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CHAPTER TWO Continue reading
“Why?” she whispered more to herself than to the shadow. It moved, shifting around her bedraggled body. “Why me?” she asked, a whimper distorting her words.
“I come where I am called,” it seemed to say as it swayed to and fro. “It’s nothing personal.”
It felt personal to Emma. She didn’t want to die – death had been the last thing on her mind earlier that day when David had finally asked her out. She had her A’ level prom dress on order and shoes to die for hiding at the back of her cupboard, just waiting for their debut.
The shadow stilled. It was time. Darkness enveloped her mind, permeated her soul. She shivered as a last boost of adrenaline coursed through her veins, burning her insides as she twisted and struggled for breath. Silence.
Sad news of Emma Watson’s death hit the school. Staff and students alike were shocked by the news and mourned the passing of such a wonderful young lady.
Alore drifted with elitist elegance, her long neck bowing in acknowledgment of the guests we passed at the Ball. Their gasps did not go unnoticed and she paused, waiting for me to draw closer before whispering, “Why are they staring so? Is it the amulet that draws their attention?”
I nodded, smiling at the awkward glances of the older guests who obviously knew my bloodline. Dre’gons descended from their fire breathing ancestors with a mixed history of bloodshed and hatred. My ancestors were known for their unflinching cruelty towards other realms and the amulet had been used to wipe out usurpers daring to contradict the Dre’gon rule. The less than amorous stares were from the families who had tasted our wrath and I watched their anger at my presence. Alore was too young to know the history and her devotion to me would be lost in an instance if she knew the power I held over the amulet. The sooner we returned it to the keeper of the realm, the better.
A curly haired man approached us and welcomed us to the ball. We followed him as he led us through various rooms, accessing worlds so wonderful and sometimes dangerous as we tried to find the hostess keeping all in order. He introduced himself as James, a close friend of the keeper’s, and since she was busy pulling threads of destiny and time together to contain the various visitors, she had asked him to play co-host. My attention was drawn to a stunning woman dressed in a devils’s outfit with fiery red hair. She ran past us dropping her red leather mask on the floor. A sturdy gentleman followed suit and picked the mask up, holding it with passion as he placed it over his own face.
Suddenly, a shadow in a green cloak flittered past, sending shivers down my spine. I recognised the spectre and knew trouble would be brewing soon. We had to find the keeper.
I watched as Dre’gon’s attention waned from the she-devil to the green spectre. The amulet felt hot against my skin and I clutched it tight, feeling the burning imprint of its scaly dragon shape into my palm. Not much time was left at the Ball and soon all the worlds would return to their orders, far away in different lands. I had to act now.
“James, does the keeper know that we have the amulet of destiny?” I asked. He nodded slightly, taken aback as I showed him what lay in my hand. The amulet glowed, heat emanating from its tiny gems scattered across its scaly surface. A pulse of energy scoured through my body, throwing me against Dre’gon’s solid chest. He caught me to him, steadying my thin frame as the amulet pulsed again.
“We must find the keeper of the realms now!” growled Dre’gon. His shocking blue eyes glittered and little green flecks filtered through, turning clear blue to an almost Aqua. The gems on the amulet lit up, matching his eyes and the dragon shaped bracelet lifted into the air, escaping my desperate clawing hands and cries. The creatures in masks around us stopped to watch as the threads above us suddenly became visible and the amulet drew them together. Guests screamed in alarm, fighting to escape the ornately decorated room. Flashes of reds, greens, blues burst and crackled above everyones’ heads and screams drowned out my voice.
Lifting my arms up slowly, I used the power of the souls I had harvested to tether the threads. Cracks appeared in the wooden carvings framing doorways and windows and the earth shook. Dre’gon seemed to grow as the amulet drew out more power from the threads, his red hair spiking up as his feet levitated. I screamed for him to help me but all was in vain. Somehow he was linked to this amulet. Of course! The dragon! Fire! Wrath! My mind cried out as the childhood stories of horror and desolation flashed through. Dre’gon belonged to the warlord family that had slayed millions in order to keep their rule. I choked down the tears as my powers stuttered. The flashes were spiralling above us and James had run away with the rest of the guests. Only Dre’gon and I remained in a once beautiful room as we fought for the powers of the amulet.
My focus had to remain on destroying the amulet. If Alore succeeded in stopping me then all would continue on forever. But how to tell her to cease this battle? How to let her know that only I could bring this all to an end and if she continued her attack, deaths would continue?
I felt her powers against me, but my soul was not as others. My soul was something she did not want to taste. I had to destroy the amulet and fight against her attack, both in order to save her.
“Lady Alore,” I heard James call out.
Her focus wavered. I put all my efforts into destruction. The final layer of metal melted away and the blood of ancestors flowed onto my skin. The explosion of light and wind was all engulfing.
Screams met my ears as I opened my eyes. The world was a different place. I no longer saw things in the hues as they were in reality. I looked down at the fear on their faces, the horror on that of Alore. The betrayal in her eyes.
“You beast!” She yelled at me. Her powers could not even touch my thickened hide.
All those that had returned with James turned at the sound of the woman’s voice.
“Keeper,” said James. “Lord Dre’gon has betrayed the Lady Alore and attacked us. And now he has turned into that!”
“No.” The keeper’s voice was calm and the room went quiet. She walked towards me. “I have waited a long time for one of you to come and take back what you left here. Take back the pains, the agonies, the tears.”
“What do you mean?” Alore asked.
The keeper looked from my now red scaly hide to the beautiful lady that had been my love. “Only one of the Dre’gons could bring peace to this place. No longer is there a need for protection. A Dre’gon of pure heart had to make the sacrifice and take back the blood left here by his ancestors when the deaths were caused, and with that sacrifice he also has taken on the suffering of those dying moments inside of him, and will holds these excruciating agonies until he dies.”
Alore looked at me and calmly walked up to my now enormous body. “You knew, when I asked you to come here, what you would do. You saw the amulet. You knew you would sacrifice, be this. And you still came.” I felt her loving touch more painfully than all her power combined.
I stepped back from her. No more of this. It was now time to leave. To go where my kind lived. The keeper knew. She nodded as a giant doorway opened before me and allowed me through.
With one last look back, I saw Alore being held by the keeper.
Not every story has a happy ending. She lives, that is enough for me.
A Halloween story by Ronovan and Eloise
In case you missed the first and second instalments, please click on the links below.
Picture from coolchaser.com
I hated the cold more than the witch we was chasing. Dark, nasty forest filled with ethereal beings were not my cuppa. Nor was Brogan, but he’d sooner slit me throat than let me go. Damn roots and cold moss, whisperin’ trees and the witch floating through ’em. The sooner we catch her and gut her, the sooner I get back t’ my hole in the wall in Pauper Street, of course after we raid tha’ Masquerade Ball.
‘er body jerked as Brogan grabbed it and threw ‘er across the forest. No sound she made. The crack from ‘er skull musta shut her up good. Eh! Brogan slapped me for gigglin’ and told me to shut my pie hole. It’s okay. I’ll have me fun with her later. He slowly removes the amulet from her neck, a wee thing it is. So fragile ‘n I could snap it in a second. He pushes me back as I try to reach for it. The darkness in me tries to reach for ‘er. The solid punch lands me in the dirt again. I hate Brogan and watch his thick neck click as he tries to reach for ‘er again. I trace the pulse throbbing in the sinew along the yellowing skin and watch the life blood flow through to his puny brain. So easy to kill him.
She sighs and her soft breath eases my mind. I watch her flimsy body float against the cold mossy ground and she looks fragile. We ‘ave the amulet and the power to destroy the keeper. Brogan promised I could play wit ‘er. My turn.
Suddenly a burnin’ light from the ugly ol’ tree she was climbing into flashes and somethin’ awful climbs out. He is big ‘n strong an’ I run for cover, hoping he doesn’t find me. He knows. He knows the darkness that lives in me.
The creature, for I dare not bring myself to call it anything close to human, skitters away from me in a manner proving its inhumanness.
“No, it’s not me you be takin’ so easily,” it screeched in a high pitched voice. Before I knew it, the filth was upon the lady.
“Stand away from the Lady Alore and you will live long enough to die by beheading. Touch her and burn before Hades comes for you!” I said as I made my way forward towards the filth threatening the lady. My skin burnt as I strode further into this strange world and closer to the thing hovering near Lady Alore.
“One more step Lord Dre’gon and I do more than kill the girl.” The black teeth smiled as I paused. “Yes, it’s no secret in this realm about what it is you ‘ave for ‘er.” The foulness of its thoughts were a stench greater than the strong odour emitting from the form itself.
“You have a choice to make,” I said. “Touch her and I kill you. Run and I kill you. Or you can give up and die at a later time in a less painful manner.” My matter of fact smile brought a return of the fear he had shown moments before. I stepped closer.
“Eh! eh! eh!” it cried. Fingernails grew into claws before my eyes. “If I am to die, then I choose to die enjoying what I like most.” It slipped its claws down toward Lady Alore’s dress.
My movements were quicker than the vermin-like creature expected. The skin on his wrist burnt inches above the ball gown as my hand grabbed his in a vice like grip. His screams reached through the dark dense forest and winged creatures took flight bringing a commotion to the heavy silence.
“Timmins will not die like this,” it cried in defiance. “We will break through the realms!”
“So you’re Timmins,” I smirked. “For someone so well known for killing, you are certainly . . .” the pain hit me suddenly. A blinding pain so strong it blotted out everything else.
“Let go!” Timmins screamed. My grip tightened as the pain increased. “Nooooo!”
The scent of roasted flesh drifted through the silent air.
A hand touched my vested shoulder. My eyes opened to the vision of Lady Alore, her mahogany eyes filled with concern.
“He’s dead,” she declared as I turned to find the filthy creature I had held just a few seconds before.
I turn to the charred bones at my feet. He looked better dead than alive, the black teeth grinning out of the scorched skull.
“But I’m not,” huffed a deep threatening voice.
Large arms wrap around me clamping my arms to my body, restraint my burning touch from reaching his skin. A hissing sound pierced my ears, growing to a roar. I turned my head to see Lady Alore standing tall. Her eyes burned a fierce golden brown, the soft folds of her dress vibrating as the energy around her grew with every passing moment.
“I forgot about her,” said Brogan.
“Your mistake,” I said with a smile.
His sack cloth shirt turned to drifting mist as Alore lifted her arms to the sky. His evil soul, unable to stand against her energy, slowly disintegrated into the darkness. He struggled and staggered backwards. I turned to stop his retreat. Brogan’s evil was stronger than the many souls Alore had fought in the past. She shivered as her strength waned. My hands found his throat as his found mine.
“You will die too,” he groaned as the pain of his burnt soul ravaged his body.
“No,” said the quiet voice of Lady Alore. “Filth will be defeated with filth.”
Dirt pelted the eyes of the big man. Brogan loosened his grip slightly and that is all I needed. The burning took longer than it did with Timmins. This evil was deeper, blacker in the heart. I watched as his insipid body disintegrated under my heated touch. It was over.
Alore ran to me, enfolding me in her warm embrace. We both knew this moment wouldn’t last and relished the sweet embrace. I would return to my world and she to hers, but for this one moment, we had each other.
A soft light glowed from the old tree whose trunk seemed covered with baby ferns. Alore turned towards the light and grasped my hands, my deadly hands without flinching.
“Come with me Dre’gon. Let us go to the keeper of the realms together.” She pulled my willing body towards the old gnarled tree, only stopping to pick up a strangely shaped amulet from the ground. I frowned, recognising the shape of a dragon bracelet, but said nothing. She didn’t need to know this amulet belonged to the Dre’gon family. She had no need to worry of its curse.
The light shone brighter as we approached the tree and with the flexibility of a garden imp, she bent forward and pushed through the small wooden door to another realm filled with music and laughter. I sighed, knowing the implications of showing my face at the Masquerade Ball. My family were not welcome at such events and a strange feeling of foreboding filled my chest. My bright blue eyes flashed green as I pushed through the portal, a shadow following as deftly as death itself.
The final instalment of Masquerade will be tomorrow. Happy Halloween!
Special thanks to Ronovan, Lord Dre’gon, for this instalment of Masquerade II, as he shared his story of how he saved Lady Alore.
Fragrant scents of Jasmine overpowered the cool evening breeze, sending the heady perfume through the sinewed trunks of the ancient trees silently watching my fumbled footsteps in their forest home. My shoes were not made for the uneven ground and I stumbled yet again on an unseen root sticking out from the slick moss covered path.
At last, a glimmer of light twinkled in the distance. The forest held its breath as I weaved through to my final destination, Grandmother Tree. Her wide, gnarled trunk hid a secret passage to the other realms, an escape from the world I existed in everyday. The light grew brighter as I stumbled over yet another hidden root, nearly ripping the long cloak I wore to protect the soft silk gown draped over my cold skin in soft fluted layers, perfect for the Masquerade ball.
A twig snapped behind me and I stopped. Listen! Another crunch closer still, this time heavier steps accompanying the death of the twig. They were close. I drew the hood of my cloak over my head, covering my body with its blackness that matched the dark shadows of the forest. Muffled voices permeated the wall of trees as I pressed my body as close to Grandmother Tree’s large trunk as possible.
Maybe they were using the portal too. Maybe they just wanted to find their way out of this enchanted forest. Maybe they wanted to slice my throat and retrieve the amulet I wore on a long gold chain, nestled between the curve of my breasts, so that they could break through the realms.
Voices became more distinct; the deep resonance of an older man and the soft squeak of his young companion. A cold shiver slithered down my spine. It was Brogan and the vile Timmins – notorious thieves and murderers, willing to go to any lengths to break through the keeper of the realm’s woven tapestry of worlds. Destroyers of all things beautiful. My worst and most dangerous enemies!
“She must be here, somewhere,” growled Brogan. “I can hear her heart fluttering like a trapped butterfly.” He sniggered, breathing deep. “I can smell the fear like ripe fruit for the picking. Come on Timmins! She’s close.”
Timmins stumbled over an oak’s crafty root, swearing and kicking at the bark of the tree. He rubbed his thin bristly face with long crooked fingers. A tongue swept over blackened teeth as he grinned at his large burly partner.
“Can I play with her when we catch her? You promised Brogan. Let me have her once you get the amulet!”
The whiny voice set my teeth on edge and I hugged the shadows, daring not a breath to give away my hiding place. Thankfully the light had dimmed from the secret door, a slight glimmer as they approached Grandmother tree. The pleasant scent of the night flowers was replaced with a pungent odour of sweat, faeces and sulphur as they stomped past, barely notice the portal door. It hit me like a solid body of disgustingness and I could barely hold still without tearing up. Only the distant stars could escape the smell of these fiends. Their footsteps were swallowed into the night and the smell moved on, leaving the forest to release its breath and for me to collapse against my beloved tree. My chest heaved as I tried to catch my breath without retching.
Slowly, I crept towards the humble light of the portal door, gently moving the baby ferns growing out of the gnarled roots of the tree. The light grew stronger as I pushed the door open, squinting against the brightness. Warmth wrapped itself around my cold limbs and I carefully crept through the small door in the trunk. I had to deliver the amulet to the keeper of the realm before Brogan and his sadistic friend could catch me.
Suddenly a large hand grabbed my shoulder and pulled me back, ripping the cloak from my shoulders. Sharp pine cones and soft needles dug into my back as I landed with a hard thump against the cold earth. My last memory was of my head connecting with a tree trunk and a thin raspy voice cackling in delight…
Part II tomorrow
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