Defined by poetry. Lives by prose. Just a girl on the path to becoming a writer.
Hi! I'd love some comments on the overall voice of the story.
Written By: Norah
June 15, 2015
It was dark. It was darker than dark. It was pitch.
Then the light lit between my mother's fingers. The match flared, reflecting off her eyes, Mother watched it, smiling. I could never know what she was thinking in these moments, in the silences that came before words. Her head seemed in an entirely different world.
In the cavern we sat, breathless, as she held the fire up, up until we could see the tips of the dripping stalagmites clinging to the cave's ceiling far above.
And so she began, as she did every time the village was raided, speaking in a hushed voice. Her words a song.
"Children," she murmured, "remember the old days."
She suspended the newly lit match in the air. It flickered minutely, perfectly balanced in the thick darkness of the cave. The rasping sound of a match being lit burned the air, and Mother held up another flame to set by the first. She repeated the action until we were surrounded by a circle of flickering fire. Warm light settled across Mother's features, bathing them in a soft glow. It was then that the story came tumbling out of her chest like some great river. It came to life off of her tongue and from the depths of her being. We listened, awed.
"Remember when magic still ruled the earth, and dragons were the crown of heaven." Her voice was mellow and smooth. Outside our ring of matches, the adults of the village grew closer, searching for my mother's voice, just a whisper among silence.
"And a dragon ruled this land, for where we stand is a powerful place, laced with magic." She smiled down at us. She was lovely, my mother, with downy hair like that of a baby raven, and eyes that could pierce your soul. But this story always turned her weary, and lost. She was the only one with her gift in our village, perhaps the whole world. The rivers of magic were close to running dry.
"Our ancestors were foolish, however, and although dragons are peaceful creatures, they believed this dragon wanted to devour them." Mother paused. "And so, they vowed to kill the dragon, and rid the beast from their land."
The girl ran, raced through the forest, leaves and branches stinging her bare arms and cheeks. Her eyes were streaked with unwanted tears. Her face was red and defiant. She put her hand to her waist every other moment, securing the knife dangling from her belt. Her breath came in short gasps, her chest heaved. She stopped, then heard again what had made her flee. A roar, a bellow, and a splitting of the air and earth came rumbling across the mountains.
"The dragon folk were quite peaceful," Mother mourned, "that is, until provoked." We looked at her apprehensively. "The maiden, sent out to kill the dragon with her magic, hid in a well, terrified by the fatal beast chasing her through the forest. She calmed her nerves and tried to steady her pounding heart."
The girl sat very still at the bottom of the well. It had never seen much use, it was damp from the last rain and coated with moss. The thundering roar of the dragon grew closer. The girl's heart turned and twisted sporadically. Her hand hovered above her knife, eyes flitting from place to place. She was trapped by her own fear and all she could do was wait.
"It was then that the dragon looked down the well with its terrible red eye, and spotted the maiden. The young girl knew the only thing left to do was fight. And fight she did."
The girl flung the dagger straight into the pupil of the dragon, straight into the endless depths of knowledge and power held in its gaze, and the silence was shattered. The dragon howled in tortured agony. A thick viscous mist poured from its eye. His bright scales shimmered as he bucked and bowed, driven mad in rage. The girl took her chance and scrambled up the side of the well.
"The maiden reached into her vast supply of magic and tore the beast's heart in two," Mother said quietly. Her eyes grew dark and misty, remembering.
The girl was shattered. Her magic was powerful, powerful enough to kill something wise, majestic, and beautiful. The dragon lay still and unmoving, its fading soul fluttering away on a breeze like a scrap of mist. It shimmered, drifting away tranquilly, almost peacefully. Its end had been anything but peaceful, and the girl fought the urge to cry. Her heart screeched. Her heart was the one being split in half. Her mind was the one driven mad by a knife wound. The girl sobbed because life would go on without the magnificent creature now lying on the ground. She lay in a pool of the dragon's crimson blood and screamed for the unfairness of life. She cried herself to sleep on the dying embers of its bones.
"The maiden returned the next day, sore and soaked with blood. Some say she died of grief. Some say she was reborn as a dragon the following day. We will never know." We sat in silence. The matches flickered. Mother sighed, a long contented sigh.
"Now, children, sleep," she murmured. And we did.
The next day we stumbled out of the hiding cave. There was a boat coasting out on the smooth bay, white froth churning up behind it. The clouds were bird feathers and the heavens were pale like watercolor and seemed almost transparent, stretched across the dome of the sky. We watched the sun rise higher, then slowly made our way back to the village, frightened of what we might find.
The night raiders were gone, leaving behind them the remains of our village.
We slept on ash that night, looking up to the stars for comfort. And I thought I glimpsed a flash of brilliant scales before my eyes slipped shut.