Timeless Spirit Logo DRAGON'S DAUGHTER

A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. May's Theme: "Humour"
Volume 3 Issue 4 ISSN# 1708-3265
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Dragon's Daughter
Part Five

by Jennifer Monaghan

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

I turned and ran, tripping over my skirts, paying no heed to direction. I had gone a fair distance before realizing that I was lost. I turned in circles, hoping to find some familiar landmark to guide me but saw nothing, only the bare branches of a thousand trees that all looked alike in their winter slumber. Momentarily defeated, I slumped against one such tree and pondered my predicament. I had abandoned pack and dagger, food and cloth. Some unknown pursuant likely waited for me on the path from which I had strayed. I had no direction, no supply; no escort or captain to lead me; no mother or companion to turn to for advisement. I had not even the moon and stars, night sky's map blotted out by the endless canopy o'er my head. I was utterly and completely alone. Fighting back tears of hopelessness, I rose to my feet, brushed off my skirts and inhaled deeply. The scent of living wood filled my nostrils. There was a power to this place, it flowed over me and around me and into me through the air I breathed. I closed my eyes, arms outstretched and surrendered to the earth, welcoming the power flooding my body and spirit. When I opened my eyes I saw, stretched out before me, what seemed to be a path were before there was none. I hesitated at first, squinting and then opening my eyes wide to assure myself that it wasn't just an illusion. The path was narrow, almost indistinguishable from the tangled mess of roots and trunks and leaves, but nonetheless it was there. I felt like a girl in one of the faerie stories my mother used to tell me when I was small, tiptoeing down a path that no one but me could see. The path shifted as I tread carefully, trying not to lose my way. I had the sense that it would not let me stray, but still I kept a close eye.

The path led me on for a day and a half. I had no food and my body longed for nourishment. Blessed with a road to follow, it might have been too much to wish for a sudden appearance of my pack and belongings or some other source of sustenance, but wish I did, though in vain. The land was void of spring berry or green leaf. All was deadened and gray, still touched by winter's hand. It was close to the change of season, yet there was no sign of it so close to the mountains. Even the animals remained in hiding, not even a single winter hare emerged to tease my weaponless hand.

The path came to an end just before a clearing. My feet were numb, my head throbbing. I rested at the base of a tree awhile before tramping through the thick underbrush to the exit door of the forest. Turning around, facing the forest once more, I whispered "thank you". The trees nodded quietly in acknowledgement, their tops bending down to kiss the air above my head. Smiling, I pivoted and stepped out of the sheltering woods, into a wide clearing at the base of the giant rock. The mountain, intimidating in its enormity, was coloured shades of purple and gray. Ominous shadows littered its surface, sharp rocks jutted fiercely in all directions. Awestruck, my mouth dropped open. I watched in wonder and terror as the almost-full moon rose slowly upwards, hanging directly above the topmost peak, portending doom. I shuddered, unable to turn away.

"Impressive, isn't it?"

Speechless, I nodded in agreement.

"Why did you follow me?"

I turned slowly towards the voice. An almost unrecognizable image of my brother came into view. It is almost too terrible to describe. His eyes were hard as the mountain rock, cold as the winter wind. Streaks cut through the filth on his face from eye to chin, evidence of many tears shed. His hair, long and severely matted, appeared beyond hope. Thick layers of garments hid a new thinness that gaunt face and sharp cheekbones revealed. I gasped to see him this way, put a hand to my mouth. Tears threatened to track patterns down my own face. I swallowed and blinked them back.

"Why did you follow me?" he asked again.

"I… I was worried about you." My voice sounded small and weak in his strong but broken presence. He was more frightening to me in that moment than a thousand mountains.

"You cower from me."

"Conall, I… " I turned my head from him, reaching for words, finding none. "Why are you afraid of me? Your own brother?" He reached out to touch me, I shrank for just an instant before righting myself, an instant too long for he saw and pulled back, confused. "Aine, it's me, your brother, will you not let me embrace you?"

And then the tears came, like rivers on both of our faces. I collapsed into him and we wept together at the base of the mountain. Words were no longer necessary. Later, without speaking, I cut the mats from his hair and washed his face with a nearby stream. He shared in what little food he had left and built a fire to keep us warm. He kept watch over me while I slept. Once I awoke and saw him standing and staring at the moon.

"When will it be full?" I asked.

"Tomorrow," he whispered. "Tomorrow," he spoke again, this time with more resolve. Could he know? I asked myself. I shook an approaching nightmare from my head and sank back into sleep, a sleep without dream.

I woke to the sound of voices arguing. Dazzling sunlight penetrated my closed eyelids. I opened them, blinked, at first seeing nothing but white and yellow light. Two blurred figures appeared, slowly came into focus. I recognized the voices. One was Conall's. The other was Cormac's.

"You didn't have to follow, you could have stayed home with your precious Muirne!" Conall was saying.

"I would have if our sister hadn't felt the need to go traipsing after you!" Cormac shouted.

"I think I took care of myself just fine, Cormac," I rebuked, firmly but gently. Limping stiffly from my cold, hard bed, I positioned myself between the two of them and laid a hand on each of their shoulders. It was then that I saw the pack at Cormac's feet.

"What is that?" I questioned him sharply. He gave no answer. "That was you, wasn't it? Why?"

I was confused, angry. I took the hand from his shoulder and moved to slap him, but he was quicker, catching my wrist. "Aine, listen -," he started. I would not let him finish, making another attempt to hit him with my free hand. He caught that one too. I wrestled, trying to free myself from his grasp. "Aine, listen to me!"

"No! You tackled me in the woods, you chased after me and pinned me to the ground!"

"I thought you were in danger, I was trying to protect you!"

I stilled and stared at him.

"Peculiar way of trying to protect someone, don't you agree?"

"You didn't give me a chance to explain!"

"Explain now then!"

"I thought there was someone - or something - tracking you. I heard things, saw things. I sensed it, waiting for you like a lone wolf waits for the fox or hare. You were trampling through those woods so loud, I wanted to quiet you!" He lowered my wrists but did not release them. "Aine, what possessed you to go off on your own like that? You could have been killed."

"Something was tracking me. Someone. But it wasn't a predator. It was -," I paused, turned to Conall, pulling my wrists from Cormac's grasp. "It was Abigael." I watched as my brother's eyes came alive. Hope filled them, even as more tears seeped into the corners. "She's alive? You spoke to her? Why isn't she with you? Tell me! Tell me where she is, tell me everything!" He grasped my shoulders, shook me, embraced me, laughing and crying simultaneously.

"Conall, stop. Listen to me." I pushed him away, made him look at me. "You have to turn around and go home."

"What? No! Tell me where she is so I can go to her!"

"Conall, no. I don't know where she is, you cannot go to her. You must turn around and go home. She made me promise."

"Promise? What promise?" He shook his head, confused.

"She made me promise to send you home." I knew my words hurt him, he wore his wounds plainly on his face for the world to see.

"No, she wouldn't have said that. Why are you lying to me? Take me to her!" He shook me again, this time harder, his fingertips pressing through the thick wool of my cloak and into the tender flesh of my arms, bruising them. Cormac stepped between us, forcing Conall to let go of me.

"Calm yourself, man! This is your sister!" Cormac put a hand on Conall's shoulder, intending to console. He received a punch in the face as a reply. Holding a palm to his bleeding lip, he pointed to the place where Conall had kept his night watch and said, "Go. Go sit and calm yourself. I will not fight you, my brother." Silence fell between them. Their chests heaved up and down. They locked eyes, challenging one another, until Conall finally lowered his head and backed away, shoulders slumped, turning to the mountain with despair.

"What do we do now?" Cormac asked.

I shrugged. I watched my brother Conall for a long time, wondering if I should tell him the truth. Would he even believe me? I pondered again if he already knew. Would the truth even matter to one so anguished?

Please return next issue for Part Six 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! Her two cats - Max and Hazel, dog - Queenie, four rats Charlie, Tobey, Fifi, Eowyn, and Gloria. Her hamster - Poohbear and aquatic-turtles Maximus and S.A.M.

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.

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