Timeless Spirit Logo DRAGON'S DAUGHTER


A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. March's Theme: "Movement"
Volume 3 Issue 3 ISSN# 1708-3265
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Dragon's Daughter
Part Four

by Jennifer Monaghan

Just joined in? Haven't read the entire story? Well, if you missed it, here's a link to Part One.

I watched Conall with much concern but hesitated to approach him. He would not speak to anyone, not even myself. In observing him closely I came to realize what he planned and so began to make plans of my own. I gathered a supply of dried meats and hard breads for food and whilst others slept, by lantern's dim light, I mended my warmest garments and lined my boots with rabbit fur. I tucked away my supplies, readied for travel, and then there was nothing left to do but wait. I slept little, knowing Conall too well to assume he would depart during wakeful hours, with all the town as an audience. When I did sleep, it was in the chair by the window, rousing myself frequently to glance toward his tent. The lamp was always lit and his shadow could be seen, his seated form cast onto the ground where the door to the tent hung half-open. He too slept little, if at all, and whenever I saw him he had dark purple bruises beneath bloodshot eyes. Wrapped in his poorly sewn and ragged fur cloak, unwashed face smeared with dirt and grime, he had the look of a rabid animal, maddened by some invisible force within. The townspeople shied away whenever he emerged and kept their children far from his tent, afraid. No one would support him now, not while the dragon remained distant and silent, and he did not ask for their help.

A fitful dream pulled me back into my slumber as I struggled to wake. I could hear myself whimper and moan, could feel the hard back of the chair on my shoulders, and yet I could not escape the nightmare's firm grasp. My head lolled from side to side, fists clenching and unclenching. A dark shape engulfed the space around me, took hold of my arms, shaking me violently. It shook and shook, unceasing, and no matter how much I pleaded for it to stop it only grew more vigorous.

"You must leave now!" it hissed. I muttered incoherently. "He is leaving, Aine, you must go! Wake, my daughter, wake!"

Confused, I forced my eyes open and in seeing my mother's stern face before mine, I was sobered.

"He is leaving now, you must follow him," she whispered quietly. She helped me to my feet and handed to me the supplies I had so discreetly packed. I accepted the pack, slightly heavier than I remembered it, and stood helplessly as she pinned her own cloak about me.

"But Mother, this is yours!"

"Hush, it will keep you warm, winter's bite is sharper in the mountains."

"But - but how did you know?"

"When you are a mother, you will find the answer to that question. Now be gone before I find some reason to keep you here. Watch over him, keep him safe and keep yourself safe." Pressing the hilt of a small dagger into my hand, her eyes welled with tears as she fought for composure.

"Aine, my dear child, you are too old for your years." She embraced me then and guided me to the door.

"Goodbye, Mother."

"Goodbye, child."

I walked away from her, looking back now and then, watching her solid form grow smaller and smaller until she was nothing but a fleck in the distance. I turned my attention forward, quickly finding Conall's trail, following a path well worn and lit by the half-moon.

The first night was fairly easy compared to the nights which followed. The temperature soon dropped, and thick clouds, heavy with snow, masked the moon. A wind started to blow, whipping loose strands of hair about my face and feeling with icy fingers for any opening in my mother's cloak. I was thankful, then, for that cloak, as mine would have proved far less effective in barring out the cold.

Although meals were small and meager, my mother's gift of honey, dried fruits and butter churned by her own hand provided energy and delayed exhaustion. My brother's pace was slow, but the nights (we always traveled in darkness) were long and sleep seemed less of a priority than covering the many miles to the mountains. His body was well suited for the journey, strength and bulk carrying him forward with ease as I struggled to keep moving. Large-boned like my mother, yet still insulated with childhood fat and lacking the muscle of hardworking women, my awkward young body provided warmth but did nothing for endurance. Long, heavy skirts proved to be as much a hindrance as my physique. I fell further and further behind but still kept on his trail.

We were nearly to the foot of the great mountains when the snow began to fall. It was a thin snow, tiny flakes driven by the fierce wind, sharp as ice pellets against the raw and reddened skin of my face. As we entered the forest before the mountains, we found some measure of shelter against the winter storm. The path through the woods was not without discomfort, however. Branches bare and dry grabbed at my dress and cloak and the howling of the wind was still heard if not strongly felt, lending an eerie quality to the atmosphere. Now and again I fancied that a woman's voice wove itself in and out of the trees, singing a vaguely familiar tune. I slept little during this part of the journey, constantly on alert. I had the sense of being watched, stalked. Something in the darkness waited patiently. I became the prey to a predator unseen and unheard.

Two days into the forest I discovered a peculiar token lying in the bed of dead and dried leaves beneath my feet. It was a dull and misshapen fragment of steel, small enough to fit in the palm of my hand. It was warm, as if it had just been dropped. My brother's initials were etched plainly on its surface, nestled in a jagged corner. A token of my brother's love, yet he was far off in the distance, too far to have dropped it and left it still warm for me to find. If not his, then whose hand, whose palm, had warmed this piece of metal so recently? I pocketed it, wondering, suddenly frightened. Despite my anxiety, I pressed on. As time passed my worries increased. I started and jumped at the slightest sound and began to imagine I heard footsteps following closely behind me, their pace matching mine almost exactly.

"You're being a fool," I chided myself, shaking my head.

Uneasiness plagued me even as I scolded myself aloud. I turned around slowly, coming full circle, squinting in the darkness to find any tangible source of my fear, but saw nothing. I resumed my progress and for a long while I also heard nothing. Then, just as a semblance of calm had returned to me, the footsteps started again. I stopped. The footsteps continued a few paces and also stopped.

"Who's there?" I hissed. Nothing. I started walking again and the unseen predator walked with me. I stopped and it stopped. I slowly lowered my pack to the ground, pulling my mother's dagger from the folds in my cloak, holding it before me in plain view.

"Whatever you are, follow me no more. Come out and face me bravely!"

"Aine." The whisper cut through the air and filled my ears with dread.

"H-how do you know my name?"

"Come into the shadows, come to me."

"No. You come to me, I want to see you for what you are."

"I cannot."

"It is a trick."

"No, no trick. I must remain hidden, come to me, I beg you."

I noticed the faintest tremble in the faceless voice, a voice laced with familiarity, femininity.

"Who are you?" I asked, now more curious than afraid. I lowered my dagger slightly.

"I am she who you seek, the one who named you."

"A-Abby?"

"Shhh! Someone's coming! I must go! Tell him to leave me, leave this place! Tell him to forget me!"

"Tell who? Abigeal!"

Suddenly I was taken from behind, strong arms forced mine to my sides, twisted the dagger from my grasp. I opened my mouth to scream, a rough and callused hand clamped it shut. I fought, kicking and thrashing. A man's voice commanded me to stop, to be still, but I only fought harder. I bit down on the hand over my mouth and brought my heel back into the attacker's shin. He cried out, letting go of my mouth but holding firmly to my body, dragging me backwards. He threw me to the ground, face down, and pinned me with the weight of his own body. I could feel his ragged breath on my bare neck. The roots of a nearby tree pressed into my ribs. I stopped struggling for a moment, hoping to catch him off guard. In a moment of temporary peace, we laid together on the ground, still and silent, our heavy breathing the only sound to be heard. I was about to break my feigned surrender when a curdled and choked cry filled the air, a cry of pain and terror. I took advantage of the distraction, broke free from my captor and ran. I ran until my chest seized with every breath, painful spasms stalling me in my tracks. I doubled over, heaving and gasping for air. A new pair of hands found their way to my arms, supporting me with a gentle yet firm grasp, guiding me from the path I had created. I allowed myself to be moved into hiding. The fit finally passed and I looked up. The face before me was bloodied, bruised and pale. The hair was matted and filled with dead leaves. The cheekbones had a hollow appearance and the eyes were ringed with darkness, adding a deathlike quality. The eyes themselves were bloodshot, but the hue was unchanged, crystalline blue, the color of ice. There was power in those eyes; power mixed with immeasurable grief. I found myself both comforted and frightened.

"Abigeal, it's you," I whispered, shocked. I moved to embrace her as sister and friend but she pushed me away.

"No."

"But Abby," I started, confused. She interrupted me, put a finger to my lips.

"You must tell him to leave me, to go home."

"What?"

"Tell him to forget me, please. I beg of you, make him promise to leave this place and never return!"

"Abby! Conall loves you, you cannot expect him to just leave you to the mercy of this monster!"

"Aine, don't you understand? I am the monster. It is inside of me."

Comprehension replaced confusion as a thousand memories and stories, distant and recent, all pieces to a dreadful puzzle, came together in a neat and terrifying fashion. The strange birth, the fits, the piercing gaze - it suddenly made perfect sense. I shook my head, backed away. As I did so, Abigeal fell to her knees and took my hands, holding me fast.

"Please!" she begged. "Promise me… tell him to go away, tell him I am dead."

I continued to shake my head, numb, as she begged and wept before me. A few moments stretched out to eternity and then I straightened, gave her hands a squeeze and nodded. Before walking away I pressed the iron fragment into her hand and kissed her farewell.

"Goodbye, my sister," I whispered into her ear. "Goodbye."

Please return next issue for Part Five of Jennifer's "Dragon's Daughter".




Jennifer is happily married to a wonderful woman, Lisa. Theirs is a union of true, deep, respectful love… the kind we all dream about. Of course we mustn't forget… their beautiful little fur-family!

Jennifer is embarking on a new career as a Behavioral Analyst and also works part time at a group home providing care to persons with physical and developmental disabilities.

She is also a writer and poet with a passion for the written word since childhood. Jennifer's poetry has been featured in The Prologue, an annual publication of the University of WI, River Falls, Body Mind Spirit Magazine and here at TSM.

Copyright (c) 2006 by Timeless Spirit Magazine. All articles are the copyright of the particular writers and cannot be reprinted without their expressed permission. All rights reserved. International copyright laws prohibit reproduction of or distribution of this page by any means whatsoever, electronic or otherwise, without first obtaining the written permission of the copyright holder. We retain legal counsel to protect our copyrights.

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