her cheek.

‘Ma,’ she whispered. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘You’re safe. That’s all that matters.’

‘What was that place?’

‘The Upper Realm.’

‘What’s that?’

Ynara sighed and stopped at last, easing Llandry down to the floor. She frowned in puzzlement at the little soft-furred body Llandry still held in her arms, quiet now and questing through Llandry’s clothing for food.

‘It’s called the Dreamlands, sometimes, because it’s like a dream, isn’t it? It’s another place, far from here, beyond the Seven Realms that make up our world. Sometimes a gate is opened and you can pass through. What we saw was a gate. The Upper Realm is beautiful beyond belief, love, but you must remember that it is dangerous.’

Llandry remembered the feelings she’d experienced as she stood in that glittering glade; the way the light had caressed her skin and the dancing motes clustered around her as if she was a friend. ‘How can it be dangerous, Mamma?’

‘There are dangers everywhere, love, and the Upper Realm is no different. But beyond that, there is something else. It is too beautiful a place, perhaps, too enticing; people go there, from time to time, but they very rarely return. Now, promise me you will not do such a thing again. Promise me, Llandry.’ Mamma dropped to her knees to bring her face level with Llandry’s. Her eyes were serious, and Llandry sensed renewed fear in the way her mother clasped her close.

‘I promise, Ma.’

‘Good. Now, who is your new friend?’

The creature had begun to shiver. Llandry showed it to her Mamma, who smiled in spite of herself.

‘Gracious. It’s an orting, love. It must have come through the gate.’ She stroked the orting’s round black nose and it shivered anew, this time with apparent delight.

‘May I keep it?’

‘We’ll see. Now, are you ready to fly?’

Llandry unfurled her growing wings and flexed them. At nine, she was big enough and strong enough to fly for a few miles at a time. She smiled at her mother and nodded.

‘Time to go home, then; Papa will be worried about us by now.’ Mamma was wearing a coloured sash around her waist, as she often did; she removed it, and wrapped it around Llandry’s torso, fashioning a sling. She smiled fondly at Llandry.

‘I used to carry you this way, when you were small.’ She took the orting from Llandry’s arms and placed it gently inside the sling, securing it with deft movements.

‘Now you may carry him home. He won’t fall.’

Papa was not at home when they arrived, but his measured step was soon heard climbing the stair that wound around the trunk of the lofty Sanfaer home. He patted Llandry’s hair as he passed, and she shot up in excitement and ran after him.

‘Papa, you must come and meet Sigwide!’

‘Oh? School friend?’

Her face darkened at the word ‘school’. ‘No,Pa.He’s my new pet. Look!’

The orting had been lovingly installed in his own box, padded with the best blankets from Llandry’s bed. He had gone to sleep with his head under the thickest of them, his stubby tail twitching as he dreamed. Aysun Sanfaer tilted his head curiously, trying to get a look at the creature.

‘Sigwide is what you’ve called it?’

‘Yes. I chose it myself.’

‘What is it?’

‘Ma said it’s an orting.’

He said nothing at all in response. Llandry looked up, puzzled. His face was set and his eyes glittered with some fierce emotion that looked like anger. Ynara came back into the room at that moment and went straight to her husband.

‘Aysun, it’s not as bad as-‘

‘It’s an orting?’

‘Yes-‘

‘Summoned?’

‘No. Wild.’

Mamma drew her husband away and lowered her voice, and the conversation passed beyond Llandry’s hearing. She sensed her father’s anger, feeling his eyes on her as her mother spoke. She sat down next to Sigwide’s box, confused and a little afraid. Her parents’ voices grew louder, and she overheard snippets of conversation.

‘… as stubborn as your father.’ That was Mamma.

‘…nothing like my father!’ Papa sounded quite upset, and Llandry began to feel sick.

‘The similarity is obvious. You take an idea, no matter how irrational, and refuse to be moved.’

‘Because my father couldn’t accept you, you persist in assuming-‘

‘This isn’t about me! This creature is harmless and it will be good for Llan to have a companion. Why can’t you see that?’

‘If she wants a companion we will get her a pet. Something safer.’

Mamma snorted at that and walked away a few steps. When she turned back to Pa, she spoke too quietly for Llandry to hear any more. Llandry could only sit near Sigwide’s box, crouched and miserable, and wait.

At length her parents’ conversation was over. Papa approached and knelt down before her with a sigh.

‘Llandry. Your mother’s already received a promise from you, but I need you to promise me as well. If you ever see anything like that again, you must keep away from it. Understand?’

He was stern but no longer furious. Llandry was so relieved she would have promised anything at all. She nodded her head solemnly.

‘I need you to understand why, Llandry. It’s dangerous. You could be drawn away from us, and you wouldn’t be able to come back very easily. We might not be able to find you. And the creatures you would meet there are not all as harmless as this one.’ He frowned at the tiny grey body curled up in the box. Llandry bit her trembling lip, suddenly anxious.

‘Papa! I may keep him, mayn’t I?’

‘I would rather you didn’t, but yes. He must be trained, though. I’ll get a Summoner to come to the house tomorrow.’

Llandry beamed, expressing her gratitude with an enveloping hug. He patted her head a little awkwardly, then swung her up onto his wingless back.

‘Let the little beast sleep.’

***

Chapter One is available to read here.

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