Book III of The DragonSpawn Cycle (published by Flux)
© 2007 Terie Garrison
Available In hardcopy and on Kindle
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A half-played game of Talisman and Queen lies before me, the jewel pieces glowing as they sit on the black velvet embroidered with glittering silver thread. The Queen's Heart, made of ruby, gleams at the center. Ranged about are the Talismans: mine emerald, my opponent's sapphire.
I cannot see against whom I play. Shrouded in shadow, the brooding presence sits, absorbing energy and my concentration. It seems to suck the very air from the room. I can scarce breathe.
The game is almost won. My heart tells me that with a single move, I will Secure the Queen's Heart. But my brain is frozen, unable to make sense of the game pieces. A wrong move, and my enemy will take all.
A voice breaks the silence--a familiar male voice that echoes around the room growing in power instead of fading away.
"Your move," it says.
And everything goes dark. All I can see is the fine silver lines against a black world.
"Your move," the voice says again, taking the last of the air with it.
I fall into a black pit of nothingness.
And then I awake.
Everyone else gathered firewood, while I returned to Xyla to check on her. The dragon hadn't stirred, but I could see her eyes moving under her lids as if she were having an agitated dream. I draped my arms around her, trying to coax some kind of response.
By the time the others had gathered enough wood for the afternoon and night, and had gotten a fire roaring inside the cave, I'd grown cold and a little desperate to wake the dragon.
"Xyla," I called, using both my voice and my spirit to try to reach her. "Xyla, you must wake up." It became a chant, and about the twentieth time I said this, her tail twitched. "Xyla!" I cried, putting as much passion into my tone as I could. "Xyla!"
An eyelid fluttered open. An ear flicked.
"Donavah." Her voice inside my head was so weak that I almost didn't catch it.
"Xyla, dear. I'm here. Let's go into the cave. It'll be warmer there."
"Come, my love."
"I know. But please. Get up. The cave is only a few steps away."
She lifted her head a little. "I do not know if I can make it."
"You can. I know you can. I will give you my strength." As if that would help.
But my feeling of urgency must have penetrated her lethargy, because she began to rise. Once she was on her feet, I kept a hand on her leg. Her head drooped pathetically, and I feared she wouldn't make it. We'd awakened around midday, but the sun had long fallen from noon, and the temperature had already begun to drop. She must get inside.
She halted and began to sag to the ground again. "No! Xyla, no. Just a little farther. You must keep going."
The others came out, and as if they understood the need for skin-to-skin contact, they each took a spot by another of her giant legs. She took a step, then another. A pause, then another.
Finally, after what seemed an eternity, she entered the cave and sank back to the ground. The tip of her tail was still outside, but we dragged it in and hoped it would be far enough.
I felt overcome with weakness and wondered whether Xyla really had used whatever strength I'd been able to lend her to make that short journey. Then I laughed at myself. Whether she had or not didn't really matter. The simple fact was that I was hungry. How long had it been since I'd last eaten? Hours? Days? Years? Centuries?
© 2006 Terie Garrison