No, I haven't disappeared from the face of the earth, although with output from down here in 'Tales' somewhat limited to say the least, you could be forgiven for drawing that conclusion! I'm not going to bore you with my latest bout of angst, but I have dusted myself down to have a bash at this week's Ticc Tocc challenge from Kat Wright.
This week she posted this photograph
and asked the question 'what is behind the wall?' So here we are...
Now this is as far as I got in twenty minutes - ie not as far as the wall, but never mind! And, as usual, yes it took longer than twenty minutes to whip it into the shape you're about to read. It's also inspired by a card I bought recently, entitled 'Soul Mates'. I hope I'm safely navigating around copyright by pointing out it's a print of a painting by Anne Stokes, the card produced by Eastgate Resource Ltd. If, like me, you like this kind of art, do click on the link and visit Anne Stoke's website, it's really worth a visit.
The Dragon Guardian
The streets are deserted. It’s too early for any daylight creature to be up and about, and, mercifully, too late for the night-prowlers. I shudder: imagine if any one of them were to witness us leave? Above me, the morning sun’s rays fumble down between the buildings, as yet too weak to banish the swirling mist lingering over the rooftops.
Firefly’s hooves echo, and herald our passing, although I can sense not a single watcher. I had pondered using a spell to cloak our departure, poring over some of my father’s ancient tomes, but in the end, I decided I ought to stick to the rules, and embrace this trial in the spirit it had been created, namely, without using magic. My main fear had been that someone, or something, might see me leaving, and follow to wreck some mischief, but now my shoulders relax as I realise I worried for nothing. Dressed in these coarse robes, Dracone concealed beneath a brown cloak, I look as far removed from a princess of the realm as I’d imagine it is possible to be. Sensing my thought, he squeezes my shoulders with his claws, and gives a chuckle.
I hadn’t expected him to stay behind, although I had wondered if his presence might too be against the rules. But we have been together since birth, he and I. He hatched in the palace as my mother pushed me out; we were destined for each other. My mother cried. She still does. None of my sisters were born as dragon guardians; she’d prayed for the same for me.
Firefly tenses as the dragon laughs. He usually refuses to carry him, afraid, I suppose of being eaten. But I couldn’t risk drawing attention by having my unpredictable, adolescent dragon crashing through the air above me, so I persuaded the horse to carry us both. With no idea what lies before us, I’d rather have Dracone close. He hums at the thought of being needed, and curls his tail tighter around my waist.
The old castle wall looms, its stonework crumbling, ravaged by time, weather, and plants, the likes of which aren’t found anywhere else in the kingdom, growing in its cracks. But as the boundary between our world and the next, it is protected by a very ancient magic, and no one, not even my father, dares climb it. I’ve never set foot beyond it in my life, and yet today, and for three nights, I am expected to spent time beyond it, the latest step in my initiation as a dragon guardian. It’s times like these when I envy my sisters. A life without magic and power is temptingly simpler.
“How dull,” Dracone growls. “I don’t know why how you can even think the thought.”
“Hush,” I say, and reach forward to pat the skittish horse. “Now isn’t the time for an argument. Here’s the portal.”
I take a deep breath, gather my cloak tighter around me, and urge Firefly on with a promise everything will be all right. I wish I felt sure.
No one visiting these pages before will have realised I am a closet fantasy reader. I'd love to write in the genre, but I've always been too afraid all I'd do would be to reproduced some hackneyed version of someone else's stories. ...And I think that's exactly what I've done here! But Kat's picture fired my imagination in this direction, so off I went. Fantasy writing is something I'd love to do, but I'm not brave enough...