by fran jacobs
This is an extract from my fantasy novel, the Shadow Seer.
|I found myself standing in a bare room that resembled a prison cell. The floor was covered with only a meagre spread of rushes, the walls were stone and crumbled, and high arches held up the black ceiling. There were dark spots of what looked like blood, splattered around on the walls and floor, and fixed in various places were rusty metal chains and shackles. The room was dark, barely lit, stinking, and cold, so cold, that my hands were turning white with it. I shivered miserably and stuck my hands under my armpits, jumping up and down a little in place in a desperate attempt to keep warm.
And then I heard a soft voice, singing to me.
“Five rings of silver,
Five rings of gold,
Five rings of stone,
For a secret to be told
Six rings of silver,
Six rings of gold,
The rings of stone have fallen
There was something lilting and childlike about the voice of the singer and it terrified me. My heart started to pound, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up on end, goosebumps flared up along my arms and I shivered.
Slowly I turned around.
A small figure stood in front of me hidden in the dark shadows, head bowed and covered by a mess of dark ragged curls. The white tattered rags the child wore was dirty and blood splattered, its limbs were covered in bruises and angry cuts, and I knew who it was before it even took those slithering, gliding steps toward me.
I stumbled backwards, my feet scraping on the cold flagstones as I desperately tried to escape, my eyes locked onto the child the whole time, not daring to look away from it. All the time it kept singing those same two verses of the song, over and over and the soft lilting sound seemed to echo and swell to fill the arched roof of this dark and stinking prison. The little figure's head was head bowed toward the floor, blood dripping steadily from those limp hands that hung at its side.
“Ellenessia comes,” the child said suddenly, and lifted its head to meet my eyes. I swallowed. Those eyes could see inside me, right into my soul, into the depths of me. I tried to take another step backwards and felt the cold stone of the wall, seep through the thin tunic and breeches I found myself wearing, as I pressed against it. “Are you ready, Seer?” it asked. “Ellenessia comes.” Then it lifted its hand and traced a symbol slowly in the air in front of it, blood dripping from the ends of its fingers the whole time. The droplets of blood landed on the bare stone floor, dark red against the cold grey.
I heard a deep rumble and the ground beneath me seemed to vibrate. Tearing my eyes away from the child, just for a moment, I turned, and in the darkness I saw three sets of cat-slit eyes, huge and alien, staring at me. I drew my breath in sharply as those eyes moved slowly toward me and out of the shadows, into the dim and flickering lantern light of this prison cell, came a dragon. A three headed dragon. Its huge body filled most of the room, fading back into the shadows. All I could see of it was its three heads, stretched up towards the ceiling, stooped over where the roof was too low for the dragon's long necks and huge, ferocious heads. Dark green scales shone and reflected in the dim light, huge yellowing, curving teeth like giant stalactites and stalagmites glinted in the dragon's cavernous mouths as he opened them wide, almost as if to grin at me, and in his cat-slit yellow-green eyes, I could see intelligence. I knew, somehow, that the dragon knew me. It recognised me and I knew it won't hurt me.
I turned away from the dragon, looking back at the small figure of that frightening child who was now hiding back in the shadows, curled up on the floor. Its thin skeletal arms were wrapped around its thin chest and it was jerking from side to side, its head rolling left and right on its thin neck. I stared at it, it was obviously in distress, frightened, but I didn't know what I could do to help it.
I started to take a step towards it when a deep rumble almost knocked me of my feet. The dragon had roared, and then it roared again, making the ground shake. The child made a whimpering sound and almost disappeared as it curled up into a foetal position on the dirty cold floor. I could still hear the child speaking softly, “Ellenessia comes. Ellenessia comes,” over and over, but it was only a whisper, a sound I could hear in my mind, more than with my ears.
The dragon roared again, but this time it sounded more like a loud knocking sound . . .